First, a little about the book:
Title: Intensification - Pen Pals and Serial Killers - Story Three
Author: Jo Michaels
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Length: Looking like it'll be around 70k
Release Date: TBD (Spring 2018 for sure)
Detective Hank Reynolds has just been handed the case of a lifetime. Another reality TV star has gone missing, and it’s up to the Atlanta police department to find her before it’s too late. While he’s digging around, he discovers there have been nearly twenty similar kidnappings in the surrounding areas over the last twenty years, and while trying to find out more—and a witness that’s still alive—he’s dragged into a past he wishes he could erase. His dreams become nightmares about the women, and his sanity unravels. Even his eyes begin to play tricks on him, but no hallucinations are as devious as the antics of the killer—who’s always one breath away—waiting for the chance to strike again.
Now for the excerpt!
Rolling over, Claude’s eyes fell on the clock. Ten p.m. He grinned. That would give him plenty of time to do the things he wanted to do and still be back before it was time to get up and get moving for the day.
His feet made no noise as he padded down the hall to the garage, and he disabled the alarm system before opening the door. Careful not to knock anything over, he made his way in the dark to the table on the other side of the room and slid it to one side. A few wrenches hanging from pegs banged together, but there was no noise otherwise. Every night he went out, he was more grateful he’d thought to put the rollers on the legs. Once the table was slid aside, he stuck his pinky finger through a hole in the sheetrock and pulled.
It swung forward easily, the hole the only indication there was anything there. Inside were the articles he’d worn every night: A gray coverall, high boots, and a baseball cap with his favorite team’s logo emblazoned on the front.
He chuckled as he pulled it on, the NY turned toward the back. F--- the Red Sox and the horse they rode in on, he’d be a Yankees fan until the day he died.
Carefully, he folded the pajamas he’d been wearing before and put them in the hidey-hole, closing the door softly. His boots were in his hand, and he waited until he was safely in the alcove of the side door before slipping them on his feet. It wouldn’t do to leave prints from boots he wasn’t supposed to have anywhere inside.
Hands in his pockets, he stepped to the sidewalk, casting his gaze both directions before turning left and scurrying down three blocks then going right. His house was the fourth one on the left in the cul-de-sac, a large Tudor with an impressive privacy fence, a high gate, and only a few lights on inside that backed up to a large, wooded area. Before he went up to the door, he grabbed the mail out of the box, snickered at the fliers inviting him to shop at one store or another—they really didn’t want him anywhere near their establishments—and threw everything in the neighbor’s recycling bin.
It had been nearly a week since he’d been able to come home, and he could almost hear his beauties calling out to him. His hand shook as he put the key in the lock and turned, the excitement he was feeling threatening to boil over and consume him whole.
Claude dashed in and spun to engage the deadbolt, also sliding the long chain into place. Once it was locked, he allowed himself to relax. He peeled off the hat and boots, leaving them near the door, and the next to go was his coveralls. No clothing was required in his home, but he preferred to keep the boxer-briefs on. Sitting on chairs in the nude just made his balls sweaty, and he wasn’t about to suffer the discomfort.
As he walked through the kitchen, he swatted Alice on the ass and whispered in her ear, “I’ll be back in a few minutes. I have something to take care of first.”
She giggled in response, and he checked her wires to make sure she was secure before moving on to Nadine.
“How are you tonight, my love?” he asked, caressing her beautiful, brown face.
“I’m excellent, Claude. How are you?” Her sweet voice was like milk and honey to his ears, and he kissed her on the tip of her nose.
“Wonderful. Glad to be home.” After checking her wires as well, he ignored the other ladies and went for the door to the basement. He glanced around to be sure no one was watching and pulled his key out of its hiding place under the plant nearby.
Door finally unlocked, he gave it a hard tug, enjoying the cool hiss of air as the seal broke. He stepped through and pulled the door shut all the way, re-engaging the locks, before hitting the switch to turn on the light. The LEDs nearly blinded him, and as soon as they came to full strength, she started screaming.
There was no need to run or get angry, so he whistled as he made his way down the steps to her cage, laughing to himself the whole time.
