A Detective Al Warner Novel
Warner series, Book 6
Suspense / Thriller
Date Published: 11-11-2021
Publisher: GnD Publishing LLC
Detective Al Warner’s investigation of a street hooker’s death leads to a
case of human sex-trafficking. Nicki, an undercover cop, is snatched while
carrying a concealed tracking device, but it’s stripped from her before she
can activate it. Warner is stymied as she struggles to send the locating
Meanwhile, an young woman, Maggie, is offered a lucrative deal as a birth
surrogate for a secretive, wealthy couple. While living nine months in
luxurious seclusion, she learns her fetus is a tool of extortion, and fears
for her life. Al Warner is struggling to solve two cases at once. It all
comes together in a violent conclusion, with Warner once again thrust into
About the Author
George A. Bernstein, now living in south Florida, is the retired President
of a modest, publicly held appliance manufacturer. He spent years attending
writing seminars and conferences, learning to polish his work and developing
a strong “voice.” George is acclaimed by his peers as a superb wordsmith and
a crafter of surprise endings no one expects. He works with professional
editors to ensure his novels meet his own rigorous standards, and all of his
books are currently published by small indie press, GnD Publishing LLC, in
which he has an interest.
Taken is the sixth of his Detective Al Warner Suspense series, with the
first five; Death’s Angel; Born to Die; The Prom Dress Killer; White Death;
and Sniper, all garnering rave reviews. His Detective Al Warner has
attracted many fans, with readers likening Warner to James Patterson’s Alex
Cross. Four of his novels are also now available in Audible.
Bernstein’s first novel, Trapped, was a winner in a small Indie publisher’s
“Next Great American Novel” contest, and received high praise, gaining many
mostly 5-star reviews, reaching “Top 100” status. His second novel, A 3rd
Time to Die (A paranormal Romantic Suspense) has also garnered mostly 5-Star
& 4-Star reviews, with one reader likening him to the best, less
“spooky” works of Dean Koontz & Stephen King.
Bernstein is also a “World-class” fly-fisherman, setting a baker’s dozen
IGFA World Records, mostly on fly-rods. He’s written the popular Toothy
Critters Love Flies, the complete book on fly-fishing for pike &
The blue Maserati GT convertible shot the too narrow gap between a Honda SUV and a Ford pickup. At 115 miles per hour, only a light rap by the F150 on the GT’s rear bumper sent it spinning across the Palmetto Expressway. It tumbled over four times, careening off the concrete median strip and showered the pavement with sparks and blood spatter.
The mangled vehicle skidded to a final stop, upside down and straddling two lanes. Luckily, late evening traffic was light and further collisions were avoided as all traffic screeched to a halt.
The driver of the Ford and another man leaped from their vehicles and hurried to the $200,000 pile of wreckage, peering inside in the unlikelihood there were survivors. No one was visible, but blood began to pool on the macadam.
Seven minutes later, the police had blocked off the expressway, and an ambulance was transporting the single DOA victim to Jackson Memorial, and eventually the Medical Examiner. He had been IDd as Anthony Stirling, of Coral Gables, a prominent banker and philanthropist. A tox screen would prove negative for alcohol or drugs. The clearly wealthy man had been intoxicated only by speed and power, and probably a life of imagined invincibility.
He’d been wrong.
~ 5 ~
Jack Harris pushed out of his chair and scurried to head off Warner as he strode toward his office.
“Got a minute, Boss?” He panted softly as he touched the Warner’s arm.
“Yeah, Jack. What’s up?” He studied the short detective. “You still gettin’ physical therapy? You look winded.”
“Some, but this job doesn’t provide much free time. I’ve got—”
“Cut the crap, Jack. We need ya here, but in good workin’ order. I want ya to see the therapist four times a week. Make a schedule and stick to it.” He laid a hand on Harris’ shoulder. “Got it?”
“Yes, Boss.” His cheeks pink-tinged as he studied his shoes.
“Okay.” Warner nodded toward his office. “Ya waylaid me for a reason. What’s up?”
Harris tapped on his pad. “I got a call from Damian Torres.”
“The Miami-Dade Sheriff’s detective?”
“Yeah. A Seminole brave found a woman’s body in Big Cypress, near the Collier County border.” He glanced at his tablet’s screen. “The sheriff’s M.E. IDed her as one Ada Funck.”
“And they called us why?” Warner, followed by Harris, entered his office and perched on the corner of his desk.
“Apparently, she’s got a record as a Miami hooker… a street walker from the Miami Springs area.” Harris pocketed his tablet. “He figured since she was one of ours, we’d be interested, especially since it was so unusual.”
“Unusual?” Warner rose and circled his desk “Why?”
