My newest book is free and here is the first chapter for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy!
“Midway upon the journey of life I found myself within a forest dark,
For the straightforward path had been lost.”
He had been staring at the door for several hours. He was waiting for her in an alley across the street, hiding behind a garbage bin. The rats kept him company as he looked on. He remembered the first time she came across his path in that Starbucks. He longed to have her. His imagination ran wild as he reflected on what he would do to her. He licked his lips with anticipation. His pulse was beginning to quicken. The door opened and a woman stepped out into the cold night.
Jennifer Brown walked home most nights and she always felt safe. However, tonight she sensed a pair of eyes watching her. It was early morning and darkness covered the Big Apple like a blanket. She heard a sound a banging sound behind her. She turned and there was nothing out of the ordinary to behold. A bum was digging out of the garbage adjacent to her. The stoplight was flashing red. A cold wind whipped through her light jacket and sent shivers down her spine. Her apartment was only a block away. She picked up her pace and readied a can of mace just in case.
Jennifer sat down in a living room chair. She had been dancing all night. Her feet and legs ached. She took her shoes off and rubbed her feet. Her fingers worked the pain and soreness out. She removed a wade of cash from her bra and laid it on the table. Jennifer counted the money; it would be enough for rent. She breathed a sigh of relief she had survived another month.
Jennifer Brown’s parents were devout Mormons and her lifestyle was in conflict with their faith. They loved her, however, they did not going to support what she did. She grew up in a suburb of Tucson, Arizona. She had taken ballet classes when she was younger. When she grew older she wanted to dance competitively. However her parents frowned at the thought of their daughter strutting around in front of everyone, therefore dancing was forbidden in their house. When she turned 18 years old, she exchanged the sleepy suburb town of Oro Valley for the fast pace life of New York. For a few months she slept in her car, while picking odd jobs to establish herself. Jennifer was as tough as she was determined. Her rigorous routine never bothered her, nor did the stares of the drooling men. Deep down she knew she would one day make it. She was going to dance with the prestigious New York City Ballet and nothing was going to stop her.
The day began as every other day started for Jennifer. The alarm clock did its usual job on time. However, there was no Jennifer in bed to hear the alarm and to click it off. The alarm continued to faithfully buzz along for a solid hour. Frustrated neighbors began calling the landlord and begging him to do something. The walls in the apartment complex were paper-thin. Abraham Silver reluctantly agreed to check it out. He received many calls each week about noise and he hated wasting his time with the frivolous complaints. He slowly marched up the stairs to Jennifer’s apartment. The staircase was old and it groaned with each step he took. He stood before her door and noticed that it was cracked open a tiny bit. This seemed very strange to him. Jennifer was always careful to lock her door. He pushed the timeworn door open. The door screeched as it gave way to his push. The room was dark. He fumbled around by the wall for the light switch. The light revealed a room in disarray. There was no trace of Jennifer anywhere. Clothing was strewn everywhere across the floor. The kitchen was cluttered with dirty pots and pans. An exercise bike was in the corner covered in clothes. Rarely used it lingered there ever since Jennifer had bought it. She had hoped to one-day get back into riding a bike. Something suspicious caught Abraham’s eye in the kitchen. He went back over and inspected the open microwave. The suspicious item was an open microwave. He had not noticed it before, because it was in the far corner. He went over to inspect it. Inside was a cup of noodles. It was lukewarm to the touch. He sighed. She had been there recently, but there was no sight of her. He scratched his head as he scanned the rooms. Abraham had never been in the apartment when Jennifer was not there. Therefore, everything seemed to be normal. The alarm continued ring and begging for someone to respond. He puttered around the bed toward the alarm clock. Then he saw it sitting there on her nightstand. It appeared to be a note. It seemed important to Jennifer because it was by her bedside. He wondered what it was because it seemed odd to him. There were no other notes lying about the apartment.
It had been Abraham’s policy never to bother his tenants’ things when he had to go into their place. He dutifully considered their space to be their place. However this particular piece of paper seemed different than anything he had seen before. It appeared to tell a story. Abraham’s curiosity grew stronger and got the best of him. He leaned down and picked it up from the nightstand. He drew it close to his eyes. The note was written in some sort of red ink, but without his glasses, he struggled to make out what was written. Abraham quickly reached for his glasses in his green cardigan sweater pocket. The red ink caught his eye. It seemed to sparkle in the light; however he could not make out the message. His gut was telling him something must have happened. Jennifer seemed to come home late, but he quickly dismissed the thought, telling himself that Jennifer was a cautious, street-smart girl. He put the glasses on, now able to see clearly what he was looking at. The color left his face and his mouth dropped open. It was a note written in blood. He could see the thickness of the dried blood and it seemed to hover above the paper. The blood transfixed him and it beckoned him to touch it. He instantly dropped it to the ground. Abraham sprinted out of the apartment in fear for his life, as if the note was going to come after him. He fled down the stairs to the safety of his apartment and called 911.
