BY: GEORGE FONG
Promises are made to be kept, no matter how long—or what—it takes.
Five years ago, Robert Clarion was immersed in that perilous world of double-crosses, late-night drug deals, and constant glances over his shoulder. A dispute with a drug supplier culminated in the kidnapping of Clarion’s daughter Rachel. He made a promise to his wife that, if they got their daughter back, he would get out of the drug business and never let anyone stand in the way of his family’s safety again. With the help of FBI Agent Jack Paris, Clarion’s daughter was rescued, but the person who carried out the kidnapping was never identified or captured. Paris promised that, if anyone came back looking for Rachel, he would keep her safe. Now, after all these years, the nightmare of the past has returned…
TAYLOR JONES SAYS: In The Coldness of Night by George Fong, Jack Paris is a special agent with the FBI and an old case comes back to haunt him. Five years ago, a drug dealers daughter was kidnapped. The FBI was called in and the girl was rescued, but the kidnapper was never caught. Now the girl has been kidnapped again by the same man. Paris has been called in again, by the mother, but he may not have a chance to find the girl before her father takes the law into his own hands.
Well written and filled with plot twists that will catch you unawares, this book will keep you on your toes. If you like a really good police procedural mystery/thriller, you can’t go wrong with this one.
REGAN MURPHY SAYS: The Coldness of Night by George Fong is the story of Special Agent Jack Paris and his fight to save a young daughter of a drug dealer. The girl has been kidnapped—twice. The first time was five years ago, and Jack managed to get her back. But the perp was never apprehended and now he’s at it again. The girl is missing, and the same perp is believed to be responsible. The girl’s father is on the warpath and isn’t waiting for the FBI to find his daughter. He’s going after the perp himself, determined to kill the man if he has to, in order to get his daughter back. But things are not as simple as they might seem.
The Coldness of Night is a fast-paced, hard-hitting tale of corruption, greed, and the arrogance of evil men. It is one that will have you turning pages from the first to the last. I had trouble putting it down.
Today, before daylight:
It was a tape.
The cassette type. Like a trophy, it sat square on Jack Paris’s living room table, perched on top of the stacks of investigative case files. FBI policy was that files weren’t supposed to be taken out of the office but Paris was never one for rules. Needless to say, late nights at the office weren’t enough for him. He had to bring his work home. Investigations involving abductions and murders didn’t come with set hours. For Paris, the work was all consuming, obsessive maybe. Hours bled into days that bled into weeks, into months. And when a case ended, there was always another. Looking back over the years, Paris finally realized his addiction took its toll: it stole away anything resembling a personal life. Like oxygen slowly being sucked out of a room, he didn’t feel his life suffocating until it was smothered out of existence. In this early morning hour, Paris sat alone in the dim light, staring at the stacks of case files, the last constant left in his world. But it was the new addition that made him uneasy.
Paris was a seasoned FBI agent with more years in his rearview mirror than he had looking forward. He had spent two decades tirelessly investigating violent criminals. When the cases came to an end, the murderers caught, the dead placed to rest, it was Paris who would be the one with the empathetic look and a comforting hand, telling others, “…in time. Everything gets better in time.” This one was different. Paris knew he wasn’t going to be the one offering consolation.
Not this time.
A stifling warm breeze cartwheeled through his bedroom window, the curtains loosely drifting like floating cobwebs. It was the end of summer but the heat certainly wasn’t letting up. Even with the window open, the air felt heavy. Paris inhaled deeply, held it, and controlled a steady release. He hoped doing so would ease the anxiety he was feeling. It didn’t. It had already been a week since the incident, the cause of his restlessness. There was a confrontation. Lives were lost and blame was being flung like seeds sown on a field. The details of that tragic night was still fresh in his head and Paris knew the cassette was the final piece of the puzzle as to why it all happened.
He made his way to the living room, fell onto his couch, and took a good look around. The place was a rental. The rooms were painted eggshell white, his furniture purchased from a local warehouse outlet. A price tag still dangled from one of the dining room chairs. Other than the framed pictures of his two children on the fireplace mantel, there were no reminders of a past life. The sparseness forced Paris to see and weigh the consequences of his past decisions. One minute, comforted in a warm home with the ones he loved, the next, lost inside a photo of a missing child, the tears of a grieving parent, the explanation why someone wasn’t coming home.
