My next guest on the Crime Cafe podcast will be crime fiction author Sandra Wells. As part of her appearance, she’s giving away the first six chapters of her latest book, BEFORE DAWN.

In fact, she’s giving it away right here!

Just keep reading! 🙂


July 16, 2019 – Monday

At 4:30 am it was still pitch black outside as we barreled down 16, the Spaulding turnpike, chasing after the ambulance.
We had arrived at the scene just in time to see the woman loaded inside, but unfortunately not in time to be able to try to speak with her. The paramedics flat out refused to let one of us ride inside along with her to the hospital. Two paramedics frantically went to work as soon as she was placed inside.

Detective Carver’s knuckles were white as he gripped the steering wheel. We were pushing past 98 mph but the ambulance was still pulling away from us. They definitely had the gas pedal to the floor with the lights and siren wide open. The wind was blowing hard enough, that at times, I could feel the big SUV sway. My nerves were on edge and my mouth was dust dry. I held on to the edge of the seat with everything that I had and tried not to worry.

It was imperative that we be able to ask the victim if she could describe who had shot her. Any description at all would be better than what we had…nothing. She was the third woman in two weeks to have been singled out,  targeted and riddled with bullets while driving on the Spaulding turnpike. All three women had been heading into Portsmouth, New Hampshire in the early morning hours. Right before dawn.

The two previous brutal assaults had been senseless. Neither of the women seemed to have anything in common or any known enemies. At least, not one who would do something so heartless.

I’m Detective Kelly G. And Detective Carver is my partner. We had been assigned to this case and wanted desperately to catch whoever was responsible before they had the chance to do it again. We’d been cruising up and down the turnpike for a couple of hours trying to catch site of anything that seemed suspicious. After making a U-turn at the Dover Toll booth, we saw the blue lights flashing up in the distance. My heart dropped like a lead ball. I looked at Carver and even in the darkness he seemed pale. From the amount of cruisers and emergency vehicles crowding the scene I knew that it was bad. I was right. Yep.

As I already explained, we arrived just in time to see the victim loaded up. When we started around the Portsmouth traffic circle the ambulance was probably already an 1/8 of a mile ahead of us. We knew that they would be taking the Borthwick Ave. to get access to the hospital emergency room at Portsmouth Regional Hospital. I was silently praying to myself that she would still be alive when we got there. It would be nothing short of a miracle. When they had placed her into the ambulance the prospects hadn’t looked good. At least 1/4 of her head seemed to be missing and bleeding profusely. She was barely breathing and unconscious.

Detective Carver eased up on the gas pedal as the ambulance ahead of us cut the siren and emergency lights off and slowed down. We both knew what that meant. The only information that we’d be getting tonight would probably be her I.D. and that really sucked.


Jeremy pulled the taxi into his allotted parking space at the motel. He hated the run down, dilapidated shit hole but he needed to get some sleep. Working at night gave him a lot more freedom to do what he wanted. On the days that his girlfriend, Marilyn, had off he could tell his wife that he was picking up extra driving hours. It didn’t matter when he came home with no money to show because he could lie and say that he hadn’t had any fares. If he complained enough about sitting, waiting on calls that didn’t come in, she wouldn’t want to make him more upset. When Jeremy got upset he yelled and threw things. If she pissed him off enough he smacked her around a little. The bigger the fit that he pitched the quicker she stopped hassling him. He had learned that real quick in the relationship.

The bitch was constantly suspicious. Since she caught him screwing around on her, a couple of times, she was always accusing him of things. He almost felt bad about treating her so shitty. Almost, but not quite.

He had to admit that Candice served her purpose. She faithfully paid the rent every month for their room, 310, at the Sailor Inn. It used to be a nice motel but since 2010 it had been renting cheap rooms by the month mostly to drug addicts and dealers. Throw in people who were down on their luck and the mentally unstable and you had quit a volatile mixture. The only thing good about it was that the location wasn’t that bad. It was right off the traffic circle on Woodbury avenue. It was easy access on and easy access off of the turnpike.

He didn’t care anyway because he’d married Candice in April for convenience only. She didn’t realize that though and kept the fridge stocked and clean clothes ready for him to wear. Like a good little wife should. She was 12 years older than him and moody. She always read more into their relationship than what existed. Of course, he played along with it just to keep peace and a place to store his stuff and crash for a few hours. He didn’t spend much time with her anyway. Most of the time he just ignored her and played on his phone, slept or watched TV.

