Murder at 30,000 Feet- Week 5

You and Marshal Durland step away from the woman in the sun hat. Why didn’t she consider taking the silly thing off when there wasn’t a sunbeam in sight and the brim kept whacking people in the face? It doesn’t make sense, but the way this trip is going, it’s par for the course.

“That got us nothing.” The marshal massages the back of his neck.

“Let’s talk to Trey and Melani.” You shrug. “Maybe they can shine a little light on the situation.”

Couples Of The Year - Interracial Couples - YouTube
Trey and Melani Hyatt

You start toward the pair of lovebirds. Melani boops Trey on the nose, and he grabs her finger and kisses it.

Your stomach threatens to toss the hoagie you had in the airport terminal. This should be a real treat.

Marshal Durland rolls his shoulders until they pop. “Got a minute to answer some questions?”

“Sure.” Trey nods. “Anything we can do to help.”

“I don’t know how much help we can be.” Melani tilts her chin. “We were here in our seats the whole time.”

“Did you notice anyone head toward the back of the plane after the murdered man?” the marshal asks.

“We didn’t see anyone get up.” Trey glances at Melani. “Did we babe?”

“Nobody.”

If that were true, how did Jeff Archer get to the restroom unnoticed? You glance at the rows behind the couple. Both Jeff and the killer must have been sitting behind Trey and Melani.

The marshal presses on in his questioning, but your mind wanders.

What if Jessica had something to do with the killing? Something in your gut tells you that the flight attendant and Angie Garret are connected. Both women have ties to Claire Wilson from the photograph the victim carried. Both had a history with domestic violence of some form or other.

Jessica had access to the entire airplane. Had she been accounted for the whole trip up to the point of discovering Jeff Archer?

There were three rows of passengers left to question, then Mara and the cowboy. But Griz had been sitting next to you, sound asleep. And in those handcuffs, Mara couldn’t be stealthy if she tried. Not to mention the fact, she was under the marshal’s thumb until he dropped her off with the authorities in Sydney.

Was it possible Archer had been killed before boarding? Marshal Durland said the body was still warm when he investigated. How long did bodies stay warm?

You pull out your phone and enter the question in your Safari app. Hopefully, Homeland Security doesn’t flag you or put you on a list for such a suspicious question.

The answer appears on your screen. Twelve hours for a body to turn completely cool to the touch. And you’d been in the air two hours before finding him. Technically, he could have died hours before take-off. Your shoulders droop. But if that’s true, the killer could be long gone.

You mind replays the image of Jeff Archer’s body and the gash across his throat. It wouldn’t have taken long to cut and run. You cringe probably not the best terminology. Had Griz been in your row before you boarded? You think back. Yes. He was already seated when you stuffed your carry-on in the overhead bin.

Had he seen something?

Had he done something?

“Anything else?” Trey rubs his hands on his cargo shorts.

The marshals brows raise as he shakes his head. “That should be it.”

The couple ease into their seats, unbothered by the close quarters.

“You sure spaced out there for a minute.” The marshal slides his notebook back into his pocket.

“Did I miss anything important?”

“Not a blessed thing.” The marshal puffs out a sigh. “Get any bright ideas while you were out in la-la land?”

“You know, dead bodies don’t go cold for twelve hours. The murder may have happened before boarding. We should check the restroom again. See if the lock on the door was tampered with. Something. There has to be a clue we’re missing.”

“Worth a shot.” Marshal Durland unfastens the top button of his shirt. And you head for the back of the plane and the compartment housing Jeff Archer’s body.

Clue #3 If the murderer is on the airplane, he or she would be sitting behind Trey and Melani, but the time frame just got wider.

Thanks for sticking with me! Stay tuned for another installment next Friday!

Top Three Thursday- Romantic Suspense Authors

Since romantic suspense is one of my favorite genres, I thought I’d share some of my favorite authors with you. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do. Along with each author, I’ll include a link to my favorite book they wrote.

3. Patricia Bradley

I love the perfect balance between romance and suspense that Ms. Bradley brings to the table. She’s got so much skill and her stories suck me from the first sentence.

2. Terri Blackstock

Not only are Terri Blackstock’s stories intriguing in the extreme, they deal with difficult topics and make me reevaluate life and my relationship with God and others. I can’t recommend the Restoration Series enough. It’s wonderful on so many levels.

  1. Colleen Coble

How Ms. Coble can come up with so many unique story ideas baffles me, but each one has such exciting twists that I can honestly say I’ve never been disappointed by one of her books. Check her out! You’ll thank me later.

Who are your favorites? What good books have you read lately?

