Death sneaks in the back door of the peaceful town of Twin Lakes, Texas and nothing is ever the same again. Homicide detective, Barbara Hobkins, is thrust headlong into the investigation. A product of the ‘new direction’ in law enforcement, her strength comes from a degree in psychology and an intuition that has served her well. But will that be enough when up against a sadistic killer?
Her partner, Keith Reeves wants nothing more than to solve this case so he can have one normal night at home with his family. He fights the pressure to nail somebody, any ‘somebody’ to satisfy the powers above.
The suspect, Royce Wertco is a teenage punk; capable of the numerous petty crimes he’s been convicted of in the past, but not murder. Barbara knows this with every fiber of her being, but can she prove it?
Convinced the real killer is also responsible for a series of murders in Dallas, Hobkins tracks him to his seedy hidey-hole. There, her investigation turns into a chilling race for her life, and she almost becomes a victim of DOUBLETAKE.
*** 2015 Best Mystery by the Texas Association of Authors ***
Targeted Age Group:: Adult
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I’ve always enjoyed police-procedural stories, especially the 87th Precinct series by Ed McBain. When Margaret contacted me to see if I wanted to collaborate on a mystery novel, I thought, why not. She also had a fascination with crime and criminals and the people who catch them, so this was a good fit. Working with Margaret, I discovered that she had strengths as a writer that she brought to the project and her strengths and mine blended well. Reading the book now, I cannot pick out a scene and say, “Oh, I wrote that.”
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
In some ways, Barbara, the central character is a composite of the detective that Margaret and I secretly wanted to be. But she also has characteristics of some of the officers we interviewed. Since we knew nothing about law enforcement, it was vital that we do a lot of research. As we did that, mostly via interviews, we were able to take characteristics from the real people and create the supporting cast. While I can’t distinguish the individual writing in the book, I do know that one of the bad guys is uniquely Margarets creation, as is the medical examiner.
Saturday, July 29 – Dallas
Dusty stairs, shrouded in shadows, groaned in protest under his weight. Fourteen steps to the top. Six more to go. His right hand slid across the rough, peeling banister and the harsh rattling in his chest faded, replaced by a tremble of apprehension. What if someone else has been here since…
Forcing his mind to blank out that possibility, he opened the door and smiled. The room was exactly as he’d left it. The intruding streetlight cast eerie ghost-like slashes across her bare form and the dancing quality of the light mesmerized him. Against his will, his gaze was held, then transported back to the grisly scene that had played only twenty-four hours before with him in the lead…
He had been participant and spectator alike, until his brain seethed with a terrible hatred that jangled the very bones of his massive skull. His hands tore into soft flesh as he repeatedly slammed her limp body to the floor. Then her neck snapped with an audible crack When the body gave its final death twitch, he relaxed his fingers. Trembling hands wiped a river of sweat and tears across his face as he gazed at her. Madness filmed eyes didn’t see the horrid death mask.
“You really are so beautiful.” He ran his fingers through long chestnut hair, stroking it into some semblance of neatness. “There. That’s better, isn’t it?”
He hunched over the body, his mind switching crazily between reality and a foggy area of fantasy. Suddenly, a voice wailed at him. It seemed to come from the face in front of him: a face that no longer held any beauty but loomed like a buzzard waiting for its share of the spoils. The slack mouth released a vile gush of abuse, damning him, mocking him, and castrating him.
He covered his ears in a vain attempt to block the voice, but it didn’t stop. “You weren’t even worth the moment it took to make you…”
“Noooo!” He staggered into the fetid bathroom where the dank, dirty walls echoed his misery. “It’s not my fault. I never meant for anything bad to happen. Ever.”
As suddenly as it had come, the anger subsided, leaving him in a state of deathly calm. It was the only right and just thing he could have done.
He splashed cold water on his face and methodically dried himself with a well-used towel, careful to avoid the dark brown stains embedded in the cloth.
Closing the bathroom door softly, he stole one last look at the woman’s body, now mottled in death. “You look lovely in yellow,” he said.
Thursday, August 31
Releasing the air in slow spurts from his buoyancy compensator, Brad followed the grapnel guide rope to a pre-determined twenty-foot mark.
One, two, three, four…breathe. One, two, three, four…breathe. So still. So quiet. Can’t use more air than everybody else. Slow down. Three to four foot visibility? Hell! Looks more like three to four inches.
Brad relaxed his tense muscles as he reached the marker on the rope. His breathing no longer came in short, frightened spurts and his ears had finally lost the piercing pain present before equalization.
This isn’t so bad. Just a huge old pool, that’s all.
Eyes now adjusted to the cloudy, yellowish water, Brad made out the vague forms of several large boulders below. Must have been thrown there during the excavation that created this man-made lake. He’d been waiting weeks for the opportunity to play here.
Brad checked his depth gauge where the red needle quivered over the twenty-foot line then he tugged once on the guide rope to signal the next diver.
He felt something brush lightly across the back of his knees and turned awkwardly to see what it was. His movements only served to tangle his legs in yards of bright yellow, nylon rope. He fought the urge to shoot to the surface.
