Title: A Child's Last Hope
Entry Nickname: Child and Family Services
Word Count: 71K
Genre: Adult Crime/Psychological Thriller
Altruistic social worker, Ethan Harper, navigates atrocities on a daily basis working for Child and Family Services in Citrus County (CFS), California. Children subjected to physical abuse, neglect, and exploitation are tragic common occurrences that Ethan tirelessly combats by treating every case as if his own child were in danger. Children are innocent of the crimes committed against them, and as a social worker, he is a child’s last hope of rescue before it’s too late.
Over a six-year period, Ethan saves a young girl from the neglect of her hoarding, heroin addicted parents, brazenly liberates two children from an abductor’s horrific dungeon, and liberates a drug-induced teen that has been sexually exploited by her own mother—all while starting a family of his own. As heroic and selfless as his actions are, the methods he uses to perform his duties become unlawful and arguably immoral—triggered by unintentionally killing an abusive father in self-defense.
Initiating a personal war with Roger, a child molester that attracts the attention of an FBI Special Task Force agent, Ethan is forced to make a vital decision. Should he protect his family and others by admitting his illegal actions to law enforcement, or attempt to stop the threat on his own at the risk of everyone’s lives?
Making a choice that could result in a prison sentence, the dismantling of his family, the loss of a career that he has dedicated his heart and soul to, his own death, or all of the above, will unquestionably change his life forever.
The 101-degree heat of an unusually warm June day in Onett, California, permeated the minivan's air conditioned interior as Ethan Harper opened the sliding door. He placed his hand on twelve-year-old Kevin's back as soon as the child climbed out of the van, jumping down onto the hot asphalt of the parking lot. "Are you ready for this, buddy?" Ethan asked confidently.
Kevin looked ahead at the entrance to the Onett Community Courthouse and nodded his head hesitantly. "Yes, sir. I'm ready."
After shutting the van door, Ethan gripped Kevin's shoulder as they walked toward the courthouse. "You'll do fine, Kevin. After today, everything is going to change for the better. I'm sure of it," he insisted.
Ethan kept pace with Kevin, who deliberately walked as slowly as he could toward the front door of the courthouse. He knew Kevin was just prolonging the inevitable—having to testify against his own father.
Craig Shillman, Kevin's attorney and a Citrus County Deputy District Attorney, stepped through the two mahogany and glass front doors of the courthouse to greet them. The shiny, smooth surface on the top of his head reflected the sunlight, causing a glare that was too bright to look at directly. Ethan shook Craig's outreached hand, noticing that it was dry compared to his own clammy palms, which was reassuring knowing that the attorney was much less nervous than himself.
"How are you two doing this morning?" Craig politely asked, though Ethan knew it was rhetorical.
"As good as we can be," Ethan responded.
~ VERSUS ~
Title: The Henchman
Entry Nickname: Stands By Until He Doesn't
Word count: 98,000
Genre: Literary Thriller
Rye wants to get through his shift without getting his ass kicked, arrested, or shot—after all, he’s in his good suit. As a henchman in a ruthless gang, Rye doesn’t have high hopes. After all, contending with bent cops, hitmen, vigilantes, and even a few heroes usually puts a guy in prison, in the hospital, or in the ground. As the bodies stack up around Rye, his best hope of survival is looking the other way, not asking questions, and not getting attached.
But Gwen, a woman risking everything to search for her missing sister, draws Rye into her pursuit. Even as he helps Gwen, he sinks deeper into the New York City underworld as his boss, Brian King, jockeys for power and hunts for a troublesome young hero. With each body Rye helps King bury, the less he can avoid the consequences of looking away.
When Gwen’s quest puts her in King’s sights, King abducts her in a twisted attempt at redemption. Rye, confronted with a crime so heinous that he can’t look away, must choose between saving the last shreds of his soul or the woman he’s come to love.
I should’ve worn a different suit. But it was an important meeting, so I wore my best one. Now I was standing in a drizzle, among the dumpsters in a dark alley strewn with trash, hoping that it wasn’t getting ruined. If they had told me that I’d be out there with the garbage, I would’ve worn something that would blend in. Maybe something off the rack. But I was there in a thousand-dollar suit. So were Vlad and the two Korean guys that Ko had out there with us. Four guys, in a back alley, in thousand-dollar suits. If a cop looked down that alley, he’d have all kinds of probable cause. Probably because one of the Korean guys was carrying a submachine gun. And wearing sunglasses. At night. In the rain. Then again, any cop who passed this alley was probably on the take. Maybe he’d even have an umbrella he could lend us.
Vlad lit a cigarette, then held it in his cupped hand so it wouldn’t get wet. Water beaded on his shaved head. He offered me one, but I declined. He offered one to the Korean guys. The one with the sunglasses took one.
“You guys know how long this is going to go on for?” I asked. “If this is going to be a while, we should probably put someone at the street end of the alley. Right now, an entire SWAT team could be down there and we wouldn’t know.”