By Toby Neal
It’s launch day for the second Paradise Crime novel, featuring FBI Special Agent Sophie Ang—and you can win an electronic copy. Enjoy this excerpt, then enter the draw by leaving a comment.
Children shouldn’t be treated like slaves. Anger tightened Special Agent Sophie Ang’s hands as she adjusted the binoculars a little more to focus in on ten kids of various ages, bent over in a water-filled patch of land planted in the deep green, heart-shaped leaves of the Hawaiian kalo. They wore bathing suits and palm frond hats as they worked in the hot sun, an adult supervising from the shade of a nearby palm tree.
Taro farming was backbreaking work, and it looked like the Society of Light cult was using their smallest members to work with the submerged tubers, a staple of the Hawaiian diet. Sophie’s partner in the operation, Ken Yamada, shifted restlessly beside her in the camouflage surveillance tent on a rise of ground across the river from the compound. “Ten is more children than we were told about,” he murmured.
“We have to locate the two targets,” Sophie said, for the benefit of their SAC, Waxman, monitoring through their comms. “Can’t identify the children positively yet.” The homemade hats hid the red blond hair the children’s mother had told the agents to look for. Sophie widened her scan, and took in the rest of the cult’s property.
A high wooden wall provided cover and security for the compound deep in the Waipio Valley on Hawaii. Surrounding their location were the vast, steep, green-jungled walls of the largest, deepest valley on the Big Island. Rising to breathless heights, bisected by a giant waterfall at the end, Waipio was a beautiful and untamed place where wild horses roamed and people lived as they had a hundred years ago. Midday sun overhead increased steamy humidity, and gnats and mosquitoes buzzed over the FBI’s pop-up cover in a noxious cloud. Coconut palms and tropical trees broke up a sweep of pastureland before the compound, dotted with livestock grazing beside the wide, jade-green river.
The site seemed to have been chosen for maximum defensibility. Set deep in a valley that was accessible only through a single steep one-lane road, the complex was walled in wood and topped with razor wire. From their vantage point, they could look down into the grounds. Yurts were clustered like chicks around the hen of a big, metal, barn-like structure, probably where the cult met as a group. Its functions would be revealed as their surveillance progressed. “See any armaments?” Sophie whispered.
“Yeah. Nine o’clock. Sniper tower disguised as a tree,” Yamada said.
Sophie’s earbud crackled with their Special Agent in Charge’s cool voice. “Get me eyes.”
“Roger that, sir.” Sophie turned and opened a plastic case. She took out the small, high-powered video camera with its instant wireless streaming abilities. The reverse camera showed Sophie’s image as she screwed the camera onto a tripod and aimed it at the area Ken had identified. Her golden skin looked sallow in the little square, her large brown eyes haunted—but at least her cropped hair was too short to be any different than usual. Sophie applied her eye to the viewfinder and adjusted the high-powered lens.
A small platform, camouflaged with branches, was built into the tall avocado tree in the far corner of the compound. A man wearing green camo gear sat in the lookout, a rifle resting on the narrow parapet around the nest.
“Seems pretty extreme. Why would a peaceful cult out in the boondocks of this valley need to be walled and guarded with firepower?” Ken said.
“And yet here we are, surveilling them,” Sophie muttered.
“Right. Just because you’re paranoid, it doesn’t mean they aren’t watching you.”
About Wired Rogue
“Neal’s writing is persistently riveting… Masterly.” — Kirkus Reviews
Paradise has no protection from an insidious cult.
“Wired in” to her computers, MMA-fighting tech agent Sophie Ang has been content in her clean, cool tech lab, where she chases criminals online, continuing a dance in the dark with the enigmatic vigilante known as the Ghost. Tumultuous changes from without and within eject her from her agency cocoon to the front lines, where she finds herself in partnership with a brilliant, overbearing, larger-than-life ex-Special Forces operative, Jake Dunn. They climb walls, dodge bullets, kidnap children and dig up bodies for a case that might cost her life—and has already taken her badge.
“Toby Neal has created a wonderfully rounded action heroine with everything: looks, brains, mixed martial arts prowess, and the ability to swear proficiently in Thai and English. Fans will love Sophie Ang, as well as the tangled web she must negotiate in the tropical setting of Hawaii.”
— Russell Blake, NYT and USA Today Bestselling Author
How you can win a free copy
Just leave a comment about the new book, the Paradise Crime series or what you like about mystery-thrillers. Author Toby Neal will select one at random on November 30.
About the author
Toby Neal was raised on Kauai in Hawai’i and makes the Islands home after living elsewhere for “stretches of exile” to pursue education. Toby enjoys outdoor activities including bodyboarding, scuba diving, photography and hiking as well as writing. A mental health therapist, Toby credits that career with adding depth to the characters in the Lei Crime Series.
And follow her on Twitter @tobywneal.