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by Angel Haze
Thou shalt not kill.
A contradictory message written in blood at the scene of a young woman’s murder. Within days, another body surfaces with a similar calling card and, to Detective Ramon Faust and Criminalist Kelly Garret, it’s clear a deadly game is underfoot.
As the rash of horrific crimes continue, a phone call unearths a shocking revelation: Nakeita isn’t the first city the elusive killer has left his mark. The Bloodletter, as dubbed by the media, has played his deadly game before.
Delving deep into the most terrifying case of Kelly’s career, threatening phone calls and flashbacks of a forgotten near-death experience challenge her sanity and the lives of everyone she loves.
Here’s a teaser!
“Twenty-one-year-old white female named Lily Cooper, found in Edmond Park, raped and murdered,” Detective Ramon Faust explained as he spread the crime scene photographs across the table in front of the three criminalists. “A guy named Joe Woodview found the body. He was jogging in Edmond Park around seven on Friday morning. She was hidden in a wooded area in the southeast corner. Been dead for a day and a half.”
One of the criminalists, Kelly Garret, lifted a photograph of the victim, slightly unnerved by their shared resemblance despite her being nearly ten years the victim’s senior. Beyond their similarly long, wavy, dark hair, deep brown eyes, plump lips and shapely figures, Lily had a tattoo of a lily on her hip. She had been in her second year of Nursing at the University of Nakeita. She was young, beautiful, and full of potential, but her twenty-first birthday was the last that she would see.
“She was shot point blank in her right temple with a .38 caliber revolver,” Detective Faust said. “If the killer shot from behind, this likely means he’s right-handed. But, if he shot from the side, it’s anyone’s guess. There are bruises around her wrists and around her pubic region, skin under her nails, and a few broken nails. She wasn’t going down without a fight.”
Another criminalist, Nina Brandt, leaned back in her chair, twirling a pen between her fingers. Her blonde hair was pulled in a loose ponytail, her expression hardened by growing up with three brothers and fifteen years on the job. “Good for her,” she said.
“We found a few short black hairs and some long brown hairs. Her blood alcohol content was 0.17,” said Faust.
Kelly sighed. “With her small stature and that much to drink, she didn’t stand a chance.” She glanced at Chad Evans, her best friend since childhood, surprised he hadn’t put in his two cents. His head remained down as he scribbled information into his notebook.
She shuffled through the photos. In one of them, the victim was lying supine on the grass in a pink cotton tank top and a white knee-length shirt, both stained with blood. Her skirt was pulled up, revealing her ripped panties. The small pink purse to her left was closed. Forty-five dollars in cash remained in her wallet.
“As of yet,” said Detective Faust. “We don’t know where she was that night or who she was with.”
“It was her birthday. I doubt she was out drinking alone,” said Nina, pulling the pen out of her mouth.
“No one has come forward and her parents haven’t a clue.”
“What about girlfriends?” Kelly interjected.
Faust shook his head. “I have yet to find out. I’m not sure what kind of relationship the victim had with her parents. It seems to me, they were often left in the dark.”
Kelly’s eyes narrowed. “They don’t know any of her friends?”
“Her mother said she never brought them home. No one ever called the house. She provided me with a small list, but none of them, with their busy schedules, had seen her in a few weeks.”
Chad looked up from his notebook. “What about a cell phone?”
“I’m working on that.” Faust said.
Kelly tapped her fingers on the table. “Maybe she met someone, either at a bar or as she was walking down the street. Someone who wanted to take her home. Maybe she resisted. Maybe she didn’t. Maybe he wasn’t taking no for an answer.” She stared down at the ripped panties, wondering what type of woman the victim had been. Had she been interested in having sex with the man who had done this to her? Had she been interested but then changed her mind? Or had someone flat-out attacked her?
“Until we figure out something with her cell phone or someone steps forward—” Faust began.
“Why didn’t anyone report her missing until yesterday?” Kelly interrupted, tapping on one of the photos of the victim’s lifeless body.
