An extremely dangerous prisoner stumbles across a secret that could leave him financially set for life. He escapes from a maximum security prison and flees across state lines leaving a trail of destruction in his path. He seeks obscurity in the Northern wooded area of Wisconsin, and while shrouded in the deep forested area stumbles across 15-year-old Stella Compton, whom he abducts and holds prisoner. Stella finds herself in the midst of an incomprehensible nightmare, and one she fears there is no escape from. She vows if she survives her nightmarish ordeal and is reunited with her loved ones, she will commit her life to righting the wrongs the only way she knows how. Surprisingly, her journey leads her to the one man who restores faith in her future, and who will ultimately become the center of her world. This is a story that speaks volumes about the importance of our human relationships and the animals we bond with, and how one girl achieves triumph over tragedy.
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By Linda Florke
Trafford PublishingCopyright © 2012 Linda Florke
All right reserved.
Chapter OneOn Your Guard
Randall Daggett played his escape over and over in his mind every night while he lay in his cell at Ryder Penitentiary. Ryder was the only level five maximum security prison in the state of Minnesota and home to 440 inmates who were considered an extreme risk to the public. A majority of the prisoners had committed heinous murders and were serving life sentences.
The prison cells were seven by ten feet, and each one had a bed, table, toilet, and sink in it and a narrow rectangular window with reinforced glass and steel bars, so an escape from each cell was impossible. Daggett's plan of escape involved killing both the guards who assisted prisoners in and out of the courtyard each day, but he knew he needed Murphy's help with this one. Murphy was his "bitch," who was serving a ten-year sentence for a bank robbery in St. Paul, where a security guard was shot and killed. Daggett kept Murphy safe from the other guys in the slammer, and he made it known that Murphy was his, and his alone. He said he'd kill whoever "banged his boy." In return, Murphy had to perform every sexual act that Daggett wanted; when he wanted. Murphy thought it was better to have one guy rape you than ten, in a place where it was common to be raped by ten guys all at once, especially if you were new.
One day, one of the more dangerous prisoners, Jinx, a gargantuan former street gang leader, cornered Murphy in the back shower stall. Jinx noticed that Murphy was alone in the end shower stall vigorously washing his face with his eyes squeezed shut in an effort to keep the soap out. Jinx approached quietly and waited. Murphy held his head under the shower head rinsing the soap from his face, and as he wiped the excess water out of his eyes and opened them, he jumped back. There before him stood a naked Jinx grinning with a very menacing look on his face.
The alarms went off in Murphy's head, and he made a feeble attempt to dart past him, but Jinx's massive arm caught him and flung him up against the wall. Within minutes, Jinx had Murphy pinned in the corner and bent over where he proceeded to rape him. Murphy screamed at him the entire time that Daggett would kill him, but Jinx merely laughed while he continued to inflict lewd and lascivious acts on him. Suddenly, Murphy felt Jinx dislodge and, seconds later, saw Jinx's entire body plummet to the shower floor with herculean force. When Murphy stood upright and turned around, he saw Daggett standing over Jinx's body, clutching a steam iron smeared with blood. Daggett leaned over the body to check if Jinx was still alive, and after discovering he was, positioned him in such a way that the shower head was aimed directly at his genitals. Then Daggett turned the handle all the way to the "H" and watched as scalding hot water jetted directly onto his lower torso. Daggett and Murphy walked away laughing, and they took care to step over the stream of blood that trickled from Jinx's head toward the drain. At the door, they both looked back in the direction of the shower, and all that could be seen was a mass of steam billowing upward from the scalding water's temperature. Moments later when Jinx finally came to, he let out a bloodcurdling scream and shuffled quickly away from the water's spray. He moaned from the blinding pain in his head and the scarlet-colored skin from the waist down; then, a few seconds later, he doubled over and vomited. He was found that way about ten minutes later by two guards, who merely assumed he had fallen in the shower when they saw the bloody gash in his head and his burned skin. He was immediately taken to the infirmary and treated for second-degree burns and a severe concussion. Jinx never said a word to anyone about what happened, but the other prisoners all knew. Daggett sent a message loud and clear: anybody who touched his boy Murphy would wind up like Jinx or worse. No one ever went near Murphy again.
