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The Chamberlain Files

Detective Jack Chamberlain is Portland’s best cop and when he takes a case, you can be damn sure he’ll see it through to the end. When a crazed sniper starts killing women seemingly at random, he’s thrown into a deadly game of cat and mouse. He’ll need to act fast, before the bodies start piling up and the killer’s sights are set on him.

Age Rating: 18+

 

The Chamberlain Files by James F. Timmins is now available to read on the Galatea app! Read the first two chapters below, or download Galatea for the full experience.

 


 

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1

File One: Three Card Monte

Detective Jack Chamberlain is Portland’s best cop and when he takes a case, you can be damn sure he’ll see it through to the end. When a crazed sniper starts killing women seemingly at random, he’s thrown into a deadly game of cat and mouse. He’ll need to act fast, before the bodies start piling up and the killer’s sights are set on him.

Age Rating: 18+ (Content Warning Rape, sex trafficking, abuse, outdated/offensive language, violence against women, graphic violence, kidnapping, violence against pregnant women)

Original Author: James F. Timmins

Sniper

He sat with his back to the wall taking long, slow breaths of the cold night air.

He could see her across the street through the thin curtains, sitting, reading some meaningless work of fiction no doubt.

He had found her one day as she sat reading in a coffee shop. She was a girl, wearing no make-up, dressed in dull earth tones, with hair up in one of those nasty buns women wear.

She did wear a pair of square-framed glasses and he noticed that she often looked over the top of them, reminding him of his eighth-grade teacher whom he had a crush on.

He used to practically drool watching Mrs. Greer as she sat on the edge of her desk.

She would teach lessons on Chaucer and Shakespeare, perched with her bare legs crossed, looking over the top of her glasses at the class.

His intended victim had a similar body type and mannerisms but not nearly as alluring to the man as the teacher was to the boy.

He had decided then that the girl, who reminded him of his first crush, would be his first victim.

Her name was Vanessa and she was married to a man who worked late most nights, much like this night.

She would often wait up for him to get home, mostly reading and occasionally watching television. He was a stock trader in the Asian market and by the looks of the place he had done OK.

She got up, went to the kitchen then returned with a glass of wine, closed her eyes after a short sip, and leaned back in the chair.

It was time. He opened the case on the floor by the window and began to assemble the HR Precision Pro Series 2000 HRT Sniper rifle.

It had 3 rounds of magnum caliber bullets and he had no fear of the 30-yard distance or the damage they would do.

He looked at his watch and it was 12:01 a.m., April 4th. He lined her up in his crosshairs. Sorry honey, it’s a necessity.

***

Jack

Monday. Why would anyone like Mondays? Sure, the occasional holiday for some long ago President or Flag Day or whatever, other than that, they were a drag.

I rolled over and hit the snooze button on the alarm, which would give me an extra nine minutes of precious sleep.

I set the alarm eighteen minutes before I actually needed to get up because I’m a sucker for the snooze alarm.

Kicking off the covers, I got out of bed, pressed brew on my drip coffee maker, and headed to fulfill my morning ritual of the three S’s. Shit, shower, and shave; in that order.

I opened the refrigerator and poured a glass of OJ as the rich aroma drifted up from the coffee maker.

After downing the glass of OJ, I poured a nice hot cup of black coffee, which burned the back of my throat, but that’s the way I liked it.

I enjoyed my bachelor status and the apartment reflected the lack of a feminine touch.

It wasn’t that it was dirty, as I am reasonably neat, each room devoid of clutter, everything placed where I wanted it.

I did collect artwork and my tastes varied but my prize possession was a gilded Te-Guan-Yin statue of the Asian Iron Goddess of Mercy which stood alone in a corner.

An ornate wood carving depicting the feeding of a dragon as a backdrop behind her.

The living room furnishings were stylish but masculine, consisting of a soft black leather chair and couch set, a glass coffee table, and an oak bookcase filled with works of fiction and textbooks.

