By- David Pereda
Expected Publication Date- Feb 28th, 2015
Published By- Second Wind Publishing
While vacationing with her mother in Havana, a 10-year old American girl is taken by members of a child sex ring intent on selling her into forced prostitution. The abductors, believed to be Arabs, leave a note for the baffled mother stating that Stephanie’s kidnapping is an act of revenge. When the human traffickers avoid capture and manage to flee the island, the father of the girl, surgeon Raymond Peters, decides to take matters into his own hands and initiates a worldwide investigation. To support his efforts, the Cuban government, angered by their inability to apprehend the kidnappers, assigns Marcela, a lethal professional assassin, to help Raymond track down the culprits. The search for Stephanie takes the unlikely pair – a man who has sworn an oath to save lives and a woman who kills for a living -- to the Middle East in the hunt for the mysterious mastermind, Mohamed. As Raymond and Marcela overcome one life-threatening obstacle after another in their quest to find and rescue Stephanie, they uncover an incredible worldwide conspiracy undermining the highest political levels of the government of the United States. Working against the clock, Raymond and Marcela must pull out all stops to save Stephanie, flee Dubai, and expose the complot before Mohamed and his gang of thugs kill them.
About the Author-
I am an author and college instructor living in Asheville NC. My latest novel, Twin Powers, published by Second Wind Publishing, is the third installment of my popular Havana Series of thrillers featuring the handsome and peripatetic Doctor Raymond Peters and the beautiful and lethal Cuban assassin Marcela. This is what acclaimed author P.M. Terrell had to say about the book: “Pereda expertly weaves a web that becomes more intricate and mesmerizing with each suspenseful step, keeping the reader on the edge of their seat. The twists and turns are enough to keep you guessing and yet everything comes together seamlessly in a series of heart-pounding climaxes.”
My last romantic suspense novel, However Long the Night, published in 2012, won three awards. My previous novels include the thrillers, Killing Castro, also a winner of three awards, published in 2010, and Top Secret, published in 2009. Together with my daughter Sophia, I am now hard at work on a Young Adult novel titled Freaking Fast, with estimated publication in 2016.
A member of MENSA, I am the ex-regional director of Florida Writers Association’s Western North Carolina division and the founder of AWE (Asheville Writing Enthusiasts). I love sports and have competed for years in track and show-jumping equestrian events. Currently, I teach math and English at the Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College.
A grumbling Horacio drove Raymond and Marcela in Raul’s gleaming silver Mercedes to the old man’s home. He lived in an apartment complex on a three-block street named Humboldt in the Vedado area of Havana, a stone’s throw away from Malecon and less than a mile from Raul’s office.
The once-luxurious building was now unkempt and dilapidated. Judging by what Raymond could see, the formerly large apartments had been partitioned into smaller units. Unshaved men in wife-beaters, and unsmiling women in tight shorts, stared at them from the tiny balconies festooned with clotheslines drying the most intimate apparel imaginable in the hot sun. Several rusted cars on cinder blocks decorated the narrow street.
The ornaments of communism, Raymond thought.
“You want me to wait for you?” Horacio asked.
“Yes,” Marcela said without looking at him. She looked over the building and its surroundings. “I need you to take me home afterwards. You can wait in the car.”
A cacophony of music assaulted Raymond’s senses when they got out of the car. It seemed like each balcony had a radio on at full volume, blaring a different type of music onto the street. Horacio made a disgusted face and cranked up the Mercedes’ radio full blast.
“You got it,” he said and slammed the door shut behind them.
A skinny man with a huge Adam’s apple, standing on the sidewalk, clad in purple madras shorts popular in the seventies, pointed them to the old man’s apartment on the second floor. The crumbling stairs stank of urine and lack of proper cleaning. Pieces of papers and gum wrappers dotted the cracked steps.
Marcela knocked on a green door with peeling paint. No one answered.
An identical door a yard away opened. A teenaged girl in red shorts two sizes too small stepped out, chewing gum vigorously. She was wearing a white T-shirt that barely restrained her exuberant and bra-less breasts. She smiled brightly at them.
“Ado isn’t there,” she said.
Marcela looked her over. “Where is he?”
“Probably at the park, selling candy. Haven’t seen him since last night.”
“Who are you?”
“I’m Ailymis.” She pointed to the door behind her. “I live here. I’m Ado’s” …she hesitated a moment as if measuring her words carefully…“neighbor.”
“How lucky you are,” Marcela said, a faint smile on her lips. “What do you know about your neighbor Ado?”
Ailymis seemed confused by the question. “Que?”
“Has Ado lived here long?”
Ailymis’s brow creased thoughtfully, and her smile vanished. “About six months, I guess.”
“Did you know Ado from before?”
“How well do you know him?”
She hesitated. “Not much, except he gives me candy all the time.”
Ailymis turned crimson. Marcela stepped closer to her and laid a hand on her shoulder.
“It’s all right, chica. We all have to live.”
Ailymis nodded. “Things are hard in Cuba. And he’s an old man. He doesn’t need much. He gives me good tips and presents.”
“Have you seen anyone visiting him lately?”
“Funny you should ask that. Two men came over to visit him last Sunday. I thought it was strange. He’s always alone.”
Marcela gave Raymond a quick glance.
“Did they look like Arabs?”
Ailymis bit her lower lip thoughtfully for a moment. “They looked normal.”
“Did you talk to them?”
“But you saw them.”
“Yes. They knocked on my door by mistake.”
“So you can identify them.”
She gave them a suspicious look and drew away imperceptibly. “Why are you asking so many questions? Is Ado in any kind of trouble?”
“My ten-year-old daughter was kidnapped at the park where Ado works,” Raymond said. “He saw the kidnappers.”
“Your daughter kidnapped?” Ailymis opened her eyes wide in disbelief. “In Cuba? I never heard of such a thing before. You sure?”
“We’re sure,” Marcela said.
Ailymis chewed her gum furiously for a moment or two and then squinted at Marcela. “Are you with the police?”
“Higher than that.”
She stopped chewing her gum, leaned against the wall, and frowned.
“Higher than the police?”
“We work directly for Raul Castro.”
Ailymis’s face blanched and her jaw dropped. Raymond saw the pink wad of gum between her teeth. “I don’t know anything.”
“Does anyone have a key to Ado’s apartment?”
Ailymis hesitated. “I do.”
“You do? How come?”
Her face turned crimson. “I keep him company some nights.” She pouted defiantly. “He gave it to me, so I could come in without knocking at the door and attracting attention. He’s partly deaf. You have to knock very hard for him to hear you. Ado is a nice man. He’s always been good to me. Treats me like a daughter.”
Marcela chortled. “And he gives you candy and money, right?”
Ailymis avoided Marcela’s eyes. “Anything wrong with that?”
“No. As I said before, a girl has to live. Bring the key.”
When Ailymis opened the door five minutes later, and they entered the tiny apartment, they were all shocked by the chaos they encountered – chairs overturned, drawers emptied on the floor, clothes strewn around. They found Aldo sitting in one of the red-vinyl kitchenette chairs, hands tied behind his back and a plastic bag over his head. His mouth was open and his eyes bulged, as if trying to escape his body.