S. 3, Ep. 19: Debbi Mack Reads Chapter Seven of ‘Identity Crisis’ - The Crime Cafe

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Debbi Mack reads Chapter 7 of her New York Times bestselling hardboiled mystery, Identity Crisis, on the Crime Cafe podcast. Here's the text of the reading: CHAPTER SEVEN By the time I recovered my wind, they’d gagged me and tied my hands behind my back. The rope was tight, making my wrists hurt. Having my arms stretched back was awkward, forcing me to use muscles I’d not used in ages. The car’s air conditioning was on full blast. I was freezing and sweating like a pig. On the whole, it was not an ideal arrangement. They took me somewhere. I can’t tell you where. I can’t even tell you how long it took. A blindfold takes away all sense of place and time. Being terrified doesn’t make things much better. When we finally got to wherever the hell we went, they guided me out of the car with hands gripping both my arms. We marched a few yards, then stopped. I heard the jingle of keys. No one spoke. A door opened and we went inside. The floor was hard and the only sound was the faint echo of our footsteps. We walked until we reached another door. More walking, then up a short flight of steps. Despite my fear, I was amazed at how well my other senses worked, taking up the slack caused by the blindfold. First, a hard floor, then a carpet, now bare floor again. The place felt warm and stuffy, but maybe I was just nervous. The guys holding my arms were firm, but not rough. Not gentle either, but they had no reason to be rough—yet. They maneuvered me around until I felt something against the back of my knees. One of the men grunted something like “siddown” in my ear. I complied with gratitude. My legs shook. Sweat dripped from my armpits and my stomach was jumpy. I desperately hoped I wouldn’t vomit—especially with the gag on. They bound my legs and took off the blindfold and gag. I was on a stage, facing a dark theater, squinting into two blinding white spotlights. When my eyes adjusted, I could see empty seats. What had I expected, a full house? “Ms. McRae.” A disembodied male voice, electrically amplified, boomed from the dark. I blinked and waited for more. “Ms. McRae,” the voice repeated in an implacable and monotonous tone. “It’s good to meet you.” I didn’t trust myself to say anything, so I nodded. “I’m sorry about the inconvenience. It’s important you know we’re serious.” No shit, I thought. I licked my lips, but my mouth had gone so dry it was a wasted gesture. “You do realize that?” I worked my mouth again and managed to say, “Yes.” It sounded like I’d swallowed ground glass. “Good. Let’s get down to business then,” the robotic voice droned on. “It would be good to do this quickly and painlessly, don’t you agree?” He could have been talking about killing me, for all I knew. I said, “Yes.” “Where is Melanie Hayes, Ms. McRae?” “I don’t know.” “What was that?” “I don’t know.” In my peripheral vision, I sensed a presence. A big, heavy, muscle-bound presence. “Is that your final answer?” Had I been kidnapped by Regis Philbin? “I just don’t—” Suddenly, I was facing left, my cheek stinging, but I hadn’t turned my head—someone had turned it for me. The slap had come fast and from out of nowhere. “Where is she?” I tried to catch my breath. “I … don’t know.” Another slap, harder this time. The lights were making my eyes hurt. My head throbbed. “Where is Melanie Hayes?” Again, I told him I didn’t know. I got a punch in the ribs. Then another. “Where is she?” I shook my head. It hurt to breathe now. Another hard slap followed by a punch in the gut. I gasped for air. “Stop that,” the voice commanded. “Give her time.” The muscle man stepped back. I got my time. Then the voice said, “What’s your business with Bruce Schaeffer?” How the hell had Schaeffer gotten into this? “Wanted to ask him some questions.” “About what? What sort of questions?” “Thought maybe he might know where Melanie is.” Pause. “I’m not sure I believe you.”

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