KILLER ON THE LOOSE Chapter 10: Emily Stone #Thriller #MiniBlogSeries

closeupEmily

KILLER ON THE LOOSE

Chapter 10 – Emily Stone

Jennifer Chase

Emily followed Rick as they hiked west to intersect the trail leading to their SUV.

She hurried in silence climbing steep areas. The exercise felt good and relieved some of her sore muscles. The more distance between her and the compound the better. She flashed back on the crates of weapons and boxes of computer parts.

Rick had anonymously sent texts and alerts to the local law enforcement as well as the local branch of the FBI to retrieve the two men and confiscate the military weapons. The information included photos and the exact location of the property—the couple’s anonymous investigative protocol.

With everything Emily had witnessed at the property, nothing weighed heavier on her mind than the breaking news in DC. She immediately relayed everything to Rick about the missing girls and the bomb scare—but it wasn’t everything.

Emily never kept anything from Rick—ever.

She recognized Agent Nick Bracco from the news coverage and knew that he worked the terrorism division of the FBI. Several years before, she had met him before the trial in Indiana where she had to testify against fellow officers from the Crestview County Sheriff’s Department—before coming to California and meeting Rick. The fallout after the trial had ended her career as a deputy sheriff, but she reinvented herself as a covert vigilante detective after an incident.

Since then, and as far as anyone knew, she was legally dead. Very few people knew that she was still alive, but Bracco knew. Emily had contacted him a few times over the past few years for information on some of her cases.

“You okay?” asked Rick.

Emily looked at him and forced a smile. “Of course.”

“You look like you have a lot on your mind—more than usual.”

“Thinking about our next move,” she explained.

“Maybe our info was wrong?” Rick clearly wrestled with the facts leading them to this location.

“I don’t think so…”

“Is the kidnapping some kind of political maneuver or some type of exchange for someone or something else?”

“I’m not sure. I have to reevaluate everything. But I believe the girls are still alive.”

“Are you really okay?” his dark eyes searched Emily’s face.

“I’m just worried about the girls. We’ve never had a case intersect with something of this nature. It concerns me…”

Emily walked ahead and continued to the area where the SUV waited. She didn’t want to face more conflict until she had time to think.

Rick continued, “What I can’t figure out… why would the kidnapper go to such extremes with the bomb scare in DC?” he stopped and turned to Emily. “And what does it have to do with us?”

Emily’s phone buzzed. She retrieved it from her pocket and stared at the caller ID.

The name identified Nick Bracco as the caller…

***

In case you missed it, here’s the rundown:

Chapter 1 — Nick Bracco

Chapter 2 – Emily Stone

Chapter 3 – Nick Bracco

Chapter 4 – Emily Stone

Chapter 5 — Nick Bracco

Chapter 6 — Emily Stone

Chapter 7 — Nick Bracco

Chapter 8 — Emily Stone

Chapter 9 — Nick Bracco

***

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KILLER ON THE LOOSE Chapter 9: Nick Bracco #Thriller #MiniBlogSeries

NICK BRACCO IMAGE- GOT NICK 2

KILLER ON THE LOOSE

Chapter 9 – Nick Bracco

Gary Ponzo

“Do you know who he’s talking about?” Matt asked.

Nick nodded.  “Emily Stone is searching for a couple of California girls.  I think she’s out in the Midwest somewhere.”

“So how does he know where they are?”

“The better question is—What does he want for the information?”

“Good point.”

They were standing next to the scrubbed bus and trying to figure out their next move when Nick’s phone buzzed.  He looked at the display and put the phone to his ear.  “What’s up Walt?”

“I have someone on the line who wants to speak with you.”

“Let me guess.  Karl Saxon?”

“You should be an investigator.  I’ll patch him through.”

The next voice Nick heard was rich with sarcasm.  “You ever wonder why I’m taking you on a wild goose chase?’

“The thought occurred to me.”

“Because I’m offering you the deal of a lifetime. The chance to save a couple of lives.”

“And what would you like in return?”

“Release Jackson Eckles from prison. He’s at the state prison in Florence, Arizona.”

“Who the heck is  Jackson Eckles?”

