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Under Wraps: A Kira Brightwell Short Novel

Under Wraps: A Kira Brightwell Short Novel

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Halloween. A time for costumes and crime.

Neither hold interest for Kira Brightwell. She only wants to find a way to move on with her life after the trauma she endured three months ago. (That, and track down the man responsible.)

But the local police receive an anonymous tip with a growing list of decrypted names—a list that threatens to shake the suburban, California town to its core.

...And just like that, Kira’s world gets turned upside down.

A stand-alone short novel of Kira’s recent past in the Kira Brightwell Quick Cases mystery series. If you love murder, mystery, and mayhem, grab this book.

(This adventure takes place before the Kira Brightwell novel Split Decision. Originally published under the pen name Kat Irwin.)


Matt Wilson walked through the front doors of the La Valentia PD precinct with his partner, Gibbs. They had just finished their rounds. He hooked his sunglasses in the chest pocket of his uniform. Even though it was October, there was only a slight chill in the California air. He was glad they had gotten an earlier shift.

Saturday before Halloween... Whoever’s working tonight will be in for some fun.

It was unlikely anything serious would go down. La Valentia was a fairly respectable suburb town, but there were always a few drunken rowdies to deal with at this time of year.

Gibbs jerked his chin in Matt’s direction to catch his attention. “You want to get a beer?”

Matt pulled off his service cap and ran his hand over his closely cropped brown hair. “Sorry, man. I’m going to grab a coffee and visit Gina.”

Gibbs gave a nod of understanding, his lips twisting in the sad, half-smile Matt knew so well—the one everyone gave him whenever he mentioned his wife.

“Right. Well, I’ll catch you Monday then. Take it easy.” Gibbs gave Matt’s shoulder a parting slap before heading toward the locker room.

Matt headed toward the precinct’s small kitchen. Someone would have left some coffee in the pot. Yes, it would be terrible, but the price was right. And he needed something to perk him up before he went to see Gina.

“Whoa, Wilson, watch where you’re going.”

A familiar, female voice jarred him from his thoughts. A perky, uniformed chest met him at eye level. He blinked and forced his gaze upward, doing his best not to crane his neck. It was bad enough he was shorter than most of the men at the precinct, but did Melendez have to be so damned tall?

“Sorry,” Matt said as he flashed an apologetic smile. “Wasn’t paying attention.”

Melendez wore her long, dark hair in its usual tight braid that hung down her back. Her uniform was crisp and scrupulously clean. She took a step back and twirled a stir stick in the contents of a steaming paper cup. Her dark eyes darted past him before speaking again.

“Did you hear?” she asked in a low voice as she gave him a significant look.

Matt frowned. “Hear what?”

Her gaze darted over his shoulder again before continuing. “Someone sent the precinct an email—a civilian.”

“OK...” Matt shot her a confused look. “What’s the big deal? We get emails all the time. Most of them are either complaints or crappy tips that don’t pan out.”

“This one’s different.” Melendez tapped her stir stick against the inside of the cup before removing it. “It contains a link that’s some kind of back door to a private website.” Her voice dropped to just above a whisper. “A kiddie porn website.”

Matt felt a cold ball of fear form in the pit of his stomach. “So this link, it gets you in the site?”

“That’s the thing.” Melendez made a face. “The members of the site trade their... products anonymously. Their identities are hidden from one another by user names. But the owner of the site requires real identities to gain access—probably to use as leverage if he ever needs it. Whoever sent the link has also included a program that’s stripping away the encryption of the user names and revealing their real identities. It’s not running very quickly, but we’ve already got a few names. They’re all locals.”

Matt swallowed. “And we think this is legit?”

Melendez shrugged. “Boss says we need to treat it as if it is. He’s already on the phone with some other precincts out in the city to see if we can get some help coordinating this thing, since we’ll need to round up all the suspects at the same time to avoid tipping anyone off.”

“But who even sent the email in the first place?” Matt shook his head.

Melendez shrugged again. “Whoever it is, they’re better than our tech team. They’ve validated where the data’s coming from, but they haven’t been able to trace the sender.” Her brow furrowed. “You OK? You look a little pale.”

Matt shook himself. “Yeah. I, uh, just need to grab some coffee before I get out of here to see Gina.”

There it was again. That sad, half-smile. He hated using his wife as an excuse, but he desperately wanted to make his escape.

“Say ‘hi’ for me,” Melendez said. She held his gaze for a moment before walking past him. “And don’t tell anyone what I just told you. It’ll be all over the precinct eventually, but the boss wants it kept quiet for now.” Matt gave her a solemn nod before continuing down the hallway to the kitchen.

Fortunately, it was empty. He poured a cup of coffee with trembling hands and forced himself to walk back out of the precinct at a leisurely pace toward his car. He got in and placed the coffee in a cup holder. He closed his eyes for a moment.

Somewhere, deep down, he had always known this day would come. Nothing was ever free in this world. He had been waiting more than a year for the other shoe to drop, and now it had finally happened.

He took a steadying breath. He knew what he had to do. Everything was at stake—all thanks to some anonymous hacker with a conscience.

He won’t be anonymous for long...

Matt pulled his phone from his pocket and scrolled through his contact list. He had some important calls to make.

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