An oriental area rug given to me by my late grandmother partially covered a light hard yellow pine wood floor. Every room was neat, organized, and just the way I liked it.

I enjoyed the company of women and dated occasionally. My last relationship was filled with crazy intense sex and just as intense arguing.

It wasn’t long before we agreed the relationship was like oil and water. Since then, I had not met anyone that appealed to me once the night’s passion was through.

I was out the door and down the stairs at 7:30. As I waited for my partner to pick me up I did a few morning stretches.

A Chevy painted in black primer paint with oversized mud tires pulled to the curb in front of me.

My partner’s truck sat higher than most street vehicles providing a good field of vision but was a little conspicuous.

This truck was not one that you could hide in a crowd. The inside was clean but lived in, with worn black rubber mats and dark grey leather seats that were rubbed smooth in spots.

“Hey Claire,” I said as I looked down at the McDonald’s Egg McMuffin wrapper on the floor by the stick shift, “littering in the city gets you a five hundred dollar fine.”

“Fuck you, Jack,” she said with a smile as she popped the last morsel into her mouth.

I climbed in and she punched the gas as we sped out into traffic.

She preferred to drive and her truck had a three-fifty under the hood and plenty of muscle for the city streets. Not many cops rode around the city in trucks so it gave us some obscurity.

Clarita Sanchez’s parents were Mexican immigrants and had insisted on Americanizing the children’s names. Hence, Clarita became Claire.

She was a tough young cop; small, wiry, and a hell of a shot. She’d never drawn her gun as far as I knew, but at the range she was dead on, besting some of the SWAT team’s top marksmen.

When she and I were first assigned together I had serious reservations. I wasn’t sure I could work with this little spitfire, but she has proved to be a great partner.

She normally dressed in baggy sweat pants or jeans and sneakers. She wore tees, sweatshirts, and occasionally a sweater that always hid her figure.

Her curly long hair was usually tucked into a Boston Red Sox baseball cap.

I had once bumped into her at Old Orchard Beach as she made her way onto the pier and she had looked pretty good in a tank top, shorts with her hair let down.

We talked briefly about the weekend but most of the drive downtown was made in silence.

This was fine with me as my conversation skills didn’t really kick in until my travel mug needed a refill which was the first thing I head for at the station.

Today someone had drained the coffee without making another pot. Mondays.

Captain Jonathan Spacey called me from his office. I hadn’t decided if I cared much for old Jonathan even after ten years of working for him.

He was fair enough but he could be an arrogant prick. Maybe that was part of what they taught you at captain’s school, Prick 101.

Didn’t matter much really, except it was still Monday, the coffee needed to brew, and it was too early to figure out if this was a prick day for Captain Jonathan.

“Good morning, Captain,” I said with all the pleasantness I could muster.

“Hey, Jack,” he said without offering me a seat, which usually meant I was headed somewhere.

He was wearing a pinstripe suit, which for a cop meant you weren’t on the streets, a red power tie, and a kerchief in his pocket. Christ, I don’t even own a kerchief.

I did notice that his shoes were not as glistening as they usually were.

“Shoeshine stand not open today, Captain?” I asked as I leaned on the door jam.

“Come in, wise ass.”

“It’s Monday and I haven’t met my morning quota of coffee,” I replied.

“I need you and Claire over at 10 Neal St. There’s been a shooting. A thirty-four-year-old female was taken out through a window from across the street.

Patrolmen have sealed the crime scene. Let me know what you get.” With this, he pushed me out as he shut his door.

I motioned for Claire to follow me and we headed for the crime scene.

The apartment building was an old brownstone, in what normally was a quiet residential section of the city but today it was a zoo.

The print reporters were lined up and the local television crews were there along with a handful of rubbernecks.

Yellow crime scene tape was strung around the apartment building threshold. An officer named Guillian met me at the curb and nodded up to the side of the building.

The 5th-floor window had a chunk taken out of it and I noticed tiny pieces of glass sprinkled on the sidewalk. This area had also been taped off.

Again officer Guillian nodded, this time towards the door and we proceeded inside and up the stairs.

