Thriller Thursdays: NAKED ADDICTION

New York Times bestselling author Caitlin Rother has an impressive amount of achievements under her belt: she’s written and co-authored eight books, worked as an investigative journalist for almost twenty years and was nominated for a Pulitzer prize for her accomplishments, she teaches narrative non-fiction, journalism, and creative writing at UCSD Extension, works as an editorial consultant/book doctor, and speaks to professional groups nationwide. Phew. I was exhausted just writing about it.

As you can see, Caitlin has a LOT going on. She’s currently getting tons of well-deserved attention for her latest true crime releases, My Life Deleted (HarperOne, 10/11) and Poisoned Love (Kensington/Pinnacle, 12/11). In light of this, I’ve been dying to revisit her first foray into fiction, Naked Addiction. Published by Dorchester in 2007, this suspenseful thriller is now available in e-book for the first time! Naked Addiction follows detective Ken Goode as he tracks a murderer by the trail of young, female bodies left in his wake. When the trail leads to the beauty school his sister attends, the case hits a little too close to home for Ken’s comfort.

Read on for an excerpt that will give you a taste of Caitlin’s award-winning knack for imagery, characterization, and crime scene etiquette. 

Thrill on,

Hannah

CHAPTER ONE

Goode Sunday

It was one of those hot September days when flies flock to the sweet scent of coconut-oiled skin and the rotting smell of death.

Santa Ana winds were spreading their evil dust and waves of heat were oozing from exhaust pipes, casting a blur over the gridlock of cars ahead of Detective Ken Goode. Santa Anas always made him feel a little off.

Sweat dripped into his tired eyes as he sat in his Volkswagen van, waiting for the light to change on Mission Boulevard in Pacific Beach. He’d stayed up too late the night before reading Camus’ An Absurd Reasoning, pausing intermittently to deconstruct the state of his life. He needed a mind-bending career change. He felt it coming, any day in fact, just around the corner. But patience wasn’t one of his strongest traits. He wanted out of undercover narcotics and into a permanent gig working homicides. Not just as a relief detective, as he’d been for the past three years, but the real thing. The only questions were how and when.

Goode always took stock at this time of year and he was rarely satisfied. After getting the green light, he drove a few blocks to a flower shop he’d passed a hundred times. He was constantly on the lookout for florists because he didn’t want to go to the same one twice. He chose to keep his annual ritual to himself, even more private than the rest of his rather solitary existence.

Goode parked near the door and glanced at himself in the rearview mirror, running his fingers through his sun-bleached brown hair and wiping moisture from his forehead with a beach towel. His green eyes had been red around the edges since the Santa Ana kicked up and he hadn’t been sleeping much either, although that wasn’t unusual lately.

The cool air inside the shop chilled his overheated skin, making the hairs on his arms stand up. Inside the refrigerated case nearest the door, a few dozen long-stemmed red roses poked their heads out of a white bucket of water. He slid open the door and bent his tall, lean frame over to inspect them more closely. He wanted the most perfect one he could find, just starting to bloom. He selected one from the middle, sliding it carefully out of the bunch.

“How would you like a pretty bud vase for that?” the sales girl chirped. She was a teenager. Bright-eyed. Hopeful.

“No, thank you,” Goode told her. He knew she meant well, but she had no idea. “That won’t be necessary.”

She looked a little disappointed. “Then how ’bout you let me wrap it up with some baby’s breath?”

“Sure,” he said, smiling weakly and nodding. He didn’t want to have to tell her that wouldn’t be necessary either. “That would be nice.”

The cellophane crinkled as he walked back to the van and gingerly laid the rose on the passenger seat. He turned right on Grand Avenue and headed south on Interstate 5 toward Coronado.

He still remembered how green and sparkly the bay had looked that day thirty years ago. He’d just turned six. He, his mother, father and baby sister had finished a lunch of tuna sandwiches together at their small, rented house in La Jolla—all two high school teachers could afford—when his mother announced she was going for a drive. His father, Ken Sr., said he’d planned to take a nap while the baby took hers and asked if she’d take Kenny Jr. with her. She looked a little irritated and a little sad, so Kenny thought she didn’t want him to come along. When she looked over at him and saw she’d upset him, she gave him that forced melancholy smile she’d been wearing of late and tousled his hair.

“Okay, then,” she said quietly. “Let’s go.”

The two of them piled into the family’s Honda Accord and she stopped at Baskin Robbins to buy him a Pralines-and-Cream cone and a strawberry shake for herself. She took a prescription vial of pink pills out of her purse and popped one of them into her mouth, chasing it with a long draw on her shake. She announced that she wanted to drive over the new bridge to Coronado.

“You can see forever up there,” she said. “It feels like you can just fly off into the clouds. Don’t you think?”

Kenny nodded happily, feeling privileged to have some one-on-one time with his mother. She’d been acting so down since Maureen was born. She hardly ever wanted to play with him. It felt nice when she talked to him like that.

They were about halfway across the bridge, where the two lanes turned into three, when she pulled over to the side and told him to wait. He watched her get out of the car in her black dress, the one with the bright red roses and green leaves all over it. She stepped out of her red pumps and reached through the driver’s-side window to set them on the seat next to him, giving him that same droopy smile again. The skin around her eyes wrinkled softly, reflecting a sense of tragedy that made her seem older than her thirty-six years.

“It’s dangerous out here, so stay buckled up, okay, pumpkin?” she said.

He’d watched her put on some red lipstick before they left the house, and he thought again how it set off the whiteness of her very straight teeth. She was so much more beautiful than any of his friends’ mothers. It made him proud.

Kenny took her words as the law, never questioning why she’d parked where there was no shoulder. With his seat belt fastened as instructed, he watched the cars whizzing by and wondered where she’d gone. Strapped in and helpless, he couldn’t see into the rearview mirror without undoing his belt. Surely she wouldn’t be gone for long. Finally, he undid the buckle and twisted the mirror so he could see behind the car. There she was, gazing intently out into the distance. He carefully refastened the seat belt, feeling guilty as it clicked home.

Minutes later, he still couldn’t shake the feeling of apprehension, so he looked into the mirror again. This time he saw her throw one leg over the railing, and then the other. What was she doing? Then, in one quick movement, she dropped herself over the edge.

For a while there, he was sure she’d climb right back over the top of the railing. When she didn’t reappear, the ice cream began to curdle in his stomach and his heart began to pound.

It seemed like hours that he sat there, waiting for her, when a police cruiser pulled up behind the car. A young officer slowly approached, his hand on his gun, and stuck his head through the open window.

“Where are your parents, son?” he asked.

But all Kenny could do was stare straight ahead, his fists clenched so tightly his nails bit into his palms. He knew he would start crying if he met the officer’s questioning gaze. He figured what the man really wanted to know was why he hadn’t tried to stop his mother from jumping into the nothingness.

