BY: JOHN R. BEYER
Jonas Peters and Frank Sanders team up to solve a string of murders, starting with the intentional and fatal bombing of the Common Grounds, a local coffee shop in downtown Riverside—a usually calm city in Southern California. Dozens are dead after an explosion rips apart the Common Grounds, leaving dozens of others gravely wounded. Frank soon finds himself up to his elbows assisting the bombing victims, especially when he discovers that Jonas was walking to the Common Grounds to meet up with his fiancée, but he never made it. In an instant, all their lives are thrust into a trail of death and destruction carried out by an unknown psychopath.
TAYLOR JONES SAYS: In Iquitos by John R. Beyer, we are reunited with Jonas Peters (Hunted) and Frank Sanders (Operation Scorpion). This time the two are working together to solve a bombing at a local coffee shop where Jonas was meeting his fiancée. Dozens of people are dead or injured, and Jonas and Frank fear that Jonas may have been the real target. But Jonas is retired now, so who could be after him? The only clue they have is a text message that Jonas gets about Iquitos, a name he hasn’t heard for twenty years, just before the explosion. Can Jonas and Frank figure out who the psychopath is who is responsible for the bombing before he or she is successful in taking them both out?
Written in Beyer’s unique and refreshing voice, filled with wonderful characters, vivid scenes, and lots of surprises, this is a mystery/thriller that you won’t want to miss. A really great read.
REGAN MURPHY SAYS: Iquitos, The Past Will Kill, by John R. Beyer is the story of two retired cops, who have become private investigators. Jonas Peters and Frank Sanders have both retired from the Riverside California Police Department. Now they take private cases. One day when Jonas leaves Frank’s office in downtown Riverside and heads for a nearby coffee shop to meet his fiancée, who is waiting for him there, the last thing that he expects is to have the coffee shop explode just before he gets there. As he is walking to the coffee shop, Jonas gets a text from an unknown source asking if he remembers Iquitos. The only time Jonas has been to the small South American town is some twenty years ago when he was part of a joint task force working with the Peruvian Government. He doesn’t know who is trying to kill him, but he’s pretty sure that he’d better find out—before whoever it is succeeds.
With vivid scenes that make you feel as if you are right there in the Amazon, an intriguing plot, and marvelous characters, Iquitos will keep you glued to the edge of your seat from the very first page. This one’s a keeper.
Jonas Peters grinned at the slightly older man standing on the second step of the entrance to the brick building while reaching out his right hand. “Thanks for the help on the case.”
Frank Sanders shook his head. “I should be the one saying ‘thank you’ a few times, as many cases you’ve helped me on.”
“How’s business, seriously?” Jonas asked.
“It’s good, Jonas. Some cases really make me some money, and some just pay the bills. Sure, I miss the days when you and I would bump into each other at the department on a juicy murder or burglary, but those days are gone. Retirement pay isn’t substantial, but this gig gives me plenty of traveling money.”
The two men had spent the previous forty minutes in Frank’s office on the second floor of the Wright building just northwest of the Mission Inn in downtown Riverside, California. They had been going over the final paperwork on a joint case they had been working on together, albeit somewhat apart.
Frank had gone from a crimes-against-persons detective to private detective when he retired from the Riverside Police Department. Jonas Peters had gone from homicide detective to falling into a bottle of Jack Daniels and then re-surfacing to finish a case which cost him a dear friend, along with many innocents. Fortunately, that story had a happy ending, with the killing of Zachary Marshall, the psychopath who had started it all. It should have meant the release of the demons Jonas had felt for so many years, but instead, it just reinforced the negativity of the world in which he had lived for so long. He wanted out, but did not know how to exit.
Jonas had turned in his badge for the Riverside Police Department where he worked, and moved to Scottsdale, Arizona, believing his life might take a one-eighty. It hadn’t. Jonas eventually found himself on a pension, living on twenty acres of desert near a small town named Phelan in Southern California and working a few cases here and there as a private detective. Not a glamorous job but one, like Frank had responded, that helped make the financial side of life a bit more comfortable.
Jonas also liked the solitude of the High Desert. Seemed fewer ghosts circled there.
He also liked to cry where no one would see him.
“How’s your life really going?” Frank asked while stepping down a step and looking his friend squarely in the eyes.
Frank had known Jonas for over two decades while working at the Riverside City Police Department but had never gotten to know the man very well. Jonas had always been friendly enough, but to dig into his personal history was not a door a fellow officer ever tried to venture through.
Jonas had always been somewhat aloof. Not aloof like a head-in-the-sky sort of fellow but one who always questioned himself and thus never allowed anyone from the outside to look inside.
“Actually, Frank,” Jonas stated. “Things are looking up for me recently. The cases I take are ones that I want, and the ones I don’t, I don’t.”
Frank nodded his rather large square head. “Any women?”
Jonas smiled. “There was in Scottsdale for a while. A great lady by the name of Samantha—I called her Sam—and we hit if off well after I retired from the force. You know, after Steve’s murder, I just had to get out of here, but after a year or so I needed to come back. This is where I grew up and all I really know.”
“You know, John Steinbeck wrote that you can never truly go home.”
“Yeah, well, he was right. That’s why I live out in the boonies in Phelan. Just me and my three dogs.”
Frank grinned. “I like dogs.”
“You have any?”
“Nope, I’m just gone too much to feel like it would be fair to them.”
“That makes sense.”
“What happened to Sam?”
Jonas shifted his weight from the left to the right. “She could sense I wanted to move back near here, and we sort of went our own ways. We reconnected a few months back—you know, sort of a long-distance affair with texts, phone calls, and the like. She called me the other week to let me know she would be in Riverside on business. It coincided with my meeting with you.”
“Serendipitous, I would say.” Frank clapped Jonas on the shoulder while giving him a wink.