He waited until we were out of earshot of the reporters before he gave me a rundown of the situation at hand.

“Victim’s name is Vanessa Willis,” began Officer Guillian. “Age 34, works mornings and afternoons over at Cookies and Crème.”

We entered the elevator and he pushed number 5. “She lived on the fifth floor with her husband, Fred Willis, age 36.

He works odd hours at an Asian stock trading company, Klausse and Wallace, at 100 Congress St. He's here now, though not doing so well.”

We exited the elevator and entered the apartment immediately to the right. Nice place, lots of old wood molding and hardwood floors with an oriental style space rug.

The furniture in the main room looked comfortable and matched the red, blue, and gold print of the rug.

My impression was they were middle class on the rise, based largely on the LED screen television, which I knew I couldn’t afford.

The victim still sat in an antique rocker, which looked like it was a family heirloom. There was not much left of the back of her head as the exiting bullet had taken a large section of her skull with it.

Her face was covered in blood. I noticed a blood-splattered photo of her on a reading table beside the rocker.

She was sitting on the grass with, whom I assumed was Mr. Willis, and noted that although plain, she was attractive.

There was a stand-alone reading lamp still on beside the rocker and a copy of Diana, An Autobiography next to her.

There were tiny glass fragments on the floor reflecting off the morning sun like small diamonds.

The hole in the window was dime-sized, small cracks extending like fingers outward from the center.

The bullet that had taken out Mrs. Willis had passed through her and ended up in the stud behind the painted sheetrocked wall.

I squatted in front of the bullet and looked back towards the hole in the window.

According to the trajectory, it appeared that the shot came from the sixth-floor apartment across the street, but a bullet can change trajectory after hitting something, just ask JFK.

Officer Guillian was trailing me like a puppy. “Anybody check out the 6th floor across the street?” I asked.

“Yeah, Officer Wright is over there now. He is guarding the apartment that the 3rd, 4th, and 5th windows belong to,” he said as he turned back a page in his notes.

“The apartment belongs to Jason and Martha Headleton.

Both have been out of town since Saturday, according to the neighbor across the hall, a Mrs. Warner, widow, 72, and resident busybody no doubt.

There were signs of a break-in around the lock. The apartment is vacant. Wright is keeping watch over the place for you.”

“Ok, where is Mr. Willis?”

“In the bedroom, first door on the right. Like I said, he’s not doing well.”

“Don’t imagine he is.” I looked over at Sanchez and nodded toward the hall that led to the bedroom. She made her way through the forensic team and knocked on the door.

Boom!

A gunshot echoed through the corridor as everyone dove for the ground. I looked over at Sanchez as she sat with her gun drawn and her back against the wall beside the door.

I drew my gun and barreled into the door and rolled right. I could hear Sanchez moving behind me going left.

Laying before me in a complete mess was Mr. Willis. He had taken a shotgun and nearly decapitated himself.

“Son of a bitch, Guillian. Why the fuck was this guy in here alone? Whose bright fucking idea was that?” I yelled as I stood.

Guillian quickly came in the room with his gun drawn and looked at the scene wide eyed, “Shit.”

“Shit. I guess shit. Son of a bitch.”

“Man, I just left him when I heard you arrive. He was upset but…”

“But what? His wife is out there dead, her brains scattered around the room, and you leave him alone.”

I felt Sanchez put her hand on my arm. I was working myself up into a rage and she knew it.

I took a deep breath, then another. It wasn’t much better but I no longer felt like shooting Guillian.

“There were 5 cops in here and the door was open when I left.”

“Enough,” I said as I made my way toward the door. “Check out what time this guy left his office on the odd chance he was the shooter.” I motioned to Sanchez to follow.

Officer Wright was still standing guard at the door when we arrived on the sixth floor across the street. “Hello, Detective, what’s all the excitement across the street?”

“Husband just checked himself out,” I said as I let myself into the apartment.

“Ain’t that a bitch? Think he killed her?”

“Not if the shot came from here, what would be the point?”

