Publication date: September 30th 2016
Genres: Thriller, Young Adult
The daughter of a local police detective, fifteen-year-old Ryann has spent most of her life studying how to pull off the most gruesome murders her small Colorado town has ever seen.
But killing is only part of it. Ryann enjoys being the reason the cops are frenzied. The one who makes the neighbors lock their doors and windows on a hot summer’s day. The one everyone fears but no one suspects.
Carving out her own murderous legacy proves harder than she predicted. Mistakes start adding up. And with the police getting closer, and her own father becoming suspicious, Ryann has to prove once and for all that she’s smarter than anyone else—or she’ll pay the ultimate price.
Written in a mature YA voice. Some graphic content.
READ CHAPTER 4:
The body was small. Female. Bloody.
It was just after one in the morning on Monday, the twenty-eighth of May, and Sergeant Roberto Estevez could see it, illuminated by his cruiser’s head- lights, just beyond the yellow police tape. A swarm of uniformed officers and two CSIs handled plastic evidence bags. Having been tied up on another case, he’d arrived about an hour after everyone else.
His shirt and pants stuck to him. The thick humidity left an uncomfortable, greasy layer on his skin. As he got out of his car, he pulled his dress shirt away from his chest and stomach, trying to look
presentable and not like the soaking mess he was. While his colleagues searched the area, taking photographs to log into evidence later, he knelt
Three hours later beside the body. With fourteen years on the job and eight at the Dungrave County Police Office, he’d seen his fair share. He’d hoped to never see this.
A pool of darkened blood seeped into the surrounding pavement, highlighted slightly by the distant streetlamp. Her body was slumped on her right side, her face obscured by a mess of hair. He could tell by her size and clothes—shiny sneakers and light pink shirt—that she couldn’t have been more than eleven or twelve years old.
“Estimated time of death?” Estevez asked Warren, the medical examiner.
“Little over three hours ago, around ten.”
“What the hell was a kid doing out here at night on her own? Especially in a darkened back alley?” the sergeant asked, wiping his brow with the back of his hand. He motioned to Warren for a pair of medical gloves and yanked them on. He hated the way the powder coated his skin. He hated wearing the gloves in the first place. They made his hands sweat. He knelt and traced one finger along the side of her face, moving a chunk of blonde, blood-soaked hair out of her eyes. Estevez’s body tensed.
She was only a baby.
Nausea fluttered in his stomach at the sight of the body—the sandwich and coffee his wife had made him take for the drive over wasn’t sitting well.
He shook his head, trying to compose himself. “ID of any kind?”
Warren continued to inspect her body. “Nada.”
“There wouldn’t likely be any,” a woman said. “She’s too young, unless you see something like a student ID or name sewn into her clothes somewhere.”
Estevez didn’t need to look up to know who it was. “Hi, Amelia.”
“It’s Detective Marcus,” she said in a flat tone.
He smiled. “My apologies. Good evening, Detective Marcus. Do you have anything on this kid, like who she is or where her parents are?” He gazed up at her shadowed silhouette.
She stepped forward. Her black hair was pulled tightly back in its customary bun. Minimal makeup, except for dark-rimmed eyes. “That guy over there, he’s a neighbor, said she lives over on Chesterfield. Knows the family. He was taking a shortcut through the alley when he spotted her just after midnight.”
Estevez exhaled and stood in a swift movement. “Shit. Has anyone notified the family yet?”
“Ikonov was just about to head over. The parents called her in missing around 11:30 p.m. The victim matches their description,” Marcus said.
“Ikonov is as gentle as a bag of hammers. I’ll do it.” Estevez returned his attention to the ME. “Cause of death?”
Warren pulled off his gloves at the wrist and balled them up, shoving them into the pocket of his white medical jacket. “Multiple blows to the head with a blunt object. I’ll need the autopsy for definitive answers.” He pointed to the ground about five feet from the girl. “I’m guessing that’s your murder weapon, seeing that it’s covered in blood and there’s a small piece of red clay in the wound.”
Estevez bent to take a better look at the blood-covered brick.