“Well, she had the expected track marks on her arm. Most of those babes are users, but they were old and well-healed, and her tox screen was clean as a whistle.”
“Huh.” Warner looked up from the report he’d begun to scan. “Any info she was in any kind of rehab?”
“Nope.” Harris settled on a chair. “And she looked healthy. Or at least she was before she croaked.”
“What d’ya mean, ‘healthy,’ Jack?”
“Well fed, decent haircut, nicely trimmed nails. Nothing you’d expect from one of those babes.”
“So,” Warner scratched his chin, “someone was takin’ good care of her. Cleaned her up, fed her, maybe made a concubine outta her. Then what? Dumped her like trash?”
“Maybe. And one more thing, Boss.”
“The sheriff’s ME says she’d given birth right before she died. It was a Caesarian delivery.”
“Weirder by the minute. Not uncommon for a hooker ta get knocked up, but I’d guess it would be rare for taking it early.” Warner slouched back in his chair. “They sendin’ the vic up to our ME? I’d like the Hawk and his CSU unit to go over her, too. See if they missed something.”
“Figured that’s what you’d want.” Harris stood. “She’s on the way to his lab right now.”
“Good.” Warner selected another file to review. “Give it to Dean Beck, and you run all the follow-ups. Keep me posted.”
“On it, Boss.” Harris headed for the doorway.
“Hope this ain’t the beginnin’ of some new, nasty creep on the prowl,” he muttered under his breath.
It’d been six months since the unsatisfying conclusion of the Shadow affair. A non-conclusion at this point, and still a bone the FBI was chomping on. It was out of his jurisdiction now.
Seems like we can’t go a full year without some major loony poppin’ up. His gut had the uncomfortable feeling more bad stuff was coming, sooner rather than later.
He sighed, and began scanning a batch of action reports.
Warner’s thoughts drifted to Eva. Something was on her mind. Well, she’d spill it when she was ready. His lips arched into a small grin. What a lucky bastard he was for a woman like that to actually love him.
~ 6 ~
Warner pushed through the swinging doors of Miami-Dade’s Crime Lab and spotted Jack Harris huddled together with Moe Gold, CSU’s legendary Hawk.
“So, guys, what d’ya got?” Warner asked.
The Hawk glanced up and grinned. “Ah, The Hero graces us with his presence.” He shook Warner’s hand and chuckled.
“Been over four years, Moe. You ever gonna get tired of that lame moniker?”
“You keep refreshing it, Detective, case after case. The Baby Butcher, The Angel of Death, all the way up to the Shadow killings. It never gets stale.” His brown eyes twinkled over the beak-like nose that had earned him his nickname.
“You’re some piece of work, Hawk.” Warner gave a friendly squeeze to the back of the neck of the round-shouldered, almost dwarfed CSU wizard. “So, clue me.”
“Not a lot that seems to add up to anything, Detective.” He glanced at his notepad. “Ms. Funck was twenty-three, and despite a field of track marks on her arm, had a sterling clean tox screen.” He slipped off his stool and beckoned the two detectives to follow him to an array of color photos on a white board.
“Despite some critter predation, we determined she was unusually healthy and well-groomed for someone in her line of work. Still verifying the COD, and we found no trace evidence that will tell us about her killer, or where she’d been prior to death.”
“Clothing tell ya anything?”
“I’ve been checking that, Boss.” Harris accessed his Android. “Looks like her clothes came from Target, and the one shoe we found was a Sears closeout. Thousands of identical things everywhere.” He pocketed the tablet. “I got Tech accessing security footage of all the local stores using a facial rec program to see if we can pick her up doing the shopping, but it’s a long shot.”
“Yeah.” Warner scratched his neck. “And it won’t tell ya much unless she was with someone we can ID.”
Warner scanned the photo array. “Musta been a pretty gal before the critters got at her.” He turned to Harris. “So, where are ya goin’ with this?”
“Beck and a couple of patrol cops are canvassing hooker alley in Miami Springs, looking for someone who knew her, and anything else he can learn.”
“Good luck with that.” Warner chuckled. “Rare to find anyone there who’ll talk ta cops. Maybe the local patrol guys might have more of a connection.”
“I’ll write up what I’ve got and send it to your computers,” the Hawk said. He laid a hand on Warner’s forearm. “I’ll print your copy, too, Detective. I know you like things on paper.”
“Thanks. Old school’s always worked for me, pal.” He turned to leave with Harris. “Let’s hope this is a one-timer, and not some new nut with an obscure agenda.”
The Hawk perched on his stool and picked up a file. “But those are where you shine, Detective.”
“Don’t mean I gotta like it, Moe. Let’s go, Harris.”
The two detectives exited CSU, going separate ways.