Portal to Murder
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by Michele Acker
Category: Suspense/Thriller/Science Fiction
Description: A man with his head shoved into a toilet, simple murder or something far more sinister? In the middle of the 21st century, felon Michael Spinner is given the chance of a lifetime--he can redeem his future by traveling back in time to kill the man who ruined his life. Meanwhile, at the start of the 21st century, homicide detective Jennifer Castle is stymied by an impossible case. Several people--including a pregnant woman and her unborn child--have been killed by a weapon that just doesn't exist. It doesn't take Michael long to realize that Jennifer is the one woman who can thwart his plans. She seems to be at the nexus of time travel itself--unwittingly connected to him by the unspoken circumstances of her birth. As the bodies pile up around her, Jennifer finds herself caught in a battle of wits against an elusive killer from the future who seems determined to destroy her career, her lovelife, and her family. If Jennifer keeps getting in his way, can Michael kill her without causing his own destruction? Excerpt: Roman and his lackey stopped just short of the table. John inclined his head in greeting. "Roman." He didn't make any attempt to ask after Roman's health or apologize for past mistakes. It wouldn't have done any good. Roman had been known to blow someone away just for opening his mouth. "You know," Roman said, his voice a hoarse rasp, "I could kill you now and no one would either notice or care." "Not necessarily." John made a small slicing gesture. A bullet chunked into the oil soaked concrete feet from where Roman and his bodyguard stood. Roman didn't flinch, but the bodyguard, a gun already in his hand, dropped to a crouch, searching for the shooter. The man was fast, but not fast enough. "Sure you could kill me, but you'd never make it out of here alive." A smile stretched Roman's face for a brief instant. "Impressive. You learned something in prison after all. But you underestimate me yet again, my friend. First of all, what makes you think I care if I don't make it out alive?" He gestured to his legs. "In my condition, death would be a blessing, especially if I have a chance to kill you first." This wasn't going quite the way John expected. He tried to stay calm. Like a dog, Roman could smell fear. He tried a bluff. "But you won't. You wouldn't be here if you didn't want to hear what I had to say. Did you do as I suggested?" Roman stared at him for a moment then gestured. The Asian straightened, strode to the car and extracted a leather case. A lap top. "Put it on the table." The Asian looked to Roman who nodded. "Do as the man says." While the lap top powered up, Roman looked John over. "So, what should I call you now? Chrome intimated you'd changed your name, though he failed to give me the new one. Allegiance to one's friends is to be admired. However, if I find you've lied to me, I just might have to do something about misplaced loyalty." John shivered at the very real threat. Roman had never been good at subtlety. Perhaps he should warn Chrome to watch his back. He just hoped things went well, for both their sakes. "The name's Wheeler, John Wheeler." Roman nodded. "Ah yes, Wheeler. Taken, of course, from your old gang name. Quite fitting. I see Mr. Chow has the computer ready. Shall we sit?" John smiled inwardly. Roman liked to take charge of things. If it made him feel comfortable and in control; John had no objections. Mr. Chow helped Roman sit in front of the computer. John slid the chip into the slot, called up the photos and pulled over the other chair and sat to Roman's left. Mr. Chow leaned over Roman's right shoulder. "These pictures were taken in 1963 in Dallas Texas. I'm sure you'll recognize the subject." A long moment of silence as Roman scrolled through the pictures, then a loud gasp of surprise from both men. Roman turned to John, a slightly wild look on his face. "How do I know they aren't fakes? That picture of the killer? No one ever suspected him. If those are real, the implications could be? staggering." "Please. Check them out for yourself." He vacated his chair and offered it to the Asian. "That's why I suggested you install some sort of digital image validation software." Roman nodded at Mr. Chow who sat in the empty chair and pulled the laptop in front of him. After several minutes of intense work, Mr. Chow turned and nodded back at Roman. Roman's smile looked almost sincere. "I'm impressed. Where did you get them?" John smiled, completely at ease now that his own fears had been erased. He'd known they were real, but it was nice to be completely sure. "That's why I brought you here, so I could tell you. The lab where I work? They've been conducting secret experiments for years." "What kind of experiments?" "Time travel. They've discovered time travel."
eBook Publisher: Eternal Press/Damnation Books LLC/Damnation Books, 2011 2011
eBookwise Release Date: December 2011
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [504 KB]
Reading time: 322-452 min.
Thursday, November 1, 2007
Toilets and dead bodies don't mix. If the thought hadn't occurred to me before, it certainly did now as I stared down at the well-dressed man whose head had been shoved into one. In a public restroom at the Greyhound bus station, no less. Not a pleasant place for anyone to be this time of night--especially if you were dead.
The place stank. You would expect a bathroom to smell, but this went beyond smell. It reeked. And it wasn't the smell of death. That I understood. This was different. This was nothing but the stench of human waste. For some reason, whenever people get together in a public place, the bathroom is always the first casualty. Take sporting events. By the end of a game, all the bathrooms look as if the plumbing got sick and threw up all over itself. I often wonder how those people treat their own bathrooms.