Faust turned to her. “She was scheduled to attend an out-of-town conference on Thursday. She lived alone in an apartment. Her mother last spoke to her on Wednesday morning to wish her a happy birthday, but no one expected her home until Friday evening.”
Nina rolled her eyes. “Well, this just keeps getting better and better.”
“Won’t it be wonderful?” Iesha asked, gazing into the man’s deep brown eyes. “It’ll be just as I’ve always imagined it. Oh, how happy we’ll be! The two of us raising a family.”
He shifted in his chair, avoiding her eyes. “What’s wrong?” she asked. Their eyes met momentarily, but he shied away from her. “What is it?” She squeezed his hand, but he pulled away. “Adam?”
“I can’t do this,” he said, his voice barely a whisper.
“What?” she asked, unsure of whether she had heard him correctly? “What do you mean?”
“I can’t do this,” Adam repeated. “Not anymore. I can’t leave her. I love her too much.”
Iesha’s eyes swelled with tears. “But . . . I love you.” She waited for him to tell her that he loved her too, but he remained silent, staring down at his hands.
“You love me, don’t you?”
“I . . . I . . .” His voice trailed off.
Tears streamed down her face. He wouldn’t even look at her. “You love me. I know you do.”
He stood and turned away from her. She ran to his side, grabbing his wrist. “Please, don’t do this!” she cried. “We were meant to be together! Tell me you love me!”
“I love her.”
“No!” she screamed. “I know you love me. You don’t love her!”
“I’m getting married soon. I can’t keep fooling around. I don’t want to hurt her. I just can’t.”
“What about me?” yelled Iesha, tugging at his shirt. “What about what I want?”
His eyes narrowed. “You just don’t get it. There is no you. There is no us. This was all just a big mistake.”
A mistake? Their love, a mistake? A sham? She scowled. How could he do this to her? How could he play her like this?
“But, you can’t marry her!”
“Goodbye, Iesha.” He turned his back to her.
She followed him to the staircase, searching desperately for any kind of solution. Thirty more seconds and he’d be out the door. Out of her life. She couldn’t let that happen.
She pulled on his wrist. “Don’t leave me.” She sobbed. “I feel like a broken record. What do I need to say to make you stay? Please! I’ll die without you!”
He whipped around, his eyes burning with anger. “That’s enough, Iesha! I’ve bloody well had it with you. It’s over. Get it? Don’t call me. Don’t write. Don’t email. It’s over. I don’t love you. You hear me? I don’t love you.”
That was when she pushed him.
It wasn’t supposed to happen the way it did. He wasn’t supposed to fall. Her outstretched hand couldn’t save him in time. He tumbled down the basement stairs and the sound of his neck snapping would never be erased from her mind. The terror in his eyes as he fell would forever haunt her.
A cool wind rippled through Iesha’s nylon jacket as she began to walk down the narrow dirt path. It was dark now. She figured it was probably around nine o’clock. She shouldn’t be thinking of what happened. Not in the dark.
An owl cried mournfully in the distance.
She looked around, pulling her jacket tight. A sense of uneasiness crept up, and she wondered if she was alone. Someone could be watching her from within the shadows. Some dark man could be monitoring her every move, plotting and waiting for the perfect moment to strike. Someone could be hidden behind one of the trees looming over her like souls reaching from the depths of Hell. She felt like Little Red Riding Hood being pursued from some silent, invisible wolf.
Suddenly, a dark object moved ahead of her.
Iesha felt her heart jump as a pair of glowing eyes and a mouthful of razor-sharp teeth dripping with saliva flashed before her. She shuddered, attempting to block out the horrible images. Her imagination was only making things worse.
Nervously biting her lower lip, she closed her eyes and took a deep breath. There’s nothing there. It’s just your imagination, she told herself. From this, she drew little comfort. She knew she had seen something, but she didn’t intend to stay long enough to find out.
Just then, a dark outline of a man appeared less than twenty feet away, an object in his hand gleaming in the moonlight.