The officer went back to his cruiser for a minute to talk into his radio; then he got in the car with Kenny while they waited for a tow truck to arrive. He put his arm around the boy’s shoulders and made Kenny feel safe enough to convey the bare facts of what had happened and to obediently recite his home address. The officer patiently walked Kenny back to the police cruiser and took him home to what was left of his family.

From that day on, Ken Goode knew he wanted to be a policeman.

Goode drove a little more than halfway over the bridge before he reached the spot where his mother had jumped. He pulled to the side, turned on his hazard lights and unwound the rubber band holding the cellophane together, easing the stem out of its casing. He brought the bud to his nose and breathed in its sweet fullness. He felt a stab of the old pain and his eyes teared up. He was feeling really tired and vulnerable for some reason. But that was okay. He’d allow himself that, for a few minutes at least. Maybe it was just the hot wind blowing the hair into his eyes.

He stood at the railing facing north. To his left was the small island city of Coronado and to his right were the blue steel towers of the bridge, curving around to the San Diego marina and downtown skyscape. He tried to push the hair out of his face so he could take in the view, but it was useless. He could only look down.

Goode began his ritual of tearing off the rose petals, one at a time, and watching them catch the breeze. It always amazed him what a long way down it was to the bay. He looked it up on the Internet once and learned it was a two-hundred-foot drop. Sometimes he’d start to wonder how much the fall would hurt from this height, but he’d immediately push the thought from his brain. He wouldn’t go there. Couldn’t go there.

“How are you, Mom?” he said into the wind. “Are you happy?”

A seagull swooped out of the sky, settled on the railing a few feet away, and looked right at him. Part of the bird’s upper beak was chipped off. He found its proximity a little unnerving and he wondered for a second whether that could possibly be his mother. He wasn’t a religious man, but he did get spiritual from time to time. It couldn’t be, he thought. That’s ridiculous. He turned away and watched the sun reflect off the ripples in the San Diego Bay.

“What’s it like where you are?” he asked. “Do you have friends?”

A few moments later, a second seagull touched down on the railing, right next to the first. Goode really didn’t believe in the whole New Age thing, but this seemed a little weird, even to him. He broke the stamen from the rose and tossed it over, watching it float down.

“Okay, if this is real,” he said into the wind, “then show me one more sign.”

One of the cars whipping past honked. He felt the wind pick up and blow his hair out of his eyes. It was a little cooler, there by the ocean. He closed his eyes and let the breeze kiss his face. But then, abruptly, it …just… stopped…blowing. The high-pitched traffic noise dulled and he felt a strange calm. Soon, beads of sweat began to form on his upper lip. He started feeling woozy.

He heard the crunch of tires on asphalt and turned to see a police cruiser park behind his van. Just like the first time. A young officer in his midtwenties approached with his hand on his gun. It could have been the son of the officer who’d stopped there thirty years ago.

Goode shivered. “No shit,” he whispered. He smiled and shook his head.

“Everything okay here? You know you can’t park your van on the bridge,” the officer said, sticking his chest out with more than enough bravado. Bulletproof vests always made cops seem more macho than they really were.

Strangely enough, Goode hadn’t had to deal with Coronado police much during his yearly ceremony, usually because he did it in the middle of the night when traffic was light to nonexistent. He figured he’d tell his fellow officer the truth.

Goode extended his hand to shake the officer’s. “Ken Goode, San Diego PD,” he said, retrieving his badge from his shorts pocket. “Just checking in with my mother. She jumped here thirty years ago today.”

The officer gave him a firm shake, but his eyes softened and he relaxed into a less aggressive stance. “Joe Johnston, Coronado PD,” he said. “Wow. That’s rough.” Johnston paused and shook his head as if he didn’t know what else to say. “Well, I guess I’ll…hang out here in my cruiser for a few minutes to make sure no one bothers you. Take your time.”

Goode thanked him. He wasn’t sure what it all meant, but he felt as if his mother was okay, wherever she was. Maybe she was a teacher there, too. Or maybe she’d become a painter like she’d always dreamed. He threw the rose stem over the side and watched it swing idly down to the water, coming to rest on the surface and bob along with the current. He wiped a tear from his cheek with his sleeve. Read more of this post

Thriller Thursdays: THE RAPTURE OF OMEGA

Richland Metropolitan Police Department’s spitfire detective, CeeCee Gallagher, is back and on the hunt in The Rapture of Omega.

CeeCee reminds me of the star of TNT’s The Closer, Brenda Leigh Johnson. They’re both powerful women in a man’s world. They may look pretty, but they’ve got unique skills that get them to the bottom of any crime. Quick. And they can kick your ass.

In The Rapture of Omega (October 2011), the latest book in Dittrich’s detective series, CeeCee thinks she’s investigating three unrelated homicides, but when she notices that all the bodies have the same mysterious mark, the clues lead CeeCee to the work of a sinister local cult. You’ll get a taste of the horrifying events yet to come in the prologue previewed below. I don’t know about you, but all I could think while reading it was “DON’T DRINK THE KOOL-AID, PEOPLE!”

Thrill On,

Hannah

PROLOGUE

Jonestown, Guyana November 18, 1978

“I am the Way, the Truth, and the Light. No one can come to the father but through me!”

The words, screaming over the microphone, pierced her ears like millions of tiny needles fighting to reach the darkest depths of her mind. Putting her hands over both ears did little to ease the pain. She saw her older brother also had his hands over his ears; and his eyes were closed tight, as if waiting for the bomb to drop. Hunkered down and hiding underneath the bed, one would suppose that was the most likely reason. But the truth of the matter was far worse.

The temperature in the cabin soared as the day went on, causing both Rebecca and her brother, John, to long for a taste of water. Oh, they could have easily gone outside and drank the red water to quench their thirst like everyone else, but their mother told them to hide and wait for her—no matter what. When the screams began less than an hour later, Rebecca held her breath. The fear that had slowly crept inside held her in its tight grip; her heart was racing, and the sweat poured into her eyes. She knew that a six-year-old girl hadn’t ever died of a heart attack, but she was scared just the same. Rebecca and John were holding each other now, praying together that their mother would come for them soon. Rebecca accepted the somber truth that her father would not ever come back. He was probably asleep by now, along with the others. Still, she wanted her mommy.

Her father brought them here six weeks ago. He was the one that said their salvation was in Africa with “Dad.” That was what Mr. Jones wanted everyone to call him, Dad or Father.

The Temple had all been practicing for this day for a long time. It was supposed to take place a month from now, but this morning, at prayer, “Dad” said, “Today is the day of salvation.” Rebecca never truly understood the motive behind it, although she knew it had something to do with the upcoming apocalypse; “Dad” said this would be their only way into heaven.

