"Perfectly executed, well written, thoroughly and utterly enjoyable; I really do hope Jake doesn't stop scratching that journalistic itch, because I'd love to spend another few hundred pages in his company." Ciclochick, Goodreads
Release Date: November 5th, 2022
He's a refreshingly different hero, definitely not young and six-packed, but...
Retired reporter Jake Scott knows a thing or two about exposing the truth and unmasking frauds. Unfortunately, he walks a fine line between helping and interfering in investigations. Homicide Detective Dani Perez, with whom Jake has a shaky personal relationship, doesn’t always appreciate it, but he can’t seem to help himself.
The affable and shrewd, yet old fashioned, Jake is hot on the trail of a case when a body discovered in a bog and three suspects lead him to the doorstep of The Guardians of Truth, a shady organization with an opportunistic and charismatic leader. While the organization purports to offer everlasting support to its followers, Jake discovers just the opposite is true.
Now Jake and an insider, Cassie Wright, want to expose the leader and protect his followers from financial ruin or worse. Their harrowing quest isn’t without peril, as one will disappear and the other will be forced to fight for survival.
If you like your heroes to be, well, like you and I, the second book in the Jake Scott Mystery Series will draw you in and have you wishing you could dive in to help.
SHE PLANNED TO expose him for the fraud he was. Nothing about him was real.
It couldn’t be.
She had witnessed Julian’s diatribes for weeks now. At first, he had her convinced. His sincerity. The conviction with which he spoke. The vivid neon-like blue eyes and the charismatic voice. All very compelling. But now she was positive of the identity and motivations of the man who held over 100 followers in the palm of his hand. He was the worst kind of fraud.
Cassandra Wright, or Cassie, as her friends called her, peered at her companion who drove the car. He stared straight ahead; his countenance was as inscrutable as a Buddha’s. She studied the chiseled features of Robert Weatherby’s handsome face and recalled how they had met a few weeks ago, and what had led them here.
Cassie first became aware of Robert while idly skimming profiles on a dating site. She was attracted to his photo, but she also learned that he practiced psychology. She contacted him and they dated a few times. She eventually sought his professional help to stave off feelings of depression. The sessions started with Cassie detailing her anxiety and sleepless nights. Over time, he seemed to help her, and her attraction to him deepened. Cassie thought Weatherby sensed the connection, too, so she wanted to take things to the next level.
She wore her prettiest dress, emphasizing her shapely figure, for a dinner date. They ordered exquisite steaks with lobster at a high-end restaurant and, halfway through, Weatherby leaned in and asked about her religious beliefs. She informed him she would describe herself as “uncertain.” Since she enjoyed being with him and didn’t want to risk offending on the topic, especially that night when she had other plans, she let him lead the conversation.
He continued by describing an organization with a charismatic leader that met every Monday night, or more frequently if deemed necessary, on a farm west of the city. He called the organization the Guardians of Truth. The attendees thought organized religion had let them down and that their freedoms were under assault from repeated intrusions by the government. Simply put, they had become disenchanted with the institutions and people they had trusted. To Cassie, they sounded like a dissatisfied group of people looking for something better, which she had to admit defined her. Left to raise a teenage daughter on her own, life had been a struggle lately. She worked in a dead-end government job. Recently, despondency had settled over her, so this might be what she needed.
She laughingly suggested the organization sounded like a cult, which produced a frown and an immediate defensive denial from her companion. The night she had planned fizzled out, as Robert became more and more insistent that she should attend a Guardians of Truth meeting. The kindness and gentleness he had displayed seemed to develop into an obsession to convince Cassie to attend a session. He assured her it would be the answer to everything she needed.
He described the group’s arduous admittance process. Only certain people and true believers were allowed to join. Cassie’s curiosity rose. What did they truly believe in? And why were they so secretive? Robert had told her how they vetted everyone through a questionnaire, and that she would have to sign a non-disclosure agreement, or NDA. She ignored the red flags and agreed to go through the process to please him.