Don’t panic. Fear drowns. Just stay cool. Use what you learned.
The diving knife felt natural in his hand as he slashed at the strong, slender rope. Man, if ol’ Fox could see me now. He reached further down toward his ankle and felt something soft and –
His teeth clamped down on the hard, rubber mouthpiece, trapping the breath in his throat.
Rotted flesh gave way beneath his fingers and floated around him like bits of wet tissue. Tethered at the end of the rope was what had once been a living, breathing person.
Monday, October 4
Susan Delgrave woke and rolled over to look at the clock on Tom’s nightstand. Five forty-five. What on earth was she doing awake at such an ungodly hour? Some strange sense of unease had brushed across her like a chill wind, bringing her fully awake, but she couldn’t pin down the source. She lay listening for something, anything, but the house was quiet. Almost too quiet.
Only Tom’s soft steady breathing convinced her she was being silly. Everything was all right. Still, there had been something.
Another chill made her shiver and snuggle deeper under the blanket, seeking the warmth of her husband’s body. As she brushed against his back, he stirred and rolled toward her. She softly traced a pattern across the smooth surface of his chest and felt her own body respond, marveling at the almost mystical bond they shared.
The magic started from the first moment she’d met him in an English Literature class at Baylor and hadn’t diminished since. A man of tender sensibilities, Tom was the final ingredient for Susan’s total happiness. Recalling what measures she’d used in order to convince him of that, brought a smile to her face.
Leaning closer, she whispered, “Tom! Are you awake?”
“Who wants to know?” He opened dark brown eyes and grinned at her.
“The upstairs maid.”
She moved her hands further down his chest. He drew in a sharp breath. “If you don’t stop that in exactly three hours, I’ll tell your mother.”
Susan laughed. “She warned me that you might not respect me after. Guess I’ll just have to risk it.”
Tom slipped the straps of her gown over her shoulders, revealing breasts already eager for what was to come. He touched one peaked nipple and leaned over to kiss her. First her eyes. Then her cheeks. Finally her lips, creating a surge of passion that drew her so close she thought she could enter his very soul.
Then his lips were everywhere, searing into her chin, her neck, and her shoulders. Passion thundered through her body until it reached a fever pitch.
Oh! It was so good just to touch, to feel his hardness pushing urgently against the tiny mound of her belly. His hands trailed fire across her whole body, caressing, teasing, urging, until…
“My, God, it’s almost seven.” Susan struggled free from the tangle of blankets and Tom. “Remember, I have to use your car again. Wish you’d call the garage. All I get is, ‘sorry, Ms. Delgrave. We’re still waiting on parts.’”
“For a small fee I might consider it.” Tom stretched his large frame across the bed.
“Okay, Smarty. While you’re considering, consider this. Shower alone with no hot water.” She pulled free and ran to the bathroom, closing the door in his face.
Tom smiled, grabbed his robe and went to make coffee.
They pulled in front of Twin Lakes High School at seven fifty-five and Tom gave Susan a long, lingering kiss. She pushed him away. “What would Mrs. Temple think if she saw us now?”
“She’d probably say, ‘My, my, my, that Susan Delgrave is one lucky lady.’”
“You’re a mess,” Susan said as Tom stepped out and slammed the passenger door.
He walked around the car and leaned through her open window where he had a clear view of her open coat and the lush roundness of the top of her breasts. He reached in and pulled her coat together, caressing her at the same time. “Watch it, kid,” he said in an affected Bogart voice. “You’ll incite some poor bum to take advantage of you.” He kissed his fingers then touched her cheek.
She smiled. “Better hurry or you’ll be late.”
Walking up the pitted sidewalk to the front of the school, Tom decided he had to be the luckiest man alive. He greeted the gray-haired Mrs. Temple with a bright smile. She tightened her lips and narrowed her eyes. He continued toward his classroom, making a mental switch from lusty thoughts to the assignment he’d give the English Composition students.
Maryann Miller, who hails from Winnsboro, Texas, writes the critically acclaimed Seasons Mystery Series that debuted with Open Season, and continued with Stalking Season. More recent releases are Boxes for Beds, a mystery set in Arkansas in the 60s, and Doubletake, a police procedural set in Texas. Other titles include One Small Victory, Friends Forever, The Wisdom of Ages, and Play it Again, Sam.
Miller has received the Page Edwards Short Story Award, the New York Library Best Books for Teens Award, first place in the screenwriting competition at the Houston Writer’s Conference, a semi-finalist at Sundance, a semi-finalist in the Chesterfield Screenwriting Competition, the 2015 Best Mystery Award from the TX Authors Association, The Trails Country Treasure Award from the Winnsboro Center for the Arts, and Woman of the Year from the Winnsboro Area Chamber of Commerce. She is the theatre director at the Winnsboro Center for the Arts, where she directs adult and youth productions and coordinates the annual Youth Drama Camp. Onstage, Miller has appeared in numerous productions, most recently in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.
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