BY: S. B. REDSTONE
A psychopathic killer on a quest leaves behind a string of brutal murders, and to find the Who, the police must first discover the Why…
Detective Aubrey McKenzie has been assigned to investigate the murders. A lovely, fabulously wealthy, dark-haired Scot, whose iron will was forged in the inferno of human tragedy, Aubrey is stymied by the lack of solid clues. Now she must rely on her paranormal ability to apprehend the killer—an ability that has been invaluable in her police work but has made a disaster of her social life.
Fate teams Aubrey with Detective Joshua Diamond, a handsome, talented, and compassionate man who is more than happy eating a greasy bacon-cheeseburger and wearing clothes that should have been thrown out with the trash. In a race against time, Aubrey and Joshua must overcome their vast differences—and their attraction for each other—and discover the identity of this elusive killer, and the quest this fiend is on, before more lives are destroyed.
TAYLOR JONES SAYS: In A Sinister Obsession by S. B. Restone people keep dying horrific deaths. At first the police don’t suspect a serial killer, as the murders happen in different states. In Maryland, Detective Aubrey McKenzie is assigned to the case. When she is unable to make any headway from the clues at hand, Aubrey is forced to resort to using her one paranormal talent to help solve the case. She can hear people’s thoughts. This talent has helped her become a top detective, but it plays havoc with any male-female relationship she has. When a similar murder happens in Pennsylvania, Aubrey teams up with Detective Josh Diamond and the sparks really begin to fly.
The story was a little too graphic for me, not that I necessarily mind sex and violence, I am just not sure I want to know all the gory details. However, I can’t deny that the plot is well thought out and keeps you on the edge of your seat.
REGAN MURPHY SAYS: A Sinister Obsession by S. B. Redstone is a chilling tale of murder, psychosis, greed, and arrogance. When people start dying bizarre and gruesome deaths, the police are stymied. Not only can they not find the killer, they can’t even come up with a motive for the killings. I like the fact that the heroine comes across as a cold-hearted bitch to most people. To say she lacks social skills is an understatement. It makes a nice break from the sweet, innocent, girl-next-door that usually stars in the modern novel.
Redstone has a good handle on psychology, and I really liked the way he presented the psychosis of the killer. I have heard that no one ever thinks of themselves as evil and that even the most evil of us believes what he/she does is justified. I thought that Redstone did an excellent job of portraying that in his killer’s personality. As Taylor says, the book is a little more graphic than most, but I wasn’t offended. After all, real life is pretty graphic, too, especially the bad parts. And I thought it made the book more real.
It was Christmas Eve in Shadyside, a charming, historic neighborhood on the east end of Pittsburgh. The restaurants, bars, and upscale shops along the brightly decorated Ellsworth Avenue were crowded with locals and weary minded students from around the world. Unfortunately, not everyone was reveling in the holiday spirit. An obsession was looming in the dark, sinister shadows of a human mind. Blood would satisfy the hunger, but only imagined love would bring inner peace.
Just south of Ellsworth Avenue was Dahlia Crescent, a picturesque street with old world charm. George and Ann Marr lived on that street. However, since their son’s abduction and murder over ten years ago, the couple had allowed their Victorian home to become a visual blight. The house suffered from peeling, faded paint, dangling gutters and shutters, and rotted porch railings. Ugly weeds, crabgrass, and the rare mowing of the sprawling lawn gave the property the appearance of a neglected and ghostly gravesite.
A debilitating melancholia oppressed Ann’s life for one powerful reason–she took the exclusive blame for Bobby being accessible to a sexual predator. In her way of thinking, if she hadn’t made a selfish decision to work at the Shadyside Library, she would have picked him up at school each day and driven him home. As a deserved punishment for her maternal failure, she longed to put a noose over a garage rafter and slowly strangle to death in justified agony. But she didn’t follow through on that impulse. She didn’t want to evoke God’s anger and a denial into Heaven where she believed Bobby happily awaited her arrival. Her alternative to death–live her life as if on Death Row.
Everyone who knew George Marr before the loss of his son thought him to be a fortunate man. He had a handsome family, a thriving structural engineering company, excellent health, and God’s love. But as a consequence of losing Bobby, his happy life plunged into bitter darkness. Out of duty for his wife and daughter, Cassandra, he did what was expected of him as a husband and father, but without pleasure. Last June, due to his apathy and inattentiveness, his partners offered him a generous buyout of five million dollars, which he accepted without argument. Now languishing in a home shrouded in gloom, he drank and smoked to excess. Ann and he rarely spoke. They didn’t ask for hugs or to make love. George didn’t consciously blame his wife for their son’s death, but he acted as if he did.
Tonight, as midnight approached, the Marrs were not anticipating a lovely Christmas Day. There was no colorful Christmas tree–and most definitely, Santa would not be sliding down their chimney bearing gifts. Instead, the Grim Reaper had gained entry with wicked intentions.