Eventually, she passed the screening and Robert delightedly invited her to an assembly, as Julian referred to them. Any hint of a romantic connection with Robert evaporated like moisture on a hot sidewalk, as he insisted Cassie’s treatment must remain professional.
They had traveled in silence as they left the suburbs of Ottawa, Canada’s capital, and headed west. As they drove, the wipers fought to clear the windshield from a torrential downpour that had occurred sporadically throughout the day.
The weight of the silence in the car wore Cassie down.
“Aren’t you going to say anything?” she asked.
Even in the vehicle’s gloom, a crimson tide washed over Robert’s face from the neck up. He grew angry when Cassie had warned him as they left Ottawa that she intended to speak with Julian. She had considered it for weeks but wanted to be sure. Tonight was the night, but had she miscalculated by revealing her suspicions about the man to Robert? She told him she planned to expose Julian as a fraud and demanded a face-to-face meeting with him. Robert wouldn’t have any of it. His eyes narrowed, and his voice sounded flat and threatening.
“You’re making a big mistake. Why can’t you let it go? Julian has given so many people hope and will ultimately save them from what’s coming. You can be one of the saved ones. I’m begging you not to do this.”
Cassie’s frustration mounted. She realized she didn’t know Robert as well as she had thought. “Save them from what? A comet that’s going to miss earth by millions of miles? All people have to do is follow the science to realize it’s all BS. How many people have died because he told them vaccines implanted microchips in their bloodstreams? How many more people will he kill because of his stupid ideas? Besides, I’m confident the name he uses is fake. I think I know who he is, and if I’m right, he’s nothing but a charlatan.”
“You signed an NDA,” Robert growled.
“So what? It’s worth nothing if Julian is doing something illegal. At the very least, he’s doing something unethical. The NDA means nothing.”
The rest of the ride passed in stony silence until they arrived at their destination, where cars sat scattered like marbles in the farmyard and into the adjoining field. The recent heavy rain left the ground spongy, so stones picked up by the tires ticked against the undercarriage of the car as they skidded through the mud to a vacant spot. They entered a dilapidated barn, but the outside appearance foretold nothing about the interior. A red carpet on natural stone tiles ushered the attendees inside. Chandeliers hung on long wires from the roof. Spinning ceiling fans cooled the room, and rows of occupied oak benches faced the front, where a red velvet curtain separated a raised stage from the gathering waiting patiently for something to happen.
Cassie and Robert asked a couple to squeeze together, so they could sit in the only space available. The couple nodded but stared straight ahead as they shoved over without a word. As usual, an unnerving silence hung in the room. At precisely seven o’clock, the lights dimmed, and the silence shattered like glass hit by a boulder, as raucous rock music blared from two enormous black meshed speakers on either side of a raised stage. The performance was about to begin. Theatrical fog streamed from machines under the stage, obscuring the front of the room. The bench vibrated under Cassie from the music’s thundering bass, and the crowd stirred. Cassie did an inward eye roll at the spectacle.
The front of the raised platform remained dark, save for one strategically placed brilliant spotlight that created an eerie shimmering glow in the remaining dry ice cloud at the center of the stage. The music stopped, and the crowd quieted until the man of the hour magically appeared and started speaking. His sonorous voice soothed the masses. It surprised Cassie when Robert wandered away for a few minutes. Perhaps he went to the bathroom, Cassie thought.
She examined the faces staring at the front of the room. They hung on every word, enraptured by the man speaking. But something about the man had always bothered her. She listened closely again, as she had done for a few weeks. The face didn’t match the familiar voice, yet she knew this man. She recalled her shock when she had recognized something at one assembly as his sleeve inadvertently rode up on his arm. It confirmed her suspicions.
