Bev Pettersen packs a lot of tension into this fast-paced story. Awesome! Five stars!" Theresa Ragan, NY Times and USA Today bestselling author of The Lizzy Gardner Series.
AN ISOLATED FARM, SIXTEEN HUNGRY PIGS, ONE TERRIFIED TEEN...Can Lizzie find him in time?
Sacramento Police aren't very concerned when fourteen-year-old Billy Tanner fails to show up for community service. Tossing a firebomb at a police horse isn't something they can easily forgive. But when the boy's grandmother convinces private investigator, Lizzy Gardner, to search for her missing grandson, Lizzy discovers that some animal lovers will go to chilling lengths to obtain true repentance. EXCERPT:
The pigs were squealing again. Billy Tanner pressed his head between his knees and edged further against the wall, desperate to block their sounds. Shackles had rubbed his skin raw but he'd grown accustomed to the pain, and to the length of his ankle chain. He knew every inch of the horse stall: the eight spikes in each rough plank, the two feet of wire mesh that covered the gap below the ceiling, and how his tether stopped him exactly one foot from the door.
Someone's bloody fingernail protruded from beneath a splinter in the wood. At first that had freaked him out. Now it was merely part of his prison. At least that poor soul--a woman judging by the shape and color of the nail--hadn't given up. She'd tried to escape, even though prying out the heavy studs was impossible. Billy's captor had been very thorough when he reinforced the stalls.
And the surveillance camera in the corner always kept a vigilant eye. Of course, when the pigs were squealing for food--like now--it meant his captor wasn't watching the camera.
Billy lurched to his feet. The chain clinked as he shuffled across the stained floor to the far wall. "Hey, mister," he whispered, shoving his face against the plank and peering through the crack in the boards. "Want me to splash more water through the mesh?"
But the naked man curled in the corner didn't answer. His only movement was the shudder of skeletal ribs as he pulled in another labored breath.
"You should suck some more on that old bone," Billy said. "Still lots of nutrition there." But his voice quivered with despair. The man was starving to death. And no wonder. He'd never been fed anything but an old soup bone and an occasional drop of water.
It didn't make sense. Billy had been provided with a bucket of water along with plenty of livestock grain. It wasn't typical people food and his stomach always cramped with hunger, but at least the grain was top notch, the kind with corn and molasses, the same type they fed at the Sacramento police stable.
"I can throw over more grain too," Billy added. "But you have to pick it off the floor before he comes. Just try to sit up." He gripped the wire mesh, willing the man to answer, no longer worrying about the camera or that talking was strictly against the rules. "Please, mister," he pleaded. "You have to try."
But the man remained curled in a fetal position, his hair long and matted, his back impossibly bony. Billy pressed his hands to his mouth, fighting his terror. He didn't want to be left alone, not in this horrible place.
"Please don't die, mister," he whispered, ashamed to feel tears wetting his cheeks. He didn't want to be the only prisoner here. He'd rather die too than be chained alone, with nothing but the whir of a saw and the squeals of hungry pigs.