Thursday, October 17, 2013

Sweet Dreams (In the Mind of a Serial Killer) by January Valentine Excerpt

Sweet Dreams (In the Mind of a Serial Killer) by January Valentine

A serial killer is on the loose, moving up the East Coast, leaving bodies & notes. Planting roses in his victims. Leonardo Gibraldi, Baltimore’s sexy Assistant DA, is tracking the fiend who’s responsible for the grisly murder of his ex-girlfriend. Leo’s out for revenge — so is the killer. Between hunting the madman, and fighting off beautiful women, Leo’s got his hands full. There's one break in the case: An eye witness who says, “It doesn’t look human.”


The cold rain in the bloated sky promised Atlanta an early frost. Fallen leaves mixed with runoff gathered in gutters, in some areas flooding the pavement where congested storm drains regurgitated heavy downpours. There was no morning wind to freshen the dampness, so the air around town was burdened with a mixture of traffic exhaust and decomposing leaves. Lawns were soggy with puddles, and bordering sidewalks reeked like the damp fur of scraggly dogs.
On the way to work the evening before, the girl's wipers wore out and quit just as she had entered the parking lot. Her night shift finally ended at seven a.m., but the rain did not. Stubborn torrents continued to fall in periodic intervals. She couldn't drive without wipers; she'd have to put in some involuntary overtime while she waited for the weather to clear. Her boss wasn't happy about it, but since he wasn't about to drive her home, and neither would spring for a cab, the cranky man approved the OT.
The girl, Tonya Miller, worked the graveyard shift at an industrial medical complex not far from her home on the outskirts of the city. Quality control shared the ground floor of the factory where humans and machines manufactured everything from bedpans to heating pads, sick room needs, even some heavy duty hospital equipment.
Tonya was part of the quality control team. After a long night on the assembly line, inspecting every tenth item, she was tired but her hands kept moving as her eyes darted repeatedly across the enormous warehouse to the windowed walls, checking for a break in the weather. After the storm subsided she'd go home, catch a few hours sleep, then take her sedan over to the shop where her brother worked. He'd fix her wipers for free.
The vehicle was tucked into a space near the exit of the employee parking lot. Rain was the only thing ever to wash grime off the dark paint, but it did nothing to remove muddy boot prints and candy wrappers that were stuck to the interior floors. Alert, sitting on the high front seat, a figure was dressed in a black trench coat with matching hat, and an intense stare alternating between the driving rain and the dashboard clock that moved as slow as the driver's bowels.
This was a mission that required concentration and strength, fundamentals that had been depleted during the four hundred mile journey to this new and interesting place. The place where the driver had hunted. Hunted and watched. Watched for the perfect one. And she was here. Inside the building. The building with concrete walls, dark paned windows. Steel doors that opened and closed for others, but not for her. She remained within the safety of the building, where rain doused the six story roof, coursed through furrows and drain pipes, cascading to the ground like dozens of waterfalls, cleansing the parking lot. Elevating tension.
Damn rain made it difficult to peer through windblown sheaths, dropping like daggers, pelting the windshield. Agitation crept in, dissolving anticipation as quickly as the grime off the vehicle. If it lasted much longer, nothing could happen today. Fuck. Routine could not be broken. Errors could then occur, which in turn would ruin the plan. Serious errors that could disrupt the inevitable flow. Like the casual flow of bodily fluids, such as saliva, vaginal secretions, semen, blood, and the inevitable death of many.
Pointless to wait any longer. There will be another time. Maybe not this particular one, but another would have to do. The engine sputtered then composed, peaceful but for the tap of a sticking lifter that would never be repaired; the rhythmic sound was company, and matched the beat of anxious fingers poised on the wheel. The front tires aimed for the exit, and the vehicle began to ease toward the driveway. The wipers clunked and sloshed, disappointment and depression.
Like mankind, unexpected rain could be a bitch — or a bastard.
As the vehicle crept, a cloud moved aside. A stream of dull light cut surprisingly through the windshield. Eyes that had studied the dash clock shifted to analyze the building's exit door. Hopefully, the vehicle halted. Sure enough, there she was, wrapped in a green windbreaker, tan shoulder bag swinging with hurrying footsteps across the parking lot.
Her dark hair looked coarse and seemed to repel a lingering drizzle that shimmered like a beaded crown encircling her head. In movements swift and deliberate, as a hand shifting gears, she unlocked the door, threw in her bag, slipped behind the wheel, and started her car. For a moment she sat, checking her reflection in the rearview mirror. She rubbed a lash from her eye, sighed, then tuned the radio to the daily news.
"No, Mr. Weatherman," she groaned. "I already know what's gonna happen today. From the look of those storm clouds, today's gonna be as bad as my night."
After flipping to another station, she tugged down her lower lids, "Wake up. Wake up. Wake up," then rocked to the beat of music. "Get your ass in gear, girl. Dumb ass wipers. . ."
Oblivious to morning traffic, head bobbing, she drove along the main road, down a few side streets. Tonya had no idea she was being followed. She parked her car in the driveway separating her tract house from her neighbor's, entered through the front door, grabbed a quick glass of orange juice to drink down her vitamins, then headed off to the shower where she'd shed her damp clothing.
"Oh, yeah, baby. Waited all night for this." She lifted her face to the refreshing spray, opening and closing her mouth, gargling on the stream of water. Lyrics from the ride home stuck in her head, she belted out the song:

