“When danger comes lurking in the night, most people run home and hide—safe behind a locked door. For Isabel Delgado, running home isn’t the answer. For her, when the front door closes and locks at night—the horror’s not locked outside. It’s locked inside.”
Isabel Delgado knows all about horror. For nearly five years, her step-father subjects her to the kind of abuse and deprivation that no child should ever have to endure. But Isabel survives. Her spirit is strong and she never gives up hope. On the morning of her 16th birthday, Isabel takes a stand. She wakes early, gathers her things in a school backpack, and with a last look behind, she runs. But Isabel’s not prepared for what she finds.
In the third Danny Logan mystery novel, Danny Logan and the entire team at Logan PI–”Toni” Blair, Kenny Hale, and “Doc” Kiahtel—are back for their most exciting and most important adventure yet. Their mission—find Isabel and rescue her from the street gangs and the seething cauldron of teen-age prostitution and human trafficking.
Isabel’s Run has nearly 300 5-Star reviews on Amazon.
“I would have chosen more stars had they been available. WOW I was moved to tears, hung on to my seat, prayed, and feared turning the page throughout this book. I would recommend this book to any parent out there that doesn’t understand how real, horrid, heartbreaking, and done right sickening sex slave trading is in our world today!! As a professional I beg parents to know where their children are no matter how old fashioned it may sound because death is never and will never be old fashioned. This is as real as it gets though written as fiction. This author certainly did his homework and this most certainly will not be my last book by Mr. Grayson although I feel I need to find a really hilarious comedy and download it before I read ANYTHING else. My psyche needs a break. Nothing else needs to be said here unless if you haven’t read this title and you are a parent or a professional, please do so….”
“I enjoy the details of police procedural novels. I like the “working together” model between Logan PI and the Seattle Police. Isabel’s story was as powerful to me as the story that Grisham recently released about the environmental devastation in the Appalachian Mountains called “Gray Mountain.” Grayson’s novels are a complex mix of action, relationships, and good old-fashioned police work. I’ve enjoyed reading them. They are quite a bit like a Grisham novel.”
-BARBARA B. HORTON
“An intense search for an abducted teen-age girl leads directly to the pornography, slave trafficking and prostitution that exists and is spreading in this nation and world-wide. Fiction sometimes speaks louder and more pointedly than fact and this action packed revelation packs a punch as it opens a reality to serious consideration. A great story, well told with a well developed cast of characters. Well worth the time.”
“Just finished “Isabel’s Run The 3rd book in the series. I have read all three and as Grayson says each one gets better. I loved all three books and am glad I started with the first “Angel’s Dance” While they can be read in any order they are great as a series. I love the characters, not just the principles but every single one. A wild array of great character’s that you really get into. I read a lot, a book or more a week and I just can’t say enough about how much I am enjoying this series. Gotta go! I just about to start “Mona Lisa Eyes”. can’t wait!”
ISABEL DELGADO WAS in trouble. She sneaked a glance out of the corner of her eye as the uniformed security guard approached. She was seated on an iron bench outside the Terraces food court, pretending to be absorbed in a directory brochure of the Alderwood Mall in Lynnwood, Washington. The guard drew closer. Not again, Isabel thought. She fought to remain calm. She’d already been run off earlier in the day by a different guard when she’d been unable to come up with a quick answer as to why she was hanging around in the same area all morning long. That guard threatened to call the police and have her arrested for loitering if he saw her again. Isabel had left in a hurry. She’d completely circled the mall, figuring that the guard wouldn’t wait that long to catch her again. But in the end she had nowhere to go, so now, three hours later, she was back, and another guard was approaching.
Isabel had no desire to push her luck, but she was out of ideas, and she was out of prospects. She’d tried to lay low since the earlier episode while she waited for something to happen, and she’d been pretty successful—no one had even talked to her except for a cute girl with red hair a couple of hours ago who’d said that she, too, was running. But then the girl suddenly left ten minutes later, and Isabel was alone again. Since then: nobody. Which was fine with her. She knew she needed to do something—but she didn’t want to make a mistake. Above all, she didn’t want to be sent back home—couldn’t be sent back home. She’d decided that if she were arrested, she’d lie about who she was so that they couldn’t send her back. Meanwhile, she waited—waited for something to happen.