“I see what you mean. Where do you want me?”

“Right there is good. Anyone entered the apartment?” I asked as I looked around the tidy living room off the entranceway.

“No, you’re the first.”

Sanchez followed me in, shut the door behind her and we began to check out the apartment. She knew how I liked to work and had developed a similar style.

Maybe I was her mentor though it had never been put that way. I stood in the center of the room and took it in.

Decorated with a rustic theme, it could easily have been a lake house on Sebago Lake if not for the view.

Pine bookcases were filled with a mixture of classic and modern novels, the furniture was mostly made of wood.

There was a small round card table by the window with several chairs that had woven seats like my grandmother used to have.

One of the chairs had been moved off to the side away from the window, presumably to give the shooter room.

I got down on my hands and knees to look across the hardwood floor. It had rained yesterday and as I had hoped, there were slight footprints leading to the window.

Obviously, the shooter had not bothered to wipe his feet at the door. I pointed them out to Sanchez indicating with a motion not to step near them.

“We’re going to need a CSI unit to lift some shoe prints off the floor,” she said on her cell. “Yeah, fingerprints too hopefully.”

I looked across the floor and saw only the prints leading to the window. “Prints don’t lead back to the door,” I said to Sanchez.

“Where did he go, out the window?”

“No. How long do you think it would take for his shoes to dry as he sat here?” I asked as I kneeled 4 feet from where the footsteps ended in front of the window.

“Hard to say. It would depend on how wet they were.”

“Half hour tops I think. The prints near the window are lighter than the first steps.”

“What do you have, Jack?” I heard over my shoulder recognizing the voice as CSI agent Fritz von Gretchen.

He was in his mid-forties and we had worked more than a few crime scenes together. He was good and didn’t miss a thing and was responsible, in a large part, for how I looked over a crime scene.

I had learned a lot of techniques from him and his predecessor Agent Walsh. Their first case together had involved what appeared to be a murder-suicide.

Fritz had found a strand of synthetic fabric on the rug that led to an arrest for double murder.

“Shoe prints size 10 ½ or 11, maybe Cabalas by the pattern.” I indicated with a wave in the direction of the prints.

“Sanchez, can you look over the rest of the place? I don’t think he went anywhere else but check it out. Especially the bathroom, maybe we can get lucky and our perp had a weak bladder.”

Fritz was laying out what he needed to lift the prints when I asked, “Time of death on Mrs. Willis?”

“Around 11 p.m., give or take an hour, judging by the body temperature and the temperature in the room. I understand the husband got home around 6 a.m., some kind of Asian Stock crisis.”

“I wouldn’t know, I still keep my money in the freezer,” I said as I examined the sill. “After you lift the shoe print can you dust the window before I open it?”

“Someday maybe you’ll realize I know what I’m doing and don’t need a director. So while you and Claire are snooping around don’t contaminate anything before I get to it. Don’t touch anything!”

Sanchez returned to the room. “Everything is spotless in the rest of the house, especially the bathroom.”

I looked up at her, “Especially?” I got up and went into the bathroom to see what “especially” meant.

I am a single male and I have never seen an especially clean bathroom, although for this one immaculate would have been my word.

I looked across the floor moving my head to see if I could find any telltale droplets but couldn’t see any.

“What are you looking for?” asked Sanchez squatting beside me.

“Have you ever known a man to not miss on the shake part?”

“Is that when you get piss all over the place?”

“Yeah, it happens either at the end or at the beginning, but never during. But the perp used the toilet.”

“How can you tell?”

“The toilet seat is up. We always leave the toilet seat up. Genetics, I think. This is a married couple’s home so most likely the seat should be down.

Ever nag a man about leaving the seat up, or do you urinate standing up?”

“Fuck you, Jack,” she said with that cute little smirk of hers. “Maybe a cleaning lady cleaned up the place after they left for vacation?”

“No, then the seat definitely would have been down.”

I looked over the sink and it looked wiped clean. I doubted that Fritz would find prints but would ask anyway.

