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Title: Mute

Series: Mute, Book 1

Author: Brian Bandell

ISBN: 978-1-60975-066-4

Product Code: BK0055

Format: Trade Paperback

Pages: 388

Release Date: September 2013

Cover Price: $21.95

Our Price: $19.95



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Book Jacket


Mute is a twisting ride that will leave readers speechless.

A detective’s love for an orphaned girl witness has her turning a blind eye to evidence that could stop a wave of unnatural murders.

Mute follows detective Monique “Moni” Williams, who has never lived an easy life—with an abusive ex-con father, a two-timing, pistol-wielding ex-boyfriend and a racist boss—it’s hard to see how things could possibly get more difficult for her. After she meets a child that she bonds with, Moni must protect the girl from a mysterious threat stalking everyone near the Indian River Lagoon.

A serial killer is on the loose on Florida’s Space Coast, and Moni has been put in charge of the key witness in the biggest case of her life: an eight-year-old girl called Mariella. The child has gone mute after losing both her parents one harrowing night. Now, Moni struggles to protect the child and break her silence, while more reports of inexplicable deaths and animals with eerie purple eyes pile up. Her bond with the child is tested by a police force demanding answers. What does the lagoon’s rotten stench have to do with a mute little girl? Can Moni save Mariella from what lurks along the water? Who is really facing the most danger? Find out in this suspenseful, page-turner that will keep you guessing until the very end.

Book Excerpt



 Matt Kane held an ice-cold beer in one hand, and leaned on the throttle with the other. The salty waters of the Indian River Lagoon parted before his twelve-foot skiff as sure as a herd of deer scattered from a shotgun blast, but he wouldn’t go hunting deer while his wife and kids attended Sunday church. No, Kane had a fix’n this fine morning for some fish; say a nice juicy sheepshead or a mangrove snapper. Good eats.

The blue-green waters of the estuary contained a wealth of tasty critters, especially in the stretch between north Melbourne and Satellite Beach. Kane steered his skiff along a forest of mangroves on the mainland side. The fish often hid between the roots of those waterlogged plants, but they’d pop their scaly heads out for a morsel of frozen shrimp. As he sped past a “Slow Zone” sign with a picture of a lumbering manatee, Kane tossed his empty beer can at it. He missed.

“Hey! Stop that!” an all-too-familiar voice shouted over a megaphone.

Most boaters called him the Lagoon Watcher, but Kane called him a huge pain in the ass. Kane slowed down and tipped his NASCAR hat to the kook in the center console boat with the goofy, smiling dolphins, sea turtles and manatees painted on the side. He guarded the animals in the lagoon like a stubborn toddler hoarding candy bars.

“Didn’t you see that sign?” asked the Watcher, who had the shock of puffy faded blond hair of a past-his-prime eighties rock star. He wore a custom tropical shirt and nut-hugging khaki shorts. The Lagoon Watcher had been a scientist once, or so Kane had heard, but he ambled about like a deadbeat now.

“Yeah, I saw it,” Kane said. “And I’m sorry… Sorry my aim wasn’t better.”

The flustered old man shook his head in short spurts. Kane thought for a second that it might have been a seizure. No such luck. “This lagoon is nature’s treasure and you’re not only polluting it, you’re putting its gentle citizens in danger with your reckless boating.” The Watcher scooped the beer can out of the water with a net.

“As far as I see it, I live here and pay my taxes, so I don’t need nobody tell’n me I can’t have my day fer fish’n,” Kane said. “So git on out my way.”

Kane swerved his skiff around the Lagoon Watcher’s floating fruit cup of a boat, and continued along the mangroves. He knew the wimpy Watcher, even after being punked out, wouldn’t give chase, but he got behind his megaphone for one last whine.

“The lagoon doesn’t belong to you, or any of us,” the Lagoon Watcher shouted. “Nature has a way of pushing us back.”

Kane chuckled as he thought of that screw job’s cartoonish view of the world, where fish would jump out of the water and turn their hooks on him and drunken manatees would drive pickup trucks through petrified neighborhoods. In reality, he wouldn’t bet on nature doing shit.

