Preying On The Innocent

Preying On The Innocent

by Phil Denapoli


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How do you deal with a mother whose behavior fits the label sociopath? What are the chances you'll follow in her footsteps? Those are the questions that haunt Maggie Egan on the day she meets Rocco DeCullo-in a psychiatrist's office. In spite of Rocco's struggle with social anxiety, they rapidly cultivate a friendship that plunges them into the middle of a double murder.

A teenage son came home to find the beaten and butchered bodies of his parents. Maggie knows the victims as former friends of her parents. Rocco knows the son. As their connections to the murders multiply, danger threatens. When a third murder occurs, Maggie's mother becomes a person of interest. Her father is the prime suspect.

As Maggie works to clear her father, Evanston police work feverishly to make sense of the few clues they have. With the assistance of Maggie, Rocco, and ABC TV investigative reporter Sandra Anderson, they add pieces to the puzzle, but will they find a solution? And will they find the answer soon enough? As each day goes by, a sea of contamination spreads, lives are ruined, and human leeches continue to prey on the innocent.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781468596281
Publisher: AuthorHouse
Publication date: 05/02/2012
Pages: 380
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.85(d)

Read an Excerpt

Preying on the Innocent

By Phil DeNapoli


Copyright © 2012 Phil DeNapoli
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4685-9628-1

Chapter One

Murder and Mayhem

At 7:30 on a balmy summer evening three masked figures in a black Jaguar circled a residential block in the north end of Evanston, Illinois. Below a baseball cap the slanted eyes and brows of the driver's mask lent an East Asian appearance. The two men in the back seat were dressed in Ninja black with their hands gloved and their feet covered with black slippers. They looked out the rear windows, alert and silent. It was a Sunday close to sundown, and the neighborhood was quiet. A few sprinklers were running on front lawns but, other than that, nothing—just calm, stagnant air.

"Go down the alley," uttered one of the men in the back seat. The driver approached the corner and turned right and then right again down the alley that backed modest homes. Driving slowly, they took in the surroundings, cautiously looking for people barbequing or kids playing in yards. The driver slowed when they reached the house they were targeting. The two in the back seat stared, planning their entry.

What they didn't notice was Mr. Harold, down on his knees, hidden by a wheelbarrow, and picking weeds from his garden. But, his house was four houses to the right and would not allow him a view of their entry or exit.

"Ready," said the man on the right. "Let's do it." He told the driver to return to this exact spot in fifteen minutes.

"Got it," the driver replied.

The two men, dressed in black, long sleeved shirts tucked into black sweats, exited the car and shut their doors so quietly that even the driver couldn't hear them close. They opened a six-foot tall wooden gate to the yard.

"This way," said the first man.

"My hands are sweating in these gloves," his twin whispered.

They crept along a row of bushes that bordered the left fence, which led to the garage.

Inside the home Dan Reid Sr. was seated at the kitchen table, which was covered by a yellow and white checkerboard tablecloth. He drank iced coffee while his wife, Carol, unloaded the dishwasher. She turned to her husband and asked, "What time is he coming?"

"Eight-thirty," he said. "Where are the kids?"

"Danny is at Romans, and Jeanne is on a sleepover at the Johnson's."

"I thought we made it clear that we didn't want him hanging around Romans," said Dan. Irritation strained his voice.

"As usual, he was hostile, and trying to keep him from going just makes it worse. He's pretty tight with your brother, and since Charlie is a partner in Romans, I think Danny always has free passes."

"And Jeanne—how did you get her to agree to a sleepover? She hates sleepovers!"

"I told her we had important business not meant for children."

"Good work."

Carol, anxious about the pending confrontation, stopped what she was doing and sat across the table from Dan. "We're in full agreement on this, right?"

"Absolutely," her husband replied confidently. He looked straight into her tired eyes. "I'm done with Charlie. He's jeopardizing my practice, and I have no intention of going to jail for my brother's misjudgments."

Carol rose from the table and took a few steps toward the dishwasher, then turned her head, facing her husband. "No backing down?"

Dan stood, put his arms around her, and gave her a peck on the cheek, not knowing it would be the last time he touched her. He spoke quietly in her ear, "No backing down, I promise."

Dan placed his glass on the Formica counter top and said to his wife, "I'm going in the garage for a minute. I'll be right back. Remember, I love you, and this is all going to work out."

Carol attempted a smile. "I love you too sweetheart."

