Release Date:

May 4, 2023



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Have You Seen Sarah Baker?


T.A. Cruz

The search is on, but what exactly are the folks of Fulton County hiding?

For five years, high school English teacher Sarah Baker has helplessly watched her marriage become emptier than the bed she crawls into alone each night. But a divorce would leave her in financial ruin, so she stays shackled to the husband who left his vows at the altar.

Then Sarah discovers an escape and takes the ultimate risk, only to find herself chained again—this time in the basement of a remote cabin.

When a grisly teen murder rocks his quiet northwestern town, rough-around-the-edges Sheriff Jeffrey Mills has his hands full identifying the body while facing the mounting pressure of tracking down the missing high school teacher the community is determined to find. In the blink of an eye, a heart attack sidelines him during the search, and Mills faces an impossible choice: skirt the law and lose his one chance for redemption or leave Sarah Baker to her fate.

But one thing is clear: they’re both running out of time.

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One month missing


The floorboards strained in the room above the cellar, forcing her heavy and swollen eyes open. It was him, and he was coming for her. Again.

Each step screamed as his boots adjusted to the rickety wooden staircase. The nails twisted. The foundation shuddered. He whistled; always the same tune when descending the flight. He scraped his hand along the banister like forty-grit sandpaper. The light bulb dangling from the ceiling swayed, highlighting things better left unseen, strewn across the wall. Screwdrivers for stabbing. Metal files to shave down bones. A hacksaw for the larger chunks of her—her entire torso maybe—which would then fit in a black trash bag tossed to the highway embankment. Every time he arrived …

Fresh vomit invaded her throat.

A numbness in her hands tingled up from the metal shackles over her wrists. They were tighter than yesterday, her penance for fighting harder than she should have. The chains were thick and wove through an iron loop cast inches, if not feet, into the cement wall at her back. She struggled her bare legs over the icy concrete, and gooseflesh trickled up her thigh. Closing her eyes wouldn’t help. Plugging her ears wouldn’t drown out the off-pitch notes. No, she’d still see the large shape of her captor in her head and hear the tune thumping rhythmically with her heart.

“Why?” she muttered, rattling the chains while sitting up. “Why are you doing this?” Her voice was hoarse, the same roughness you could expect after screaming for hours on end. Today she had given a round, if not three, and judging by his seemingly on-the-dot visits, it was only lunchtime.

The man stopped whistling when he neared. He crouched, set the brown tray in his hands to the floor, and slid it toward her. They stared at each other for a moment; through her terror she tried to maintain the same glare she’d given this man for the past thirty, maybe thirty-five days. It could’ve been longer, after all. She lost count between her hysterics and veering in and out of consciousness. Little sunlight breached the window obscured with curtains and junk thrown haphazardly in front of it. The subtle differences between daylight and dusk were as indistinct as his face.

The man before her, however, watched her vacantly. No empathy. No remorse. Only an empty, emotionless gaze. Despite it all, she silently begged for some sort of human interaction, even just to know that what she was dealing with was, in fact, human. He stood upright, turned to the stairs, and started whistling again.

“What do you want with me?” she screamed, yanking her arms until the restraints threatened to fracture her wrists. Tangled auburn hair folded over her face and covered her eyes. Fresh tears flowed freely. “Let me out of here!”

The door atop the staircase slammed shut, dead bolted, and the shrill whistle faded into the house above. His footsteps shuddered about. Dust rained to the cellar floor. It would stop within minutes if her memory served correctly. He hadn’t stirred for longer than that before settling in what she assumed was a room of some sort. She lowered her head between her knees, and a sharp whine emptied her throat. Cries for help to this point were closer to messages left unchecked on an answering machine.

She lifted her head and peered at the food in front of her. The tray itself wasn’t much different than the ones used in the high school cafeteria. It was almost identical. For the smallest of moments, she wasn’t shackled to some stranger’s wall but enjoying the lunch period before the final two classes of the day. It was a dream. An incredibly vivid dream she couldn’t stay in for long. Sarah choked back another cry and swallowed the stone-sized lump in her throat.

The chains clattered as she extended a hand to the tray and ripped it back with hesitation. She did this three times in total. Stomach acid pillaged up her throat, but she managed to force it down. He hadn’t poisoned her food so far, at least to her knowledge. Maybe he was waiting for the right opportunity. A few pellets of rat killer in her bologna sandwich to finish off Sarah Baker once and for all.

No, he was keeping her alive for something. She assumed death by Oscar Mayer wasn’t it.

She pulled the sandwich and crumbs dusted her legs. The first bite required a second and even larger bite. The bread softened over her tongue, and the salty meat ignited each taste bud in sequence. A satisfied sigh, another bite, and Sarah sighed again. She paused for a drink of water, then, she attacked the sandwich once more.

After the main course was reduced to specks, she snatched the small applesauce cup and tore open the tinfoil lid. She rejected the formalities of a spoon and reared back the paste like a shot of alcohol. Some of the goopy mess slid down her mouth and under her chin.

It didn’t matter. None of it did. No captive ever emerged in better shape than when they disappeared. Sarah had watched enough crime shows to know better. They were all feral. Savage. Animalistic beyond repair. How far gone was she? Would everyone back home—John, the high school faculty, the town—still look at her as they did Sarah Baker? Or would they see a shackled woman? A prisoner? Damaged goods? She hadn’t the slightest clue.

She tossed the cup to the tray and focused on two oval-shaped pills in the smallest divider. Both were snowy white with indistinct words etched into the center. She knew what they were, had even meant to buy them herself until the man upstairs had other plans for her. How he knew she needed them was another matter that raised concern. Something she thoughtfully questioned whenever it came time for her daily dose.

He was keeping her alive for something, that much was certain, and Sarah Baker knew she wasn’t sticking around to find out why.

End of Excerpt

Have You Seen Sarah Baker? is available in the following formats:

ISBN: 978-1-958686-94-2

May 4, 2023

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