And sure enough, Kane struck first. Not fifteen minutes after sinking the first line in, something gave it a nice firm tug. It must have been a big one, because he couldn’t reel it in. The gill head was strong, he thought. Worried about the line snapping, Kane figured he’d wear the bastard out. He let the engine sputter along at low speed and he followed the fish as it swam parallel to the mangroves. He couldn’t see his catch through the murky waters so Kane kept one eye out ahead in case any rocks cropped up in his path. As he passed a county park with a small pier, he glanced over toward it hoping he’d have an audience that could witness him landing a fat one.

He had an audience all right. They were on their bellies with their bodies splayed out on the rocky shore and their heads and shoulders submerged underwater. The man and woman weren’t coming up for air. Their hands were as stiff and pale as a mannequin’s. Kane felt a chill in his heart as he realized living limbs didn’t look like that.

“Holy Lord,” Kane said as he cut the line and turned his boat ashore. As much as he hated letting his prized catch free with only a lip piercing, he figured he deserved as much for fishing on a Sunday morning. He wondered how those two sorry fellas had crossed God and made the good Lord come down on them so harshly.

Getting a better look at the bodies when he stepped ashore, Kane saw that they were two brown-skinned people lying beside each other in a partial embrace. They had wrapped their nearest arms around their waists. The man, a chunky fellow with a carpet of back hair sticking out from underneath the tail of his shirt, had his other arm posted on the ground as if he had been trying desperately to pull his head out of the water at the moment of his death. The short woman wore low-cut jeans that framed an ass that must have been mighty sweet when it had blood pumping through it. She had her other arm outstretched across the ground. He saw a deep bruise on her palm.

This didn’t look like a suicide pact. Someone had drowned them—maybe one of those Mexican cartels wasting their own people. That’s what they get for coming to his country illegally, Kane thought. Either way, he couldn’t let their heads stay underwater or they were likely to become gator chow.

Kane started kneeling down. He abruptly stood back up. He took a few deep breaths. The knots in his stomach didn’t subside. He had seen plenty of dead game, from deer to boars. He had gutted them, roasted them and eaten them up. But the only time he had seen a dead person was when he stood before the open casket at his grandma’s funeral. She had looked peaceful, yet so artificial with the bright makeup smeared all over her wrinkly face. He had never seen the old gal color her lips with anything besides cigarette ashes. That had been a hollow shell of his grandmother, yet he couldn’t have let her go without seeing it. The sight had hammered home her absence.

Wondering what kind of expression the woman’s lifeless face would show absent of any funeral parlor magic, Kane summoned up his gumption. He grabbed her around the shoulders and yanked her upper body out of the water. Kane stared into the empty crevice between her collarbones where her head should have been. Her skin had been sliced as precisely as a slab of pork on a cutting board. He peered into the hollow trachea where her breath once flowed. Fused between her shoulder blades, her exposed vertebra appeared in perfect condition—minus the neck and head that should have been above it. Yet, the gaping wound bled only a trickle. The dirty ground had so few droplets of blood that it didn’t make a lick of sense. Kane had taken the noggin’ off more than a few deer and boars and he had never seen a beheading so clean. He coughed a cup of stomach acid into his mouth.

Kane dropped the body back into the water and sprang away from it. His heart pounded so hard that he covered it with his hand so it wouldn’t leap out of his chest. Beheading never looked so… so damn surgical. Somebody had held that woman down and removed her head as delicately as a mechanic disassembling an antique engine. Kane didn’t dare touch the man’s corpse for fear of burdening his mind forever with another haunting image. Serial killers work in a pattern, he had been told.

He played poker with Tom Sneed, the top detective for the county sheriff. He had told Kane about a couple of unsolved murders along the lagoon—bodies they had recently found without heads and missing some internal organs. Even after a few six packs, Sneed wouldn’t tell the poker club the grisly details, but he had said he didn’t want to create a media circus around it—not that the Orlando-dominated media gave a shit what happened in Brevard County when the space shuttle wasn’t blasting off.

