Liz Johnson’s Vanishing Act

About the Book:

Nate Anderson needed to find Nora James. Without her testimony, a crime lord with the wholly inaccurate name of Goodwill would be free to continue his rein of murder and corruption. Goodwill had already kidnapped Nora once and she’d barely escaped with her life after seeing her father ruthlessly gunned down. What Anderson didn’t need was Danielle Keating distracting him from the task at hand. Danielle was tempting and sweet, but she seemed to collect trouble, her house had been broken into, she was run off the road while riding her bicycle, and someone appeared to be stalking her. Nate really didn’t have time to help her, but how could he not?

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Nathan Andersen needed a nap. Badly.

He yawned for the millionth time, fighting eyelids that threatened to close even as his car swerved down the highway at midnight. A sudden tremor against his leg nearly sent him through the roof, and he dove into his pocket for his cell phone.

“Agent Andersen.”

“Hey, Boss.”

“Someone’s burning the midnight oil,” he said, chuckling. “Have you left the office yet, Heather?”

Her long pause answered his question. “You asked me to call if we heard anything else from Roth about Nora and your assignment.”

“Yes. What’d he say? Did he overhear another phone call with more details?” The FBI mole’s first tip was trusted enough to put Nate on the road to Crescent City. What he learned next could make or break the assignment.

“Not exactly. It was more of a confirmation of what he already told us. Roth said that he heard Goodwill—” whose lawyer had gotten him out on bail a couple months before “—on the phone with the Shadow.” Both agents remained silent for a moment. For years the Shadow’s name meant nothing but disappointment to the FBI. He was probably the best assassin in recent history, and the file on him was filled only with death certificates of his victims.

No names—pseudonyms or real. No pictures. No physical description. No location. Nothing to help them find him.

Heather cleared her throat and continued. “Roth said that he heard Goodwill confirming with the Shadow that he arrived in Crescent City and he was sure that Nora James was there. He said something about the community college, but Roth wasn’t sure what was going on.”

Nate’s breathing quickened. He had to find her first, or it could spell the end of their case. “Did he say if the plan had changed?”

“Roth didn’t hear anything about a change. As far as we know, the idea is still for the Shadow to kidnap Nora and hold her until Goodwill’s trial is over. What are you going to do?”

Nate grunted. “If Goodwill’s plan hasn’t changed, then neither has mine.” Another jaw-stretching yawn caught him off guard, and he mumbled an apology. Hitting the speaker button on his phone, he tossed it into the center console. Using his now-free hand to search for something that might help him fight off sleep, he grabbed for the coffee cup sitting next to his phone. Scowling when he realized it was empty, he chucked it at the opposite floorboard and rooted around the passenger seat for the bag of sunflower seeds he’d stashed there hours earlier.

“Do you really think Nora is in Crescent City?” Heather sounded unconvinced. “I know Roth doesn’t have any reason to mislead us, but she took off a year and half ago. She could be anywhere by now. How can we be sure Goodwill tracked her to a tiny little town no one’s ever heard of?”

Nate shoved a handful of seeds into his mouth and tried to talk around them. “I don’t know how he found her, but he’s got no reason to lie to Roth about hiring the Shadow to kidnap her and hold her as blackmail again. Goodwill will do anything to stay out of jail and he knows the evidence we have against him could put him away for life.”

Red taillights flashed down the road, sending Nate back to the night in the alley that his years of investigation into Phil Goodwill’s crime syndicate had led to. That night hadn’t ended well, especially when Parker James, Nate’s key witness and the master of Goodwill’s perfectly manufactured monetary fronts had been shot.

His arm twitched, jerking him back to the present at the same time that Heather asked, “Do you really think that Goodwill will try to kidnap Nora again? Especially since she didn’t know anything about her father’s involvement with the crime ring?”

Nate laughed out loud. “You’d think he’d have learned his lesson last time. In seven years with the Bureau, I’ve never seen anyone turn as fast as Parker did when his daughter was kidnapped. He couldn’t wait to turn over state’s evidence to get Goodwill behind bars. He practically taped that wire on himself before going into the alley.”

Nate shook his head at the memory of the agitated and jerky accountant so focused on rescuing his daughter. Now Nate had a job to do. One that could clinch his case against one of the biggest criminals in the Portland area. He couldn’t afford to let the guy back out on the street for good.

And to keep that from happening, he had to focus on his two witnesses. Both in danger. One in immediate peril.

“Will you keep an eye on the old man while I’m out of town? Just check in on him from time to time.”

“Sure thing, Boss. Is there anything I should tell him?”

Nate chewed on his lip for a moment, instinctively reaching for the coffee cup before remembering it was empty. “Don’t tell him I’m going after Nora. He doesn’t need to know that Goodwill’s last-ditch plan for freedom is kidnapping his daughter. Again.”

“Okay.”

“I don’t want Parker even thinking that he might not testify at the trial. His testimony rounds out this case perfectly. I’ll find Nora and get her to the safe house. I won’t let Goodwill intimidate the old man by threatening Nora.”

Heather yawned loudly on the other end of the line. “Oh, sorry. Guess it’s getting late here, too.” Her definition of late was a little different than his.

“Go home—get some rest. Check in with me as soon as you hear anything else from Roth.”

“Will do. Good night, sir.”