Murphy was given the maximum sentence in prison for his involvement in the robbery, but his only real participation was that of driving the getaway car for his brother Quinn, and Quinn's best friend Wink. The three made their escape with the enormous amount of cash across the Minnesota state line into Wisconsin and then drove to an obscure area within the northern woods where they devised a plan to hide the money and stay out of sight until the heat was off.
Their plan was foiled four days later. After the robbery, they drove until dark until they came to a small town called Three Lakes. They knew they needed a safe refuge, one that would not draw suspicion, so they broke into an elderly couple's home, tied the couple up and held them at gunpoint. The next day, Wink and Quinn came up with a plan between themselves to bury the money at night, while leaving Murphy to keep vigil over the couple and the house. Wink and Quinn chose a spot they were sure no one would ever find, but one that they themselves could easily remember when it came time to retrieve it. After burying the money, they returned to the house where they cleaned up, ate dinner, and spent most of their time glued to the television to stay abreast of any late breaking news about the robbery. After a few days, they were quite sure they were home free, when a SWAT team and several FBI agents moved in on the house. They were startled when FBI agents yelled through a megaphone and warned them they were surrounded and were to give themselves up. Wink and Quinn panicked. They grabbed their guns and headed for the back door where they attempted to make a run for it, but the SWAT team opened fire with multiple rounds of gunfire killing them both instantly. An extremely petrified Murphy slowly exited the house seconds later with his hands held high in the air in a display of surrender. He was immediately taken into custody, and after several days of futile interrogation, it was concluded that Murphy had no idea where Quinn and Wink had hidden the money. Agents and police searched the area for over two years, but the $974,000 in cash was never found. When Murphy told Daggett the story, Daggett whistled and said, "You ain't no idear at all where they's might a stashed that much cash?"
Murphy looked at him and said, "Nope. All I know is that it was buried somewhere near Three Lakes. I read they searched for years but never found it."
Daggett knew Murphy could be as dumb as a post and might not even realize he had the answer where it was buried, so he continued to question him. He asked, "Wha'd exactly did ya tell the FBI?"
Murphy said, "I told 'em what Quinn and Wink told me. That it was buried under some tree on some lake. Man, they was pissed because there's 28 lakes in that area and a million fuckin' trees!"
Daggett chuckled with Murphy, but pressed on and asked, "Wunt yer brother and that Wink a toldja somethin' more than that?"
Murphy frowned and said, "Nope. That was all. When they got back to the house, they just said they buried it under the first tree on the right by the lake shore, and you don't need no goddamn boat to find it. Then they just laughed their asses off. It must've been some inside joke between 'em."
Daggett thought to himself, What they said's gotta mean something. Murphy jist don't get it that they was tellin' him. That money is out there somewhere. I's jist half ta figure it out.
Daggett studied the maps of the chain lakes near Three Lakes and the nearby town of Eagle River that entire week in the prison library. The guards watched as he typed, clicked, read, and researched every day. One of the guards chuckled and yelled from afar, "Hey, Daggett? You workin'on your PhD?" Then the guards looked at each other and doubled over with laughter until Daggett backed his chair away from the computer table, stood up, and said, "Yeah, which one you fucker's wants ta lean over my shoulder an take a look-see?" Their smiles fell instantly from their faces, and they quickly turned back to their assigned posts, and left him alone.
It was five days later when Randall Daggett figured out what Murphy never could.
Daggett relayed his escape plan to Murphy, but he knew he needed Murphy's help. He made no further mention of the money, rather listened as Murphy went over his nightly ritual at the end of the day when his kitchen duty was over. Together, they came up with the perfect idea that would ensure his escape. The next morning, when Murphy was finished with his kitchen duty, the guards proceeded with their usual routine. He removed his apron and hairnet, and they had him stand legs apart, arms in the air, and gave him his usual pat down. They began to escort him out of the kitchen and back to his cell, but after taking only a few steps, he stopped cold and said, "Ah shit! I'm makin' my famous cinnamon rolls for you all in the morning, and I forgot to put the frozen bread dough on the counter to unthaw overnight."
