"A simply riveting read from cover to cover, "The Grave Tracker" showcases author Teresa Marotta's genuine flair for deftly created and memorable characters and constructing a fully engaging storyline of twists and turns until reaching a climatic conclusion. Very highly recommended." ---Midwest Book Review
"Brown keeps the reader guessing in The Grave Tracker. The book opens with a wallop: a convicted murderer escapes from the mental institution where he was committed by his father thirteen years earlier. And the tension builds from there. Told from multiple points of view, The Grave Tracker is a well researched book with plenty of non-stop action, several brutal murders, some narrow escapes, and one well trained dog." ---VTReviewer Goodreads
"I loved the book! The author of The Grave Tracker uses a genealogist to solve a mystery. The main character uses his connections and his research skills masterfully. This story should be made into a Hallmark mystery movie!" ---Richard Haubrich, editor
ANTHONY FALCONE HAD been waiting thirteen years for the opportunity that he now had. He crouched down behind a blue van and carefully scanned the area to make sure none of the guards had spotted him. He tried the doors to several cars before finding an unlocked SUV, and he was in luck with this one. There was a canvas tarp on the floor in the back along with a variety of camping gear, and after crawling in Anthony was able to conceal himself under the tarp quite effectively. Visiting hours at the Arizona State Mental Hospital on the corner of Van Buren and 24th Street were almost over and he wouldn't have long to wait before he would be out the gates. He grew up on the streets of Phoenix and knew places to hide where no one would ever think to look for him, regardless of how many years had passed. He tangibly smelled his impending freedom and felt a rush go to his head. "Calm down," Tony whispered to himself. "I've waited a long time for this chance and I can't blow it now."
It was difficult for Tony to restrain his excitement, but he needed to stay motionless in order to avoid being discovered. He knew that if the owner of the SUV didn't come soon, the attendant's body he had left in the bathroom would be discovered and the gates would automatically be closed the instant the alarms went off. If they caught him, he wouldn't get another chance like this, and then he would be trapped forever.
Tony struggled to keep his breathing shallow and silent when he heard footsteps approaching the passenger door. The door opened and he felt the SUV's springs give as someone of substantial weight slid into the driver's seat, click the seat belt on, and start the engine. Loud country music blasted through the speakers as soon as the engine kicked in and, for a split second, Tony panicked as he misinterpreted the music for the hospital sirens starting up. He mindlessly tensed up in readiness to attack the unsuspecting driver when reality kicked in, just in time to avoid disaster. Gradually he relaxed as the SUV began to roll out of the parking lot and toward the gates that led to his freedom.
The vehicle pulled up in front of the guard booth and Tony heard the guard laughing and joking with the driver. He quietly began whispering over and over to himself, "Don't let them look back here; don't let them find me." Sweat trickled into his eyes and he was sure that they could smell his fear.
When the SUV began to move forward once again Tony had to suppress his immense relief. Now all he had to do was to wait for the right opportunity to leave the vehicle without being seen. He didn't want anyone reporting where he was since he knew he had scores to settle before his probable death. If his father didn't have him killed first, he would kill himself before he allowed anyone to take him back to that horrible place where his father had secured his imprisonment.
As the tires rolled over the pavement and the city sounds began to fade, Tony wondered if they'd found George's body yet. All made possible by that na´ve new nurse they'd assigned to his ward. She was easy to fool when he pretended to take his medications. Over the years the other nurses were a cautious bunch, and he'd been caught every time he'd tried to keep the pills under his tongue when he drank the water. That was early into his confinement though and since then he'd fooled them with his feigned acceptance of things and taken his medications under their watchful eyes. When young nurse Rather had arrived on the scene, even in his drugged stupor, he knew he'd finally found his patsy. He spent six months being the ideal patient for her; long enough for her to get a little complacent. His duplicity had worked.