When he rounded the corner, something whizzed past his head, and he ducked back.
“Easy now. You sure you want to throw things at me, madame?” He’d been working on his French accent, and it was nearly perfect.
“F--- you! Let me the f--- out of here, you f---ing psycho!” Her cage bars rattled.
“That’s not a nice way to speak to me, cherie. I saved you.”
“F--- that!” Her voice was so shrill, it echoed off the soundproof walls and bounced around like a pinball.
He winced and leaned out a bit so he could see her. There was nothing else nearby for her to throw, and her hands were empty, so he stepped all the way out and smiled at her. “Cherie, I’ve missed you.”
She backed away from his side of the cage, flattening her body to the back bars, her eyes wide and fixed on his approaching form.
That was the reaction that made him feel most powerful—when they moved away as though they could sense there was something dark inside him.
“I recognize you. You were that guy on the news, huh?”
“No. That wasn’t me.”
“Then your twin brother? I don’t understand how you two can be so diff—”
He launched himself at the bars. “Shut. Up.”
Laughter sprung up and out of her.
“Don’t you dare talk about things you have no knowledge of, or I’ll end your life right now.”
“That’s what you plan to do anyway, right? So why should I give a sh-t if you care what I’m saying or not?”
“Because what you say is the line drawn between whether you enjoy your death or have a really f---ing hard time of it, bitch.” He snarled as the last word dripped from his lips and smiled when she flinched.
As he tracked a path around the outside of the cage, she moved, too, keeping her body on the side farthest away from him. The way her muscles moved under the skin of her thighs made his c-ck hard, and he wiped drool off his chin. Her breasts were magnificent creatures, rising and falling every time she panted. Though she could use a washing, she was still the most alluring one he’d taken.
“You are so beautiful,” he whispered as he moved.
“F--- you!” she screamed.
“I can’t wait to add you to my collection. You’ll be my prized possession. I already have a room made up for you, and it’s just like something you’d pick for yourself. I can hear you thanking me now.” He lifted his voice a few octaves as he mimicked her. “‘Oh, Claude, I love every part of it so very much! You’re the best ever.’ And then maybe you’ll give me a kiss.”
“You know nothing about me, and there’s no way I’m ever going to kiss you.”
“Oh, but I do, Sharon. I do. I watched you for months on television, and then I followed you, always in the shadows where you couldn’t see me. That prick you were dating wasn’t worthy of you, darling.” His hand snaked out and caught her hair, and he pulled her to the bars closest to him. “You’ll never have to worry about not having the right man again, because I promise to take care of you for all time.”
“Killing someone isn’t taking care of them.” Tears were streaming down her face then, and her shoulders sagged. “Please, Claude. Please. Let me go?”
Pulling her head back, he yanked on her hair so the skin on her throat grew tight, the pulse banging away just under the surface. His teeth ached to sink into the supple flesh, tear at it, but he knew if he did, her corpse would be ruined, and he wanted her in his collection very badly.
He inhaled, savoring her perfume.
“Please,” she whispered.
“No.” It was a simple answer, and he watched her to see how she might react. That always told him the most about the women—how they responded when they didn’t get something they’d begged for.
Rather than grow angry, she softened, and her shoulders shook.
“Weak. Just as I expected.” His fingers opened, and he dropped her, letting her sink to the floor. “Tomorrow, mon cherie. Tomorrow!”
After bringing her some food that he left on a paper plate near the cage, he replenished her supply of water bottles then whistled his way back upstairs.
His ladies were waiting, and he had big plans for the evening.
He locked the door and stowed the key after making sure none of the women were watching, and then he went to join Ginger on the couch. “Mind if I have the remote?” he asked.
“Not at all, Claude.”
Taking it from her hand, he was careful not to knock around the supporting wire and damage the limb again like he’d done the week prior. It had been a bitch to repair, and he just didn’t have the time to dick around with it.
With a click of the red power button, the television came on, and he activated the DVR, looking for the latest episodes of She Wants to Marry Him.
