Friday, 7 March 2014

Connie Cook's short stories have appeared on and Pacific Magazine of Australia. She lives in Port Credit Ontario with her two black cats. This is her fist novel and her second visit to the South Branch Scribbler .

Novel Blurb: The King of Swords

When her best friend, Deslyn, goes missing after a date with a guy she met on the internet, Jennifer is spurred into action. As a Registered Nurse in an Emergency Department, she is no stranger to critical thinking and action.

Similarities to a case in Massachusetts come into play with the arrival of Joe Moretti, homicide detective with Boston PD. Joe’s had three dead bodies pulled from Boston Harbor in the last month. The only connecting link is an online dating website.

The recent victim pulled from the Credit River in Ontario, seems to fit the profile and Joes computer guru, Lizzie, has found the link. Perhaps the killer has moved north to Canada and Joe’s here to follow up. Cross border cases are always complicated but, this latest victim is still alive. Sparks fly as Joe and Jen meet and they don’t get off to a great start. He thinks she’s in over her head, but then again he doesn’t know her ace in the hole.

After all, who needs a cop when your mother is the town witch and local psychic?

 Each chapter is titled after a card from the tarot deck that either depicts the character or explains an action or event that occurs in the chapter.


Chapter 1

The King of Swords: a man of ideas, action, intellectual powers, finely honed.

In death she floated.

 Not up to the sky or to heaven where she rightfully belonged. Instead her body was tossed like flotsam on a gray blue watery grave. One that carried her from the Charles River as it emptied into Boston Harbor. Sometimes she hovered, just below the surface. The sun cast brilliant rays upon sightless eyes.

Tour boats passed her in the harbor, freighters laden with goods ignored her, and the cold October winds left no comfort. Perhaps the current would drag her into the Atlantic Ocean where she would be lost, forever.  Or the tide could carry her back onto a nearby beach.

            Only time and the mercurial waters would decide. Waves lapped more frequently as they approached land, taking her with them.  As she eventually came to rest on the quiet shore of Deer Island, her spirit whispered. “Someone, please find me.”

Joe Moretti used his controlled, professional voice whenever he answered the phone. One never knew what the call would be about, and in his six years on the homicide desk at the Boston Police Department, he’d had plenty of odd calls. But this call wasn’t strange, just grim.   

“It’s Boston Police Harbor Unit, Swift here. We have another floater for you. Female victim, body just recovered near Deer Island. MO is similar to your other two cases.” 

Moretti easily recognized the gravelly voice. Swift, the Officer in Charge, had been present when the first two bodies were pulled from the harbor, and was well familiar with the case.  

Swift was always succinct, stuck to the facts and no extraneous conversation. “There’s evidence of wrist bruising, just like the other two.  The body was discovered about thirty minutes ago.  I have a call into the coroner’s office as well as forensics. Just thought you might like a look at the scene. Not much to see though, given she’s been in the water a while. But, you never know. The area’s been cordoned off.” 

“Thanks Swift. I’m on my way. Any chance you can have a boat meet me at the harbor?”

“Consider it done. Any luck on the first two victims?”

“Nothing solid, but a few leads we’re following up on. I’ll fill you in when I get there. It should be about 45 minutes. Thanks for the heads up on this one.”  

Joe was already standing and reaching for his coat as he hung up the phone. He knew much would depend on the actions of the officers on the scene, how quickly detectives responded as well as evidence technicians and the medical examiner. Unfortunately outdoor crime scenes were always more difficult. Mother Nature tended to raise havoc on potential pieces of evidence, especially when water was involved. He hoped there would be something viable they could learn from this latest victim. If the info Swift provided was accurate, and he had no reason to doubt otherwise, this would be the third murder victim pulled from the Harbor in the last month. 

Joe’s face was determined as he hurried to the car pool and grabbed the first available vehicle. He headed to the harbor with lights and sirens, already thinking ahead. Joe was no stranger to the sight and smell of death, but he’d learned to file them away, to look at the facts versus the emotions that took their toll on him internally. To an outsider he might have appeared calloused, but it was never easy to see a victim close up and that was why he needed to be at the scene. There was only one chance to see a crime scene and get first impressions. Those were the ones that left an imprint on his psyche, the ones’ that fuelled him in his search for the killer.  

