Auburn Ride: A Johnny Delarosa Thriller

Auburn Ride: A Johnny Delarosa Thriller

by David Stever


Publisher Cinder Path Press, LLC

Published in Mystery & Thrillers/Mystery, Literature & Fiction/Contemporary, Mystery & Thrillers, Literature & Fiction

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Book Description


Private eye Johnny Delarosa has seen it all. But he meets his match when the alluring, auburn-haired, Claire Dixon, drops a $20,000 retainer in his lap. She wants the hard-drinking Johnny to find $2 million that was stolen from her mobster family thirty years earlier. Old mobsters come out of witness protection to claim their share, and when bodies begin to pile up, and his sexy, enigmatic client disappears. With a wink and a nod to the hard-boiled private eyes of the pulp noir past, the gritty streets of Port City set the stage for the first thriller in the Delarosa series.

Sample Chapter

She was twenty-three years old, five-foot eight, had blond hair that fell to the middle of her back, was being held for ransom, and it was my job to find her and bring her home.

The Blair Trucking Warehouse and Distribution Center was in the industrial section of the city with train tracks on the south side and truck loading docks on the north side. Located on Mechanic Boulevard, I drove by twice before backing into a driveway of an adjacent construction company which provided a good vantage point for observation. A large structure about the size of a football field, it had truck loading bays every forty feet and security cameras mounted at the corners, but I couldn’t do much about that.

It was midnight, the night warm and quiet, and after an hour of no activity and no security patrol, I drove to the warehouse and parked my car between two large trash bins in the rear of the building. I made my way to the side door on the narrow west side. It was unlocked, just as the note instructed, and I slowly turned the handle and the heavy steel door opened without a sound. I slipped inside.

The warehouse was dark, the only light came from night safety lights mounted over each loading door that cast a dim light around the doors but left plenty of dark areas throughout the building. I waited a few moments to allow my eyes to adjust. I had worn my black jeans and black leather jacket and stayed in the shadows along the wall. A check of my watch: 1:10 a.m. Doctor Richard Pitts was expected at two o’clock with the ransom money. The wrinkle here was the kidnappers were expecting Pitts and a bag of cash, not me an hour early.

Doctor Pitts hired me two days ago, right after he received the ransom instructions. Five hundred thousand in cash in exchange for his daughter, Katie. Do not call the police. From what we figured, Katie had finished playing tennis at Greenwood Country Club where the doctor and his wife are members. She never showed at home that evening; her car still parked at the club.

Pitts found me the next morning through a doctor friend, an Irish urologist named Sullivan, who I helped out of a mistress mess last year. Sullivan thought I walked on water and told Pitts that if I could cover up his affair and save him a cool million in a divorce settlement, then I could get Pitts' daughter back. Pitts agreed to my five thousand dollar retainer in about five seconds.

The ransom was to be delivered to the warehouse and Pitts was to come alone. The whole deal smelled amateurish. Pitts said when he received the ransom call he heard trucks in the background. They made the call from the same location as the ransom drop? Not the smartest pigs in the pen.

The plan was to take them by surprise, pull Katie out of there, then call the cops. The cops will have my ass for not calling them first, but that's the nature of my business. I wanted a peek at Katie, too. The Pitts showed me pictures of their only child but all I saw were the long legs and blond hair.

Large wooden pallets, loaded with household items, toasters, DVD players, furniture, filled the warehouse. Each pallet was ten feet high and wrapped in a heavy duty plastic wrap. The aisles between the rows could fit two fork lift trucks side-by-side. I crept along the perimeter wall, my Beretta in hand, praying I wouldn't have to use it. That would mean more explaining to the cops.

A man speaking in Spanish. I froze in place. The voice had a tinny sound to it and after a few seconds I realized it came from a Spanish radio station. I followed the sound and crept another ten yards or so along the wall when Katie Pitts came into view. Illuminated by a small propane camping lantern, she sat in the center aisle on a metal folding-chair with her hands tied behind her. Duct taped secured each of her legs to the legs of the chair and tape covered her mouth. Her long, blond hair hung in a tangled mess and her cheeks were streaked with mascara tears. And the kicker: she only had on a white bra and lacy, white panties. I guess our kidnapper figured she wouldn't run away without her clothes. Or he wanted to humiliate a rich, white girl.