He made sure that he stripped her of every extra penny that she’d get so she was pretty much stuck at the motel. After all, didn’t own a car anymore since he had talked her into getting a title loan for it. He promised to make the payments if she would give him the money. He made two payments and then they repossessed the damn thing.

That gave him more freedom to move around and enjoy himself without the possibility of her showing up somewhere unexpectedly. Without taking the bus she was pretty much immobile. He liked it that way.

Candice didn’t know anything about what had happened to his girlfriend Darcy and their baby back in February. He had no intention of telling her either. It wasn’t his fault that the baby had been stolen by Doctor Caplin and Nurse Milly right after being born. Sure, he’d kicked her out, pregnant, with no where to go but how was he supposed to know that she would get herself killed and end up losing their kid.

No, Jeremy didn’t talk about what had happened. He knew that the doctor had been sentenced but Nurse Milly had walked scot free. She had never been made to cough up exactly what had happened to his kid. She swore that his kid and a little girl they’d taken years ago had died. This infuriated him. She would end up regretting it. It was just a matter of time. Soon, real soon, she would regret what she had done. He was going to make damn sure of that.

He sat in the taxi with a lit cigarette hanging from his lips. Even with the air on, it was hot and muggy. It was going to be a scorcher. Jeremy ran his hand through his short blonde hair to wipe away the sweat and turned the air up higher.

He was still pretty wired up. The adrenaline running through his body from the last two hours combined with 2 red bulls and 3 Adderall had him vibrating. It would take him a while to settle down. Hopefully Candice would still be sleeping and wouldn’t ask him a hundred damn questions about how his night went.

He locked the doors on the taxi and double checked them.


Kelly G. stood at the emergency room entrance waiting on Carver to finish talking to the officers. At 4:15 a.m. they had answered a 911 call, that someone had reported, saying that a suspect vehicle was stopped in the middle of the right-hand lane heading east on the turnpike. When they arrived the person who reported it was long gone. Naturally.

They reported that when they arrived the engine of the Toyota 4-Runner was still running and the side window shattered. The driver was slumped against the steering wheel with her right hand wrapped around a cell phone. She must have been attempting to call for help but hadn’t been fast enough.

The victim was Kristy Lee. A 47 year old woman from Dover. They were running her license to find out a recent telephone number. She had been D.O.A. – dead on arrival. She hadn’t stood a chance against the severity of her head wound.

It was obvious, that just like the other two episodes, someone had pulled alongside her vehicle and executed her as she drove down the turnpike. The question in all their minds was -WHY?

8:00 a.m. in Seabrook, New Hampshire

Prince John used the razor blade to cut out a couple of hefty lines of cocaine on his desktop. Using a rolled up hundred dollar bill he snorted them up and sniffed loudly. He propped his boots up on the desk and leaned his long, lean frame back in the chair. After a couple of minutes, he clicked on all the surveillance cameras that were mounted around the outside of the warehouse. One by one, the miniature TV views appeared clear as day.

It sure was good to be home. The last time that he’d been in this warehouse was last October when it was raided. Those damn detectives had spent several days driving around looking for him, and just by sheer luck alone, they had wandered on to Stacey Avenue and this very warehouse.

Prince John had leisurely strolled out the back door as they came through the front one. It had been a little too close for comfort though. Since then he had laid low. Now he was back in town and it was time to resume business.

His new right arm, Black, was due any minute. He would have the hassle of keeping track of the street dealers and in charge of their drops. Prince John set up the shipments that Theo brought in by car from Canada and set back and raked in the dough.

The front door buzzer went off and he looked up toward that camera. His man was waiting outside. Prince John was just about to buzz him in when movement in Black’s car caught his attention. The windows were tinted but he still saw what looked like a young girl in the passenger seat. Not good. Not good, at all. How could Black be stupid enough to bring some chick with him to the warehouse. Chick’s had a tendency to run their mouths a lot, and that’s one thing that he didn’t need. He slid his feet off the desk and sat up ram rod straight. He was pissed.
He tapped the intercom. “Who the hell is that in your car in my drive? You’re some kind of specially ignorant mother fucker, aren’t you boy? How dare you bring someone right to my front door! Are you crazy? You seriously think that I wouldn’t mind? What in the hell is wrong with you, dumbass? Get her out of the damn car and bring her in here. Now!”