She used her peripheral vision and concentrated on the new guard. He was younger. If he stopped, maybe he’d be nicer. From twenty-five feet away, she could hear his footsteps as he approached, keys jangling quietly at his side. He whistled softly to himself, the same quiet, absent-minded way her father used to whistle when he came up the walkway to the house at the end of the day. Suddenly, the guard’s radio crackled and came to life, causing him to stop before he reached her. Isabel was startled, but she caught herself—she didn’t look up.
The guard listened and then keyed his microphone. “Unit Two, roger,” he said. “I’ll be there in five.” At least his voice sounded kind.
He resumed his approach. Isabel suppressed a shudder as the man paused when he reached her. She felt him looking at her. Steady, now. She looked up. The guard was tall and nice looking. Isabel thought he had kind eyes.
The guard looked at her for a moment. Finally, he smiled. “Hey there. What’s going on?”
Isabel fought back the urge to panic. She was a quick learner and, after the last encounter, she’d prepared a story. “I’m waiting for my mom.” She trembled inside but she worked hard to keep her voice even as she used the words she’d rehearsed in her mind. “She’s picking me up.”
“That right?” The guard considered this. “If she’s picking you up, how come you’re not waiting down at the benches by the curb?” He paused and looked at her. “Say,” he added. “Aren’t you the girl who we ran off earlier this morning?”
Isabel tensed up and started to panic. She hadn’t expected that particular follow-up question, and she was unprepared. She felt a quick surge of adrenaline. All she could manage for an answer was a quick shake of her head.
The guard studied her for a second—an eternity for Isabel. He pursed his lips, saying nothing, as if weighing whether or not to buy her story. Then, apparently coming to a decision, he reached for his radio. Just as he was about to key his microphone, though, he was interrupted.
“There you are!” Isabel jumped. She turned and saw an attractive young woman in her early twenties walking up the sidewalk, talking to her. Isabel had no idea who she was.
“I got mixed up,” the woman said, smiling brightly as she reached the two. “I thought we were supposed to meet at the front of the mall.” She turned to the guard, who’d frozen for a moment. “It’s okay, officer. She’s with me.” She turned back to Isabel, “C’mon, sweetie. Let’s go inside and grab a drink before we take off.”
Isabel looked at the woman for a moment. She was dressed in a loose, shimmering green knit sweater over a white blouse. She wore tight black slacks and black shoes with heels so tall that Isabel wondered how she could stand up. Her dark brown hair cascaded over her shoulders in loose curls. Even her perfume smelled wonderful. She was one of the most beautiful women Isabel had ever seen. The woman made a small, urgent gesture with her head as if to say “C’mon.”
Isabel felt the guard staring at her, so she made up her mind quickly. “Sure,” she said, standing. “Let’s go.”
The woman smiled and took Isabel’s arm. Together, they left the guard standing on the sidewalk, watching them. They turned and walked through the double doors into the food court. Once inside, the woman said, “C’mon. Let’s sit over here for a minute and talk.” She led Isabel to a nearby table.
The food court at the mall is a large open area of dining tables surrounded by restaurants. There were few shoppers there—the lunchtime crowd had left, and the evening shoppers had yet to arrive. The smells of the food from the different shops instantly reminded Isabel that she was hungry.
“Whew, that was a close one, huh?” the woman said as she scanned the area around their table. She turned back to face Isabel. “I’m Crystal. What’s your name?”
“Isabel.” To say that Isabel was confused would be a big understatement.
Crystal looked around again and then back at Isabel. “I couldn’t help but overhear you talking to the guard, Isabel. It sounded like you might need rescuing. Are you really waiting for your mom?”
Isabel shuttered. “Yes,” she lied. She didn’t know this woman. “She’s coming to pick me up.”
Crystal smiled. “Good.” She studied Isabel intently for several seconds. “Have you been waiting long?”
