Wrong Exit, p.1Vicki Graybosch, Kimberly Troutman, Linda McGregor, & Teresa Duncan
Nick Stryker Series, Book Four
The Shallow End Gals
The Characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious or used fictitiously. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or coincidence.
Copyright, Vicki Graybosch 2016
All rights reserved
Printed in the United States of America
Publisher: PJ Publishing
Editing: Debra Haight
Cover Picture: Linda McGregor
The New Orleans Series
Alcohol Was Not Involved
Book One of Trilogy
Extreme Heat Warning
Book Two of Trilogy
Book Three of Trilogy
Book Four of Series
The Nick Stryker Series:
Cusp of Crazy, Book One
Twisted, Book Two
Zero Margin, Book Three
Wrong Exit, Book Four
A very special thank you to:
Brian Scribner, Executive Director of Southwestern Michigan Community Ambulance Service for his expertise and technical contribution.
List of characters at the end of the book
J.T. Barrimore sipped on a scotch, his large frame melting into the leather of the back corner booth of the strip club. Tinted glass walls segregated the V.I.P. section, muting the music from the stage and the jeers of the patrons. J.T. sat alone in the dimly lit corner contemplating the deal he was about to make.
The staff kept a sharp eye on him in case he signaled that he needed something. J.T. was the controlling partner of the establishment but rarely visited. His security company had installed state of the art equipment that ensured a steady supply of useful blackmail material. J.T. quickly disabled the microphone and camera in his booth for tonight’s meeting. Tonight, he needed to determine if Derrick Sanford was a crazed madman, a genius, or both.
A middle-aged man with thinning, dull grey hair stepped into the dark expanse of the club from the brightly lit entrance hall. J.T. immediately recognized him from his photos; Dr. Derrick Sanford, research scientist in psychology, artificial intelligence and a computer technologist. He was the owner of Sanford Enterprises, an obscure company that catered to a limited client base. Rounded shoulders and a forward jutting head made him look much older than his 50 years. J.T. spoke to the club’s security guard through his earbud and directed him to escort Dr. Sanford over.
Derrick flinched as the security guard patted him down. His expression changed to annoyance as a handheld scanner was swiped over his body. Finally, the security guard escorted him to the V.I.P. section and J.T.’s private booth. His dark brown suit was badly in need of a fresh press. The light blue shirt was adorned with a narrow brown tie and a simple gold clip. As Derrick adjusted and re-buttoned his suit jacket, a pair of black framed eye glasses peeked from the breast pocket of his shirt.
Derrick’s grey eyes darted quickly to the stage and back to glance over J.T.’s considerable muscular frame. He managed a limp handshake with J.T.’s ham-sized hand and ordered a glass of water with lemon. Beads of sweat dotted his forehead. In every way imaginable he was out of his element.
J.T. got right to business. “I’ve been doing a little research of my own, Doc. It seems the conventional wisdom is that you can’t hypnotize someone to do something they wouldn’t already be predisposed to do.” J. T. stuck a toothpick in the corner of his mouth and leaned forward. “This seems to be in direct contrast to the premise of your research and your claims about this program.”
The question relaxed Derrick as he was expecting it. “That is the prevailing scientific theory. It serves quite nicely to protect my programs from discovery. I dare say that even the U.S. government’s experiments in mind control have deemed hypnosis unreliable.”
“If we’re to do business, I’ll need proof that your program actually works, and I want at least a layman explanation of how it works.”
Derrick had dreaded this moment. He knew that he would have to explain his program to sell it, but he didn’t want to give away his secrets to someone he didn’t trust. “I find myself in a quandary, Mr. Barrimore. I hesitate to reveal too much about the mechanics of my program at this time. I do, however, understand your need for proof that it indeed will work. Perhaps we can devise a beta test that will ease your concerns?”
J.T. slowly shook his head. “For three million dollars you’re going to explain to me how this works. You’ll provide me a broad description now, and train my people on the details if I purchase. Tonight, we’ll discuss a beta test. I took the liberty of designing one.”
Derrick sighed. “Your request is reasonable.” He lowered his voice and leaned closer. “I designed a phone app that connects a parasite program to my host program for learning the Mandarin language. This is an extensive program that is a recognized leader in the industry and has received numerous academic awards. This seemed a simple way to filter my test group to professionals that would stay engaged for long periods of time.
“When people register to purchase the app, I use that registration information to research their bios. Certain psychological indicators ensure they are a viable candidate for the parasite program enhancements. If I select them for my project group, each time they log into the software thereafter, a more aggressive layer of suggestive audio and video messages begin to embed in their subconscious. Once they have progressed through the entire course I can trigger dissociative episodes where the candidate will follow video commands. They will have no memory of what they have done and what’s more important, no conscious resistance to doing anything suggested.”
J.T smiled. “I want a beta test that I can verify. Do you have candidates that are ready?”
Derrick smiled. “Yes, I have three that are ready now and another dozen or so nearly finished.”
J.T. pulled a slip of paper from his pocket. “First, send me the profiles of the three candidates that are ready for the test. Read this and tell me if you can have this done tomorrow morning.”
