Police investigator Becca is in pain, literally, and she has visited what feels like a million doctors, but the solution may be otherworldly. For now, this is the least of her problems. During the past four months, The New Moon Killer has been leaving bodies about town. “I always thought the weirdo’s came out during the full moon,” Becca says to her partner. Together they travel to Griffin Park and then the medical examiner’s office to gather clues, which are exceedingly difficult to uncover. Like the previous murders, the latest victim was chloroformed, the throat slit, and the hands burned with acid prior to death. Nasty. Unusual. Confounding. Author P.S. Winn employs realistic police procedurals and everyday dialogue and sets them against the stark facts of this seemingly unbreakable case to create a haunting juxtaposition of a serial murder roaming Any Town, USA. The only thing the investigators know is that another murder awaits them with the waning moon. The pacing is effectively deliberate, and the drama is initially twofold—Becca’s relentless medical condition and the disturbing crime to be solved. Could they be related? Little doubt, Winn has a supernatural potboiler in store for the reader.
Sitting uncomfortably in her chair and holding the newspaper, Becca read the human interest article that was also, she assumed, an ad for the Doctor’s office. As Becca read, she could feel the usual tingling in her feet. She knew by tonight when she got off work, the pain would be extreme. She’d dealt with the pain in one degree or another, her whole life. At only twenty four, Becca couldn’t imagine how she was going to deal with the intense pain the rest of her life. Her blue eyes scanned the article with a deeply concentrated and personal interest. So much so she jumped at the voice she heard.
“Whatcha got there Becca, a hot romance story?”
Looking up from the article and from her lowered position at her desk, Becca stared at her partner, Tom Payton. “Very funny Tom, I think you’re the one that really goes in for the hot romance stories.”
Smiling, Tom’s brown eyes lit up. “Well, you know how it is, I do try to keep the ladies happy.”
Becca rolled her eyes. At twenty six, well-built and handsome, Tom was known to have more than his share of admirers. Becca had even dated him once. That was back when she had first joined the Fulton Police force. It hadn’t taken the two long to realize they were a lot better together as partners than they would ever be at being romantically inclined, for them, the latter was definitely not an option.
Becca laid down the paper she had been holding and pointed at it, then looked at Tom. “That happens to be an article about a new treatment for pain management. Actually it’s a lot more than that. The Doctor in the article swears to eliminate the pain completely and according to the paper has a ninety eight percent success rate.”
Tom frowned. “How many doctors have you been to Becca? I’ve only known you two years and I’ve seen you go through quite a few myself.”
Sighing, Becca shook her head of dark blonde hair. She grabbed the shoulder length hair in both hands, pulling it to the back of her neck and then grabbed a rubber band from her desk top and secured her hair in her ever present, efficient ponytail. “It feels like I’ve been to over a million, but this treatment sounds different. This doctor is using hypnosis to find the underlying cause of the pain.”
Tom shrugged. “I never heard of anything like that, but I’m not dealing with chronic pain either. Hell, I guess it couldn’t hurt to give it a try.” Tom looked at his watch. “Right now though, we need to get our butt’s over in the sheriff’s office. He called you and told you they found another one right?”
Becca nodded, she didn’t need to ask what Tom meant when he said ‘another one’. The whole town was talking about the first three killings, and not being too forgiving of a police force that couldn’t come up with any answers either. Becca and Tom had been the ones to find the first body and had also been the main cops covering the cases ever since. Now this new killing would make four in as many months. Their boss, Aaron Carlyle, had called for the meeting to be held at nine o’clock this morning. Becca had been in her bed asleep when she’d taken the call informing her about the latest killing and requesting her and Tom be at the meeting. Because they were the top investigators since the whole thing started Becca figured they would also be the only two attending said meeting with Aaron Carlyle.
Becca stood up. “Yeah, I was told about it. Guess we had better get in there. Did you go out to the crime scene?”
Tom shook his head. “Aaron was handling it, I was just told me to be here this morning. If I would have been called out, you better believe I would have drug you along with me.”