We walked out to the main room and Fritz had just finished dusting the window and casing.

“Clean, Jack. Although I did find this smudge, my guess made by a leather glove,” said Fritz.

I asked him to go through the bathroom as I donned a pair of rubber gloves.

When I opened the window, a piece of paper fell from where it had been stuck to the bottom of the window sash.

Sanchez picked it up and said as she handed it to me, “You can put the time of death at just after midnight.” The note was made up of numbers cut from a magazine and glued to the paper, which read in small font today’s date, 4/4.

 

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2

JACK

It had been a couple of weeks since we met the Willis couple and everything led to dead ends. The shoes were size 11 Cabalas which were the second most popular size in the city.

Cabala’s estimated 10,000 pairs were walking around the Portland, Maine area. Well, that certainly narrowed it down.

No prints or urine samples were found and Fritz, as thorough as ever, had dusted the whole place.

Jason and Martha Headleton were contacted and had been vacationing on a Carnival Cruise in the Caribbean for a 14-day trip.

They had arrived home two days after the shootings and were questioned but it didn’t help the investigation.

I spent the first couple of days going over Sanchez’s and my notes. There was also forensic evidence and interviews conducted by the boys in blue.

The slug came up negative in the FBI and Interpol database searches and nothing else jumped out at me. I was sure that the shooter had used the bathroom but it had come up clean.

Maybe he was one of those assholes you see that doesn’t wash his hands after they pee.

I conducted secondary interviews on the Headletons, the nosy neighbor, and a few other residents from the Willis’ building but came up empty.

The only real lead was the note. It wasn’t much, more disturbing than anything; it was a calling card. Why do you leave a calling card in a murder?

It was a game for whoever had done this. I had the feeling it would happen again.

I searched the databanks of the city, state, and FBI for any similar cases where someone had left a note behind. Most were confessions of some rambling lunatic but none matched a simple date.

What was the game and did it have anything to do with the Willis’s?

I knew that if it didn’t and this was a random act, we were in a boatload of shit because figuring out why Mrs. Willis was targeted, gets a whole lot more difficult. In the hopes of finding out if this was revenge or a passion murder, the first focus had to be on her.

Sanchez and I did some checking on Mrs. Willis’s background, trying to come up with some kind of motive for the killer.

We started off the morning with a visit to the Cookies and Crème Bakery. It was located in the heart of downtown Portland in an eight-story building called One City Center.

It was an upscale donut shop that catered to the professional clientele from the office buildings in the area.

Since it was morning we decided to order coffee and pastries while we looked over the employees before we asked questions.

It was a busy morning at Cookies and Crème but most people made their purchases and left so we were able to find seating easily.

The counter staff wore hairnets, the bakers wore chef’s hats and everyone seemed to know their place with very little bumping into each other.

Most of the staff was on the plump side, perhaps a side effect of working at a bakery, although I remembered Mrs. Willis had been very petite.

I spotted what appeared to be the manager stepping out of a back office. She also wore the chef hat and shirt; hers was a shade of pink.

She appeared to be in her mid-forties and looked as if she might have eaten a little too much of the profits. She had a wide smile on her face that made her attractive.

Sanchez raised her hand slightly, the universal signal for “I need service”, which normally is ignored at a restaurant by the wait staff, but the cheery round manager made her way to our table.

“Can I help you?” she asked in a very pleasant voice.

I smiled back at her and said, “Hello, I am Detective Chamberlain and this is Detective Sanchez. Could we speak with the manager?”

“Yes, that would be me. I’m the owner Cindy Crawley,” she said as she put her hand out, which I promptly shook.

“We’re investigating the Willis murder/suicide and would like to ask you a few questions.”

“A terrible thing,” she started as the smile disappeared from her face. “She was a real pleasure. I didn’t know her husband, never met him actually. How could he do such a thing to that lovely girl?”

“We are trying to piece that together now. How long had she been working for you?”

“Oh, six months or so. I can get an exact date if you would like.”

