The Puppeteer - By Tamsen Schultz

Books may be written in solitude but they certainly aren't published that way. I'd like to thank my first introduction into the world of professional writing and editing, Andrea Hurst of Andrea Hurst & Associates, Sarah Martinez (who is one of the most positive, encouraging writers and editors around) and my editor, Julie Molinari (who must have “who said this?” on auto-populate for me). Booktrope and the entire Booktrope team have also provided invaluable support, advice, and encouragement—while signing any new author is a leap of faith, I'm particularly thankful they made that leap for me.

Now on to the personal acknowledgements. Saying thank you to my family, who somehow manage to let me have blocks of hours to write but can't let me brush my teeth without needing something, seems so inadequate. You make me laugh, keep me grounded, encourage me, and remind me every day of what is really important. I am also grateful (and lucky) to have a number of amazing women in my life. Special thank yous go to Sarah C and Angeli, you may be thousands of miles away at any given time, but you're never far. And to Lisa, because you never let me doubt myself, Sarah A, because you're my partner in crime, and Jere, because under that fabulous Nicole Miller is one of the strongest women I know. And last but not least, to my parents who instilled in me both a love of reading and the knowledge that while there are some things I shouldn't do, there is very little I can't do if I decide I want to.


Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Preview of A Tainted Mind


Chapter 1

AGENT DANIELLE “DANI” WILLIAMSON examined the picture lying in front of her. The subject wasn't the man she was looking for. None of the other twenty or so photos she'd looked at were any closer. The subjects were either too young, too old, not the right race, not the right build, not the right gender. She sighed and slid them back into the envelope the courier had dropped off earlier.

Rising from the non-descript hotel bed, she walked to the window. The room was a hotel version of her utilitarian apartment in Washington, DC, and a far cry from her more luxurious apartment overlooking Central Park in New York. But she'd picked this hotel for a reason. It was seven blocks from the police headquarters, where she would be giving a briefing to the local vice department in the morning. And it was also three blocks from a bar owned by a family friend—a place she knew she could rack a few games of pool to help clear her head if she needed. And she needed.

Dani's hand jerked as she pushed the curtain further aside. Her body was as unsettled as her mind. She knew that until she was physically with her team, working their case, she wouldn't feel at ease. But, compliments of the team director, she was stuck here for a night, twiddling her thumbs. She was pretty sure he'd given the briefing assignment to her as warning not to go off half-cocked.

Pool, she thought, moving toward her bag.

Grabbing a top that was more ‘woman’ than ‘agent’ she changed. Sliding on a pair of heels that were anything but sensible, she didn't fool herself into thinking that a game or two, even if accompanied with a glass of wine, would take her mind off of the case at hand. But, glancing at her weapon in its holster on the bedside table, she could at least try to act like a normal person for a night, clothes and all.

Pulling out her gun safe, she placed her weapon inside, put the whole thing in her bag, locked the zippers together, and slid it under the bed. No, a couple of games of pool wouldn't take away the images in her mind, imprinted there for over half her life, and she didn't want them to. A game wouldn't erase her excitement about this case or the healthy anxiety she felt in believing she was this close to getting the answers she'd been seeking. But what a few games would do, what she was counting on them to do, was focus her mind on something else for a short time. If she didn't calm her mind down, she wouldn't be able to