She gasped, surprised her suspicions had been correct. The man was just ahead of her and coming closer.
Iesha found herself surprisingly frozen in her steps, despite her mental efforts to run. She was shaking uncontrollably and her heart was pounding like a rabid animal, trying to force its way out of a cage.
Iesha could hear him laughing hysterically like he knew she was trapped. He could sense her fear and he was laughing. Or was that her imagination?
There was nothing fake about this, though. This was real. He was real.
Run. She had to run.
But her body was stiff, and her mind was racing. Desperately, she searched for an escape route, but found nothing, only a dark forest. He was closing in on her and her time was running out. There was nowhere to go. No one would be able to hear her screams. She was trapped.
Closer now, she could see his face. His long dark hair hung heavily over his forehead. His dark eyes bored into her as if he was locking his victim and drawing her in. She wanted to look away, to look past him, but she couldn’t let him see her fear.
She looked down, unable to meet his gaze. Go away! Stop staring at me! Against her wishes, she gritted her teeth and managed to look up at him. He was grinning at her with sadistic eyes that sent chills up her spine.
“Aren’t you a tasty treat,” he said, rolling his tongue along his lower lip as he stared at her breasts.
Iesha shuddered. You don’t want me! I’m fat! How can you even look at me?
The man stared down at her. No matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t look away. Once their eyes had locked, it was like she had turned to stone. Her breathing was shaky and loud, and she wondered if he could hear it.
He chuckled at her vulnerability, stumbling backwards. The man was drunk.
“Would you like a drink?” he asked as he offered her the bottle he’d been holding.
A bottle. It was only a bottle.
A weight lifted, but she was still not at ease. She was well-aware of his intensions. “N-no thanks,” she stammered.
His pocket. There could be a knife in his pocket. And what if he had a gun?
“I ain’t gonna hurt you, sweetheart. You don’t want a drink, that’s fine with me. Whatever you want.”
Iesha froze as he stumbled past her, flinching as his jacket brushed her side. His eyes narrowed as he caught her expression. He shook his head, muttering something incoherent about women.
She was ten feet away from him when the man began to yell. “H-hey!”
Iesha cringed and bit her lip. She hadn’t been discreet enough. Maintaining a quick pace, she refused to give into the temptation to run. She didn’t want to set him off.
“Hey!” he yelled again, this time a little louder.
She felt her leg break into a sprint. Soon she wasn’t far from home. She had to make it home where it was safe!
“You stupid bitch! I wasn’t going to hurt you!” His heavy footsteps ran close behind her.
Tears were streaming down her cheeks. She didn’t dare look back. Iesha couldn’t bear to look at that face again, but it didn’t matter. The face would be there every time she closed her eyes, taunting her. She would never be able to block it out.
She was breathing heavily, almost wheezing, but she couldn’t stop.
Suddenly, her foot caught in the root of a tree, and her arms instinctively shot out in front of her as she took in a mouthful of dirt. She found herself alone, vulnerable as she lay in the dirt as she looked back for him. Even though she couldn’t see him, there was no way to be sure that he was gone. He could still be out there, watching and waiting.
Back on her feet, she ran as fast as she could. Bombarded with cramps, she clutched her side, but her body didn’t allow her to slow down.
She was panting as she reached the house, her mouth dry, her throat burning. Her shaky hand fumbled with the keys in her coat pocket as she ran up the porch steps, past the two jack-o-lanterns.
Only when she reached the door did she dare look behind her. The man was still nowhere to be seen.
Next door, over at her neighbor’s mansion, the downstairs lights were on and music was blaring. The man must have come from there. Her neighbor, Dr. Willmar, threw wild parties regularly.
She quickly stepped into her house and closed the door. Her hands were still shaking as she engaged all three locks.
Chills ran up her spine as she felt another presence. Flipping the switch, her body stiffened as she listened.
Hollow breathing broke the silence. It was close, too close.
Her body was shaking uncontrollably. She whipped around and gasped as she stood face to face with the Grim Reaper.
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