From USA Today Bestselling Author, P.D. Workman!
Something drew him back
When Ben Burton hired Zachary Goldman to help him to find the house he lived in before he was adopted, Zachary had no idea it would turn into a murder case.
But as Ben’s fragmented memories start to fall into place, Zachary is driven to right past wrongs and bring the perpetrator to justice.
But Ben is not the only one who remembers what happened.
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Once again P.D. Workman delivers a powerhouse of a novel! Zachary’s new client wants to find his childhood home. Once they start digging, they find more than expected. This work is brilliantly crafted, with a tight plot and very well developed characters. I wish she could write as fast as I can read! I enjoyed this book and am looking forward to the next one.
Zachary Goldman, Private Investigator, is flawed with a capital F. Shattered by the tragedies of his own life, he will somehow still manage to pick himself up and dig just a little bit deeper than anyone else to find the vital clues.
Maybe being broken makes it easier for others who have faced tragedy to trust him. Walk with Zachary as he solves cases that will stretch his abilities to the limit.
Even with his own life in shambles, Zachary Goldman is still the one you want on the case.
Investigate this P.I. mystery now!
Release date: January 15, 2021
Publisher: pd workman
Print pages: 333
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He Never Forgot
Zachary was on the highway driving home from Jocelyn’s house, thinking over his visit with Joss and the young man she was helping out, now known as Luke. It was going to be a long recovery period for Luke, after being trapped in human trafficking—both servicing his own clients and forced to recruit and train new teens—for a number of years. Successfully separating himself from that life was going to be more challenging for him than rehabbing from years of drug abuse. But if there were anyone who could help him through the process, it was Jocelyn.
Joss had only recently come back into Zachary’s life. Separated from his family when he was ten, he was gradually reuniting with his siblings. Joss was the oldest, and the hardest so far to reconcile with. He sensed that she blamed him for the hard life she’d led, and rightly so, since he was the one who had accidentally lit the fire, the straw that broke the camel’s back. His parents had relinquished the children, severing all ties, and they had all been placed in foster care. So far, none of them had led particularly happy lives. Tyrrell seemed to have led the most normal life. Zachary hoped that the youngest children in the family would turn out to have had an easier time. They had been almost two and four when they had been put into foster care, and under-fives had the best chances of recovering from trauma and leading a happy life.
But despite their differences and Jocelyn’s generally bitter attitude, when Zachary had freed Luke from the trafficking ring, she had agreed to take him in and help him out. Zachary had a feeling that they would be good for each other. Joss already seemed to be gentler and happier around him. She didn’t have any children of her own—as far as Zachary knew—and she seemed to have taken Luke under her wing. He was legally an adult, but still needed her protection and direction, and it seemed to be working out so far.
He was enjoying the smooth highway drive, one of the only times that his restless brain would settle down and enter a more relaxed, meditative state, when his phone rang over the car’s Bluetooth system.
Zachary hit the answer button without looking at the number, assuming it would be Kenzie. But the voice that answered his greeting was not Kenzie’s.
“Mr. Goldman? Is this the right number?” an uncertain male voice inquired.
“Yeah, this is Zachary.” Zachary looked at the number on the radio screen but didn’t recognize it. “How can I help you?”
“Of Goldman Investigations?”
“Yes, sir.” Zachary waited for an explanation, hoping it was a client and not the IRS or a reporter.
“Uh… my name is Ben Burton. I’m interested in retaining your services. That’s how they say it, isn’t it?”
“You don’t have to use any special jargon. What is it you need to hire a private investigator for?”
“Well…” Burton still hesitated, unsure of himself. It wasn’t an unusual reaction from a client hiring a private investigator for the first time, thinking of TV show PI’s they had seen. Hard-drinking, gun-toting, brilliant investigators. Wondering if they could really hire someone for their own problem, or if it were just ridiculous. Knowing that TV was not reality, and not sure what to expect. “I’d like to discuss it face-to-face, if we could do that. It’s really…” Burton groped for a word, drawing it out painfully long.
“Private?” Zachary suggested.
“No. Um. Unusual, I guess. I don’t want you to just laugh it off as a prank call.”
Zachary raised his brows as he navigated around a few slower-moving cars, intrigued. “I wouldn’t laugh it off if you’re serious.”
“I’d rather not take that chance.”
“Okay. Are you in town? Where do you want to meet?”
“I’m just visiting. I’m at the Best Western. I don’t know the city; maybe you could suggest a place to meet.”
“I could come to you there. If you don’t want to meet in your room, they have meeting rooms and a restaurant and lounge.”
“The lounge sounds good,” Burton said, sounding relieved. “So, you will meet with me? You’ll really come?”
“Yes, of course. I’m out of town right now, but I’m on my way back. When do you want to meet? How long are you in town?”
“However long it takes, I suppose. Hopefully… not too long.”