Dan slipped from the kitchen and walked through a small entryway that led to a mudroom. He stepped around a pile of shoes and laundry and opened the door to the garage. As he quietly shut it and turned toward his workbench, a baseball bat struck him squarely in the face. One swing, red flashing lights, then one moon-shaped white light were the last things Dan would carry to his grave. His head caved in, and he fell slowly, one hand out, trying to find balance before he totally lost consciousness and dropped to the concrete floor next to his workbench.

His attacker waited for forty-five seconds, then reached down and placed a gloved finger to his victim's neck. "He's toast," he whispered. He then removed a well-honed scorpion throwing star from a black fanny pack and began slicing into Dan's flesh.

It was several minutes before he handed the bat they had found upon entering the garage to his partner and replaced the throwing star back in the pack.

"You do her," he said. "I don't do women. When you're done, come get me."

His partner carefully opened the door to the mudroom and crept like a cat burglar into the house. He followed the sounds coming from the kitchen, headed in that direction, and peeked around the corner. The woman's back was turned. Perfect. She was drying a pot with a dishtowel when he sprang.

Thwack, thwack. Carol was down before she knew what hit her. The only sound was the pot bouncing on the ceramic floor and one last word before she died. "Chaarrllie ..."

The man opened his fanny pack, retrieved a scorpion star, and proceeded to slice her like a peach. When he finished the chore, he went to the garage to fetch his partner, who was still standing over Dan, smiling at his clever work.

The two of them re-entered the house and began turning it upside down, careful not to create too much noise. Ten minutes later the job was complete. A bulldozer couldn't have been more thorough.

The black Jag pulled up just as they peered out the kitchen window

"Let's go." They went out through the back door and did a low crawl along the hedge to the back gate, the leader with the bat in hand. They slipped into the car and drove away.

"Two down, two to go," breathed one of the killers.

* * *

At 10:00 p.m. Maggie Egan quietly inserted her key into the back door of her mother's home in Skokie. She was early—her mother hadn't expected her home till after midnight. She'd spotted Bobby Judd's car on the street in front of the house, so she slipped into her bedroom and silently shut the door. Connie Egan had a study stream of boyfriends, but Maggie suspected that her attraction to Judd had more to do with his access to drugs than his sex appeal.

Maggie had planned to go out with a few friends from her old high school, but they canceled at the last minute. Spending the evening at home repulsed her, so she went to the Skokie Library to research sports agencies instead. She was in the process of flooding the sports world with resumes, hoping to land a job.

As she placed her purse on her dresser, a loud argument rose above the thrum of music in the living room. The voices were shrill and angry, but she couldn't quite make out the words. She opened her bedroom door a crack, unconsciously clenching her hands into fists then releasing them. The sudden rise in the voices of her mother and Bobby Judd alarmed her.

The kitchen separated her bedroom from the living room, and the music acted as a buffer, so she still picked up only some of their words. When she heard the words "kill" and "Mike" being shouted by her mother, she shut her door and fell to her knees, heart racing. "Oh my God, not now," she pleaded as the adrenaline rush of a panic attack swept over her. She managed to work her way to the corner between the door and the two double windows facing the backyard. With her back in the corner and knees almost touching her chin, she began inhaling deeply then slowly releasing the air through her nostrils. She repeated this over and over till she heard Bobby shout, "Fuck you."

"Brown bag—brown bag," she whispered as she slowly rose to her unsteady legs. She walked to her nightstand, using her bed for support, and pulled a small paper bag from the top drawer. Sweat beaded on her forehead and began to drip slowly down her face, burning her eyes with salt. She sat on the bed, held the bag to her mouth with her left hand, and began blowing air inside and sucking it back out.

It felt like the room was closing in on itself, sucking the life from her body. She had to prevent herself from crying out loud as she drowned in terror.

Maggie kept counting as she worked the bag. When she exhaled for the fifteenth time, she heard a scream from her mother and a crash of glass like a coke bottle hitting a brick wall. In a daze she ran from her room, still clutching the paper bag.

"Stop it! Are you both crazy?" she shouted when she reached the living room. Bobby had hold of Connie's wrists, and she was kicking out with her right leg, trying to land a blow on his lower body. Shards of a red vase and a dozen wilted daisies were scattered on the floor near the far wall.

Maggie's unanticipated presence broke through her mother's rage. She stopped struggling.

"Are you done?" Bobby asked. He still gripped one of Connie's wrists.

"I heard what you said about Daddy," Maggie fibbed. She didn't know exactly what Connie had said, but she was sure that the reference to Mike Egan and "kill" was malicious. "How could you think of such a horrible thing?"

