She wakes to the dawn light streaming through the window and rolls over to whisper good morning to her fiancé. But panic floods her veins. His side of the bed is empty and cold. Blood trails towards the open door. All trace of him is gone…
It’s been one month since Detective Katie Scott’s fiancé, Chad, went missing without a trace. Devastated Katie is still working tirelessly day and night to track down the love of her life, barely sleeping and chasing every new lead. But now the case has gone cold.
When the body of beautiful Gina Hartfield is discovered among the pine needles in a clearing on Lookout Ridge, Katie swallows her own pain and knows she must focus on finding Gina’s killer. The young woman was found with a pink velvet blindfold shading the hollows where her eyes had been removed. Katie is certain she is chasing a sadistic individual who will soon take another life…
But the autopsy reveals Gina’s body was washed before being abandoned, leaving no trace of evidence behind. And with no witnesses to Gina’s disappearance, the women of Pine Valley are terrified to go out alone.
Desperately combing the crime scene, when Katie sees a newspaper article about her previous cases pinned to a nearby tree, she is certain Gina’s murder is personal. Then tire tracks found in the forest are matched to a truck seen following Chad in the days leading up to his disappearance. Katie’s blood runs cold.
Is there a link between Chad’s disappearance and Gina’s brutal murder, or is the killer playing a twisted game with Katie? Can she find out the truth before they take another life?
Here’s what critics are saying about Her Dying Kiss!
“I couldn’t put it down… action-packed with excellent plot twists… I had no idea what was coming next… so gripped with many twists and turns.” Goodreads reviewer
“Excellent, nail-biting thriller with a plot that’s had me enthralled from page one… I’ve been gripped through each twist and turn… jaw-dropping and totally unexpected… brilliant.” NetGalley reviewer
One Month Later
Tuesday 1130 hours
There was a dead body, which was the focus of the synchronized police search. A deceased woman had been found by the utility company during their routine check and maintenance of the meters along the roadway. The body was efficiently wrapped in a large piece of dark brown burlap that had been rolled several times leaving only her head exposed. If not looking closely you would misinterpret the body dump for some type of discarded rug.
The victim was a brunette woman with long, perfectly combed hair with the strands resting on the burlap. At first, it seemed she was relaxed and had merely gone to sleep when, in fact, there were pink velvet pieces of fabric covering her eyes, as if shading her view of something.
John Blackburn, Pine Valley Sheriff’s Department’s forensic supervisor, kneeled down and carefully lifted one of the pieces of velvet, revealing the dark empty socket the eyeball had once occupied. The eye had been cleanly detached. It gave the body a more macabre appearance than the usual fixed eye stares of the dead.
John’s face was deeply sad and his mouth was turned down as he prepared to take a few more photos to document the scene before the medical examiner’s office took possession.
He carefully circled the body, taking the appropriate photographs—overall, medium range, then close-up—before collecting any evidence he could find. The young woman looked to be resting as the late afternoon sunshine cast down on her face. Her complexion, pale and ashen, appeared to be scrubbed clean, giving her a waxy doll-like exterior. There were no evident signs of makeup, dirt or blood on her face.
The south district area of Pine Valley was known for several warehouses that had been empty now for more than six months after a manufacturing company had vacated to a newer and more modern facility in an adjacent town. The front area to the one where the body had been found was overgrown, the weeds a few feet tall and garbage strewn around from where it had fallen out of an overturned, rusted-out dumpster. The dreary grey building looked more like emergency bunkers from a long time ago than a plant that had recently manufactured automotive parts.
Parked along the cracked driveway leading to the loading docks were several police cruisers, county vehicles and the forensic van. The main area of interest was near one of the loading bays. There were numerous cones and flags around, marking various pieces of evidence for photography documentation. The emergency personnel monitored the area and were conducting grid searches and making sure that no one was in or around the area that wasn’t supposed to be there, in addition to searching for more potential evidence. Everyone moved with precision and unity for the common goal of maintaining the crime scene.
“What do you think, John?” asked Detective McGaven. His towering height made him noticeable from a distance. His badge and gun were attached to his belt. “Is it the same as the other at Lookout Ridge?”
John walked up to the detective and nodded slowly. “We won’t know for sure until the body is unrolled and examined under controlled conditions, and I can run some tests… but, the signature appears to be similar if not the same, with the removed eyes.”
