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Tracefinder: Contact

Tracefinder Book 1

by Kaje Harper

What could an undercover cop and a drug lord’s pet psychic have in common?

Brian Kerr has spent years hiding behind a facade of mental slowness. His brother and sister got all three of them off the streets and into a cushy life, under the protection of a dangerous criminal. But to keep that safety, Brian has to use his Finding talent to track down the boss’s enemies. Although he pretends not to know what he’s really doing, each Find takes its toll, and he’s trapped in a life he hates, losing touch with his true self.

Nick Rugo’s job is to protect and serve the people of Minneapolis as an undercover cop. He isn’t closeted, but he isn’t out at work, and there’s a wild, angry side to him that he’s managed to keep hidden until now. When he’s assigned to bring Brian’s boss to justice, he intends to use anything and anyone it takes to do that.

Nick initially sees Brian as a pawn to be played in his case, but he keeps getting glimpses of a different man behind the slow, simpleminded mask. As the two men get to know each other, it becomes clear they share secrets, some of which might get them both killed.

This book is on:
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Chapter 1

Nick ducked a chair that slammed past his head, and grinned even though it made his split lip bleed. A dozen men around him thrashed and grunted and wrestled each other to the floor of the bar, drowning out the TV with curses and the thudding of fists and feet. It was the best kind of chaos.

A big, bearded guy with whiskey breath crashed into him, snarled, and grabbed at his arm. Nick dodged and got in a low, fast punch. His hand sunk into his opponent’s gut with a satisfying jolt. The man dropped to one knee, wheezing, and Nick leaped away from him, ready for the next source of trouble. There was one particular guy he wanted to get, but he wasn’t fussy about who he took down along the way.

He laughed, feeling the adrenaline surge through him. Colors were brighter, sounds sharper, the rasp of his breath and the pounding of his heart and the pain in his lip melded in an excellent high. This is so fucking good!


The bar crowd heaved and shouted, a mass of struggling men— drunk, angry, punching, clawing. It was nothing like a choreographed movie fight. No fancy punches or across-the-room throws. The bottles that connected thunked solidly instead of smashing. This wasn’t good guys against bad guys. This was bored, boozed-up, short-fused men set off by one stupid comment, some better men than others perhaps, but no saints. No white hats— not even Nick Rugo, for all that he was a cop. In another life.

Here, he was No-Knife Nick, known for starting fights as well as ending them. Also known for the time he took out a guy wielding a machete with one lucky punch. In this boonies dive bar, it was his claim to fame. Fists of steel, no knife needed.

A pair of men staggered toward him, pushing and shoving, their hands clenched in each other’s shirts, heavy boots kicking and stomping. He dodged them and slid farther down the bar, trying to find his target. There!

He vaulted over the bar, ducked the bartender’s reflex elbow jab, reached over, and dragged his quarry by the neck and arm across the bar and down to the floor behind it. The other man was big, and some of that was muscle, but he was also very drunk and caught by surprise. They fell together, and Nick got in two quick, short gut punches that drove the man’s breath from his body. Nick pinned the guy’s wheezing torso with his own weight, and growled in his ear, “When a woman says no, she fuckin’ means no.” He leaned back enough to clock the guy hard across the jaw, half-hoping he’d break it. Do him good to have his filthy mouth wired shut for a month.

A flicker of movement from behind warned Nick in time to roll away, and the bartender’s baseball bat hit his opponent’s shoulder instead of Nick’s head. He scrambled farther backward, empty hands held out, and found space at the end of the bar to clamber back to the customer side. The fight was still surging, spilling out into the street, and a far-off siren suggested someone had called the cops. It was time to be gone.

He edged to the wall, heading for the hallway into the back. A large male bulk blocked him, and he tensed to fight his way past, then relaxed as he recognized the man. Every bar had its top dog, and here, it was undisputedly Damon Kerr, but this was just Damon’s younger brother. He was no threat— a big guy but quiet, slow, and stupid, and never one for any kind of fight. He usually stayed in the shadows and kept his mouth shut. It was pretty typical to find him with his back to the wall, simply watching.

As Nick ducked past, close enough that their shoulders and arms brushed, he said on impulse, “Come on, let’s get outta here. Back door. I don’t wanna get hauled in by the cops tonight. I bet you don’t either.”

He caught one glimpse of startled light-blue eyes, as big-little brother stared at him. Then the sound of fast-approaching sirens drove Nick on his way. Damon’s brother could follow or not. Nick could not afford to get picked up, even if he was well outside his own precinct.

He dodged around three women who were yelling threats and encouragement at the men, hurried down the hall past the reeking bathrooms, and slammed the emergency bar to open the back door. The fire alarm went off, of course, but he could already hear at least three patrol cars coming, so who cared? He swung out into the alley and sprinted for the corner, hearing other footsteps behind him doing the same. As the first lit-up black-and-white squealed into view around a corner, three blocks away, he made it to the sidewalk and slowed to a steady, innocent-looking walk.

He raised one hand to rub his nose, hiding his bleeding lip. The odds were the cops wouldn’t give him more than a glance, as long as he moved casually and didn’t draw their attention. He watched with deliberately open curiosity as they sped by, ignoring him.

The black-and-whites were safely past, pulling over in front of the bar, when someone behind him said, “You fight good.”

He whirled, putting his back to the brick wall of the pawnshop beside him. Five feet away, Damon’s brother stood eyeing him. The shop’s awning cast a deep shadow, and Nick couldn’t make out the guy’s expression, but his body language was casual, not aggressive. “You’re No-Knife Nick, right? Nok Nick? I’m Brian.”

“I’m just Nick...

Reviews:Sammy on The Novel Approach Reviews wrote:

"I was pulled into this story, hooked completely, and read it voraciously to the end. I have often remarked that one of the many strengths this author has is her ability to write characters that are utterly believable and genuinely endearing. ...This is more than just a cop story—this is the creation of a family of people who draw us in and encourage us to stay with them—to see how their lives will unfold, what drama will be unleashed and, ultimately, who will survive in the end...."

About the Author

I get asked about my name a lot. It's not something exotic, though. “Kaje” is pronounced just like “cage” – it’s an old nickname.

I live in Minnesota, where the two seasons are Snow-removal and Road-repair, where the mosquito is the state bird, and where winter can be breathtakingly beautiful. Minnesota’s a kindly, quiet (if sometimes chilly) place and it’s home now.

I’ve been writing for far longer than I care to admit (*whispers – forty years*), mostly for my own entertainment. My spec fic usually includes a gay romance element in a paranormal, SciFi or high fantasy setting. I also have two collections of LGBTQ Young Adult stories released under the pen name Kira Harp, which range across genres and identities.

I now have a good-sized backlist in ebooks and print, both free and professionally published. A complete list with links can be found on my Books page.
I also have  an author page on Goodreads where I do a lot of book reviews. You can find me to chat there– I hang out on Goodreads a lot because I moderate the  Goodreads YA LGBT Books group there. I also post free short YA stories on that group, more than 50 of them so far. Or find me on Facebook –