I hope you enjoy this sample of THE STONE KILLER.
Saturday, early a.m.
He breathed in great ragged gulps of air as the sweat rolled down his face and back, soaking the white T-shirt and waistband of his jeans, as he stared at the woman bound to the wooden beams. The planning and anticipation over the past two weeks had him riding a high almost as intoxicating as drugs, but better. Tossing the oval stone in the air a couple of times, he felt the rough pitted surface. The stone weighed, he guessed, about seven or eight ounces. It was not the weight, but the speed that did the job. There were only seven that he used out of the large pile, each about the same size. That was all he needed. Even after all these years, he could throw a baseball at ninety-five miles an hour. He had clocked his throwing speed.
After stripping her down to her gaudy red underwear, he securely tied the bitch spread eagle with ropes run through strong steel pitons, which were used by mountain climbers. A heavy leather strap held her head in place, so she couldn’t move. She wouldn’t have been able to move much anyway, the drug would have made sure of that.
The only lights were an overhead bulb and two spotlights he had clipped to the ceiling beams closest to the woman. He used the spotlights to blind her and keep him hidden in the shadows. Not that he cared if she had been able to see him or recognize his face; her fate had been sealed for some time. He could tell that she was awake. His skin quivered as the moment drew near. The bitch deserved his punishment. Just like his wife. They were both whores, enticing men to break their sacred vows.
He fingered the stone for a second. She was watching him and all too aware that it was time for her execution. He could almost smell her fear; he delighted in the fact. Slowly, he drew back and threw the first stone. When it struck the targeted knee, there was a loud crack as the bone broke. Shock widened her eyes and a quiver ran up and down his body. With the next blow to the other knee the excruciating pain rolled her eyes up into her head. His insides grew hot with excitement and sweat formed on his upper lip. He smiled and shook himself, letting fly another stone.
She attempted to scream when he shattered first the right and then the left elbow. The destruction of the left shoulder closed her eyes, indicating she had passed out. He threw a bucket of water in her face. Her eyes flew open and her features contorted in agony. His blood lust intensified. The destruction of her right shoulder expanded the terror and filled her mind to bursting with the knowledge of her impending death. His excitement continued to grow as he delivered the coup de grace, the final blow to the head that smashed her brain to gray mush.
At that pivotal moment when the stone struck the left side of her face and the spark of life left her eyes, a surge of overwhelming heat dropped him to his knees. The waves of ecstasy washed over him again and again. Then it faded. The exhilaration was too short-lived. Now, she hung lifeless on the close-fitting wooden beams that formed a large X. The structure was attached to the end of the basement wall for just this purpose.
He stood and turned to stare into the deep shadows at the opposite end of the room, feeling the anticipation beginning to rise again. It surprised him that it was starting so soon, but he welcomed it, knowing control was necessary. Acting too quickly would spoil all his plans. He had to let this need simmer and come to a boil, releasing it only when it was time.
It didn’t matter that it was a woman, but the act itself that sent his heart pounding and the blood roaring through his veins. He had never felt so alive. The exhilaration made him feel empowered as God over life and death. Even now, the shadows hid the form of his next subject, all bound, gagged and immobilized. He would force himself to wait another day. The anticipation would heighten his senses and appreciation. He took a deep breath and surveyed the room.
The basement was long and windowless, running the width and half the depth of the house, and even chilly at this time of the night. The end, with the crossed beams, had concrete walls and a floor that sloped a little to a drain set in the cement just past the midway point. The other end of the room’s floor was still packed dirt where coal had been stored for the furnace. The chute opening had been sealed long ago, but the earth floor remained. It had been a great convenience.
So, reluctantly, he turned back to the lifeless body held upright by the ropes. All he had to do now was hose the bitch down and get rid of her.
At two-fifty-nine Saturday morning, in a small Craftsman-style house in midtown Colorado Springs, Morgan Jansen, lying flat on her back in bed, woke with fisted hands clenching the sheet and screaming, “Oh, God! Oh, God!”
Pain sliced through her like a hot knife all the way to her heart. It was as if her very soul was being ripped from her flesh. Without warning, excruciating, debilitating pain shot through both of her knees. All ability to move her legs was gone. Morgan screamed again as agony exploded in her elbows. Her arms went limp and she lost her grip on the sheet. Within seconds, another scream was ripped from her as razor-sharp daggers shot deep into her shoulders. Each breath ragged, she gagged on the bile that rose in her throat. The final agony struck, hitting the middle of her forehead, through her left eyeball, and ripped through the left side of her face and temple.
She tried to move, but it was almost impossible to wiggle even a finger. It was as if the pain was binding her to the mattress. But move she must. She had to get to the bathroom or drown in her own vomit. Struggling, every movement utter torment, she flopped her arm onto her stomach. Each crook of her fingers took her breath as she inched back the bedspread. Jaws clenched tight and fighting the blackness that threatened to overtake her, she shifted onto her side and managed to slide to the floor, knocking the lamp off the nightstand in the process.