Becca smiled. “Gee, thanks Tom, glad neither of us had to go then. It sounds like this one is a match for the others though. We are definitely looking at a serial killer, you know that right?”
Tom nodded. “Actually, I think I felt it from the very first one.”
Becca stood and grabbed the paper she’d been reading off of her desk and folding it, placed it in her desk drawer. She’d have to wait until she had more time later to finish the article and decide if it was something worth looking into. As she stepped over closer to Tom, Becca wiggled her tingling toes inside her shoes, then winced as the pain hit. Tom noticed. “Bad already, a little early in the morning for the pain to be hitting you isn’t it?”
Becca shrugged. “Every day’s a little different, but yeah it does feel like it’s worse today. Maybe I just need to walk it out.”
Tom shook his head. “I hate to see you hurtin’ like that Becca. Maybe it will be worth a try to go and see that hypnosis doctor. Is he here in town?”
Becca laughed. “Actually, the doctor is a woman, you are such a chauvinist Tom. Her office is right here in town though, in fact it’s only a few blocks from the station.”
The two walked together toward the sheriff’s office. They had to walk past the other deputies desks to get there, and could feel the curious eyes staring at them. Finally they made it to the door to the sheriff’s office. Tom looked at Becca. “Are you ready for this?”
Sighing, Becca shook her head. “Not really, but we need to deal with this thing. I can’t stand to think about the killer continuing on.”
Tom nodded and knocked lightly on the sheriff’s door. Hearing the sheriff’s “come on in”, Tom pushed the door open and then stepped back and motioned for Becca to enter first.
She smiled. “You’re such a gentleman Tom.”
Laughing, Tom nodded. “Hey, my mom raised me right.”
At the sight of the sheriff’s somber face the two deputies sobered up. Aaron Carlyle sat on the far side of the table he had set up in his office. Four thick folders lay in front of him. Aaron looked up, his brown eyes that had a slight grayish tint, were now blood shot. He pointed at the two chairs opposite him. “C’mon in and take a seat. We need to go over this newest, uh, development.”
Both Becca and Tom nodded as they took their seats. Aaron looked at them. “First, let me say I didn’t have either of you come out last night or rather this morning. Three A.M. to be exact. I thought that it would be better to have you both rested up so you can focus on the investigation. The on-going investigation I should say. There wasn’t a damn thing you could have done last night anyway.” Aaron shook his head wearily. “This fourth murder is definitely the same as the others. We have a victim with their throat slit wide open and both hands and wrists burnt just like the others. Not much left of the hands and we haven’t got an I.D. on the victim yet. I plan on having it soon though. The victim is, or rather was, a young female, probably early twenties.”
Aaron reached in front of him and picked up one of the folders. “The female was five foot 2 inches tall and one hundred and ten pounds. She was a brunette with blue eyes.” Aaron shook his head once again, something he seemed to find himself doing a lot lately. “Hell, she was just a baby.”
Looking up at Becca and Tom, Aaron sighed. “The body was dumped in Griffin Park, just like the others. We know it was moved there, not enough blood at the site for the killing to have been done in the park. I’ve got two officers out there now talking to the neighbors, but to tell you the truth, I’m really not expecting them to get much.”
Tom pointed at the folder Aaron was holding. “Do you know what the newspapers are calling the bastard?” When Aaron frowned and shook his head, Tom continued. “The New Moon Killer.”
Aaron's eyes narrowed. “I didn’t realize the killings were during a full moon.”
Becca nodded. “I saw that in the paper and looked it up. The dates do line up pretty damn close, but not all are exactly on the date of the new moon. I always thought the weirdo’s came out during the full moon. Personally, I’ll take the name, just imagine if word got out that the killer not only slits the victims’ throats, but then burns the hands and wrists with acid.”
Tom nodded. “Becca’s right, The New Moon Killer is good. That is if the paper feels they have to give the killer a name. I think we are just damn lucky the fact that the hands of all the victims were burnt hasn’t been discovered. The teams have done a good job keeping that a secret.”
Looking at Tom, Becca frowned. “We’re not even sure the killer is a man.”
