The Killing Stormby Kathryn Casey
On a quiet afternoon in the park, four-year-old Joey plays in the sandbox, when a stranger approaches looking for his puppy. While Joey's mom, Crystal, talks on her cell phone, the stranger convinces the child to help search. By the time Crystal turns around, her son has disappeared. Yet her reaction is odd, not what one would expect from a distraught mother. Is… See more details below
On a quiet afternoon in the park, four-year-old Joey plays in the sandbox, when a stranger approaches looking for his puppy. While Joey's mom, Crystal, talks on her cell phone, the stranger convinces the child to help search. By the time Crystal turns around, her son has disappeared. Yet her reaction is odd, not what one would expect from a distraught mother. Is Crystal somehow involved in her son's abduction?
Meanwhile, on a ranch outside Houston, Texas Ranger Sarah Armstrong assesses a symbol left on the hide of a slaughtered longhorn, a figure that dates back to a forgotten era of sugarcane plantations and slavery. Soon other prizewinning bulls are butchered on the outskirts of the city, each bearing a similar drawing. The investigations converge at the same time a catastrophic hurricane looms in the Gulf. Finally, as dangerous winds and torrential rains pummel the city, Sarah is forced to risk her life to save Joey.
Read an Excerpt
“Have you seen my puppy?” the man asked. They were in the park, a span of thick green with black-trunked oaks and soaring, spindly pines nestled among sprawling subdivisions northwest of Houston.
Caught up in an imaginary world, a sandbox desert of hand-shaped hills and roundabout roads, the boy pressed down hard on a bright yellow-and-red plastic dump truck, pushing it up a make-believe ramp, then pulling it down again. All the while, his soft pink lips vibrated, brrrrrrrrrr, mimicking an engine.
“Did you see my puppy?” the man asked again, louder. The boy glanced up, startled, but then smiled at the man. When he saw the frown on the man’s face, the boy thought that the man looked troubled.
“No,” the boy said, shaking his head, his clear blue eyes wide with worry. “Is your puppy lost?”
The man’s brow furrowed and his lips pinched, as if he were ready to cry. The puppy must be lost, the boy thought, and then the man confirmed it. “He ran away,” he said. “My little puppy ran away. Will you help me find him?”
A worried look on his face, the boy swiveled toward his right and saw his momma sitting on a picnic bench, talking on her cell phone and staring off into the pond, where the ducks with the green heads and the snow-white geese milled about, plucking at the water. It was a school day, and the park was deserted except for the boy and his mother and the man who’d lost his puppy. The boy thought about the puppy and wondered where it might be. I should tell Momma that I’m helping the man, he decided. She’s upset about the big storm, the one they keep talking about on television. “Just a minute,” he said, turning to run to his mother.
Before the boy could leave, the man reached out and gently touched the child’s shoulder. “Don’t go!” he pleaded. “You’ve heard about the hurricane. I need to find my dog before the bad weather comes. Please help me. He’s not far away. It won’t take long.”
As the boy dropped his gaze to the sand, deep in thought, the man glanced at the woman and smiled. The boy’s mother remained on her cell phone, and it appeared she hadn’t even looked their way. “Your mommy is busy,” the man said, wearing his best you-can-trust-me expression. “I know her, and I know she likes it when you help people. She’d want you to help me.”
Concentrating on the face of the man who towered over him, the boy wondered if the man looked familiar. Maybe. His momma knew a lot of people. The man had a nice smile, the kind adults have when they’re worried but they want to be nice anyway, to not look upset. The boy’s momma did that, tried to look like everything was okay when the boy knew it wasn’t, like the day his poppa moved out. That afternoon, the little boy heard loud arguing, his momma screaming at his poppa, telling him that he’d be sorry if he left them.
After his father slammed the apartment door, the boy rushed to his mother, frightened. “It’s okay,” she said. The boy looked up as his mother reassured him with a tightly drawn smile. “We’ll be fine.”
Again, the boy glanced at his mother and saw she still talked on the telephone and gazed out at the water. Every day his momma brought the boy to the park to play, unless it rained. On those days, they stayed inside their small apartment, and she watched television while he played with his toys on the stained tan carpet. Once in a while, when she was in a happy mood, they played games, Candy Land and Chutes and Ladders.
“I need you to help me find my puppy,” the man insisted, reclaiming the child’s attention. “It’ll only take a minute. I bet my puppy will come if you call him.”
The possibility that the puppy would listen to him caught the boy’s interest. “Your puppy will come for me?” he asked, excited by the prospect. “If I call him?”
“I bet he will,” the man said, his hands palms up as if weighing the likelihood. “He’s a good puppy, but sometimes we play this game. Like playing hide-and-seek. He hides, and I have to find him. I like games. Do you like games?”
The boy thought again about Candy Land, Chutes and Ladders, and this time hide-and-seek. “I like games,” he said. “I like games a lot!”
“You look like the kind of boy who would,” the man said, with not only a smile, but a soft chuckle. “I play games a lot. All kinds of games.”
“With your puppy?” the boy asked.
“Yes, with my puppy, and sometimes with little boys and girls,” the man said. “It’s my favorite thing to do.”
The boy looked at his momma a third time. She was still talking on the phone. She looked serious. Maybe it was about the storm. Or maybe she was talking to his poppa. The boy wondered sometimes where his poppa lived now that he didn’t live with the boy and his momma. Considering what he should do, the boy gazed up at the man again, stared at the leash in his hand, and then asked, “What’s his name?”
“His name?” the man replied.
“Your puppy’s name,” the boy said.
