Last chance to enter the Goodreads international giveaway of a paperback copy of my book, TRACELESS. The giveaway ends on Wednesday, July 9th. Click here to enter now!
If I had an award to hand out for “best hook in a novel,” Clancy would win the gold medal. The minute I started reading my eyeballs nearly popped out of my head. Traceless keeps the action moving along at a nice pace and crosses the finish line with the momentum of an Olympic sprinter. – Belinda, Every Free Chance Book Reviews
If you like authors such as Gillian Flynn or Rachel Abbott then this is definitely a novel for you. This is a super fast paced thriller that keeps you guessing right to the end.
Although it is nominally a missing persons book it actually turns more into a psychological thriller as the investigators try to unravel what really happened.
The ending was definitely a surprise, you will never guess it. It marks the book out from others in the genre. ~ John Forrester, The Crime Scene
Adam Stoltz vanishes in the middle of the night.
His girlfriend, Darcey Ackerman, is the last person to see him alive.
An international manhunt and police investigation ensue, but Adam remains traceless.
Darcy is obsessed with finding out what really happened to Adam, but she soon realises that nothing is as it seems.
Someone is watching her, and she is about to discover that there is a fine line between love – and hate…
Traceless – some people should never be found.
The figure of a woman burst out of the shadows. She was a flash in the darkness. Her hands were clasped in front of her: begging, pleading. David Britton slammed his foot on the brakes and swerved dangerously to avoid her. His BMW screeched in objection.
“What’s going on?” his wife, Melissa, asked blearily, jolting awake in the passenger seat.
“I think I saw someone.” The nightmare vision whirled in his mind. The car’s headlights pierced the eerie darkness of the Wicklow Mountains.
“That’s impossible. No one in their right mind would be out here in the cold at this hour of the night,” Melissa protested, squinting at her watch. “It’s almost midnight. You must have imagined it.”
“I know what I saw.” David ignored his wife’s protests and grabbed the torch from under his seat before cautiously opening the door. The frosty air bit through his thin shirt but he hardly noticed.
Slowly, he walked back along the road, peering into the darkness, wondering if Melissa was right and he had imagined seeing someone. It had been a long day. In the dead of night, it was easy to see shadows and shapes dancing across the deserted landscape of the mountains.
He shone his torch on the twisting road in front of him, his breath freezing on the night air. He rounded the first bend in the road when a scream rang out. The hair on the back of his neck stood up.
“Help! Please, help me!” A woman’s voice shattered the silence.
It was a dark, moonless night, but in the light from the torch, he could see her as she ran towards him. He had to fight the urge to run away, but he stood his ground, and she ran straight into his arms, almost knocking him off his feet.
He prised himself free and pushed her away to get a better look. She was pale and wide-eyed. Her auburn hair was matted with dried blood. Tape was wrapped around her face and neck, while her wrists were tied together in front of her.
“David, what’s going on?” Melissa asked, appearing behind him. She stopped dead in her tracks when she saw the state of the woman, for once completely at a loss for words.
“Thank you for stopping,” the woman gasped in between sobs. “Our campervan broke down. My boyfriend’s missing. I can’t find him. We’ve got to search for him.” She was crying and talking at the same time, trying to explain what had happened.
Melissa, a nurse, gathered her wits, and tried to assess the situation. It was obvious that the woman was shocked and disturbed. She was almost hysterical and physically was in a terrible state with the tape around her neck and hands. Maybe she’d been raped. Melissa had heard frightening stories about women who had gone missing in the mountains.
“You’re safe now. Everything will be okay,” Melissa said. “Our car is just down the road.” She offered her arm to the woman to lean on. “Do you think you can walk a little further?”
The woman nodded and took her arm. Melissa helped her into the car, and David used a penknife to cut away the last of the tape. He rummaged around in the toolbox he always kept in the trunk for emergencies and found a pair of wire cutters to snip through the plastic ties that bound her wrists. He pulled off the duct tape on her leg, and started on the tape that was stuck in her hair.
