Excerpt: The Internet Cowboy by Paul R. Meredith
Title: The Internet Cowboy
Author: Paul R. Meredith
About the book:
Perry Williams, a semi-recluse, wannabe cowboy, receives a gift package at his home that totally delights and mystifies him. He wonders who would send him such a gift. When he finally opens the box, a long string of events begins to evolve that leads to crimes of prostitution, murder, missing persons, intrigue, suspense, and much more, all leading to a long and frustrating criminal investigation by Detective Oren Baker and his partner, Burt Hendricks.
Leads are hard to come by, but eventually a potential murder suspect named Sid Thompson, a neighbor next door to Perry Williams, is identified and questioned. As Baker and Hendricks put more and more pressure on Thompson, the man suddenly flees the area and disappears from the police radar.
In an attempt to find relatives of Perry Williams, a sister of his is eventually located, so Baker and Hendricks follow that path and learn several interesting things that lead them to broaden their investigation all the way to Nashville. Two additional suspicious deaths are uncovered, both in areas where Thompson was known to live and work at the time of the deaths. Leads are followed to no avail, until eventually the additional deaths are determined to have been murders. It is revealed through the very intensive investigation and hard-nosed questioning by Burt Hendricks that Thompson could be connected to them.
Baker soon learns his daughter has been involved in a horrific traffic accident in Davenport, Iowa. He rushes the long agonizing miles to get to the hospital to be with her, only to receive a cell call notifying him he is minutes too late. His son-in-law notifies Baker his daughter just died, leaving both of the men devastated. A young son is left without a mother.
Eventually Baker, a widower, falls in love with and marries long-time district attorney Lila Burns. He makes several attempts to bring Thompson to arrest and trial, both before and after his marriage, but each time Lila says there isn’t enough proof to convict the man, so she refuses to prosecute. After his marriage, Baker is promoted to police chief as soon as his boss retires. Soon there is enough evidence for Lila to bring Thompson to trial. Lila is convinced she can get a conviction.
It is a huge, shocking surprise when Baker’s new daughter-in-law is identified as Thompson’s defense attorney. But as shocking as it is, it pales in comparison to the shock of how the trial is conducted and the way the story comes to a dramatic climax.
The intense, shocking end of this mystery thriller is not easy to guess. The story starts with bomb shells, but ends with the biggest bombshell of all. There are so many explosive situations in the story that it will take the reader’s breath away as they anxiously read to the final paragraphs of the last page.
The primary setting for this mystery thriller is in the heartland of America, the Midwestern cities of Peoria and Decatur, Illinois, as well as Davenport, Iowa, and Nashville, Tennessee.
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In the deepest corner of his mind, Perry Williams couldn’t fathom a guess as to what the contents of the plain package before him without a nametag could possibly be. Why was the package sent to him in the first place? What was the mysterious item inside the package? Who did he know who would send him a package—maybe even a gift? These were all legitimate questions that needed answers. He didn’t have a clue what any of the answers could possibly be. He knew of no friends who would send a gift to him. He had no friends.
He pondered the size of the package, noting that it was approximately the size of a standard shoebox, but it was a little too heavy to be a pair of shoes, plus anyone who could possibly ever know his shoe size was now dead or otherwise missing, or else they lived so far away they couldn’t know. He didn’t wear regular shoes anyway; he had preferred cowboy boots most of his adult life. Anyone who knew him at all knew that fact. His only sister had mysteriously disappeared a few years ago, and Perry had pretty much never mentioned her to anyone for the last ten years. He hadn’t received any kind of gift for more than eight years now, not since his elderly mother had passed away.
Perry decided the answers to his questions must be found inside the box wrapping; certainly the question regarding what it was would be answered by opening it, and possibly even the identity of the sender would be revealed to him on the inside. Once these things were known, the answer to the why part would also become clear.
Carefully, Perry unwrapped the heavy brown paper the package was hidden in, only to reveal a Christmas package wrapped in bright red paper with green bells on it and tied neatly with a gold ribbon around it. He loosened the thin gold ribbon and untied it as he carefully removed the bright red Christmas wrapping, being very careful not to tear it. Now he was really confounded. There was absolutely nobody who would send him a Christmas gift, let alone take the trouble to wrap it so neatly. He hurried the pace of unwrapping, excited to know the answers to the questions he had gnawing at him.
Once the Christmas wrap was open and carefully folded and set aside, he noticed a plain cardboard box was inside. The box had no label and no text or graphics of any kind on it—it was simply as plain as it could be. The plain box with a lid was secured with many wraps of wide masking tape, so Perry took out his small pocketknife and carefully cut around the perimeter of the box until the lid could be removed. He folded the small knife blade back in and returned it to his pocket.
Perry was noticeably excited at his good fortune to receive the mysterious gift. He hesitated to open the lid of the box for a moment, realizing the thrill of the mystery would disappear the moment he did so. He savored the moment as he tried to guess what the gift inside could possibly be. He prolonging the building of excitement until he could no longer take it, and then he barely cracked the lid and tried to peek inside the dark interior of the box. He couldn’t see anything at all because of the darkness. Hoping to reveal the contents as he eagerly awaited the surprise inside, Perry jerked the lid off the package.
Crime scene tape was strung around three trees and a fence post to cordon the area off from the public after the police pushed back the curious onlookers. The police only allowed the detectives, lab technicians, and other personnel required for the type of situation they were dealing with inside the tapes.
Initially, there weren’t any signs of people being inside the house when it exploded, but as the police searched closer, they soon discovered body parts and flesh and bone fragments scattered all over the place. Within a very short time, the crime scene technicians realized the place had been subjected to some type of bomb explosion, rather than a natural gas explosion. Later in the investigative process, paramedics were allowed to pass through the tapes so they could start the grisly task of helping collect the human remains to aid in the identification process of the human body parts.