Jonas smiled in return. “Yes, we’ve spent the last couple of days together, and things were just like they were. We may even try the relationship again—even if it means some traveling for both of us for now. I truly love that woman, Frank.”
“And I’m sure she feels the same way about you.”
“I hope so,” Jonas said. “Well, I gotta get going. I promised to meet her at the Common Grounds in a few minutes. Thanks for helping me on the case.”
“And vice versa.” Frank held out his hand and shook his friend’s. “Go and enjoy your cup of coffee.”
I hope she does love you, Jonas—you could use it.
Entering the late morning sunshine, Jonas looked across the wide street and marveled at the impressive architectural splendor of the Mission Inn looming above. The massive structure was so awe inspiring he was surprised that Hollywood had not used it for more backgrounds in films. The city of fantasy was only forty or so miles to the west and this historical landmark would be just a hop, skip, and a jump for the industry.
The historic hotel had plenty of excellent rooms to put up any number of crew members who may need a spot to retire for the evening after a day of shooting. He had spent the last couple of nights in the inn, but it had been more than memorable, especially, with Sam by his side.
When he had drifted back toward the Southern California area early the previous year, he knew that Sam would not, or could not, follow him. A good career, lots of clients, and the dream of continuing to build her business allowed her to let him go.
It had been a hard decision for the both of them. They were deeply in love.
Jonas explained he had to return to near the locale he grew up in since his daughter was buried there, and living so many hours away in Scottsdale made him wake at night with feelings he had abandoned her.
He knew he had murdered his young daughter.
No one else thought that, but a father feels what a father feels and, to Jonas, if he hadn’t taken his only child to a convenience store for some milk, she might still be alive. It wasn’t his decision to have a hyped-up junkie try to rob the store while the both of them were there, but it was his choice to reach for his off duty weapon. It was that movement the robber saw and shot Jonas’s daughter in the face.
Not a night went by Jonas didn’t regret that evening or that he didn’t wish he’d been killed instead of his baby.
So, Jonas had said goodbye to the woman he loved and moved back to within an hour of his daughter’s gravesite. He missed Sam, but he loved sitting most Saturdays at the cemetery reading a story to a child he would never hold in his arms again.
He was alone, but he was never lonely. He had the memories of his precious sweetheart, but as the year wore on, he noticed he missed Sam more than ever.
She was there in his thoughts day and night and, as hard as he tried, Sam’s smiling face was the last image he saw before nodding off to sleep.
Whether he wanted her or not, Jonas’s sister, Maggie, decided to get involved as she always had, and suddenly Jonas was texting, emailing, and talking with Sam again.
Her business was flourishing with many new clients, and things were nothing but positive for her.
Jonas decided not to ask if Sam had a new love in her life. He had no right. He knew that better than most since life had slowly moved on after his daughter’s murder. He couldn’t be angry if Sam had moved on faster than him. Jonas always felt there was someone much more worthy than himself for Sam to be involved with.
But Sam hadn’t found anyone else.
Maggie was ecstatic, Sam hesitant, and Jonas was not sure.
Three months later, they were in a long-distance relationship.
Now he had spent a wonderful couple of days making love to the woman he truly adored and knew he was ready to settle down. Sam meant everything to him.
Jonas walked across the street toward the Common Grounds, a block and a half ahead of him as he strolled down the cobble stoned walkway.
He felt great. A case closed with Frank Sanders with a hefty check in his right pocket and the woman he admired so sipping her favorite herbal tea just a minute or two from him. How could it not be better than this?
Jonas smiled. He did not do that very often.
They had checked into the Mission Inn a couple of days ago. Jonas had chosen a rather expensive suite but knew it was worth it. As he and Sam had entered the room overlooking the pool below, both knew this was what luxury meant.
“Oh, my God,” Sam said as the bell person left their room. “Jonas, the view is gorgeous.”
Jonas tossed the plastic room key cards onto the top of the credenza and firmly grasped Sam by the waist. “And so are you.”
The view for the next hour was lost as they both eagerly and hungrily enjoyed the other with caresses, kisses, and deep groans of sexual satisfaction. This was not pent up energy but the love each felt for each other and the reckless abandon that it brought.
They were meant to be together.
Now, Jonas relived those moments as he walked by an antique store on the west side of the mall and wondered if he should pick up that piece of jewelry Sam had spotted the night before after a wonderful dinner they had had at Duane’s. It was a three hundred dollar broach, but Sam had loved it so. It was a lot of money but not much if it pleased her, he thought.
It took Jonas a couple of minutes to enter the boutique and get the price down to two hundred and change from the clerk, who seemed more interested in getting the deal finished so she could get back to a very important twitter debate going on.
I like this technology if it gets me deals all the time.
He exited the store and, with bag in hand, walked toward where Sam was waiting for him, knowing she would scold him for such an expensive gift but would love it anyway.
Jonas grinned, stepped onto the walkway just across from the coffee shop, and raised his right arm as Sam gestured she had garnered a table right outside of the entrance to Common Grounds.
God, she was beautiful.
The crosswalk light changed. Jonas had started across the street when his cell buzzed, and reluctantly he grabbed it off his belt and, while watching the traffic, glanced down at the message he had received on his text.
~ Remember Iquitos?
Jonas continued on his path, wondering what the message meant. Then a second popped up.
~ Of course you do.
Jonas looked at his phone and then up at the coffee shop where he was to meet Sam.
In an instant, the entire south-western block where Jonas had been walking became nothing but a terrible ear-splitting explosion. Building fronts disappeared within seconds, sending tons of concrete and debris onto the unsuspecting. The blast sent Jonas flying through the air, painfully landing sprawled across a water fountain.
“Sam,” he moaned as darkness engulfed him.
© 2018 by John R. Beyer