“All right. I’ve got a supper date, but maybe after that? Seven or eight?”
“Yeah. I’ll be around. Why don’t you just call me when you’re done and on your way over?”
“At this number?”
“Yes. Ben Burton,” he offered nervously, and rattled off the phone number.
“I’ve got it. I’ll give you a call tonight, then.”
“Thanks. I really appreciate it. That’s great.”
* * *
Because Zachary had thought it was Kenzie calling him, he felt the need to connect with her. He told his Bluetooth system to call her, and the call started to ring through. She would still be at work, but she would answer if she could. He was getting more used to the idea that they were a couple and he was important enough for her to interrupt her routine work to answer the phone when he called. For a long time, he’d been worried about calling her during her work hours, unless it was about something to do with the medical examiner’s office. He’d worried that she would chastise him, haul him over the coals like Bridget would have.
But that was Bridget. And as he was learning, he couldn’t judge all other women by the way his ex-wife behaved. He had thought that she was just honest, that other women all thought the same way as she did but were just too polite to say so. But Kenzie wasn’t like that.
“Zachary.” She sounded relaxed and cheerful. A good day at the medical examiner’s office. “How did things go with Joss?”
“I think it’s better every time I go there. She’s… less defensive. More relaxed.”
“That’s good. It seemed like there were… a lot of walls there. A lot to get through before anyone could see the real Jocelyn.”
“Maybe,” she conceded. “She has her issues. I’m glad that you’ve stuck it out and didn’t let her scare you off.”
Zachary considered that. Joss was prickly. And he remembered how she had treated him when they were both young and she was in charge of him. He was always getting into trouble, and that would get her in trouble, so she was sometimes too harsh in her reactions to him when he was doing his best. But he still loved her. He’d loved her then, and it hadn’t even occurred to him to walk away.
“Yeah, I guess,” Zachary agreed. “I just… I’ve missed my family for so long. I’d never consider not having a relationship with her.”
Kenzie laughed. “Well, you are unique, because most people wouldn’t persist with someone who was so cold and put up so many barriers. But you’ve worn her down.”
Zachary shrugged to himself. It was hard for him to take a compliment, even from Kenzie.
“I was calling to let you know that I have an appointment tonight. After dinner, though. It’s not bumping our date.”
“Oh, okay.” She was probably disappointed that they wouldn’t have the full evening together. Zachary was working hard on that relationship too, but he couldn’t always meet her expectations. “That’s fine. Is it a client?”
“Yes. A prospect, anyway.”
“What kind of case?”
“He didn’t want to tell me over the phone. Said I would think he was crazy. So… I don’t know whether it is someone I will end up working for or not.”
“Yeah. That’s a little suspicious. Let me know what happens; it sounds intriguing. If he is crazy, I want to know all about it.”
Zachary laughed. “Okay. We’ll see how it goes.”
Supper with Kenzie left him feeling pretty mellow, which was unusual for Zachary. He was happy to go with it. If he could step out of his stress and anxiety for a while, it would make his life a lot easier. After supper, he headed over to the Best Western lounge, giving Burton a call to let him know he was on his way. It was only a few minutes away.
“The bar is pretty empty,” Burton informed him. “Why don’t you just meet me there.”
Zachary agreed. When he got there, he scanned the bar briefly. There were only a couple of men sitting on stools along the counter, and only one of them was watching the door anxiously. Zachary nodded at the man and approached.
Ben Burton was maybe a bit younger than Zachary, in his mid-thirties. He was pale, with black eyes and hair. What Zachary guessed was Italian or Greek heritage. Burton had a slightly receding hairline, ears that had probably earned him nicknames as a child, and thick arm hair that went all the way down the backs of his hands to his first knuckles. He held his hand out toward Zachary, looking as though he was going to pull it back again any second. Zachary took it and gave it a squeeze, trying to reassure Burton. Whatever he wanted investigated, it was stressing him out. A wandering wife? Child custody problem with an ex? Someone stalking and harassing him?
“Don’t get up,” Zachary said, as Burton shifted to slide off of his bar stool. Burton stayed perched there in an awkward position. Zachary sat down on the stool next to him. “Nice to meet you, Mr. Burton.”
The bartender approached, eyebrows raised.
“Coke,” Zachary requested.
The bartender nodded and filled a glass from the fountain. He placed it on a napkin in front of Zachary.
“Coke?” Burton demanded. “Don’t you drink?”
Zachary glanced at the shot glass and half-full beer in front of Burton. A hard drinker, if Zachary didn’t miss his guess.
“I generally avoid alcohol,” he explained. “It interferes with my meds.”
Burton rolled his eyes as if he’d heard this excuse a hundred times before, which wasn’t how most people reacted to Zachary’s explanation for not drinking alcohol. Usually, if people knew it was a medical thing, they would accept it and not harass him further to join them in their spirits.