As he glanced in the rearview mirror, a determined expression and steely gray eyes stared back at him. His dedication to the job took its’ toll. He was more faithful to his profession, than he could ever be to a woman and that being the case, it was better for him to stay unattached. Besides, who would ever put up with his shift work, understand the sights and scenarios that he dealt with on a daily basis. 

Joe knew he’d never be the kind of guy who could come home from work, and face a wife who asked, “How was your day honey?” It just wasn’t in the cards for him and it wouldn’t be fair to anyone he connected with. It sure as hell led to a lot of long, lonely nights, but for now it was his choice. 

He pushed his ruminating to the side, pulled into the parking lot, pleased to see the marina police launch waiting for him. Detective Swift was right on target with his promise. Joe hoped there would be something to glean from this latest case, something or anything that could move the investigation forward.

Twenty minutes later, Joe was relieved to get off the boat. Choppy water and a brisk Atlantic wind made him respect the Harbor Unit even more. These guys were called out in all kinds of weather conditions, including ice and snow. At least he had a warm office he could call home.

“Hey Moretti,” said Swift.  “Body’s this way. Found by an ocean kayaker, she’s still here if you want to speak with her.”

“If your guys have already debriefed and have contact info, tell her it’s okay to go. She’s probably traumatized enough. Just let her know I may call her later.”

“Will do,” He waited while Swift passed on the instructions. “I’ll have the marine guys take a look at currents and wind speeds. Maybe they can give us an idea of where she was originally put into the water. It could be hard to tell though, especially if she was dumped off a boat.”

“Good thinking,” Joe replied. As they ducked under the yellow crime scene taped off area, Joe got his first glimpse of the latest victim.  

Jane Doe lay on the pebbled beach. Her body bloated from being in the water. Long blonde hair straggled and tangled, framed what may once have been an attractive face, features now distorted.  Her skin blue and mottled, but there was no mistaking the bruises around her wrists. She was almost naked, except for a thin sleeveless white tank top and bikini underwear. Joe carefully crouched beside the body, mindful to not disturb any evidence. Filmed, hazy open eyes stared unseeing.  

He took the time to study her; taking in the physical scene, but also hoping she’d been unconscious before she’d been tossed into the water. Joe didn’t want to consider what the last few minutes of her life had been like. As accustomed as he was to death and bodies, it was a personal reaction that seemed new every time, especially when the victim appeared to be innocent of wrongdoing. These were the thought’s he held close to his chest, never shared with anyone, but the ones that kept him up at night. 

In death, there is no dignity.  Joe wanted to cover her with a blanket, keep her from the curious onlookers who gathered beyond the yellow taped scene, but knew it could interfere in collection of evidence. He was forced to let her be, ravaged by the elements of nature and the intrusive eyes of a gawking crowd. 

 In a heartbeat, he recognized the work of the same killer of the previous two victims. As much as he didn’t want to jump to conclusions, he couldn’t help himself. Two victims were one thing, but a third meant a serial killer was on the loose. Once the press got hold of this, the shit would hit the proverbial fan.  But what was this? 

Joe motioned to the crime scene photographer. “Get a picture of this. Looks like a crude knife imprint on her left forearm.”  It looked like letters had been carved into her flesh, but too hard to discern. Not something he’d found on the other two victims.  

“Got it,” replied the camera man. “There’s something else you may want to see here. Looks like a tattoo around her ankle.” 

Joe watched as the crime scene technician gently brushed away sand and debris to expose her right ankle. Although the skin was swollen, it was a tattoo; that of a scorpion dangling from a charm bracelet on her ankle. The scorpion was small but detailed, obviously the work of a pro. 

He shot a glance at the camera man’s ID. “Jeff,” he said. “Get some really good shots of this.  It may help identify her. If the tat guy is a true artist, he’ll remember it. Here’s the e-mail address I want them forwarded to.” 