Derrick read the slip of paper and looked up. “I understand why you have designed a test of this nature. Certainly this is not something most people would willingly do. Are you quite sure there will be no negative consequences to us in light of the target you have chosen?”
J.T. smiled. “The target is not your concern.”
9:00 a.m. Monday morning
Detective Jen Taylor of the 107th precinct looked up and saw a young woman enter the homicide room and glance around. Jen stood and walked toward her. The woman’s eyes were rimmed in red and she held a wad of tissues tightly to the center of her chest. Her black shoulder bag strap had dropped to her elbow and the large purse hung past her knees.
Jen asked, “Can I help you? I’m Detective Taylor.”
The woman burst into tears. “I’m here to confess to a murder.”
Jen glanced toward Detective Wayne Dunfee who was now giving the woman his full attention.
Jen touched the woman’s elbow and guided her to take a seat across from her desk.
The woman struggled to maintain her composure.
Jen pushed a box of tissue towards her, flipped her pad to a fresh report form and asked, “What’s your name?”
“Cindy, who did you murder?”
Cindy took a deep breath and sighed, “Detective Nick Stryker.”
Jen’s heart stopped for a moment. Nick was her partner at homicide and probably her best friend. Jen and Wayne exchanged shocked expressions.
“When? How?” Jen’s voice cracked, she couldn’t even form an intelligent sentence.
Wayne was busy on his cell trying to reach Nick. He looked over at Jen and shook his head.
Jen repeated, “When did you kill him? Why?”
Cindy raised a tissue to her nose and answered, “I think it was last night. I know it was dark outside. I shot him and put the gun in a dumpster.” Cindy began sobbing uncontrollably.
Wayne kept dialing Nick. It was only 9:00 a.m. and Nick often made stops before coming into the precinct.
Jen fought to keep from crying. She could barely talk. Her throat felt closed off by a softball sized lump. Her instinct was to leap over the desk and beat Cindy to a bloody pulp.
“Why did you shoot Nick?”
Cindy stared at Jen quizzically for a moment. “I don’t know why. I don’t even know who he is.”
Jen nearly fainted when Nick walked into the room, winked at Jen and took a seat at his desk. Wayne and Jen glanced at each other in shock.
Jen touched Cindy’s hand that was resting on the desk and pointed to Nick. “That’s Detective Nick Stryker. You must have killed someone else.”
Nick heard Jen’s last sentence and turned his head to look at Cindy. Cindy slowly turned her head to look at Nick.
She gasped, “Yes! That’s him!”
Wayne shook his head as he walked to the door to greet a man who had just entered the room. He looked professional. Wayne guessed his suit must have cost at least a thousand dollars so he clearly wasn’t from headquarters.
The man asked Wayne, “Is this the Homicide Division?”
Wayne answered, “Yes. What can I do for you?”
The man straightened his shoulders and said, “I’m here to confess to a murder.”
Wayne glanced at Jen and then back at the man. “Follow me.” Wayne walked the man past Jen’s desk and pointed to the seat across from his own. “Here, take a seat.”
Wayne waited for the man to sit. He noticed the man’s hands were shaking as he dabbed sweat from his brow with a hankie.
Wayne asked, “Who did you murder?”
“A man named Nick Stryker.”
Nick, Wayne and Jen exchanged glances. Nick leaned back in his chair and folded his hands on his lap. He signaled Wayne to continue.
Wayne asked the man, “What’s your name?”
“Peter Jarvis. I work at the stock exchange.” Peter sighed, “I think I need a lawyer.”
Wayne raised an eyebrow and pointed at Nick. “Does that man over there look familiar?”
Peter turned to look at Nick. “My God! That’s him! How could this be?”
Jen pointed at Cynthia, “She killed him first.”
A very large woman walked into the homicide room moaning and wiping tears. Her cleavage was stuffed with tissues. The hem of her cotton print dress fell well below her knees and she clutched a Bible tightly in her fist.
She took one look at Nick, screamed “Sweet Jesus” and fainted.
Detective Sam Flores walked into the room just as the big woman fainted. He and Nick ran over and helped her to a sitting position.
Sam asked Nick, “What happened?”
Nick answered, “She thinks I’m a ghost.”
Sam always accused Nick of never answering a question straight. “You want to try that again?”
Nick pointed over to Jen and Wayne’s desks and said, “Both of those people came in this morning and confessed to murdering me. I think that’s why she’s here, too.”
Sam and Nick helped the woman to stand and guided her to sit at Sam’s desk.
Sam mumbled, “Mondays. I hate Mondays.”
Nick watched as all three answered questions and nervously glanced toward him. Eventually they were all taken to separate interrogation rooms. Jen returned after about twenty minutes and signaled Nick to follow her to the breakroom.
She leaned against the counter and said, “This is bizarre. Why would three people walk in here at virtually the same time and confess to killing you? They don’t know you, they don’t know each other, they don’t know why they did it.”