Ann was in her bedroom. She was not sleeping or surfing the web on her laptop to find the killer of her son so the police would reopen their investigation. Against her will, she lay outstretched on her bed. In the nude. Her wrists and ankles were firmly secured to the maple bedposts by her nylon stockings. Her writhing body glistened with cold sweat and hot blood. Her throat was raw from shrieking–mindless shrieking caused by the lit cigarette tip touching her tender flesh. The promise to stop was offered if she would just answer the questions posed. But Ann didn’t know that information. And no matter how many times she said that, she was not believed.
When the repulsive, gloating smirk came close to her ear, and the cruel lips revealed an incredulous truth, Ann was stunned. And sickened. Contrary to her kind nature, she spit into that heartless face just before she was murdered.
Unfortunately, George was no savior for his wife. An hour earlier, he had been in the den, sitting in his old leather chair, watching the nightly world news, drinking his bourbon, and smoking cigarettes. The tattered carpet silenced the soft footsteps behind him.
Unexpectedly, a cold hand grabbed his chin and snapped his head back. Before he could react to protect himself, the razor-sharp knife slashed his throat in one violent stroke, severing his carotid artery, and sending his blood across the room, drenching the ragged furniture and threadbare carpet.
Quickly drained of his strength, George had no ability to fight back. With his heart screaming for the necessities of life, a sinister smirk looked down on him. Then spiteful lips came close to his ear and an eel-like tongue sensually licked it, while whispering a horrifying truth into his naïve mind–a truth so unimagined and despicable that it catapulted a desperate desire for retaliation. But George was too debilitated and all he could do was beg Jesus not to ignore his last wish. Send this fucking monster straight to hell!
At four in the morning, from the backyard, a flame followed the course of gasoline soaked bed sheets that had been made into a long fuse, trailing back into the house. After a minute, the flame leaped through an open window.
A raging firestorm burst out of the Marr home.
A car quietly disappeared into the night’s shadows. Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, Ode To Joy, resounded from the car stereo.
The waning crescent moon, glowing faintly in the night sky, was once again disheartened by human folly.
When the Shadyside firefighters arrived at Dahlia Crescent, they had to contend with a voracious inferno. Despite their valiant, but hopeless efforts to put out the house fire, the greedy flames consumed the wooden structure, and the firemen’s puny hoses had no chance of altering the house’s doomed fate.
Fire Chief Max Travers and Fire Marshall Hank Jamison spoke with the neighbors who were standing in the street, watching the tragic spectacle. Travers and Jamison learned from the neighbors that George and Ann Marr lived in that home, and since the Marrs weren’t on the street and, as social recluses they never went on holiday, the consensus was–the Marrs were inside the home.
It was an accurate, but sad assumption.
At sunrise, the heavy construction equipment arrived, along with a dumpster. Hours later, after much of the smoldering timbers and incinerated furnishings were placed in the steel container, the bodies were discovered.
The local media had been waiting impatiently for a heartfelt Christmas story. At first, the reporters assumed short-circuited Christmas tree lights caused the fire, but they would soon be informed by Fire Chief Travers that it was arson.
Travers, Jamison, and two police officers stood over the black body bags. They wondered aloud–what kind of sick mind would perpetrate such heartless brutality, on a lovely street, in a lovely neighborhood such as Shadyside.
At ten in the morning, Detective Lieutenant Joshua Diamond arrived at the crime scene. The tall, lanky young man strode self-assuredly toward the fire officials. Dark sunglasses hid soft blue eyes.
Detective Diamond walked across the icy lawn careful not to trip on the jagged debris. He scrutinized the burnt structure, while absorbing the totality of the damage for his report. Basically, the house had been reduced to an amorphous pile of black, noxious, smoldering rubble. He glanced at the two black body bags and sighed heavily.
Fire Marshall Jamison, with his camera hanging from his shoulder, stepped toward Detective Diamond with his hand out. “I’m glad to see you on this one, Josh.”
He had great respect for the handsome detective and his professionalism. Five months ago they had worked together on the murder of a mother and her three children. The brave woman had organized a group of parents to rid their neighborhood of drug dealers, and for her citizenship, she and her kids were ruthlessly murdered in their home. Then the heartless bastards torched the house to illustrate to the other brave neighbors what would happen to them if they continued to interfere with their drug business. Working diligently, Josh soon had the gang leaders behind bars.
“These atheistic perps have no respect for a religious holiday,” Josh commented with his sarcastic humor as he shook his colleague’s firm icy hand. His humor helped him cope with the daily callous brutality he had grown tired of dealing with but had to face in this profession.
