Thriller Thursdays: A KILLER LIKE ME + Giveaway (part 1 of 3)

Last month Thriller Thursdays were all about Chuck Hustmyre’s House of the Rising Sun. That was such a success that I thought hey, why not give our fans more of what they’re looking for? So over the next three Thursdays I’ll keep Hustmyre in the spotlight, this time previewing his latest book, A Killer Like Me, due out in trade and e-book next month!

A Killer Like Me takes us back to the gritty streets of New Orleans. A serial killer calling himself the Lamb of God is on the loose and city officials are trying to keep the gruesome murders quiet. Agent Sean Murphy is assigned the job of catching the bad guy. Now, any Law & Order: Criminal Intent fan knows the best way to catch a killer is to think like a killer, right? But thinking like a madman brings with it some huge risks…as Murphy’s about to find out. And the risks will only get deadlier when the killer learns Murphy’s secret. Now the Lamb of God recognizes in Murphy a worthy opponent. Or perhaps a kindred spirit?

What more can I say? This one is going to be, well, killer.

Thrill on,

Hannah

GIVEAWAY: Tell us what you think of the first chapter in a comment thread and be entered to win a trade paperback copy, hot off the press! I’ll choose one lucky winner after the third chapter preview on August 11th, so be sure to check back in each Thursday until then to better your chances!

***Please be advised that this preview gets graphic.

CHAPTER ONE

Tuesday, July 24, 2:30 pm

The woman’s naked corpse lay sprawled on the floor. Her arms were outstretched, her legs spread. The insides of her thighs were crusted with dried blood. More blood had congealed into a sticky puddle on the floor beneath her.

New Orleans homicide detectives Sean Murphy and Juan Gaudet stood near the dead woman’s feet.

“He hurt her before he killed her,” Murphy said.

Gaudet nodded. “You think it was our guy?”

“Look at the ligature marks on her neck.”

“But there’s no plastic cable tie this time,” Gaudet said.

Murphy took a step toward the woman’s head and leaned forward to examine her neck. The discoloration from the ligature contained tiny ridge impressions, like those found on a cable tie. “He must have cut it off.”

“He left them on the other victims.”

Murphy stood up. “It’s him.”

“What makes you so sure?”

“I’ve got a feeling.”

“You got a feeling?” Gaudet asked, his voice sarcastic.

Murphy nodded. “It feels like our guy. The way he put her on display in the middle of the floor, like she was sacrificed on an altar.”

“The other ones weren’t posed.”

“They just weren’t this obvious,” Murphy said as he stepped over the dead woman’s left arm and squatted beside her head. “He’s getting more into the act itself. He’s gaining confidence and developing into a more sophisticated killer.”

The crime scene was inside an old club on North Rampart Street called the Destiny Lounge. The club had been closed since Katrina. After the storm, it had become a toilet for bums and a shooting gallery for junkies. Several months back the city boarded up the doors and windows.

Murphy stood and shone his flashlight at the ceiling, amazed that the mirrored disco ball still hung over the grime-covered dance floor.

“Who called it in?” Murphy asked an overweight uniformed cop standing inside the propped-open front door.

“Anonymous nine-one-one call,” the fat cop said.

“Some dope fiend would be my guess,” Gaudet offered.

“A dope fiend with a conscience?” Murphy asked.

“I bet he fucked her first.”

“The killer?”

“No,” Gaudet said. “The nine-one-one caller.”

“She’s kind of ripe.”

“Still, I bet there’s more than one sperm sample inside her. One from the killer, one from the caller.”

“She’s a twenty-dollar crackwhore,” Murphy said. “We’re going to find a whole sperm bank inside her.”

Outside, the summer sun beat down on the city through a cloudless sky. Sweat ran down Murphy’s face and plastered his shirt and suit coat to his back.

Hardly any of that blinding sunlight, though, penetrated the tomblike interior of the bar. The plywood covering on the doors and windows hadn’t kept out the victim, the killer, or the transient who found the body, but it kept out the light. The only ambient illumination came through the open door.

“How did the first officers get inside?” Murphy asked the fat cop.

The patrolman pointed to a dark hallway at the rear of the building. “Past the restrooms; the back door is off its hinges.”