Author Spotlight- Virginia Vaughan

I’m thrilled to introduce you to my friend, Virginia Vaughan! Just last week I finished her newest release, Texas Twin Abduction, and I enjoyed it so much. There were twists and turns until the very end!

Let’s get right into the interview, then I’ll let you know how you can connect with Virginia and win your very own copy of Texas Twin Abduction.

  1. What are your favorite books from childhood and why?

When I was a child, I fell in love with Gothic romances and authors like Phyllis A. Whitney and Willo Davis Roberts. For me, the combination of romance with danger and suspense was so exciting! It was the beginning of my love affair with romantic suspense.

2. Do you have any quirky writing habits?

I have a couple of quirky writing habits. I love to listen to 70s disco music when I write and you might even catch me dancing along to it, too, lol. My writing process is also kind of wacky. I write my books completely out of order. Sometimes when I’m writing a scene, I don’t even know where it will go in the book. Once I finish writing, I then have to put all the pieces together like a giant jigsaw puzzle. It’s a crazy process, but it works for me.

3. What do you love about the genre in which you write?

I am a fan of true crime and obsessed with digging into unsolved murder cases and mysteries. I love knowing that I can combine that passion into the stories I write and even draw ideas and create my own mysteries. Also, I get to kill people with little or no consequences. What could be better than that, lol?

4. In the Bible, do you have a life verse that is significant to you? Do you find yourself exploring this theme often in your work?

My go-to Bible verse is Jeremiah 29:11. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” There have been so many times in my life when circumstances have knocked me to the ground and I didn’t know if I even wanted to get back up. But when I think on this verse and realize that God has plans (plural!) for my life, it gives everything meaning. It gives me a reason to continue on despite the difficult times. I cling to this verse whenever things go wrong and am reminded that I’m supposed to be living for God’s will and not my own. Because many of my characters are like me and have made mistakes, they often also need this reminder.

5. Which part of the book creation process do you like best– brainstorming, writing, editing, or marketing?

I love brainstorming new ideas! My favorite thing is to wipe my whiteboard clean and start with a fresh, new story. I get as excited about starting to plan out a new story and imagining scenes in my head as I do plunging into a good story to read. I also enjoy the actual writing process. I’m a pantser at heart so this is the time when I really get to know my characters.

Comment below to win a copy of Texas Twin Abduction! I’ll be drawing on Monday, August 10th.

This twin’s past is a blank…

And she might not have a future.

Waking up in a bullet-ridden car with a bag of cash and a deputy insisting she’s his ex-fiancée, Ashlee Taylor has no memory of what happened—or of Lawson Avery. But with her twin missing and someone hunting her down, she must trust him with her life. Can Lawson save her and her sister—even as Ashlee’s forgotten secrets become an inescapable trap?

Buy Links for Texas Twin Abduction:

Amazon link —  https://amzn.to/39PN6g3

Barnes and Nobel link — https://bit.ly/2RgPx4

Harlequin — https://bit.ly/2ZZK5Ip

Author Bio:

Virginia Vaughan is a multi-published author of inspirational romantic suspense. Blessed to come from a large, southern family, her fondest memories include listening to stories recounted by family and friends around the large dinner table. She was a lover of books even from a young age, devouring gothic romance novels and stories of romance, danger, and love. She soon started writing them herself. A former investigator for the State of Mississippi, Virginia utilizes her criminal justice background with her love of writing to transform words into powerful stories of romance and danger. Connect with Virginia through her website www.virginiavaughanonline.com or her email list at http://eepurl.com/dtFeVP.

Social Media links:

Connect with Virginia:

Email Newsletter:   http://eepurl.com/dtFeVP

Website:  www.virginiavaughanonline.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/ginvaughanbooks

Twitter: www.twitter.com/gin_vaughan

 Amazon: www.amazon.com/author/virginiavaughan

Bookbub: www.bookbub.com/profile/virginia-vaughan

Instagram: www.instagram.com/virginiavaughanauthor

Murder at 30,000 Feet- Week 4

“Well, that got us nowhere.” Marshal Ken cracks his neck.

“It couldn’t be Angie.” You shrug. “I was sitting in the row ahead of her since we boarded, and she never left her seat. Neither did Devon.” You have a knot in your lower back to prove that point.

Jessica, the flight attendant passes into the room housing the rolling refrigerators. The marshal clears his throat and cranes his neck in her direction.

“Do you have a minute to answer some questions, Miss?” He flips to a fresh page in his notebook.

Her brow puckers and her tongue skims her bottom lip. “What would you like to know?”

“Would you give me your full name, please?”

“Jessica Carmichael.” She taps her fingers against her navy skirt.