“Exacty.  He’s a nobody who happens to be a good friend. An easy exchange. Should take you all of ten seconds to approve.”

“I need find out his details first.”

“Do it.  I’ll call back in ten minutes.”

The cell call terminated. “He wants a prisoner released in exchange for the location of the missing teenagers,” Nick told his partner.

Matt was checking something on his phone.  “Emily Stone is in Mason City, Iowa.”

Nick returned the cell to his ear and said, “I’ll get with Emily.  You check the status of a prisoner named  Jackson Eckles, in Florence, Arizona.”

“Jackson Eckles?”

“You know him?”

“No,” Matt said.  “But I will.”

***

In case you missed it, here’s the rundown:

Chapter 1 — Nick Bracco

Chapter 2 – Emily Stone

Chapter 3 – Nick Bracco

Chapter 4 – Emily Stone

Chapter 5 — Nick Bracco

Chapter 6 — Emily Stone

Chapter 7 — Nick Bracco

Chapter 8 — Emily Stone

***

http://www.garyponzo.com

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KILLER ON THE LOOSE Chapter 8: Emily Stone #Thriller #MiniBlogSeries

EmilyStone_Stills_009

KILLER ON THE LOOSE

Chapter 8 – Emily Stone

Jennifer Chase

Emily and Rick secured the two men inside the storage building. Their wrists and ankles were fastened with zip ties and then affixed through metal rings on the wall. The men weren’t going anywhere before cops arrived. They remained quiet and rarely looked at the couple.

Emily thought it was strange that they complied so easily and did not protest.

“You good?” Emily asked Rick. She was anxious to leave the property.

“Yeah.”

“I’m going to search the house for anything about the girls,” she checked her ammunition out of habit rather than necessity. “Give me a few minutes before contacting the cops and FBI.”

She hurried toward the door.

“Okay,” Rick slowly replied, still staring at the two men. “Em?” he said and shrugged.

Emily stopped and turned.

“Be careful,” he warned.

She thought it was out of character for Rick to express that sentiment in the middle of their investigation.

Emily forced a smile and then jogged to the main house.

It was actually a manufactured home, which had been set up on property in several pieces. It was more of a rectangle box that had uneven connections at the outer corners. It appeared to have been assembled recently. There were stickers still attached to the trim areas and windows.

Emily slowed her pace on approach.

She stood for a moment and surveyed the house.

Nothing unusual.

Taking a moment to jog around the structure, Emily made sure that there weren’t any type of cameras, booby traps, or security devices.

It seemed staged.

Automatically she retrieved her Glock and took the safety off.

Emily stood at the front door, grasped the doorknob with her left hand, and turned it. Pushing the door slowly open, the interior was dim and stuffy. None of the windows were open and no air conditioning flowed.

A light flickered in the corner from a muted television.

Emily cautiously entered the house and quickly cleared the living room, kitchen, and the two bedrooms. There was no sign of the missing girls, or any incriminating evidence that they were ever at the location.

How could their information have been so wrong?

Dishes in the sink, cigarettes in an ashtray, sparse thrift store furniture, and empty liquor bottles were the only remnants of anyone living in the house. Closets and cupboards were empty. The beds did not look slept in recently.

Who did these guys work for?

These thoughts plagued Emily as she moved closer to the TV. The regular program was interrupted by a news report.

It read across the bottom of the screen in bold letters: Breaking News from Washington DC as FBI Bomb Squad searches a local city bus 

The story unfolding caught Emily’s immediate attention. She watched as video clips showed different angles of the bus, bomb squad techs, bystanders, a young anxious teenager, and an agitated FBI Agent talking with another agent.

Emily holstered her weapon. She saw the TV remote on the coffee table, snatched it up, and quickly activated the sound.

A field reporter interrupted the chaos and narrated with a cheerful voice, “As you can see behind me that the DC Bomb Squad has been called in to investigate an allegedly suspicious briefcase that had been left on the city bus, but we have been informed that there was no bomb and no indication of a terrorist threat.”

