An attorney gets a murderer acquitted which makes someone angry enough to kill.
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Whoever said that sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me, was wrong. Words, when used skillfully, can kill.
The Shrunken Head Murders is a story about the murder trial of Donny Snelling. He’s a former Marine Corps Lieutenant, just home from Afghanistan, and is suffering from severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He went to war healthy, but he came home with wounds no one can see. Donny is defended by Amy Strong, a very successful criminal defense attorney with an Atlanta law firm.
The evidence shows that Donny committed the brutal murder of 18 year old Bridget Dooley. Criminal defense attorneys make a living with their mouths and Amy uses hers brilliantly. She combines intelligence with eloquence, and is able to convince the jury that he was temporarily insane at the time of the murder. Amy’s outstanding performance results in Donny not having to pay for his crime. The fact that he is not sent to the electric chair makes a lot of people very angry…one of them is angry enough to kill.
If Amy had known the consequences of winning that particular acquittal, she never would have taken the case. When the blame for the injustice of Donny’s acquittal is placed on Amy, it turns out she literally talked herself to death.
Detective Tom Brikler with the Atlanta Homicide Unit is tasked with finding Amy’s killer. He has to employ every ounce of his investigative skills as he hunts for the killer. Of course Brikler doesn’t hunt alone; he has help from his lover Nicki Martin, who just happens to be a detective with the Dekalb County Homicide Unit. Together they make their way through the maze of twists and turns on the trail of The Shrunken Head killer.
Bridget had declined her parents’ offer to join them for supper at her favorite Italian restaurant. She wanted to get some studying done for her psychology test tomorrow. As her mother was leaving, she reminded Bridget there were still some leftovers of her favorite meatloaf, mashed potatoes and mushroom gravy in the refrigerator. She studied for an hour-and-a-half after supper. It was just a little refresher; she already knew the material. When she bent over to put her book into her backpack, she noticed her jeans were a little snug. Uh oh, she thought, maybe I shouldn’t have had the mashed potatoes after eating four slices of double-cheese pizza for lunch. A second on the lips…a lifetime on the hips…no way! Need to burn some calories.
It was dusk, but Bridget thought she still had time for a quick, four-mile run. She walked to nearby Piedmont Park where she did some stretching exercises while she watched an amazing aerobatic show by a dog catching a Frisbee in The Meadow. After finishing her stretches, she began jogging along the paved way that ran along the perimeter of the park. During the day the area wasn’t intimidating in the least, but as the sun continued to slip below the horizon, the path grew more menacing.
Ten minutes into her run the onset of darkness made the trees, grass, and pathway lose distinction. They were just shades of inky blacks and misty grays. She realized she should not have spent so much time watching the dog. There was break in the trees, and she could see The Meadow lawn. There was no movement. The people throwing Frisbees were gone, the park deserted. Bridget had gone past the halfway mark, so there was nothing to do but press on. She picked up the pace and glanced back over her shoulder. No one there...no one anywhere. Shit! She lengthened her stride and concentrated on her breathing.
She reached the section of the path that ran along the ridgeline of a small creek ravine when she heard the sound of another runner’s footfalls coming fast, too fast. Oh God! She didn’t turn to look as panic kicked in, and she began an all-out sprint. The well-lit end of the trail at the parking lot was only three-hundred yards ahead. If I can just make it to the light. Her breathing was hard and ragged, and sweat stung her eyes. Her feet barely touched the path. The sound of pounding feet grew louder. Please God, give me strength!
Less than a second later, Bridget was grabbed from behind and lifted off her feet. She screamed and clawed behind her head with both hands trying to tear at the face of the monster that held her. The fingernails of her right hand dug deep into flesh just before she was body-slammed facedown onto the grass. The impact caused her to see a brilliant flash of light…she fought to remain conscious. Her attacker straddled her back, pinning her arms to her side with powerful thighs. She felt something sharp against the side of her neck.
“Who planted the fucking bomb?” he yelled.
“Wha …I don…don’t know anything about a bomb! Please…”
He jammed the screwdriver a quarter-inch into her neck.
Bridget screamed. She felt blood on her skin as it oozed from the wound.
“Who made the bomb?”
“Bomb? Please. Please! I don’t know!”
She felt his hand in the pocket of her shorts. He pulled out her cell phone.
“I know what the hell you use this for,” he hissed, then threw it into the ravine.
“No, please, God no!” she sobbed. Gotta get through this. Think of Mom and Dad.
Bridget felt him roll off. “Please let me…”