He sat in a chair opposite her. A short, pudgy, south-of-the-border greaser. His black hair was slicked back, he wore dirty blue jeans and a dingy wife-beater t-shirt and had a plastic straw hanging out of his mouth. He slouched in his metal chair while tapping his foot to the music. The portable radio sat on the floor beside him surrounded by empty beer cans and candy wrappers. I moved around two of the pallets and made my way to the center aisle, behind him and facing her. She saw me and her eyes went wide. I put a finger to my lips; hoping she was smart enough to not react. As I got closer I could see her chest heave and her breathing increase. I motioned for her to stay calm. I tapped him on the shoulder and he shot from the chair like I hit an eject button. He turned toward me and my fist crashed into his mouth, landing him hard on his back. I thought he was out cold but he rolled over and scrambled to all fours. I grabbed the chair and smashed his head a couple of times. Now he was out cold, at least for the time being. I checked his pockets for weapons and found a decent switchblade which I pocketed. I went to Katie and gently pulled the tape from her mouth then untied her hands.

"Thank god. Are you the cops?" Tears spilled down and she wiped them with the back of her hands which only smeared the mascara across her cheeks like war paint.

"Not quite. Is he the only one?"

"No. There's two. The other guy is around here somewhere."

“They have weapons?”

“I didn’t see any.”

“Are you hurt?”


"Your clothes?"

"They took them."

I got the last bit of tape off her legs and she jumped up. I took off my jacket and she slipped it on. Something about her wearing my leather jacket with the lacy panties almost made me lose my focus. "Stay beside me, I'll get you out of here."

"Wait," she said. She picked up the chair and lifted it to smash it down on his head but I grabbed it from her.

"I don't blame you but we got to go. Too much noise. Come on." I reached out my hand and she took it, squeezing like she would never let go. We hurried back into the shadows along the wall, heading to the door where I came in.

We were a few yards from the exit when the second kidnapper came in, carrying a bag from a taco joint. What self-respecting kidnappers would go for take-out tacos an hour before the ransom drop? I guess these guys. The safety lights above the door provided enough light for him to recognize the money end of my Beretta as I stuck it in his face.

“Drop the bag." He did. "Hands up." He did. He shook so bad his keys rattled. I frisked him and he had a pistol tucked into the back of his jeans which became mine. A long spool of plastic wrap was nearby. It was five feet wide - the self-sticking stuff they wrap around the pallets to secure the products. I had Katie pull off a long stretch of the plastic and lay it in the middle of the aisle.

"Seńor?" His eyes went wide. He knew what was coming.

"Shut up. Lay down on the plastic."

"Seńor, please."

"Make him take off his clothes," said Katie.

"What?" I said.

“What?” he said.

She took a step closer to. "Take off your clothes, you bastard."

Again, I couldn't blame her. She deserved some vengeance. "You heard her, strip."

"Senor, please. I can't," he pleaded.

"Take off your clothes you spick son-of-a bitch," Katie screamed. It scared me and I know it scared him. He stripped off his clothes in seconds. "Yeah, now who's the big man? What is that, a two-inch dick?"

And I was into Katie Pitts. Leather jacket, blond hair, black streaks across her face, and bra and panties, a cross between an underwear model and an Amazon warrior.

"Lay down on the plastic," I said. He did but still had his hands outstretched. "Put your hands to your sides. You're about to be a human burrito." I rolled him in the plastic while he cursed me in Spanish. The naked Hispanic wrapped in plastic floundering around on the warehouse floor put a smile on Katie’s face. “Can we go?"

She went to our plastic-wrapped kidnapper and smashed her heel into his ribs a few times. "Now we can go."

