The Elixir

The ElixirTHE ELIXIR
by Lori Soard

The dark parking garage with the dead body of his friend and mentor only begins Jake Walker’s problems. Soon, he is the prime suspect in Benjamin Monroe’s murder and worried that his best friend, Ben’s daughter, will believe the worst.

Celeste doesn’t know who killed her father but she does know one thing—it wasn’t Jake. As she and Jake set out to find the killer, they discover that her father unlocked the code to a fountain of youth formula. Anyone who wanted the formula could have killed him, and it was worth millions.

During their investigation, they uncover more facts and more bodies. Because they show up at every crime scene, the detectives investigating the case suspect Celeste and Jake of murder. The two go on the run until they can clear their names. But, there are more sinister forces at work than either realizes, and the deception runs as deep as the national government…

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Excerpt

Prologue

Deep shadows lurked in unseen corners of the parking garage. An icy chill brushed past Benjamin Monroe’s ankles, reminding him he’d forgotten to buy new socks. The ones he wore were threadbare and no protection against the coming winter.

He gripped the handle of his briefcase tightly and walked faster. He didn’t have time to worry about socks or anything else at the moment. It was more important he get his discovery to a secure location. A gentle click, clack, click reached his ears and trailed shivers down his spine.

He stopped, breathing heavily, very aware of the smell of spilled oil and musty corners. “Who’s there?”

No answer.  Benjamin laughed—the sound ricocheted off the concrete pillars. He was paranoid. Few knew of his secret, but soon his discovery would help millions.

It would earn millions in the right hands, a sinister voice whispered through his head. He’d spent the last thirty years working on this research, living off of the small salary Evan Van Ester and the E.V.E. Corporation paid. He wasn’t about to sell out at this point. The discovery represented a legacy he could pass on to his daughter Celeste—and her children after her.

Benjamin spotted his trusty Ford Taurus and juggled the briefcase and his keys. Click. Clack. Click. He stopped, spun around and searched the empty garage. It was late. He’d lost track of time again and the building was all but deserted. Yet, the presence of someone else–back there, somewhere in the shadows–caused him to pick up his pace yet again.

Click. Clack. Click. Breathing heavy, Benjamin broke into a run. Click. Clack. Click.  Click. Click. He wrestled with his keys, trying to find the right one and wondering why he hadn’t invested in a keyless entry system. Click. Clack. Clack.  Silence.

Benjamin didn’t have to look behind him to know that someone now stood in the dim light of the garage lamps. He could hear the other person breathing, smell the heavy sweat, and feel the presence of evil ripple across the fine hairs on the back of his neck. He turned slowly.

“You,” he said the moment before he spotted the flash of arcing silver and a heavy burning sensation struck him in the chest.


CHAPTER ONE

Weariness settled over Jake Walker like a familiar blanket as he walked down two flights of stairs and entered the dimly lit parking garage. The stale stench of old oil stains and damp concrete assaulted his nose. The loose change in his pocket rattled as he searched for his car keys, the sound echoing eerily in the deserted garage.

His blue Ford F150 stood proudly alone in the center of the fourth level. He hit the unlock button twice on the keyless entry remote, and the reassuring honk of the truck’s horn greeted him.

Benjamin Monroe, his mentor and boss had kept him working through dinner and on into the evening as they scrambled to find the final missing link in the genetic code – a link that could unlock a veritable fountain of youth. At eight p.m., Ben jumped to his feet, grabbed his briefcase and left the building without saying goodbye. Now Jake’s watch pointed to nine o’clock and all he wanted was food and his bed.

As he got closer to the truck, he could see a dark sedan parked on the other side. Ben’s car.  Jake frowned. He thought Ben had left more than an hour ago. The man must have found another break in their research and backtracked to the lab.

“How did we miss each other?” Jake stood undecided for a moment, wondering if he should return to the lab and see if Ben needed his help. A faint gleam of gold caught his eye. He moved around the back end of his truck, his eyes trained on the gold band that grew clearer as he neared. His gaze followed the band of gold and saw that it encircled a wrist.

“Ben?” He ran the last few steps and fell to his knees by his mentor’s side. Ben’s lifeless gaze stared through him and Jake felt every hair on his neck stand on end.

He reached out and closed Ben’s eyes, wishing he couldn’t feel the coolness that quickly ebbed across Ben’s body. His hand brushed past something icy cold and hard.

“What…?” Jake grasped the object, and realized a split second later that what he felt was the handle of a large knife. The knife slid from Ben’s blood soaked chest.

“Hold it right there.” Ned Tate, head of E.V.E. Corporation’s security, held the bright beam of his flashlight on Jake’s face. His usually holstered gun was drawn and trained somewhere in the vicinity of Jake’s forehead.

“Ned, I didn’t kill him.” Jake stepped back from Ben’s body, dropping the knife. How had his ordinary life suddenly turned upside down? Panic clawed at his throat as he remembered clasping the handle of the knife.

“Tell it to the police, Mr. Walker.” Ned barely completed the sentence before the wail of sirens pealed out in the garage.

Jake narrowed his eyes. “You mind telling me how the police got here so fast?”

“I ain’t the one who has to answer questions. You are.” Ned’s hand shook, but he kept the gun trained on Jake.

How could he explain why he was standing over Ben’s body and his fingerprints were all over the murder weapon? Motive. He had no motive to kill Benjamin Monroe. But even as the thought entered his mind, he knew the research they’d been doing could be seen as motive. The ability to turn back the clock on aging could be worth millions upon millions and Ben had been moments from cracking the code. Oh boy!