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Not Another Statistic (A Yuri Sorenson Mystery Book 1), page 1

 

Not Another Statistic (A Yuri Sorenson Mystery Book 1)
 


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Not Another Statistic (A Yuri Sorenson Mystery Book 1)


  Not Another Statistic

  A Yuri Sorenson Mystery #1

  J.M. Dabney

  Copyright © 2019 by J.M. Dabney

  Hostile Whispers Press, LLC

  ISBN: 978-1-947184-30-5

  Cover Image: FuriousFotog (Golden Czermak)

  Cover Model: Kevin R. Davis

  Cover by: J.M. Dabney

  Edits by: AlternativEdits (Laura McNellis)

  Proof Edit by: Stephanie Carrano

  Cover content is for illustrative purposes only. Any person depicted on the cover is a model.

  All rights reserved.

  No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

  REMEMBER:

  This book is a work of fiction. All characters, places, and events are from the author’s imagination and should not be confused with fact. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, events or places, is purely coincidental.

  PLEASE BE ADVISED:

  This book contains material that is only suitable for mature readers. It may contain scenes of a sexual nature and/or violence.

  For the readers who follow me along the crazy path my characters decide to take them.

  Special thanks to my amazing beta readers and the other people involved who keep me going no matter what.

  Contents

  Author’s Note

  Not Another Statistic

  1. Yuri

  2. Josh

  3. Yuri

  4. Josh

  5. Yuri

  6. Josh

  7. Yuri

  8. Josh

  9. Yuri

  10. Josh

  11. Yuri

  12. Josh

  13. Yuri

  14. Josh

  15. Yuri

  16. Josh

  17. Yuri

  18. Josh

  19. Yuri

  20. Josh

  21. Yuri

  22. Josh

  23. Yuri

  24. Josh

  25. Yuri

  26. Josh

  27. Yuri

  28. Josh

  29. Yuri

  Epilogue

  Coming Soon

  About the Author

  Also by J.M. Dabney

  Author’s Note

  While this book is part of a series and has continuing main characters each book is a HFN/HEA without cliffhangers. Every book will focus on the main characters and one case with a solid resolution. The romance will continue over the course of the books.

  Not Another Statistic

  Former Federal Agent Yuri Sorenson had left the bureau behind to become a private investigator. His ex-partner came to him asking for a favor, not knowing who else to trust. Yuri had always had a way of keeping his emotional distance from the people he protected, yet that changed the day Clarkson hesitantly limped into his life.

  What happens when love is confused with pain? That’s the exact question Josh Clarkson had asked himself for years. He’d grown up in an overburdened foster care system, and from what he knew of love, he couldn’t expect anything but to be something tolerated. Was he meant to be more than a plaything or a piece of scenery? He could hope.

  Two men who know nothing but being broken find that patience and acceptance are harder than losing hope. Is the leap of faith worth the reward of letting someone else in? Maybe they’ll find the strength to find out before the danger of Josh’s past tries to tear them apart.

  One

  Yuri

  Yuri Sorenson. Private Investigator. I read the words on the door of my new office. It was as far from D.C. as I could get. At forty-five, I was burned out from the corruption around me and playing politics. I hadn't taken the job to paste on a smile and act as if everything was business as usual. That's how I ended up in a city that was just as shifty, but at least I didn't have to watch my back among friends because I didn't have any.

  Galeside had just the environment for a former federal agent that wanted to get lost. And what better place to set up shop than over a strip club called Glittering Vices in the Sin District. I opened the door with my new key that I'd just picked up from the club owner, Ramone, and stepped inside to my new life. The furniture was delivered the day before, and now it was just a matter of finding some jobs.

  Following cheating spouses was just fine with me. At that moment, all I cared about was paying my bills and being able to eat. The dangers of leaving before you were eligible for your pension, I was only a few years shy of my twenty-five years. No matter how I played it out in my head, I couldn’t justify staying longer. The compulsion to escape made each day another to endure. I wanted nothing more than to leave that life behind and find a place to just be.

  I closed the door and headed for the large, half-circle window and looked out on the neighborhood. Pimps and hookers, drug dealers and cops, and a local bar owned by the biggest crime boss in the city littered the street below. I'd chosen this place for a reason. The lowest of the low, information could always be found for a price. Everyone's money was the same color.

  I'd used an old friend to run a check on all the players. You never went into a situation without knowing who you'd mix with. The door hinges squeaked behind me, and I turned, only decades of stoicism helped me hide my expression.

  "What do you want?" I asked as I watched my old partner enter the office. I bent my arm behind my back and wrapped my hand around the butt of my weapon. Levi West was one of the people I wanted to put as much distance between us as possible.

  "No reason to reach for that, Yuri."

  "I'll reserve judgment on that, West."

  "Fine, hold onto your piece, but I gotta job for you."

  "No," I answered quickly. Whatever job he wanted to offer—I wasn’t interested.