"What a way to die," I said, disgusted but trying not to show it. I'm a homicide cop after all. I'm supposed to be used to filth. However, nobody gets used to it, no matter what they might tell you. "Wonder if they flushed first."
"Why should he care?" my partner, Eddie Dover, said. "He's dead."
"Yeah, but he wasn't dead when they shoved his head in."
Dover visibly shuddered. I chuckled. Rookies. They hadn't yet learned to hide their disgust at a murder scene. The messier the scene, the messier their reaction. This one was nothing--I'd seen worse. Much, much worse.
I turned to Syzinski, the first officer to arrive on the scene. He was a no-nonsense cop, hard working and dedicated. I had to look up at him. I might be tall for a woman, but at six foot five he was a good head taller. "What do we know so far?"
He shrugged. "Seems to be a pretty straightforward case. As far as we can tell, the victim drowned when his head was shoved in the toilet."
"Time of death?" I asked.
"Can't have been dead for long. Fire Department's already been and left. They estimate maybe 8:00-8:30. Have to wait for the coroner to say for certain."
I checked my watch. Just after 9:30. I picked up his blue-tinged hands one at a time. They were still limp as rigor mortis hadn't yet set in, which meant he couldn't have been dead more than an hour--hour and a half.
"Who found the body?"
"Homeless man. He's being questioned right now."
"I'll want to question him too."
"Have we I.D.'d the victim yet?"
"Yeah, found the wallet next to his body. Name is," Syzinski glanced at his note pad, "Fred Turner. Lives at 1351 33rd Street."
"Fred huh? Doesn't look much like a Fred to me. Okay, get the lab guys out here. I want no toilet seat left unturned, got it?"
Syzinski shrugged and handed a page of notes to Dover. "I'll pass on your message, but I don't know how much good it'll do. Do you have any idea how many people have used this bathroom and left their fingerprints and...uh...other...things behind?"
"Just tell them to do their best."
"I'm sure they're adding you to their Christmas list as we speak."
I rolled my eyes and turned back to the body. "I can hardly wait."
Once Syzinski left, I pulled on some rubber gloves and leaned down to examine the body while Dover took pictures of the stall, the body and everything I did. The victim was on his knees, his arms slumped on the floor to each side of the toilet with his head shoved inside the bowl. I picked up his blue-tinged hands one at a time and examined his forearms. No bruises. Next I checked his head and the water in the bowl. No blood. It didn't make any sense.
Drowning was a violent way to die. I'd seen enough to know. The panicked victim struggles wildly, scratching his attacker, sometimes bruising or injuring himself. If this man had been drowned, as appeared to be the case, I'd expect to see bruises on both arms from banging them against the toilet and bits of skin and blood beneath his fingernails. Yet there were no signs of struggle at all.
Which meant he'd either been unconscious--or already dead--when his body was placed here, and the drowning just a cover up. But, a cover up for what?
I didn't like this. Not at all. It reminded me of a case I'd handled while still part of the Los Angeles Police Department. A woman drowned in her own bathtub, but we found no evidence to indicate it was murder. Just like this. The coroner ruled it accidental. It wasn't. And, because the investigation was dropped, a little girl died. An innocent. I still see her face. It stares at me when I look in the mirror at night.
Dover read the notes Syzinski left, his voice pulling me back. "There's no cash in his wallet. Think he was mugged? His clothes look pretty fancy for this part of town."
I'd noticed the same thing. I looked around a little more, checked the floor and the toilet, setting the scene of the crime and the position of the victim's body firmly in my mind. Once satisfied, I stepped into the main bathroom and looked around there too, careful not to touch anything.
It was the same kind of public toilet you find in gas stations or fast food restaurants, only bigger and dirtier. Once off-white walls were grimy from cigarette smoke and covered with graffiti. Half the stall doors were missing and the ones still attached hung at odd angles, ready to fall at the slightest touch. Both the toilets and the urinals were stained yellow with a thick layer of scum, desperately needing a good scrub. The remaining fluorescent lights flickered off and on in a nauseatingly irregular rhythm.
As I continued to inspect the place, I couldn't help but catch a glimpse of my reflection in the tarnished excuse they called a mirror. The silver bleeding through the glass made my skin look pockmarked and the fluorescent lights darkened the bags under my eyes to a shade resembling dried blood.
I grimaced. Nothing like bad lighting and a dirty mirror to make a girl feel attractive.
I peeled off my gloves and dropped them in the overflowing trash can. Even though I hadn't touched anything, I still felt unclean. I couldn't wait to wash my hands.
"Maybe he came from Morton's," Dover said. "They're only a couple blocks away. He's dressed for it."
"Then what's he doing here?"
"I don't know, Castle, maybe his car broke down."
Before I could answer, I felt a chill, the kind I get when I know someone's watching me. I turned to look but saw nothing. I felt silly. No one watched me.
Before Dover could ask what happened, I said, "Why didn't he call a cab?"
"No money? Unless things have changed, cabbies don't take I.O.U.s."
"He have any credit cards on him?"