Black straightened, by the door absolutely still for about one minute, then he turned and motioned for the girl to come to him. She opened the car door and stood holding onto it. Black waved her over again, so she slammed the door and walked his way.

He buzzed for entrance again and Prince John tripped the door lock. Prince John was totally pissed. He had no idea what he was going to do until they walked into the room. Black entered first and then a very young, caramel skinned, wide eyed, lithe beauty stepped in behind him. She appeared to be shaking. He was hooked.

Prince John sat, not saying a word. Black stood in front of him and appeared to be sweating heavily. Whether it was from fear or from the outside heat was hard to say.

Prince John looked the girl straight in the eye. “What’s your name girl and how old are you?”

She turned and looked at Black like she was looking for an answer. He didn’t say a word. He knew better. Turning back toward him she said, “I’m Laura and I’m 15. I’m his sister. He’s taking me to my friends house. Who are you and why are you mad at us?”

Prince John blinked a couple of times and burst out laughing. He motioned Black toward a backpack that sat on a couch. “You take that and do what you’re supposed to. Me and your little sister are going to get acquainted.” He glared at Black and dared him to say a word.

8:25 a.m. in Portsmouth, New Hampshire

Nurse Milly, well she wasn’t a hospital nurse any longer but a school nurse, finished buttering the toast. She picked up the plate and the Peter Rabbit juice glass and walked toward the back bedroom.

This was a special room. The walls had been totally sound proofed and the windows boarded over from the outside. Shutters were on them as if it was just securely closed. A passer by might think it had done before the last hurricane came through, and that the owner just hadn’t bothered to open them back up. It wasn’t that unusual in the area.

The bedroom included a bathroom with a sink, toilet and tub. The purple twin bed had a cartoon unicorn and rainbow on the headboard, along with a matching chest of drawers. A mini fridge, 21-inch TV and a toy box completed the room. Assorted stuffed animals and books sat on a bookshelf that had been painted pink with daisy’s on it. The red tricycle that sat in a corner looked brand new. All the channels on the TV had been blocked except for Disney and nickelodeon. It was a room created for a small child. A little girl’s dream bedroom. This was more than just a bedroom though. For the last four years this room had been the entire world for the small occupant that lived there.

Lillian smoothed the ruffles on the hem of her new party dress and sat very ladylike while watching her favorite cartoon, Clifford the big red dog.

Her golden curls, tied with a pink ribbon, bounced when she turned her head. At 4 year’s old she was a very smart girl. Other than three freckles across the bridge of her nose she was perfect. Her mother, Milly, had told her so.  She blinked her big sky blue eyes as she sang along with Clifford.

Her mother kept her safe. The world was very dangerous and filled with disease and criminals. Too dangerous for such a small girl to go out in. Her mother had told her this also. Her mother wouldn’t lie to her. Lillian had the small black box that she always kept in her nightstand. If for any reason she needed her mother, while she was gone, all she had to do was push the grey button. She had only had to do it once. Her mother called it a pager.

She dearly loved her mother and looked forward to spending time with her after she came home from work every day. Lillian thought about how brave that her mother was to go out in the world and make money for them. She secretly hoped that someday things would be better and she could see the outside world also. She never talked to her mother about this though. Lillian didn’t want to upset her and make her eyes look sad. They looked that way a lot.

The lock turned on the door and she bounced up and down in her chair. Her mother came in carrying a plastic bag along with her breakfast. She wasn’t very hungry but knew that it would upset her mother if she didn’t eat.

She had promised Lillian that if she was good, that she would get her a play kitchen. She could pretend to cook on it. There had been one on TV. She drew a picture of what it looked like with her crayons. Yesterday she showed it to her when she came home.

Time passed way too quickly and her mother had to leave for work. Right before she left she handed Lillian the plastic bag. Inside were two new Cinderella and Snow White coloring books and a big box of brand new crayons. There were a lot more colors than the box that she had now. She squealed with delight. She really loved to color.

Lillian hardly noticed her mother leaving and locking the door as she lay down on the floor and picked out a special page that she liked. Staying within the lines was easy now. She was getting to be a big girl. Soon she would be five.