On her stomach, the chill of the floor coming through her thin pink nightshirt, she tried to crawl across the hardwood floor toward the open door of the bathroom, but again was unable to move. Her eyes were only slits as she turned her head, fighting the urge to vomit. Then, just as abruptly as it came, the pain vanished, leaving her joints aching as if badly bruised.
Dizzy and still sick to her stomach, she sat up, was barely able to rise to her knees, then finally managed to stand and stagger into the bathroom. She hung over the commode as hard spasms tore at her muscles making her heave up the contents of her stomach. After the vomiting stopped, she moved to the sink and rinsed her mouth, threw water on her face and then brushed her teeth to get rid of the foul taste.
Oh, God, Marilyn! Was all she could think! Black dread engulfed her as she held onto the basin. Her mind was thick with fear and questions. What trouble had her twin sister gotten into that could cause this horrendous agony and empty hole in her soul? She had no doubts that Marilyn was in trouble and severely injured. No matter how much she did not want to believe it, the despair she felt was confirmation.
She stood and hurried back to the bedroom and snatched up the phone. Hands trembling, she punched in her sister’s number, all the while praying she was wrong and that Marilyn would answer. But the phone kept ringing and ringing until it went to voice mail. She didn’t bother to leave a message.
Tears slid down her face. She fought against the notion, but deep in her heart she was terrified her sister had taken her last breath. They had always been connected in that way, aware of each other, even though miles might separate them. Tonight that bond had almost been severed. Still shaky inside, she dressed in jeans, a green T-shirt and sneakers, then sat on the bed to think.
How was she going to find Marilyn at this hour? It was now after three in the morning. Her sister’s favorite hangout, Dawson’s, was closed. She’d give it another thirty minutes, more than enough time for her sister to get home from the bar. Then if there was no answer at her apartment, she’d call the police. But first, she called every hospital emergency room she could find listed in the phone book. No one with Marilyn’s description had been seen or admitted.
Her stomach churned with apprehension. She went into the kitchen and placed the tea kettle on the electric burner. Tea was soothing; tea would settle her stomach and help pass the time. After the first sip, she gagged. Not even tea was going to stop the quivering of her insides.
Twenty minutes had passed. She dialed her sister’s number. Still no answer! She sat at the dining room table hitting the redial button on the phone over and over. God, she wanted to be wrong for a change. At four o’clock she grabbed her car keys and purse then headed out the door into the cool morning air. Twelve minutes later she walked through the entrance of the Police Department on South Nevada Avenue.
It was a three-story red brick building that occupied a full city block. The large lobby area was bright and clean with light beige walls. Three rows of black connected chairs were positioned across from a desk set back close to the wall. An aging man was answering the questions of a man and woman, then directed them to one of the three windows. Two Police Service Representatives sat behind a chest high counter with double sheets of bulletproof glass.
The odor of the unwashed man, standing before one of the female clerks, reached Morgan. She put the back of her hand to her nose to block the smell, feeling sorry for the clerk, as she walked toward the farthest seat away from where he stood. She could still overhear snatches of their conversation. He was looking for a local shelter for the night.
The other clerk, a man, directed questions at the woman and was busy entering the information into a computer. Other than that, the lobby was empty. It appeared to be a slow night considering it was the beginning of the weekend. Morgan thought that it would be busier.
She took a seat and waited, wondering whether she should really be there.
“May I help you?” The clerk motioned for her to come forward.
Morgan started toward the clerk, and then said, “Never mind.”
She turned in midstride and hurried out the door. What was she going to tell the woman? I can’t locate my sister because I have this gut feeling she might be dead. Then there would be lots of questions. Too many questions she did not want to answer. Before she spoke with the police, she needed to first try to locate her sister.
Fifteen minutes later, she pulled into Dawson’s parking lot. All parking spots were empty, and Marilyn’s car was nowhere to be seen. Her sister’s apartment was a short distance away on North Carefree Drive, so she drove toward the complex.
More than once, Marilyn had locked herself out. She had hidden a spare key in a fake stone behind a pot of geraniums. It was convenient that her sister lived in the first building. After parking in the empty reserved spot, Morgan let herself in. It had been over six months since she had been inside her twin’s home.
It was a spacious two-bedroom accommodation on the ground floor with a patio off the living room. Her sister had upgraded the furniture with an expensive red leather sofa and a matching arm-chair. The other chair was a dark blue recliner. A white fur rug covered the floor beneath a glass-topped coffee table and matching end tables. Expensive tall brass lamps brightened the room. The sofa and chair faced a large flat screen television placed on a console housing an extensive DVD collection.
The rug looked like real fur. Morgan stooped to feel the softness. It was real. Her sister had always had expensive tastes. She wondered who had bought it for her. The rug’s cost was way above Marilyn’s price range. Everything in the room was neat and orderly; nothing was out-of-place to indicate anything was wrong.
She walked into the kitchen and dining area. The sink was empty and the dishwasher held a single dirty glass. She frowned at the sight of the bright red lipstick on the rim, put the glass back in the rack and closed the door. Marilyn was an immaculate housekeeper, but had poor taste in lipstick. The color would clash with her red hair. The hallway bathroom adjacent to the kitchen also revealed nothing. All the towels were hung neatly and precisely matched in length.