The young dark-haired reporter pressed her earpiece firmly with her fingers and listened for a moment, her eyes wide. She continued, “Our news station has just received an update from an anonymous source that the briefcase has possibly a connection to two teenage girls that went missing from San Jose, California three days ago. We do not have the girl’s names at this time, nor do we know if they are connected in any way to the briefcase on the bus. We will keep you informed as new information becomes available.”

Emily’s heart pounded as she listened to the reporter.

It had to be a mistake or a joke.

Her and Rick had been covertly searching for Maya Reynolds, 15, and Sydney Atherton, 14, who disappeared from a mall in San Jose, California three days ago. Their investigation and solid leads brought them to this property in Iowa where there was no sign of the girls.

Emily felt anxiety rise from her core and it made it difficult to breathe—the restriction made her slightly dizzy.

She tossed the remote and retreated from the house to meet Rick. They had to leave the property as soon as possible.

It wasn’t just a dead end in the investigation—it was a possible trap and they walked right into the middle of it…

***

In case you missed it, here’s the rundown:

Chapter 1 — Nick Bracco

Chapter 2 – Emily Stone

Chapter 3 – Nick Bracco

Chapter 4 – Emily Stone

Chapter 5 — Nick Bracco

Chapter 6 — Emily Stone

Chapter 7 — Nick Bracco

***

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Evolving Societal Threats: 5 Crimes of the Future #crime #justice

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Technology is a wonderful tool that has changed the fabric of our lives. But, on the flip side, our dependency on technology can have frightening consequences. And that leads us to the scary phenomenon that is occurring across the globe – cybercrime. The good ol’ days of criminals robbing people at gunpoint (sarcasm, obviously) is slowly morphing into more scalable heists.

Basically, criminals are now confronted with a terrifying truth. And that is—why rob one poor sucker, when, in the same amount of time, I can steal from millions of people?

Not only is cybercrime the wave of the future, but so are other horrifying crimes that will emerge as a result of our fast-paced, economically connected, globalized society.

Here are five crimes that will most certainly keep law enforcement busy in the coming years.

Gene Hacking

With the promise of extending the lives of the sick and elderly, and finding cures for our most ruthless diseases, genetic engineering has a significant upside. Like most technology, genetic engineering capabilities will continue to expand and become more accessible to a larger pool of people. And with the greater access comes the potential for devastating consequences.

Criminals who are determined to wreak havoc on the human population with the goal of destabilization for their own gain is a real possibility with genetic engineering.

One potential negative of this form of technology is the creation of catastrophic new life forms that could potentially cause significant harm to our population. Another possible threat is the production of extremely contagious new diseases.

And, of course, there are also evil people out their lurking in the shadows. So, it is certainly in the realm of possibility that some of these creeps would try to experiment with human editing, such as creating people with extreme aspects, such as extra body parts or even psychological extremes, like high levels of fear and anxiety.

Cyber Extortion

So much of our life has been fully integrated with technology. Our personal communications, bank accounts, and work product are pretty much just sitting online waiting for an attack.

Because our personal and work lives are just ripe for the picking, clever criminals will continue to develop methods of seizing our assets. And, once our accounts have been hacked and immobilized, perps will extort the public by asking for large sums of ransom payments in exchange for the return of the accounts.

While so-called ransomware is not entirely new, many experts believe that future cyber extortion tactics will reach terrifying heights in both scope and scale.

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Drone Crimes

The laws and regulations governing the ethical and legal use of drones are still being drafted. So, currently, it is essentially the wild west of drone use. Criminal enterprises are probably already figuring ways to utilize drones for their own nefarious operations.

In the future, one could easily imagine drones being used to transport contraband, such as weapons and drugs. Another potential avenue for criminals is to use drones to spy on people (which, of course, governments already do). But, can you imagine if drones become so accessible that any person could use a drone to spy on and stalk their prey? It would be terrifying.

Of course, one of the scariest aspects of a potential criminal use of drones is the weaponizing of this technology for private use. Such reality is most likely not too far off in the future. And this could have devastating consequences because a killer would be able to commit murder without ever being in the same vicinity as their victim.