Well, that explained her still being petite; she had not worked here long enough for the pastries to take effect.

“Yes, that would be helpful. Was she close to any of your employees here? Did she have friends that may have stopped by to say hello?”

“No friends that I noticed, but she did go to lunch with Sarah often after her shift.”

“Sarah?”

“Yes, Sarah Colby, one of our bakers. She asked for a couple of days off after Vanessa died.”

“Could we have her phone number please?”

“Yes, I know it by heart 874-5472.”

“Has she requested any additional time off for any reason?”

“No, but I told her to take as long as she needed.”

“If you could please give us Miss Colby’s address as well that would be helpful, thank you. It is Miss Colby and not Mrs.?”

“Yes, Sarah is not married.”

“Did Mrs. Willis receive an unusual amount of phone calls or anything you would consider odd before she died?”

“I don’t recall her ever even receiving a call here, to be honest, except from her husband. Vanessa mentioned he worked the graveyard shift at some stock company. Maybe the pressure got to him.”

“Maybe. Did Mrs. Willis fill out an employment application that might help with prior work history?”

“Well yes, I have it in the back office. Please, excuse me?” The bakery owner disappeared into the back to retrieve the information.

She returned quickly carrying a photocopy of the application with an address for Sarah Colby written on the back. “If you need anything else please let me know.”

Sanchez took the paper and thanked her. We made our way out of the bakery and into the warming spring air.

The sea breeze was normally mild this time of day, usually getting stronger around mid-afternoon.

We sat down on a bench in a small park that separated two busy streets open to pedestrians only.

The unseasonably warm air brought out people from all over the city after a long winter and many of them milled about with nowhere to go and were happy with that.

Even though the temperature was a warm fifty-five degrees there were a few brave souls in shorts and skirts.

The park was filled with mostly young people performing a graceful ballet as they greeted each other with fresh smiles.

On opposite sides of the streets, boutiques lined the brick sidewalk offering everything you could want to purchase from vintage clothing to candy.

There were also three coffee houses that brewed various flavors of strong local roasted beans.

Most of the shops had wooden facades decorated and painted in bright colors, though many needed to be touched up after the harsh Maine winter.

The buildings were all made of brick, most five or six stories tall, with the Willis apartment building only a couple of city blocks away.

I called Sarah Colby who answered on the third ring. “Is this Sarah Colby?” I asked.

“Yes, it is,” she answered in a young high-pitched voice.

“This is Detective Chamberlain of the Portland Police Department and I am calling to see if we can come over and ask you a couple of questions regarding Vanessa Willis?”

What she didn’t know was that the bench we were sitting on was directly across the street from her apartment building and no would not have been a good answer.

So far the murder/suicide circumstances did not place Ms. Colby as a suspect in my mind. I had decided to call her first as a courtesy.

If I had thought she had anything to do with the Willis’s deaths, I would have walked right up and knocked on the door.

“Uh yes, I suppose so. If you think I can help,” she answered.

“I hope so, Ms. Colby. We are on our way down now and should be there shortly.”

We gave Sarah Colby about 5 minutes before Sanchez and I knocked on her door.

“Ms. Colby, I am Detective Chamberlain and this is Detective Sanchez, thank you for seeing us on such short notice.”

“Sure, come right in. Please don’t look at the place, it’s a mess and I just don’t seem to care much right now,” she said.

I did not agree with her assessment of the place as it had only a few dishes in the sink, a couple of glasses and used tissues on the coffee table.

A blanket was haphazardly folded over the arm of the sofa and I guessed she was camping out on the couch.

A scene from The Notebook was frozen on the TV – not that I have watched it but I could tell from the DVD case. She was tall, mostly legs, and her hair was cut in a bob.

She reminded me a lot of Mrs. Willis actually, they could have been sisters. Her eyes were slightly red as was her nose from blowing it too often.

She did not have any make-up on and her lightly freckled complexion was apparent on her fair-skinned face. She was obviously upset about her friend’s death.