“911 what is your emergency?” The operator asked on the other line.
Abraham gulped. “There…is a bloody note in one of my tenant’s apartment.”
He paused a moment and composed himself and continued to say, “Something is wrong, please come here quickly because I fear something has happened to her.” Abraham spoke while his whole body shook from fear. After hanging up the phone Abraham sat down and began to cry for a few minutes, his heart ached for what seemed to have occurred to the poor, sweet Jennifer Brown.
A half hour passed before Abraham could hear sirens in the distance. He rose from his seat and did his best to compose himself. He had treated Jennifer as if she was his daughter. A couple times she could not make the rent, so he let it slide. He knew she would pay him eventually. He worried about her because she was a single girl living in New York trying to make it and it seemed she had no one around to give support. He was a night owl and would often hear Jennifer coming home late. He would usually open his door and lovingly tell her he was concerned for her because a young woman needed to be careful waking alone at night in this neighborhood. She would laugh it off and thank him for caring. Once, Abraham had given Jennifer a can of mace for protection. Jennifer loved the fact that Abraham had taken an interest in her in her life because so few people had. She had always felt tossed aside by those close to her. He was more than an apartment manager to her; he was almost like a father figure. When he noticed that she did not come home at the usual time that day and then received the calls from tenants about the alarm, he was dreadfully fearful for Jennifer.
Abraham Silver was an older man in his late sixties. His wife had passed away many years earlier. He was a short man, who often dilly-dallied around while annoying the fast-movers of New York with his turtle-like pace. Abraham had migrated to America more than forty years earlier. He came to manage the apartment complex on the Lower East Side through hard work, dedication, and loyalty to the previous owner. The apartment was comprised of older folks who were either retired or close to retirement. When Jennifer applied to rent a place there, many of the tenants felt that she was a breath of fresh air for the old, drab complex that they all lived in.
The police cruiser stopped outside the building right when Abraham was opening the entrance to the complex. Tony O’Leary and Jackson Murphy were some of New York’s finest police officers. However, both of them wondered why an older gentleman called the police about a bloody note. They had wondered if the old man was just seeing things. The operator had told them to check it out as a favor to her. They both begrudgingly agreed. They opened the doors of the police cruiser only to be greeted by an anxious Abraham crossing the street to meet them.
“Hello sir, did you call 911 about some bloody note?” Tony asked.
“Yes, yes sir it is upstairs in apartment 412. It disturbed me greatly and it makes me think something has happened to her.”
Tony and Jackson both looked at each other and thought the old man was beginning to lose his marbles.
“Okay pops we’ll check it for you.” Tony said with a hint of sarcasm. Abraham looked him in the eye and ignored the patronizing comment.
“This way, gentleman.” He said with a hint of dignity. He led the two officers up to Jennifer’s unit. He could not help but think that he would trade it all in to have Jennifer safe and sound in her place. Then again, he thought maybe there was a logical explanation to this note and that quite possibly Jennifer had stayed at a friend’s place. She had been known to do that sort of thing. Maybe he acted too impulsively by calling the police. Yet his thoughts kept coming back to the horrible, bloody note. Something must have happened. Abraham was almost positive of it.
They arrived at apartment 412 and Abraham opened the door. He turned to the officers while he pointed in the direction of the haunting note and said, “That is where I found the note, by the nightstand.” The officers stepped inside and looked around. Their shoes sunk into the thick carpet as if it was quicksand. They noticed the microwave in the kitchen. It looked as if it had seen better days. Duck tape held the start in place despite it’s efforts to escape to the ground. Jackson spotted something in the microwave. He opened the door and inspected the object, which was a cup of lukewarm noodles. He noticed that it appeared as if the microwave was opened before the timer ran out. What was strange was that the cup of noodles was left in it. He joined Tony in the main room and continued to look around. Everything seemed to be a little too messy. “Mr. Silver, was the chain locked on the door?” Tony shouted over. Tony did not like the look of the apartment. He had seen too many crimes similar to it.
Abraham pondered for a minute, “No. I don’t believe it was.”
“Would this tenant normally have it locked?”
“Yes she would.” Abraham’s answer now made him all the more unsettled. He began to pace back and forth in the doorway. He flooring creaked with each step Abraham took in worry. Tony’s gut was growing uneasy; because his police training was telling him it was a crime scene. He glanced at Jackson and he shook his head. There seemed to be something suspicious that occurred. They realized the old man could be right; therefore they kept their guard up. They thoroughly searched the bedroom of the small apartment. They walked closer to the location of the note in question and an eerie feeling began to overwhelm the officers. Something sinister had taken place in the apartment. They beheld the note lying there on the nightstand. Jackson put on his rubber gloves and picked it up. They both examined it carefully. It was in fact written in blood. It read, ‘I collect pretty things.’ Both officers looked at each other perplexed. They looked back at Abraham, who was standing in the doorway, in hopes that he had some additional information. His deer-in-the-headlights look confirmed what they had feared. Then Jackson caught something strange out of the corner of his eye. At first the sight did not register. He knew it did not belong there. He turned and gave the sight his complete attention. It was a massive and stunning sight as it begged for their attention. Jackson took a moment to take in the image and message.
