Novelist Michael Murphy
In the first novel of an exciting new suspense series, retired NYPD homicide Casey Bannister and his former partner clash with local authorities and resist political pressure to stop a desperate serial killer in upstate New York.
Former NYPD homicide detective Casey Bannister, thought he’d given up investigating murders when he retired to a small town in upstate New York. When the body of a prominent politician’s niece is discovered, Casey is reunited with a state investigator, his former partner and ex-lover, Shannon Danzinger, now married to the leading candidate for State Attorney General.
Casey and Shannon race to unravel the mystery, overcome resentment from local authorities and resist political pressure to solve the crime before the upcoming election. Casey must prevent reawakened feelings from interfering with the search for the killer, before Shannon becomes the next victim.
The two homicide detectives eased through the open door. They crept across the wood floor, down opposite sides of the musty warehouse, empty, except for Grace Costello and a thin man with a wine-colored birthmark on the side of his face. He leaned over the terrified girl. She sat sobbing on a chair, straining to stay away from him. The man had folded the girl’s arms behind her and taped them to the chair with duct tape.
Clutching a long knife with a serrated edge, the monster traced the dull edge of the blade along the girl’s quivering neck. Don’t look at us, Casey willed the horrified girl, as he and his partner sneaked closer. Seconds later, with tears streaming down her face, the teenager twisted her neck away from the killer and spotted Casey. Her eyes grew wide.
The man spun behind the girl, trying to shield himself from the detectives. The sharp blade of the knife flashed against the girl’s neck. His eyes darted around the room until he spotted Casey. A second later, he caught sight of O’Malley.
From twenty feet away, Casey could see sweat on the man’s face and eyes that blazed with rage and fear. He appeared capable of anything. They had found the Southside Slasher. “Let her go, Slim.”
“The name’s Jennings. You can call me Mr. Jennings. Show me some respect.” A bead of spittle dripped from the corner of the man’s mouth.
Casey and O’Malley aimed their weapons at the man.
“Put the knife down and step away from the girl,” O’Malley shouted.
They were too far away for a safe shot. Jennings had crouched down, his head pressed against the girl’s trembling face with the knife against her neck.
“Get rid of the knife,” Casey shouted as he took a step forward.
“One more step, the bitch dies.” The killer’s face contorted. He let out a shrill laugh that echoed off the walls of the room.
Casey glanced at O’Malley and froze. This was the first occasion he had seen his partner with his gun drawn in the six months they had worked together. O’Malley’s look of indecision worried Casey.
When Casey pointed his weapon, Jennings laughed again and the girl shrieked. The crazed man shouted. “Go ahead and shoot. I’m a dead man anyway.”
“We’re not the judge and jury, Mr. Jennings.” Casey tried to calm the man with a gentle voice. “We just make the arrest. Besides, you’re famous.”
Jennings seemed to relax, the knife not held as tightly.
“If you let her go, imagine all the pictures you’ll get in the paper and requests for interviews. TV, newspaper, you name it. With all this publicity, you’ll cop yourself a top-notch attorney who needs the press.”
The killer’s eyes darted between the detectives, as he appeared to consider Casey’s statement. His greasy hair matted against the girl’s wet face. Then Jennings ran a hand over his birthmark. “I ain’t gonna be no freakshow. Put your guns down. Me and the girl are leaving. It’s your choice, pigs.” Spit flew from Jennings’ mouth as he shouted. “You choose! Make your decision. Put your fucking guns down.”
When Casey nodded at O’Malley, his partner lowered his weapon and placed the gun on the floor. Jennings smirked and his head moved a fraction of an inch from the girl.
Casey eased his feet apart for balance. He began to lower his weapon. When Jennings grinned, Casey raised the gun and aimed it at the killer.
Through a multitude of debriefings over the next several days, Casey would explain that he had a safe open shot. But, when he aimed the gun at Jennings the second time, he knew he was farther away than he wanted to be. The man’s face was still perilously close to the girl’s head. Even if a shot proved successful, Jennings’ reaction might slice the girl’s throat.
This was Casey’s critical moment of truth. As a homicide detective most arrests were made with plenty of backup, but Casey had trained his entire career to make life and death decisions. Many of his contemporaries would have lowered their gun, some would have hesitated, or waited for backup, but a girl’s life was at stake. In the final instant, the Slasher’s eyes widened.
Jennings’ hand tightened on the knife as Casey squeezed the trigger. The shot thundered in the huge room as the bullet exploded Jennings’ right eye. The back of the killer’s head exploded in a shower of blood, bone and tissue.
The knife flew from Jennings’s hand while his body collapsed against the girl knocking her over. The girl’s scream seemed to last forever as she struggled, her face covered in her attacker’s blood.
O’Malley ran to her side. He pulled the girl away from Jennings, wiped her face and pressed a handkerchief against a slight nick on her neck.
Casey stood over the dead Leroy Jennings. The back of the man’s head was gone, and blood pooled beneath him. Jennings stared at the ceiling, a smile on his face as if Casey had done him a favor.
Longing to get rid of the man’s expression, Casey raised his gun.
“Casey,” O’Malley said. “Don’t do it.”
Turning away from Jennings, he saw O’Malley rocking the girl gently, yet staring into Casey’s eyes.
Casey went to the girl, who screamed and struggled to get away from him with the same look she had previously shown Leroy Jennings. He holstered his weapon. “I’ll call it in.”