Aaron pointed towards the folders. “I’m betting on a male. The second victim was Clayton Miner and he was almost six feet tall and tipping the scales at just over two hundred pounds. The body was moved like the others. I’m guessing it took a pretty big guy to do that.”
Sighing, Becca had to nod her agreement. “I have to admit you’re right. I agree with both of you, we are looking for a man as the killer.”
Aaron stood up. “I’d like the two of you to head on over to Griffin Park. Find the two officers that I sent out to canvas the neighborhood. They probably didn’t get anything from the people over there, but check with them and then send them back over to the station.”
Becca and Tom stood, Tom pointed at Aaron. “What about you? If anyone looks like they could use a good rest it is you.”
Aaron tried to smile, then wiped a hand over his weary face. “I am tired, but I’ll be okay. I have to tell you though I am getting way too old for this shit.”
Becca laughed. “Oh come on now, you’re not that old Aaron.”
Shrugging, Aaron shook his head. "I'm forty five, but I've been doing this for fifteen years. I should retire and spend time with the family. Beth keeps telling me the job takes too much out of me. I'd love to just be able to spend time with her and the girls before the kids are all grown up. Next week is Ashley's eighth birthday.” Aaron shook his head in wonder. "Seems like she was just born yesterday and Shelby's only two years behind her."
Aaron sat down. "Listen to me, going on and on. You two better head out before I bore you to death."
Becca and Tom both laughed, but still hurried out of the sheriff's office, through the police station and out into the early morning air. Late April in Fulton was chilly enough the two had grabbed light jackets to slip on as they hurried across the parking lot. Becca pointed ahead of them. "I think we better take a black and white. That always looks more official when we question people."
Tom nodded. "I guess, but I have a feeling we still won't be getting many answers no matter what car we drive. I know we came up with zip on the other three murders."
Shrugging, Becca went to the passenger door of the police car. "You drive Tom. And let's stop and get a good cup of coffee on the way. That stuff in the station tastes like it's older than me."
Tom smiled. "Okay, but only if we stop and get the coffee at Baxter’s, they have great doughnuts too."
Rolling her eyes, Becca laughed and then slipped in the car. When Tom got in, she shook her head at him. "Do you really think we need doughnuts?"
Starting the car, Tom nodded enthusiastically and then rubbed his hands together. "You can always use doughnuts Becca. How can you even ask such a thing?"
Laughing, Becca shook her head. "Okay, but can we take time to sit in the shop and eat then? I don't want to bring the doughnuts in the car."
Tom nodded. "I'm sure the two deputies Aaron sent to Griffin Park can wait for us that long."
Pulling out from the police station parking lot, Tom drove straight to Baxter’s and the partners went inside and took a booth.
When the waitress approached she smiled. "My two favorite neighborhood protectors. What can I get you this morning?"
Becca stared at the waitress. "Apparently you don't read the local papers Sherry. They aren't exactly bragging on the local police's protection skills."
Shaking her head, Sherry gave Becca a sympathetic smile. "I don't pay a whole lot of attention to them and you shouldn't either. Now what can I get you? We have some fresh baked cinnamon rolls."
Becca nodded. "That sounds good, I'll take one, but make it small and add a large coffee for now and I'll have a mocha cappuccino to go in a few minutes."
The waitress looked at Tom. "How about you?"
Tom smiled. "I'll have coffee, but I want one of your special Baxter Big Stuff doughnuts with it."
Sherry smiled, the doughnut Tom wanted easily filled a dinner plate. "Coming right up."
Sherry brought their order back to them quickly and then went to check on her other customers. Becca pointed at the gigantic doughnut sitting in front of Tom. "Are you going to eat that whole thing?"
Nodding, Tom smiled. "Yes ma'am and don't give me no lip about it either. I have a feeling I'll be needing lots of energy today and this is just the thing that will fix me up."
Becca took a bite of her cinnamon roll and closed her eyes. "Oh my gosh, these guys make the best food. If I worked here I bet I'd weigh over three hundred pounds."
Tom looked at Becca's slim figure. "I don't see that happening. In the two years I've known you I bet you haven't added an ounce of weight."