The guards exchanged a look, and then the senior guard perfunctorily nodded his head, signaling it was OK for Murphy to go back to the freezer. The guards all liked Murphy; he was a good cook and never caused any trouble. Murphy walked briskly toward the freezer, and as the heavy door shut behind him, he quickly retrieved the meat cleaver that he had buried in a bucket of flour earlier then fished out some twine that he had hidden under a box of frozen meat. He dropped his pants and tied the twine around the meat cleaver tightly to the inside of his thigh, then pulled up his baggy orange pants cinching the drawstring. A few minutes later, he walked out of the freezer carrying the frozen dough and several butter packages in his arms. Then he deliberately set them all on the counter near the two guards and smiled, saying, "I dropped the goddamn things in there cuz their so fuckin' cold! Least I remembered the dough or you guys would'na had shit to eat in the mornin'." One guard gave a hint of a smile, and the other simply moved Murphy along through the kitchen doors and back to his cell, both failing to pat him down again. On the way to his cell, Murphy passed Daggett's cell and turned and winked. Daggett caught the signal and broke out in a grin as they walked past his cell, and he thought to himself, Holy shit! It worked! He done it! He got me somethin' to break outta here with.
A few hours later when it was lights out and dark on the floor, Murphy untied the cleaver from the inside of his thigh and slipped it between the pages of one of his girly magazines. Then he burrowed a hole deep into his pillow where he buried the twine. The next morning, Murphy awoke to the clanging on the bars of his cell signaling him it was 5:00 a.m. and time to prepare the guards' breakfast. The two guards waited for him to splash some cold water on his face and wake up. He grabbed the folded magazine, taking care to clasp it tightly with the cleaver inside, and stuck it up under his armpit. As the guard unlocked his cell door, Murphy walked through and told the guards he needed to give Daggett back his magazine or he'd get an ass kickin. One guard glanced down to see the half-folded magazine with a nude woman on the front under his arm, smirked, and nodded for him to go ahead. Murphy walked down to Daggett's cell and carefully slid the magazine under the door. Daggett, who would normally still be sleeping at this hour, was wide awake and heard the clanging on the bars and verbal exchange, and smiled wide as he heard Murphy slide the magazine under his cell door.
It was game time! He waited until they were out of sight and then stealthily moved to the edge of his cell to snatch the magazine. He quickly stuck it under his pillow and waited for the designated courtyard time to come.
Daggett thought back to when he tried to convince Murphy to break out with him, but Murphy refused to chance it. He was up for early parole, and he wasn't going to screw that up for anything, but he made Daggett swear that whatever he gave him to help him escape with would not be left lying around. He didn't want anything to be traced back to him, and Daggett swore they'd never find a thing. Later that afternoon, Daggett put his plan into action. He told one of the guards he wanted to work out in the fitness room rather than play in the pickup game on the basketball court. The guard glanced down and saw the magazine Daggett held under his arm, and as he went to reach for it, Daggett pulled away and said, "Get yer own fuckin' read. This'n here's fer me, and I's plan to have me a good time with it." Then he grinned and mimicked as if he was masturbating, and the two guards gave him a pitiful look, laughed, and let him keep his magazine.
The only possible way in and out of the courtyard was through a solid, heavy metal door, which was operated by an electronic handheld device that only the guards possessed. The prison compound itself was comprised of nine foot concrete walls topped with razor wire, and armed guards patrolled the tops of walls that ran along the courtyard with semi-automatic rifles as prisoners were let in and outside the courtyard. The guards left Daggett alone in the locked workout room. Once inside, he carefully surveyed his surroundings and executed the plan that he had played out in his mind a hundred times over. He could be seen adjusting the weights on one of the leg machines with the magazine lying nearby on the floor. He looked over his shoulder through the glass and saw the guards' back to him, and it was then he carefully slid the cleaver out of the magazine and stuck it under the mat beneath the exercise machine. He used a few of the machines, working up a sweat, and then knocked on the glass window. This guard who previously tried to take the magazine, turned to look at Daggett with a puzzled look on his face, then Daggett pressed the nude centerfold up against the glass. The guard couldn't help but chuckle, and as he did, Daggett threw his head back and howled.