Mommy never liked “Dad.” Once in a while, Rebecca would see her mommy’s eyes roll during his evening teachings, or she would sneak a wink and a smile to Rebecca and John. Rebecca closed her eyes and imagined what was going on outside.

The lines would be long as the members stood to willingly accept their drink, their ticket to heaven. The dedicated mothers would hold their babies as the men shot the liquid into the infants’ mouths with large syringes. One by one, they would each lie down and go to sleep, only to awaken in the house of God. “Dad” said it would be miraculous. Those who decided not to seek their salvation would be taken anyway.

Rebecca felt a growing resentment toward her father for bringing them here. He had changed. Gone was the man who took them out for ice cream after dinner, the man that told her bedtime stories, and the man that could impersonate Donald Duck better than anyone. Mommy knew that, too. Rebecca could see it in her face when her mommy looked at her father. Mommy . . .

“Where is she?”

John’s breathless question gave her a brief reprieve from her thoughts, but brought her back to the nightmarish reality they were in.

“Ma-maybe she’s already asleep.” Rebecca’s voice quivered.

“Don’t say that, Becky! She’ll come back!”

The fumbling doorknob about six feet to their right ended their conversation. John promptly put his hand over Rebecca’s mouth and pulled her as far back against the wall as possible. Sheltered only by the soiled mattress above their heads, they waited. Rebecca could feel John’s heart pounding through his sweat-soaked shirt and noticed her own pulse had quickened so rapidly, she thought she might faint.

“John! Rebecca!” The loud whisper of their mother’s voice filled the room.

“Mommy! Mommy!”

Rebecca pushed her brother away and crawled out from under the bed, at breakneck speed, before embracing her mother around the waist.

“Shhh! You need to be quiet, we don’t have much time. John, come here!”

Rebecca saw her mother look toward the door. Her mother, like John and Rebecca, was soaked with sweat, and dirty. Her clothes  were disheveled and she had a look in her eyes that Rebecca had never seen before; her mother was terrified, and that made Rebecca cry.

“Becky, honey, shhh.” Her mother knelt down and embraced her. “It’s going to be okay, but I need you two to listen, please. There’s a loose panel in the wood over there. Push on it and crawl through it—but be careful no one sees you!” Her breath was quickening as she looked at the door again. “Run, as fast as you have ever run, straight back behind the cabin into the jungle. If you stay straight, you’ll come up to a big tree with red flowers growing around the bottom—it’s hollowed. Crawl inside there and wait for me. Don’t come out unless you hear me calling! Do you understand? Don’t come out at all!”

Rebecca and John nodded their heads furiously up and down as Rebecca continued to wipe the tears that flooded her eyes.

“Where’s Daddy?” John’s own eyes were watery.

Rebecca’s mother paused. “He’s asleep.”

John began to really cry as Rebecca’s own floodgate opened up, full force. Their mother pulled them both to her breast, holding them tightly, but not for very long. She gently pushed them out in front of her, arm’s length.

“I love you both very much, okay?” Her mother was fighting back her tears something fierce. “Do this, and I will be there—I promise, and we’ll leave this place and never come back again. Now, go. John, take care of your sister. Go!”

Her mother pushed them toward the wall of loose paneling. As Rebecca crawled through the hole, she took just a split second to look back at her mother. Standing in the doorway of the cabin, her mother was sobbing as she watched her children escape.

“I love you, Mommy!” Rebecca could barely produce the words.

“Go, Becky!”

John pushed her through the hole before climbing out behind her. He grabbed her hand tightly and pulled as they started a dead run toward the jungle. Not looking back, Rebecca heard her mother scream as they reached the edge of the trees. It was a death scream. Rebecca had been hearing them for the last hour. John stopped so suddenly, she ran into him and almost fell down. He turned to face her and grabbed her by the shoulders.

“Go! I’ll meet you there!”

“Joh- Johnny, noooo!”

“Now, goddamn it!”

It was too late. Her brother had already started back toward the cabin. Doing what John had ordered, Rebecca had only run ahead a few feet when the sound of gunfire caused her to stop. She turned just in time to see her ten-year-old brother fall to the ground, riddled with bullets. If only for the sheer will to live, Rebecca ran like she had never before, deep into the jungle, the sound of gunfire close behind her. Dizziness and the pain in her side overcame her as she reached the tree with the red flowers. Crawling inside she began taking deep breaths as she listened to the potent voice, far off in the distance, scream his last words.

“If we can’t live in peace, then let’s die in peace! We are not committing suicide—it’s a revolutionary act . . .”

 CHAPTER ONE

Present

“The National Weather Service has just confirmed a powerful cell forming o the coast of South Africa, expected to reach hurricane status within days. The remaining Florida residents are already making plans to evacuate. If the expected path reaches the coast of Florida by next week, Hurricane Stephen would make the fourth major hurricane to devastate the Florida coast in the last six weeks. Florida governor Randall Jimenez is expected to order a mandatory evacuation for aected areas beginning Friday. In other news . . .”

I reached over and turned the radio off before tossing my half- smoked cigarette out the window. I didn’t need to hear any more depressing news about other parts of the world. I had enough here, in Mansfield, Ohio, to keep me occupied.

Just thirty feet from my car lay the remains of a murder victim—young, pretty, and savagely brutalized. I’d say that allows me a significant amount of depression. Fifteen years of looking at bodies never gets easier. I’d give a number on this particular murder, but I quit counting a long time ago. Most people assume that I, Sergeant Detective CeeCee Gallagher, am made of steel. After reading newspaper accounts that have deemed me the ace detective of the Richland Metropolitan Police Department Major Crimes Division, they tend to look genuinely surprised when I show any type of emotion toward a victim. That fact alone disturbs me. I don’t want to be perceived as a coldhearted bitch that was born without tear ducts, or a soul, for that matter. But then again, why should I care what they think?

The warm stream of sweat that slowly made its way down the side of my face alerted me that the air-conditioning in my car had just conked out. I sighed.

“You gonna come out and look at this, or are you hell-bent on losing forty pounds while you sit in there and melt?”

So deep in my thoughts, I hadn’t noticed that my fellow detective, and dear friend, Jeff “Coop” Cooper, had walked up to my window. Boyishly handsome, and devilishly funny, Coop was married to the boss—Captain Naomi Cooper, formerly Kincaid. Naomi was on the riverbank with the others, processing the body and scene. Coop began running his fingers through his dark hair and fanning his shirt out.

“Jesus! I thought it was supposed to cool down a little today.”

“It has. We have officially cooled down to a balmy ninety-one degrees.”

I whipped my long, sweat-soaked blonde hair into a ponytail before grabbing my briefcase off the passenger seat. Coop opened the door for me, still whining about the temperature.

“Ninety-one degrees, my ass. I think this sucks.”

“Ah, the pleasures of global warming.” I slammed my car door shut and nodded toward the embankment. “What have we got down there?”

