Friday, July 20, 2018

Blog Tour: Scene of the Crime

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Mystery / Suspense
Date Published: 5/16/2018
Publisher: JEC Press

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A calculating cold-blooded predator closes in…

When a community has barely recovered from a ruthless serial killer six months earlier; now two more horrifying murders hit the radar again. It leaves police burdened with two of the most shockingly contaminated crime scenes ever documented in California’s law enforcement history. The Slayer works behind the scenes as a sinister puppet master, precisely pulling the strings, taunting the police without leaving any viable evidence, and orchestrating his killer hit squads.

The sheriff and district attorney bring in the best investigators. Reunited again, Dr. Chip Palmer, a reclusive forensic expert, joins DA Inspector Kate Rawlins to sort through the crime scene aftermath in search of the truth—all without a probable suspect or a solid motive. Complicating the investigation—sparks reignite between the two.

Ratcheting up the suspense, Chip suffers a nasty fall hitting his head, impairing his perception and giving him a mind-blowing ability for specific detailed recall. Palmer and Rawlins assemble an unusual team including a rookie detective, a forensic supervisor, and an ex-military operative turned bodyguard. After one of their own is kidnapped and the investigation is taken over by the FBI, the now rogue team must pull together their own resources—alone—with a killer waiting to take each one of them out. Scene of the Crime takes no prisoners and leaves everyone fighting to stay alive.