The guard periodically peered in the window, watching as Daggett worked up a sweat on the various machines. Then he heard another knock on the glass, and when he turned this time, Daggett motioned for him to enter the room. The guard couldn't hear exactly, but he thought Daggett mouthed something about a broken machine. Ryder Penitentiary's number one rule was to always guard in pairs and never approach prisoners alone. So Pixel whistled to the other guard, Monroe and motioned to him over. Monroe reluctantly strode over to where Pixel stood, and after a short exchange, they yelled up to the wall guards to keep watch over the courtyard below them.
Then they buzzed the door and entered the fitness room with their rifles aimed upward. The second guard, Monroe was irritated at being called away, for he had been fervidly watching the pickup game outside that was getting a little heated, so he glared and yelled, "What the hell's wrong, Daggett?" Daggett appeared to be angry at the machine he was crouched over and vehemently said, "This goddamn machine's stuck, and I cain't git the fucker ta work." He looked to be struggling with realigning the chain, and the guards could see his hands were covered with black grease as he worked to put the chain back in place. He was edgy with anticipation while waiting for the exact moment to pounce. The guards moved closer, and then Pixel made the fatal mistake of bending down over Daggett's shoulder to get a better look. Within seconds, Daggett lifted up the mat and plunged the razor-sharp meat cleaver into the side of the Pixel's head. The force made him stagger back, and his eyes bulged. He made a horrible hissing sound before he collapsed to the floor. Monroe stood frozen and watched in horror as a thick stream of blood ran down Pixel's face and then pooled around his head after he crashed to the floor. Knowing he was next, Monroe frantically raised his rifle to shoot but was too late. Daggett dove into his side and shoved his body against the wall, then turned him sideways and delivered a deadly karate chop to his Adam's apple, causing him to sputter and wheeze before he finally toppled to the floor. Daggett worked frantically to remove Monroe's uniform, and shed his own prison garb. He quickly donned the olive-green jacket, taking care to button all the gold buttons, and stepped into the pants.
He kicked off his tennis shoes and laced up the black dress shoes, then stuffed his scraggly hair up under the guard's cap. Lastly, he fastened the belt around his waist that had the door buzzer clipped to it and he moved toward the door. He held up the buzzer and watched as the door before him opened out into the hallway. He stepped through cautiously taking care to walk with a steadfast gait down the hall until he reached a set of steel barred double doors. There was a large red button on his right just below a surveillance camera. He pushed it and then took care to step back from the camera, while keeping his head down so only the guard cap and jacket were visible. He held his breath and waited. Seconds seemed like hours; he shifted his legs to and fro and then all at once he heard the doors unlock!
Excerpted from September Woods by Linda Florke Copyright © 2012 by Linda Florke. Excerpted by permission of Trafford Publishing. 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 On Your Guard....................1
Chapter 2 Nice Guys Finish Last....................11
Chapter 3 Plenty of Room to Hide....................20
Chapter 4 Family Bliss....................25
Chapter 5 Without a Trace....................31
Chapter 6 Questions....................35
Chapter 7 The Nightmare at Hand....................41
Chapter 8 The Unthinkable....................57
Chapter 9 Tracking....................65
Chapter 10 Beginnings and Endings....................74
Chapter 11 The Road Back....................81
Chapter 12 Trust....................97
Chapter 13 Her Guardian....................101
Chapter 14 The Fork in the Road....................114
Chapter 15 The Winter of Her Discontent....................120
Chapter 16 Paw Prints on Her Heart....................125
Chapter 17 Seasons Change....................136
Chapter 18 A Step Forward....................148
Chapter 19 Taking Chances....................153
Chapter 20 All I Want for Christmas....................165
Chapter 21 Let Love Lead....................174
Chapter 22 Brighter Days Ahead....................190
Chapter 13 Blessings....................198
Chapter 14 Joy to the Girl....................204
Chapter 15 Struggles Turned Success....................214
Chapter 16 Harvest Time....................221
Chapter 17 Righting the Wrongs....................229
Chapter 18 Revelations....................239
Let Sleeping Dogs Lie....................249
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I loved how the author introduced the main characters first and went right into the drama only to show how Stella would survive through out the years! I was so caught up in the characters especially Stella and Ben. The author describe so well I could picture them in my mind! I was so mesmerized as I read nobody could pull me away from the book!
