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Authors: Nancy S Thompson

Tags: #Suspense, #Organized Crime, #loss, #death, #betrayal, #revenge, #Crime, #Psychological, #action, #action suspense, #Thriller

The Mistaken

BOOK: The Mistaken
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Praise for

The Mistaken

 

“A deliciously slow burn that builds
to a ferocious crescendo, Nancy S. Thompson's THE MISTAKEN kept me
riveted until the very last page. Tyler Karras is a complex and
flawed protagonist, and his redemptive journey makes him the
perfect anti-hero. This psychological suspense is a stand out, and
I can't wait for Thompson's next book.”

 

-
Jennifer Hillier, author of CREEP and
FREAK

 

“Nancy S. Thompson's debut novel,
The Mistaken, is a first-rate thriller full of hair-raising twists
and turns. Pursued by the police and the Russian mafia in San
Francisco, brothers Tyler and Nick Karras are fascinating,
fully-drawn, desperate characters. The action is non-stop.
Thompson's taut, intriguing tale of revenge, mistaken identity,
kidnapping and murder will keep you enthralled and
entertained.”

 

-Kevin
O’Brien,
New York Times
Bestselling Author of DISTURBED and
TERRIFIED

 

“Fast-paced and emotionally gripping
- once the ride begins, you won't stop reading until it
ends.”

 

-Alex J. Cavanaugh, author of
CassaStar and CassaFire

The
Mistaken

Nancy S. Thompson

Copyright © 2012 Nancy S.
Thompson

All rights reserved. Except as
permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this
publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any
form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system,
without prior permission of the publisher.

 

Sapphire Star
Publishing

www.sapphirestarpublishing.com

 

The characters and events in this
book are fictitious. Names, characters, places, and plots are a
product of the author’s imagination. Any similarity to real
persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the
author.

 

Smashwords Edition

ISBN-13:
978-1-938404-15-3

 

Cover Image by Thomas
Voss

 

www.sapphirestarpublishing.com/nancysthompson

 

 

 

Dedication

 

To my husband, Eric, and my son, Brandon, for
standing by me when I had this crazy idea to write a book.

Acknowledgements

 

I’d like to give a huge hug of thanks to Amy and
Katie, for believing in me and my story, and for giving me the
opportunity to see my dream come true.

Big thanks to Diego Vargas, who graciously read my
very first draft, and though it held every error a first-time
writer could possibly ever make, he always believed I could do it
and never failed to cheer me on.

I’d also like to thank Jeff O’Handley, a fellow
writer of immense talent, for pulling words out of me I never knew
existed. Your critical eye enriched my story more than I ever could
have on my own.

Thank you, Carrie Butler, for being a wonderful
friend, for believing in me at a time when I needed it most, and to
Jenny Hillier for all her advice and sage words of “writerly”
wisdom.

My greatest thanks go out to my best friend and
writing soul-mate, Lisa Regan. Lisa and I met through a writing
forum. We were strangers looking for critique partners, but we
became so much more than that. My book is a product of her love and
devotion as a both a friend and a writer. Quite simply, I wouldn’t
be publishing if it weren’t for Lisa. I adore you, girlfriend.

And lastly, my most humble thanks to Eric and
Brandon, for putting up with my obsession and for always believing
I would make it someday. I love you more than words can ever
say.

Prologue

 

I don’t know how I missed it, that moment I changed,
when I somehow became a different man. I’d lived my life— all
thirty-three years of it—by a certain credo, a doctrine of conduct
that made sense of everything. It defined who I was and kept me on
the straight and narrow, and when I looked in the mirror, I saw a
good man, decent and honorable. One who followed the rules and
stayed within the boundaries of the law, of common decency. My
brother often accused me of being too perfect: the perfect son, the
perfect brother, the perfect husband. Always the straight arrow,
he’d say. To be honest, it’s what everyone saw in me, and I had to
agree. That was exactly how I defined myself.

But what if what truly defined a person was stripped
away through deceit, stolen by greed, or destroyed by the malice of
others? What then?

I certainly never saw any sign that somewhere down
deep inside me lurked a monster, an abomination, a bitter man so
broken and lost that vengeance seemed the best course, the only
road left to follow. I never saw any potential for madness when I
looked myself in the eye.

How could I have been so wrong?

Chapter One

Tyler

 

God, I didn’t want to do this. Just thinking about
it had my gut tied in knots, but I was out of options. My brother
had given me no choice. I was tired of his promises, sick of his
attitude, of everything always being someone else’s fault, never
his. While my fiancée, Jillian, and I had discussed what I should
say to him, I continued to rehearse, point by point, during my
short commute home. But who was I kidding? I knew damn well, no
matter what I said, my brother would throw every word right back in
my face, like he always did. But I didn’t care anymore. After four
long weeks, he had overstayed his welcome, and now it was time for
Nick to leave.

The confrontation loomed only minutes away, and I
was dreading it. And if that wasn’t enough, there was the fog. Cold
and persistent, it clung to the road like a drowning man to
driftwood. It was the one thing I’d never grown accustomed to here
in San Francisco, the summer fog burning off each afternoon only to
reappear a few hours later, denser than ever. Add to it the waning
twilight and you couldn’t see much at all, just indistinct shapes
of black and grey. I could barely make out the colorful Victorian
facades standing shoulder to shoulder along my street. The painted
ladies simply faded into the mist.