Those looked like murders three and four, by Kane’s count. Scanning the mangroves and the boardwalk paths as he grasped his fishing knife, Kane reckoned he’d rather not wind up as number five. As he backed toward his boat, which had his cell phone in a zip lock bag, Kane spotted something low in the mangroves. He stopped in his tracks. It was a shoe—a girl’s shoe with a unicorn on it. He should have known by the stretch marks on the dead woman’s lower back that she had a child. Kane hurried over and scooped up the empty shoe. By the looks of it, it hadn’t been out there for more than a day. He saw a pair of tracks, with one matching shoeprint and one sock print, leading deeper into the mangrove bushes.

Chewing on his bottom lip, Kane thought about high-tailing it for his boat before the surgical butcher came back. He could call in Sneed’s boys to handle this one. But that would leave the girl as fresh meat for the killer, if he hadn’t already sliced and diced her like salami. As the father of a young girl, Kane simply couldn’t walk away. He followed the tracks with his knife in hand.

Those tracks didn’t go far. Kane plodded through swampy ground with floating leaves sticking to his boots. The thin layer of water had washed away the girl’s footprints. As Kane weaved between the long branches of the mangroves with their club-shaped leaves, he saw a shadow pass by his right side. He gazed up. Against the blaze of the low-hanging morning sun, he saw a red shoulder hawk gliding past him. The bird circled around back over the mangroves. The predator had its eye on something. Kane hoped another predator didn’t have his eye on him. He rather liked his neck where it was, holding up his head and all.

Hearing a rustling in the bushes behind him, Kane spun around so fast that he scraped his arm against a sharp broken branch. With blood dripping from his arm just below the tattoo of his daughter’s name, he redoubled his grip on the knife. Kane instantly lowered it when he spied the girl. Brown-skinned like her parents, the little illegal immigrant slumped on her knees in the muddy soil. Her straight black hair concealed much of her face besides her clamped mouth, her thin nose and her inquisitive brown eyes. After what had just happened to her parents, the girl should have been terrified of a strange man chasing her with a knife, Kane thought. The little one gazed at him as coolly as a panther. She didn’t even shiver in her soaking wet, mud caked pink dress. Brown and green leaves covered the girl’s arms. She didn’t brush them off. Remembering the rotten oil of despair that had upset his stomach after his grandmother had died, Kane understood why. Grief had shell-shocked the poor girl. By the looks of her, she was in her first years of elementary school and already she had witnessed the gory killing of her parents. Kane didn’t even know her parents, and the sight of their bodies still left a bitter stain on his mind.

Kane put the knife away and held out his hands. She backed deeper into the tangle of mangroves.

“It’s okay darling. I ain’t gonna hurt cha,” Kane said. “That little knife was for my protection—and yours—in case the bad person comes back. You want me to help you outta here to some place dry?” She remained absolutely still. He figured she might not understand English. He could handle that. “What’s your name girl? Como te llamas?”

His Spanish sounded, well, like a redneck speaking the only line of Spanish he knew. Maybe his horrible accent had deeply offended her because the girl didn’t respond. Kane hated when kids ignored him. The Bible says kids should respect their parents, but his daughter ordered him around like a damn farmhand. “Buy me that movie! Take me to Disney!” When he finally put his foot down, the girl went on a tantrum. That’s when Kane would scoop the stubborn kid up and stick her in her room. Since he didn’t feel like standing in the mangroves all morning with his fishing time wasting away, Kane figured he’d move the process along a bit.

Kane lunged for the girl and reached for her shoulders. She slipped through what he thought had been an impenetrable thicket of mangrove branches and darted behind the plants. She didn’t scream or cry. She moved as nimbly and confidently as a squirrel scurrying up a tree as it evades a lumbering hound. This old dog wouldn’t lie down yet. Kane plowed through the branches after her.

“Would you stop running? I’m trying to help you, kid,” Kane shouted. His wife always scolded him for scaring the kids when he shouted, but sometimes they needed a good scaring to set them straight. “You’re best off leaving here with… oh, shit!”