“How long have you worked for the airline?” The marshal scribbles something in his notebook. Does he notice her nervous body language, too? Of course, he does. He’s the professional, not you. Still, if he doesn’t mention it, you will.

“It would be five years in January.” Her voice softens.

“Would be?” Marshal Ken’s eyes narrow. “You plan on quitting?”

Jessica’s gaze shifts to the stained blue carpet. “This is my last flight.” She meets the marshal’s eye, then cuts a glance your way. “I’ve enjoyed this job.” She gestures to a window with her hand. Lightning rims the bruised clouds in the distance. “Who wouldn’t want to travel the world?” Her shoulders slump. “But what good am I doing here? So many women need my help, and me working on a flying tin can, handing sweaty people pretzels and peanuts isn’t what I should be doing.”

“So you want to help women?” You lift a brow. Such specific goals usually sprang from specific stressors.

Tears glitter in Jessica’s eyes. She blinks repeatedly, as if trying to erase a distressing memory along with the moisture. “My sister.” She shakes her head. A tear whispers down her cheek. “Tawny. She never told us what was happening.”

“What was happening?” The marshal lowers his notebook.

Jessica bites her lip and glances at the ceiling. “Her husband.” Her jaw hardens. “He’d convinced her she couldn’t do any better than him. But if she’d have married a catfish off the internet, he’d have treated her better.”

“What happened?” Funny that Jessica’s sister and Angie share similar story threads. But then, abuse is more prevalent than people like to think.

“You’ve seen Snapped.” Jessica straightens her shoulders. “I used to think those women who stayed with men that beat them and belittled them were crazy. I mean, why not leave when your husband can’t treat you like a human being? Only weak women stay when they know it can’t possibly get better, right?”

Marshal Ken tilts his head, mouth in a grim line.

“But Tawny, she wasn’t like that–not before. She was so strong. You should have seen her when–” Jessica sighs. “It doesn’t matter now. He changed her. But he wasn’t only mistreating her. Tawny found out he had a second family in Miami. He worked in sales and traveled a lot. It almost killed my sister when she found out that her husband had a wife and kids. ‘That other woman.’ That’s what Tawny called her. Until my sister found out that she was the other woman.”

You take a step closer to Jessica. “I couldn’t help but notice that you referred to your sister in the past tense. Did something happen to her?”

Jessica’s chin quivered. “She found out she was pregnant. She couldn’t bear the thought of bringing a child into such a messed up home. Planned to leave Rick–her husband. She didn’t make it out the front door. He killed her–and the baby. She wasn’t very far along, but still, it was a human life.”

You chew the inside of your cheek. What can you say? Nothing will make Jessica’s ache go away.

“My other sister and I are going to start a women’s shelter next month.” Jessica’s lips tremble. “We’re naming it after Tawny.” She pulls in a jagged breath. “No other woman should have to go through what my sister did. And on my watch, I’ll make sure they won’t.”

“That’s very admirable.” Such weak words, but they’re the best you’ve got.

“Where is your brother-in-law incarcerated?” Marshal Ken reaches into his pocket.

Jessica scoffs. “He’s not. Got off on a technicality. There’s been no justice for my sister.” She grinds the words through clenched teeth.

You catch the marshal’s eye. The look on the flight attendant’s face screams for revenge. Could the man in the restroom be tied somehow to her sister’s murder?

“Do you know a man named Jeff Archer?” Marshal Ken asks.

“Never heard of him.” Jessica lifts her chin.

The marshal extends the photograph of Claire Wilson for the flight attendant’s inspection. “Do you know this woman?”

Jessica shakes her head, not bothering a glance at the picture. She has to know something. Why act so cagey otherwise?

“Please, take a look.”

With a sigh, Jessica’s gaze falls on the photo. She purses her lips, recognition sparks in her eye. “I don’t know her name, but I know who she is. When Tawny thought her husband was cheating, she had a private investigator follow him. That’s Rick’s real wife.”

Thoughts churn through your brain. If the woman in the photo, Claire Wilson, was Rick’s wife, who was Jeff Archer, and how did he play into their story?

Clue #3- Claire Wilson was married to Jessica’s brother-in-law.

Thank you all so much for following the story another week! Let me know in the comments if you’d like the Word doc I created to keep the story straight. Who would you like to interview next? Any ideas on who the killer is, or how the passengers might be connected?

Murder at 30,000 Feet- Week 3

The Investigation Begins

Angie Garrett

You follow Marshal Ken Durland with your mind scattering a hundred directions. Who killed Jeff Archer. And why? As you pass each row, passengers turn to stare. When you walked to the restroom earlier, none of the faces looked anything but innocent–except maybe the prisoner and that degenerate little boy, Devon, sitting behind you. You rub the ache in your lower back.