Milly hurried around gathering up her purse and keys. She thought back to the day that she had brought the baby girl home and named her Lillian. Lillian was so small and helpless. Doctor Caplin had sold all the other kids that they had taken, out for adoption. He had never known about Lillian. She had been Milly’s little secret. She still was.

Milly checked the house, and after double locking the front door, walked to her car. She hated having to leave Lillian alone but she had no choice. She had to work. That didn’t mean that she didn’t worry constantly while she was gone though. She couldn’t retire for five more years.

Milly had been making plans though. She still had the contacts that her and Doctor Caplin had used to sell babies to adoptive parents. She just had to put herself into a position to be able to have access to pregnant women again.

There was no way that the hospital would rehire her. She had been really lucky that the school had taken her on as the school nurse. All Milly needed was $100,000 and she could move them somewhere that people wouldn’t recognize her. Then Lillian and her would be able to move around freely. Then they could be a normal family.

Milly knew that Lillian would start asking questions that she didn’t want to answer soon. If she couldn’t interact with other children and go to school she would be scared for life. Milly was beginning to get desperate.

11:05 a.m.

Kelly G. and Carver sat in Chief Branks office. Other than being able to contact Kristy Lee’s family they had been able to do absolutely nothing toward solving the case. Three innocent women had been brutally killed while driving down the highway in the last two weeks. There were no witnesses, no surveillance video to watch, the victims didn’t even know each other and other than being between 40 and 50 they had nothing in common. They were simply drawing a blank. This wasn’t good. They needed to make a connection soon..

The bullet remnants were the only evidence. They had all come from a GLOCK G19 Gen5 9mm Semiautomatic Pistol that held 15 rounds. It wasn’t an unusual gun but it was hard to come by. It was also very deadly. At least 6 rounds had been fired into each of the victims vehicles. More than that could have gone straight out the drivers side window.

Detective Carver already had our computer guru Mark running a trace on anyone in a three state range that owned the weapon. Legally, that is. The list was long. Naturally. People were very paranoid with all the protests and unsettling events that had been happening lately. Hunting down a killer who seemed to have no agenda was like finding a damn needle in a haystack. The fact that he got the gun illegally was also on our minds.

We sat staring at the white board that hung behind the chief like something would magically materialize. Detective Carver had jotted down stats, possible clues, thoughts, descriptions, ages, lifestyles, habits, vehicle makes and personal characteristics from all three victims. Nothing seemed to click except that they were, women between the age of 40 and 50, driving alone in the early morning hours, and heading toward Portsmouth.

Was it a mother issue? Someone who hated the elderly? Was it possible that someone just felt that a woman wouldn’t fight back and enjoyed the fact that they were helpless? None of these sounded like a good enough reason to kill three women. Brutally kill them. This was more of a rage thing.

There had to be a reason that they had all been killed on the same stretch of the Spaulding turnpike also.

They were missing something. Something that would make a man mad enough to execute three random women. Was it random for a reason? It could be possible that someone actually had a certain victim in mind but wanted to make it seem random. The more that I thought about that the more I liked the idea.

Now they just had to find out the reason. Look closer at all the victims, and what and who they had been around lately. Anything unusual. Anything that linked them together. Anything to give them an idea about who might be next.

Kristy Lee’s sister was due to arrive at the station any minute now. It was probably best to let Detective Carver talk to her. His 6ft. 4 lanky frame, black salt and peppered hair and his chocolate brown eyes gave Nathan Carver a distinct way with the ladies. They would spill their guts just to have a chance to talk with him. It was pretty disgusting sometimes the way that they fell at his feet. But, then again, sometimes it was useful.


Sandra moved to Saint Clair, Tennessee a little over 5 years ago from Myrtle Beach, SC. She also has a love of photography and spends many days searching for that perfect rural barn picture in the Tennessee and North Carolina area.

She began her career in writing in March 2020. In this short amount of time she has written 6 novels and a short story. She wrote all her books on a Samsung Galaxy CELL PHONE. Her latest book takes place in Saint Clair, Tennessee.

Just Like That, Nothing Else Matters, Fatal Prediction, Before Dawn, and The Clock Struck Midnight are the 5 other books she has written. “Barnaby the Satisfied Troll” is a short story. Books are available at: or on Amazon.


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