With approximately thirty thousand people in Dungrave County, Colorado, Estevez had thought coming to work here from Chicago would quiet things down. It was a sleepy town that revolved around high school football and sitting on the front porch with your neighbors and a couple of beers. It was what drew him here. The last thing he needed was a child killer on the loose. He shuddered. He had three kids; he wanted to believe they were safe here. He’d thought they were. There had only been three murders in Dungrave over the past ten years. But they were drug related.
This…this was malicious. Evil.
He took in the surrounding area. Tall wooden fences lined the alley, bordering the backyards of homes and a few stores. Garbage cans and dumpsters had been placed along the fences for early morning pick-up. The smell was overwhelming on a muggy summer night. Like rotting meat and produce mixed with a healthy dose of dirty diaper.
“We’re going to flip her now,” Warren called out.
Estevez turned his attention back to his friend and forced himself to watch while Warren’s assistant, Frank, grabbed her legs. Warren placed his hands around the girl’s shoulders and together they straightened her slumped body, laying her on her back.
The girl’s eyes were open. A vacant, staring blue that made a shiver run the length of Estevez’s spine. Blood splattered her cheek and forehead.
“There looks to be at least a dozen blows to the side of her head.” Warren took the silver spectacles off his nose. “The blows escalated in violence. This was a brutal attack.”
The officer who had been taking the pictures came and snapped a few more, now that she was face up.
“Whoever did this was not much taller than the vic, actually. You can tell by the angle of the wounds. I’ll know more when I get her on the table. Strange though…the killer used a brick, probably from that pile over there.”
Estevez knew where he was going with this. “You’re thinking crime of passion or opportunity? Not preplanned obviously.”
Warren pursed his lips. “I’m glad I don’t have your job.”
Estevez backed up to make room for the body bag, which was laid open beside her. Warren’s words repeated in his head: not much taller than the vic. Did that mean they were similar in age? Not many adults hovered around five feet.
Warren ran a hand over the girl’s colorless face, closing her eyes, before he and Frank lifted her down into the black, nylon bag. She could have been asleep. But she wasn’t. He watched as the zipper closed, starting at her legs until it covered her head. A breath caught in Estevez’s chest, and he thought of all the other murder cases he’d worked on in Chicago. Somehow this one seemed more tragic. More vicious.
“Up.” Warren and Frank carefully lifted the now-full bag onto a gurney and into the back of the body removal van.
The poor thing would have to undergo an autopsy. As if she hadn’t been butchered enough.
The immediate scene was cleared now, except for Estevez and Detective Marcus. He crouched down one more time to study the pool of blood.
A hand rested on his shoulder. “You okay?” Amelia asked.
“Not really. You?”
“Are we ever?”
“Come on, I’ll go with you to the house for ques-
tioning. It’s not something to do alone if you can help it.”
He nodded, about to stand, when something caught his eye. There was a small, slender object near the dark pool. Taking his pen out, he hooked the item on one end and pulled it closer to get a better look.
Amelia crouched next to him. “What’s that?” “Not sure.”
“Hey, wait. I know what that is. It’s a friendship
His eyebrows lifted. “A what?”
She smiled. “Little girls make bracelets out of beads or colored string and give them to one another as a symbol of friendship.”
Estevez had his phone out by now and took a few photos of the item. “Really? She must have been wearing it at the time of the attack.”
“But it’s still knotted at the ends. It’s too tiny to have fallen off, even in a struggle.” Amelia grabbed the pen, the string bracelet dangling off the end. “We should bag it. Got any—”
Before she could finish her question, Estevez had a small evidence bag open. She dropped it inside and he closed it.
“So how would it have come off our victim?” he asked.
Amelia bit her lip and shrugged. “Maybe the girl took it off before the attack.”
What kind of killer, he wondered, would choose such a trophy?
“Or maybe our killer was going to take a memento—”
“Then thought better of it?” “Exactly.”
Kelly Charron is the author of YA and adult horror, psychological thrillers and urban fantasy novels. All with gritty, murderous inclinations and some moderate amounts of humor. She spends far too much time consuming true crime television (and chocolate) while trying to decide if yes, it was the husband, with the wrench, in the library. She lives with her husband and cat, Moo Moo, in Vancouver, British Columbia.
a Rafflecopter giveaway