Surge in Serial Killers

Experts speculate that the psychologically scarred, battle fatigued soldiers who returned from World War II brought with them the demons and scars that spurred the so-called “golden era” of serial killers. Essentially, the children of some of these men became part of the huge amount of convicted serial killers that roamed our country from roughly 1950 – 2000. Fortunately, the number of serial killers dwindled in the 21st Century.

Along those lines, some believe that the aftermath of the 2008 global financial depression that led to the destruction of families—on a scale that is not yet fully understood—will result in a new generation of serial killers.

Criminologists assert that the seeds for a serial killer are planted when a child is around 5 years old.  And that the killing usually starts when these psychos are around 28 years old. So, with that logic, our nation could see a significant upswing in serial killers around the year 2030. For our sake, let’s hope that this theory will be disproven.

Artificial Intelligence Calamities

The emergence of artificial intelligence (AI) has been an exciting time in human history. AI impacts the way we work, play and live. Everything from Siri to Netflix uses some form of AI to enhance our daily lives. But, what if some malcontents began to really exploit AI by using it as a method to commit crimes and cause chaos?

Well, the consequences could be catastrophic. In the future, automated trains and driverless cars will be the norm. And if the software was corrupted by an evildoer, then the results could lead not to just massive auto and train accidents, but traffic jams that could result in an entire paralysis of the world’s transportation grids.

Other potential crimes stemming from the manipulation of AI are massive power and data outages. By corrupting AI that is used to facilitate the smooth running of our data and power infrastructures, criminals could throw us into the dark ages and selectively chose what segments of society to cut-off from indispensable services.

As if we didn’t have enough to think about, now we have to worry about speculative crimes of the future. I hope you found this post interesting, because it was certainly an eye-opening experience for me. Are there any crimes of the future that you believe should be included on this list?

***

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KILLER ON THE LOOSE Chapter 7: Nick Bracco #Thriller #MiniBlogSeries

NICK BRACCO IMAGE- GOT NICK 2

KILLER ON THE LOOSE

Chapter 7 – Nick Bracco

Gary Ponzo

They cleared an entire city block while the bomb squad sent a robot onto the bus.  Nick spent most of his time interviewing the one kid who remained until the final stop, while Matt interviewed the bus driver.  The kid was suspicious of everything Nick asked and wanted to lawyer up until Nick convinced the youngster he didn’t care if he was carrying drugs or weapons.  Nick would not ask to search his backpack under any circumstance.

“I wasn’t doing nothing wrong,” the boy said with conviction.

“We know,” Nick said, kneeling down next to the boy while he sat under the shade of a tree.  “There was a very bad man on that bus and that’s who we’re chasing.  It’s very important that you tell me everything you can about him.”

“Which one?”

“The dark-haired guy who got on the bus at 4th street.  He was carrying a briefcase.”

The was recognition on the kid’s face.  “You mean the guy who got on the bus and the left?”

“Is that what he did.  Did he come onto the bus and leave before the bus took off?”

“Yeah, he acted like he’d forgotten something and got off right away.”

“Did you happen to notice him carrying a briefcase?”

The boy seemed relaxed now that he was convinced the conversation wasn’t about him.  “Man, I do remember the dude walking past me with a briefcase, but now that you mention it, I don’t remember him leaving with it.  Is that important?”

“Very.”

The kid looked over Nick’s shoulder at the bomb squad technicians wearing their protective gear.  Oversized Kevlar with titanium shields.  He said, “Is that what they’re looking at right now?  Did he leave a bomb on the bus?”

“That’s a possibility, yes.”

“Aw, dude, I had no idea.  I would’ve kept closer attention.”

A beefy bomb technician wearing a bulky blast suit stiff-legged his way over to Nick.  When he was a few feet away, he removed his full-face helmet and said, “The bus is clear, Agent Bracco.  There’s no bomb inside the briefcase.”

“Whoa,” said the kid.  “That’s good.”

“So what’s inside the briefcase?” Nick asked.

The bomb tech handed Nick a slip of paper.