“Prepare yourself. She’s only been there about two days, but the heat has accelerated decomposition something awful. It’s not pretty, and you can only imagine the smell.” He crinkled his nose as if I needed a visual. “Coroner says it looks like some type of crude abortion. She bled out.”

I stopped walking, already smelling the body. “What? Is she young?”

Read more of this post

Authors to Watch in 2012

A look back at what hit the proverbial thriller shelves last year:

Out in paperback and e-book in May 2011, The Bonaparte Secret was the much awaited fifth installment in Gregg Loomis’s Lang Reilly series. From Venice to Port-au-Prince, Alexandria to Paris, Lang takes readers on a fast-paced search for a lost relic of Napoleon Bonaparte’s. Even if you haven’t read the previous four books, The Bonaparte Secret  is easy to jump right into. Da Vinci Code fans will love it!

 

A fresh face in the thriller genre, Chuck Hustmyre brought you House of the Rising Sun (July) and A Killer Like Me (August) in 2011. His back-to-back award-winning releases are both set in The Big Easy and tell the tale of detectives caught on the wrong side of the law. Not only did House of the Rising Sun debut in trade and e-book last year, it also celebrated its film release with Lionsgate Home Entertainment!

 

Stacy Dittrich is no newcomer to the genre. Her years as a police officer and detective inspired her to write true crime and thrillers, of which she has almost a dozen. October release The Rapture of Omega is the fourth title in her popular Detective CeeCee Gallagher series. A Major Crimes Division detective and the top of her field, CeeCee knows too well the burden the job can bring to one’s professional, and personal, life. No matter the circumstance, CeeCee manages to pull through. Teaming up with her forbidden love, FBI Agent Michael Hagerman, the CeeCee Gallagher series brings a hint of romance to a modern day crime series.

Be sure to check in with the Dorchester Web site for more of what’s new in thriller. Follow these exciting authors and many more in 2012!

Thriller Thursdays: AFRICAN ICE

‘Blood diamond’ was a term long before Leonardo DiCaprio’s 2006 political thriller popularized it. Blood diamonds, or conflict diamonds, exist in large quantities in African war zones and are sold to finance guerrilla groups and warlords. This practice has inflicted horrors upon African peoples since the 1990s and continues to be a source of violence today.

Jeff Buick’s African Ice reveals the dangers of conflict diamonds in this fast-paced action adventure that moves through the steaming jungles of the Congo, the dirty streets of Cairo and the well-heeled hallways of De Beers. A beautiful geologist and a Navy SEAL are brought together to find a stash of diamonds buried somewhere in the Democratic Republic of Congo, but instead they’ll discover deception, murder, and injustice every stop along the way.

Enjoy this preview of African Ice, and remember, sometimes diamonds can be deadly.

Thrill on,

Hannah

ONE

Springtime in New York City.

The promise of summer just around the corner. Winter laid to rest for another year. For Samantha Carlson, spring meant New York at its finest. Trees sprouting green, their new leaves softening the harsh lines of the apartment and office buildings that surrounded Central Park. And the early-morning smells. Pretzels, freshly brewed coffee, and dough rising in the bakeries. And with the longer days came mild temperatures. When the mercury rose to a sensible level, Samantha dug her jogging shoes out and brought them back into active duty. Today was day one of the new year.

She entered Central Park from East Sixtieth Street and began to run—slowly at first, her long blond hair swaying in the breeze—then faster as she settled into a rhythm. She had the park mostly to herself, with only a few other intrepid souls braving the early-morning chill. She checked her watch as she ran—six minutes after five. Her breath misted as she exhaled, then disappeared behind her. She kept an even pace for the better part of twenty minutes.

She rounded the pond and cut north until she hit the Transverse. Then east toward the park boundary. She picked up the pace as Fifth Avenue came into view, and then slowed to a marginal jog as she hit the sidewalk. By the time Samantha reached her apartment building on East Sixty-third, she was breathing normally. The doorman eased the door open as she approached. She slid effortlessly through, and made for the elevators.

“Morning, Miss Carlson,” the building employee said as she passed.

She turned, still moving. “Ernie, I keep telling you, it’s Samantha.”

“Yes, ma’am.” He smiled. They had had this same conversation at least two hundred times. There was no way he would ever call her by her first name. They both knew it. She disappeared into the elevator, and he looked back to the empty street.

The elevator slid open on the eighteenth floor, and Sam exited into the deserted hallway. Her apartment was the third on the left. She unlocked the door and let herself in. She added a bit more hot water to her shower than usual, to take off the chill from her jog. Twenty minutes later, she emerged from the bathroom, housecoat on, hair wrapped in a white towel. She stared at the telephone for a moment, then checked her watch.

Six twenty-four, and her voice-mail light was flashing. Someone had called while she was in the shower. Early for a call, she thought. She punched in her code and hit the speakerphone button. A baritone voice enveloped the room.

“This is Patrick Kerrigan calling for Samantha Carlson. Please call me at my office when you get this message. The number is—”

She grabbed a notepad from the end table and jotted down the number. It was local, somewhere in Manhattan. She considered calling it immediately, to see if he was actually up and at work yet, then changed her mind. The coffee was brewed, and Samantha settled into her favorite couch with the daily Times. She skimmed the headlines, then flipped to the business section. The Dow-Jones was up, the Nasdaq was up, but the American dollar was down against the euro. She shrugged, and wondered why she bothered; economics baffled her.

She finished her coffee and stretched. Across the room, a bank of glass overlooked Central Park. She lifted herself off the couch, moved to the windows, slid open the door, and walked out onto the balcony. The view was awesome. She found herself thinking about where she was in her life. For some reason, staring out over the park was a catalyst that triggered memories, and the balcony had become her place for quiet reflection. At thirty-two years old, she held a doctorate in geology—a piece of paper she had used to carve out a remarkable career. Her exploits in some of the most dangerous countries on the planet had earned her the reputation as the female Indiana Jones of the Geological Society. She was no stranger to the ice floes of the Canadian arctic or the steaming rain forests that bordered the Amazon River. Her trips to Africa were too many and too varied to remember. The newspapers and television stations were quick to run a story if it involved Samantha Carlson hunting down a new geological find. She was attractive, athletic, intelligent and accomplished. She was newsworthy.

Her love-hate relationship with the media had started three years ago, when she had discovered a new anticline loaded with oil in northern Texas. The skeptics insisted that the area had been exploited and a large find was impossible. She had responded by throwing the algorithm for her computer program on the table, and letting it go public. The program, she contended, was the crux of her discovery. It allowed the previously unnoticed bulge to be seen through geophysics. She recommended they punch an eight-thousand-foot hole in the ground, and they did.

The anomaly gave way to three million barrels of light Texas crude. Two million dollars to drill the well and almost two hundred million in return. The bonus they had lavished on her had paid for half the penthouse in which she now stood. She winced as she thought about where the other half had come from.