We got outside and made our way to my BMW. I opened the trunk and pulled out a sweatshirt. "Put this on. Give me my jacket." Even though she was sexy in my leather jacket and her underwear, it was still my leather jacket. She complied. I had bottled water in a cooler and handed her one. She gulped it down. "Sure you’re not hurt?"

"No. I'm okay," she said.

I handed her my phone. “Call your parents and let’s get you home.”

“Wait. What’s your name?”

"Delarosa. Get in.”


It took twenty minutes to drive to her parent's large colonial in the affluent Wood Grove section of town. Katie filled in the details of the past two days with her abductors. She recognized one guy as a maintenance worker from the club, and said the other must work at Blair Trucking because he had keys to the place. They held her in their apartment, didn't mistreat her; only sat and stared at her for a day and a half. I used one of my throw-away phones and called police emergency and anonymously reported a break-in at the warehouse. I doubt the morons will cop to a kidnapping. The police will check their immigration status and with any luck they'll be deported.

The reunion at the Pitts house was tearful. Their tears, not mine. I stood next to my car in their driveway and thought Mrs. Pitts would never let go of her daughter. Doctor Pitts walked over and handed me a check for twenty grand and couldn't stop thanking me. I slipped the check into my jacket pocket and he threw his arms around me in a giant bear hug. I gave him one more chance to report this as a kidnapping but he wanted it quiet. He explained if the word got out about this kidnapping, then others like him – wealthy folks – will become targets. He didn’t want to give anyone any ideas. Sounded pretentious and paranoid, but didn’t matter to me. Pitts was a cardiologist and offered me free cardiology checkups for life. I'll need it as long as my cholesterol keeps going north instead of south.

Katie broke free of her mother and ran over and threw her arms around me. This hug I didn't mind. "Thank you. Thank you so much."

"I'm glad you're okay."

She let go and I shook the doctor's hand again. Mrs. Pitts came over and hugged me. I got into my car as the three of them headed into the house, arm in arm. As they got to the front door, Katie turned back and gave me a wave. A wave I felt in my gut. I waved back. It even pulled at my heartstrings a little. I'm glad for the happy ending, even happier for the easy twenty-five grand. I put the Z4 in gear and headed home.

It was three in the morning when I got back to my condo but I was too keyed-up to sleep, so I put a Miles Davis CD into the player and stripped off my clothes. With the shower as hot as I could stand it, I allowed the water to sting my skin for a good five minutes, then stepped out and wrapped a towel around me.

I pulled a seven-year-old Chianti from my wine rack and opened it, grabbed a glass and went to my balcony and stretched out on the lounge. The music and the wine were just what I needed to come down from the night's job. My condo is on the fourth and top floor of the building and provides me a panoramic view of Port City. Straight out from the balcony looking north are the lights of downtown and the suburban sprawl beyond. To the right and east is a view of the harbor. From my high vantage point sometimes I feel like an overseer; or a protector. Especially when jobs go well - like tonight.

The eastern sky was turning a light grey as I filled my glass for a second time. The red wine felt good going down and I got a nice burn from the alcohol. I kept going back to Katie Pitts. The little wave she gave me as I left her house stayed with me. I had this feeling, and after twenty years on the department and six out on my own, I always trust my gut, my instinct, my sixth-sense. I had not seen the last of Katie Pitts.


Excerpted from "Auburn Ride: A Johnny Delarosa Thriller" by David Stever. Copyright © 2016 by David Stever. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Author Profile

David Stever

David Stever

David Stever is a novelist, screenwriter, and film producer. He writes the Johnny Delarosa private eye series debuting in November 2016. His short story, WICKED WIND, appeared in the June 2015 issue of HEATER. He produced the feature film, COFFIN, starring Kevin Sorbo (Hercules) and Bruce Davison (X-Men). COFFIN was released worldwide in the spring of 2011. He is a member of the International Thriller Writers and the Maryland Writers Assoctiation. Originally from Tyrone, Pennsylvania, he lives in Columbia, Maryland with his wife and family.

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