THE DUSTY POLICE SEDAN EASED into an available parking space behind the forensic van. There was already the usual parade of law enforcement personnel crowding the scene—some official and others using their position as an opportunity to visit the area. It was generally the same level of interest when there was a horrific murder under unusual circumstances. Special DA Inspector Kate Rawlins stepped from the vehicle and quickly surveyed the area in a slow steady turn. It was an older, more crime-ridden part of town, but still nothing compared to the crime statistics of larger cities. It averaged about ten to twelve homicides a year— sometimes less. She recalled some of the murder cases she worked in Phoenix and how there had been a steady flow of murders and gang shootings every week—sometimes every two or three days. She was now the special investigator from the district attorney’s office in charge of the Monterey County Violent Crimes Division in California, and it still made her uneasy; however, no one knew her feelings as she held her position with authority and toughness. It helped that her stature of five-foot-ten gave her some advantage, but her tenacity for finding the bad guys and bringing them to justice overrode her height, as well as any of her other insecurities. “Inspector Rawlins?” spoke a voice from behind her. She turned and saw a skinny, awkward police officer, barely thirty, if that, dressed in civilian clothes fidgeting with his tie waiting for her response. There had been a hiring freeze at the sheriff’s department due to budget negotiations, which meant that the DA’s office would take lead on violent crime cases. Kate had been verbal about her ridiculously heavy workloads and need for another detective. The police department, district attorney’s office, and the county made some concessions and promised her another detective. The eager-faced young man who stood before her was the person they sent from the burglary division. “Yes,” she replied, still examining the surrounding areas as she grabbed her small flashlight and notebook. She slipped her cell phone into her pocket. “Um, I’m David, Detective David Springfield reporting.” She looked him straight in the eye and asked, “Springfield, how many murder cases have you worked?” Kate raised an eyebrow waiting for his reply—even though she already knew his answer. She had done her homework on Springfield before she met him. “Two,” he replied. “But I have a degree in psychology and criminal justice. Not to mention I’ve worked burglary for two years and…” Ignoring the verbal resume, she asked, “What were your responsibilities at the murder scenes?” “I was first officer and secured the scenes, and coordinated with forensics.” “I see,” Kate said. “You up for this, Springfield?” “Yes, ma’am.” “Do me a favor. Don’t call me ma’am, and we’ll get along just fine.” She headed toward the crime scene. “Yes, sir, uh, I mean, yes, Inspector Rawlins.” “Rawlins is just fine.” She tried to keep a straight face and couldn’t help but like the young detective already. She had her work cut out for her, but she was always up for the challenge of molding a new detective.
As Kate neared the area and made her way under the crime scene tape, she had that same feeling whenever she approached any murder scene—slightly queasy stomach and every nerve in her body tingled in anticipation. Many questions already plagued her mind. She noticed little garbage strewn around the areas except for a couple of flattened aluminum cans and took note of everything that may or may not seem out of place. Several uniformed officers cleared the way, their faces were solemn and many didn’t meet her gaze. Two forensic techs waited at the entrance of the abandoned water facility. It struck Kate as odd that forensics wasn’t already documenting the scene as it was generally protocol of her crime scenes. She searched for the first officer at the scene and saw a stocky, dark-haired deputy with a notebook keeping track of who entered the area. She quickly glanced at his nametag: it read Ramirez. “Deputy Ramirez,” she began. “What do we have? Why hasn’t forensics processed the scene yet?” She patiently waited for the answer. The deputy took a breath before he answered. “I’ve never seen a scene like this. I mean, I’ve seen bloody crime scenes before, but this is… horrible… and actually… unusual.” Kate thought the deputy looked like he had seen a ghost. What was going on? It was as if these patrol officers had never been to a crime scene before. “Springfield, you ready?” she commanded and turned toward him. “Inspector?” said Ramirez. “Yes,” she faced the deputy. “You’re going to need to put hazmat on.” “What?” she said. “Do we need to call in the hazardous materials unit?” “No. It’s… it’s just a real mess.” Kate blinked several times and imagined what horrible mess she would find and hoped that her new partner wouldn’t throw up all over his shiny shoes. She glanced at Springfield, whose expression mimicked her gut impression. He would soon learn how to mask what he really thought and felt. The forensic techs had already anticipated the need for the hazardous jumpsuits and booties for the inspector and detective. They were essentially heavy-duty, paper-like material to keep clothing clean and were not made to keep biochemical and other airborne poisons from entering the body. Kate secured her paper booties over her shoes and pulled on a pair of blue latex gloves. She didn’t look directly at Springfield but could feel his trepidation from his stilted silence. It wasn’t difficult to remember the first homicide she had worked. Every horrifying detail was still vivid in her mind: the room, the bodies, the blood spatter covering the walls and ceiling from the shotgun blasts. It had been an exceptionally hot day, sticky and reeking, which made the crime scene even more ripe and nauseating. One of the crime scene techs said, “Let us know what you want us to do, if anything. Just keep going straight, and you’ll see it on the left side.” Kate again thought everyone was acting as if they had never been on or seen a crime scene before. She entered the water drainage tunnel followed closely by her new partner as the cement beneath her feet sloped slightly forward. It was silent. Hollow. Dark. A mild stench of stagnant water permeated her senses. It reminded her of low tide, tolerable but not pleasant.
