Hearfelt Cases Book 1: The Collins Case
An FBI agent needs to solve several cases simultaneously if she want to save her kidnapped friend. This book is currently a free kindle download through amazon.
Official Back Cover Copy:
Working for the FBI certainly isn’t a “normal” job, but Special Agent Julie Ann Davidson has never encountered a case as personal as this one. Although not officially assigned to the case, Ann and her partner, Patrick Duncan, take up the cause of finding Rachel, Jason, and Emily Collins. As if that task wasn’t enough, Ann and Patrick also have a baffling case of internet thievery to investigate.
Who is Christopher Collins and what about his past is endangering his family? Where are Rachel and the kids being held? Where is God in the midst of chaos? Will Ann and Patrick arrive in time or will they find only pain?
Chapter 1 Peaceful Night
Rachel Collins had a perfect life. She loved her job as a medical doctor at a small, private practice in Pennsylvania. Her husband—Dr. Christopher Collins—was easy on the eyes and wonderful in every way that mattered. Their two young children brought much joy—and good-natured chaos—into their lives. God had certainly blessed them as a family. At least, she thought so anyway. Though he never put down her religion, Chris never promised to believe a word of it either.
Thank you for being good to us, Father, Rachel thought, tilting her head to the side and watching her husband crawl around on the floor with the children. She only wished that nights like this weren’t so rare. She kept fairly regular hours, but Chris worked at Millcreek Community Hospital, so his schedule had to be a little more flexible.
Sandy probably gets to see the kids more than we do, Rachel mused bleakly, thinking of the girl she hired to watch the kids while she worked. Tonight, Chris had persuaded a friend to switch shifts so he could spend time at home with the family.
What did you use to bribe him, Chris?
“No, Emily. Not yours,” said Jason, green eyes ablaze to make his point.
Rachel smiled, amused by the strained patience in her five-year-old son’s tone as he addressed his little sister.
“I have?” asked Emily, tears welling up in her warm brown eyes. The child’s bottom lip stuck out, and she shoved a finger into her
mouth. Her brother grunted irritably but let her keep the building block clutched in her chubby right hand.
It amused Rachel that Emily, at the ripe old age of three, could manipulate her brother so well.
You’ll break hearts when you’re older, Emily Adele Collins.
Rachel smiled down at her daughter, admiring the waves weaving through the child’s blond hair. The pleasant golden color of both children’s hair came from Chris, but the waves were definitely maternally inherited.
Chris’s hair wouldn’t know a wave if a curler attacked it, Rachel mused.
“Here, Jay, finish this tower,” said Chris, drawing Jason’s attention away from Emily and the borrowed block.
Seizing upon the opportunity, Emily snatched up another block. Rachel’s smile twitched even wider at that, and she shifted her gaze to her husband. He kept his straight hair cropped short, revealing a broad, expressive forehead that usually announced his moods. His sea green eyes were set deep in his face, lending him a mysterious air that always fascinated Rachel. His nose might have been too large if his pleasant mouth and lips didn’t immediately call attention away from it.
The night had gone well so far with meatloaf and mashed potatoes for dinner followed by three-quarters of a Disney movie and some time with the building blocks. Next, would be story time followed closely by bedtime. Rachel would savor this night for a while. Though it was getting late, she stood another minute observing her husband and children.
When it looked like a round of horsey might break out, Rachel intervened. “I think it’s time for two little people to be off to bed.”
“No bed!” cried Emily. She dropped the blocks she’d been guarding so jealously and clapped her hands to either side of her face.
Jason went with a soft groan and a deep frown, but his disappointment was just as clear.
Rachel looked at their crestfallen faces. “What’s with the long faces? You’d think I’d just sucked all the joy from the world. Come on, let’s have a smile.” She broke Jason’s serious face by tickling his tummy.
Laughter replaced the mournful silence.
Chris swept Emily up off the floor. “You too, Princess, time for the Bedtime Express.”