Joe backed off and left the team to do their job. He wanted to get away from the smell of decomposing flesh, but even the stinging cold Atlantic salt air couldn’t clear the unmistakable odor of death from his nostrils. 

He remained haunted by the first two victims. Both had been identified. The first was a university student, stellar marks, well liked by her professors and peers, with no record of any kind.  The second was a free-lance photographer, again with no history of wrong doing. Joe and his team were still searching for a connection. They’d run phone numbers, financials and tried to work all the angles, but to date there were no links between the two.  

Joe’s heart went out to the parents of the two victims. No parent ever wants to outlive their children. They deserved justice and resolution because the death of a child is absolute. Joe intended to give it to them, no matter how long it took. It was the least he could do.  The families’ weekly calls for updates were constant reminders and he patiently answered and took the time to reassure them his team was doing everything they could. 

Swift’s voice interrupted his reverie. “Coroners almost finished. Anything else you need to see before they remove the body?” 

“No, I’m good. Have them take her away.” The cool detached tone of his voice annoyed even him, made him sound like a hard assed soul. But, he realized, that was the persona he projected. It was easier that way.  Besides Swift would be riding with him on the harbor boat back to the mainland.  Jane Doe however, would be in a body bag. Her last trip would be an undignified end, to a life she didn’t deserve. Joe and Swift would be on deck, still able to breathe. 

As the twin engines of the launch motor rumbled to life, Joe kicked into second gear. On the phone to a colleague at Boston PD, rattling off details of the scene and a plan of action. 

“Hey, Lizzie, here’s the deal. Check Missing Persons for a young female, age approximately 25 yrs, long blonde hair, about five foot two inches, weight about 135 lbs and here’s the kicker. She has a tattooed ankle bracelet with a dangling scorpion on her right ankle. The work is small and detailed. I’m sure the artist would remember it. Any idea how many tattoo parlors in Boston?” 

“Actually there are only two that I know of in the downtown core. I’d guesstimate perhaps a dozen in the greater Boston area. As soon as I get a photo, I’ll contact them.”

Joe stifled a chuckle. “Lizzie, the photos should be on their way as we speak. I’m not even going to ask how you know about tattoo parlors.” 

“Trust me Joe, you don’t want to know,” she calmly replied, easily switching gears.  “What about fingerprints and running them through the AFIS database?” 

“Good thought” said Moretti. “I reckon she’s been in the water too long. At best, they could peel the skin from her hands and fingers and try to recreate a print, but that’s up to forensics.

“Okay Joe, I’ll see you when you get back. In the meantime I’m all over it.” 

As Joe pressed the “end’ button, he thanked his lucky stars for Lizzie. She was young, gung ho, never complained about overtime hours, was willing to tackle any task given to her and was a real techno wizard when it came to computer hacking and internet details. But then again, she owed him. The fact she dressed like a Goth, never came into the picture. He’d come to her defense more than once related to dress code and appearance. But, bottom line, she was just damned good at her job, and he knew, she’d already have information for him upon his return. 

As he watched the harbor shoreline creep closer, his phone buzzed in his jacket pocket. He answered without checking caller ID. The familiar female voice on the other end brought a smile to his face, the first one today.  

“Hey there, just heard the news on TV about the girl pulled from Deer Island. I expect you’re in for an all-nighter. I’ll drop some food off for you at the station. Call me when you can and take care.” 

“Shall do, and thanks, Mom,” he replied to the already empty drone of the phone. Even hard-assed homicide cops had mothers. But so did the victim that was pulled from the water today.  

For now, Jane Doe was his priority and he had a job to do.
Thanks Connie for sharing the beginning to your novel. I'm looking forward to reading the rest when it becomes available. Connie can be found on Facebook as Connie Lynn. Her short stories can be viewed at
Next week drop by for a scary visit of Wasps. They can terrify you.
When Drake Alexander was a boy, he always knew he wanted to be a soldier. In Dark Side of a Promise he uses the skills he was taught to hunt for a desperate killer.


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