Jake Daniels is a man haunted by nightmares and events that won’t seem to leave him in peace. His job with the FBI is hanging by a thread and now he has another serial killer on his hands, something he’d hoped to escape from when he left the big city.
In a small northern California town, someone is killing women in a bizarre fashion. Holidays are supposed to be a special time of year, but the holidays in this town are turning into nightmares. Jake gathers his team including a high-brow psychiatrist from San Francisco, an Aussie cop on loan, an ex-cop who did time for murder, along with an ex-pro football player with something to prove. In spite of the local sheriff and the coroner, who view the FBI’s intrusion as a challenge, Jake and his team are determined to find the devil destroying holiday festivities.
GENRE: Murder Mystery: Serial Killer ISBN: 978-1-922233-62-2 ASIN: B00JDZNKU0 Word Count: 87, 291
The night hummed, electric with unbridled human energy. An inky, moonless sky made a perfect backdrop for multi-colored light displays and gaudy plastic arrangements of false holly, pine trees, and religious figurines. Nervous wisps of gauzy snow clouds insinuated themselves across the velvet backdrop, their insubstantial fingers tenuously touching the strobe-like flashes, reflecting and magnifying them. Combined with raucous music and the voices of people jostling each other along the streets, the chaotic lightshow of festivities turned the street into a parody of a 1970s discotheque.
It was Christmas Eve and death stalked the innocent on this holiday night.
One tall figure, bundled in a heavy woolen overcoat and slouch hat, watched the festivities out of the corner of his eye while blending with the shadows in a deserted alleyway. But the real cause of his holiday celebration existed on the other side of the window he jealously guarded.
The sensory intrusion of merry-making reverberated through and around the man, a shadow within a shadow, deafening and jagged inside his skull. He ignored it.
The window showcasing an old style 1930s ballroom, like a spectacular 3D movie, ensnared his attention to the exclusion of all else. Within his world, this window, the only window to exist, separated him from the only thing he wanted, the only thing he lived for. He focused all his attention on her, the one face, one glowing entity, shining in a room full of dead, faceless lumps of useless humanity.
A full instrument band filled the room with cheerful, but seductive, music. She swayed with the crowd while her delicate long-fingered hand grasped the neck of a champagne bottle and her eyes closed in sensual ecstasy. Confetti and ribbons littered her thick hair as it came loose from a pair of fragile filigree combs.
He loved to watch her hair cascading down to her small waist. He reached out toward the frosty glass of the window; impulsively wanting to stroke that mane of silken hair as it tumbled over her shoulders. A golden, strapless dress clung to her curves, imbuing her body with the aura of a priceless work of art. The dress shimmered as she laughed and kissed the men surrounding her on the dance floor.
He watched her move away from her admirers only to bend over and kiss a lone middle-aged man sitting at the bar. The man leered into the mounds of flesh mere inches from his face. Moist, pink lips formed a smile then erupted into a delighted laugh when the drunk at the bar grabbed her arm. She distracted him by pointing at the big screen television mounted above the bar. It showed the giant Christmas tree in front of the White House as it came alive with lights. A split screen showed an even larger and gaudier tree being lit in Times Square, eternally heralding another year of good will, peace and the promise of new hopes and revived dreams.
It officially became Christmas Day.
When her breasts threatened to escape from her dress, the watcher clamped his lips together and ground the painful erection he sported against the brick wall under the window frame. Blood pounded in his ears, his hands shook harder, and his breath fogged up the windowpane. His world narrowed into a pinpoint of anticipation and rage.
The woman drunkenly swayed away from the drunk’s grasp and turned to talk to the man pressed tightly behind her. Still leering, the man at the bar leaned forward, rubbing his hand over the satin of her buttocks. The captor standing before her grinned and slid his hand between them to cup her pubic mound, she froze in place, a doe trapped between two predators who pressed her between them without mercy. Her hand snapped up to slap the man who stared into her eyes while grinding his probing fingers between her legs. Raised in midair, her hand stopped, as if an invisible wall prevented her from making contact. She turned and fled.
Squeezing through the crowd, her stiff body made jerky progress toward the room beyond. She disappeared into the connecting room and out of the watcher’s view.
Shuddering with anxiety and breathless expectancy he waited. His gaze alternated between the window and the street; knowing she’d appear in one or the other. His breath caught in anticipation of seeing her without the coldness of glass between them. While he huddled inside his coat, crouched into the attitude of a cat ready to spring, the crowds on the sidewalks became noisier and their actions more blatantly sexual or violent. Their smells and noises angered him, awakening a sense of violation inside his gut that railed against the very presence in this world of human vermin.
This moment belongs to me! And to her! he thought while watching an approaching couple.
Young, uncaring and holding each other up as they clutched each other’s waists, they ducked into the alleyway where he now stood deep in the shadows. They groped, gyrated and moaned against each other; rutting in the alley like animals. Drunk beyond all self-control, they rarely took long and often left with most of their clothes open or missing, leaving naked bodies exposed to public view. Although deeply repulsed, he liked to watch. Sometimes he followed them when they left. But tonight was for her…only for her.
Tonight, the dream would bring her to him. He’d waited and watched, just like the dream told him to, and now, she would be his. His hands oozed sweat worse than ever and his body shook so violently he was ready to explode. He pulled sweaty leather gloves off and rubbed the moisture from his hands; roughly swiping them over the soft wool collar while subconsciously pulling at it, partially hiding his face. Nervously tucking the gloves into a pocket, he licked dry lips and waited for her, like an impatient teenager on a first date. The thought of finally showing himself to this vision of pure angelic womanhood set panic scurrying around his belly. Frantically putting the gloves back on, he pulled his hat lower to hide his eyes. His gaze swiftly shifted from the doorway to the building, to the street and back to the filth of the alleyway, like a caged animal ready to gnaw his way to freedom. His gaze locked onto the pattern of the brickwork he stood upon, forcing him to notice that snow was falling again.
After what seemed like eons, she stepped out of the building with a white fur wrapped tightly around her body and the dim overhead neon light emphasizing the pale golden cascade of her hair. She stood under the awning, slowly turning her head to the right and left, cornflower eyes searching for a taxi and giving him a private show of her classic beauty as her profile turned to accommodate his admiring gaze.
She’s so clean, so pure and she’s mine.
He vibrated with anticipation and licked his lips again. He could smell the heavy musk of her perfume.
Clinging to the staircase handrail for support, her body shivered with the cold. How he longed to warm her.
He poised himself at the mouth of the alley ready to follow whichever way she went. She cursed loudly, realizing the taxis were wisely staying away from the downtown area tonight, then shivered again. The harsh cold seemed to make up her mind for her. Shakily making her way down the stairs on thin-strapped high heels, her hand slid down the rail. He held his breath, hoping she wouldn’t fall on the icy concrete. She made it to the sidewalk, turned right and slowly moved down the street away from the alley. The watcher stepped out and turned to see if any of the loud party-makers clogging the street noticed his presence.
Soon she will be mine. The grin widened into a leer.
Soon. The leer widened into a twisted snarl.
His hungry gaze riveted on her retreating back and stayed there, like a possessive hand on her neck, until she disappeared into the night. He knew her destination; a cozy apartment three blocks away.