The marshal stops and motions to a passenger, and Devon’s mother steps into the aisle. She grips Devon’s hand and the four of you find privacy with the rolling refrigerators in the crowded flight attendant’s space.

“We have to ask you a couple questions.” Durland pulls a notepad and pen from his pocket. “What’s your name, ma’am?”

“Angie Garrett.” Her gaze drops to the floor. Is that a touch of an Australian accent? Maybe she’s going home. If that’s the case, she can’t have anything to do with Jeff Archer’s murder. At least you’ll be able to trust someone on this airplane.

Devon starts making clicking noises with his tongue.

“Stop it! Things are bad enough without constant noise.” Angie rubs her temples.

His eyes grow wide, and the obnoxious sounds die in his throat. Had his mother ever spoken harshly to him?

“Mrs. Garrett. Where are you from?” Marshal Ken asks.

“It’s Miss Garrett.” Her jaw hardens and she swallows hard. “I’m originally from New Castle in Australia.”

“Were you in the US on vacation?” The marshal jots something in his notebook.

She shakes her head. Concern clouds her eyes. Devon grips her hand and nestles close to her. Maybe the little shyster has a sweet streak beneath all the aggravation.

Devon

“Why were you in Los Angeles?”

“I-I was married to an American. We lived in Bakersfield.” Angie wraps an arm around her son.

“So your trip to Australia is a vacation. Do you plan to visit family?”

Angie chews her upper lip. “We’re moving in with my parents-well, with my dad. Things didn’t turn out for us in America.”

You study Angie’s face. Though she’s young, stress lines her face. The shadows under her eyes tell a story that is far from pleasant. How did you not notice earlier? Had her husband abused her? It would hardly be a question you could ask with her son around. You glance at Devon. Had he been mistreated? Bruises pepper his arms. Were they the result of the normal wear and tear boys his age endured, or had his father–or would it have been his stepfather–inflicted them?

Despite the sore muscles in your back, your heart softens toward the boy. Yes, he’s still impossible, but who knows what the poor kid has been through.

“It was a rocky marriage, I take it.” The marshal leaned against a rolling refrigerator.

Angie nodded slowly. “We had to leave. We’ll be safe with Dad.” She glanced down at her son and smiled. “Isn’t that right, Dev?”

The boy nodded. “Yep. He’s gonna take me to see kangaroos!”

“Just a couple more things, then I’ll let you get back to your seat.” Marshal Durland slid what looked like the mangled photograph out of his pocket. “Do you know anyone by the name of Jeff Archer?”

Angie’s lips formed a line, and she raised her brows. “Never heard of him.”

“And do you recognize the woman in this picture?” He held it up.

Her eyes widened slightly, lightened by recognition.

“You know her, don’t you?” You lean forward. What was the connection between the two women?

“Not personally.” Angie’s brow puckered. “A few months ago, when I came home from Walmart, that woman was in my house. She was in a heated argument with my husband. I didn’t catch what they were fighting about. But Craig, my husband, sent her away. She was so angry. When she stomped out of the house she used some words I’d rather not repeat in front of Devon. And the way she looked at me.” Angie clasped a hand to her throat.

“Any idea what her name is?” the marshal asked.

“I only heard bits and pieces of the end of the fight, but my husband called her Claire.” She shrugged. “That’s all I heard.”

Claire. The name fit in your disjointed memory. You’d seen the woman before too. Maybe not in real life as Angie had, but in an article.

Claire . . . oh, what is her last name? Harris? No. It started with a W. Or did it? Sometimes when you’re certain about the first letter of a name, you find you were very wrong when the truth comes out.But W fits somehow. Williams? Wilton? Wilson?

Wilson.

Claire Wilson.

You whip your phone from your pocket as Marshal Durland sends Angie and Devon back to their seats.

“You look like you’re onto something.” He takes a step closer and peers over your shoulder at your phone.

“The woman in the picture is Claire Wilson. I’m almost positive a friend of mine wrote an article about her. I just have to find it.” You type ‘Claire Wilson’ into a search engine, but there are too many results. Such a common name. So you add ‘Bakersfield’ to the criteria.

An obituary pops up along with a picture. Your mouth goes suddenly dry, and you consider grabbing a Coke out of one of these fridges. But you wanted a whole can, not a flight attendant’s tiny swallow. “Here she is.” You angle the phone so Durland can get a better look.

“She died last month.” He studies the screen. “It doesn’t give much information, and that’s never a good sign.”

You scroll down the list of search results, and an article with your friend’s name beside it snags your attention. Bingo! When you bring up the article, your stomach turns. Crime scene photos. Claire Wilson was murdered. And her killer is still at large.

