A lost little boy wound up in the world of homeless teens and in the arms of counselor Niki Alexander. Did he witness a gruesome murder?
Homicide Investigators Luis Perez and Nelson Spalonetti suspected a woman found murdered in an alley was a drug mule from Mexico. Could the child who appeared at the same time be her son? The traumatized boy wouldn’t speak; the police needed to find and question Barky, the street teen who found him.
Several years ago Niki quit the police force to work with troubled teens like Barky, not young children, but she couldn’t help getting involved in the case of this sad little boy. Working at the Open Palms shelter gave her connections to street-wise people like Tara Barlow. The teens trusted Tara and they might provide helpful information she could share with the police.
Clues leading to the drug world brought Niki to some old friends for help. This also brought increased danger as she got closer to the truth. At the same time, Niki also got a lot closer to Nelson Spalonetti, Luis Perez- new partner. She had avoided close relationships since her husband died, yet there was no denying their mutual attraction.
It seemed strange to Niki and Nelson that so many people were interested in finding the lost child. They had to sort out the complicated case fast, before the boy disappeared forever.
Researching this book took me deep in the world of homeless teens. I wanted to know how they managed to survive. One evening, a friend invited me to join her at the street church across from Covenant House. On a vacant parking lot on a Wednesday night, teens and young adults, some with their own children, came to listen and be counseled and comforted by the non-denominational preacher, have a free meal, do some dealing of various wares, and commiserate with each other. Some laughter, some tears, some recriminations.
This night made such an impression on me that I had to include what I saw and heard and felt in Lost Witness. It represented, to me, a piece of their world that I wanted to understand. I knew some of these people. My own son ran away for a short time when he was about fifteen, an age that is filled with angst and rebellion, a breaking away from the familiar, hoping to find an identity of their own by flailing out like blind puppies. He came back home, but others weren’t so lucky. Some didn’t have a home to which they could return. Some fell into the abyss from which there is no escape.
I could not ignore the ever present world of illegal drugs and the desperate men and women who are willing to kill for power and money. Trust and betrayal in a life that turns brother against brother, friend against friend. Those who seem invincible or above the dangers of the drug underworld can be crushed in the system.
Throughout the life and death dramas that Niki deals with every day, she needs a personal life as well. She craves love, while at the same time, brakes at the caution signs. As a young widow, she is not eager to fall in love with another cop, but she can’t deny the physical attraction she feels for the homicide investigator who replaced her in the homicide division of HPD. Only fulfilling a need, she tells herself, dreading the inevitable knock on the door and the words “officer down.” If she doesn’t commit, she can’t be burned. Again. Yet, how can she stop her heart from feeling?