There was no noise or voices heard from behind them. It was as if they were sealed off from humanity, and there was no place to go but forward. Kate flipped on her flashlight and panned the beam around the area. The darkness was unsettling, but that wasn’t the overall disconcerting aspect of the area. They moved deeper into the facility as the light beams flashed around them and reflected in peculiar angles from the walls. Then… the stench struck her senses causing her to press the back of her gloved hand to her nose and mouth. She could almost taste it as she couldn’t help but inhale it from sheer repulsion. “What is that smell?” said Springfield with a strained weakened voice. “That’s not death.” The word death seemed to linger in the air, but it was true, the horrible odor wasn’t a rotting corpse or anything similar. Kate couldn’t immediately identify the source. It impressed her that it was a combination of many foul smells meshed together. The airflow in the tunnel pushed air in the opposite direction from the entrance and wasn’t immediately noticeable. She stopped for a moment, gaining her sense of balance. The downward tunnel had leveled but still made her feel like she was in an amusement park funhouse—dizzying and unable to focus on anything directly. Her body felt as if she had just stepped off an elevator or boat, and the illusion was that it still moved beneath her. “You okay, Springfield?” she asked, trying to sound like nothing bothered her—when it did. “Yeah,” he barely replied. “What’s your first impression?” she asked even though they hadn’t reached the body yet. She wanted to keep her focus on specifics and the investigation. “What do you mean?” “Stay with me, Springfield,” she said. “What was the first thing you thought of when we entered the tunnel?” Springfield cleared his throat and took a moment before he answered, “Why here? What is the significance of this place to the killer? Drugs? Gangs? What?” Kate was impressed. Her new detective partner, as green as he was, thought about the crime scene and asked good questions. “You’re on the right track.” They moved toward the smell, and it became increasingly stronger at an alarming rate. It was an unusual odor, part garbage and part chemical with a strange high concentrated element to it, which seemed familiar. She just couldn’t place it. Kate fought to keep her gag reflux under control, but the stench completely tested her resolve. She glanced at Springfield as he remained quiet, but his eyes told the entire story— horrified and disbelieving about summed up his expression. Directing her flashlight at the area just to the left, the detective finally saw the actual crime scene. “Wait,” she instructed and took a moment to study the surroundings before trudging right into the area. At first, Kate thought that it was a dummy lying on its side but it was indeed a real man. The awkward, broken body position was unusual. The body appeared male, mid-thirties, cleanshaven, but each joint of the body was broken and posed in the opposite normal direction. The elbows, wrists, knees, and ankles made the body appear to be a smashed dummy. “How?” began Springfield. “What made those types of injuries?” his voice faded. Kate knew what he meant, and she was glad that the detective seemed to naturally ask the right questions. She quickly snapped photos with her cell phone as a reminder of where
everything was located—because the closer they approached—the more bizarre the crime scene became. The cement walls, which once had the typical graffiti symbols, now were covered with red and black smears. Everything had the sheen of being wet and sticky. The bright red covering appeared to be blood, but they wouldn’t know until the lab tested it. Kate dared to move closer to the wall and the closest thing that she could guess making the black smear was some type of engine grease. She snapped a photo and could see in the picture that there were grainy pieces embedded. The entire area around the body had garbage, coagulated chunks of a jelly substance, broken bottles, pieces of wood, pinecones, and a dozen of other types of debris that Kate couldn’t immediately identify. “Springfield,” she said as the flashlight beam highlighted several dark pieces. “Is that…” He moved closer and turned to Kate. “It’s a cat’s head and what looks like the rest of the body in pieces.” Kate let out a breath, remembering what her ex did to her own cat. She pushed away the bad memories and refocused on the scene. It was the most disorganized, scattered mess of any crime scene she had ever seen or had ever heard of during her career. She wracked her brain trying to recollect anything she had witnessed in the past that would shed some light on this murder scene. Nothing came to mind. “Have you ever seen anything like this, Rawlins?” the detective asked. “No,” she replied abruptly. The stench made her queasy almost to the point of no control, and she could feel her salad and four cups of coffee rising into her throat. “What is your take?” he pushed, clearly not knowing what else to say. “It’s a complete disastrous confusion—as if the killer went on a rampage and mutilated the body, but…” “But what?” he quickly asked. Kate moved closer to the victim, taking a moment before bending down next to the body. She checked his wrist, which still had a watch attached. The timepiece was ticking and had the correct time. She reached into his pant pocket and pulled out a wallet containing twenty bucks in cash and a California driver’s license with the name on it that read clearly: Roger Allen Case, thirty-four years old with an address that wasn’t far from the crime scene. There was also a small bag clutched in his hand with what was most likely crystal methamphetamine. Detective Springfield stood behind her and watched. “So the scene appears to be a disorganized and crazed individual, but they didn’t rob him or take his drugs. That can’t be right.” “It’s not the usual drug deal gone bad, but that’s what most likely drew the vic here,” Kate added. Standing to face the detective, she said, “We’ll be able to find out all about the vic but nothing about the killer… except…” “Except what?” he inquired, his eyes wide and face pale. “Except that the killer or killers staged the crime scene.” “Killers?” he asked. “One person couldn’t make this kind of horrific mess and massive contamination in a short period of time based on the lack of decomposition of the body. And not wanting to attract unnecessary attention,” Kate explained. “Go direct CSI to search and document everything, no matter if it appears contaminated. I want to know what the hell has been mixed around here.”
Detective Springfield hurried to leave, no doubt to get away from the stink as quickly as possible. “Springfield?” He turned and answered, “Yeah.” “Tell the techs to document everything from anything viable at the entrance all the way to the body.” “You got it,” he said and swiftly left. No matter how much she wanted to leave to escape the horrific odor, Kate stood for another five minutes trying to ascertain who, and how, the perpetrators could pull off this type of crime scene, and, most importantly—why.

About the Author

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Jennifer Chase is a multi award-winning and best-selling crime fiction author, as well as a consulting criminologist. Jennifer holds a bachelor degree in police forensics and a master's degree in criminology & criminal justice. These academic pursuits developed out of her curiosity about the criminal mind as well as from her own experience with a violent psychopath, providing Jennifer with deep personal investment in every story she tells. In addition, she holds certifications in serial crime and criminal profiling.  She is an affiliate member of the International Association of Forensic Criminologists, and member of the International Thriller Writers.

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  1. Thank you for featuring SCENE OF THE CRIME, A Chip Palmer Forensic Mystery today! :)

  2. Thank you for posting