By David Hooper
A child is kidnapped by a ring of Internet pedophiles. Can investigative reporter, Maggie McAden crack the case? And why does the leader of the child porn ring keep sending Maggie Instant Messages? To taunt her or to lead her into further danger? Can her new friend Michael keep Maggie, never known for caution, from getting herself killed while trying to find the guilty parties?
ISBN 1-59431-073-4 Mystery / Suspense / Romance / Thriller
Cover art by Maggie Dix
Also available in HTML and RTF formats.
"I'm gonna' see the Candy Man!"
Jermaine Fisher stared in amazement as Casey White grabbed the bar on the seat in front of him and bounced up and down in an uncontrollable frenzy. Casey White was a short, pudgy kid and had the typical features and mannerisms of Down syndrome. This was Casey's first year on the regular school bus, and Jermaine had been appointed his bus buddy so he could watch over him on the way to and from school. He wondered if he could be Casey White's bus buddy.
Jermaine smiled and took a mock swing at Casey's shoulder. "Sit down, Casey. We don't do that on the bus." Jermaine pulled on Casey's arm to guide him into his seat. "What do you mean? Your momma is going to meet you and take you some place, man?"
Casey shook his head and grinned. "Nope, my momma can't meet me today, so I'm going to see the Candy Man." Casey's mischievous smile and his small round eyes, alive with excitement, told Jermaine that something was wrong.
Jermaine looked at Casey and said, "Wait a second, man. What do you mean your momma isn't going to meet you? Where is she? They told me she'd always be at the bus stop for you."
Casey shook his head and his thick lips stretched into a wide smile. "She's sick today. My Uncle brought me to the bus. He's at work, so I'm going to see the Candy Man."
The kid behind them sat up and grabbed the back of the seat. "Who's the Candy Man?"
Jermaine waved his hand for the kid to sit back down. "Leave it alone, man. You ain't going to get any candy. Casey ain't going to get any candy because he's going to go straight home--right, Casey?" Casey doubled over in his seat, held his belly, and laughed. Jermaine grabbed Casey by the shoulders and leaned over within inches of his face. "Come on, man. You can't do this. Look--if we're going to be buddies, you gotta' tell me about the Candy Man. I'm supposed to watch out for you and I don't want to get into trouble. You're going to be my friend, right?"
Casey stopped and said, "We friends, Jermaine. You're my buddy."
Casey's tongue slipped in and out of his mouth when he spoke and sprayed Jermaine with a fine mist. Jermaine sat back up, grabbed the bottom of his tee shirt, and wiped his face. He gave Casey an irritated look.
"Now, who's this Candy Man, Casey?" Casey sat still, his mouth open, and Jermaine leaned forward and whispered through clinched teeth. "Tell me about the Candy Man."
"There's no Candy Man," Casey answered. "I teasing."
Jermaine peered into Casey's face to see if he was lying. "You sure?" he asked.
"I'm sure." Casey said, a blank look on his face. He folded his hands, nodded his head, and looked down at the floor. "I not going to the Candy Man, Jermaine. You my friend."
Casey looked up as the bus jerked and their bodies were shoved forward as the bus came to a stop.
"My stop. My stop!" Casey pushed past Jermaine to fall in line behind the group of kids getting off the bus. He turned to wave at Jermaine. "Bye, Jermaine. You're my friend."
Jermaine scooted over to the window seat, his broad nose flattened against the glass to watch Casey zigzag and blend into the throng of kids. He felt uncomfortable as the back of Casey's head disappeared. Jermaine picked up his backpack and started to follow Casey, but the bus jerked his head back as it pulled away from the curb. His eyes continued to search for Casey until the bus turned the corner.