When big game is not a big enough thrill…
Title: The Trophy Hunter
Author : J.M.Zambrano
Format: (print, ebook, or both) ebook
Links to buy: http://www.amazon.com/TheTrophyHunter-ebook/dp/B003MQMRAU
Tell us the story behind the story. What inspired you to write this novel?
The story grew from my fascination with the psychopathic personality and the ability of some psychopaths to charm their prey to death.
Tell us about the book cover. How does it represent your book? How did you choose the artwork?
Julie Ortolon designed my cover. I gave her a brief description of the book, and she came up with an amazing cover photo that is the image of one of the Hunter's primary victims.
When attorney Diana Martin takes on a custody case for a client referred by her best friend, PI Jess Edwards, the case unexpectedly dredges up memories of childhood abuse that fuel Diana's resolve to protect the children involved.
During their investigation, Diana and jess cross paths with a group of hunters that includes the new client, his estranged son-in-law, and three other long-time buddies who have more in common than hunting. Their women are disappearing. Unknown to Diana and Jess, a psychopath hides in plain sight within the band of hunters. For him, the thrill of big game has lost its savor. Now he collects ethnically diverse, beautiful women, and he's learned how to keep them beautiful forever.
As Diana struggles with her self-image after a failed marriage and the stillbirth of her first child, she's tempted by the advances of her client's son-in-law whose wife is one of the missing women. Ever practical and outspoken, Jess warns her of potential trouble. But neither woman is aware that more than a broken heart is at stake for Diana. In fact, both Diana and Jess have recently made the psychopath's acquisitions list.
By the time Diana finished lunch with Jess, it was dark outside. Still snowing lightly, but not too cold. She walked the block to her office building, hoping to build up her strength. Small steps, she told herself. You will not let this beat you down.
It was not such a bad thing to have this muddled case Jess had thrust upon her, only to jerk it away by undermining the client. Knowing she was using it as a distraction from her own situation, Diana mentally replayed Jess’s words regarding Flannigan. The possessiveness the man had exhibited toward his daughter when Diana had interviewed him, along with the depersonalization of the granddaughter, could be markers along a path of abuse. She’d get a better read when she met the man’s wife and the grandkids.
Inside her building, riding the elevator to the ninth floor, Diana was only slightly winded from the walk. As she entered her office suite, Tamara greeted her with a fistful of messages.
“Oh, and your mother called three times. Am I still not supposed to tell her anything?” Tamara’s eyes, behind wire-rimmed glasses, chided her gently.
“I know I have to deal with telling her,” Diana replied. Tamara was proving to be a good replacement for Cathy. The voice of reason, without being pushy about it.
“If I could help, I would.” Tamara gave her an earnest smile with no pity in it.
Pity was something Diana couldn’t deal with. And it was bound to come pouring through the phone line as a result of filling her mom in on all that had had happened since last they’d talked. And advice. Advice on how she should have dealt with Greg.
Tamara glanced up at the wall clock. Five o’clock. “You want a ride home?” asked her secretary.
“No thanks,” replied Diana. “I’m going to stay for a while.” She hefted the file she’d received from Jess. “I’ve got some material to go over on the Flannigan case. Were you able to set up an appointment with his wife and grandkids?”
“I’ve entered it on your calendar,” replied Tamara as she put on her hooded winter coat and gathered up her handbag and gloves. “Are you sure you don’t want me to drive you home? You could read the file there.”
Diana smiled and shook her head. “I’m going to stay and bite the bullet. Then when I get home, I can relax.” Bite the bullet meant calling her mother. She didn’t expect Tamara to pick up on that. “Actually, there is something you could do for me, but tomorrow would be fine.”
Tamara nodded, her young face reflecting concern.
The words backed up in Diana’s throat, but she pushed them forward. “Could you … call a charity for a pickup at my home? I have some furniture … I thought maybe a needy family … could … could …. ” Diana felt tears coming.
“Of course. I’ll take care of it.” Tamara gave her arm a little squeeze; then hurried out the door. Diana knew she didn’t have to tell her that it was the nursery furniture.
At her desk, Diana sorted through phone messages, placed to one side the three from her mom. Greg had called. So had a family law attorney they both knew. Hmmm. Could be that Greg had retained him for the divorce? Two clients had called regarding the progress on their respective cases. Diana was glad she had some answers for both of them. Getting up-to-speed. Slowly, but getting there.
She paused as the name of the next caller prickled her brain. Darren Rogart. Why would Joe Flannigan’s son-in-law call her before a custody suit had even been filed? How did he know Flannigan had retained her?
The apparent answer set her temples pulsing. Sometimes Jess could really be a pain in the ass. In this frame of mind, Diana picked up the phone, punched in her mother’s number and braced herself for the bullet.
“Hello.” Neutral tone. Her parents didn’t have caller ID.
“Mom?” said Diana in the tentative voice she hated. The one that always came out then she talked with her mother.
“Thank goodness. We’ve been worried sick. Why haven’t you returned my calls?”
This bullet was going to taste like shit. “Mom, I … ”
“Why is your voicemail message changed? Both your home and your office messages are different.”
Greg’s name had been deleted. Where would she start? With the Greg thing or … or ….