The minute she was free, she dropped her head onto David’s shoulder, shaking uncontrollably. “Please don’t leave me,” she begged. “I want to stay with you.” She started crying: loud, racking sobs shaking her thin body. “I want my dad,” she cried. “I just want my dad.”
Melissa felt tears welling up in her own eyes.
“Please, we’ve got to find Adam! I think he’s been hurt. A man stopped to help us but he hurt Adam. I know he hurt him.”
“We’ll find him,” David said, surprised by the tremor in his voice. He had no idea what had happened to the woman. She was talking non-stop, but she wasn’t making much sense.
“We should turn around and try to find him,” Melissa suggested. “Can you remember where it happened?”
Reluctantly, David drove back to the area where the woman claimed to have been attacked. There was no other vehicle on the road, but that wasn’t surprising, considering the time.
The woman was trying to control her breathing, inhaling slowly and deeply, in and out. The area she described was just off the main road. They peered through the windows, trying to make out some shape in the darkness, but there was no sign of any disturbance or a campervan. David and Melissa exchanged glances; both wondering if this was some sort of an elaborate ruse.
“He has to be around here somewhere,” the woman said, fumbling with the door handle. “This is where we stopped.”
“Take it easy,” David said. “I’ll go and look. You should stay here.” He hauled his six feet four inch frame out of the car and flashed his torch along the road. A dark patch was visible at the side of the road, but he couldn’t help wondering where the campervan was. There was nothing out of the ordinary about the scene.
“There’s no sign of any disturbance,” he said, climbing back into the car, grateful for the warmth.
“I know it was here,” the woman insisted. “The campervan was struggling to make it up the slope, so we were driving slowly. Out of nowhere, a man started beeping the horn behind us. Adam went to have a look and then I heard a loud bang, and the next thing I knew was that this stranger was holding a gun to my head!”
Melissa and David froze at the mention of a gun.
“He tied me up, and then he dragged me to his vehicle. Somehow, I escaped, but I think he shot Adam. I heard the noise.”
Melissa and David stared at each other. Melissa turned pale under her tan.
“We’re getting out of here,” David said decisively, putting his foot down. “I don’t want to be out here if there’s some madman on the loose with a gun.”
“I’m sorry,” Melissa turned to the woman. “We have to go. This is a job for the police. We’ll drive you to the village and call from the hotel there. Unfortunately, there’s no mobile phone coverage up here.”
David drove carefully, wondering if any more unexpected apparitions would jump out at him. It was only a ten-minute drive to the village hotel. They’d get help from there. There was something about the woman and her story that unnerved him. He glanced in the mirror at her. Despite the warmth of the car, she was shaking uncontrollably.
“I’m worried about Adam,” she said, catching his eye. “He has to be back there somewhere.”
“I’m sure the police will find him,” David said as convincingly as he could.
They arrived at the hotel, which was a hive of activity, despite the late hour. The small parking area was full and all the lights were on. Music was blaring and a wedding party was in full swing.
Melissa and David helped the distraught woman into the small, family-run hotel. They settled her onto a couch in the reception area, where a few revellers stared in surprise at her cuts and the dried blood that was caked on her forehead. The receptionist went to get the owners, Phillip and Susan O’ Grady.
Susan was already in bed, but she quickly threw on some clothes and made her way downstairs to reception, where Darcey was sipping a hot mug of sugary tea. She was trembling and her face was streaked with mud and tears. Melissa was bathing the scratches on her knees and elbows, and dressing them with antiseptic cream from the first aid kit.
“Bloody police!” David swore. “I can’t believe the incompetent bastards just hung up on me! They think I’m a prank caller. Wait until I speak to DCI Rhodes; he and I play golf together and I know he won’t be impressed by their behaviour.”
“Try them again,” Melissa coaxed.
“They’d better answer this time, if they know what’s good for them.”
“What’s your name, love?” Susan asked, taking a seat beside the young woman. “What happened?”
Darcey did her best to recount what had happened, but it was difficult to decipher the story through her sobbing. “Something terrible has happened to Adam. He hurt him, I know he did.”
