The Lost Finder

The first halfway decent guy to come along in eons, and he's from another planet.

Dubbed “The Lost Finder,” Private Investigator Brooke Weaver makes her living finding the missing: kidnapped children, runaway teens, and adults who’ve hit rock-bottom. Having lost her first client to a drug dealer’s bullet, she’s vowed never again to bring home a family’s loved one in a body bag.

Unfortunately her latest case has put her up against elements she’s never dreamed possible; a mutated spider from outer space who wants to eat the teenager Brooke has been hired to find, and a drop-dead gorgeous interstellar bounty hunter who tells her she only has 24 hours before the missing girl becomes “hatchling” food.

As she followed the curve of the tunnel, a shadowy figure came into view about twenty feet ahead. The LED flashlight was next to useless. Brooke inched closer. It was a girl, sitting on the narrow walk but slumped over, with her feet in the water. She wasn’t moving.

The stench was overpowering. That creature was nearby, she knew it.

“Sara?” Brooke crept closer. Damn this weak flashlight. Note to self: buy a better flashlight.

The girl moved. Relief rushed through Brooke. Thank God, she was alive.

She finally got close enough to see. The girl was a brunette. It wasn’t Sara.

Scrabbling sounds came from behind. Brooke dove for the girl and flattened them both along the narrow walk. Something clamped onto her leg.

Brooke screamed. She was lifted into the air, yanked backward, and dragged down the wet tunnel. She thrashed, trying to pull free. Her other foot connected with something meaty and her trapped leg was released. She rolled over and looked down. God, the creature was hideous, like the mutated offspring of a tarantula and a cockroach. It seemed bigger than before.

Bone-snapping mandibles spread wide and the creature issued one of its grating shrieks, a deafening, unnatural sound that drowned out her own screams. Brooke scrambled to her hands and knees and tried to run. It seized her leg again and dragged her back down the trench.

She still had the Taser clamped in her hand. She hooked her free foot, kicked herself over, and fired. The contacts sank into its hairy hide. She kept her finger tight on the trigger, but the weapon had a failsafe; it would only surge for six seconds.

It was enough. The creature released her and scuttled away, up the wall and over her head, clinging like Spiderman. It came down the far side to take another run at her. She tried to scream again and realized she’d been screaming.

Two bright orange bursts sailed over her. One glanced off the creature’s hide with a sizzle. The second rocketed into the pipe. The spider changed direction and scurried off into the tunnel so fast it was just a blur.

The smell of burnt meat filled her nostrils. Burnt rotted meat.

Brooke was lying in the stream of foul water. Jager reached her by the time she’d rolled over and pushed to her hands and knees.

“Are you harmed?”

She shook her head. Dirty, wet hair stuck to her face. “That tried to drag me off!”

“You are lucky it has already fed.”

She crawled to the narrow walk and Jager helped her to a sitting position on its edge. She braced herself for his anger, but he didn’t shout at her. Surprising, considering she’d just zapped him.

“It was hiding up there.” She pointed to an access tunnel like the one they’d come down. A highway access? Or another building? She had no idea how far underground they’d traveled.

“It is storing food for its offspring. The girl was laid there as a trap to snare you. The Tetra is a cunning creature.”

“Jesus.” Brooke dragged a strand of wet hair off her face. She winced as Jager reached up with a finger and did the same to her other cheek. The fingertip that traced across her skin was gentle, and he was looking into her eyes like a man about to begin a seduction.

She guessed it was okay that he touch her now. He deserved an apology, not an attack. But in light of all that had happened, one was hard to muster.

“Okay, Company Man. Time for you to come clean.”

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