“Tony, I need you to come look at this.”
“What is your problem Jack…Oh…what is that?” Tony was flabbergasted by the image.
“It’s a message.”
The image was a Polaroid picture taped to a huge mirror in the bathroom area right off the bedroom. The officers approached closer, they noticed clearly what it said. It read, “You seek what you cannot find, because you do not know what you seek.” The message was written in what appeared to be the same blood as the note. Tony looked at Jackson as he processed the message. Jackson crept closer to the Polaroid taped to the mirror. It was still somewhat dark in the room. He flipped the light switch to inspect the picture closer. After looking at the picture for several minutes he called out to Tony, who was still staring at the message. “Tony, ask Abe what Jennifer Brown looks like.” Tony then called over to Abraham still standing by the doorway “Hey Abe, what does this Jennifer girl look like?”
“Uh well…she’s about 5’10 slender with blonde hair down to her shoulders and she has a darker complexion. Oh she has dimples.”
“You hear that Jackson?” asked Tony.
“Yeah I do…I think this picture is of her then.” Jackson replied in a dishearten tone. A tear welled up in his eye and trickled down his cheek. It was these moments of job, which Jackson dreaded. Tony now approached as he held one hand back signally to Abraham to stay back.
“What you got?”
“See for yourself.” Jackson said as he fought the tears from escaping.
Tony’s stomach dropped instantly as he gazed into the face of Jennifer Brown, who was half-naked hanging upside-down in a crucifixion pose. Shock and awe of the image propelled them to stare at it. Their minds could not comprehend what they were seeing. Five minutes later, Tony grabbed his radio and called it in. In about five minutes the entire apartment complex was swarming with police officers and detectives buzzing about the crime scene.
Drew Casey was the lead Detective for the Jennifer Brown suspected crime scene. He was a distinguished detective with the NYPD for about twenty years. He wore a tan trench coat with matching tan fedora. The fedora covered his baldhead. The cool fall breeze made it tough to not have something on his head. He had started to lose his hair years ago; therefore, he began to shave his head to mask his baldness. Casey had played football at the University of Buffalo. He had been a running back, who was starting to get attention from the NFL scouts his senior year. He had been lightly recruited because he had grown up in Skaneateles, a town in upstate New York. It is a small town of just over 7,000 people. The University of Toronto had recruited him as well as Buffalo, but the major Division One schools never knew about him. After junior year, which saw him rush for 1,832 yards and score 15 touchdowns, he had caught everyone’s attention. The stage was set for him to finally receive the recognition he longed for. However, a severe hit to his knee ended his career too early. He felt the need to prove something to any one he could. Casey only smoked the Macanudo cigars because he loved the smooth, mellow taste. He was working on one when he entered the Brown residence. He looked around and assessed the situation.
“Any prints boys?” Casey said to officers dusting the apartment.
“Nothing sir.” One of the officers said as he looked up from his work.
“None sir.” Another officer said.
“Do we have anything?” Casey yelled out in frustration.
After several hours of searching for some type of evidence Casey and the other officers returned to the police station. Their efforts had produced nothing outside of a bloody note, a message, and a Polaroid of a possible crime scene in a mysterious location. Casey paced back and forth in agitation in the conference room.
“We have a photo of a possible crime scene, and two mysterious messages from some sicko.” Casey said and then in frustration he slammed his hand on the conference table and said, “We got NOTHING and that’s not acceptable!”
There was a long pause and then an officer in the corner room spoke up and said, “May be we could give that detective…what’s his name…Houston something or another a call and see if another pair of eyes can help.” Casey glared at the officer. He did not want to call Houston Wade, it would be admitting defeat, yet he understood that another set of eyes could help tremendously and Houston Wade was a great detective. He would have to put his pride aside and call Wade. However, before he went in that direction he had a friend in the bureau and they owed him a favor. He thought it was better to call him first then at least this way Wade could be a last resort. Nothing at the moment made any sense to Casey. He had been a detective for years and seen much in his time. Now he was stuck and needed help and wanted it fast. He was helpless and he hated it, because it reminded him of his rough childhood. If the press ever got ahold of this crime it could throw the public into a panic. Worse yet the commissioner would be crowding his space. He did not want to deal with any of it. Then he suddenly remembered from his past. Years ago there were a few murders, which appeared to resemble this crime. They never caught the guy. In fact they never had a suspect of note. He wondered if the guy was back killing again? This possible murder case seemed disconcertingly similar to those cases. Casey pondered this as he called his friend at the FBI.