Clue #2 The woman in the photo is Claire Wilson

Thank you for joining me for week three! If you’d like me to send you a Word doc listing the characters along with some of their information, let me know in the comments! Who would you and Marshal Durland like to interview next? I’m taking suggestions 🙂

Top Three Thursday- My Favorite Suspense/Thriller Authors

In case you can’t tell from my posts, Suspense/Thriller is my favorite genre. I’ve had the hardest time narrowing this post to three authors, so I’m sticking ones I would classify as writing straight-up suspense and not romantic suspense. Since it was literally impossible to choose only three without squeezing out one of my favorites, I’m going to list four for your reading pleasure. And I’ll add links to Amazon or the author’s website to make it even easier for you to check out these amazing works of creepy genius. You’re welcome!

4. Nancy Mehl

inside | faceout — Three book series with author, Nancy Mehl. Mind...
The KaelyQuinn Profiler series

Nancy Mehl’s Kaely Quinn series is a treasure! Her plots are unique and intricate. If you haven’t read her books yet, you’ll want to get on that.

https://www.amazon.com/s?k=mind+games+nancy+mehl&crid=Z8D9UXURUW1&sprefix=Mind+Games+NAn%2Caps%2C191&ref=nb_sb_ss_i_1_14

3. C.C. Warrens

C.C. Warrens - Home | Facebook
Some of the most amazing books of all time…

The only thing I don’t like about C.C. Warrens’ Holly series and it’s spin-off is the fact that I literally get nothing done around my house when I’m reading one. They are beyond un-put-down-able. Check them out!

https://www.ccwarrensbooks.com/

2. James R. Hannibal

About James R. Hannibal
So far, this is my favorite read of 2020

James Hannibal’s characters are unforgettable and wonderful on so many levels. You’ll want to start with the Gryphon Heist then move on the Chasing the White Lion. In the words of Adrian Monk, “You’ll thank me later.”

  1. Steven James
Amazon.com: Checkmate (The Bowers Files) (9780451467348): James ...
I read this series so fast, that I need to start over and focus on the nuances I missed.

Okay, so if you’ve known me for any length of time, you saw this coming a thousand miles away. The Patrick Bowers series by Steven James . . . well . . . I’m scrambling for the right words to describe it, but the English language is a little lacking. Suffice it to say, the final book in the series, Checkmate, has the most satisfying ending of any work of fiction I’ve ever read. It was so perfect I laid awake in bed until 4 a.m. the night I finished it, thinking about how epic and perfect the whole series ended. If it sounds like I’m over-hyping the series, I guess you’ll have to check it out for yourself.

Murder at 30,000 Feet – Week 2

This is why your airplane bathroom feels so small

When Jessica, the flight attendant, reaches your side, her shrill scream stabs your ears.

The US Marshal steps out of the aisle and flashes his badge. The lines on his face deepen as he scans the tight space and the bloody body filling it. He closes the door and glances at you over his shoulder. “The others can’t see this. It’ll only make them panic.”

You nod. He’s not wrong. But how will he investigate and keep an eye on the rough looking woman in cuffs who occupies the seat next to his? “What do you need me to do?”

“Go sit with Mara while I check this out.” He stretches on a pair of latex gloves, turning to Jessica. “Miss, don’t let anyone back here.”

Tears glisten at the corners of her eyes, and one slips down her cheek as she nods.

You ease into the seat beside the handcuffed criminal.

She tosses you a tight smile. “You here to babysit?” Her Australian accent is unmistakable.

“I wouldn’t call it that.” You study her face more closely. Hadn’t a reporter friend of yours wrote an article about this woman? You tilt your head. “Mind if I ask what those are about?” You motion toward the cuffs.

Mara crosses her arms, slumping in the seat. “Just because I’m chained up doesn’t make me guilty.” She chews her lip. “I’ve got a trial coming up for first degree murder, and I killed the guy. But I had to.”

“Did he attack you?”

She sighed. “No. It was what they call a crime of passion on those court shows. I didn’t go into the place looking to kill. But when I saw– I couldn’t help myself.”

Talk about vague. You glance around the corner. When will that Marshal finish up?

“Say, what’s going on back there?” The male half of the honeymooning couple leans over the seat in front of you and lifts a brow. “Melani heard the flight attendant screaming, and asked me to check.”

You glance in the direction of their seats, and Melani peers over the top of hers with wide eyes. “I can’t say.”

The Marshal steps into the aisle and removes his gloves. He opened his mouth to speak, but his eyes cut to the man speaking to you, and he clamps it shut.

“Look. I’m Trey Hyatt.” The honeymooner jabs a thumb toward his wife. “We deserve to know what’s going on.”