  We stared each other down like fighters in the ring. Watching for the slightest tell that an attack was imminent. I wouldn't lie and say my paranoia was out of hand, but I'd seen too much shit the past few years to let my guard down.

  "Don't answer so quickly. This is strictly off the books." He threw a file on my desk.

  I removed my hand from my gun and picked up the folder. I opened it to find a picture of a boy looking back at me. Blond and too pretty, my gut said he was kept and spoiled. I didn't even have to read the file to figure that out. Twenty years as an agent and you became pretty proficient at reading people; even from a photo.

  "And?"

  "Josh Clarkson. Formerly affiliated with Vernon Cross."

  "Why does that name sound familiar?"

  "Son of Richard Cross, the Republican Senator, hoping to be president."

  "Shit."

  "You can say that again. Apparently, Cross likes to rough up his boyfriends, and Clarkson barely survived the beating. He's been put into protective custody for the time being, at least until after the trial. The District Attorney called us in to cut down on possible bias by local authorities. There's already been numerous threats and a few failed attempts."

  "It's a rich boy with a conservative politician dad, what's that have to do with me?"

  "We need to find a safehouse for him. Clarkson's not going to make it through the trial. Both Crosses have the boy on their hitlist. Which means he's gonna end up being found floating in the harbor or in an alley execution-style."

  I threw the file back in his direction. This shit was why I quit. I had no interest in babysitting some brat and just having the kid end up dead anyway. Sex and politics were a recipe for being six-feet-under. Throw
in a homophobic, politician father wanting to lessen embarrassment, and I might as well kiss my ass goodbye.

  "It seems you're in need of a job, and Clarkson needs a bodyguard."

  "Fuck, no. You're not pulling me back just to have someone shoot at my hairy ass over a domestic dispute."

  "You're the only one I got to ask, Yuri. This kid isn't going to make it through this trial. There's already been three attempts. We don't know if it's the Senator or the son, or both."

  I growled as I picked up the file and started going through it. Kid was in his mid-twenties. "How long has Cross been keeping him?"

  "Complete isolation for a year, together I think two or three years. Seems Cross sweet-talked Josh. Found out the kid aged out of the system. Has a history of abusive boyfriends. Perfect target for someone who just wants an ass to fuck and can do whatever they want to him."

  "When does the trial start?" My paranoia flared to life, and I mentally tallied all the ways an operation like this could go wrong.

  "Two days."

  "Nice way to wait until the last minute."

  "We got word that his last protection detail was compromised. We needed to step outside official channels on this one."

  I flipped more pages, and Clarkson's entire life was in the file. Even petty shoplifting charges, vagrancy, and some alleged solicitation. But he'd never gone in front of a judge for the prostitution. I scanned the psychological evaluation that the defense had asked the prosecution to perform.

  "And I'm the lucky one?"

  "No one cleaner than you."

  I wasn’t sure about that. I’d left before the guilty-by-association verdict came down from my superiors. "What's in it for me?"

  "Double your daily rate plus expenses until the end of the trail. Or would you rather follow around a cheating wife or find someone's lost dog?"

  I hated that I was motivated by money, but I had bills to pay. I laid the file back on my empty desk and pretended to think it over. Just because West had me by the balls didn't mean I couldn't make him sweat a bit.

  "When do I meet him?"

  "He's outside the door."

  I groaned and thought about pulling my weapon, but a former federal agent didn't stand a chance in prison. He stuck his hand into his jacket and pulled out an envelope. When he held it out to me, I ripped it from his grip.

  "That has cash, hotel address and card keys, also when to be at the courthouse. I'll be your handler on this. You don't contact anyone else, and as of this minute, I'm the only one who knows he's with you."

  He turned and opened the door, leaning out and then a dangerously thin young man entered my office. His face was covered with small scars as if someone had taken a razor to him. His full bottom lip was marred by a thick scar that split the center of the curve. His gait was slightly uneven as if favoring his hip.

  "Josh, this is Yuri Sorenson, he's going to be taking care of you until the trial is over with."

  "Hello, Mr. Sorenson." His voice was soft and timid.

  I wasn't surprised. His file gave me insight that the kid was beaten down by life and just about every man he'd bent over for. I should be more sympathetic. This wasn't my first protection duty. My superiors had assigned me to every witness security detail that came across their desks.

  "I'll leave you two to get acquainted. Yuri, you have my number."

  Fuck, West left like his ass was on fire and I studied the kid, and the way he looked everywhere but at me. I closed his file and tucked the envelope inside.

  "Tell me you got a bag."

  "Yes, it's in the hall."

  "Not the safest place to leave your things, kid." I didn't miss the kid's flinch. "Come on, good thing I hadn't unpacked my vehicle yet. Let's get to the hotel and get you locked down for the night."