Becca smiled sarcastically. "That's because I'm a cop, not a baker."
Tom focused on eating his doughnut and finished it off before Becca ate half her roll. He took a drink of his coffee to wash down the doughnut before he looked a Becca, his brown eyes serious. "When we get done questioning the people over by Griffin Park, do you want to go and talk to Mac?"
Pushing away her half eaten roll, Becca rolled her eyes. "I suppose we'll have to, but I hate going in that place. It's one thing to see a dead body and another to go to the medical examiner's office and look inside that same dead body, if you know what I mean."
Giving Becca a small smile, Tom nodded. "I know what you're saying, but believe me, Mac is tame compared to some of the other M.E.'s. He doesn't try to freak you out or pull you over and try to get you to examine all the gross things he's looking at."
Becca looked at Tom, her eyes wide. "Do you know M.E.'s that are like that?"
Shrugging, Tom waved a hand in a see-saw gesture. "I've met a few, but in Fulton we're lucky, Daniel MacGregor handles almost everything that happens. Once in a while he has to check with other labs on things, but that's rare, because from what I know about Mac, he doesn't like intervention from the higher up mucky mucks who think they know it all." Tom pushed away his empty plate. "I'm done. How about you?"
Draining her coffee and putting her cup next to her unfinished roll, Becca nodded. "I'm done. I need to grab my to-go cup though."
A short time later the two deputies pulled in at Griffin Park. One side of the park held swing sets, slides and various apparatuses built for kids to climb on. The other side of the park had a few benches that were set near a walking path. That area was also covered by a variety of bushes and trees. The three previous victims of the now called New Moon Killer had been found thankfully on the side of the park the kids didn't frequent. Behind the park benches, the bodies had been found half hidden under the bushes. Although neither Tom nor Becca had asked, they both knew the newest victim's body had to have been found in close proximity to where the others had been.
Becca and Tom got out of the patrol car and walked to the far end of the park. Becca pointed over at another empty police car parked ahead of them on the side of the road that ran along the park. "The two deputies can't be too far away."
Tom nodded. "Probably going door to door around the neighborhood. I guess we better go find them and see if they got any information. I'll give you five to one odds that the answer is going to be no."
Becca's lips curled into a slight smile before she shook her head. "Hey, don't look at me, I'm not one to take sucker bets. I'm sure this time won't be any different than the others too. No one will admit they heard or saw a damn thing."
Pointing up the road where two men were talking to a woman with curlers in her hair and wearing what looked like a bright pink bathrobe, Tom laughed. "I think we had better go and rescue those two."
An hour later, after sending the deputies back to the station and after finding their predictions that no one had seen or heard anything, had been proven true, Tom and Becca headed over to the Medical Examiner's office. The place sat on the south end of Fulton in an older brick building. The main floor was only about thirty feet by thirty feet square, but the building also had a full basement where Mac usually kept the dead bodies in cold storage.
When the partners stepped in the building, Becca was relieved to see Mac was upstairs. She didn't feel like going down in the cold basement with its dim lighting that was a little too creepy for her tastes. The smell down there was also a lot worse.
Doctor Daniel MacGregor, known as Mac to all, had been the Medical Examiner in Fulton for thirty years. He had come here when he was thirty four and never left. With the killings that had been happening he had been thinking a lot lately about retiring and letting someone younger take over.
Mac waved an arm at Becca and Tom. “I figured I'd be seeing both of you today. Come on back to my office and I'll tell what I got going on. There's a pot of coffee on in there if you want some.”
Becca held up her cup. “I brought mine with me. I really like you Mac, but I have to tell you that you make one shitty cup of coffee.”
Mac frowned. “What's wrong with my coffee?”
Tom laughed. “Your coffee's fine as long as there is a knife handy to cut it with.”
Mac just stared at the two a moment before shaking his head of white hair. “Let's cut the jokes and just go in my office.” Mac turned and walked away, muttering under his breath.