A black water moccasin fell from a branch right onto his arm. Its wide, flat head aimed right at Kane’s nose. The snake eyed him with coal-black pupils while baring its poisonous fangs. Even without a single hiss from the snake, Kane got the point. He shook the snake off his arm and shuffled backward. The water moccasin landed on the ground and coiled up between him and the girl. She didn’t retreat from it one inch. If he had a dozen more beers in him, Kane would have sworn the girl was hiding behind the snake. Couldn’t be! After seeing somebody murder her parents and then having this knife-wielding redneck chasing her around, he reckoned that she rightly feared people more than she feared a water moccasin.

“If that’s how you want it, see ya, senorita.” Kane didn’t feel like wrestling a snake for a girl who didn’t fancy being saved anyway. He backed his way out of the mangrove swamp toward his boat, where he could call in Sneed and his team. They’d have a hell of a time with this one.


Chapter 1


Monique Williams pulled into the parking lot of the lagoon-side park in her Ford Taurus, which brandished a Brevard County Sheriff’s Office logo on its side. Her finger on the door handle, she sat there watching the officers scouring through the old, beat-up Honda that belonged to the victims. It had a sticker on the back windshield of a man, woman and girl holding hands with smiles drawn across their faces. If only life could be so simple and families never shattered like a tray of glasses on the club floor.

Monique, or Moni, as everybody called her, closed her eyes and shook her head. She had been a police officer for sixteen years and a detective for half that time. It never got easier, especially with murder scenes involving children.

Moni sucked in a deep breath and finally got out of her car. She tugged at her hair band and made sure one of her thin braids hadn’t slipped out. As she headed down the boardwalk toward the murder scene, she noticed all the other officers were white and gave her the all-too-familiar “What the hell is she doing here?” look. Lead Detective Tom Sneed put his team on this case, she thought. She had never worked a case as part of his homicide investigation unit—and neither did any of the other black officers. Being half white didn’t earn Moni half of the assignments with him either. It was all or nothing with Sneed.

He only takes the best qualified, he says. My ass.

She should have expected Sneed here. He always got the big cases and there were none bigger than the serial killings along the Indian River Lagoon. The first victim was a man in his 50s on a jogging trail. The second was a college girl who had gone kayaking by her lonesome. And now two at once. Neither of the first two murders had any leads or witnesses. They couldn’t even say how the murderer had snatched their heads off so smoothly. With this child as the only person who might have seen the killer in gruesome action, Moni and her special training dealing with juvenile victims served as the best hope Sneed had. She had coaxed children into telling her about relatives who abused them or their siblings. Lives had been saved because she helped remove children from horrendous parents. The lead detective better swallow his racial pride before asking for her help, she thought.

She found Sneed huddled with a blue wall of officers on the edge of the boardwalk, where it gave way to the sandy path to the lagoon. Upon spotting her, he promptly steered his gaze on her as if she were a serpent on a branch. Sneed greeted her with his broad shoulders and his back, with a husk of fat hanging over his belt. He jawed at his officers in his gravel-grinding, Georgian accent. Now showing her an ass large enough to make an elephant blush, he hammered home how they better scour every inch of this crime scene for evidence. He made a good point, as he usually did. A detective doesn’t work for 26 years busting gangs and solving murders in Atlanta without knowing more than most cops on the street. That was why, as much as Moni couldn’t stand his attitude or his corny handlebar mustache, she’d rather work with Sneed than for any other detective on the force. Not that the feeling was mutual.

“There you are, Moni!” Sneed hollered as she contaminated his circle of white buddies. “What took you? Did you stop to get your hair weaved?”

She had heard worse, from him and from others. One day, she swore, she’d smack him upside his oversized head, but that wouldn’t be a very tactful move for her first time on his team.

“As soon as I heard there was a child here, I hurried over,” Moni said. “It was my day off and I was in bed when I got the call.”

She braced for Sneed’s snide remark about her eating chitlins and grits or staying out late booty dancing, but it didn’t come. Yet, she saw from the scoffing look in his blue eyes as he elevated his eyebrows into his wrinkly forehead that he had kept those thoughts to himself. He had as much respect for Moni as he had hairs on that hen-plucked balding head of his.