By this time a small crowd has gathered. The onlookers nod and chatter in approval to Trey’s declaration of their rights. Devon and his mother stand near where you’re sitting. While his mom wears a look of concern, Devon yanks a little girl’s pigtail then glances away, face wreathed in artificial innocence.

The old cowboy steps into the throng, squashed between row K and a woman wearing a wide-brimmed sun hat.

The Marshal clears his throat and motions for silence. “Okay. Hush! I’ll tell you what I know. But remain calm.”

The droning voices dull, and the Marshal continues. “I’m US Marshal Ken Durland.” He glances at you. “Someone found a body in the restroom.”

A collective gasp rises, and the talking recommences with fresh gusto.

“Quiet!” The old cowboy raises his voice over the throng, sounding more commanding than you anticipated. With a name like Percival, shouldn’t he have a timid voice? “Let the Marshal finish. I, for one, would like to know what this means for those of us on the plane. We’ve got lots of hours left to spend together. Wouldn’t it be nice to know if one of us is a killer?”

A hush descended.

“Thank you.” Marshal Ken nodded. “What was your name?”

“You can call me Griz.” Okay, now that name makes sense.

The Marshal adjusts his shoulder holster. “I found an ID on the body. The victim’s name is Jeff Archer. That’s all I know at the moment.”

Turbulence rattles the airplane, and you grasp the arm rests, lifting silent prayers for safety.

“What are you going to do?” Devon’s mom scrubs a hand over her face.

“I’ll place a call to headquarters and see if they can dig up any information on Mr. Archer. That should give me some idea who we might be looking for, and –“

“Do you think the killer’s still on the plane?” Trey reaches for Melani’s hand.

Marshal Ken nods slowly. “His body’s still warm. He hasn’t been dead more than an hour.”

The woman in the sun hat lifts a hand to her mouth.

Melani breaks into sobs.

Devon’s mother casts a glance at the prisoner beside you. Not a fearful one. Then she hustles her boy back to their seats despite his protests about wanting to see grandma. That kid’s impatience might be the death of all the passengers.

“Thanks for keeping an eye on Mara.” Ken returns to his seat, and you step into the crowded aisle. He grabs the phone from the seat back and holds it to his ear.

Another jerk of the plane sends you barreling into the old cowboy. He grips your arms and sets you on your feet. Lightning flashes through the window.

Could this flight get any worse? First a dead body, now a storm.

As Marshal Ken rams the in-flight phone into the cradle, a low growl escapes his lips.

You meet his gaze, hoping your look asks ‘what’s wrong?’ instead of ‘is this how we all die?’

“The storm cut out the connection. Looks like we’ll be doing this the old fashioned way.”

A lump forms in your throat. “We?”

“Can’t do it on my own.” He rubs his hands over his pant legs. “I’ll have Griz keep an eye on Mara here. Then we can ask some questions.” He gestures for you to lean closer.

When you’re out of earshot of the milling flyers, he holds up a photograph, lined with wrinkles, as if it had been stored in a pocket for years. “I found this on him.” You study the picture. A young woman sits at a picnic table, her face toward the camera. She holds a little girl in her lap. Both are smiling. You run your thumb over the place where the woman’s eyes had been gouged out. Jagged edges of the glossy paper scrape your skin.

What could this mean? Why carry around a vandalized photo? You narrow your eyes. Something about the woman’s face strikes a familiar chord, but maybe you’re just imagining it.

You glance at the closed restroom door. Was the man inside the victim of a senseless killing, or did he carry sinister secrets of his own?

*****

Clue #1 The photograph

Thank you for joining me for the second week of our ongoing Friday mystery! In case you didn’t notice, I used Penelope Kaye’s suggestion for Percival’s nickname, so I’ll be sending her a $10 Amazon gift card.

I’ve created a Character/Crime-Solving Word document for those of you wanting to take notes as the weeks progress. It would be a way to keep your suspicions and the clues organized. Also, there will be additional characters added in the coming weeks, so I will create supplements to add as we progress in the case.

Comment on every post while the mystery lasts, and you will be entered into a drawing for a $50 Amazon gift card.

Top Three Thursday- Serial Killers That Creep Me Out

Happy Thursday, friends! Hope you’re doing well despite the craziness going on in our world. It’s a comfort to know that no matter what happens, God is on the throne.

Still, it’s so easy to fall into the mindset that the evil permeating our society is a new thing. Well, it’s not. The Bible says there is nothing new under the sun, and those words are so true. To prove it, I’m going to share my list of the top three serial killers in history who creep me out to the point I could never write a full blog post about them for fear I wouldn’t sleep for weeks. Coming from me, that’s a big deal, since I typically go back to sleep hoping to finish scary dreams and see how they play out. You never know when you’ll stumble across a marketable plot for a thriller. *wink*

Without further ado, here are the psychos that keep me up at night.