Tom smiled as he heard the words 'damn wimps' amongst the Doctor's other mumblings. Becca heard it too and looked at Tom who just shook his head, still smiling. “Let's just go in and see what Mac's got for us.” The two followed Mac into his office.
Mac grabbed himself a cup of coffee and then sat down by the metal table in the room. He picked up the folder laying on the tables' scratched top. Mac looked up at Tom and Becca, still standing. “Take a seat, although this won't take too long.”
As the two sat down, Becca pointed at the folder Mac held. “Are we looking at the same killer as the others?”
Mac nodded and ran a hand through thick white hair. His light blue eyes looked tired as he glanced from Becca to Tom before nodding. “This killing was most definitely done by the same killer as the other three. I really hate to have to tell you that. I know you two are having a hell of a time coming up with something on these deaths.”
Tom's brow furrowed in a deep frown. “That's an understatement, not just me and Becca either. Sheriff Carlyle hasn't been getting a whole lot of sleep lately either.”
Mac nodded. “I know, Aaron was here with me half the night.” Mac opened the folder. “We did get an I.D.” Mac cleared his throat. “The victim's name was Cindy Wilson, she just had her twenty second birthday last month.” Mac looked at Tom and Becca and then back at the papers in the folder. “March twenty sixth, not that it matters, except to her and her family I suppose. Miss Wilson was a single, white female. She lived alone in her parent's home right here in Fulton. It seems here parents moved to Fairview a few years back and their daughter stayed on in their home so she could finish up college at the community center here. The parents own a home in both places. I talked to Mr. and Mrs. Wilson not more than an hour ago.” Mac shook his head. “Not the sorta conversation you want to start the day out with I can tell you that.”
Becca took a breath and let it out slowly. “What about the body? Aaron said the killing was done the same as the others.”
Mac nodded. “The young woman's throat was slit open. The cut was made with a scalpel. The hands of the victim were burned with acid. The testing shows hydrofluoric acid was used. Traces of chloroform were found around the victims’ nose and mouth. Closest scenario, the victim was knocked unconscious and then I think handcuffed.” Mac looked at the two in the room with him. “Same as the others, markings on the ankles and traces of metal in the burns on the wrists. Following that, the throat was cut open with a scalpel. The body was then moved after death to Griffin Park. I would say it was a blessing that the victim was dead before the body was moved.”
Becca swallowed hard before speaking. “The hands were burnt before the killing again.”
Mac knew it wasn't a question, they’d already discussed the bizarre and cruel fact after the first killing, a forty six year old married woman, Joanne Landers. The second killing had been a twenty one year old male and the third, a twenty three year old female. Now, with this newest killing, the females outnumbered the males three to one. Not that it mattered except that the one male meant the killer wasn't limiting him or herself to a certain gender. Mac shook his head to clear his thoughts. “I have to say I believe the killer is a male. Clayton Miner and Joanne Landers were both fairly large. Mrs. Landers weighed one hundred and fifty pounds and Mr. Miner was over two hundred and twenty. I imagine it is possible for a woman to move the bodies, but I think the killer was a man.”
Tom frowned. “Do you think we need to get one of those profilers in here Mac?”
Staring intently at Tom, Mac shook his head. “I know Aaron doesn't want to and I guess I don't blame him. All of you have been digging through evidence, racking your brains and living with all of this since January. If Aaron calls someone in now all of you will be pushed off to the side. Maybe he'll eventually be forced to have to call in help, but for now it's your ball game. I'm not a profiler, not by a long shot, but I have been around a good while and can give you my two cents worth. The killer is male, around five foot ten and maybe one hundred and eighty pounds. He is right handed, going by the direction of the cuts made. I think he has to be fairly well built and fairly strong. Other than that, I got nothin'.”
Tom grunted. “Well, I guess that narrows it down a little anyway.”
Mac looked at Tom and forced out a sarcastic laugh. “Not a hell of a lot, now if I could ask you two to get the hell out of my office and out where you can make heads or tails of this case maybe Aaron won't be forced to make that damn call he is avoiding.”
Tom and Becca took Mac's advice and headed back to the police station to go over the scanty evidence they had.