Isabel couldn’t very well tell Crystal the real story—that she’d spent last night under the cedar tree by the trash bins, remaining out of sight of the roving security guards. Yet, despite her need to be guarded, she thought there was something about this woman that offered an invitation—a glimmer of hope. Something in her eyes and her tone of voice made Isabel think that Crystal might be someone who could help her. She certainly didn’t want to relive the frightening experience of spending the night under the cedar tree again.
Isabel nodded. “A little while.”
Crystal nodded slowly. “Can I buy you a Coke or something? While you wait?”
Isabel figured in the worst case, at least she’d be safe from the security guards for a while. “Okay,” she said. Crystal bought them a couple of drinks from one of the vendors and returned to their table.
The two chatted about nothing in particular—food choices, the way this or that person was dressed, movies. After a few minutes had passed, though, Crystal’s tone suddenly changed, and she became serious. “Can I ask you a real question, Isabel?” she said.
Crystal continued to study her. “You’re not really waiting for your mom, are you.”
Isabel tensed up. Crystal had phrased it in the form of a statement, not a question. “Yes, I am,” she protested. “Why do you say that?”
Crystal shrugged. Her eyes bored into Isabel. “Because we’ve been sitting here for oh—twenty minutes or so, and you haven’t looked back at the door even once the whole time. You forgot your story.”
Oh, hell. Isabel was mortified to realize that Crystal was right. She’d been so relieved to have someone to talk to that she’d completely forgotten she’d said she was waiting to be picked up. She tensed up and then started to push away from the table.
“It’s alright,” Crystal said, reaching across and putting her hand on Isabel’s arm. “No need to leave. Don’t worry about it. I’m not the police or security or anything like that.”
Isabel stayed seated but kept her chair pushed back.
Crystal looked at Isabel intently for several moments. “You’re running, aren’t you, sweetheart?”
Isabel fought hard, but in the end, the weight of the last few days got to her, and she couldn’t keep tears from forming in her eyes. She hesitated, and then she nodded.
Crystal produced a tissue and handed it to Isabel. Isabel wiped her eyes and said, “Thanks.”
“It’s nothing to be ashamed of, you know—running,” Crystal said. “Sometimes, you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do, know what I mean?”
“Did someone hurt you?”
Isabel studied the table without answering.
Crystal looked at Isabel. It was silent for a minute, and then she said, “I was just like you, you know.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean I ran. I had to leave—probably about your age. What are you sixteen? Seventeen?”
“Sixteen,” Isabel said. “Yesterday was my birthday.”
Crystal smiled brightly. “Happy birthday!” Then, just as quick, her smile vanished. “Did you leave on your birthday?”
Isabel nodded, tears starting again.
“That’s dope. That takes guts,” Crystal said. “You should be proud.”
Isabel stared at her, then she looked down. “I had to leave,” she said quietly.
Crystal leaned forward. “Isabel,” she said, “look at me.”
Isabel looked up.
“It’s like I said—I know what you mean. I had two stepbrothers who took turns raping me for six years starting when I was ten years old,” Crystal said. “When you say ‘I had to leave,’ I know exactly what you mean. I had to leave, too.”
Isabel stared at her. “Really?”
“Really. I couldn’t stay another day.” Crystal rolled up the sleeve on her left arm and revealed a series of scars. “See these? I used to cut myself to make the pain go away.” Isabel cringed at the thought. Crystal noticed. “You don’t cut yourself, do you?”
Isabel shook her head. “No.”
“Good girl. A lot of girls do, you know. But it doesn’t work. The little pain’s supposed to make the big pain go away. But it only works for a little while. Then you find out that the big pain’s still there. And to top it off, you’re left with these fucking scars.” She rolled her sleeve back down. She looked at Isabel. “I understand where you’re coming from, Isabel. I was right where you were five years ago.”
It was quiet for a few moments. Then Isabel said, “It’s my stepfather.”
“For more than four years now.”
“Bastard. I’m so sorry, sweetie.”
“I hate how these fuckers think they can do this to us and get away with it.”
Isabel nodded. “You really went through the same thing?” She could hardly believe that this beautiful woman had once experienced a horror similar to her own.