"things can't get much worse, no one called you to rehearse,
what does the world expect, from everyday people like us. . .
doors to adversity swing in your face, who wipes the blood from the human race?
oh they rip tears from your eyes, set the rules without compromise
hopeless helpless endless shame, pluck the buck pass the blame
anger feeds the monster's fame, people like us die in this game."

Her small house was at the dead end of a residential street that held an even row of houses exactly the same as hers. The only difference was the shade of door and trim paint, and her house sat on a wooded lot, protected by trees and wetland where other tract houses would never be built.
Privacy. Rarely did traffic, or people, or animals, pass by. That was why Tonya had bought the house, just six months ago, when she realized her factory job was secure, and learned the bank trusted her with a seventy-five thousand dollar mortgage.
It was a nice area with friendly people, some cats — no barking dogs, just a few kids at the opposite end of the modest community. Nothing to disturb her. She could prance around the backyard in her bikini and there were no gawking glances, thanks to a shroud of trident maples with flaring leaves, hickory trees, and cedars surrounding her yard. She was fortunate. The other houses had the next street, and another row of tract houses, almost in their backyards.
Tonya had her own urban forest, congested with noisy birds, furious birds flitting and hopping; flying boomerangs soaring from grove to grass and back, a flocking wall, screeching in native tongues.
She could leave her windows open, but then all she would hear were the birds. That's what she hated most about the night shift; trying to sleep during daylight, subjected to the chaos of overcharged, multilingual birds. The birds were insane — she was insane for working the night shift.
Only a lunatic would drive into a wetland, park inside the shelter of willow oaks, beech and longleaf pines, slop through a muddy morning toward the back of someone's house. Only a bull of a four wheel drive would have tires wide and beefy enough to drag a heavy vehicle out again. And the underground watershed would swallow any tire tracks like quicksand ingested prehistoric creatures. Genius. Working with Mother Nature made things easy. But Mother Nature could also be a bitch.
Dressed as a phantom, the figure with the trench coat and matching hat made its way toward the rear porch. Even though the boots deposited prints, it wouldn't matter, because the oversized boots were worn over bulky socks and filthy tennis shoes that bundled narrow feet. And the hardy pockets of the coat carried ankle weights, so investigators would be looking for a suspect at least four inches taller, over forty pounds heavier. An amusing thought as gloved hands tested the back windows. No crowbar needed. One was unlocked, open an attractive inch. The killer's glance swept the outside area clean, slowly slid the window until it met the stop, hoisted and climbed inside. Green florist tape sticking to the boot detached, sank into a print.
The bathroom door was closed, so the young woman didn't see a shadow slide across her bedroom wall. And with the gushing shower, she didn't hear the fiberboard sheathing creak beneath boots treading on lightweight carpet.
Emerging in a towel, Tonya left the bathroom door ajar. Plumes of steam licked the space, drifted with a breeze blowing through the window she had neglected to secure. First mistake. Her second was to drop into bed, pull a sheet over her naked body and immediately fall asleep. In exhausted slumber, she had no sense of the lurking figure, the stale breath, or the gloved hand clutching the serrated knife that dug a trench across her neck. Instantly, her lids snapped open registering shock, agony. Her throat filled with blood, blocking air — stifling screams.
What felt like an eternity was a glimpse into the brutal eyes of a killer, the distorted face of a madman claiming the final moments she would take to her grave.
Before rupturing internal organs, the knife hammered furiously into the soft tissue of her neck, pulverizing bone, then the blade plunged through her eye. By then she was just another victim, lying in a bed soaked with her own Type O negative blood. Before the killer left, the elegant stem of a red rose was planted in the orbit, and a note was placed on the blood soaked pillow: Stick a needle in your eye. You'll never make anybody else cry. Sweet Dreams Darlin'.

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