McGaven scratched his head, still observing the latest victim. His thoughts returned to his partner, Detective Katie Scott, and how he wished she were there examining the crime scene. Her perspective, instincts, and experience over the past year and half had been more than exemplary—her methods sometimes bordering on unorthodox, but always getting results. He had left several messages for her in hopes that she would open communications and ultimately return to work. His expression was solemn. It was as if a part of him was missing without her. He wanted to go to her house, but respected her need for privacy at this difficult time.
“Wish Katie was here?” said John watching the detective closely.
McGaven looked at the forensic supervisor and nodded. “How’d you know?”
“I feel it too. It seems strange not having her here.” He gazed around the area as if he expected to see Katie appear.
“Anything new with this scene?”
John shook his head. “Not that I can see right now. But we’ll know more soon.”
McGaven was disappointed, but knew that John would do everything he could to find any evidence. The last thing the detective wanted was for these homicides to go cold. He turned away and saw Detective Hamilton speaking with the utility workers. It wasn’t his optimum partnership, but he respected the detective and would overlook personality differences to make it work. “Thanks, John,” he said as he walked away, moving carefully around the area, looking for possible entrances and exit locations of the killer.
A young blonde woman with short hair was bent over taking a tire impression with a type of dental stone, waiting for it to harden. She looked up when McGaven approached. “Hi, Detective,” she said and smiled.
“How’s it going, Eva?”
“Good. This is my third impression. Two were consistent to each other and this one is different and definitely older. It’s probably not the killer’s, but John said we needed to be thorough.”
McGaven nodded. “I agree. If this crime scene is connected to the other one at Lookout Ridge, then we need the evidence to tie them together.”
“Ten-four,” she said and continued her task.
McGaven saw that Hamilton was speaking with the officers first on the scene so he took the opportunity to check out around the building. Everything was extremely overgrown, looking more as though it had been abandoned for years, not months. The weeds were extremely tall and had folded over due to their height and weight. There was an area where pallets, recyclable materials, and miscellaneous pieces of metal equipment had been stacked in the deserted area.
Still walking carefully, he was trying not to step on something potentially hazardous or possibly evidence-oriented. The further he walked the quieter it became—the voices around the crime scene seemed to settle to a low hum as he studied the back area. The sun was high and beat down on him making perspiration trickle down his back. He kept walking, but nothing appeared out of the ordinary. He thought about what Katie would do—he had been with her at many crime scenes and knew she would try to get a sense of the area, to look for places where the killer might have been.
The back of the building looked much like the front except more weather-beaten. The grey paint faded in areas and the windows on the second floor were dirty with some broken out. He observed the inconsistencies of the exterior of the building. Even though there wasn’t any graffiti to deface the area, the elements had caused rough and weathered places resembling an industrial mosaic appearance.
As he perused the area, he noticed a trail where weeds had been trampled, not by animals, but by something bigger. A person. Stopping in his tracks, he systematically scanned the area. There were no other signs indicating disruption to the weeds, so he cautiously moved forward. He spotted some paper or a piece of garbage rolled up tightly and wedged into the crevice of an exterior vent. It could have been easily missed or even dismissed, but something in McGaven’s gut made him take notice. He was going to alert John and Eva in order to have them search and document the area, but his instinct drove him to verify the origins of the paper first after quickly taking a photo of it with his cell phone.
Taking two more steps to meet up with the wall, he retrieved his gloves and slipped them on, and then carefully touched the paper. Leaning in, McGaven noticed that it appeared to be consistent to ordinary computer paper that had something printed on it. It wasn’t weathered and the printing was dark and readable. In fact, the paper appeared to be recent.
McGaven gently unrolled the paper. The condition and edges were as if it had been placed recently – there were no folds or fragile areas. As he continued to unroll it, he saw it was an article most likely printed from the internet. To his shock, the title read: Pine Valley Detectives Solve Three Murders in Coldwater Creek.
McGaven took a step back—his senses were now heightened as he glanced around, surmising that the killer had placed this article for them to find.
Was it the killer’s calling card? Was he taunting the police?
Was there another article hidden at the previous crime scene at Lookout Ridge they had missed?
The article concerned the last case that he and Katie had worked in a neighboring town. All the details flowed through his mind. It had been tough and dangerous. He carefully replaced the paper where he had found it and hurried to alert John.
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