Nick opened the paper and read the note:

I know where Stone’s missing girls are…

***

In case you missed it:

Chapter 1 — Nick Bracco

Chapter 2 – Emily Stone

Chapter 3 – Nick Bracco

Chapter 4 – Emily Stone

Chapter 5 — Nick Bracco

Chapter 6 — Emily Stone

***

http://www.garyponzo.com

Check out the latest: A Touch of Defiance

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Stop in the Name of the… Straw?

Straws

Photo Credit: rkit/Pixabay

I’m not one to rant or rave through social media endlessly about politics or religion, and various subjects that I deem to be unfair, ridiculous, or just plain incorrect. I have a straight forward view of how I see the criminal justice system, law enforcement, forensics, and criminal investigations. I’ve never skirted issues, and for those of you who follow my blog or social media regularly over a period of time, know where I stand on most of the basic issues in my field.

I was born and raised in California—and I still reside in this big, amazing, confused, and often misunderstand state. I may not agree with the current politicians or their grievous tactics, but I do believe in the hardworking people who are trying to improve and keep the Golden State healthy, environmentally sound, and thriving as it should be.

This bogus “straw jail phenomenon” circulating about the State of California concerns me (wait, ticks me off)—not because it’s trying to do something helpful for the environment, but because not one news source, to my knowledge, or low-level politician, has reported the correct information. USA Today, LA Times, FOX news, Washington Post, and Forbes, to just name a few, have ALL stated that California is proposing jail time (up to six months) for a server to hand out straws to customers—without the straw being requested. The same story just carbon copied itself to every news agency, blog, podcast, and social media site. It took off like a California wildfire.

First, let me very clear. I’m in definite agreement that we have too much plastic waste and there are consequences on the environment and wildlife—and a clear strategy needs to be addressed. By something, I mean, a well thought out plan to begin to eliminate wasteful containers, plastic bottles, to-go containers, and yes, even straws.

Living on and near the California coast for most of my life, I have seen first-hand what trash, plastic, and environmental refuse has done to the beaches and wildlife. Let me give you an example—a firsthand account.

I worked for a company on the coast for several years and almost every day I took a walk along the beach and adjacent trails during my lunch break. I made sure that I had a medium-sized plastic garbage bag and by the time I returned to work—it was filled with garbage. Most items were plastic—Starbucks cups, lids, six-pack plastic tops, water bottles, soda bottles, plastic bags from the grocery stores, Styrofoam containers, diapers (yeah diapers, more than you know), and entire paper bags filled with the remains of fast food and their wrappers.

It’s truly disgusting what people toss out of their cars, leave in parking lots, and allow to blow along the beach because they are too lazy to pick up their trash. I witnessed a woman toss out a loaded baby diaper into the parking lot; she was less than twelve feet from a garbage can.

I’ve seen seagulls, otters, and pelicans, to name a few, that had become entangled in plastic, wrapped tightly around their wings, necks and legs. I’ve assisted in rescues to help capture wildlife, so that they can be freed from their garbage snares. It’s difficult and heartbreaking to see that our society has become so blasé about garbage—especially plastic. There are consequences for actions. Think before you toss your trash.

There has been a ton of misinformation making the rounds and I want to set the record straight. As for California and at the time of writing this blog post, please refer to AB1884 from the State of California government website. This is an assembly bill, which means it’s a proposal to change a current law. It still has to receive majority vote before it actually becomes a law.

For all of the chatter, hashtags, jokes, and outrage, there wasn’t anything mentioned in this assembly bill that had anything to do with jail time for handing out a straw. That jail notion was a fabrication—plain and simple.

AB1184  4271 (b) states:

“This section shall be enforced by an enforcement officer. The first and second violations of subdivision (a) shall result in a notice of violation, and any subsequent violation shall constitute an infraction punishable by a fine of twenty-five dollars ($25) for each day the full-service restaurant is in violation, but not to exceed three hundred dollars ($300) annually.”

To read the entire assembly bill: Go to the State of California government website and read AB-1884 Food facilities: single-use plastic straws.

As for the future of banning straws and coming up with sound and intelligent decisions about what to do with the excessive plastic waste in our environment—well, we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.

