SYNOPSIS of HOLD STILL by LISA REGAN
After saving her three-year-old daughter from a car-jacking, off-duty police detective Jocelyn Rush ends up in the ER. The last person she expects to run into is Anita Grant, former prostitute and an old acquaintance from Jocelyn’s days on patrol. In spite of her obvious injuries—mutilated hands and feet—Anita refuses to talk about what happened. Reluctantly, Jocelyn backs off, and Anita’s case goes to Philadelphia’s Special Victims Unit.
Before long, Jocelyn is pulled into the SVU’s investigation. Anita is finally ready to talk, but only to Jocelyn. Her story is harrowing, even to a seasoned veteran like Jocelyn. Working with SVU, Jocelyn’s investigation unearths a series of similar crimes going back four years. Three men are preying on local prostitutes, viciously assaulting and mutilating them.
The police apprehend two of the suspects, but the third eludes capture. As the hunt for the most sadistic of the three intensifies, and his crimes escalate, Jocelyn and her colleagues have precious few leads. Then a monster from Jocelyn’s past resurfaces. She doesn’t want to be reminded of the terrible secret that destroyed her family nearly twenty years earlier, but the man offers her a lead that could crack Anita’s case.
To solve it, Jocelyn must connect her past with her present—before a sadistic attacker sets his sights on her.
Secrets and lies—even the most innocent of lives spring from secrets and lies. Jocelyn Rush’s blood froze in her veins when three-year-old Olivia asked, “Mommy, do I have a daddy?”
Jocelyn was grateful to be driving. Olivia couldn’t see her face from her car seat in the back. She couldn’t see the pallor and the hollow look that came over Jocelyn’s features. To buy time, Jocelyn said, “What did you say, baby?”
She glanced in the rearview mirror. Olivia’s gaze was turned toward the scenery passing by. Her eyelids were heavy, drifting closed and snapping back open every few seconds. Jocelyn was surprised she wasn’t already asleep. They had spent the entire day at Smith Playground where the two of them had slid down the giant wooden slide so many times, Jocelyn’s ass hurt. Olivia called it “The Whee” because Jocelyn yelled, “Whee!” every time they slid down.
With its indoor playrooms and extensive outdoor playground for children of all ages, Smith was one of Olivia’s favorite places to go on Jocelyn’s days off. Jocelyn liked it too because it was free. She worked full-time as a detective for the Philadelphia Police Department, but raising a child alone was costly. She had to cut corners where she could and free was always good.
“Do I have a daddy?” Olivia inquired again.
“Everyone has a daddy,” Jocelyn mumbled.
From the day Jocelyn had taken Olivia in, she’d known there would be questions about Olivia’s parentage. Why hadn’t Jocelyn’s sister, Camille, been able to raise her own daughter? Who was Olivia’s father? Why couldn’t she meet him—ever? Jocelyn hadn’t expected the questions to start so soon. She thought she’d have more time. She had imagined a teenager—or a tween, at least—demanding to know who her real parents were. She had envisioned a child old enough to understand violence and junkies. Jocelyn was lucky that no one ever questioned whether or not she was Olivia’s mother. Jocelyn and Camille both favored their mother; and Olivia—with her poker-straight brown hair, wide chestnut eyes, and straight nose—could pass as either one of their daughters.
“Raquel has a daddy,” Olivia said. “He’s a ‘older.”
“A Soldier,” Jocelyn corrected.
“Soldier,” Olivia tried.
“That’s right, Raquel’s daddy is far away in Afghanistan.”
Jocelyn said the word a few more times, far better prepared to answer questions about war in a foreign country than Olivia’s father. But Olivia’s attention had already waned, sleep finally claiming her. At that moment, Jocelyn felt the tightness in her throat ease as Olivia’s eyelids drooped.
Skirting the edge of Fairmount Park, Jocelyn took 33rd Street to Ridge Avenue. Three-story, brick row houses with mansard roofs and dormer windows sat opposite the park, many of which were burnt out or boarded up. Some had sagging porches and trash-lined sidewalks. The turrets and columns had long lost their aesthetic appeal. The larger homes gave way to two-story row houses with bay windows, most of which were painted in shades of brown and deep red. She passed Mt. Vernon Cemetery and drove down West Hunting Park Avenue, home to a slew of mammoth industrial buildings. Long abandoned, the broken glass in their windows was like fangs glinting at her as she passed. The streets narrowed as she drove down Germantown Avenue, but the houses and businesses looked no less desperate as she approached the Nicetown Tioga section of the city. She was grateful that the rumble of cobblestones and old trolley tracks beneath her tires did not awaken Olivia. Foliage closed in from both sides of the street as Jocelyn drew closer to the neighborhood where the mother of her best friend, Inez lived. Inez worked patrol in the 35th District. Her mother, Martina provided daycare for Olivia and Inez’s four-year-old daughter, Raquel, while Jocelyn and Inez worked.
Jocelyn lived in the Roxborough section of the city, but she had to stop at Martina’s house to pick up the treasured blanket that Olivia had left there the day before. They had only discovered it was missing last night. Olivia had thrown the tantrum to end all tantrums before finally falling asleep in Jocelyn’s arms on a wave of hiccupping sobs. There were a few tense moments when Jocelyn almost broke down and called Martina to see if she could pick up the blanket, but she stood her ground. People forgot things, left them behind. Olivia would have to learn that sooner or later. A night without her blanky would not kill her—and it hadn’t. Still, Jocelyn wasn’t about to go another night without it. Raquel was spending the day with her paternal grandparents. With no children to watch, Martina had gone to Atlantic City for the day, but she had promised to leave Olivia’s blanky in a plastic bag between her screen and front doors.