3. Jeffrey Dahmer

Jeffrey Dahmer - Murders, Victims & Death - Biography
The Milwaukee Cannibal

Jeffrey Dahmer killed 17 young men between 1988 and 1991.

Though people close to his family described him as a happy child, Dahmer was never normal. One of his favorite pastimes as a pre-teen was collecting roadkill, cleaning it, and saving the bones. Somehow, I don’t think that’s anything well-adjusted happy children do. But I don’t have kids, so I could be wrong. Boy, I sure hope I’m not.

When he started killing, Dahmer lived in his grandmother’s basement, but killing people with her around got a little inconvenient, so he rented his own apartment with the money he earned working at the Ambrosia Chocolate Factory. (Talk about a twisted Willy Wonka.) With newfound privacy, his killing spree began in earnest. After each murder, he handled the bodies much like his had his childhood roadkill projects then stored their organs in the fridge for later. (I’ll leave it at that, since I’m sure his ‘Milwaukee Cannibal’ moniker spares me the need to go into detail.)

The aspect of his crime that gets me every time is a 14-year-old boy named Konerak Sinthasomphone. Dahmer had lured him and drugged him, and somehow the kid got away. He burst through the apartment door and onto the sidewalk. When he flagged down a pair of police officers and a group of people, he was too disoriented to make much sense. Dahmer came out after him, and assured the officers that he was caring for poor Konerak. A few bystanders urged the policemen to take the boy to safety. But they handed him back to Dahmer, and Konerak suffered the same fate as the others. So close. I can’t begin to imagine how those police officers felt after the truth came to light.

2. Albert Fish

When cannibal child killer Albert Fish killed a girl in Irvington
Werewolf of Wysteria

Albert Fish once boasted that he “had children in every state.” Now, when he said that, he meant it in the same way that Hannibal Lecter would ‘have someone for dinner.’ This guy died in 1936, but he still gives me the heebie-jeebies.

Since I don’t want to think too much about him, I’ll give you two of the many things that unsettle me about this man. First, after killing and consuming a little girl named Grace Budd, he wrote a letter to her mother describing everything. Second, when the time came to strap him into the electric chair, it took two jolts of the juice to kill him. It’s reported that he helped the executioner strap him in, because he was so excited to feel the electricity course through him. But due to the needles he’d buried beneath his skin, the first hit of Ben Franklin’s elixir didn’t get the job done.

Enough of him! Yikes!

  1. John Wayne Gacy
Timeline: Suburban serial killer John Wayne Gacy and the efforts ...
Pogo the Clown

Now, if you know me at all, it should come as no shock that a killer clown tops my list of nightmare-inducing maniacs. Since I first saw a clown at the green age of four, I’ve been terrified of the sadistic monsters. Truly, if you have to paint a smile on your face, something it wrong.

John Wayne Gacy posed as an upstanding member of the community by day and dressed as Pogo the Clown for children’s birthday parties. (Why do parents think clowns are a good idea? Never understood that one.) He killed 33 young men that police are aware of and buried them under his house. Gacy himself lost count when he ran out of room beneath the home place and started dumping bodies into the Des Plaines River.

All I can say to that is, “Typical clown behavior.”

I left most of the gory details out of these crimes. You’re welcome! I’m sure if you wanted to find out more, the internet would provide you plenty of reading material. But I can’t let my mind dwell on these guys for too long, because . . . nightmares.

There are plenty more psychopaths that make my skin crawl, but these three never fail to turn my stomach. Have you ever watched a documentary or read a book on a true crime that kept you up at night? Tell me about it below!

Murder at 30,000 Feet- Introduction

The fasten seat belt light flicks off with a hollow ding. You scrub a hand over your face then check the time on your iWatch. Only thirty-one hours until touch down in Sydney. Only thirty-one. The recycled air scratches your throat. Lovely. Good thing you brought Halls Fruit Breezers to take the edge off. You pop one in your mouth, and the creamy strawberry lozenge coats the aggravation.

Beside you, an old cowboy who had introduced himself as Percival Pettigrew when you first embarked slides his Stetson over his face and slumps into his seat, hands folded over his stomach. His fingertips are stained yellow, and cigarette smoke clings to him like a bad rash. Percival Pettigrew? Really? You chew the inside of your cheek. The name failed to fit the crusty cowboy persona. Why not give him a nickname? Duke? Nah, John Wayne will always be the Duke. Hmmm. Have to think about that one.