“Well, now that you’ve graciously decided to join us, I need you to work your magic on the girl,” Sneed said. “The first witness on the scene scared her away. I always told Kane he was butt ugly. I sent Officer Skillings to coax her out of the bushes, but the kid won’t come. I think she might want to see a more familiar face.”

Knowing that he meant a similarly dark face, Moni grimaced. Even if he had been right, he didn’t need to treat them like a different species. The girl didn’t respond to Officer Nina Skillings because no child would. That hard-ass cop would make a Rottweiler cower in terror.

“I can handle this. For real. Don’t you worry, now,” Moni told him. “Just make sure the DCF is on its way,” she said, referring to Florida’s Department of Children and Families.

“I ain’t stupid,” Sneed said. “We’re not taking her to Disney World, you know. You calm her down and then I wanna hear some answers. This is the third time the killer has struck in a month. He’s picking up the pace. This girl could crack the case for us before we need to order up more body bags.”

Moni nodded. She treaded across the sand and into the mangroves. If she delivered here, he had better show her some respect. He could hate her all he wanted, but he couldn’t argue with performance. Moni had gently persuaded many children into revealing who had hit them, or who had fondled them. But, those weren’t the kind of cases that earned officers top brass. This case offered Moni her best opportunity. She couldn’t have imagined that it would also offer something that would make no police department trust her again.

She found the stout Nina Skillings hunched over with her head stuck in the mangroves. She resembled a lady rhino munching on the bushes with a black ponytail clipped onto her head as a practical joke. It didn’t surprise Moni that this was the only sort of woman Sneed allowed on his investigation unit.

“Out of there!” Skillings barked into the mangroves at a figure Moni couldn’t see. “You’re wanted for questioning.”

“Nina! Is that any way to talk to a child?” Moni asked. “Were you raised in a police academy from birth?”

She half expected the officer to answer yes. Skillings stood up on her thick-as-barrels legs and faced Moni. Playing the anvil to Moni’s shapely vase, Skillings hit as hard as a sledge hammer in their sparring sessions.

“I tried sweet-talking her, but she is uncooperative,” Skillings said. “Kids today don’t respect the badge anymore.”

“Don’t you realize what this poor girl has been through?” Moni exclaimed. “You can’t treat her like a drunk in a bar. She’s endured more pain today than most people have in a lifetime.”

“You think you can do a better job?”

Thinking that a rabid pit bull could do a better job, Moni nodded. She knelt down in the muck and got on the same level as the child. The girl cowered behind the enveloping roots of a mangrove tree about fifteen feet away. She couldn’t see her eyes behind that mane of black hair. If Moni made a move for her, she could swiftly slip away. So Moni settled back over her heels in a non-threatening position. The girl swayed with the breeze and didn’t look at her. When Moni said, “Hello,” the girl tilted her head up, which pulled the curtain of hair back from her eyes. They focused on Moni as intently as the gaze of a crippled angel searching for the ladder back to heaven. Moni saw that horrible realization that she would never return to the warm life she had known besetting the young one’s eyes. She had stepped out of a perfect home that had sheltered her from every hint of pain, and been stunned by the cruelty in this ruthless world that had slaughtered her family. In this damp corner of the mangrove swamp, the befuddled girl sat and stared intently at Moni.

“I know you’re afraid. I’ve been afraid too,” Moni said. “You’re not alone anymore. When you feel ready to come out, I’m here for you. I’ll protect you, baby. Don’t worry.”

The girl smothered her face with her hands. She must have a strong self image to try hiding those tears, Moni thought. When she lowered her hands, the girl’s eyes were dry. The stifling grief must have left those tear ducts barren. So desperate to quell the unbearable pain, she had drained her emotions, Moni thought.

As Moni stared into the girl’s tortured eyes, she remembered the feeling. It rushed over her more vividly than it had in years—the terror—the isolation. Every time she saw an abused child, the memories of her childhood beckoned. She closed her eyes and beat them back. If this happened every time she saw a victim, she couldn’t function as an officer. The ghoulish memories always knocked, but Moni had kept them fenced off for years. Not this time. The sight of that poor orphaned girl who shunned the world out of grief burst the gates open.

