Here is the prologue and first chapter of: The Front Range Butcher: A Jarvis Mann Hardboiled Mystery Detective Novel. This is the 7th book in the series.
He was watching with fascination from a distance. She was a beauty in his eyes, with wavy, shoulder-length hair that glistened in the sun. She was wearing yellow shorts and a burgundy tank top that managed her modest chest in a way that accented the rest of her curves. Long legs moved in rhythm as she walked in her sandals. He couldn’t tell for certain about her eyes but imagined them as green and full of life, a shimmer of disposable contacts to provide perfect vision.
And her tanned skin. Oh, how her flesh looked supreme. He wanted to touch and feel it, smell the sweat that beaded up on the surface on this warm afternoon. It was young skin—maybe late twenties—perfect, and just the way he liked it. He imagined running his fingers up and down it. Feeling the texture, the uniqueness of the masterpiece that was her godly design. He could hardly wait—the anticipation excited him like never before.
But he must bide his time. Wait for the proper moment. He’d been watching for over a week now, knowing she was the one. To be able to take her away from prying eyes, to enjoy the pleasure that is her body. When she wasn’t with her girlfriends or that ass of a boyfriend—who didn’t know the goddess he had in his arms and in his bed. He’d watched the boyfriend and seen him with other women. The two-timing bastard. A dolt who didn’t deserve her, and he would show him the proper way to care for her. Then leave a message he’d never forget.
Today might be the day. He’d been watching since morning. She was alone, at the house she rented, and her roommates were away doing who knows what. She had been outside toiling away in the yard, and after working up a scintillating sweat on her perfect skin, she’d gone in, changed into a bikini and was now relaxing in her lounger, soaking in the sun, resting her eyes while listening to music via a wireless headset. This was the moment, and he would take it.
Walking up using stealth he had practiced over and over, she hadn’t noticed until it was too late. He covered her mouth with his strong, large hands, muffling her attempt to scream as he jabbed the needle into her neck, the sedative taking nearly an immediate effect. Her body went limp, and she was now his. He ran his fingers along her arms, the texture was as he had imagined, and he shivered with excitement at the thought of examining every layer of her flesh.
I was sitting at one of the thousands of Starbucks which seemed to dominate the Rocky Mountain Front Range, waiting for someone to arrive. Jonas Diaz had called asking to meet, as he wanted to talk with me about something. Since he was the father of my former girlfriend—someone I had cheated on—I expected to get chewed out or even punched. But I was there to face the music, whatever the chorus would bring.
I had only met him briefly on a couple of occasions, so I barely had a passing remembrance. He was in his late fifties, around my height, but slenderer. His hair was gray and thinning, what was left combed straight back. As he walked in, my nerves skyrocketed. I was more ill at ease now than when I’d met various crime lords over the last couple of years. I stood as he walked over, dressed casually in a dark polo, and light-colored slacks, taking the seat across from me. I held back my hand, which was good as he didn’t offer his. His stare was cold and businesslike, and deep down, I expected a lecture on the virtues of remaining monogamous.
“Jarvis, thanks for meeting with me,” he said, straight and to the point.
“Anytime,” I responded.
He mixed in some sugar and cream in the coffee I had purchased for him. The steam rolled out of the opening, so he took a careful taste, finding it quite hot. He placed it down again.
“You’re probably wondering why I wanted to meet with you, considering your history with Melissa.”
“It had crossed my mind.”
“She said I should contact you despite this history. She believes you can help me; that you have the skill set I need. I want to hire you to help me find someone.”
Surprise ran across my face, feeling it creep over my cheeks. Of all the things I was expecting a case wasn’t one of them.
“I can tell you’re shocked,” he stated, his eyes locked on me.
My voice rose an octave. “A little bit.”
He smiled, “Even though my daughter doesn’t think much of you as a boyfriend, she does think highly of you as a private detective. I checked you out, and you’ve done some good and even amazing things, albeit with some dire consequences to those you encounter. And the affect it had on your relationship with her…still, she feels strongly you’re the man for the job, as do I.”
I took a long sip of hot chocolate—my drink of choice—I didn’t care for the flavor of coffee. Plus, there was enough going on in my world that kept me awake, without adding the effects of caffeine to the mix.
“If you need sleuthing done, then I’m the man for the job. Tell me what you need.”
“Have you ever heard of The Front Range Butcher?” asked Jonas in a hushed tone, not wanting others to hear him. The moniker frightening when spoken aloud.
“No. Though I’m guessing he doesn’t slaughter cows.”
“No, he slaughters people. He’s a serial killer, and I need your help tracking him down.”
