Cyber League Crimes Book 2: The Hero Contest: A Fast-Paced Mystery Novella Featuring a Female FBI Agent and an Assassin
Saving others makes them heroes ...
It also makes them targets.
Despite the setback dealt by FBI Special Agent Megan Luchek, the Club moves forward with a new contest centered around heroes. Partly looking for payback and partly look to cash in, they forcibly invite Megan—and her sister—to participate.
The agent quickly discovers that the contestants aren't the only ones in danger. Each one has a family member to fight for.
Will the heroes have to be villains to save those they love?
Release date: June 23, 2020
Publisher: Julie C. Gilbert
Print pages: 104
Content advisory: none
* BingeBooks earns revenue from qualifying purchases as an Amazon Associate as well as from other retail partners.
Behind the book
Book 9 featuring Megan Luchek, but Book 2 of Cyber League Crimes.
Audiobook coming soon.
Cyber League Crimes Book 2: The Hero Contest: A Fast-Paced Mystery Novella Featuring a Female FBI Agent and an Assassin
Julie C. Gilbert
Tara’s plan unfolded beautifully. Jason and Dad didn’t want to leave, but Tara insisted they get biscotti and breakfast pastries from her favorite bakery, which happened to be a fifteen-minute drive away. As soon as the door closed behind them, Megan changed back into her suit, rearmed, and helped her mother right the living room furniture while Aunt Silvia made coffee. Upon receiving Tara’s signal, Megan grabbed Cousin Vinny from the bathroom where he was brushing his teeth.
It’s a good thing Tara stocks toothbrushes like a hoarder.
Megan made a gesture that told her cousin to finish his teeth scrubbing quickly.
Vinny Carbonelli spit one more time and wiped his mouth on his sleeve.
“You waited this long, what’s the rush?” he asked.
“Dad and Jason just left,” said Megan. “It’ll be better for everybody if we have this discussion without them.”
Vinny reluctantly followed Megan into the living room where Tara had already herded Aunt Silvia and their mother.
“What are you girls up to?” asked Mom. She gave them each a measuring look.
The likely target to spill a story had changed over the years. Their mother had a knack about sensing who to question first. Megan and Tara exchanged a glance to decide who would open the interrogation, but their mother beat them to it.
“What did you do?” she asked. Her eyes drilled a hole through Cousin Vinny.
“Sit down,” Tara ordered, cutting off Vinny’s protest. She pointed to a kitchen stool she’d moved into the room for the purpose.
“How did you end up in the same house Tara was taken to?” Megan asked, aware they had a time limit for the question-and-answer session.
Aunt Silvia looked ready to cry. Reaching out, she clasped hands with Megan’s mother.
“Start at the beginning,” Tara prompted.
Megan had forgotten that before finding her true passion in family law and becoming a judge, her sister had done a short stint as a prosecutor.
“I played a few games online,” said Vinny, shifting uncomfortably on the stool. “One thing led to another, and before I knew it, I owed the company $60,000.”
“What company?” Megan fired the question but suspected she’d only narrowly beaten Tara to it. Her mind tried to wrap itself around the gambling debt.
“Cyber League Sports,” said Vinny. “It’s only on the Dark Web for now.”
“Vincent.” Aunt Silvia filled the name with sorrow and disappointment. “Why?”
“Why can wait,” Megan said, keeping her gaze locked on her cousin. “I assume they offered to let you work off the debt. Tell us about the website.”
“It’s a gambling site,” said Vinny. He shrugged helplessly. “That’s all I know. I wasn’t there long. They had me code some pages for a few events. I moved around to a couple different houses, but it’s not like they showed me the inner workings of the organization. I figured out it had mob connections and stopped asking questions.”
“How did you end up as a prisoner instead of an employee?” Megan asked.
“One of my jobs was to prepare a list of people to avoid,” said Vinny. His expression turned indignant. “Somebody else had already started the list, but I made a program to expand it. I made sure you and Tara were on that list. When I learned a team went after her, I confronted Gary. He had security guys jump me later.”
“Is he in danger?” asked Aunt Silvia, looking to Megan for an answer.
“Probably,” Megan admitted. Ignoring a razor-sharp look from
her mother, she turned back to her cousin. “Do you have a safe place you can go for a few weeks?”
“Not really,” said Vinny with another shrug.
Tamping down the urge to shake her cousin, Megan hosted an internal debate about the wisdom of giving him money. Giving a gambler cash was the fastest way to get him to dig deeper into debt. On the other hand, his former overseers wouldn’t want him running around ready to testify. He might claim to know little, but Megan guessed that a long sit-down chat with a detective who knew computers would be very fruitful.
“Let me see what cash I have,” said Tara, stepping toward her bedroom.
Megan held up a hand to stop her and withdrew the wad of cash she’d borrowed from Cassandra Mirren.
Vinny’s eyes lit up with interest when he saw the money.
“Where did you get that?” asked Tara.
“Borrowed it from a friend,” said Megan. The thought of Cassandra set a wave of worry loose in her. She acknowledged its existence then shoved the feeling aside.
Worry can wait. Bigger fish to fry.
Coming to a decision, Megan crossed over to the couch, knelt, and folded the cash into her aunt’s hands.
“Aunt Silvia, I need you to listen carefully. There’s a small but very real chance Vinny’s employer comes after him,” Megan explained. She spoke slowly, trying to penetrate the shock surrounding her aunt. “I need you to do three things for me. One, take Vinny to the police station and have him give a statement. Two, buy a pre-paid cell phone and program it with my number and only my number. I don’t have my phone on me today, but I should be able to get it by tomorrow. Three, get him checked in at a cheap motel under a false name. Pay for everything in cash.”