Motioning Jason toward the stairs, Rachel turned to lead the
“Oww!” Chris cried.
Rachel whirled and smiled at the sight of Emily giggling and squeezing Chris’s nose.
Chris gently extricated his nose from the child’s grip. “That’s no way for a princess to act.” Without further comment, he buzzed and beeped his way to the bathroom for teeth brushing and potty time.
Hand-in-hand with Jason, Rachel followed her husband into the bathroom for the nightly adventures. Despite half the bathroom population being mini-people, lack of space made the preparations interesting. Still, it was a happy struggle.
Twenty minutes and two stories later, the kids were safely tucked in and kissed goodnight, so Chris and Rachel went downstairs to enjoy the rare chance to simply spend some time together. Rachel settled onto the couch and Chris joined her, pausing only long enough to turn the television to a classical music channel. Rachel leaned her head against her husband’s chest and rested contentedly. After a moment, she reached past him and grabbed her old high school yearbook from the end table. She chattered about the pictures while relishing the feel of his hands stroking her hair. The music mixed pleasantly with her voice until she fell asleep in Chris’s arms.
When she awoke hours later, it took Rachel’s sleep-slowed brain a few moments to realize she was nestled in her own bed.
Chris must have carried me.
Thinking she heard something, Rachel listened intently for several moments. Hearing nothing, she let sleep overtake her again and slipped into a series of peaceful dreams.
Her dreams would have been very different if she had known what the next few weeks would hold for her.
Chapter 2 Bold Move
After work on Thursday, Rachel Collins stopped at the grocery store for basics and something special for dinner. Having heard many horrible stories, she didn’t dare leave the children alone in the car. Warnings about best behavior fell upon deaf ears. Somewhere, she found the patience to tolerate Jason and Emily’s childish antics.
“Why you frown, Mommy?” Jason asked.
“I’m just tired, Jay,” replied Rachel. Her mind took a trip back to the office where a thousand little things had gone wrong. The secretary’s morning car accident had added considerable stress to Rachel’s hectic life. Her trust in God’s sovereignty didn’t make lousy days any easier to live through.
For years she had believed Christ to be mere church rhetoric. Finally, during a particularly rough college year, she had accepted God’s gift of salvation through Jesus Christ’s sacrifice. It pained her that Chris avoided church. Come Sunday, Rachel forced a bright smile, sang in the choir, helped in the nursery, and coordinated other children’s ministries. In fact, she kept herself so busy with work, kids, and church that her spiritual walk floundered. Stress and bills were her biggest problems, but she understood that they allowed her family light, food, warmth, and a fine home in the great state of Pennsylvania. She knew the ‘could-haves’ and the ‘what-ifs’ could drive her mad so she decided not to worry about the future.
“When we get home, you need a nap,” Jason said.
Her son’s solemn suggestion drew Rachel back to the present. She chuckled softly. Children were a blessing, even if they did jump all over her nerves sometimes.
“Cookies!” Emily shouted, pointing with a tiny finger.
Annoyed at herself for wandering down the wrong aisle, Rachel winced at the volume, grabbed Emily’s wildly waving hand, and said, “Hush, sweets, I see them.”
That’s what you get for not paying attention. Oh well, the damage is done. The pantry’s nearly empty anyway.
She let them each pick a favorite and finished the hike to the back corner where the main selection of milk and eggs were located.
Ingenious to put milk in the back, Rachel admitted.
Next, they swung by the fish department where Jason made a face.
Emily covered her nose and announced, “Stinky!”
Rachel quickly picked up shrimp for dinner, before speeding over to the bread aisle which offered a safer zone for their delicate noses. Perhaps she saw the young man watching her, but if she did, she thought nothing of it. Her children often drew strangers’ stares just by being charming or crazy, sometimes both. Eventually, Rachel made it to the checkout lines. Despite the two extra packages of cookies and a last minute addition of crackers, Rachel counted the expedition a success and headed for home.