Phillip O’ Grady joined the small group that had gathered around the stranger. He was finding it difficult to get his head around her story.
He had a reputation in the local area for being quite the raconteur, regaling his customers with every sort of a story from the mediocre to the ludicrous. However, he had an inkling that nothing was going to match the sequence of events that was being played out in front of him.
“Listen to me, and listen carefully.” David couldn’t hide the anger in his voice. He was exhausted and his nerves were shredded after the unexpected turn the night had taken. He longed for a hot whiskey and his comfortable bed, but that felt like an eternity away. Being hung up on by the police was the last thing he was in the mood for.
“I’m David Britton and I’m telling you that there’s a young woman here at O’Grady’s Hotel who claims her boyfriend was shot. I recommend you send someone to investigate immediately!”
Sergeant Colin Ferris, who was pulling the night shift at the station, took a deep breath. He didn’t like David Britton, finding him to be a pompous, arrogant man who behaved as if the world should worship at his feet because he was the top consultant psychiatrist in Ireland and owned the biggest house in the area.
“We haven’t had any reports of a shooting, Mr. Britton,” Sergeant Ferris replied. “The woman’s story sounds quite preposterous to me. Are you sure she hasn’t been drinking or taking drugs?”
“She seems fairly coherent, considering what she’s endured. You should send someone quickly.” David decided to change his tune, realising that his bullyboy tactics weren’t getting him anywhere. All he wanted was to get home as soon as possible, and the quicker the police arrived, the sooner he could leave.
Sergeant Ferris hesitated. “We’ll be there in fifteen minutes.” He grabbed his revolver, deciding not to take any chances if there really was a gunman on the loose. Then, he jumped into the squad car and radioed his colleagues to send backup.
Meanwhile, Susan and Melissa had managed to convince Darcey to lie down for a while. Wearily, she had accepted their suggestion, but within an hour, she was up again, with a blanket draped around her shoulders, pacing up and down. She kept repeating what had happened, as if she was trying to make sense of it in her head.
“I told Adam not to stop; I had a bad feeling. I knew something terrible was going to happen.”
“Was there anyone else in the vehicle?” Melissa asked.
“It was getting dark, so it was difficult to see. He was alone, except for his dog. He and Adam spoke for a few minutes at the back of the campervan. Then, Adam asked me to rev the engine so he could check the exhaust.
“Adam returned to the back of the camper, while I revved the engine. I heard a loud bang, but I assumed it was the engine backfiring. Suddenly, the man appeared beside me. He had long, dark hair sticking out from under his baseball cap. He pointed a gun at me as he pulled open the door.
“Next thing I knew he was trying to tie my hands behind my back. I struggled against him, kicking and scratching; there was no way I was going to make it easy for him, but he put a bag over my head and tied my wrists.
“Then he tried to tie my feet, but I wouldn’t sit still, so he dragged me out of the campervan and pulled me into his vehicle. He locked the door and left me there. I had no idea where he went or when he was coming back.”
Melissa and Susan listened intently to her story. They couldn’t quite believe what they were hearing.
“How did you get away?” Susan asked.
“I realised that my only hope of escaping was through the rear doors, so I half-crawled, half-rolled through the interior before kicking the rear doors open. I ran, petrified that the man would chase after me at any second. I found it difficult to keep my balance so I hid in a ditch behind some bushes, hoping and praying that he wouldn’t find me.
“Minutes later, I heard him searching for me. He was carrying a torch. At one stage, he came so close to me that I was sure he could hear my heart pounding. I don’t know how long he searched, but it felt like an eternity to me.”
Melissa and Susan listened in silence as she told them about her frightening ordeal. Only the loud ticking of the clock provided a background to her story.
“I stayed behind the bush for hours, too scared to move. Eventually, I decided to take a chance on going for help, and that’s when I saw your car.” She covered her face with her hands and wept. “I’ll never see Adam alive again.”