Little Moni had cowered in fear in her bedroom closet. Scrunched into the corner, she spent hours doing nothing more than breathing so softly that not a soul would know she was alive. Otherwise, her father would hear her. No matter how long she hid, he would always open that door. The man cast his crooked shadow over the young one. His gargantuan hands twisted her petite wrists. Her head rang as his heavy boots punted it into the wall. She didn’t dare ask him for a bandage to stop her bleeding nose and lips because he took it as an invitation to inflict more pain on his, “Whiny little bitch.” There were nights when she awoke with her sheets and mattress awash in her blood. Her nose simply wouldn’t stop gushing. No matter how much she wailed, he wouldn’t give her anything besides tissues, and even then he’d accuse her of wasting his hard earned money with each sheet she stained crimson. As much as it hurt when her father struck her, the wounds that scarred her mind and still made her tremble were from the words on his alcohol-soaked tongue.

“You been fucking up my whole life, you little whore! All you do is screw up!”

It had started when Moni was slightly younger than the orphaned girl in the mangroves and had continued on for years. That monster finally went to jail—through no fault of her own. She should have turned him in, thought Moni, who squeezed her eyes closed and bottled up the tears. As she kept her mouth shut into her teenage years, her father started abusing one of her friends. The oaf twisted her arm until it broke. Moni had let it happen.

I should have protected my friend—and the world—from my father. I should have protected mom.

Moni felt a small hand on her shoulder. Opening her eyes, she saw the little dark-haired girl before her at eye level as she knelt down. Without a word exchanged between them, Moni absorbed the empathy in the girl’s touch. This child, who had watched her parents brutally beheaded hours ago, grasped Moni’s pain. Their mutual suffering had drawn them together like two alley cats riding out a hurricane under a single palm frond. Moni wrapped her arms around the girl’s dirt laden body and squeezed its cold dampness against her chest. Hugging her back, the girl buried her head into Moni’s shoulder.

As Moni scooped the girl up and carried her like a backpack strapped across her chest, she sent a smirk Skillings’ way.

“Mm-hm. You were saying?” Moni asked.

“Try pulling that crying junk on a crack fiend,” Skillings said. “I’ll stick to a hard knee to the jaw and a pair of handcuffs.”

Moni decided against asking her how many kindergarteners she had brutalized. She didn’t need this girl finding another person she should fear. Skillings trailed her as Moni carried the girl toward Sneed in the center of the boardwalk.

“I’m Monique. But everyone calls me Moni for short. What’s your name, baby?”

She didn’t answer. Moni repeated the question in Spanish. She still didn’t respond. Must be the post-traumatic stress, she figured. Give it time.

When Sneed saw her coming with the child, he rushed toward her as if she had bought him a new Hummer. She marveled that a board didn’t snap under his rumbling girth.

“Well done, Williams,” said Sneed, who allowed her that moment of satisfaction. “Now what’d she say? What’s our suspect look like? Was it more than one?”

“Uhhh…” Moni stared at the girl. Nestled against her breasts like an infant, she gazed up at Moni. She could barely stand much less describe her parents’ murders. If they tried extracting the terrifying memories out of her too quickly and forcefully, she might never recover. Moni felt as if she were walking across slick tile carrying a porcelain vase atop her head.

But, at the same time, the person who had killed four people still lurked out there. The murderer would strike again—maybe soon. Those future victims needed Moni’s help too.

“Did you see what happened here?” Moni asked her. “Did you see what happened to…”

The girl’s face contorted in agony. Her brown eyes cringed like plump grapes drying into scrawny raisins. She curled back her lips and clenched her teeth. She didn’t say a word or even whine. She couldn’t, because her breathing accelerated into near hyperventilation.

Moni couldn’t put her through this. No one should be forced to re-live their darkest memories, especially one so young.

“I… I can’t,” Moni told Sneed. “She’s not ready now.”

“Yer shitting me,” said the red-faced detective. “We’ve got zero forensic evidence on a suspect, zero motive and we don’t have the faintest idea how they’re getting killed. If we have any prayer of catching this guy before he traces another chalk line for us, she’s it. So sweet talk her, buy her a fucking pony, whatever the hell you’ve gotta do, I want me some leads.”