“Good night,” he said around his own yawn. Fighting the urge to let his eyelids drop, he refocused on the red dots ahead growing ever closer and mentally grasped for a plan to find the girl in Crescent City. He had to find her before catastrophe struck.

He didn’t have a recent picture of her, so his only point of reference was her father’s description and a list of her favorite activities. Church, work, school and riding bicycles—not much to go on. She had friends in each activity, but Parker had been adamant that she just hadn’t had time for much else. Her master’s program really took up almost all of her spare time.

But at least it was a place to start.

Nate spied the large wooden shaft sitting in the middle of the road much too late. When his sedan smashed into it, a hideous scraping vibrated along the underside of his car.

A hundred feet down the road, just as he passed a large white sign with blue letters welcoming him to Crescent City, Colorado, population 26,714, smoke appeared in his rearview mirror. White and airy at first, it quickly began to darken.

“Just great,” he mumbled, pulling off the highway and into a little service station. “Nice going, Andersen.”

He parked the smoking vehicle—a Bureau-issued, undercover, black sedan—and got out to take a look around. The station was locked up tight with a little sign tucked into the front window. The red arms on the paper clock indicated the shop would open up at seven-thirty the next morning. He glanced at his watch; only a couple hours away.

The lights of the city didn’t really begin for about half a mile or so. It wasn’t worth it to walk that far looking for a hotel for only two hours of sleep. He’d get more rest in his car.

He reclined the back of the seat, cracked the window, crossed his arms over his chest and fell into peaceful oblivion.

Danielle Keating squinted at the black sedan parked in front of Andy’s Auto Shop. She hiked her coverall bottoms up at her waist before slipping one arm into its sleeve. The gray tank top she usually wore underneath was clean, so she wasn’t in too much of a hurry to cover it up. Besides, the early morning sun made her simmer when zipped inside the full-body jumpsuit.

With the arm that was still free of the blue sleeve, she shaded her eyes and peered closely into the car’s window. Backseat empty. Front seat em—

Whoa!

She jumped back just as the driver’s side door flung open, and a dark-haired man with bloodshot eyes stepped out. He rubbed his eyes with the heels of his palms and nodded at her. He ran his tongue over his teeth and yawned but didn’t speak.

He squinted in the glare, but she could tell by the slow up-and-down movement of his blue-gray eyes that he was appraising her. It sent shivers up her back, and she quickly shoved her bare arm into its sleeve.

Just because she didn’t like being assessed, didn’t mean she would back down. Doing her best to maintain eye contact, she leaned a little closer. She waited for him to speak, but he seemed in no hurry. He pushed his large hands into the pockets of his wrinkled khaki pants and jingled keys or loose change there. His broad shoulders stretched the blue cotton of his polo shirt, and he stood somehow both relaxed and erect, leaning against the side of the car.

Finally she could handle the silence no longer. “Having car trouble? Or just needed a place to park?”

He squinted again, this time lifting the corners of his mouth in a half smile, his face suddenly coming alive. “Car trouble. I hit something in the road about a quarter mile back, and then I saw smoke in my rearview…so I pulled over.”

“Good thing you did.” She nodded, not taking her eyes off of him.

“When does the mechanic get in? I’d like to get it looked at right away so that I can get home.”

Danielle’s smile faltered for a moment, but she quickly plastered it back into place. Why did men always assume that she was the front-counter help? “She’s here now and is happy to take a look. Pop the hood.”

The tall man’s ears flushed red in appropriate contrition beneath his closely trimmed brown hair, and she took a measure of pride in his shame. He opened his mouth, then seemed to think better of it and hopped back into the car, bending forward to pull the hood release.

Danielle lifted the hood and propped it open, leaning into the shadow. She felt, rather than saw, him move to stand next to her, his body radiating warmth in the already oppressive heat of the unusually mild September. She took a step away, trying to keep her jittery nerves under control. He probably has no idea who she was. Why would he?

About the Author:

Liz Johnson: graduated from Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff with a degree in public relations, and soon after set out to work in the Christian publishing industry, which was her lifelong dream. In 2006 she got her wish when she accepted a publicity position at a major trade book publisher. While working as a publicist in the industry, she decided to pursue her other dream — being an author. Along the way to having her novel published, she wrote articles for several magazines and worked as a freelance editorial consultant. (Excerpt taken from Johnson’s website.)

My Thoughts:

Vanishing Act, by Liz Johnson, was everything I have come to expect from a Love Inspired Suspense Inspirational Romance novel. There was a bit of humor, a bit of fun, a bit of mystery and gripping moments of suspense and tension.  One of the things I best enjoyed about this particular novel is that Danielle and Nate were both already church attending, Christ-committed Christians.  The conflict in their romance came from outside sources.  Nate did have to learn to look at his past from God’s point-of-view before he could move forward and it was part of the story, but it was not the focus of their relationship building.  I very much appreciated a look at how Christian couples interact when Christ is already a given in their lives.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Steeple Hill Books and Liz Johnson.  I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

6 thoughts on “Liz Johnson’s Vanishing Act

    • Barbara — I enjoyed it enough to read it in one day. As a rule I only read at bed time, but this one insisted I keep picking it back up.

  1. Yay! I’m so glad that you enjoyed it so much that you couldn’t put it down. I think you hit it on the head when you said that it’s a bit of humor, a bit of fun, and a bit of mystery. 🙂 Thanks for your great review!

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