I pulled into my driveway and shifted into park, a
long sigh escaping at the thought of what waited for me inside. As
I grabbed the roll of blueprints next to me, a movement outside
caught my eye, a dark shape on the sidewalk a few doors down,
writhing about in the murky shadows. I strained to see what it was,
an injured animal perhaps, though it seemed too large for that, at
least in this part of The City. Golden Gate Park maybe, but that
was blocks away. I snatched my keys from the ignition, shut the
door to my truck, and ambled up the front walkway, my gaze fixed on
the squirming silhouette. There were no noises or crying that I
could hear, but then again, the fog had a way of deadening all
sound. After wrestling in the dark with the deadbolt, I shot one
last glance over my shoulder then pushed through my front door.

“Nick?” I called out, my keys jingling as I worked
them from the lock. “Why are all the lights off?” I switched on the
hall light and kicked off my shoes as I waited, but I heard no
reply, so I tried once more, only louder. “Nick, you hear me? Where
are you?”

A disturbing silence hung in the air, uncomfortable
and creepy. Unexpected since my brother was supposed to be home,
day and night, no exceptions. He'd recently gotten himself into a
heap of trouble, and now there were some large men gunning for a
little payback. Par for the course for my little brother. He was
always getting into one scrape or another. But this time was
different. Nick was scared. Really scared. Scared enough to ask if
he could hide out at my place
while he tried to
straighten
out the mess with the men he’d crossed, a gang of
Russian thugs from his neighborhood in the Outer Richmond District
here in The City. One wrong step, like out the front door, and Nick
might not see the light of another day, or so he told me.

I glanced upstairs, but it, too, stood dark and
quiet. Something definitely wasn’t right. The hair pricked on the
back of my neck, and the knots in my stomach morphed into a swarm
of butterflies, all battling to escape. I threw down my keys and
blueprints and walked through the house, turning on lights in my
path.

“Nick, answer me! Where the hell are you?”

I don't know why I expected a response that third
time. Maybe I was just praying for one instead, but the silence was
all the answer I received. I stood still, deep in thought, worried
about what might have happened.
He wouldn’t have left the house,
would he?
I turned toward the entry hall.
Oh God, no.
I
dashed back out the front door, pausing on the porch as I scanned
for the dark form. It was still squirming on the sidewalk, but it
appeared even larger now.

The streetlight out front was just beginning to
dance to life. Sporadic bursts of pale pink light illuminated two
feet as they kicked and twisted in the hazy air. The single shape
expanded into three distinct forms—all human—one prone on the
ground and two bent above, their arms sawing up and down and back
and forth with hands clenched tight into fists.

“Oh, God. Nick!” I sprinted toward them in a panic,
anxiety blossoming into fear.

“Tyler!” he wailed, but his cry was cut short by
pounding thuds.

The other two men—both built like bulls and panting
in exertion—stood up straight. They turned toward me with their
fists pulled back. And as the streetlight overhead finally
flickered on for good, the one inside my head flashed bright then
flamed out.

 

~

 

The rhythm of the monitor was comforting. Static
like a metronome, its unnatural droning allowed me to close my eyes
in the semi-darkness without worrying I might miss some small sign
that Nick was slipping away. His sea-green eyes, a gift from our
mother, lay dormant beneath purple, swollen lids stretched taut
into slits above the bruised planes of his face, a younger, boyish
version of my own.

I perched along the edge of a molded-plastic chair,
slumped over my brother’s bedside, with his hand in mine and my
forehead pressed against it. My other hand lay draped across Nick’s
bare waist, bathed in the warmth of Jillian’s soothing embrace.
Nick felt too cold, his breathing shallow and ragged. Drugs dripped
steadily into his IV line to keep him still and calm so the pain
wouldn’t hinder his recovery.
Would this be another long one,
like the last time?
I prayed not. More like pleading really,
bargaining with God, making promises I knew I could never keep. But
at the moment, it was all I had. Desperation had me on my
knees.

My thoughts drifted; I was exhausted after two
sleepless days and nights at his side. Sharp odors and urgent
sounds weaved their way into my bleary thoughts, clouding my mind
as I recalled sitting at Nick’s side in the same hospital, but at
another time, nearly a year ago. The story was the same, though. My
brother was fighting for his life yet again.

I jumped as the monitor chirped a disturbance in the
steady cadence of his heart. My head popped up, my eyes scanning
his nearly unrecognizable face for any sign of pain. Jillian
squeezed my hand, and I peered over Nick’s shattered body into the
comforting depths of her warm, brown eyes.

“Relax, Tyler, it was nothing. He’s all right. Go
back to sleep. You need the rest.”

She smiled reassuringly, but my heart refused to
settle back down. I shook my head and rubbed the grit from my eyes,
wincing as I brushed against my broken nose, the only remaining
sign of my altercation with Nick’s assailants. With a tired sigh, I
stood and stretched the stiffness from my back and shoulders. Other
than taking the occasional break to alleviate the pressing needs of
my body, I had not moved from Nick’s side since he was brought into
the Intensive Care Unit at San Francisco General Hospital.

I focused back down and examined his body. It lay
riddled with carefully stitched cuts and vibrant bruises,
striations of black, purple, red, and yellow that crisscrossed
haphazardly across his lean form and gangly extremities. Coated
wires leashed his body to the equipment behind his bed, each one
blinking or clamoring in a discordant fray, and clear plastic tubes
filled with oozing red and amber liquids drained into transparent
bags hanging from hooks along the side rails.

“What’s going to happen now, Jill? We’re right back
where we started, square one, only worse.
He’s
worse. For
God’s sake, look at him.”

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