Percival Pettigrew…

“What can I get you to drink?” The stewardess, Jessica, stops her cart beside you. Her dark hair swept up in a French twist.

“Just water.” You’ll save it until after the fruity throat disc works its magic, but if you don’t get something to drink now, who knows when she’ll make it back around to row G.

She opens a miniature water bottle and pours about an ounce into a plastic cup. Stingy much? You take the swallow of water and smile. It’s not her fault the airline insists on behaving as if we’re in the midst of a shortage.

Jessica

Your seat lurches, sending water sloshing over the edges of your cup. After fitting it into the circular groove on your tray table, you peek around. A little boy rams his feet into your back again, his mother pats his leg, smiling. “Now, Devon, let’s find a new activity,” she says in a coddling voice. Precious Devon continues his assault against the seat and your final nerve. Too bad his mom doesn’t know that the word ‘parent’ it both a noun and a verb.

Portrait of a kid | free image by rawpixel.com
Devon
I took this photo of Nadia, one year ago, on the streets of Chisinau, Moldova.  She told me that in her early 20s she was thinking that those are the best years of somebody’s life. But her early 30s...
Devon’s Mom

The plane jerks, and Jessica grips the back of your seat. Your heart climbs into your throat as you grip the arm rests until your knuckles turn white. Probably wasn’t your brightest idea to binge watch Lost before flying across the Pacific. But hey, if you crash on an island occupied by homicidal smoke, polar bears, and a group of toughs who want to use you for their crazy experiments, you’ll arrive prepared.

Old Percival snores on. His fingers twitch as the turbulence passes. You still can’t think of a nickname that suits. Probably the high altitude. Devon’s feet pummel your back again. That little shyster isn’t helping creative matters either.

A baby cries from somewhere behind you but quickly settles. You pull your iPad from its sleeve. Might as well get a little work done. The last installment of the Banter app expose won’t write itself. How many people will delete their Banter accounts when they read the truth about their privacy being compromised? You hit the power button, and your tablet screen glows to life. You shrug. Most people wouldn’t care enough to worry about the spying software attached to their profiles. Or the government entities that keep tabs on their online activity. No, they were too excited to show their friends pictures of their sandwiches and post vague woe-is-me sentences in a desperate attempt to fish for sympathy. Whatever gets them through the day. You can’t be faulted for withholding information that laid bare the sinister side of social media.

Once you reach Sydney, there will be no time to finish this article before starting coverage of the Cordova trial. You take a sip of water. How could one man be capable of so much evil. You love your job, but the nightmarish cases it forces you to dive into leave you wishing for the chance to write a feel-good piece. Something about the Make-a-Wish foundation or Chick-fil-A. Anything but corruption and murder.

You straighten your shoulders and set to work. That’s not what you’re known for.

Devon’s tap dance on your back continues. If you don’t get out of this chair in the next minute, you’ll find a way to punish the little delinquent yourself. Didn’t someone say it takes a village to raise a child? Well, you’ll be glad to join this kid’s village. Or give that Super Nanny a call. Where’s a naughty mat when you need one?

You slip out of your seat, tablet in hand. A quick trip to the restroom is in order. Maybe you can finish your article without being kicked like a soccer ball.

As you pass row H, you narrow your eyes at Devon, hoping he’ll get the hint and knock it off when you get back. Devon sticks his tongue out, and your hint sails directly over his curly head. His mom sits beside him, beep, bop, booping on her smartphone. Judging by the sound of the music, she’s playing Kwazy Cupcakes. At least her taste in games is solid even if her parenting style is what the French call ‘checked-out.’

You continue down the aisle, scanning the faces of your fellow passengers. There are the honeymooners you avoided eye contact with in the terminal. That got PG-13 a little too quick.

Couples Of The Year - Interracial Couples - YouTube

A man wearing a badge sits near the bathroom door. Beside him, sits a woman in handcuffs. Okay. Did you accidentally step into a Lost remake? No. This criminal looks nothing like Evangeline Lilly.

William Fichtner - IMDb
U.S. Marshal
Female Prisoner

The green strip above the door handle reads ‘vacant.’ You pull open the door and a cold chill skims your arms. A man wearing a blood stained Red Cross t-shirt lays sprawled beside the sink. The gash across his throat turns your stomach.

You motion for the stewardess. But what can she do? Nothing can save this man. You fight the urge to scream. Somebody murdered him. You scan the backs of passengers heads.

Who?

***

Thank you so much for joining me on this whodunit adventure!!! Comment below to let me know what you think we should nickname our cowboy. Be sure to include your email address, because whoever picks the winning name will receive a $10 Amazon gift card.

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See you next week!