Crystal nodded. “Really. I showed you the scars, didn’t I?” She paused. “At least the scars that show. Most of ’em don’t, you know.”
Isabel looked at her for a second and then said, “What about now? What do you do now?”
Crystal smiled and flipped her long hair back over her shoulder. “I got lucky,” she said. “I met a really great guy. Now, I work with him in his company; we do entertainment scheduling.”
“You are lucky. You’re really beautiful.”
Crystal smiled. “Thank you. But you should know—you’re as pretty as I am, sweetie. Maybe even prettier.”
“Me?” Isabel said. She found this hard to believe.
Crystal laughed as she pretended to look around; then she returned her focus to Isabel. “Who else is here, girl? Yeah, you. A little makeup, some nice clothes,” she waved her hand at Isabel, “you’d have guys falling all over you. And I mean good guys. Guys who have lots of money and who’ll treat you right.” Crystal seemed absolutely bubbly.
Isabel rolled her eyes. Given her situation at home, she didn’t think about boys very often. This was more than she could even imagine.
“Isabel,” Crystal said, leaning forward again and speaking softly. “Listen to me. You seem like a sweet girl. And I know where you’re coming from because I was in the exact same boat.”
Crystal continued. “Donnie—he’s my boyfriend—Donnie and I have a spare bedroom. If you want, I can ask him if it’d be okay if you stay with us for a little while—until you’re on your feet, I mean. You’d have a safe place to stay, plenty to eat. I’ll even take you shopping for some nice clothes.”
Isabel hesitated. “Why would you do that?” she asked. It had been a long time since anyone other than her friend Kelli had been nice to her. She couldn’t help being suspicious.
Crystal smiled. “Because I guess I see a little bit of me in you, that’s why. And I sure wish someone would have helped me out when I was in your situation.”
This resonated with Isabel. Things were moving fast, but at least they seemed to be moving in the right direction. Still, she hadn’t planned things out this far, and she was struggling to keep up.
“By the way,” Crystal said, “if you left yesterday, where’d you stay last night?”
Isabel looked down. “Under a tree,” she said.
“Oh, sweetie,” Crystal said, smiling, “you gotta stay with us. You don’t want to do that again, do you?”
That reminder, plus the realization that she had no other real options, pushed Isabel over the edge. “I don’t suppose it would hurt to stay with you guys for a while,” she said. “I don’t have any money to pay you, though.”
Crystal smiled. “I didn’t ask you for any money, did I?”
Isabel shook her head.
Crystal reached for her purse. “Let me call Donnie and ask him, alright?”
Isabel nodded. “Okay. Thanks.”
* * * *
Twenty minutes later, Isabel and Crystal stood at the curb near the valet parking stand. Isabel wore her backpack and carried her purse. Soon, a white BMW 750i pulled up. All of the windows were darkened, so it was impossible to see inside. “Here he is,” Crystal said.
Isabel didn’t know much about cars, but she recognized the BMW logo and was impressed. The car was very shiny—even the wheels were sparkling chrome. The driver parked the car alongside the curb and got out. He was a tall, very good-looking, young black man with his hair cut short. He wore black slacks and a tight-fitting, short-sleeved black Under Armour shirt, covered with a loose-fitting burgundy linen jacket. A large, expensive-looking gold watch was just visible on his left wrist, peeking out from under the sleeve of his jacket.
As the driver walked around the front of the car to the curb, the passenger door opened, and another young man stepped out. He was shorter—average height and his skin was paler than the driver’s.. His hair was straightened, gelled, and brushed back. He, too, was nicely dressed—a sharp young man. Both men made an impression on Isabel. They were as good-looking in their own right as Crystal was in hers. To Isabel, they all looked like wealthy fashion models.
“Hey, baby,” the driver said as he walked up to Crystal and hugged her. “You all done?”
“Think so,” Crystal said.
“Good,” the man said. “We are, too.” After a few moments, he glanced over at Isabel. He let Crystal go and said, “Is this your friend?”