Those two worlds could never find harmony living in the same space. He hated having to choose one over the other, a choice that resulted in nothing but hurt feelings and broken promises. That was the reason Emily, his wife of nearly twenty years, asked for the separation. The nights leading up to the decision were filled with painful banter–he would say something, she would say something back, and, when there was nothing left to say, she would just end it with, “It’s better this way.” Just thinking about it made his bones ache.
Paris turned to the case files that decorated the stark room, contemplated how they eerily reminded him of coffee table books. Except these books were filled with gruesome crime scenes, blood stained weapons, or someone no longer living. He could feel their energy. Like an electrical disturbance. They were waiting for his attention.
But the tape.
The tape, still sealed in its original envelope, was calling out his name from high on the glass table, demanding to be heard.
He stared at the unopened package. Originally it was left for him at the FBI office in Sacramento. Paris didn’t want to open it in front of the other agents. Everyone knew what had happened. They just didn’t need to know all the dirty details. So the envelope sat on his table for a week waiting for the right time. Like every night this past week, he thought about it.
It was time.
Paris leaned forward on the couch and nudged an empty crystal tumbler to the side, giving him an unimpaired view. He grabbed up the package, palpated it, and decisively slid a finger under the opening. Inside was a single cassette with a small yellow Post-It note. On it, scrawled by a woman’s hand, two simple words: For You. In today’s world of digital media, the choice of cassette rang odd and poignant. He could only imagine the woman holding the microphone close to her lips, leaving her thoughts and memories on a lost medium. It made it deeply personal, even painful. Like family secrets, it was something everyone knew but was never spoken. He wished the tape didn’t exist. But it did, and now he needed to hear it.
He pushed it into the portable player, hit play, and closed his eyes.
Her words broke the silence.
“My world ended the day my father died. The truth is, he didn’t die–he was murdered. It took me a long time to admit that and, even after many years of finally having the courage to face that fact, it still causes my throat to swell.
“It was 1987 and I was only ten. It was a bright summer morning in my hometown of Vaughan, Mississippi. I remember how the day started, hot and sticky, even before I had a chance to step outside. I loved to play hard, like the boys in town. My hair was short, my temper even shorter. I never felt comfortable in a dress, opting for a pair of jeans and a white cotton blouse, the closest thing my mother could get me to wear to what she would consider minimally acceptable for a young Southern girl.
“Summer mornings always came early. The tall grass would bake dry, ropey strands of brown and gold straw under a blazing sun. The only sward saved from the drying heat were the patches shaded under the hundred-year-old magnolia and cottonwood trees. I can still see black crows perched on their branches like decorations, their eyes obsidian marbles, feathers glossy as crude oil.
“I remember that day. I had gotten up at dawn, hearing my father working in the barn around back, metal pipes clanking and the squeak of his wheel barrel. I slipped out the back kitchen door and skipped past the chicken coop. White feathered chickens the size of footballs scattered in mayhem, clucking their objection to my intrusion. The humidity was stifling, the air as heavy as my father’s work boots. It’d only be a matter of time before the blistering sun would take control, turning the sky into God’s oven. Mosquitoes clung to exposed skin. Still, mornings were as good as it got. The heat didn’t sap away your energy quite yet. For me, this was my time to live in a world of pretend.
“On my way to the barn, I stopped to check on my rabbits. Kneeling beside the hutch my father made from scraps of wood and chicken wire, I smiled at the dozen or so bunnies huddled inside. My favorite rabbits were the biggest. Peanut Butter and Jelly. It wasn’t until I’d taken the pair home that I realized Peanut Butter was a girl and Jelly a boy. I remember my father rolling his eyes when a pregnant Peanut Butter gave birth to a whole litter. He tried to look upset but his eyes softened when he saw how excited I was the moment my favorite rabbits became parents.
“I reached into the cage and pulled out Jelly, gently caressing him against my chest, stroking his long ears as they lay flat along his back. I would hum soft melodies, which relaxed him, and he would nudge his face into my stomach.
“‘You’re a good bunny,’ I told him.
“Jelly’s pink eyes glistened in the morning sun, his lower jaw rolling side to side, chewing on nothing. I placed him back in his cage and watched him scamper off into the thick haze of black and white fur.