Connie twisted her wrist out of Bobby's grip and turned toward Maggie, who stood with the paper bag still in her hand. "Well lookie here. What's the bag for? Daddy's girl has a little anxiety going on?"

Maggie broke eye contact with her mother, humiliated by the words uttered in front of a man she despised. She took a slow deep breath and glanced at the coffee table in front of the couch. Six even lines of cocaine rested next to a rolled bill. Maybe this wasn't the proper time for a confrontation with her mother.

"I'm going to bed. I would appreciate it if you could be civil with each other." Maggie turned and headed for her bedroom.

Connie made a move toward Maggie when her back was turned, but Bobby grabbed her by the arm and sneered, "That's enough."

"That little bitch just insulted me. Just like her father—she tried to make a fool of me."

"Leave her alone. She was dead on. I'm leaving, and you need to chill out." Bobby Judd pulled his car keys from his pocket and added as he left, "Maybe I'll see you tomorrow."

Chapter Two

Maggie: A New Direction

How do people dress when they're on their way to see a psychiatrist for the first time? Maggie held up a yellow sundress that sported a deep ruffle just above knee level. It would be a comfortable choice on this warm August day, but, no, she didn't want to risk looking like a little girl. Dr. Finley was likely to take her more seriously if she dressed more seriously. Maggie opted instead for an ultra-conservative, black linen pants suit and a starched white blouse. It fit better with her self-image as a Marquette University graduate. Black pumps with a two-inch heel supplemented her 5-foot 4-inch height and made her legs look more feminine without the trampy look that her mother achieved with four-inch stilettos.

The black suit accented Maggie Egan's professionally colored blonde hair, which she'd had cut in soft, long wisps as soon as softball season was over and she no longer needed the convenience of a ponytail. Simple gold hoops and a matching necklace completed the outfit. Sparkling, sapphire blue eyes—her mother's eyes—highlighted her flawless round face. She was aware that her appearance was striking, and it gave her a much needed measure of confidence. It was bad enough that she was about to share personal issues with a psychiatrist—a complete stranger. Worse, she literally trembled at the thought of her mother finding out about this appointment.

Two hours later Maggie pulled the gold handle on the enormous glass door at the main entrance of a sleek, downtown office building. She mustered adequate strength to open the door wide enough, but it was a challenge to squeeze through the space while she juggled her clutch purse and the morning newspaper. She checked her watch as she entered the main lobby—fifteen minutes early for her eleven o'clock appointment. If time permitted, she wanted to read the story under the bold headline, "Two dead at suburban murder scene."

She walked across the vast lobby, trying to act nonchalant, but her legs began to shake and her heart was thumping rapidly. If she left now, she could retreat home to her bedroom, lock the door, and end this nightmare ... but she kept walking.

She finally reached the elevator, took a deep breath, and pulled the business card from her soft, black leather clutch bag. Her father had given her the card at breakfast last week. He fully supported her decision to make an appointment with a psychiatrist. Looking at the card apprehensively, she pushed the UP button and waited.

The elevator reached the seventh floor and she exited timidly, legs still shaking. The best guitar picker couldn't keep up with her heartbeat. She followed the arrows to the appropriate offices and found herself facing a mahogany door with two names in brass—Dr. James Finley, M.D., Psychiatrist and Dr. Susan M. Garrity, Psychologist. With trepidation, Maggie turned the knob and held her breath for just a few seconds, wishing she were not there. Guilt mixed with her anxiety, and on her forehead she could feel beads of sweat that had nothing to do with the warm day. Deep down she knew this was her last shot at a normal existence with her mother. She had tried self-help books, pamphlets, and manuals about mental disturbances, and though they gave her insight into the mind of a self-absorbed individual like her mother, she hadn't found any practical suggestions on how to co-exist with her.

With a final deep breath Maggie stepped into the large, perfectly square room. Ten matching high-backed, brown leather chairs were placed symmetrically about the room. An end table was placed at the side of each chair, and each end table had its own golden-beige shaded lamp. Thickly piled burgundy carpeting gave the room another touch of elegance. Obviously some of Doctor Finley's four hundred dollar an hour fees were being used to supply the office with a luxurious atmosphere. Only two of the chairs were occupied, allowing Maggie to choose from any of the remaining eight.

Before she sat, Maggie approached the reception desk and announced herself in a low, soft tone, little more than a whisper. "Maggie Egan, for Doctor Finley—eleven o'clock appointment."

The red-haired receptionist looked up from his notepad and took in the smartly dressed figure before him. He paused several seconds before glancing at the appointment book, keeping his brown eyes focused directly on her sparkling blues.