“They’re just covering their butts,” Burton told him. “Most of the time, it doesn’t have any negative effect at all.”
He appeared to speak with the voice of experience. Zachary made a mental note of the fact but didn’t pull out his notebook. He sipped his cola and waited for Burton to make the next move.
“So, I guess you want to know why I wanted to meet with you,” Burton said finally.
“Whenever you’re ready.”
“Let’s get a booth.” Burton cast a suspicious look toward the bartender.
Zachary agreed, and let Burton pick one out. He did not, Zachary noted, pick a seat with a view of the doors. Not someone who was watching his back. So probably not worried about a stalker.
Zachary sat opposite Burton in the booth. He took his notepad out and laid it on the table beside his hand. “You don’t mind if I need to make notes?”
Burton shifted back and forth, thinking about it, then nodded. Zachary started on a fresh page and put Burton’s name at the top. He wrote the date carefully. Too many of his notes had dates that he had to guess at. A six or an eight? A one or a seven? He wanted to improve. Digitizing his notes meant that they would be in his cloud storage indefinitely. He wanted something he could read later on down the line.
Zachary looked at Burton, waiting.
“I don’t know how to start this,” Burton said.
“Just let me know why you want a private investigator. And don’t worry about it, I’ve heard all kinds of stories.”
Burton cleared his throat. He looked up into the corner of the ceiling of the lounge, fingering his glass. “I don’t know. It’s not like it’s anything embarrassing. I just want to find the house I used to live in as a kid.”
Zachary nodded. “Okay.”
He waited to see if Burton would explain further. Burton remained silent and brooding.
“So you lived here in town when you were younger,” Zachary suggested.
“I think so.”
Zachary raised his brows.
“From what I can remember, I mean. I didn’t grow up here, but I think before, I lived here.”
“Your parents can’t tell you?”
“I was adopted. I don’t know anything about who my bio parents are. Or were. I don’t know very much at all about my own history.”
“Ah.” Zachary nodded. “I grew up in foster homes and institutions, so I know a bit about what that’s like.”
“I’m not saying it was bad. It wasn’t. I have great parents; they gave me everything I needed. I just… I need something else. I need to know where I came from. Something about my past.”
Burton drank, not looking at Zachary.
There were physical similarities between the two of them. Zachary was also pale-skinned with dark hair. His was buzz-cut short so that he didn’t need to do much to take care of it. He had enough to handle without having to worry about styling his hair too. He was shorter than Burton, shorter than most of the adults he knew. The result of poor nutrition before he was put into foster care and growth-stunting meds after.
Burton was clean-shaven. He kind of looked like an actor from a noir movie. That pale face and his dark eyes and eyebrows. Very dramatic and brooding.
“Maybe you could outline what you do know about your childhood. You came here, so you have reasons to believe this is where you came from.”
“I don’t know. Maybe it’s something I just made up as a kid. Because I had to be from somewhere, you know? A lot of the things that I used to tell people about myself… I don’t know how many of them are true and how many are just things I made up because I didn’t have anything else to tell.”
“And you told people you were from here. What else did you tell them?” Zachary wrote a couple of words on his notepad to help him remember everything later.
Burton studied him, his dark brows drawing down in a scowl. “What makes you believe me when no one else does?”
“Believe you? You said that you might be from here. I don’t see anything particularly unbelievable in that statement.”
“When I think about living here, when I try to picture the house that I came from… my heart speeds up, and I start to sweat, and I get this feeling in my chest. This… pressure.”
Zachary nodded. “Because you can’t remember, or because of something that happened in the past?”
“I don’t know. I think that something happened, but I can’t remember what it was.”
“How did you end up with your adoptive parents? They didn’t know your bio parents? You went to your adoptive family from…”
“I was in DCF custody. In a foster home, I guess. They didn’t know much about the circumstances I had come from. Or they didn’t tell my adoptive parents. Or Mom and Dad just couldn’t remember the details anymore.”
“Or didn’t want to tell you about it.”
Burton scowled again. “They wouldn’t keep it from me.”
“Social services would have to know something about what kind of home you came from. And they would need to fill your adoptive parents in with enough details to handle any problems.”
“Why would there be problems?”
“Were you apprehended from your bio family? How old were you?”
“What difference does it make?”
“Because the older you were, the more likely it was you would have behavioral issues. And if you were coming from a home where you were abused or neglected, it would be that much worse.”
Burton gulped down what remained of his beer and motioned to a waiter, pointing to his glass. “I was… five years old. And I didn’t have any behavioral problems.”
“So maybe you came from a stable home. And your bio parents were killed suddenly. Nowhere else to go, so DCF comes into the picture.”
“Maybe,” Burton agreed, giving a brief nod.
“Do you remember anything about your bio parents? Not necessarily anything concrete like their names or what they looked like, but… impressions. Two parents or one?”