“Heading toward the back of the barn where my father worked, I stopped. Beyond our stallions grazing, a cloud of dust rose over the horizon. I caught the boxy shape of a truck and thought it was too early for the mailman. I continued to watch until the trail of dust disappeared below the ridge that divided the edge of our property and the main road.
“I turned away and walked into the barn, jumping onto a stack of baled hay. An explosion of dust filled the air, catching rays of light as they danced their way back to earth. Minutes had passed, maybe more, when I heard the sound of a car door slam.
“I glanced out the barn doors. I could hear my father talking, low at first, followed by another man’s voice. I pressed my body against the frame of the door, not wanting to interrupt.
“That’s when I saw him.
“A large man with broad shoulders, wearing a starched white shirt with the sleeves rolled up to his elbows. I couldn’t see his face since his back was to me and I was still far away, but I could see his hair was shiny and slick like he had just gotten out of the shower. He kept one hand behind his back, gripping a baseball bat. I couldn’t make out his words but I remember my father’s voice was calm. The big man said nothing, just nodded. Then the man stepped forward, closing the distance between him and my father. It was the first time ever I saw fear in my father’s eyes. My father took a step back and covered his face. The man raised the bat high above his head and brought it down, hard. My father’s head snapped to one side, as he fell to the ground. I froze, unable to force myself to move, to run. I didn’t understand what was happening. I fell to the dirt, shoving my hand in my mouth, trying to stop myself from screaming. I bit down so hard I could taste blood. I watched helplessly as the man in the starched white shirt straddled my father’s limp body, continuing to pummel him with that baseball bat. Every time he raised that heavy stick, I saw a stream of blood trail away in a thick crimson arc.
“I got up as quietly as I could, scrambling backward out of sight. I huddled into an alcove by a sidewall, deep in a dark shadow. I cowered in the corner, listening to the echo of the bat striking what had to be bone. I pulled my legs up to my chest and squeezed myself so tight, I could hardly breathe. I pinched my eyes tight and willed it to stop. When I found the strength to open them, I saw the man glaring over his left shoulder, looking at me. I froze, unable to move or breathe. Then he looked away, toward my rabbit cage. With the club still in his hands, he stepped toward the cage and took a powerful swing, like he was sweeping away trash. The cage exploded, the ground now imbedded in a blur of blood and ragged flesh. The man stood tall, his large frame blocking the rays of the summer sun. Shafts of blinding sunlight wrapped around his body and arms, giving him the look of a man on fire. I saw some of the rabbits sprint into the distance, searching for shelter. I looked to the side of the barn door and saw one hobbling, the one with a spotted black tail. It was Jelly. I saw terror in his eyes. He moved slowly at first, like he knew any noise would be his ending. Then he bolted into the tall grass beyond the horses, toward a tall oak tree, and he was gone. I began to cry, but not from sadness, elated Jelly was safe. Safe from the madman that was terrorizing my home, from the man that was hurting my father. I squeezed my eyes shut, wishing him safe. ‘Go Jelly,’ I whispered, ‘run to safety.’
“But suddenly, I wondered, was I safe? I couldn’t disappear down a rabbit hole. I was here, alone, with a killer. I felt a shiver radiate down my legs before every muscle in my body hardened into stone. I suddenly tasted the salt from the tears that rolled down my face. I smelled the stench of sweat. I felt the hand of fear.
“I can’t remember how long I hid in that alcove. It could have been an hour. It might have been the rest of the day.
“When the police finally came, the man was gone, my father dead, and my mother weeping over his body. I don’t remember the police officer trying to speak to me but was later told I simply stared at the ground, repeating the same thing over and over:
“‘Take me with you, Jelly. Take me.’”
The tape ended, the recorder clicked off, and Paris felt the crushing pain of his lungs void of air.
It was suffocating.
© 2013 by George Fong
“Fong knows his stuff and delivers it.” ~ Don Winslow
“Authentic and suspenseful–a great thriller.” ~ Lee Child
“George Fong distills a twenty-seven-year FBI career, and his talent shines through.” ~ Kirk Russell
“Deftly written and propulsive, this novel takes the reader on a you-are-there journey that never slows down.” ~ Michael Connelly
“Prepare yourself for some late night reading — and a nightmare or two.” ~ David Corbett
“Agent Paris is a nuanced, thoughtful hero who is worth rooting for.” ~ Sheldon Siegel, New York Times Best Selling Author