Down the hall in the laundry room, a towel had been spread over the washer to dry. On the other side of the hallway were two bedrooms, one of which had been converted into an office with a desk, chair and a computer. Morgan ignored the office and entered the bedroom; she stopped just inside the doorway, caught the whiff of an expensive perfume, and flipped the light switch.
She gasped in surprise. It was red. Not the walls, but red bulbs in the lamps on each nightstand cast a warm rosy glow throughout the room. Over the king size bed was a scalloped crown cornice with red sheers draped on either side and held in place with crown-shaped wall brackets. Not a crease disturbed the cream bedspread, and a mink fur coverlet graced the foot. She wondered if it was real like the rug. A deep rose-colored padded Fairfax chair set next to the window. How like Marilyn to decorate her bedroom in cream and shades of red.
Morgan turned away, opened the walk-in closet door and switched on the light. Clothes and shoes were neatly arranged and nothing out-of-place. She didn’t expect it to be. Numerous boxes and photo albums on the upper shelves were neatly labeled, listing the contents of each box and album, except one.
She didn’t touch anything, just switched off the light and closed the door. Directly across from the bed, strategically placed on the wall, were large mirrored squares she hadn’t noticed before. Now the implication made Morgan’s face grow warm. She left the bedroom and entered the office.
Anyone who kept a desk that neat and orderly didn’t use it often. Morgan had to admit that her desk at home was a complete contrast. In each drawer, all items were precisely placed. Marilyn’s address book lay on top of the desk near the phone. She picked it up and perused through it before placing it in her purse. If need be, she would return it later.
Right now she needed to locate Marilyn’s friends. The open desk calendar showed the current day and there were red inked stars jotted next to ten-thirty at night and the name Jack. That was all she could find in the office and the apartment. Finished, she hurried to the front door, eager to get out of the place.
She glanced at her watch. It was going on six as she left, locked the door and replaced the key in the fake rock. She glanced around the asphalt parking area looking for her sister’s car, but didn’t spot it. The sun was rising, turning the eastern sky a brilliant red. What was that old saying? “Red skies at night a sailor’s delight, red skies in the morning, sailors take warning”.
Was she getting a warning that there was worse to come? How much worse could it be? Marilyn was missing. She hadn’t gone home with some stranger. That wasn’t her style.
It was best that she go home and wait an hour, then call her sister’s girlfriends Alice and Deb. If they didn’t know anything, she would go back to the police station and file a missing person’s report.
An hour and a half later, she sat in her kitchen drinking a cup of coffee and staring at the phone in her hand. Marilyn’s two friends had sounded hung-over and groggy on the phone. Each gave the same story. They had remained at Dawson’s and Marilyn had left around ten that evening, saying she was going home. She never made it.
Purse in hand, she headed for the front door and her car. She parked on the street in front of the police building and hurried inside. This time, only one person was in the lobby. Morgan slowly walked up and stopped before the clerk. “I want to report a missing person.”
The young, dark-haired woman looked at her. “Is she a relative?”
“Yes, my sister, Marilyn Heddrix.”
“How long has she been missing?” The clerk jotted down the name.
“Since around ten last night.”
“And what is your name?”
“I’m sorry to tell you this, but someone has to be missing seventy-two hours before you can file a missing persons report. Have you checked with her friends?”
“Look, my sister didn’t make it home last night. And yes, I checked with her friends. They don’t know where she is.” Tension knotted Morgan’s neck muscles and she bit at her upper lip.
“When was the last time you spoke to her?” the clerk asked, as she glanced back at her computer screen, tapped at the keyboard, before returning her gaze to Morgan.
Morgan felt her face turn red when she had to admit, “A month ago.”
The clerk could not keep her skepticism hidden “Why would you believe she’s missing if you haven’t talked to her in a month?”
“I just know something has happened to her! She’s my sister! She just would not come home!” Morgan fought back tears. Why couldn’t the woman just file the damn report?
“I’m sorry,” the woman said, in an attempt to be more sympathetic. “I can file an Attempt to Locate request. If they find her, they’ll have her contact you. Will that help?”
She had no choice but to agree. “That will have to do, won’t it,” she snapped in frustration. She shouldn’t blame the clerk for following procedure.
The clerk arched an eyebrow at her sharp tone but maintained her helpful attitude. “If you’ll give me some information and a description of your sister, I’ll make the call.”
“You’re looking at her,” Morgan said. “We’re identical twins. The only difference is my hair is not as red. Marilyn dyes her hair a dark auburn. And, she has a blue dragonfly tattoo just below her navel.” Morgan told the clerk about Dawson’s and her two friends and about going to her sister’s apartment to check if she had returned, plus any pertinent information she thought might help. There wasn’t much else to tell. The clerk picked up the phone and dialed a number, then relayed the information she had been given.
“They pulled up a copy of her driver’s license and put an ATL out for her. That’s all we can do for now. I suggest you go home. I’m sure your sister will call you soon.” The woman turned her attention back to some paper work in front of her. Feeling dismissed, Morgan turned and hurried to her car, knowing she would spend the rest of the weekend looking for Marilyn or her car.