"Good morning, Miss Egan. Doctor's running about ten minutes late," he said in a sing-song voice. He handed two forms to Maggie to complete, one for insurance purposes and one to record her health history. "Please fill out these forms and return them when you're finished," he said.

Maggie looked at the young man and spotted the ID on his pale pink shirt—Kevin. She accepted the forms from Kevin, and then reached into her purse and removed some cards that were neatly arranged in her black Coach wallet. She placed the forms on the desk and plucked her insurance ID from the wallet, still able to squeeze the newspaper under her left arm. She slowly replaced the wallet in her purse, and reached down nervously, taking the forms in her hand.

"I adore your clutch," Kevin said.

"Thank you," Maggie replied softly.

She did an about face and headed for an empty chair that placed her at maximum distance from the other patients. As she carefully seated herself in the way-too-big-for-her chair, anxiety smacked her like an angry parent. Filling out the papers Kevin had given her felt like a total commitment with no turning back. She took a couple of slow, deep breaths and tried to relax, but it was impossible. She was trapped in a cyclone on the high seas, perched on the elevated seat of a canoe.

She placed her clutch on the end table, and removed a small pen. As if it might provide respite, she glanced at the morning paper. The headline murders had occurred in Evanston, a suburb bordering Skokie, where she lived with her mother. Instead of providing respite, the article sent a chill up her spine. She slipped the paper under her chair.

Maggie slowly began to fill out the forms as she fiddled with her hair and adjusted her necklace, trying to center the pendant perfectly on her blouse. She ventured a few glances at the other patients, but she might as well have been looking into an abyss—nothing registered. The insurance form took all of two minutes to complete, and then she faced the medical history form. It was easy till she came across a section that asked the question, "Why are you here?" Her body began to twitch and perspiration started to run down her under arms, causing her blouse to stick to the moist skin. Maggie felt the air conditioning, but it didn't seem to help. The one-inch space available to answer the question wasn't large enough for what she had to relate, and her mind was spinning like a hula-hoop. What kind of answer did they want? My mother is selfish, manipulative, and lying? I don't know how to live with a woman whose major traits are narcissism and phoniness? While her feet tapped on the rug, and her knees shook ever so slightly, Maggie opted for the obvious answer and boldly wrote, "Anxiety with occasional panic attacks."


Excerpted from Preying on the Innocent by Phil DeNapoli Copyright © 2012 by Phil DeNapoli. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Chapter 1 Murder and Mayhem....................3
Chapter 2 Maggie: A New Direction....................13
Chapter 3 Maggie: Her Story....................19
Chapter 4 Maggie: Who is Rocco?....................27
Chapter 5 Maggie: Danger in Skokie....................35
Chapter 6 Steve: The Detective....................44
Chapter 7 Maggie: Moving Out....................49
Chapter 8 Steve: Questioning Junior....................55
Chapter 9 Maggie: The Murder Story....................68
Chapter 10 The FBI....................76
Chapter 11 Steve: A Civilian Alliance....................81
Chapter 12 Steve: Bumps and Bruisers....................88
Chapter 13 Maggie: Meet the DeCullos....................95
Chapter 14 The Gathering in Rogers Park....................106
Chapter 15 Maggie: Who is My Mother?....................114
Chapter 16 Pieces of a Puzzle....................123
Chapter 17 Maggie: Rocco Opens Up....................132
Chapter 18 Steve: Dealing with Sandra....................143
Chapter 19 Steve: Confrontations....................151
Chapter 20 Maggie: At the End of the Day....................163
Chapter 21 Steve: At the End of the Day....................171
Chapter 22 Steve: Into the Fire....................183
Chapter 23 Maggie: Reality Check....................194
Chapter 24 Steve: Witnesses....................201
Chapter 25 Poison....................210
Chapter 26 Maggie: Taking Charge....................221
Chapter 27 Steve: Treating the Wounded....................230
Chapter 28 Steve: More Pieces of the Puzzle....................244
Chapter 29 Maggie: Playing Detective....................251
Chapter 30 Charlie's Business....................258
Chapter 31 Maggie: In Deep Water....................269
Chapter 32 Steve: Bringing It All Together....................279
Chapter 33 Maggie: Held Hostage....................289
Chapter 34 Steve: After the Arrests....................300
Chapter 35 Maggie: Guilt....................308
Chapter 36 The End of the Road....................319
Chapter 37 The SWAT Launch....................331
Chapter 38 The SWAT Clean Up....................341
Chapter 39 The New Dawn....................349

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