Carefully, he put one arm around Ginger and pulled her close, moving her head so it rested on his shoulder. He kissed her blonde hair and laughed when the photos of the women on the show scrolled across the screen, their names emblazoned underneath. “Remember when you were on this show?”
Hand in her hair, he moved her head up and down.
“I bet you do. That d-ckless wonder didn’t know what he had in you, did he?”
Her head moved left and right.
“Let’s see what happens tonight.”
For two hours, he caught up on episodes he’d missed, using the notebook on the coffee table to write down details he thought might be important later on.
He tossed the pad back on the table, turned the television off, stood, and adjusted Ginger so she looked like she did when he arrived, caressing her chin with his thumb. “You’re so beautiful. It’s a shame you didn’t win that one, but it was probably because you’re so stupid.”
Returning to the kitchen and Alice, he wrapped his arms around her from behind and pressed himself to her back and rear. She was still firm, and he liked it. Her roundness made him ache with desire. He buried his face in her hair but pulled back when he got a whiff of something unpleasant.
Moving her hair to one side, he examined her neck, and found a small patch of skin had peeled back, revealing the stuffing he’d packed her with. A little more digging in the hole found the culprit of the horrendous smell. It was a tiny patch of mildew. She’d been near the sink too long and needed to dry out.
“Alice, darling. You’re positively rotting from the inside out. I’ll need to move you, okay?”
Her head moved up and down.
“Perhaps Hailey would like to take your place. I’ll just go ask her. Be right back.” He sprinted up the stairs, flipping on the light at the landing, and making a hard right into the master bedroom. There, he found Hailey lying on the bed with Juniper lying nearby, one hand covering one of Hailey’s breasts. “Get up, ladies! I need Hailey dressed and downstairs to take Alice’s place. You want to do that, sweetheart?”
“Of course, Claude. Anything for you,” she answered.
He dug a pretty dress out of the closet and helped Hailey into it, and then he lifted her over his shoulder and carried her down, careful not to bang her head on anything.
Alice was unhooked from the wires, the dry sponge taken from her hand, and she was placed on the floor nearby. Hailey was buckled in, the sponge put in her right hand, and a clean plate fixed to her left with some Velcro strips he kept in a nearby drawer.
After carrying Alice upstairs, stripping her naked, and arranging her in the bed with Juniper, he pressed his back to the wall to admire his handiwork, deciding quickly that her hand was too high. He adjusted it so it was between Alice’s legs and sighed.
Again, he backed up to the wall and peered at them. His ---- immediately as he watched them play with one another, giggling, kissing, and rolling on the bed, but he shook it off. There was no time for that right then. He had to get back before his time expired. Kissing each lady on the head, he scurried out and down the steps, his hard-on dropping the moment he stepped off the last one.
“Well, my lovelies, I’ll see you all tomorrow! We’ll have a splendid party soon! I’ll bring champagne, and you can welcome Sharon with open arms when I finally bring her up.”
He quickly dressed and hurried out the door, being sure to lock it behind himself, before jogging back the way he’d come.
Quickly and quietly, he snuck through the garage door, changed, rearmed the alarm system, and slipped back into bed.
At six a.m. sharp, the alarm sounded, jolting Hank out of a deep sleep. He rolled onto his back, one hand absently slapping at the offending noise. Finally, it stopped, and he groaned. It was like he hadn’t slept in weeks, and it was starting to take a toll on him. A decision was made then and there that the sleeping pills the doctor had prescribed would be taken that night. Just one night of rest was all he needed to trudge on through another few weeks of restlessness.
He peeled himself out of bed, pressed the button on the coffee pot, and headed for the shower. Music poured out of his mouth, and he took the detachable sprayer and held it in front of his lips, filling the small space with crescendos and a strong, natural vibrato. It was his favorite time of day, before dealing with the people from the office, before having to get into it with victims calling about some bullshit that may or may not have happened in the middle of the night; in that moment, he was just a man with music in his soul and warm spray from his shower microphone.