She made a mental note to call the Lincoln Airport about getting her purse back. It had been a victim of yesterday’s craziness.
“Is this necessary, Maggie?” asked her mother. “You’re scaring her.”
“Why not give me the money?” asked Vinny. “I’m not a child. I can do those things.”
A series of loud knocks prevented Megan from answering. Leaping to her feet, she shot her sister a questioning look.
Could they be back already?
Color drained from Tara’s face, but she stiffly shook her head
“Lock him in the bedroom with Charles,” Megan ordered her sister.
They had exiled the dog to make sure the interrogation ran smoothly.
Vinny started to protest, but a fierce look from Aunt Silvia knocked the fight out of him.
Cautiously approaching the door, Megan drew her gun.
The door burst open and slammed against the wall.
Megan threw her body left to minimize the chance of being shot while she processed friend from foe. Recognizing the first man as her brother-in-law, she changed her aim.
Her eyes absorbed details before she had time to think about them. Jason raced straight past her to Tara who was returning from the hallway leading to the bathroom and bedroom. Megan’s father rushed over to her mother. Aunt Silvia clutched her chest and breathed rapidly.
Another man charged Megan and shoved her hard into the wall. Her gun fell and skidded toward the kitchen. Twisting before he could pin her in place, Megan brought the heel of her hand up hard under the man’s chin, snapping his head back. Seizing the freedom, she dove for her gun, scooped it up, and scrambled to stand.
Activating Eagle Eyes didn’t help. It only bombarded her with late messages warning her of danger and confirmed the sinking feeling in her gut. Overwhelmed, she shut most of the displays down.
The man who had pushed her into a wall drew a gun and stepped away from her, but she ignored him in favor of aiming at the last man to enter.
Gary gave her a friendly wave as he stepped in and closed the door gently.
Megan backed up into the corner so she could get a better perspective.
The other two assailants had taken full advantage of Megan’s momentary fixation on Gary. One had pulled Megan’s mother off the couch and maneuvered her into the center of the room. The other man did the same to Tara. Jason, Megan’s father, and Aunt Silvia sat unmoving on the couch. Their expressions reflected the abject horror coursing through Megan.
In a coordinated move, the men turned the hostages to face Megan and pushed them down to their knees. They huddled together, locked in an embrace, quietly weeping.
“Put the gun down. You’re not going to shoot me,” said Gary. “That would get everybody killed.”
“Don’t tempt me.” Fueled by anger, Megan’s voice was surprisingly strong.
Gary shot her an impatient look.
“Come on,” he whined. “You know how this is supposed to work. Drop the gun and they get to live.”
“Negotiations take trust, Gary,” said Megan, “and—news flash—I don’t trust you. If you want a private chat, call off your goons, and we can discuss things outside. I’ll even leave my gun behind.”
Touching his chin thoughtfully, Gary hummed and pretended to consider the proposal.
“How about I shoot that lady to prove my point?” Drawing a handgun, Gary pointed it at Aunt Silvia.
Several people shouted at once.
Megan’s father wrapped his arms around her aunt and glared at Gary.
“Fine. Give us your speech. Then, get out,” said Megan. Straightening out of the shooter’s stance, she let the gun drop to the carpet.
Gary paused dramatically before nodding to the men.
“Better,” he commented. “Please hold still for this next part.”
Both enforcer types stepped away from her mother and sister. The one man kept his gun aimed at them while the other holstered his weapon and took out a plastic zip tie.
Fending off the instinct to fight, Megan stood still while the man she’d struck earlier bound her wrists tightly in front of her. The choice surprised her. If she intended to renew the fight, having her hands in front presented many options.
“Why are we still here?” asked Megan. “There are much easier ways to kidnap people.”
“You’re a hero,” Gary announced.
Megan didn’t know how to respond to that.
“Heroes have to make hard decisions,” he continued, waving to her mother and sister. “Choose.”
Alarm stabbed her multiple times in the gut.
“What am I choosing?” Megan barely had breath for the question.
“One of these lovely ladies is going to come with us,” said Gary.
“Me. Take me!” said Megan’s mother. Dashing away tears, she tried to disengage from Tara.
Megan nodded numbly.
“Is that your choice?” Gary asked. “I need to hear you say it.”
Tara locked eyes with Megan and shook her head. The message was clearly along the lines of: Don’t you dare.
“Tara,” Megan said softly, dropping her gaze. She couldn’t bear to look at either of them.
“Maggie, no!” cried her mother.
Something hard struck Megan’s head, knocking her onto her side.
Several people screamed.
Her father and Jason leapt up but stopped when Gary lowered his gun to Megan’s head.
Once certain he had their cooperation again, Gary knelt, rolled Megan onto her back, and moved the gun into her line of vision.
“Sometimes hard decisions matter and sometimes they don’t,” Gary said. “Fortunately, your choice matches the poll today. Your sister will indeed be coming with us.”
“You don’t need her,” said Megan. “I’ll go with you.”
“Didn’t you just hear me?” Gary scolded. “The poll said she’s coming. We’re leaving soon. I need you to say a quick goodbye to your family and—”
“I called the cops!” Vinny’s announcement cut off Gary’s instructions. He had Megan’s gun in his shaking hands.
The smile that formed on Gary’s lips frightened Megan.
Twisting her head around, Megan saw her cousin framed in the doorway.
As Gary lifted his gun toward Vinny, Megan rotated her right wrist so that her hands faced each other. Clasping her hands together, she slammed them into Gary’s arms just as he fired.
We hope you are enjoying the book so far. To continue reading...