After Tony had fooled nurse Rather by not swallowing his medications and flushing them down the toilet daily, his system and mind were completely free of drugs and he was totally lucid for the first time in years. He secretly exercised his emancipated body every night in his room to build up his strength, stole other inmates food, when no one was looking, so he could add some bulk, and he kept his loose robe on at all times to hide his firmly growing muscles.
Tony had grown up hearing tales of Winnie Ruth Judd and her multiple escapes, seven times in all, from the Arizona State Mental Hospital. As a child he had dreamed of becoming an escape artist; he and his friends had played at magic disappearing tricks, getting out of rope knots, and the closets into which they had locked themselves. They read everything they could find on Winnie Ruth Judd's means of escapes. They were disappointed when they learned that a kind nurse had given her a key for most of those times. Once though, it was reported that she escaped through a bathroom window and climbed down the tree that was next to it. While that escape route no longer existed, Tony did get his idea on how to escape from Winnie's methods.
Today was the day Tony chose to make his move. He waited until most of the patients and staff was occupied in the arts and crafts room. Then he got permission to go to the bathroom, under the watchful eyes of George. When he got into the bathroom he let out a fake cry, and crashed into the wall. He hit it hard enough for George to hear, but not enough to alarm anyone else; effectively just bringing the attendant to check on the problem. When George entered the bathroom, Tony came out from behind the door and, with a strong headlock on him, snapped George's neck.
Tony quickly took the keys from George's pocket and stripped him of his clothes, badge, and shoes. They were nearly the same build, even though the clothes were a little bit baggy on him and the shoes were too tight, they would pass. On his way out, Tony locked the bathroom door behind him so that it would be a while before George's body was discovered. The keys and badge was his passport to being unnoticed as he walked out of the building through the front door; the same way Winnie had done. He turned the badge facing backwards to make it look like happenstance in hopes that no one would pay attention. When Tony got through the locked doors and down to the main floor, he saw a group of visitors leaving, and he quickly blended in behind them as they passed the reception desk.
Tony suddenly emerged from his thoughts as the SUV began slowing down and turning upwards into a driveway before coming to a standstill. Tony's muscles tensed in anticipation of discovery. He'd do whatever it took to avoid being captured and returned to the 'nut cage;' he had no intention of leaving a trail for the cops to follow. Tony had all he could do to contain his excitement over the freedom he felt, and he had difficulty maintaining his position while the driver sat listening to the end of a mournful country song. Tony was getting jittery with all the waiting. Finally, the engine shut down and he felt the truck's rocking motion as the man got out, slammed the door shut behind him, unaware of his close call with death. After hearing the man enter his home and the SUV making a chirping noise, Tony cautiously eased the tarp back and raised his head to get his bearings on his new surroundings. After a moment of orientation, he silently slipped out the door and hoofed it down the road at a brisk pace.
Considering the distance of the city down below and his long-time familiarity with the terrain, Tony correctly guessed that he was in the Camelback Mountain area just outside of Scottsdale. As he headed for the valley's city lights, he mentally made a list of the people with whom he had to settle scores in order to give him the long awaited retribution he craved. He knew Dr. Bernard was in his father's pocket, and Tony knew he would be locked up for the rest of his life because of his father's influence. His father's other son was given the honor of being highest on Tony's list. The lawyer who helped railroad him into the nut house was also on his hit list. Lastly was his father. He wanted to save the best for last so his father could see his personal support system drop around him. When there was no one left to hide behind, he could predict his own fate. The kid wasn't old enough to be much of a problem. He thought he'd already taken care of the squalling brat and his mother, but he'd been wrong. Before he'd gotten captured, Tony had read in the newspaper that someone had found the baby and that the boy was still alive. What he didn't know was if his father was raising the boy. On one of his father's rare visits, he told Tony that his mother had died, but he made no mention of the boy. When he asked his father about the kid, all he got for an answer was, "You threw him away once, so he's no longer your business." So the whereabouts of the kid were a mystery for the moment. He planned to remedy that little problem very soon.
Tony stuck his thumb out and finally a teenager in an old beat-up truck pulled over and gave him a ride down into Scottsdale.
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