Once he was clean, he stepped out and toweled off, going to the kitchen to pour a huge cup of the coffee he could smell from the shower. He gulped at it, loving the way it burned as it made its way to his stomach. A sigh tore out of him. Perfection.
His routine was firmly established, and the next half hour was spoken for as he trimmed his beard, brushed his teeth, and dressed for the day in slacks and a button down, strapping his gun belt to his waist. He always grabbed was his wallet and badge as he left the bedroom, and those went in his back pockets. Then, he filled his travel cup with coffee and left for the day. On the drive to the precinct, he checked his voicemail. There were three calls: One from his ex-girlfriend inviting him for drinks—delete, another from his partner about the upcoming softball game—save, and a third from someone he didn’t know asking about the rich girl kidnapping—delete.
He sighed and threw the phone on the passenger’s seat, leaning back with two hands on the wheel, and finished driving to work while yelling at other drivers to pay attention to what they were freaking doing before they killed someone.
Pulling into the lot, he parked in his designated spot and got out, coffee in hand, to go up to his office. His partner was already there.
“Morning,” Hank said.
“Dude. Phones are blowing up over that rich girl model that went missing. Cap says we need to nail this bastard soon.” Tony thumped the desk with his forehead. “Sorry. Good morning to you, too.”
“Do we have any new information?”
“No. That’s the thing. There have been a million and one ‘hot tips,’ but none of them check out, ya know?”
Falling into a rolling chair behind a desk facing Tony’s, Hank shook his head as his anger bubbled. “Don’t know what Cap wants us to do about it if we don’t have any damned leads. The guys snatching these women might as well be g--damned ghosts!”
“I know. You’re preaching to the choir, man.”
“I’m just so f---ing frustrated with it all.”
“Well, what do you want to do today? Beat the streets?”
“We’re gonna have to.” Frustrated, he pulled the file folder over and flipped it open. A pretty brunette smiled out of the photograph. Missing nearly a week, she’d disappeared while grocery shopping at a local store, one with no exterior cameras. He read over the report once again, but the only thing that stuck out to him was that she’d been on TV on some reality show about marriage. There had been a couple of similar cases over the previous two years, and he assumed it was a pattern. He wondered if anyone else had put that together.
Their captain stuck his head out the door and barked at them to “get in his office. Now.”
With a sigh, Tony and Hank rose and went through the glass door.
“Take a seat, boys.”
They did, neither of them saying a word, Hank still clutching the file.
“I need you two on top of your game. This f---er has everyone terrified to take a step outside.”
He held up a hand. “Whoa. Hold on a sec, Cap. I’m thinking maybe this isn’t random and isn’t linked with those other two snatch-and-grab jobs from Fulton County. It struck me a few minutes ago that four young women who’ve been on one reality TV show or another have gone missing over the last few years. That suggests a pattern, right? I’m not sure Jane the Wife has anything to be afraid of—as long as she doesn’t live in Fulton.”
“Right. Suggests. There’s no way to be sure of that, Reynolds. If they’d all gone missing after being part of one show, we’d have something.”
Truer words were never spoken, and he knew it; he just didn’t really like it all that much. A kidnapper had to be established a number of years, and have a definitive pattern, but the cases they were working had no links between all the victims, only four out of six. It also seemed their realty perp only been active a little while. If Hank’s suspicions were correct, the guy had already snatched the three other women who were in the public eye, but lesser known than the most recent.
“My gut tells me we’ll catch someone soon, so I want you boys looking into everything you can think of, okay? Get out there and get me some answers. I need to assure people that my guys aren’t complete morons.” Cap crushed his cigarette in the ashtray and waved his hands. “Get!”
Tony and Hank got up and left, neither of them with a spring in their step.
“Let’s go, big guy,” Tony said.
“Wait a sec. I’m gonna grab another cup.” Hank refilled his travel thermos and capped it. “Okay. Ready. Let’s do this sh-t.”They got into Tony’s car, a black Impala, and pulled out, headed for the last known address of the missing girl and the grocery store she’d gone missing from.
I hope you enjoyed that! EEP!
What do you think? Is Claude's house weird or what?
Well, that's all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!