“Just a couple of questions if you don’t mind”, I said, as she sat back on her couch. She directed us to sit on a love seat facing the couch. “How well did you know the Willis’?” I began.

She took a tissue from the box and blew her nose before she answered. She looked at me directly at first. As she spoke, she made eye contact with Sanchez as well.

“I knew V, that’s Vanessa, very well and we had become quite close, actually we were best friends. We worked together at Cookies and Crème and we kind of meshed right from the start.

She was so sweet,” she ended as tears began to well up in her eyes.

“Did you know her husband well?”

“No, I didn’t know Fred much because of his strange work hours but we got together a couple of weekends ago for a cookout at Deering Oaks Park. He adored her from what I saw.”

“Did Mrs. Willis ever mention anything odd about their relationship?”

“Other than the fact that she hated his hours, no. They made it a point to eat dinner together every night and spend time together.

See she would sleep at night while he was at work and he slept while she was gone so they made it work.”

“Did she ever mention anyone having a problem with her or Mr. Willis?”

“No, she was a very nice person and I can’t imagine anyone wanting to hurt her.”

“Money troubles?”

“Fred gets paid well and she didn’t seem tight with a buck—not loose mind you but certainly not tight. She certainly never complained of being broke.”

“If he made such good money then why did Mrs. Willis work at a bakery?”

“Boredom. She said when she first moved here from Chicago she found herself hibernating in her apartment. It was a way for her to get out and meet people.

Besides, she loved baking and it gave her a little of her own funny money. She had gone to school for culinary arts back in Chicago.”

“So, you didn’t get the impression she needed the money?”

“No, she tried to pay for our lunches when we would go out a couple times a week. Although most of the time I’d pay for my own.

I didn’t want her to think she had to buy our friendship. We used to go over to the Barnes & Noble by the Maine Mall and browse after our shift.

Fred usually slept until four or so anyway. I swear she could read a book a day. We had spent a couple of hours that very day at the bookstore. She bought a biography on Diana.”

“Do you know much about her, prior to her moving here from Chicago?”

“Not much. Both their families live in the suburbs out there. His work transferred him to this area about a year ago, supposedly a promotion.

I don’t recall V ever mentioning a prior job between college and Cookies n’ Crème.”

“What was the name of the culinary school?”

“The International Culinary School at the Illinois Institute of Art. She owned several t-shirts and sweatshirts from the school.”

“Any strange characters showing up around her or did she mention bumping into the same person over and over?” asked Claire.

“Not that I noticed.”

“Enemies or someone she had a disagreement with?”

“No, she was pleasant to everyone. I really can’t believe this has happened.” With tears beginning to stream from her eyes she reached for the box of tissues on the table.

She tried unsuccessfully to wipe them from her face but the tears kept slowly coming.

“Well, I guess that’s all for now. If you think of anything we should know about please give us a call.” I handed her my business card which she placed on the coffee table.

As we walked outside in the mild spring air I looked over at Claire, “Well, are we getting anywhere?”

“No, I hope this isn’t some random nut job.”

We went back to the precinct to make some calls. Claire took the college and Mrs. Willis’ parents and I took the husband’s office, his old Chicago office, and his parents.

We went out for coffee around three to compare notes.

Claire began, “Mrs. Willis graduated high in her class at the International Culinary School at Illinois Institute of Art at 25, four years earlier and her file was pretty clean.

Her parents were devastated as you can imagine. The father is an ex-cop by the way and made me promise to update him.

He said his daughter had met Fred in 2006 when she worked for a catering business, she had been working his company’s Christmas party. They were married in 2008 and were very happy.”

Claire had also confirmed her employment application and also that she had never worked after she got married until beginning her employment with Cookies n’ Crème.

Also, there were no known enemies or problem people in her life. Must have been nice.

I told Claire that the background on Fred Willis was much the same. Good job, well liked, and hard working.

He had moved up the ladder in Chicago and the Portland job was indeed a promotion in late 2009.

He was vice president of Asian Trades and second in command of the Portland branch.