Jen poured herself a cup of coffee as she updated Nick on the interrogations. Sam was interviewing Dolly Weston, a librarian. Wayne was interviewing Peter Jarvis, a stock broker and she was interviewing Cynthia Bronson, a local artist.
Nick asked, “They all have a memory of shooting me somewhere in a dark alley and throwing the gun into a dumpster?”
“Yep. None of them can say where this alley might be.”
“Why me, did they say?”
Jen shook her head, “They don’t know. They’re all positive about your name and your looks. They all said they were compelled to confess before ten o’clock this morning at this precinct.”
Nick knew the answer before asking but said, “Do you think this is some kind of joke?”
Jen shook her head. “These people are serious, Nick. Cynthia suggested that maybe she had a nightmare until I reminded her that two other people must have shared her dream.” Jen shrugged, “I don’t know what to do. They obviously didn’t kill you. I’ve scheduled polygraphs for all three. After that…”
Nick said, “There aren’t any reports of a body being found in an alley from last night, yet. I’m going to talk to Jarvis.”
Nick knocked on the interrogation room door where Wayne and Peter Jarvis sat staring at each other. Wayne shrugged to signal Nick that he was out of ideas. Nick introduced himself and sat across from Peter.
“Peter, have you done anything new lately? Met any new people, change any medications, changed jobs?”
Peter looked thoughtful. “I applied for a new position in the firm but I haven’t heard anything yet. I started looking at new condos but I haven’t made any decisions.” He was obviously very disturbed at the situation. “Detective Stryker I am so sorry. I don’t understand my actions. I don’t understand why I’m here, why I thought I’d shot you. I don’t even remember driving here! Maybe I’m losing my mind.”
Nick asked, “How about medications? Do you take any?”
Peter’s brow began to sweat again. Nick noticed an increase of blinking and Peter said, “I use coke recreationally. I did some yesterday.”
“Recreationally? You looked smarter than that.” Nick stood to leave the room and slid a yellow pad and pen over to Peter. “I want you to write down everything you’ve done for the last three days. Every person you’ve talked to, every place you’ve gone.”
Peter nodded. “Detective Stryker, have I been hypnotized or something? This is all so out of character.”
Nick was already considering the possibility they had all been hypnotized. It was the only thing that made sense. Nick leaned forward and said, “We’ll figure this out. Just try to get back into your normal routine and let me know if you think of anything that might be helpful.”
Nick thanked Peter for volunteering for the polygraph and the gun residue test. He instructed Dolly Weston and Cynthia Bronson to compile their own lists before they left. Nick returned to his desk and clicked the end of his pen as he thought about the morning’s events. His gut told him there was much more to come.
Kevin Morris ‘finger combed’ his hair as he went through the glass turn style doors of the Chicago Tribune’s office building. Hopefully, Sharon was working the customer service desk this morning and he could catch a smile from her. Kevin glanced towards her desk and sighed, she wasn’t there.
He walked to the bank of elevators, pushed the ‘up’ button, stepped in and heard, “Wait for me.”
He turned to see Sharon trying to grac
“I’ll hold it. Slow down before you fall.” Kevin grinned. He was going to ride the elevator with Sharon. Sharon slowed and made her way into the center of the elevator.
“Thank you, Kevin.” Her blue eyes twinkled as she flashed him a beautiful smile.
She knew his name! Kevin felt his neck getting warm.
“What floor, Sharon?”
Sharon blushed, “Actually, I don’t know. Do you know a Jack Dugan? He sounds mean. He told me to bring these other newspapers to him and then hung up on me.”
Kevin chuckled, “Jack Dugan’s my copy editor. He always takes his name off from the directory; says he doesn’t want people bothering him. He’s on the third floor. He’s not as mean as he sounds. I was terrified of him for months when I first started here.”
Sharon smiled again. “You’re the nicest person in this building. Why does Mr. Dugan want all of these newspapers?”
Kevin was practically floating from Sharon’s compliment. “He likes to see what the other papers are printing. I’m just paranoid enough to worry he compares their crime reporters to me. It’s hard to feel secure at a newspaper these days.”
Sharon nodded in sympathy. “Don’t I know it. I’ve been trying to get off from the customer service desk for a year. I want to be a reporter like you.” She smiled and Kevin’s heart melted. “Some reporter I’ll make; I never even heard of Jack. No wonder I just run everyone’s errands all day.”
Kevin remembered how hard it was to catch a break in the business. “You wouldn’t have any reason to know about Jack. All he does is rewrite our stories and call us all stupid. Why don’t you show me some of your work one of these days and maybe I can help you come up with some ideas to break through?”
Sharon impulsively gave him a hug. “Really? You’re the best.”
The elevator stopped. Once in the crowded hallway Kevin pointed down the hall to Jack’s office. “Just leave them on the corner of his desk and don’t talk. He likes people that are invisible.”
Sharon giggled. “If invisible people keep him happy, then I just became invisible. Thanks for the tip.”
Wrong Exit by Vicki Graybosch, Kimberly Troutman, Linda McGregor, & Teresa Duncan / Mystery & Detective / Thrillers & Crime have rating 3.2 out of 5 / Based on38 votes