GREAT BOOK!! This story starts out in suspense; and keeps building. I couldn't put it down until the end. I wnt to see more stories from this lady.......
Her sub-plots not only help show more depth in the characters, but drive the story with each and every sentence. Even if you are paying close attention to the clues, she’ll get you in the end with who the real final villain reveals its identity to both Stella and the readers. The story will leave you in tears cheering on Stella in overcoming her past and gaining her freedom and true happiness. You’re only regret will be that Florke doesn’t have book two already waiting on the shelf for you to dive into.
Linda Florke's first novel "September Woods" is a great read! Her story of humanity and nature working together to heal the scars of a stolen childhood is emotionally stirring. You will love Linda Florke's style of attention to detail and knowledge of her subjects. Her layers of characters and side stories always kept me wondering what was hiding around the corner. I loved her style of attention to detail and depth of her characters being. She took me on an emotional roller coaster, one that I look forward to riding on again! This talented author will keep you wanting ...
I really enjoyed this book!!! The author did a wonderful job. I had a hard time getting all my work done around the house because all I wanted to do was to keeo reading until I was finished!! Any chance we could get a 2nd book to continue on the story plot!
GREAT BOOK - HARD TO PUT DOWN! From the very first page, this was a story that definitely held my attention. It started out with teenager, Stella, experiencing unspeakable terror, but goes from there to her working tirelessly to get her life back to some semblance of normalcy. Stella's love of animals and trust in people who care for her play a huge part in turning her life around. It was a thrill to see happiness triumph after the horrifying experience this teenager was forced to endure. For this being the first book by author, Linda Florke, I would give her an A+ for imagination and skill and would buy another one by her in a heartbeat!
A good story of overcoming a horrific past. Suspenseful. Worth your time!
This author found a way to immerse the reader in the story, and make the reader identify with each event that happens to the main character. Your emotions are on full tilt as the suspense grabs you, and you find yourself right there in the story! A GREAT book that has intermittently combined the elements of terror, love, loyalty, promise, hope, and love. A MUST READ!
Great book! A page turner, particularly in the first third of the book. September Woods is a book about pure evil, love, and redemption. In her debut, Florke demonstrates a flare for the sick and twisted yet adeptly weaves a love story throughout. The unconditional loyalty and love from the animals in our lives is also a critical element in the storyline and sets up a thrilling and surprising end! I can't wait for the next one!
This is a great book and from a local writer also. I had to stop a couple times and remind myself it was a book ....a good read.
What a great book! It's a wonderful story about a young woman who even though she has had tragedy in her life, overcomes the tragedy, builds a life for herself and a legacy of her own. I am an avid reader and this is an excellent book from a first time author. Very suspenseful! I didn't want to put the book down.
I had a hard time putting this book down. I had to know what was going to happen next. It definitely kept me interested. I liked how the author combined a thriller and romance. I have read books that leave me wondering "what next", but once I finished this book I didn't wonder, I think the author did a terrific job. I loved everything about this book and would recommend it to everyone.
This book was hard to put down! Totally loved it
From the moment I opened this book and started reading, I knew I wanted to know more because of the suspense and wanting to know how it ends. Great book-I recommend it.