Something to add to my resume. My first pursuit of a serial killer. There was a level of excitement flowing through my veins. Matched against the fear of the unknown, the potential pursuit of a sociopathic ideologue on the horizon.
“You’ve piqued my interest. Give me some details.” I asked casually, not wanting to overplay my excitement.
“As you know, I’m a freelance writer,” Jonas began, bringing his voice back to a more normal level. “I’ve worked for various magazines and newspapers throughout the years. Just twenty-two years or so ago, when I worked at the Rocky Mountain News, I investigated a string of murders. It led to some real solid leads, and even some threats on my life at the time. In the end, I believed I knew who the killer was, but couldn’t prove it. Nor could the police. As we closed in on him, he threatened to sue the paper and me, if I didn’t back off. When the murders suddenly stopped, the evidence trail went cold, and I had nowhere to go. The News pulled me off the story. Since the suit was filed, and we had nothing solid to go on, we had to back down. Quietly, I continued on my own and even quit the paper in protest when they learned I was still pursuing things.”
“What happened then?”
“I did all I could, even met him face-to-face. Talking with him was challenging. One minute denying he was involved, the next dropping hints that he was the killer.” Jonas shifted in his seat trying to get comfortable. “Shortly after, there were more death threats, to me, my wife and daughter. ‘Leave it be, or else.’ Since the murders stopped and no more dead bodies turned up, there wasn’t much else I could do.” I could read regret on his face. He cared about this case.
“Yes. The first happened eight weeks ago. A second one showing up a several weeks later. Did you not see it on the news?”
“Honestly, I haven’t watched the news in years. What leads you to believe it’s him again?”
He paused as if collecting himself, “Well, The Front Range Butcher had a style. A horrible style. He would take his victims, stalk them, drug them, and then carve off layers of skin, likely while they were still alive.”
“Sounds horrible!” I was shaken by the words, the images of someone doing this disturbing.
“It was. He would do it little by little until they slowly died. He’d bag up the skin and leave it on the front porch of a relative, spouse, or loved one to find, with a note explaining where the rest of the body could be found. Over eighteen months, there were sixteen cases we’re aware of, with one or two others the police thought might be his doing, though the killings weren’t as graphic.” Jonas stirred his coffee absently while covering the more horrible details.
“The new cases match this MO?”
“Correct. Everything about them is the same.”
“If you know who it is, then it shouldn’t be hard to track him down.” I concentrated on the steam rolling off the hot chocolate, still trying to shake off the murder’s graphic MO.
“There is one problem though. It couldn’t be him this time.”
“Because he is in a twenty-four-hour-a-day care facility, having suffered a stroke a year ago. He can barely talk, let alone get out of bed and torture someone.” The stirring stopped and Jonas took a drink.
“You went to see him?” I was surprised.
“You know he is truly disabled?”
“If he’s acting, he deserves an Oscar.”
“How did you find him?”
“I’ve been quietly keeping an eye on him for years.” Jonas stirred in more sugar.
“He wasn’t aware you were shadowing him?”
“It was low key. Every couple of years, I’d see if I could locate him, see what he was up to. A recluse after the murders stopped. Bought a house in Evergreen, away from prying eyes.”
Evergreen was in the foothills, outside the city. A good place to go for privacy.
“If it’s not him, then who? A copycat?” I was feeling pumped. The case sounded challenging.
“Or a protégé.”
“Hard to mentor if you can’t talk.”
“This is why I need another pair of eyes looking.”
Jonas pulled a thick accordion folder out of a satchel I hadn’t even noticed he had with him.
“Here are copies of everything I had discovered on the entire case. Read it over and see if you can find anything. Could be something I’ve missed that maybe you can discover. We can’t let any more woman be killed in this manner.”
“Any worries about threats to your wife and daughter?” If there were threats before, there could be again.
“I’ll make sure they’re safe. He’s no threat to them in his current state. But we’ll address it once we get closer to the truth.”
“I have options to provide protection if necessary. Just say the word.”
Despite the horror of how the victims were killed, I’d never gone up against a serial killer before. It intrigued—as well as spooked—me. But, if Melissa recommended me, I couldn’t walk away.
“Okay, I’m in. Shall we discuss my rates?”
“No need. Money is not an issue. And I’ll make it all back on the stories I’ll sell. You’re an expense I can deduct.” He slid across a cashier’s check for hefty amount as a retainer.
“Sounds good. Looks like I have a lot of reading ahead of me.” I tucked the check away in my wallet.
“Yes, you do. And, Jarvis, thanks for taking on this case.”
“Happy to do it.”
We shook hands, and then his face turned serious. “Oh, and if you ever screw over my daughter again, I’ll punch your lights out.”
I smiled. “I’d expect nothing less.”
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