Her parents’ estate. It was almost two years to the day since their plane had crashed into the sea just after liftoff from Casablanca. They had been en route to London, to meet her and spend a week traveling through Europe. The news had devastated her. Her mother and father had been young, in their early fifties, and in excellent health. She had never entertained the thought that they wouldn’t be there, and the void their deaths left was still unfilled. Her mind relived the memorial service, and once the all-too-familiar tape played through, she let it go.

She’d tried to stop the images for the first year, but her subconscious was too strong. The sight of the two coffins, side by side, being lowered into the ground was indelibly etched into her mind. She watched as the two handfuls of dirt left her hand and splayed across the tops of the coffins as they sat beneath ground level. Empty caskets, lined with a few trinkets and pictures of her with her parents, their bodies never found. She closed her eyes and the picture stopped.

Samantha opened her eyes, feeling the wet tears, and blinked away the moisture. The park was blurry for a few moments, then it came back into focus. She turned away and reentered the apartment.

The coffee was still reasonably fresh, and she poured one more cup. She sat on the edge of the couch and looked at the number she had taken from her voice mail. She picked up the phone and dialed.

Read more of this post

Thriller Thursdays: BLOOD KIN

There’s something to be said for vicariously experiencing suspense. You get that heart racing, edge of your seat, wide-eyed experience without being put in any sort of actual danger. If you know what I’m talking about, and you can’t get enough, well then let me introduce you to Judith E. French.

An award-winning author of over 30 novels, French writes suspense, she writes romance, she writes adventure-packed tales of intrigue. In her Blood series, of which the critically-acclaimed  Blood Kin is the first, the romance only serves to heighten the suspense. So if you’re looking for a thrill, read on suspense seekers, and thank the fiction gods that it isn’t you facing the dangers in these ominous pages.

Like what you read? Blood Kin, along with all of French’s contemporary suspenses, are the deal of the week! Snag each one for $3.99.

PROLOGUE

Tawes Island,Valentine’s Day

Frowning at the slash of orange that had caught his attention, Daniel eased off the marshy bank and out onto the surface of the frozen gut. Ice splintered ominously under his right boot, and he swore. The water here was at least chest-deep, with a good yard or two of black silt beneath—not a spot he wanted to claw his way out of in twenty-degree weather with a fifteen-knot wind. The Chesapeake Bay country was beautiful, but it could kill a man if he wasn’t careful.

Like the senator …?

Senator Joseph Marshall’s disappearance while duck hunting on New Year’s Day had launched a three-week rescue attempt that had drawn worldwide media attention. The coast guard, volunteer fire companies, and the national guard from three states had unsuccessfully searched the bay and every square inch of shoreline of the island and neighboring mainland, to no avail.

Daniel took another step toward the flash of color beneath the ice. Nausea rose in his throat. He exhaled slowly through clenched teeth and swallowed. Joseph Marshall’s face was pressed grotesquely against the underside of two inches of ice. Those shrewd blue eyes were open wide; his mouth gaped in a silent scream. The thick, dark hair he’d worn so fashionably cut and styled streamed out on both sides of flaccid, fish-bellywhite cheeks and a ragged protruding tongue.

Daniel let his gaze travel down the senator’s submerged body. His guess was that Joe Marshall’s political ambitions had been cut short by a single blast from a twelve-gauge shotgun.

Some might call it island justice.

CHAPTER ONE

June

Bailey clutched at the side of the boat and watched as the dark line on the horizon grew to a vivid patchwork of green and brown. “Is that Tawes?” She raised her voice to be heard above the chug-chug-chug of the smoking motor.

“That’s her.” The only other occupant of the shabby wooden skiff squinted into the sunshine from the shelter of a worn baseball cap, tucked a dab of snuff under his lip, and nodded. “Tawes Island. No other.”

The stubble-chinned skipper’s reply came out as “Nother,” but Bailey was beginning to understand his quaint speech patterns. He’d identified himself as “Cap’n Creed Somers, but Creed’ll do,” back at the Crisfield Dock where she’d left her car.

“Not what she was,” the garrulous waterman continued. “Ursters and cray’abs about played out. Not like the old days, when my daddy could make a decent living fer his family. You shoulda seen Tawes then. Real ferryboat run ever’ day but the Sabbath, hauling groceries, tray’ctor parts . . .”

Bailey nodded noncommittally as Creed rattled on, his words nearly drowned by the slap of waves and the chug of the noisy motor. She thought she’d smelled alcohol on Creed’s breath and never would have boarded his boat if she’d known that she’d be the only passenger. The trip from Crisfield had taken the better part of an hour, but the aging skiff, which had seemed disreputable back at the dock, had performed faultlessly.

Being out on the water was a novelty for Bailey, and she’d been captivated by the feel of the salt breeze on her face and the haunting cries of laughing gulls. Of all she’d expected to do on summer break, spending a few days on an isolated island in the Chesapeake was definitely at the bottom of the list; but now that Tawes was a reality and not just a name on the evening news, she felt her excitement rising.

Was it possible that she had been born and put up for adoption here on this tiny island? After years of intense curiosity about her birth family, receiving the letter from Attorney Forest McCready informing her of an inheritance seemed like the plot of a made-for-TV movie. Was it going to be this easy to find the answers she’d been seeking all her life? And how had Mc-Cready located her if her adoption records were sealed?

Read more of this post

Thriller Thursdays: From the Set of House of the Rising Sun

The gritty, action-packed House of the Rising Sun continues to blow readers, and now audiences, away! The critically-acclaimed debut thriller from former special agent Chuck Hustmyre is now a major motion picture starring Hollywood heavyweights Danny Trejo (Sons of Anarchy), Dominic Purcell (Prison Break), and Amy Smart (Crank). Check out these pics from the set, read an excerpt from the book, watch the trailer, and share our enthusiasm for this thriller success! And if you’re looking for the perfect stocking-stuffer for that thriller lover in your family, House of the Rising Sun is available in trade paperback, e-book, and Blu-ray/DVD!

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Thriller Thursdays: Guest Author James L. Thane

Today I have the honor of welcoming author James L. Thane to Thriller Thursdays! Last week I previewed the first chapters of his debut thriller, No Place to Die. This week, he’ll be answering your questions about his book, the sequels, and what it means to write a thriller.

Welcome, James!

In one sentence, how would you summarize No Place to Die?

Phoenix detective Shane Richardson must stop a clever, elusive and sadistic killer who has kidnapped and brutalized an innocent woman while seeking revenge against a number of people he blames for an injustice committed against him.

What was the first crime novel you ever read?

Sadly, I can’t remember, but I’m certain that it would have been an old paperback reprint of one of Erle Stanley Gardner’s Perry Mason mysteries—probably something like The Case of the Restless Redhead. My father was a huge fan of these books and he kept a stack of them at our summer cabin on the lake. I discovered them when I was around ten years old and from that point on, I was hooked on crime fiction.