Although in an agitated mood, Jamison had to laugh at the remark. “No doubt, my friend. I’ve missed Mass. I’ve not opened my Christmas gifts. And my sisters and their families are enjoying brunch with my family while I’m here freezing my fucking butt off here!” He was a big man with thinning hair and cherub face, like Santa himself.
“That’s why my captain sent a Jew to handle this homicide investigation. No point in spoiling the holiday for another Christian.” After many years of working together, Josh knew Jamison would take this tragedy to heart because he took every tragedy to heart. Josh inhaled the scent of whiskey from Jamison’s breath.
Jamison laughed louder. “That’s a good idea. Christians work Jewish holidays, and Jews our holidays. I could live with that. All we need is the mayor and the city council to agree.”
“Sure! Right! Now you’re talking about needing a miracle,” Josh bantered.
“You got me there. God miraculously parted the Red Sea, but I doubt he has the power to get politicians to do anything smart. Forget the whole thing.”
Then Josh focused his attention back on the black skeleton that was once a home. “Are you done with your investigation?”
“Got bags of evidence I’ll be sending to the lab.”
“Give me a few minutes of your time and then get going. We can talk tomorrow. I don’t want your family blaming me for you not celebrating the birth of one of my distant relatives.”
Jamison smiled at Josh’s corny humor. “Thanks.”
“So, what’s your take on this?”
“It’s a no brainer. Murder. Then arson,” Jamison responded confidently. He followed Josh toward the front porch that was an incinerated, unstable platform.
“Really?” A gust of wind forced the noxious fumes to rush up Josh’s nose. He coughed hard.
“An idiot could analyze this fire and come up with a reliable profile. First off, this was not a professional job, but none the less effective. Two empty five-gallon gas cans were found in the house. Apparently, the guy splashed the gas in every room and then gingerly went out the back door where he lit a long homemade fuse of gasoline soaked bed linens. The long fuse gave him the time to escape from his dastardly deed before the big bang.”
They walked around to the back of the house, careful not to slip on the icy mud. He showed Josh the charred fuse. “I’m afraid he’s probably eliminated all of the forensic evidence inside the house.”
Josh knelt down and examined what remained of the sheets that were used as a fuse. He stood up and went over to the garage. It was open and empty of any vehicles.
“What are you looking for?” Jamison wondered.
“There’s no car in the garage. I assume the two in front of the Marr’s home are theirs.” He figured if the perp was parked in the garage, then the Marrs had to know their killer. “What’s your take on this crime?”
“If you ask me, this was a thrill killing and the setting of the fire an extra thrill.”
“Why that theory?” Josh asked out of curiosity, raking his shaggy brown hair with his icy fingers.
“When you see the bodies, it’ll be a slam dunk.”
“I can’t wait,” Josh said sarcastically. “Where were the bodies located in the house?”
“The wife was sandwiched between the second floor and the attic, so I’d say she was in a bedroom. The husband was on the first floor, in the living room or den.”
They went around to the front of the house. Josh stepped over to the black bags.
“Not a pretty sight, my friend.” Hank lit a cigarette and took a long drag. “This corpse would be the headliner of a really disgusting horror movie.”
Although Josh had no intentions of touching the body, he put on latex gloves and squatted next to the bag labeled male. After filling his lungs with cold air, he held his breath while unzipping the bag and pulling it open. His startled eyes reflexively leaped away from the grotesque face. Taking a moment to regain his emotional control, he took a good look at the atrocious corpse. It had hollow eye sockets, motley black flesh, lipless mouth, charred bones and teeth, and a hideous grin. Against his will, the burnt stench of human flesh and inner organs invaded his nose and fouled his senses. As quickly as he could, he confirmed the cause of death, a slit throat. Then he closed up the bag and exhaled. Roasted corpses gave him the creeps and this one was definitely the creepiest of his career. He stood up. “Well, I congratulate you on the accuracy of your descriptive skills.”
Jamison couldn’t hold back a wry smile. “No thanks necessary. I’m always looking out for my buddy.”
“I hate burned bodies,” Josh said screwing up his face as if he just swallowed his most loathsome food. The stench in his nose wasn’t about to dissipate any time soon. “He was definitely attacked from behind. A sharp knife or razor blade.”
He turned and, facing the bag tagged female, knelt down.
“Wait, pal. I have to tell you this–she’s worse. Far worse.”
“Thanks for sharing.” Josh took several deep breaths and held the last one. When he pulled apart the plastic bag, her body looked like that of a roasted alien. The stench of burnt flesh and noxious gasoline lurched up his nose, ruining any chance of enjoying a damn good cheeseburger for the next month. He closed up the bag, stood up, and exhaled. He grabbed a deep breath of the cold day, rubbing the stubble on his cold cheek out of habit. He could taste her roasted flesh on his lips.
Josh took in more deep breaths of the cold air. “It’s only an educated guess it’s the Marrs. It’ll have to be determined through DNA and dental records.”
