Fatal Refuge is first place winner at NIEA in the category “Regional Fiction–Southwest” and second place in the CIPA EVVY awards in the category of Fiction-Action/Adventure.
Yuma, Arizona and nearby Kofa National Wildlife refuge set the stage for this present-day psychological thriller. The actor/characters in the story include birdwatchers and hikers, murderers and victims, and suspected perpetrators of a nuclear apocalypse. Readers of Fatal Refuge will meet a mentally ill woman on a mission of salvation, a clinically sane but morally deranged killer, and the two women determined to solve the first of a set of grisly murders.
Kim Altaha is an Apache woman, a Yuma EMT and volunteer with the local canine search and rescue organization. She and her dog, Zayd, team up with Allie Davis, a social worker/psychotherapist, to sort innocent from diabolical forces at work in this Western desert landscape. Their efforts put them in mortal danger from both human and natural forces.
Here, just miles from the borders of California and Mexico, Heaven and Hell collide in the guise of a woman dubbed the “Peace Poet,” a man grieving his lost lover and a compassionate psychiatrist. Add a cadre of soldiers from nearby Yuma Proving Ground who are developing drone-killing laser weapons, and their encounters with each other keep the action at a fever pitch and readers guessing until the end.
Read the first part of Sharon’s upcoming work Fatal Refuge
PROLOGUE – SARA
“The 1999 Chevrolet long-bed pickup truck is parked on the gravel driveway of a rest stop on the outskirts of Yuma, Arizona. This rest stop is unlike those on the interstate, which accommodate fifty cars and trucks with all their passengers and resemble a busy shopping mall; this rest stop serves a two-lane side-road. Its shallow pull-off is lined by dry native shrubs and provides space for two vehicles. There are no buildings here, but a concrete table and bench suffice for both dining and repose. Behind it a few thirsty trees hold back the desert.
The truck, a faded blue in color, appears to need its rest under the shade of a Cottonwood tree. It is fitted with a green camper shell scavenged from a salvage yard. The once-vivid colors of truck and shell have mellowed with age so they no longer clash, but blend into an abstract-painting of blues, greens and rusty primer hues, with dents of varying shapes and sizes to add depth and detail. The windshield is embellished by several dime and quarter-size wounds. The heavy truck rests on tires that appear too worn and mushy to support it.
Near it, lying on her back on the bench, a small woman in her late fifties or early sixties is dozing in the afternoon heat, with knees drawn up, feet flat, an open notebook across her face. Her drugstore reading glasses are clutched in her hand. Even under the Arizona sun her short hair reflects no highlights from its mix of grey and brown. She wears khaki shorts and a sleeveless polyester shirt that reveal arms and legs thin, straight and deeply tanned.
She comes awake with a start. Someone is approaching. She sits up in one swift movement, tossing the notebook onto the table. The two vertical lines between her eyes draw deeper, sharpening her face. She looks but doesn’t spot another person or another car. The interloper strolls into sight. She raises her hand in casual greeting, then leans back against the hard edge of the table, body language telegraphing unconcern. After all, it’s a public place.
The man approaches, close enough to touch her with his outstretched hand. She sits bolt upright again and glares at him, warning, “Don‘t touch me! And don’t think for a minute I’m afraid of you. I don’t shake hands.””