  I figured tonight would be the safest to get him to a room and then I could walk the layout of the hotel for escape routes and weak spots in security. I'd have to get employee records and IDs, especially for room service. It would be safer for me to pick up from the hotel restaurant. I shook my head and pushed off the unknown variables for the time being. Enough opportunity to think about it later when I had the kid in a room, and I could get a minute to think.

  "Grab your bag," I ordered, and even though I tried to soften my tone, it still came out harsher than I intended. The kid was beaten down, you could see it in the way he carried himself, and I didn't understand why it was pissing me off the way it did. I didn't need some emotionally scarred boy with masochistic tendencies pushing my damn buttons.

  Instead of going out front, I led him to the fire exit at the back, and down the alley. I shoved him behind me as we came to the corner. I pulled my weapon and kept it at my side as I checked the surroundings.

  "Put your hood up and stay behind me." Thankfully, he listened, and I grabbed his hand, keeping him close. My car was at the end of the block, and as long as West covered his tail on the way to my office, we should be good. I kept a hold of the kid's hand, and when we reached my SUV, I got him in the front seat and his bag in the back. Everything I owned was in there, which wasn't much. I'd learned to travel light from my teens. No reason for permanence when I knew nothing lasted forever.

  As quickly as possible, I had us headed across the city to the high-priced hotel. I would've been happier with a no-tell-motel where the employees didn't ask too many questions. If the hotel didn't pan out, maybe that would be our next location. First rule was always to have a backup plan.

  I scrubbed my hand over my face. So much for a nice quiet retirement. All I could hope was I didn't end up dead.

  Two

  Josh

  Glossy images were displayed under the glare of the courtroom lights. My eyelids twitched as I studied the visual documentary of my life. It was fingertip bruises on my pale skin that was stretched over my starved muscles. Swollen eyelids mottled in varying shades of black, purple and yellow—old and new bleeding wide over the battered canvas that was my body. An evenly modulated voice rose and fell at just the right moment for emphasis and effect as the attorney narrated—my twenty-five years morphed into no more than a docket number.

  My eyes fell on yet another piece of evidence pointed out to the jury members. My tongue stroked the thickly scarred curve of my bottom lip. I was a victim, born and bred. It was only right the end of my so-called perfect life with Vernon Cross would come down to this moment. Stiffly sitting on a hard, dark-stained bench behind the prosecutor’s table and listening to my every shame highlighted for strangers.

  I was one large aching muscle and festering wound. I turned into a statistic for emphasis in a PSA—some afterschool special. The aftereffect of balled fists pounding into mere mortal flesh, a nauseating symphony of sledgehammer punches which never seemed to end.

  How did I come to be here? Born, abandoned, and possibly starved for love of any kind. Was this moment predestined: A fate foretold? I drowned out the drone of voices, the heaviness of my ex’s murderous glare and did it all with ease.

  I found my mythical happy place—all sunny skies and unfettered happiness. Was it only months before that I could’ve been any face in the crowd? I was just another stranger blending into the scenery, seen in some surreal peripheral aspect and just as easily forgotten.

  Yet, now the spotlight brightly shined down on my blond hair. The attention was blinding and uncomfortable in its intensity. My brain screamed—pled—for me to flee, but my body was frozen in place. I lived the highlighted memories in white-hot, painful clarity. The refresher course of a trial wasn’t needed to make me remember it was all there as soon as I closed my eyes.

  I was simply hoping for an end to the day’s festivities of rehashing the facts ad nauseam.

  My ex was a multi-millionaire CEO and conservative senator’s son, those made this a high-profile case. My doubts that he would get more than a slap on the wrist or the fact I would even survive until the end grew exponentially.

  The embarrassment of an attempted murder trial wouldn
’t go unpunished. He rather enthusiastically enjoyed his lessons. My fingertips trailed over the bandage securing the cracked ribs from my last lesson. I was essentially a no one in the great scheme of things. An unwanted child birthed by an uninterested mother, then later by an overburdened foster care system after she’d attempted to drown me.

  I shook my head as I tightly wrapped my arms around myself. The twinge of pain in my ribs pulled me back to the present. I sensed I was being watched as the hairs rose on the back of my neck.

  Protective custody, that’s what they'd called it. I refused to glance back to check if my shadow still held fast to his post. The unnerving prickly sensation assured him he was there.

  To anyone else Yuri Sorenson would appear as if he were just a casual observer. I'd vehemently protested the need for the large, intimidating presence of Sorenson when Agent West had called to check in the day before. Part of me felt there was more to it than they told me—more than just an attempted murder and a rich man wanting to get off with probation at worse. Plenty of questions demanded answers, but as the saying goes: beware what you ask for. I had enough trouble—I wasn’t going to borrow more.

  My head was fucked-up and mired in reality-bending flashbacks. The slightest movements or loud voices caused me to flinch and cower. I'd lived with the fear for so long that it was simply second nature. The first hit of my life came at the age of six. I don't remember what I'd done or even if I'd done anything, yet the hit came all the same.

 
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