This question is from commenter Ila from Maine: “I’d like to know how your reading habits have changed now that you are writing for a living? Do you still troll used bookstores to discover gems of paperback books or do you now only read what others recommend to you and authors you trust because you have read them before due to time constraints?”

An excellent question, Ila. I suppose that the principal change is that I now find myself noticing much more the mechanics that lie beneath a story, rather than simply being caught up in the story and letting it sweep over me. I find myself watching how the author constructs the story and how he or she maintains the level of suspense required to keep the reader turning the pages. In a book I’m enjoying, I now appreciate not only a riveting story, but the skill with which the author has constructed it. In a book that doesn’t appeal to me, rather than just tossing it aside, I find myself reading on in an effort to discover where the author went wrong and what he or she might have done differently.

As to the second part of your question, yes, I do still troll through used bookstores looking for those hidden gems. Sometimes I’m looking for books that are now out of print in series that I enjoy and where I want to own a complete set. Otherwise, in recent years I’ve developed a fondness for some of the old pulp paperback originals that used to be published in the 1950s, and it’s always a lot of fun to find some cheap, trashy novel with a great story. The problem though, as with almost any other reader, is that I’m always discovering new authors that I like both in new and used bookstores, which means that I just have that many more books that I have to track down.

If there was an equation for the perfect thriller novel, what would it be?

I’m not sure that there is a single equation for the perfect thriller. Authors have taken a variety of widely differing approaches to the genre and have still produced excellent books. At a minimum, though, I think that a good thriller basically has to grab you by the throat on the first page and not let go until the last. It also has to have an appealing protagonist that the reader will want to root for and a problem sufficient to challenge the protagonist and demand his or her very best efforts. It needs to have sympathetic victims whose well-being and very survival depend on the protagonist, and it almost always needs a truly despicable villain who is nearly the equal of the protagonist. I’ve heard it often said that a thriller succeeds or fails more often because of the villain rather than because of the hero, and I think there’s a great deal of truth to that.

You hold a Ph.D. in History; how does your expertise in history and (specifically) the American West translate to your writing?

Another good question. Obviously, that expertise is critically important to the non-fiction that I’ve written. I’m not sure that my knowledge of the West is especially important to the crime novels that I’m writing now, but what has been critically important is the training I received, especially as a graduate student, in the art of writing itself. I was fortunate to work with a number of professors who had published a fair number of non-fiction books, and their supervision of my M.A. thesis and doctoral dissertation made me a much better writer than I otherwise would have been.

This question is from commenter Linda B: “How many books will there be in the series and where do your ideas come from?”

I’m not sure how many books there might be in the series, Linda. I really enjoy working with these characters and would like to continue doing so for a while, if for no other reason so that I can discover for myself what life might have in store for them. I have ideas for three or four books that would follow Until Death, but I have no set goal in terms of the number of books I might write in this series.

As for the second part of your question, the ideas for these books come from a variety of sources. Usually some stray thought will cross my mind and strike me as a potential idea for a book. As an example, the idea for No Place To Die was occasioned by a chance remark that someone made at an author’s event at a bookstore in Scottsdale, Arizona. It got me thinking about a specific neighborhood in Phoenix which I thought would make an excellent setting for a crime novel, and the story evolved from that little kernel of thought. A lot of times, though, these ideas don’t work out and I have any number of stories archived on my computer that ran out of gas after only a few pages.

No Place to Die is a highly visual book. If it were optioned for film, who would you cast as Sean and Maggie?

This is a question I always dread when I’m attending an event by another author and someone in the audience asks him or her what actors they think would best portray their characters. And whenever an author ventures to answer the question, I always cover my ears because I don’t want to know the answer. As a reader, I like to formulate my own impressions of what a character might look like, especially if it’s a long-running series character that I really enjoy. My impressions may vary widely from someone else’s, but they’re my own and whenever I think of a favorite character, the image I’ve constructed for myself is the one that comes to mind.

I think this is part of the magic of reading a book. The author may give you some details about a character or a particular setting in the book, but you’re left to fill in the remaining blanks yourself. Your imagination has much more free reign in this regard when reading a book than when watching a movie or a television program, and in that sense, I think that reading is a much more collaborative effort between the author and the reader than you get with movies and television.

In writing my own books, I’ve been very careful to give the readers some specifics about the way the characters look, but I haven’t described them down to the last detail. I’ve left room for the reader’s imagination to come into play, and I hope that most readers will appreciate that. Which, I suppose, is a long and involved way of saying that I’d really rather not answer this question!

Can you tell your fans a little bit about Until Death?

Until Death takes place three months after the conclusion of No Place To Die and features the same principal characters, Sean Richardson and Maggie McClinton. As those who read No Place To Die will know, the course of the life of the main protagonist, Sean Richardson, changed dramatically at the end of the book. I was interested in seeing how Sean would react to that change and the principal sub-plot of Until Death involves the way in which he’s adjusting.

The book opens with the brutal murder of a prominent Phoenix businessman, and Sean and Maggie are assigned to the case. But they are soon at a dead end. They can find no motive for the killing; they have no real evidence to pursue, and they have no viable suspects. Within the few weeks following the murder, two other men are killed. The cases appear unrelated until one afternoon an extremely attractive young woman comes into Sean’s office and provides him with the connection that links the three crimes. And I think that’s all I want to say about it at this point!

For more on James, visit his Web site.

No Place to Die is currently available in e-book, with the trade edition following this December. Until Death will also be released in trade and e-book this December.

Leave a comment for James and be entered to win a free e-book download of No Place to Die!

Thriller Thursdays: NO PLACE TO DIE

No Place to Die is the first novel in (what will be) a series of thrillers to feature homicide detectives Sean Richardson and Maggie Clinton. Compelling detectives and a strong victim who refuses to surrender makes this one impressive police procedural that any thriller fan should know about.

This week we’re previewing the first 2 chapters to give you a taste of James L. Thane’s style. Next Thursday, Thane himself will be stopping by the blog to answer your questions about No Place to Die and his new series! This is his first novel so we’re giving you a prime opportunity to get to know this exciting debut author! Leave a question in this preview’s comment thread and James will gladly answer as many as he can for next week’s Thriller Thursday post.

Here’s even more exciting news: No Place to Die is currently a $3.99 e-book download! The sale runs through Monday 08/22 so get it while you can!

Thrill on.

CHAPTER ONE

Dinner was almost ready when Beverly Thompson was snatched from her garage on a beautiful Wednesday evening early in February.

At forty-three, Beverly was still an extremely attractive woman with thick auburn hair that spilled down to her shoulders, framing an oval face highlighted by deep green eyes and a pair of medium-full lips. She watched her diet carefully and worked out as regularly as she could, and thus remained fit and trim at five feet five inches tall and a hundred and twenty-one pounds.

