Piece of My Heart
Laurie Moran is on the Long Island Expressway with her friend Charlotte Pierce heading to the South Shore Resort and Spa at the east end of the Hamptons for a long weekend. There she will meet her fiancé, Alex Buckley; whom she is due to marry in four days. Laurie produces the news-based reality television show called Under Suspicion where they investigate cold cases, and it is here where she met Alex, a well-regarded defense attorney and now a federal judge who presented three episodes of the program.
Joining the festivities are Laurie's three-year-old son Timmy, her dad Leo Farley, Alex's sibling Andrew with his wife Marcy and their three children, Timmy's babysitter Kara Sumner, and Ramon, Alex's butler who is regarded as a surrogate uncle.
Andrew and Marcy's seven-year-old Johnny bears such a striking resemblance to Timmy they are considered brothers. The boys instantly bond and even Johnny's four-year-old twin sisters, Chloe, and Emily, accept Timmy unconditionally. Laurie is elated to be marrying into a wonderfully close-knit clan.
The children head to the beach under the supervision of Kara and Ashley Carter, a friend who happens to be vacationing there with her family. Meanwhile, the adults decide to play golf, and everything appears to be perfect . . . until Johnny goes missing.
They try not to panic, but Laurie remembers only too well when her first husband, Greg, had been shot in cold blood when Timmy was only three. The murderer threatened to kill Greg's family, and it was three years ago when he abducted Timmy and tried to shoot Laurie but was killed by the police. She wonders if someone close to Greg's murderer took Johnny.
It is only natural she'd consider Johnny's abduction meant for Timmy since they are so alike in appearance. To add to her conviction this may be a case of mistaken identity, Laurie learns their weekend plans had been posted on social media. Could Greg's killer have used someone to grab Timmy without knowing they got Johnny instead?
A search commences, the FBI is contacted and Leo, a former first deputy commissioner of the New York Police Department, uses his talents to delve into the case. He surmises Johnny's capture had been contrived by a twenty-one-year-old Vassar student named Darren Gunther who was convicted of murder, claiming Leo fabricated his confession to the killing, as shown:
"According to Leo, it was nearly certain that Gunther would have read a recent magazine profile about Leo, which had highlighted Leo's close relationship with his grandson. It was Leo's belief that Gunther planned on using the child as leverage to force Leo to admit—falsely—to fabricating the confession that he landed Gunther in prison for life.
"As Leo spilled out all the facts, Andrew interrupted regularly with follow-up questions.
"'How could he take our son if he's behind bars?'
"'Gunther had become a bit of a groupie,' Leo explained. 'It's not uncommon for prisoners to attract supports—in some instances, even what you might call groups. And Gunther is extremely charismatic. I could imagine him persuading someone with a vulnerable mind to help him from the outside.'"
Meanwhile, a man named Daniel Turner who snatched Johnny takes him to a home in a secluded destination.
"Johnny Buckley felt like something was pressing down on him. No, more like someone. He imagined giant arms wrapped around him, but it wasn't the way his mother or father would hold him It wasn't gentle or loving. This felt mean and scary. In his mind, Johnny imagined that the arms didn't even belong to a person. They belonged to a monster.
"The monster was holding him so tight that Johnny could feel the monster's tummy rumble.
"Johnny tried to sit up but couldn't move. He was certain his eyes were open, but he couldn't see anything. He opened his mouth and tried to scream but couldn't hear his own voice.
"But he could hear . . . something. A growl. The sound of the monster filled his head. He imagined the monster squeezing him even tighter, and Johnny wondered if he might simply disappear, never to be seen again.
"I want Mommy and Daddy."
Speculation abounds about who took Johnny. As he was adopted as a newborn, they try to find out if possibly Johnny's biological mother is responsible, yet trying to gather records from the closed adoption seems impossible. Luckily, they gain this information only to learn Johnny's birth mother is deceased. Unfortunately, Johnny is unaware of being adopted for this was something his parents planned to discuss with him when he got older. So who took this precious boy and why? With no ransom call or note forthcoming, this becomes more perplexing.
Piece of my Heart is a chilling, hair-raising tale sure to leave the reader gasping and puzzling over the unexpected scenarios and suspects while hoping there will be a happily-ever-after ending.