Chew Avenue was a busy street with wide single lanes of traffic in each direction and cars parallel-parked bumper to bumper on either side. As usual there wasn’t a parking spot within a three-block radius. Jocelyn pulled over and double-parked with her hazard lights flashing. Cars zipped around her vehicle without so much as a beep. In Philadelphia, double-parking was the norm. The blinkers were an added courtesy which most double-parkers didn’t even bother to use.
Jocelyn glanced at the house. The screen door was cracked just a little; and there was a flash of a plastic, yellow Shop Rite bag peeking out. She peered back at Olivia and paused a long moment to see if Olivia would wake up now that the car had stopped moving. But the snoring continued unabated. Jocelyn turned away from Olivia, catching her own smile in the rearview mirror. Just looking at Olivia made her grin. Most of the time, she didn’t realize she was doing it. It amazed her that this tiny person could be such a powerhouse of joy.
Unless she doesn’t have her blanket, Jocelyn thought wryly.
Jocelyn took a quick look up and down the street, gauging how long it would take her to sprint to Martina’s door and back. It shouldn’t take more than ten seconds. As a rule, she never left Olivia alone in the car—not even when she was paying for gas—but the door was only twenty feet away. It would be faster to run for it than to unfasten Olivia’s seat belt and carry her to and fro.
Jocelyn slipped her seat belt off and got out, closing the door softly behind her. She sprinted up the steps and snatched the bag from between the doors. As she turned back to her car, she saw the figure, just a blur in her periphery. Then her Ford Explorer drove off down Chew Avenue with Olivia in the back seat.
Jocelyn leapt off the steps and ran into the street.
“Olivia!” she screamed.
She had never run so fast, and was only vaguely aware of the other cars whizzing past, beeping and swerving to avoid her, expletives rolling out of the mouths of passing motorists. The Explorer made the first right onto North 21st Street and Jocelyn followed, arms and legs pumping, feet slapping the pavement, her heartbeat thundering in her ears. She reached for her gun but quickly remembered she didn’t have it. It was her day off.
She was losing ground as the Explorer turned right onto Conlyn and out of her sight.
Every muscle in her body strained and screamed, her lungs burning. She turned the corner and almost wept with relief. The Explorer was stopped behind someone who had double-parked in the middle of the street. There wasn’t enough room for it to pass. The other car’s blinkers were on, the driver nowhere to be seen. For once, Philadelphia’s narrow side streets were a blessing instead of a curse.
Breathing heavily, Jocelyn approached the Explorer from the drivers’ side and opened the door. She didn’t look; instead she grabbed and grabbed until she had a handful of clothing. She pulled a skinny, punk kid—maybe nineteen or twenty—out of the car by his collar.
His face was pimpled with a patchy five o’clock shadow. His white-blond hair was greasy, a shock of it falling across his coal-dark eyes as he glared at her. “Hey, what the fuck are you—”
The whole world went silent. Jocelyn knew the kid was speaking, but she couldn’t hear anything. Her field of vision narrowed to his face. And when he met her eyes, for a brief, fleeting second, he looked afraid. Then Jocelyn hit him. She hit him again and again. He fought back, but his ineffectual punches glanced off her body; no match for her rage. By the time she was done, she had a few bruises and her right wrist throbbed, but she didn’t remember the particulars. She only remembered hitting him until he lay at her feet, unmoving. Her vehicle had rolled forward a few feet, bumping the rear of the car that was double-parked. A few people had come out of their homes. They stood on the pavement and on porches, staring open-mouthed.
Jocelyn’s hearing returned slowly. Her labored breath was deafening. She left the kid on the ground and pulled open the back door of the Explorer. There sat Olivia in her car seat, face flushed with sleep. Her little round face was relaxed, her mouth open. A strand of brown hair stuck to one of her cheeks. She sighed softly in her sleep, one tiny hand clutching Lulu, the pink beanie bear that accompanied them everywhere.
“Oh God,” Jocelyn gasped. She put her Explorer in park and then sat in the back, weeping uncontrollably. She dialed 911 on her cell phone.
“911. Where’s your emergency?”
“Miss? Where’s your emergency?”
“Philadelphia. I want to report a carjacking.”
Lisa Regan is a crime fiction author. Her first novel, Finding Claire Fletcher won Best Heroine in the eFestival of Words Best of the Independent eBook Awards 2013. It was runner-up for Best Novel. It was also a Digital Book Today Best of 2013 ebook selection. In December 2013, Finding Claire Fletcher and her second novel, Aberration were #1 Amazon bestsellers in the Kidnapping and Serial Killers categories, respectively.
Lisa is a member of Sisters In Crime. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in English and Master of Education Degree from Bloomsburg University. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband and daughter.
· Website – http://www.lisaregan.com
· Blog – http://www.lisalregan.blogspot.com
· Facebook https://www.facebook.com/pages/Lisa-Regan/189735444395923
· Twitter – @lisalregan
· Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6443334.Lisa_Regan
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