Susan hugged her and did her best to comfort her. She tried to make sense of Darcey’s rambling story, but decided that it was best not to ask her any questions. The poor woman was traumatised enough. She’d need all her wits about her for the inevitable police interrogation.
She glanced at the old grandfather clock that had just chimed 2 a.m. It was almost two hours since Melissa and David had found Darcey and five hours since she had last seen her boyfriend alive.
“Hello, Colin,” Susan greeted the sergeant as he strode purposefully into the bar.
He nodded curtly at her. “The detectives are on their way and will be with us shortly,” he announced. His face softened when he saw Darcey. She was in her early twenties, not much older than his daughter was. He took a seat beside her on the couch. “I know it’s difficult, but I need you to tell me exactly what happened.”
Sergeant Ferris spent an hour interviewing her, while armed police were setting up roadblocks. They had been instructed to stop anyone driving a silver SUV. They didn’t expect to find many vehicles out on the road at that hour of the night, but they needed to seal off the main routes into and out of the area just in case.
“Can you describe your attacker?” Sergeant Ferris asked.
“I couldn’t see his face properly because his cap was pulled down low,” Darcey replied. “But he had thin lips and foul breath. He was about six feet tall, with strong, broad shoulders and he spoke with a Dublin accent.”
The sleepy village of Enniskerry awoke to armed police officers setting up roadblocks and checking drivers and passengers before allowing them to move on.
Forensic technicians and detectives were scouring the crime scene. They had discovered a stain at the side of the road, which they were almost certain contained traces of human blood.
Detective Sergeant George Ellis sensed that rain was on the way. The wind was biting cold and the sun provided little warmth. He was familiar with the weather patterns and sudden changes that occurred in the mountains, and he knew it was imperative that the scene be analysed before the rain set in.
He huddled deeper into his heavy coat, knowing that there was a long day ahead. Early mornings weren’t his scene, especially when he knew that it would be late into the night before he saw his bed again.
He’d been looking forward to a quiet weekend at home, his first weekend off duty all month, but that had been ruined by DCI Rhodes’ pre-dawn phone call. Nothing exciting ever happened in Enniskerry, but something big was going on now, no doubt about that.
George surveyed the looming mountain range and shuddered. He had grown up in its shadow, and it had always filled him with a disconcerting mixture of dread and awe. He thought of all the people who had been lost in the mountains; some had been tragic accidents, while others had been running away from something in their lives.
However, he knew that unless they had grown up close to the mountains and knew how to hunt, there wasn’t much chance of survival. If Adam Stoltz was missing out there, it would only be a matter of days before he turned up dead, especially if he was injured.
George yawned widely and took a long gulp of his steaming hot black coffee. He rubbed the sleep from his eyes and braced himself for what lay ahead. Squad cars were parked along the mountain road by the time he arrived. Thankfully, there were few tourists to worry about during the winter months, so that was one less headache he had to endure.
He pulled up and paused for a moment to survey the scene. Already, police officers were trudging haphazardly through the grass and stopping occasionally to push little markers into the ground. He sighed at the sight of them stomping around.
Slowly, he climbed out of his car and had a brief chat with Detective Mike Byrne, a short, muscular man, with spiky black hair. He and George had been partners for ten years. George had helped Mike through two marriages, two messy divorces and an even messier custody battle.
Mike, in turn, had been there for George through his marriage to his beloved Clara, and her tragic death in a car accident at the age of thirty-three, a year after their daughter, Isabelle, was born. George and Mike loved each other like brothers, though neither one would ever admit it.
“The woman was hiding in those bushes over there. We’ve found her boot print, and we’ve discovered a patch of blood.”
George followed Mike as he showed him the location of the blood. There was a large, dark patch and it seemed that dirt had been scattered over it. He stood for a moment and studied the stain. There was something strange about it. He stared at the thorn bushes nearby and scanned the landscape, sensing that there was something more than the obvious out of place.
Click here to enter the Goodreads giveaway now! Giveaway ends on Wednesday, July 9th or if you can’t wait to find out what happens next, TRACELESS is available to buy at Amazon.com and Amazon UK.