14 by J.T. Ellison - Romance>Contemporary
Ten victims, each with pale skin and long dark hair. All have been slashed across the throat, the same red lipstick smeared across their lips.
In the mid-1980s the Snow White Killer terrorized the streets of Nashville, Tennessee. Then suddenly the murders stopped. A letter from the killer to the police stated that his work was done.
Now four more bodies are found, marked with his fatal signature. The residents of Nashville fear a madman has returned, decades later, to finish his sick fairy tale. Homicide Lieutenant Taylor Jackson believes the killings are the work of a copycat killer who's even more terrifying. For this monster is meticulously honing his craft as he mimics famous serial murders...proving that the past is not to be forgotten.
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Sensuality Rating: Not rated
Two months later
Sunday, December 14
A vermilion puddle reflected off the halogen lamps. It was frosting over, lightening as it inched toward the freezing point. Little bits of black hair floated under the hardening surface, veining the blood. As it froze, it pulsed once, twice, like the death of a heart. Life's blood, indeed.
The woman was naked, purple with bruises. She was sprawled on her right side, facing back toward the hill leading up to the Capitol. Long, jet-black hair flowed around her like a muddy stream. Her face was white, paler than a ghost; her lips were painted crimson. She looked like a fairy-tale princess locked in a glass coffin. But a poisoned apple hadn't propelled this girl to her final resting place, surrounded by love and remorse. Instead, she had been thrown away on the marble pedestal, discarded like so much trash. Her naked body arched around the center pole. The smaller flags circled her protectively, snapping with every gust of wind. Her left leg sprawled wildly, blocking one of the recessed lights tastefully highlighting the scene.
On closer inspection, a gaping knife wound was clearly visible, slashing merrily across the woman's neck. In the darkness, it smirked and shone deep burgundy, nearly black in places, with bright hunks of cartilage and bone showing through the wound.
Taylor arched an eyebrow at the mess. Oh, the joys of being the homicide lieutenant. She shivered in the gloaming, pulled her arms tight to her sides and rocked slightly. She was dressed for the weather--a thigh-length shearling jacket over a cream cable-knit sweater and jeans, mittens and a scarf, but the cold seeped in through minuscule cracks, making her own blood sluggish. The air smelled of snow, sharp and bitter. The temperature had been hovering well below the freezing mark for several days, and the atmosphere was dense, portending a storm for Nashville. Winter's coming this week, people said. Taylor scuffed a cowboy boot in the frozen grass.
Waiting. She was tired of waiting. It seemed she spent her whole life in some form of suspension, glancing at her watch, knowing it would only take a few minutes, a few hours, a few days for something or another, for someone.
The M.E. would be on the scene soon. All she had to do was wait.
It was too chilly to stand still any longer. Taylor stretched her arms to the sky, felt a kink release below her right shoulder blade. Too tense, and the freezing temperature didn't help. She wandered into the night, happy to let the stench of death leave her sinuses, only to draw back in pain as the reek was replaced by mind-searing cold. Her eyes teared. Giving a brief glance back over her shoulder, she paced the granite wall bordering the amphitheater. Distanced a bit, she turned, taking in the entire scene.
She had to admit, Nashville's Bicentennial Mall was a lovely setting for murder. Opened in 1996 to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Tennessee's statehood, it had never reached the pinnacle of success the city leaders had hoped for. It was still a charming walking mall, a favorite for outdoor lunches and the odd midday jogger. A very quiet area at night, too. The only crowd that had gathered to mark this murder was a multitude of blue-and-white patrol cars, still flashing at attention. That would change as soon as the media got wind of the scene. And the condition of the victim. Most likely, this was victim number four.
The national news vans would continue to line the streets of downtown Nashville, waiting for any police misstep that would give them another day in the news...