“Whatta we got here, pal,” Jamison asked. “Jack the Ripper in Pittsburgh?”
“I hope not,” Josh said as he ripped off the latex gloves. He took a moment to think about what might have occurred in that house last night. He had noticed the skin on her wrists and ankles were not as burnt as the rest of her body. It suggested to him that her wrists and ankles were bound, perhaps to subdue her while he raped her.
Jamison took another long drag of his cigarette. “Like I said, looks like the sick work of a serial killer, if you ask me.”
“Could be?” Josh was consciously aware of the icy water seeping through his old shoes and freezing his toes. He put his frozen hands into his coat pockets. “I just don’t want to jump to conclusions just yet.”
“You’ll be happy racking up overtime on this one.”
“No more,” Josh snapped back. “My super cop days are over. This is just another case in a day’s work. That’s all it can be. That’s all I’ll let it be now.”
“Am I mistaken, but haven’t you boasted that you’d make captain before the age of forty?”
“An idiot’s dream–lost a wife–and ended up suffering a major depression. The job no longer goes home with me.” After twelve years on the job, Josh had lost his desire to hunt criminals. With even greater honesty during his recent psychotherapy sessions, he questioned if criminal justice was ever a true career choice.
“You seem okay now.”
“Had a terrific therapist who helped me gain a clear perspective of what’s really important in my life–and it isn’t advancing my ambitions on the force. At the end of my shift, I leave the job behind me and do what really makes me happy. I have new dreams now.”
“What are you into?” Jamison wondered.
“I’m doing some fiction writing. Got a few crime stories in my head.” He didn’t discuss his obsession with golf. “I’m trying to fit in some amateur acting.”
Jamison felt envious. “Good luck with that. I wish I had that luxury to give up the overtime money and do my own thing, but I can’t. I still got two kids in college and the tuitions are obscene.”
Josh expressed his sympathy with a shrug and warm smile.
Forensics and two detectives were walking toward them.
Jamison looked at the reporters standing by their media trucks. From their facial expressions, he could see the jackals were desperate to be thrown a bone. “They’ll be the only ones happy today.”
Josh turned his back on them. “That’s their perverted business.”
“Okay pal, I’m outta here.” Jamison picked up his cases of evidence and walked toward his SUV. The reporters rushed toward him.
After collaborating with forensics, Josh and two detectives took another tour of the property, checking for further evidence, debating possible motives.
After the coroner arrived, Josh stepped over to the reporters. “Two people were murdered in the home. That’s all I can say. I’d appreciate not mentioning their names in your stories until we can notify the next of kin.” He then responded to their questions without revealing critical evidence.
Josh walked across the street to speak to neighbors who were still mulling about. A short elderly woman with pink curlers in her hair stood by her toy poodle. She was wearing a mink coat with pink gloves. The poodle’s pink winter outfit appeared to offer far better protection from the frigid weather than Josh’s tattered coat.
“George and Ann Marr are dead, right?” she asked, although she knew the answer.
“There’s been a tragedy here. Do you know the Marrs?”
“Of course,” she snapped indignantly. “I’ve been living here for forty-five years.”
He ignored her hostile temperament. “What can you tell me about them?”
Shaking her head with anger, she said, “Used to be nice folks. But after their son was murdered, they stopped being good neighbors. Let their house go to hell. It would have been better for everyone if they had moved away.”
“Their son was murdered?” That news put a new twist to his theories. He took notes.
“The boy was abducted after school they say. A sex fiend killed him.”
“Oh, no, dearie. Years ago.” She paused, thinking. “Maybe ten or eleven?”
“The killer was apprehended?”
“Not that I ever heard.”
“Any other Marr children?”
“Sure. A daughter. But she moved out. Don’t see her anymore.”
Josh showed his charming smile. “I know you know her name.”
“A name you want. Give me a second.” It took a moment for the memory to reach consciousness. “Cassandra. That’s it. Pretty girl.”
He looked away from his pad and at her. “Is there anything else that you can think of that might help the investigation? See any strangers about?”
“Nope. But you can to talk to Marge Higgins. That’s her home.” She pointed. “That Marge thrives on being a busy body. Wouldn’t surprise me if she knew which hand George and Ann wiped their asses with, if you know what I mean.”
Josh could not hold back a short laugh. “Thanks for your help. And happy holiday.”
“Same to you, young man.” She walked off with her poodle.
Frozen to the bone, Josh stood shivering in the street, staring at what was left of the Marrs home. Like it or not, he was now on the hunt for a depraved killer.
Cruelty and purpose have definitely stalked this family. But why? Josh wondered.
As he approached the other neighbors for interviews, he felt no energy in his stride. He had to push himself to continue this investigation as well the others on his caseload.
© 2013 by S. B. Redstone