“Two,” Burton answered immediately, then looked thoughtful.
“What did you tell people you remembered about your home and family?”
“I lived here… in a house… My parents…” Burton frowned, trying to remember. “Two parents, I’m sure. A mom and dad.”
Zachary nodded. “Any siblings?”
Burton rubbed his forehead. He looked around for the waiter with his beer. It was a few minutes before he got his beer, and then he looked at Zachary as if he’d just remembered he was there.
“Mom and Dad said I was very quiet, very well-behaved. I got good report cards at school when I started. I have copies of those. I wasn’t a troublemaker.”
“You can have a lot of different issues without being labeled a troublemaker.” Although Zachary had always been labeled a troublemaker himself. Unfairly so. He hadn’t been trouble. He’d just had problems. Problems dealing with his traumatic past, his abusive upbringing, his impulsivity. He’d been unable to control himself and never stayed in a home for very long.
So maybe he had been a troublemaker.
He’d always been singled out as one.
“Do you have any adoptive siblings?”
“No.” This didn’t seem to be as difficult a question for him. “Just me.”
“Did you have imaginary friends?”
Burton puffed out his cheeks, his forehead creasing. “I don’t know. Maybe. I don’t remember much from when I was that young.”
“Most people have a few memories from when they were five or six. Or maybe your parents had cute stories about you. What else have they told you about when you first joined the family?”
“Not a lot… they were really happy to get me. They wanted a kid and couldn’t have their own, so they picked me out.” Burton shook his head. “Is that right? Would they have been able to pick me? It’s not like I was in an orphanage where you can go from bed to bed and pick out the kid you want.”
“No, but most agencies have books of pictures you can look at. A little blurb about each child or family group. So they might have seen your picture in a ‘waiting children’ book.”
Burton nodded. “Yeah, that must be it. I don’t know. My mom just says how quiet and well-behaved I was. I didn’t really… get my own voice until I was older. You know how teenagers are.” A shrug.
Going from five to thirteen without having a voice of his own was a long time. Most kids would have explored their boundaries long before that.
“Were you in therapy?”
“When you first came to your parents. Were you in any kind of personal or family therapy to help you with the transition? Or to overcome any emotional issues.”
“No. I didn’t need any.”
Zachary nodded and scratched a few words into his notepad. “What do you remember about the house you are looking for? Anything?”
“You’ll take the case?”
Zachary nodded. “Sure, it sounds like an intriguing case. I think we’ll be able to find something.” Zachary reached into the satchel he had brought with him and pulled out an envelope. He handed Burton a one-page retainer agreement that set out his rates and usual terms. They discussed the various aspects for a few minutes, and Burton signed his name on the appropriate line.
“Do you take credit cards?”
“Yeah.” Zachary turned his phone on and entered his payment app. He put the initial retainer amount in the field and handed it to Burton. “Go ahead and enter your credit card information.”
Burton tapped in a long string of numbers without taking out his wallet. An impressive feat. He entered the expiry date and handed it back to Zachary. Zachary waited for the transaction to go through, then turned his phone back off.
“Great, that’s all covered. So we’re ready to get started.”
Burton was gazing at Zachary’s phone, his eyes glazing. How much had he already had to drink? It couldn’t have been so much, or he wouldn’t have been able to remember his credit card number.
“Mr. Burton. Are you ready to begin tonight? Or do you want to set up a time tomorrow?”
It was a minute before Burton blinked and looked at Zachary. “You can call me Ben. What did you say?”
“Let’s set up a time to meet tomorrow. You look like you’ve had a long day. You should get some rest, and we’ll talk tomorrow. See how much you can remember, so I have a place to start.”
Burton rubbed the worry lines on his forehead and finally nodded. “Yeah, okay. Tomorrow I’ll be fresh as a daisy.”
“What time? Morning?”
Burton shook his head immediately. “I’m not an early riser. It takes me a few hours to get the motor running. Morning isn’t a good time.”
Which, if Zachary had him pegged right, meant that he would be too hungover in the morning to be any help. By noon, maybe he’d be feeling well enough to handle an interview.
“Fair enough. After lunch? One o’clock? Do you want to meet here?”
Burton looked around at his surroundings. “If they’re open, yeah.”
“I’ll find out.” Zachary didn’t want to waste his time trying to flag down a waiter. They all seemed to be occupied, even though the lounge wasn’t anywhere near full. They should have been past the dinner rush. Maybe they reduced their staff once the rush was over. Zachary went to the cash register at the bar.
“What time does the lounge open tomorrow?” He handed the bartender a bill to pay for his drink.
“Not until one o’clock.”
“Great. That’s fine.” Zachary held up his hands when the bartender indicated the register. “No change. Thanks.”
He went back to Burton, who, while no longer looking so anxious, was very somber. They finalized arrangements and parted company.
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