When Robert returned, Cassie stared at the man on stage, even though his gloomy dissertation barely registered. As he wound down, she glanced again at the attendees. Some closed their eyes, others wrung their hands, while still others raised their arms to the ceiling, their lips silently acknowledging every wonderful word Julian spoke. While she didn’t consider herself an expert by any means, she understood people brought together by anxiety and lack of trust could be led to a common goal, almost like hypnosis. That’s what was happening here. Robert interrupted her reverie when he reached for her hand and squeezed it, until she pulled away from his painful grip.
The room became stifling hot. Some attendees appeared to be on the verge of fainting. Young women passed through the crowd offering bottled water at seven dollars a pop. Then, Julian masterfully lowered his voice to a medium level, saving the best for last.
“We can all be saved if you will continue to support building the underground bunker here on our farm. You will be the ones to carry forth a civilization that can start over and make things right. We need young people to ensure civilization continues. We need older people who lived their lives when things were good to teach the young people.” Then, with his voice barely above a whisper, he said, “You are the chosen few. Give everything you can. We don’t have a lot of time, folks. God has spoken to me directly and Doomsday is coming. We’ll have another meeting on Sunday to discuss it more. We can all be saved if you give generously. An underground bunker will keep us safe from the catastrophic event that will end the world as we know it.”
The crowd murmured, and some shouts echoed through the enclosed space. The same young women who sold the extravagant bottled water passed through the audience again, and the sound of whirring credit and debit card machines filled the air as attendees poured their life savings into Julian’s words. When a pretty teenager of about seventeen arrived in front of Cassie and Robert, Cassie shook her head, which caused the teenager to frown.
“Don’t you want to be saved?” she breathed.
Cassie replied, “Save yourself by getting out of here.” The girl gasped and moved on.
When the spectacle ended, and the crowd filed out of the building, Cassie turned to Robert and said, “I’ve had enough. I’m going backstage to confront this fraud.”
Robert’s chest heaved with a heavy sigh. “Wait,” he intoned. He sat expressionless with his arms crossed as the last of the crowd made their way through the exit. Cassie glanced around, thinking that only the two of them remained. She didn’t see Robert motion to someone behind them. He said icily to Cassie, “I’ll tell him you want to meet with him. You wait here.”
As Robert stalked away, Cassie sensed movement behind her. Before she had a chance to turn, a sharp pain shot through her neck. Everything became fuzzy in an instant. The room blurred as it closed in on her. She grabbed at her gasping throat, desperately trying to draw a breath. She reached out to hold on to something, anything, to stabilize herself, but her hand grabbed at empty air. Her legs buckled. It was as if a hole opened in the floor, and she couldn’t prevent her boneless body from sliding in.
For Cassie Wright, everything faded to black.
About the author:
In 2009, Barry Finlay went up a mountain as an accountant and came down as a philanthropist. After over thirty years in various financial roles with the Canadian federal government, he took his life in a different direction and climbed Africa's Mount Kilimanjaro at age 60 with his son Chris. The climb and their fundraising efforts to help kids in Tanzania changed his life in a number of ways, including the start of his writing journey. He wrote his first book, the popular Kilimanjaro and Beyond: A Life-Changing Journey with his son in 2014.
He followed that up with the hilarious travel memoir, I Guess We Missed The Boat, and then The Marcie Kane Thriller Collection was born. Barry completed his debut fiction book, and the first in the series, The Vanishing Wife, in 2014. His next novel, A Perilous Question, was released in May 2016. His political thriller, Remote Access, was released in April 2018. That was followed by a novella, Never So Alone, in May 2019. The fifth book in the Marcie Kane Thriller Collection, The Burden of Darkness, was released in May 2020.
Each of the thrillers has a socially relevant theme, and has achieved Kindle bestseller status.
Now, he's introducing a new character named Jake Scott in what will undoubtedly be a new mystery series. The first in the series, Searching For Truth, was released in 2021.
Barry's books have received multiple literary awards and he was named to the Authors Show's list of "50 Great Writers You Should Be Reading" in 2012. In 2013, he received the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee medal for his philanthropic work in Africa. He lives in Ottawa, Canada with his wife Evelyn.
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