Friday Sampler: Bus Stop Angels by Susan E. Sagarra
June 10, 2016
In our mission to connect readers, writers, and books, Caleb and Linda Pirtle is showcasing some of the best authors in the marketplace today. Friday’s Sampler features an excerpt from Bus Stop Angels, by Susan E. Sagarra. It is a cozy mystery posing as a thriller that’s packed with suspense.
About Susan E. Sagarra:
Susan E. Sagarra, who grew up in Ballwin, Mo., and now lives in Creve Coeur, Mo., is author of the cozy mystery Cracks in the Cobblestone (2015) and the mystery/thriller Bus Stop Angels (2016). She works as a writer, editor and community outreach consultant.
She previously was the inaugural managing editor of a St. Louis-based newspaper, West Newsmagazine, for nearly 15 years. Sagarra has worked as editor of the Show-Me Institute; the first communications director of the Gateway Section of the PGA; a sports editor for the Suburban Journals of Greater St. Louis (St. Charles County bureau); and a public relations intern for the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team.
Sagarra has earned numerous journalism awards, including first place in the National Federation of Press Women-Missouri Chapter annual contest. She also received the Missouri Women Legislators’ Award for her coverage of Missouri state government.
Sagarra received a bachelor of arts degree in English and communications from Lindenwood College and a master of arts degree in communications from Lindenwood. She is a graduate of Parkway West High School.
Susan E. Sagarra has penned her second mystery/thriller novel, Bus Stop Angels, which was published in May. Bus Stop Angels sees the return of the quirky character Meghan Murphy, from Sagarra’s debut cozy mystery novel Cracks in the Cobblestone (2015), with a dangerous new mission for the inquisitive journalist.
Bus Stop Angels tells the story of one of the most horrifying experiences for parents: sending their children to school on the bus only to find out they never made it. That is the fate of children in and around Meghan’s neighborhood, who unknowingly witnesses one errant bus but does not realize in time.
Meanwhile, terrorists strike and sex trafficking has become a concern in the community. Could the incidents be related? Meghan is forced to deal with her political nemesis, Nora Huck, to find out. Meghan also enlists the assistance of her disinterested police pal, Murph. All while she begins questioning her new relationship with a man she has known for years, discovering that he might not be who he claims to be.
As Meghan’s circle of trust shrinks, she tries making amends for her initial inaction in order to find the children before they vanish forever.
Andrew found an iPhone sitting, abandoned, at the edge of the opening to the attic from one of the bedrooms. He grabbed it. After a few hours of hiding it and not knowing what to do with it, he proudly handed it to Amanda. “Where did you get this?” Amanda asked.
“I found it on the floor when I went exploring through the holes in the wall that leads to the attic,” Andrew said, grinning.
“What holes in the wall?” Amanda said.
“The ones I found late at night while everyone was sleeping,” Andrew said. “They are small but I can crawl through them. You probably can, too.”
“Where do these crawl spaces lead?”
“To the rest of the house, I think,” Andrew said. “I haven’t been brave enough to actually go through the little doorways and into the house because I was afraid I might get caught.”
“I will go with you, tonight,” Amanda said. “You show me and I will go through the doorways and we will do this together, OK?”
Andrew smiled his big, innocent grin. “OK,” he said. “There are a couple of them so we can go through them. Together. It will be like a fun game.”
Amanda patted her sweet, little, innocent brother on the head and said, “Yes, like a fun game to play.”
Amanda looked at the iPhone and saw that it only had 30 percent battery life remaining. She didn’t know if it was one of the kidnapper’s phones or someone else’s. It didn’t have a passcode on it so she scrolled to view the last phone calls and last texts that were sent. The last text was a Meghan Murphy. She recognized that name as the woman who lived down the street from her. Or at least that’s what it said on the errant mail that sometimes landed in her family’s mailbox instead of Meghan’s. Amanda’s mom had always told her to take it over to the townhouse and drop it into the mailbox for the lady. Amanda didn’t know Miss Murphy, but she always had seemed friendly and waved to the kids at the bus stop every morning when she was driving away to work or wherever she was going.
Amanda paused and wondered if Meghan could be part of the group of kidnappers. Maybe her job was to scope out the kids getting on the bus each morning. Maybe she was one of “them.”
“MJ, do you have a woman in your group?” Amanda asked when MJ came down to the dungeon about an hour later. “Not that I’m aware of. I’ve only seen men, although everyone’s usually wearing black uniforms and ski masks. Our leader has a navy blue ski mask for some reason. I guess to be able to identify him as being different from the rest of us, because we always have to wear black. Why do you wanna know?”
“No reason, just was trying to figure out if the bad people were all men or if there were some women with you,” Amanda said.
“There are a couple of floozies who hang around, including that woman who came down to help Alexis, but none of them are involved in the actual kidnapping. I think they’re just here for entertainment,” MJ said.
Upon realizing he was talking to a 12-year-old girl, MJ added, “Um, well, you know. They’re just here to give the men some conversation.”
“OK,” Amanda said, and walked back to her cot.
Later that night, Amanda took a chance and texted Meghan from the phone.
“My name is Amanda and I have your friend’s phone. I was kidnapped several weeks ago. There are 20 of us children trapped, including my little brother, in a basement-type place with an older woman who is trying to take care of us. She was kidnapped too. She was our bus driver. We need your help. I don’t know where we are but we only traveled for about 30 minutes in an RV. We walked on grass and concrete but were blindfolded. This phone only has 25 percent battery life left but I will keep it on. Please help us. Please.”
Meghan’s phone pinged to notify her that she had received a text. It was after 11 and she had just started unwinding for the night. In fact, she was already wrapped tightly under her warm comforter and didn’t want to roll over to see who it was. It didn’t have the special ping from Patrick or her siblings. She figured it was an annoying telemarketer, or a text telling her that her payment for the cell phone had been received.
In the morning, when Meghan finally looked at it, she sprung out of bed and called Murph immediately. The text had come from Blair, or at least his phone. He must have dropped it somewhere and the children were able to get to it. It had been more than eight hours since the little girl had sent the text.
Meghan dialed Murph’s number at least six times.
“What?” Murph finally answered.
“I received a text from a little girl but it came from Blair’s phone,” Meghan said. “It’s one of the little girls I see every day at the bus stop. Blair must have dropped his phone and she picked it up and figured out to text me somehow.”
“Hello?” Meghan hollered into the phone.
“Yeah, yeah, I’m here. I just worked the night shift, give me a break, will ‘ya?” Murph shouted. “Where did Blair last have his phone?”
“We were with you yesterday, at my old house, remember?” Meghan said. “I bet he dropped it. It said last night that the phone only had 25 percent battery life so the battery has probably died by now. But I responded anyway and told this Amanda to hang in there and we’re coming to get her but I don’t know if she got it. Hurry, let’s get over there now.”
“Hold on a sec,” Murph said.
There was a pause and loud radio chatter but Meghan couldn’t make out what was being said.
“I’m sending a team of officers and called in help from the state. They’re on their way to your old house,” Murph said.