A quick look at his bank account showed a six-figure salary and a million-dollar portfolio, with a couple of hundred thousand in liquid funds.

No unusual withdrawals or anything that would red-flag us on gambling or extortion. We had nothing.

“Well, where do we go from here?” asked Claire.

“Let’s take another look at forensics in the morning,” I said without much hope.

“Ok. What are you doing tonight?”

Immediately, warning lights went off. Claire had set me up on several blind dates, none of which warranted a second date. “I’m watching a ball game.”

“The Red Sox aren’t playing tonight.”

“Little League is.”

“Who do you know in Little League?”

“Nobody, I moonlight as a scout for the Red Sox and I need to check out the pitching staff. Have you seen the sox bullpen this year? They need all the help they can get.

Besides, I’m not going on another one of your blind dates. The last one you hooked me up with laughed like a horse. After one joke I wanted to gag her with a bridle.”

“No blind date. I’m going out with a couple of friends tonight and I thought you’d like to tag along. No pressure.”

I thought about that for a minute and it beat watching reruns of Rescue Me. “OK. What time and where are we going?”

“About 8:00. Meet me at Gritty’s down in the Old Port.”

 

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Only in the Dark

Aris’s parents have always spent more time with their experiments than they have with her, until the day that she becomes the experiment. Now she finds herself fighting monstrous urges whenever darkness falls. Can Aris learn what is happening to her before she gives in to her new, bloodthirsty urges…and does she even want to?

Age Rating: 18+

Poisonous Greed

Alessio Romano is the heir of an infamous crime family. Cherry, daughter of another crime family, has always been betrothed to him, but she doesn’t know as much about her fiance as she thought. Will she become a casualty of the crime lord war, or will she find love where she least expects it?

Age Rating: 18+

Cold Secrets

Maddy, Corbyn, and Aaeden (Team SoNaR) embark on a dangerous scientific quest to seek out a renewable energy source that will save the world. Through a series of complicated riddles, clues, and ciphers, they must work together to find the secret that will save humanity—oh, and stop an evil corporation from undermining their efforts while doing so! It’s a challenge that will threaten not only their friendship, but their lives.

Age Rating: 13+

The One She Always Wanted

Tori Martin was always in love with Jason McBride. The one time they were alone, things heated up, but Tori’s mother discovered them, tore them apart, and moved Tori out of town. Tori returns 9 years later, trying to escape a sadistic rapist who won’t let her go. Will Jason be able to get in the way?

Age Rating: 18+ (Content Warning: Sexual Abuse, Rape, & Violence)

She Can Easily Kill You

The life Chloe Rivas had before her sixteenth birthday—when she was still a bubbly teenage girl dealing with boy problems and strict parents—seems distant and unreal. After all, she’s now a cold-hearted assassin. However, her mysterious new partner, Drew Matthews, sparks something in Chloe…could it be love? Or is it hate? Whatever it might be, Chloe must somehow come to terms with her feelings, while also facing a life-threatening mission.

Age Rating: 18+ (Content Warning: Child Abuse)

Death and All His Friends

Tegan is haunted by dreams of a forest, a little boy in a clown costume, and a ghost from her past. All she wants is a normal life, but instead she finds herself caught up in the conflicts of a bunch of supernatural weirdos from the afterlife. Will she be able to conquer her demons, or will the real ones drag her down first?

Age Rating: 16+

Michael

When Allison is kidnapped by a drug gang, she must fight for her survival. When she meets Michael, she realizes that he might just be her key to safety. Are you ready to explore the heartache, pleasure and romance that Michael and Allison share?

Age Rating: 18+ (Sexual abuse, Attempted Rape, Drug Use)

Jack in the Box

Nurse Riley has been assigned to one of the most notorious patients in the psych ward—Jackson Wolfe. And he just so happens to be drop-dead sexy, which is ironic considering that everyone around him seems to be dropping dead. As Jackson draws Riley in with his charm, can she figure out who the killer is…or is it the very man she’s falling for?

Age Rating: 18+