“Is that how you got in?”

The cop nodded.

“What about the front door?” Gaudet asked.

“It was chained shut from the inside. We used a tire iron to bust open the padlock so we could get some light and some fresh air in here.”

Gaudet turned to Murphy. “How long do you think she’s been here?”

Murphy painted the body with his flashlight. Then he took a deep whiff of the air. “I’d say at least two days.”

A uniformed sergeant stepped through the door. “Hey, Murph…” He looked around the club like someone who had just walked into a dark movie theater. “Where the hell are you?”

Murphy waved his flashlight. “Right here.”

“The coroner’s man says it’ll be at least an hour before he can get here. They’re pulling a female floater out of the river by the French Market.”

“A local girl?”

The sergeant shook his head. “Tourist. Her boyfriend reported her missing yesterday. He said they were having sex on that old pier up by the zoo. Somehow she fell in. I guess she couldn’t swim.”

Murphy nodded, then remembered the sergeant couldn’t see him. “Thanks,” he said. Another hour inside a sauna with a rotting corpse. By law, even Homicide couldn’t move a body until the coroner’s investigator got to the scene.

He and Gaudet went back to examining the victim. She was black, twenty to twenty-five years old, and badly swollen. Her tongue was the color of chocolate syrup. Her eyes were open and bulging out of her face. The whites had turned dark from the burst blood vessels.

Textbook strangulation.

The ligature mark, the bruising left by whatever had been used to choke her, looked like it encircled her neck. When the coroner’s investigator got here, the three of them would roll the body and check, but Murphy was betting she had been strangled with a cable tie. Scabs and needle marks pockmarked the woman’s arms and legs. Three of the fingernails on her right hand were broken. She had put up a fight.

She fit the pattern of the others. Six previous murders in twelve months, all young, all prostitutes, all victims the department brass referred to as “women with high-risk lifestyles.” All but the first victim had been strangled with a heavy-duty cable tie, a thick plastic band with a one-way ratcheted lock that tightens but won’t loosen. The only way to remove a cable tie is to cut it off.

“What are you thinking?” Gaudet said.

Murphy shook his head to clear it. He had been staring down into the dead girl’s blood-soaked eyes, but there wasn’t anything behind them. Everything she had ever been, every dream she ever had, every memory—good, bad, or ugly—was gone.

“Hey, partner,” Gaudet said, “don’t get too wrapped up in this shit. It’s just another case.”

Murphy looked up. “You think the rank will finally admit it?”

“Your serial-killer theory?”

“I think we’re past the theory part.”

“Brother, you had me convinced after the third one,” Gaudet said. “But I’m not in charge. I just work here.”

“I’m going to talk to the captain again. We need a task force. We need resources. If we don’t catch this guy, he’s going to keep doing it. He’s going to keep killing women.”

***

Crime-scene techs snapped pictures of the dead woman and the inside of the bar. They measured how far the body was from fixed objects around the room and from the back door at the end of the short hallway that led to the restrooms. They plotted the distances and directions on a diagram. Seventy-eight feet separated the back door from the woman’s body.

While everyone waited for the coroner’s investigator to show up, Murphy managed to talk one of the techs, a middle-aged black woman who he guessed weighed about 130 pounds, into letting him drag her around the bar. Murphy paced off eighty feet of empty floor. He dragged her one way, then the other.

“Not this method-acting shit again,” Gaudet said as he watched Murphy hauling the crime-scene tech around by her ankles.

Murphy stopped. He was breathing hard. “I’m telling you, it works. You get inside a person’s head and you can figure out how and why he does what he does.”

“How do you know he dragged her? Maybe he carried her.”

“They call it deadweight for a reason,” Murphy said. “If he choked her unconscious while they were outside, he had to get her in here somehow. Lifting and carrying an unconscious woman by yourself is a lot harder than it looks on TV.”

Gaudet grinned. “Have you carried around a lot of unconscious women?”

“If you don’t believe me”—Murphy pointed to the crime-scene tech lying at his feet—“try carrying her from the back door to here.”

The tech shook her head as she climbed to her feet. “That’s enough of this bullshit.” She began banging her palms on the back of her blue utility pants. “I didn’t know this place was so dirty.”