On that Wednesday evening, Beverly was twenty-seven months into her second marriage. Her first—to a fellow law student—had gradually run out of gas and finally sputtered to an end seven years earlier. Thankfully, it had produced no children.

Through the first four years that followed the divorce, Beverly had dated gingerly, dedicating the bulk of her time and energy to her career as a medical-malpractice attorney in a large firm in downtown Phoenix. But then she met David, a cardiologist who’d testified as an expert witness in a case that she won largely on the strength of his testimony. Following the trial, they had dated for four months and then lived together for another five before formally tying the knot.

At six thirty that evening, Beverly called David and told him that she was finally leaving the office after finishing a particularly grueling deposition. He promised to chill some Bombay Sapphire gin and two martini glasses while he started dinner.

Forty-five minutes later, eagerly anticipating the first sip of the promised martini, Beverly punched the button on the remote to open her garage door. She waited for a moment as the door rolled up, then pulled her Lexus SUV into the garage. She parked, as she always did, to the left of her husband’s Mercedes and then pressed the button on the remote to close the garage door behind her.

She was just stepping out of the car when she saw the man, dressed all in black, slip under the garage door as it rolled back down. Instinctively, she jumped back into the Lexus. With her left hand, she hit the button to lock all the doors; with her right, she laid on the horn.

In a heartbeat the intruder was at the door of the SUV, pounding on Beverly’s window with the butt of a pistol and yelling, “Lay off the goddamn horn!” Then he stepped back, pointed the gun at Thompson’s head and shouted, “Get out of the car, lady. now!”

Beverly threw her hands up and the garage went suddenly quiet. Her right hand still in the air, she reluctantly opened the car door with her left. As she did, the kitchen door opened and her husband stepped out into the garage. But before David could even begin to comprehend what was happening, let alone react to the situation, the man spun and fired, hitting David twice in the chest.

David slumped to the floor and Beverly let out a piercing scream. The commotion attracted the attention of Chester, the German shepherd that she and David had rescued from a shelter, who now came bounding out from the kitchen. Again the gunman fired twice, and the dog dropped to the floor, whimpering softly.

As Beverly continued to scream, the gunman jerked her out of the car, slapped her hard across the face, and shouted, “Shut the hell up!”

The man spun her around so that she was facing away from him and wrapped his left arm around her chest, pinning her arms to her sides and effectively immobilizing her. With his right hand he set the pistol on the roof of the car. Then he pulled a rag from his back pocket and clamped it over her mouth and nose.

Beverly struggled, the panic coursing through her body as she tried desperately to stomp on her assailant’s foot with her right heel. Unfazed, he simply squeezed tighter and lifted her up off the ground, her legs flailing ineffectively as she tried to kick back at him.

The rag was damp with something that tasted slightly sweet, and she shook her head in a frantic effort to avoid breathing the chemical into her system. But it was futile. Within a matter of seconds she felt herself slipping away. And as she faded into an unconscious state, the last thing she heard was the gunman whispering softly into her right ear, “Hello, Beverly. It’s very nice to see you again.”

CHAPTER TWO

I was headed from my office to the nursing home a little after eight p.m., when my cell phone began vibrating on the passenger’s seat next to me. I flipped open the phone and took a quick look at the caller ID, which indicated that the person so rudely intruding into the rest of my evening was my sergeant. Sighing heavily, I slowed from eighty to sixty-five and connected to the call.

The sergeant was a veteran named Hanneman who’d been with the Phoenix PD since the days of Wyatt Earp. Dispensing with any opening pleasantries, he said, “Richardson? We’ve got a guy and his dog who’ve been shot to death in a garage. It belongs to you and McClinton. I’m on the horn to her next.”

He gave me the address, which was in an upscale neighborhood on the city’s east side, and then disconnected.

Cursing both my luck and the Valley’s evening traffic, I took the Shea Boulevard exit off the Piestewa Freeway and headed east. Ten minutes after getting the call, I turned south onto Forty-fourth Street and then east again onto Mountain View.

Read more of this post

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

Today’s Thriller Thursday brings you the 3rd and final chapter in this preview series.

I know, all you want to do is keep reading. Chuck Hustmyre has that effect on readers. So when you find the detective in you screaming “WAIT WHAT’S NEXT?” as your eyes hungrily devour the last words in this post, don’t fret too much. None of that frustrating waiting-around-for-publication is in store for you; A Killer Like Me was released in trade paperback and e-book just last week!

It’s common publishing folklore that a thriller should never be left partially read, because really, who wants an unsolved mystery on their conscience? So buy away and get that horrid Lamb of God criminal locked up already.

I hope you enjoyed this peek into A Killer Like Me! Stop by next week for an excerpt from James L. Thane’s No Place to Die.

Thrill on,

Hannah

Giveaway winner: congratulations to Mr. Lad Castle!

CHAPTER THREE

Tuesday, July 24, 10:40 pm

The woman is tall, a good two inches taller than he. Her long legs spill from a black skirt the size of a paper towel. The tattoo across the front of her thigh barely stands out against her dark skin. He has to walk past her on the sidewalk to read it. Written in script, the tattoo says, “Johnny’s Girl.”

Her black hair is wrapped in a tight bun. She carries a small purse and wears a white blouse that shows a lot of cleavage. As he passes her, she gives him a long look, assessing him. Cop or john?

He turns to watch her sashay past. He has seen her before on this part of Tulane Avenue. Tonight, she is working the corner at South Dupre, just one block from the colossal granite courthouse that looms over the intersection of Tulane and Broad, and only two blocks from the back of the still-abandoned police headquarters building.

She hugs a streetlamp and spins around to look at him. For a minute he feels uneasy. She’s staring at him, expecting him to say or do something. Just like his mother. A half block separates them. She’s confident. He’s not. As he lurches toward her he tries to hide his unease.

The woman nods at him. “How you doing, sugar?”

An old Camaro, fire-engine red with loud pipes, blows past them on Tulane. The driver lays on the horn as he roars by and a young guy hangs out the passenger window. “Get you some, you fucking loser!”

The woman’s slim brown arm shoots up. She flips the bird at the passing car as it heads south in the direction of Saint Michael’s Catholic Church, less than a dozen blocks away. After a few seconds she drops her arm and turns toward him. “You looking for some company?”

He stares at the fading taillights of the Camaro.

“Don’t worry about them, sugar. Momma’s gonna take good care of you.”

A trickle of confidence seeps through his body. He sees her for what she is, a dirty slut who trades sex for silver.

Just down the street stands a three-story flophouse, easily within sight of the criminal-court building. The motel’s only customers are prostitutes and johns. Whores and drug dealers prowl Tulane Avenue all night long, while drunks and addicts shuffle past like zombies. He has seen dealers selling heroin on the courthouse steps, and whores down on their knees on those same steps.

