(Shea Stevens Thriller #1) by Dharma Kelleher Genre:Noir Thriller Age category:Adult Release Date:28 June 2016
In this gritty, fast-paced debut thriller, an ex-con biker chick turned law-abiding citizen risks everything to save her new life—and confront the demons of her past.
Shea Stevens is biker royalty. Her father was the president of the Confederate Thunder Motorcycle Club. Under his watchful eye, she learned how to pick locks, disable alarms, and hot-wire cars like a pro. But all that is ancient history. Or so she thought . . .
After a stint in prison, Shea has worked hard to make a quiet, happy life for herself in Arizona. She spends her time bonding with her big-city girlfriend and running her bike shop, Iron Goddess Custom Cycles, with her dedicated team of misfits. But when one of her employees is shot and three of her specially commissioned bikes are stolen, Shea’s new life collides with the criminal underworld she tried to leave behind.
Shea knows better than to trust the police. So, with her Glock on her hip, she takes the investigation into her own hands. Shea’s search for the bike thieves leads her straight to her father’s old gang—and her estranged sister, whose young daughter has been kidnapped by a rival club. The last thing Shea wants is to be caught in the middle of a war—but if she learned one thing from her old man, it’s that when someone comes at you, you push back. Hard. And that’s exactly what she’s going to do.
Sparks exploded from the left footpeg of Shea Stevens’ motorcycle as it scraped against the pavement. She was going too fast through the curves that twisted up the south side of Sycamore Mountain. The road was dark—daybreak still an hour away. Getting up close and personal with an elk at sixty miles an hour would be disastrous. But Shea was in a hurry.
She tried to convince herself the call from the security company was another false alarm—a rat looking for a crumb, or maybe a glitch in the sensors. But she couldn’t shake the fear that someone had broken into the shop. If the three custom motorcycles they’d finished the night before were stolen, it would be a quarter-million-dollar loss. Please, God, let it be another false alarm.
The cold air blasting through the vents in her jacket caused her teeth to chatter. In her rush to alleviate her paranoia, she’d thrown on her jeans and T-shirt from the night before. Didn’t bother with a bra. Her only precaution had been the .40-caliber Glock she’d slipped into a pancake holster at the small of her back.
Fifteen minutes later, her bike crested the hill and reached what the residents of Sycamore Springs, Arizona, call Olde Towne—a mile-long strip of locally owned shops including a café, a pharmacy, an antiques shop, and Iron Goddess Custom Cycles—her destination.
She screeched to a stop in front of the cycle shop, killed the engine, and ripped off her helmet. The pungent scent of creosote mixed with dead skunk made her nose crinkle. Moonlight reflected off the desert dust on the plate glass window, obscuring the Iron Goddess logo. Her gaze shifted left to the shop’s front door. Shards of glass clung to the doorframe like broken teeth.
“Fuck.” Her hands tightened into fists. She wanted to beat someone.
She climbed off the bike and scanned the street, hoping to spot the intruder skulking through Olde Towne. Fifty feet away at the Kokopelli Café, a Coca-Cola sign flickered on and off. Across the street, a security gate sliced the blue light of a fifties-era jukebox glowing from within the antiques shop. The rest of Olde Towne’s shops slumbered in darkness.
She dug a flashlight out of her tank bag and drew the Glock, turning her attention back to Iron Goddess. She crept onto the cement porch, paused outside the door, and listened for anyone who might be inside. Somewhere in the darkness, a pack of coyotes performed a predawn symphony of yips and high-pitched howls over a recent kill. Two delivery trucks roared past three minutes apart. But no voices or sounds of crunching glass came from inside Iron Goddess. If anyone was in there, they may have hunkered down when they heard her motorcycle. She had to find out for sure.
Drops of a dark liquid on the concrete caught her attention. Was it oil or blood? She brushed it with a finger, creating a crimson smear. Blood. Her pulse quickened.