***

 

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KILLER ON THE LOOSE Chapter 6: Emily Stone #MiniBlogSeries

Em3

KILLER ON THE LOOSE

Chapter 6 – Emily Stone

Jennifer Chase

The increasing fatigue travelled down her arms as Emily gripped the gun.

She anticipated the assault.

The heavy gunfire ceased with only a small spray of bullets in several directions around her before it stopped completely. The men stopped their pursuit; it appeared they reevaluated their search.

The rising humidity fought against Emily’s awareness as she quickly wiped her sweaty hands on her cargo pants. She pressed her back harder against the cool rock to steady her nerves and focus on the imminent danger.

The landscape became quiet— unnervingly quiet. The birds were silent, no wings fluttering in the trees, and the breeze ran out of energy, not a leaf moved. The only constant thing was the humidity, which remained high and invading.

Emily licked her dry lips waiting in expectation for the next heavy barrage of bullets.

Nothing.

She tried to readjust her headset, hoping to hear static or the sound of Rick’s voice, but she only heard silence. Daring to peek around the rock formation, Emily eyed the trail of approach.

Where did they go?

She strained to hear any sound out of the ordinary, footsteps, crunching of leaves, winded breathing, soft conversation—anything.

What are they doing?

Still staying in a crouched position, Emily moved carefully from her location to gain a better vantage. The trees and surroundings looked normal. She stood up straight, still with her weapon directed and ready, cautiously sidestepping to move into another area away from the previous path.

She gained momentum and a confidence, hurrying down a makeshift pathway to view building location. She knew that she should continue uphill and move west to meet Rick, but her drive and concern to locate the missing girls overrode strict protocol.

Emily’s internal conversation was interrupted by shouts—first it was several men’s voices. She immediately recognized Rick’s authoritative tone. “Drop your weapons and show me your hands now!” he yelled.

Emily hurried downhill, careful not to stumble and fall. She ran as fast as she dared to in order to reach Rick. Disturbing thoughts raced through her mind of what might happen if she did not reach the location in time.

Reaching the bottom, Emily saw Rick holding one of the automatic weapons directed at the men—his shotgun lay on the ground next to him. The men were on their knees with their hands laced behind their heads.

“Rick,” Emily said breathlessly. “How’d you…”

“I had them in my sites after the alarm went off.”

Emily kept her Glock trained at the men. “Where are they?” she demanded.

The two men looked straight ahead, not moving, and ignored Emily’s question.

“I said…” she began as she confronted the first man by pushing her weapon into his face. “Where are the two girls?”

The man remained quiet.

“Em, secure them.”

“I want to know where the girls are!”

Rick lowered his tone, “Secure them and we’ll search the property before we alert authorities.”

Emily let out a breath clearly frustrated. She pulled several plastic zip ties from her cargo pant pocket and restrained the men—both wrists and ankles. She didn’t care that she pulled the ties too tight and hoped that it was uncomfortable.

“Keep an eye on them. I’m going to check this storage building.” Emily knew that the alarm was deactivated and there was no chance of a repeat of events.

Rick nodded and stood guard, taking the situation very seriously.

Emily hurried to the building. She stood at the entrance for a moment, hesitating, before she moved toward one of the tarps.

She flung back the covering and revealed various types computer parts. It was not entire computers like laptops and desktops, but boxed parts of motherboards, internal drives, memory cards, and various controller drivers.

Emily quickly documented the inventory with her phone and personally viewed everything in the storage area. There was no sign of the missing girls or any indication that they had been there.

She returned to Rick and reported, “No sign of the girls.”

“What’s in there?” he asked. “More weapons?”

“No, computer parts, all kinds,” she stated. She watched for any reaction from the two men.

Nothing.

“What the hell… why are they storing computer parts in a secure building?”

Emily added, “We need to find out who is behind this and where the girls are.”

“The bigger question is what were they going to do with the computer parts and explosives?”

***

In case you missed it:

Chapter 1 — Nick Bracco

Chapter 2 – Emily Stone

Chapter 3 – Nick Bracco

Chapter 4 – Emily Stone

Chapter 5 — Nick Bracco

***

LATEST VIGILANTE DETECTIVE EMILY STONE THRILLER  

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