Gaudet ignored her. “Maybe the killer and the victim walked in together.”

“Maybe,” Murphy said, “but I don’t picture our guy as a smooth talker. Not like Ted Bundy. I picture him as shy around women. I think he approached her on the street, told her what he wanted. He showed her some money and they made a deal. Then he led her to the back of the building where they could take care of business. But he choked her or slugged her with something and he dragged her in here, unconscious.”

“How did he know he could get into the building?”

“He’s a planner,” Murphy said. “He probably took the door off the hinges long before he ever approached her.”

The crime-scene tech finished dusting herself off and gave Murphy a disgusted glare. “You owe me a new pair of pants if I can’t get these clean.”

Murphy turned to her. “Can you check the hinges and the pins on the back door for fresh tool marks?”

“Did you hear me about my pants?” she said. When he didn’t answer, she stomped off toward the back door.

***

It was almost five o’clock when the coroner’s investigator showed up. By that time Murphy was so hot he had stopped sweating. From his Boy Scout days he seemed to remember that was one of the signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke…heat something.

The coroner’s investigator examined the woman’s body by flashlight. He started with her scalp and began working his way toward her toes. He stopped halfway. Murphy, who was looking over the investigator’s shoulder, saw the tip of a dark object protruding from the woman’s rectum. “What is that?” Murphy said.

The investigator angled his head down for a better look. “I don’t know.”

“Guess.”

The man flicked at the object with a latex-covered fingernail. It clinked. “Sounds like glass.”

“Glass?”

The investigator probed with his finger, then nodded. “It feels like a bottle.” He cast a quick glance around the abandoned bar. “Probably a beer bottle.”

“An entire bottle?” Murphy said.

“That’d be my guess,” the coroner’s man said. “The tapered neck would make insertion easier, but we’ll have to wait until the autopsy to remove it.”

“That’s a new twist,” said Gaudet, who stood behind Murphy. “None of the others had anything like that done to them.” He paused for several seconds. “You still think it’s your guy?”

“He’s not my guy,” Murphy said. “He’s our guy.”

“You know what I mean.”

Murphy stared at the dead woman and nodded. “It’s him. He’s getting off on causing more pain. That’s why the cable tie is gone. He cut if off so he could keep her alive while he tortured her.”

“He must have left something behind,” Gaudet said. “He either raped her, or jacked off on her, or licked her, or just jizzed on the floor. One way or the other, though, he had to have left behind some DNA.”

“Don’t you think he knows about DNA?” Murphy said.

“Maybe he’s not a CSI fan.”

“He hasn’t left any yet.”

Gaudet pointed to the body. “He’s never done this before, either. You said he’s getting off on what he’s doing.”

“We’ll see,” Murphy said, though he didn’t believe they would find any DNA evidence. This killer was too smart for that.

Gaudet shifted his feet. He looked uncomfortable.

“What’s wrong?” Murphy said.

“When are you going to talk to the captain?”

“As soon as we get back to the office.”

“He shot you down twice already. You keep fucking with him, he’s going to see to it you get fired…again.”

Murphy gazed around the filthy, abandoned bar. Then he stared again at the dead woman. “Maybe,” he said. “But I’ll do whatever it takes to catch this son of a bitch.”

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4 Responses to Thriller Thursdays: A KILLER LIKE ME + Giveaway (part 1 of 3)

  1. donnas says:

    Interesting start, really pulls you in. Looking forward to reading more.

    bacchus76 at myself dot com

  2. Christy says:

    I found the first chapter to be quite intriguing (I want to read more) 😉

  3. Donna Cooper says:

    This is a knock out story, done as a quick and easy read, and exciting moments as the words flow, and is captivating and propelling, to say the least. I would love to be your winner. Donna

  4. HANNAH WOLFSON, MARKETING AND PROMOTIONS COORDINATOR says:

    Thanks for your great feedback, everyone! Mr. Lad Castle has been selected as our lucky giveaway winner.

    Be sure to check into the Dorchester Community Blog today to read the 3rd chapter of A KILLER LIKE ME, and of course, stop by every Thursday for more thriller excerpts, insights, and giveaways.

    I hope you all enjoyed this Thriller Thursday series!

    Hannah

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