She pulled on the door handle. It was unlocked. Thief must’ve reached in and unlocked it after breaking the glass. She scolded herself for not getting a double-cylinder lock.
After slipping in through the door, she scanned the place with her flashlight. Tiny bits of glass sparkled like jewels across the floor. A bowling ball–sized rock lay near the front sales counter. The familiar industrial smell of the showroom mixed with the organic tang of blood. Her fist tightened on the grip of the gun.
More drops of blood led off to the right. She considered turning on the lights, but didn’t want to blow what little stealth she had left. Broken glass crunched under her boots with each step. Moving slower didn’t make it any quieter.
She followed the trail of blood around the counter to where three custom-ordered bikes and several production bikes had been parked hours earlier; they were now gone.
Clothing racks for motorcycle jackets and pants had been cleared. Empty hangers lay scattered on the floor. Shelves that once displayed helmets, boots, and other gear had been stripped bare.
Shea felt sucker-punched. Her mind kept telling her it was a dream.
Her heart leapt into her throat when someone coughed and moaned. She ducked down until she heard it again. Her finger slipped onto the trigger. She swung the flashlight around and found a man lying on the floor in the motor oil aisle. She approached cautiously, ignoring the pulse pounding in her ears.
With the light on the man’s face, she recognized him as Derek Williams, one of her employees.
She slapped on the overhead lights. Derek was a scrawny guy, just shy of his twentieth birthday. His stubbly face was pale and clammy. Blood covered his shirt, pooling on the floor around his chest.
“Aw shit, Derek!” She holstered her gun and knelt down next to him.
He opened his eyes for a moment. “They made me,” he wheezed before coughing up blood.
“Who? Who did this to you?”
His eyes lost focus and closed.
She checked his pulse. Her own heart beat so fast she couldn’t tell if he had a pulse or not. She pulled out her phone.
“Cortes County 911—what’s your emergency?”
“I need an ambulance at Iron Goddess Custom Cycles, 8234 South Sycamore Highway. My friend is bleeding.”
“How is he injured, ma’am?”
“I . . . I don’t know. I just found him. He’s got blood all over his chest. I think someone shot him.”
“Is he breathing?”
“Uh . . . let me check.” She put her ear to his mouth and could hear shallow, gurgling breaths. “He’s breathing, but barely.”
“We’ve dispatched an ambulance. It’ll be there momentarily.”
Shea hung up the phone and checked his pulse again. It was there, but weak. Then it stopped. She struggled to remember the lessons from a CPR course two years earlier. She clasped her hands and compressed in the center of his chest. Blood gushed from his wounds. That wasn’t in the course.
She lifted up his shirt. His chest was smeared with blood. She wiped away as much as she could. Dark liquid oozed from two dime-sized wounds, one right above his heart, the other closer to his left shoulder.
His shirt was soaked. Wouldn’t work to stop the blood, even if she could get it off him. Shea looked for something else to use. The nearby shelves were stocked with bottles of motor oil, industrial cleaners, and cans of chain lube. No shop cloths or clothing.
She scrambled out of her jacket, pulled off her shirt, and twisted it into a tight wad. She pressed it over the wounds and compressed his chest again. The T-shirt kept the bleeding to a minimum. She continued pumping his chest. “Come on, Derek. Gimme a heartbeat.”
After fifty compressions, she checked again. Still no pulse. She continued pounding on his chest, desperately trying to minimize the bleeding and hoping the EMTs would arrive before she ran out of energy.
Her back was beginning to cramp up when the silver bell on the front door jingled.
“Over here!” she yelled.
Two deputies rushed in, guns pointed at her.
“Sheriff’s Office! Get on the floor. Hands behind your head.”
Dharma Kelleher writes gritty tales about outlaws, renegades, and misfits. Her hobbies include riding motorcycles, picking locks, and getting inked. Her debut novel IRON GODDESS will be published by Penguin Random House’s Alibi imprint on June 28, 2016. Learn more about her and her writing at dharmakelleher.com.