“Has something happened to Greg?” Panic cranked her mother’s voice up a notch.
Diana ground her teeth, her anger so hot that she no longer felt any physical pain. “Yes, Mother. Something happened to Greg.” She could hear a little hiss of breath on the other end of the line. “I caught my secretary giving him a blow job, so I kicked his ass out.” There. That should either shut her up or give her a coronary.
“Well … that’s not exactly … ”
“If you tell me that’s not having sex--not the same as fucking her, I’ll hang up.”
“Diana, you know how I feel about strong language.”
“I guess it depends on who’s using it, Mother.”
Several little hisses this time. Then, “But the baby. They say what babies hear from the womb--”
“Mother, stop it. I lost the baby.”
Silence. Then, “What?”
“You’re not hard of hearing. And you’re not going to make me repeat it.” Tears flowed hotly down her cheeks. The feeling of having screwed up again in her mother’s eyes weighed on her heart. So much for dignity and self-assurance.
“No baby?” A long-suffering sigh from her mother’s end of the conversation. Diana was not about to answer. She was not going to say it again. Her worth on this earth had just evaporated.
“Why didn’t you tell me sooner?” The whine of the self-righteous. “Now I can’t get a refund on the plane ticket.” She’d insisted on coming out for the baby’s birth.
Mother, I had surgery. You could come out and take care of me. The need for nurture had crept in, unbidden. She could even have used a few words of pity--not to wallow in--just some comfort.
“Diana,” her mother’s voice took on an accusatory tone, “you didn’t do something to lose the baby?”
Do something? What kind of mind would ask a question like that? What kind of mother? Diana hung up. Let her think whatever it was her sick brain conjured up.
Through the ringing in her ears, another sound surfaced: the door to her office suite opening and closing. She was sure she’d locked it after Tamara left. Then, a soft knock before her office door opened.
Diana looked up through her tears at the man who stood in the doorway. Handsome seemed a trivial adjective. He wore an open leather jacket over a black western shirt. Her eyes dried as they met his--startling gray-hazel in a tan face. A massive turquoise belt buckle topped tight jeans, pulling her eyes to a place below that made the color rise in her cheeks. She willed her eyes back up toward his face.
Before she could stammer a word, he said, “I called earlier. I’m Darren Rogart.”
“Calling first doesn’t give you the right to barge into my office.” Anger mounted in Diana, fresh from the phone conversation with her mother, augmented by the audacity of the man.
“I’m sorry,” he said. His eyes left hers and traveled around the room, much as Joe Flannigan’s had on his first visit, taking in the wildlife art on the walls. “When I didn’t hear back from you, I didn’t know what else to do.”
“You should have waited, Mr. Rogart. My return call would have informed you that this meeting … this conversation is not appropriate.”
He ignored her words as he proceeded into the room and took a seat across from her. Diana noticed that his dark hair had a generous sprinkling of silver--premature, from the look of his face.
“Are you listening to me, Mr. Rogart? You must leave immediately.” Diana aimed for her ball-busting bitch voice, but what really came out diluted her message.
Rogart looked down, shook his head slightly, and she saw a faint, lopsided smile tweak his lips. “When you’re desperate, you do whatever it takes.” Looking back at her with that same intense glance that she was starting to find disconcerting, he continued, “My children are in danger, and no one is listening to me. I hoped you’d be different.”
“I represent your father-in-law. You’re aware of that. I can’t talk to you. You need to get your own attorney.”
He sighed deeply. Diana watched his shoulders sag; then square up as he arose from the chair. “You’re right,” he said. “I apologize.”
As he retraced his steps, Diana got up and followed him. He turned back toward her and appeared on the verge of saying something. Then his glance fixed on the eagle painting by the door. “I think I know how they feel.” His voice was a husky whisper.
“What do you mean?” she couldn’t resist asking.
“So close to extinction.” The wispy smile made his face appear sadder.
“They’re protected,” countered Diana.
As they proceeded into the dimly lit reception area, she heard a sound escape his lips. Then he turned back toward her, sober-faced, and said, “There are some things laws can’t protect against.”
She remembered Jess’s revelation: this man was a poacher who had done time. “You should know,” she replied recklessly.
The look that crossed his face made her regret the words, especially in such a vulnerable setting, after hours, empty building.
But when he spoke, there was no anger in his voice. It was as if he didn’t connect her words with his past. “My wife was molested as a child. The law couldn’t protect her. Now the same man has my daughter. Somebody’s gotta do something.”
“I know. We can’t have this conversation. Just give it some thought … Diana … before you write me off as some nutcase.” He paused in the doorway; then looked back at the eagle painting and shook his head.
Before she could comment, he was out the door. Out of sight. She heard his boots clicking a measured beat down the hallway. Diana. In her head she heard his voice speaking her name, stirring something she didn’t want stirred. Diana.
She slammed the door, threw the deadbolt in place, and walked back to her desk. As she passed the eagle painting, Diana saw Rogart’s eyes in its face.
The need to write, present since early childhood, has never left me, though writing went on the back burner during my parenting years. I value all of my life experiences, including a short stint as a deputy sheriff for Los Angeles County, as potential meat for stories. Born in Southern California, I now live and write on a small farm in Colorado.
My website: http://www.jmzambrano.com