Turning around, Moni shielded the girl from his rage. Sneed didn’t fret over his blatant discrimination against Moni, so he wouldn’t mind tossing a little girl into the flames to cook a suspect. The officers standing behind him must have understood his intentions for the child. Not one of them rose to the girl’s defense. Moni was it.

Skillings stepped alongside her boss and stuck her nose in Moni’s face as if she were a hypnotized snake coiled around Sneed’s arm.

“This isn’t a pre-teen shoplifting case and it sure-as-hell isn’t domestic abuse,” Skillings said. “The stakes are life and death. If you can’t handle being part of our team, why don’t you step aside and hand over the girl to the professionals?”

The girl’s fingers dug into Moni’s back so hard it would have taken a crowbar to pry them off. She definitely understood English, Moni thought.

“According to protocol, this girl is under custody of the DCF until a judge can weigh in,” Moni said. She scooted around Sneed and Skillings and headed for the parking lot. Sneed tagged along with her. She should have told him to back off, but he’d never let her on his investigation team if she stepped that far out of line.

In the parking lot, Moni ran into the DCF agent, a chunky dark-skinned black woman with a curly weave. She wore a black pants suit with a purple undershirt that could barely contain her double-Ds. She reached out for the girl with her beefy arms. Moni didn’t even try handing her over before the girl tightened her grip on her to make it nearly impossible.

“That’s a lovely coat you’ve got there. Does it ever come off?” the agent asked.

“For now, I think it’s better that I leave it on,” Moni said.

“Oh, that’s great!” Sneed exclaimed. “Treat my only witness like a coat. Why don’t you just make a scrap book out of the crime scene photos?”

“Excuse me.” The agent got right in the detective’s face like nobody’s business. “I’m DCF Agent Tanya Roberts and you’re on my case now. My first priority is the well-being of that child. She is more than a witness in my eyes.”

The grumbling detective crossed his arms and glared at Moni something fierce. She had led him into a realm where his words weren’t the final say. He couldn’t compel a child to testify unless a juvenile judge signed off on it.

When Moni finally had the girl safe with her in the back seat of the DCF agent’s car, she sat down beside her. The child immediately leaned her head against her shoulder. Keeping her eyes down, she didn’t look out the window for a second as they left the place where her parents had died.

“No day will ever be worse for you than this,” Moni told the girl softly. “That means there will be better days. I promise that I won’t let anybody hurt you, ever. I promise, baby.”



Listen to Mute, Chapter 24, read by Celia Coulombe

Book Reviews


Review by: The Literary Connoisseur, Rebecca's online book review

I love murder mysteries, I love murder mysteries, I love murder mysteries!


Murder / crime books always have their readers on their toes, anticipating what will come next as they flip to the next page with eager fingers. That's just what Brian Bandell has accomplished with his novel, Mute.


Like most mystery novels, Mute slowly eases you into its plot and introduction of the main characters like a child testing the waters of a swimming pool with their toes. But quickly, the plot escalates and things begin to get real. Someone is stalking the lagoons of Brevard County, Florida and neatly decapitating innocent victims with unnatural precision.


At the latest lagoon crime scene, two bodies are found (a man and a woman)...a far bit away from their heads, and the only person to have witnessed a thing is their eight year-old daughter, Mariella, who won't speak a word.


Now Monique "Moni" Williams has taken the child under her wing, hoping that Mariella will open up and help them catch this heartless killer.


But the process may not be as easy as it seems.


I've got to tell you, this book had my heart racing! There was so much going on, there was never a dull moment. Mute was also beautifully written and incredibly easy to get sucked into. As I read it, I kept thinking, "I could see this going where Gone Girl is now" popularity wise.


I wish there were more to Moni and Mariella's story, but honestly with the way it ended, I don't think Brian Bandell could have wrapped up the story any more beautifully than he did.


If you're looking for a good suspenseful novel with a twist that'll knock your socks off, pick up a copy of Mute.




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