A suspected drug dealer is found murdered, but the big surprise comes when the coroner's report reveals an extremely unusual method of murder. The information sends Matt on a journey as wild and challenging as any in his career.
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While in prison, Ron Trentweiler, a petty thief, is befriended by an itinerant preacher and gets "religion." Upon his release, he founds a small, storefront Pentecostal-style church in his native, rural Alabama. Enter Winona Stepp, a visitor at one of his services who seems to know all about "Brother Ron," as he has taken to calling himself, yet insists upon keeping her past to herself. Things go smoothly for the pair, that is until Winona suggests using venomous snakes in their "act" and all hell breaks loose. Eventually, they make their way north into Matt's "backyard," where things take a murderous twist. What secrets are hiding in Winona's closet? Is Brother Ron exactly who he appears to be? Is he a religious convert or just a con man? These and other questions confront Chief of Police, Matt Davis, along with the usual cast of characters in the new Matt Davis Mystery, TWICE BITTEN, as he once more comes face to face with murder in the sleepy village of Roscoe, NY.
To set up this scene: Rick Dawley, one of my deputies has been stopped by a fisherman who has found a dead body in a pickup truck. Matt Davis, the chief of police of Roscoe, NY, has been called and has just arrived at the scene.
“The deceased is in the pickup,” said Rick, pointing at the Chevy. “It’s Billy Stillwater.”
“Really?” I said, the word more of an exclamation than a question. It may have been my imagination, but I could have sworn that I detected a subtle smile on Rick’s face.
“Yep. It’s him.”
This time there was no doubt as to the smile.
I shouldn’t have been surprised. Billy Stillwater was a suspected Meth dealer whom we’d been trying to catch ever since I took office. It was his lab that we’d been trying unsuccessfully to locate for the last several months. The fact that someone might have wanted him dead was no shock at all. In fact, the only thing surprising was that it had taken this long for him to meet his demise.
I donned a pair of latex gloves and started for the truck. As I neared it, my nostrils were immediately assaulted by the distinct odor of ripe, decaying flesh. A squadron of flies buzzed continuously within the interior of the vehicle; individual bodies bombarded the windows like miniature baseballs in a batting cage. Although the smell emanating from the truck was offensive, I’d smelled worse. Putrefaction generally commences between twenty-four and forty-eight hours after death. A combination of decaying red blood cells and sulfur gas contained in the intestines accounts for “that death smell,” as some refer to the odor. I covered my nose with a handkerchief just the same.
This was the second unnatural death that had occurred within my jurisdiction since I took office just two years ago. The other corpus delecti was discovered a year earlier by none other than yours truly while attempting to enjoy a day on the river. That corpse was six-months old, seriously deteriorated, and barely recognizable as human. This one probably “assumed room temperature” only a couple of days before its discovery, and was easily discernible as that of a male Caucasian in his late thirties. Although we knew the victim’s identity, we would still run his prints through AFIS to determine his “real” name, since Stillwater was most likely an alias. An additional check with NCIC would determine whether anyone was looking for him, but there wasn’t any hurry to get that done. He wasn’t going anywhere.
Apparently, something he ate or drank gave him a bit of an upset stomach, because the front of his blue, denim shirt was stained with what appeared to be bloody vomit. The right side of his head was badly lacerated, most likely from a blow with a blunt object, which was probably the cause of death. There didn’t appear to be any other signs of injury; there weren’t any bullet holes visible, or knife wounds, either. But, we’d need to wait for the autopsy to determine the exact cause of death.
I’ve always been fascinated by what motivates one human being to take the life of another. In many cases, it’s hatred or jealousy, with the violence often committed in the heat of the moment—an act of passion if you will. We’ve all read the sensational headlines in tabloids detailing the sordid descriptions of wives beheaded by jealous husbands, or husbands poisoned by likeminded spouses; in fact, the number one motive for murder (according to some sources) is domestic violence. Therefore, when a fisherman discovers the body of a local Meth dealer, with no “significant other” in his life (as far as we knew), it would appear that the motive for his murder most certainly did not fall into that preeminent category.
Oh, did I mention what Number Two is on the “Motives for Murder Hit Parade?” Give up? It’s “no apparent motive.” Surprised? You shouldn’t be. Translated, it means that probably those particular crimes were never solved. Unless I missed my guess, the motive here would turn out to be either robbery or competitive greed—or both. It was my fervent hope that it wouldn’t end up being “Number Two.”