The Lost by Ari Rose is short story #10 in a Jill Hunter private investigator series. She started out as a police officer but at this point in the series, she is a private investigator. Each of the short stories takes on a different type of crime or social issue. This story is the first in a three-part set that sells on Amazon for free. That is not a KU subscription deal, it is an outright sale for free.
Millie was a teenager who had run away from home. Spotted as a likely target by a human trafficking agent, she had been taken to a homeless camp where she was repeatedly raped as pat of the payment for being allowed to live there. She escaped, went the police to report the crime, and returned home. The police knew the area where the homeless camp was but nobody wanted to admit knowing what was going on in the camp. Police could not get through the camp security and had no probable cause for arrest. Jan, a police detective and friend of Jill, had referred the girl’s mother to Jill. What could Jill do that the police couldn’t?
Jill would go into the camp undercover as a homeless woman. She had a description of Old Mo and Wolf, the scout who recruited homeless teenagers. Rory, Jill’s partner didn’t like the idea but he has been raising objections throughout this series and we are on story number ten.
The methods used by human traffickers are standard and fairly well known. What may be new is the similarity to the Stockholm syndrome experienced by Millie. She felt she had been justly punished for running away from home. It’s the kind of thing that keeps human traffickers in business.
Conspiracy to Murder: Part One is the second story of this three-story set. Lee Watson, a person known to Jill from past work on a case she solved, had received a photo of a person purportedly shot by Lee. He knew he didn’t do it and ignored the photo until he received the video of him shooting the man. The accompanying message he was about to be arrested and charged, there was enough evidence to prove he did it, and he would be punished. If Lee complained to anyone, his wife would be killed. But he remembered working with Jill in the past and now contacted her for advice.
Jill agreed to look into the case due to their shared past. Luckily she had partner Rory who was a computer nerd just short of a criminal. He would look at evidence of photo shop manipulation and IP address identification. Although he found video manipulation none of the three; Rory, Jill, or Lee, had expected supporting forensic evidence such as hair and fingerprints. Lee went to jail.
Jill was able to get Lee a top-flight lawyer, Albert Manning. Jill would be able to visit Lee a lot as the paralegal of Manning. But then Manning began to receive anonymous threats of harm to his son if he didn’t drop the case. He dropped the case. Then she got calls from her former police chief boss who warned her that his superiors had given him an order to tell Jill to back off and drop the case. Jill thought it obvious that there were high insider corrupt officials involved. She didn’t intend to give up. Perhaps the insider criminals knew that. It might be why she became unconscious after being repeatedly rammed by the car following hers.
Conspiracy to Murder: Part Two finishes this three short story series and pulls us back from the cliffhanger above. The car which had rammed hers was registered to the FBI, supporting Jill’s suspicion of a high-level cover-up. Her former boss told her he had been told to back off the case. The cover-up kept steadily ascending in levels of authority. Jill decided to look much more closely at the murder victim’s background rather than connections to her accused friend. And she found a connection. What she would do to legally prove what she suspected crossed a lot of ethical boundaries and probably a few legal ones. The reader will have to determine if justice was done. This story is more complex than ones I previously read. This two-part story makes the set worth reading.