Pulling into the garage, Rachel shut off the car, unpacked the kids, and ushered them into the playroom where they would be safely out from under foot. This would make grocery unpacking and dinner preparations much easier. So far, the afternoon routine was going well.
On her way back to the garage, Rachel thought she heard a noise. She froze mid-step and experienced the creepy feeling of being watched. Observation in public was one thing, but being watched at home was downright disconcerting. Goosebumps sprang to life up and down her arms. Seconds later the air conditioning turned on, masking other noises. With a shrug, Rachel continued toward the garage thinking, Scaredy cat.
Paper grocery bags filling her arms, Rachel busily planned the evening’s activities when a man’s broad chest materialized before her. Reflexively, she stepped back. Her head snapped up to look at him.
Before she could scream, a rough hand covered her mouth. Another arm curled around her slender waist and drew her back a step. Stale breath washed over her in a nauseating wave. She screamed, but it came out muffled and ineffective. Fear fixed her hands in place. Her heart pounded and her eyes locked on the assailant in front of her. He was of average height with neat hair, dark eyes, and a clean-shaven face that could have been cut from stone.
Go away! What do you want? Rachel didn’t get far with her frantic thoughts.
“Relax, Dr. Collins, it’ll be far easier if you cooperate,” said the first man. He took the two grocery bags from her stiff arms and placed them on the kitchen table.
I bet it would. There’s about a snowball’s chance in hell of that! Belatedly, Rachel realized that the time to make a move was over. Oh God, help! She struggled against the hands holding her.
“Calm down, Doc! The boss just wants to meet you,” said the man behind her. He sounded young and frantic.
Frustrated tears welled up as the man tightened his grip.
I’m in a nightmare.
Sweat from her labored breath built up under the man’s hand making it slippery. Desperately, Rachel twisted her head to the side, hoping to at least gain enough room for a good scream.
The first man’s hand shot out faster than Rachel thought possible and closed around her neck. He turned her head so she faced him squarely, brushing the other man’s hand away. “There’s little time for introductions, Dr. Collins. Stop struggling and I promise your children will be fine.”
The man’s firm tone and cryptic words made every muscle in Rachel coil with tension.
What happens to them if I do struggle?
Her mouth was dry, and she could barely think.
The first man slowly released her neck and gently traced her jaw with his forefinger. “Now, I want you to be real still while I give you a shot. It’ll just knock you out for a short nap.”
Despite the man’s soothing tone, Rachel’s panic level spiked even higher. Then, she noticed that he wore a paramedic’s uniform and some of her panic morphed into bafflement.
What in the—
“My partner will need to shift his grip, but it’ll be over in seconds, I promise.”
The other man’s hand fumbled at her waist. He tossed her cell phone to his partner who dumped it into a grocery bag.
Rachel’s stomach lurched as the sense of desperation hit her anew. She barely felt the sharp needle enter her upper right arm. Unshed tears stung her eyes and blurred her vision.
“Mr. Parker will explain everything later,” said the other man, easing her toward the ground.
“Shut up, fool.”
The hard-faced man’s words stopped making sense to Rachel as her mind shut down. The urge to sleep was strong, but she fought it to think, Jason, Emily, are you safe?
Night rapidly approached as the two men carried Rachel Collins to their van.
Jense returned and coaxed the children out. “Your mother’s very sick and needs to go to a doctor. Me and my friend are here to help.”
“You’re a stranger,” Jason pointed out, studying Jense carefully.
“Call Daddy,” suggested Emily.
Jense smiled at the small child and picked her up. “We will later, but now, we’ve got to get your mommy to a safe place. Come on, she’ll want to see you when she wakes up.”
Emily reached out and touched the scar above his right eyebrow then started crying for her mother. Jense held his hand out to Jason. Reluctantly, the boy took the rough hand.
As soon as the two Collins children were in the white van, Thomas Randle drove off. The entire operation had taken less than ten minutes, but he was anxious to get back to South Dakota. He had never liked kidnapping jobs. They rarely ended well.