“Uh-huh,” Crystal said. “Donnie Martin—this is Isabel—” she turned and looked at Isabel, “—Isabel, I don’t know your last name.”
“Delgado,” Isabel said.
“Isabel Delgado,” Crystal said.
Donnie walked over to her. He towered above her by more than a foot. “Isabel,” he said, reaching for her small hand. “What a beautiful name.” His voice was smooth and deep.
Isabel blushed. “Thanks,” she said. “It’s good to meet you.”
“The pleasure is all mine,” Donnie said. His smile revealed a gleaming set of perfectly capped white teeth. He nodded toward the other man. “This ugly dude over here is my homeboy DeMichael. His friends—we—all call him Mikey.”
DeMichael stepped over and shook Isabel’s hand. Isabel thought his hands were very soft—softer even than hers. “I’m very pleased to meet you, Isabel,” he said. “Does everyone call you Isabel, or do you have a nickname? Something like Belle or Bella—like that girl in Twilight?”
Isabel blushed slightly. “Some of my friends call me Izzy,” she said.
“Izzy,” he said. “That’s even better. I like that. If you’re straight with it, I’m gonna call you Izzy.”
Isabel smiled. “Okay,” she said, nodding.
DeMichael gazed admiringly at Isabel’s hair. “Girl, you have beautiful hair,” he said. “Long and thick and pure black.” He paused and then added, “Like mine!”
Crystal laughed. “Yeah, you wish. Except Izzy doesn’t have to spend a hundred dollars and two hours getting hers straightened every two weeks.”
DeMichael reached for Isabel’s hair then stopped. “Do you mind?” he asked.
“No,” Isabel said.
DeMichael ran his hand slowly through Isabel’s hair. “That’s dope,” he said, seemingly in awe. “And you don’t have to do anything to get this?”
“No,” Isabel said. “That’s just how it is.”
“Damn,” he said.
“Imagine if we hooked her up with Janeka,” Crystal said. “She can throw some conditioner on that, and Isabel’s hair will shine like a black diamond.”
“Say, look,” Donnie interrupted from the sidewalk at the front of the car. “Y’all can share hair-styling secrets later. Right now, I need to talk to Isabel for a second, and then we got to scoot.” He turned to Isabel. “Crystal tells me you having some problems on the home front.”
Isabel looked him in the eye. “I don’t have a home,” she said. “Not anymore.”
“That’s what I’m talkin’ about,” Donnie said. “Bottom line—you’re temporarily out on the streets. Right?”
Donnie smiled. “Don’t have to be that way, baby—this is your lucky day. Crystal told you we got a spare bedroom.”
“Good. You’re welcome to come stay with us for a while. Till you get yourself established. That sound okay?”
“It does,” Isabel said. “Thank you.”
Donnie smiled again. “Good. We gonna do some great things.” He looked at her backpack. “That all your stuff?”
Isabel nodded. “That’s it.”
“Y’all travelin’ light.”
He shrugged. “That’ll change. Crystal’ll probably hook you up with some of her stuff for now. Use it as an excuse to go shoppin’.”
“Hell with that,” Crystal said. “I don’t need no excuse. Me and my homey Izzy—we’re going shoppin’ anyway. Tomorrow. Right, Iz?”
Isabel hesitated, then started to speak, but Crystal interrupted her. “I know,” she said. “You don’t have any money for shopping.” She smiled. “Good thing for you, I do. You can owe me. We’re going to get you all done up. Your hair, too. You’ll be so dope, people’ll have to wear sunglasses around you just to knock back the shine!”
Isabel smiled as DeMichael opened the back door.
“I’m riding shotgun,” Crystal suddenly called out.
DeMichael looked at Isabel. “Guess that means me and you in the back. After you, my dear,” he said gallantly. Isabel crawled into the back seat. She could hardly believe her luck. Less than twenty-four hours ago, she’d been shivering the night away hiding under a cedar tree to avoid the guards and to keep from getting rained on. An hour ago, she’d been sitting on a bench with no idea how to proceed. Now, she was sitting in a BMW, surrounded by nice people who wanted to help her out. She smiled as the car pulled away from the curb.