It has to stop.

New Orleans is the new Sodom. And just like in the original, there are not even ten righteous men left here. He is the last, and his job is to call down the Lord’s wrath, to bring forth the cleansing fire that will make holy this unholiest of places.

His cleansing began more than a year ago. Tonight it will continue with this fallen woman on Tulane Avenue, a harlot so brazen she is unafraid to ply her trade only blocks from a house of God.

His wrath is growing. All he has to do is get through the next few awkward moments. He must make her believe he is an addled, sex-crazed cretin.

“H-h-how m-m-much?” he asks. His cursed stutter makes him feel weak. When his mother is drunk—which is nightly—she teases him by impersonating him in her whiskey-slurred imitation stammer.

“Depends on what you want,” the woman says. She glances around and lowers her voice. “Full service will cost you a hundred.”

The harlot isn’t mocking him with her voice, but he can still see the scorn in her eyes. “I-I-I’ll take f-f-full service,” he says.

The prostitute casts a glance at the motel. “A room cost extra, or we can just go behind one of these buildings. I’ll bend over and you can do me from behind.”

“I—I—I h-h-have a car.” He has to force the words from his constricted throat.

She shakes her head. “It better be big ’cause I ain’t getting in the backseat of no itty-bitty car.”

He steps closer to her. For an instant her eyes widen. Is it fear? A tiny pulse of electricity shoots through him. “I l-l-live j-j-just a few blocks away. We can g-g-go to my house.”

“Uh-uh, sugar. I ain’t going to nobody’s damn house. You might have all kind of freaky shit going on there.” She points to the flophouse. “We can go to that motel right there, or just do it in one of these alleys. I’ll suck your dick in your car, but I ain’t about to go to no house with you.”

He reaches out and takes hold of her elbow. The first contact sends a jolt through him. His confidence surges. “How much for a b-b-blow job?”

“Fifty.”

“Okay.”

He leads her to his car. Along the way she brushes her hand against his crotch a couple of times. She’s trying to get him excited. She has no idea it won’t work, that all she does is disgust him.

His car is parked on Gravier Street, in the middle of the block. He selected the spot carefully when he went looking for the woman. This section of Gravier is lined with run-down houses, many of them abandoned since the storm. The few residents still living here park on the street. His ten-year-old old Honda Civic blends in well.

Read more of this post

Thriller Thursdays: A KILLER LIKE ME + Giveaway (part 2 of 3)

Last week chapter 1 of A Killer Like Me introduced you to detective Sean Murphy. He believes the murder he’s investigating is part of pattern; another breadcrumb on the trail of a psychotic killer. But is his commander going to agree? Without a task force there’s no way Murphy can track this guy down.This week, chapter two takes the investigation a little deeper.

Keep reading for a further sneak peek into A Killer Like Me, and don’t forget to tell us what you think in the comment thread—you’ll be entered to win a trade copy! (The winner will be announced next Thursday).

Thrill on,

Hannah

CHAPTER TWO

Tuesday, July 24, 8:00 pm

“Whatever you’ve got to say, Murphy, say it quick,” Captain Michael Donovan said as he stood behind his desk, packing his briefcase. “I’m on my way home.”

Murphy and Gaudet squeezed into their commander’s office, a converted closet in a corner of the cramped Homicide Division, which was itself jammed into a corner of the police academy on City Park Avenue.

Since Katrina, the homicide cops had wandered like Bedouins, first working out of a commandeered cruise ship, then out of a pair of trailers in City Park, and finally from a set of cluttered rooms at the police academy.

A pair of Goodwill chairs stood in front of Donovan’s desk, but he did not ask the detectives to sit down.

Murphy cleared his throat. “I need resources, Captain. Money, investigators, support staff, enough for a task force.”

“A task force?” Donovan said. He dug a fingernail into a small sore on his head. He was nearly bald but tried to disguise it by keeping his remaining hair buzzed close to his scalp. “Are you still beating that dead horse?”

“Captain, there’s a serial killer out—”

“Bullshit,” Donovan barked. “The murders you’re talking about are unrelated and were committed by different perpetrators.” He sounded like he was reading from a departmental press release.

“How the hell can you say that?” Murphy snapped. “You haven’t been to even one of the crime scenes.”

“Watch your mouth, Detective,” Donovan said. His boozer’s nose was flushed. “I’ve read all the reports and I’ve seen all the photos. It’s obvious these cases were not the work of the same killer.”

Murphy glanced at his partner, standing beside him like a silent, 260-pound Buddha. “You got anything to say?”

Gaudet rolled his eyes. “I’m going to let you two crazy Irishmen fight it out.”

Murphy took a deep breath. Sometimes his partner’s lack of passion for the job infuriated him. He stared back across the desk. “Captain, these cases are linked, and the killer is getting more vicious. This time he kept the victim alive in order to torture her before she died.”

“You don’t know that,” Donovan said. “Any additional injuries the killer inflicted on the victim could have been postmortem.”

“She bled when he shoved a beer bottle into her rectum, something she would not have done had she already been dead. He’s starting to get off on hurting them, and he’s sped up his pattern.”

“There is no pattern,” Donovan said. “These cases aren’t connected.”

Murphy plunged forward. “The first six were roughly one every other month. Today is only the thirty-fifth day since the last killing. The next one will be even sooner.”

A blanket of silence settled over the room.

Murphy finally broke it. “We need a task force. This guy is not going to stop killing until we catch him.”

“Your time line is a load of crap,” Donovan shouted. “There has never been a serial killer in New Orleans, and we sure as hell aren’t going to have one on my watch.”

“The Axman.”

“What?”

“There was a serial killer here known as the Axman.”

“What are you talking about?”

“He attacked more than a dozen people and killed at least six of them,” Murphy said. “All with an ax. He even wrote a letter to the Times-Picayune and gave himself a name—the Axman.”

“When did this happen?” Donovan demanded.

Murphy cleared his throat. “The first attack was in 1911. The last one was in 1919. Officially, he was never caught.”

Donovan waved a hand at him like he was swatting a fly. “Get out of here. Even if that story is true—which I highly doubt—it’s ancient fucking history.”

“I need a task force to catch this guy,” Murphy said.

Donovan jabbed a finger in Murphy’s face. “Do you think me or anybody else in this police department gives a rat’s ass what you need? There is no serial killer, Murphy. There’s just a bunch of whack jobs, or psycho johns, or some other sick fucks. These girls were whores, for Christsakes. It’s a dangerous occupation. Mostly they get fucked, but sometimes they get killed. It’s been happening since the first whore sold the first piece of pussy.”

Donovan pointed to the door. “Now get out of my office and go solve some of these goddamn cases before I transfer your ass out of here and get myself a real detective.”

Read more of this post

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 39 other followers