“Buddy,” the man said. “My puppy’s name is Buddy.”
The boy laughed. “That’s a silly name.”
“Why is that silly?”
The boy thought about it and wasn’t sure. “I don’t know,” he said. “It just is.”
The chains squeaked wearily as the humid, hot breeze picked up, and the eight swings with their thick brown leather seats swayed lazily back and forth, back and forth. How strange that the sky was so blue and the day so tranquil when a violent storm circled in the Gulf. Sometimes the boy liked to swing. His momma pushed him so high that he thought he should be able to stretch out his legs and punch his feet through a cloud.
“And your name is Joey,” the man said.
“I’m Joey!” the boy said, then felt confused. “How did you know my name?”
“I told you, I know your mommy,” the man said with an indifferent shrug.
Joey Warner thought about that. The man knew his name, and he didn’t seem like a stranger. He was a nice man with a nice smile. And the man was right, Joey thought. His momma liked it when Joey helped, like picking up his toys or cleaning his room. And he was supposed to be respectful of adults. His momma said that, too.
“Okay,” Joey said, nodding. Then he cried out, “Buddy! . . . Buddy!”
Above the boy, tree branches rustled and the still green leaves shimmered, showing off their silver underneath. Joey looked over at his momma and thought again that she had to be talking to his poppa, because that’s the way they talked now, angry with loud voices. Although he couldn’t hear her, he knew his momma was upset.
“I saw my puppy over there,” the man said, pointing near a stand of trees bordering the parking lot. “That’s where Buddy ran off.”
“Oh,” Joey said. Then that’s where the puppy must be, he thought. With the man following, Joey ran fast toward the parking lot, shouting, “Buddy! . . . Buddy! Come, Buddy!”
The man glanced back toward the picnic table, wondering if the boy’s mother would finally look in their direction. But even with the boy shouting, she never turned around, instead staring out at the shimmering water. “That’s right, Joey. Let’s play the game,” the man murmured. “Call the puppy. Come with me. It’s all part of the game. Someone hides, and someone seeks.”
THE KILLING STORM Copyright © 2010 by Kathryn Casey
Meet the Author
KATHRYN CASEY is a former magazine reporter, and the author of five true crime books and two mysteries. She lives in Houston with her husband.
Kathryn Casey is a former magazine reporter, and the author of several true crime books and the Sarah Armstrong series of mysteries. She lives in Houston with her husband.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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FBI special agent David Garrity asks his girlfriend Texas Ranger profiler Lieutenant Sarah Armstrong to help him on a missing child case in which he leans towards the mom Crystal who was supposedly watching her child when he was kidnapped. At a Houston playground, while his parents argued on a cellphone, someone using the missing dog ploy abducted their four years old son, Joey. As she agrees to assist David, Sarah and Ranger Sergeant George "Buckshot" Fields investigate the horrific decapitation killings of prize-winning bulls; the butcher carves cryptic African etching on the dead hides. While seeking clues in both cases, Hurricane Juanita appears heading for land in the Houston area frightening Sara, who is worried about the safety of her recently widowed mom as the cases take a frightening intertwining. The third Armstrong police procedural (see Singularity and Blood Lines) is a great thriller as the heroine's personal fear for her mom enhances the prime twin investigative plots. Fast-paced, readers will be hooked from start to finish, but especially when Sarah begins to connect the dots between her two inquiries. Fans will appreciate this strong Texas mystery. Harriet Klausner
I enjoy reading novels that take place in parts of the world I am familiar with as it makes the fiction seem more real. The intensity of an approaching storm with a missing child builds-----a very good book, and the first of Casey's that I've read. Will definitely purchase another by her.
A twisted case has Texas Ranger, Sarah Armstrong, baffled. Someone is murdering longhorn bulls and painting symbols on them. Sarah is almost one of a kind, being a woman in an almost completely male department, not only that, but she is also a profiler. She and her partner Buckshot are trying to find who is murdering the docile bulls and why, but the only leads are the unusual symbols left on the carcasses. David, an FBI profiler and pseudo boyfriend of Sarah's has his own problems. Someone stole a little boy, four-year-old Joey, from a park as his mother was preoccupied. He brings Sarah in as a consultant and the case haunts her to the point of distraction. She consults on her case with a creepy Dr. Beniot about the symbols and finds some answers but is really left with more questions than answers. The main question always in her mind is who stole Joey! Their relationship is in limbo while David tries to decide if he wants to continue his relationship with Sarah or return to his ex-wife and help raise his teenage son, but they cannot let that distract them from solving the cases. With an uncooperative mother and a father who is convinced the mother took him, the abduction case is spinning in circles. Ranchers are up in arms about the murder of expensive cattle and impatient to get answers. Added to everyone's stress, there is a hurricane headed straight for them and they need to solve these cases now before all the evidence is destroyed and the cases go cold. This heart wrenching story will keep you engrossed until the last page and is a must read! Reviewed by Ashley Wintters for Suspense Magazine
I've just finished reading "The Killing Storm" as a tropical storm of thunder and lightening grumbles and blitzes its way around me and the skies are dark with torrential rains. I'm glad it's in this setting Kathryn Casey's book draws to an end for me because her story climaxes during a horrendous hurricane that wars demonically against her protagonist, Sarah Armstrong. I couldn't have asked for more atmospheric drama! However, in this case, I didn't need the help of a storm at home to experience her book because Ms Casey had me spellbound and muscle-strained with tension and suspense by itself. She has the ability to create a tightly woven procedural of a kidnapping in which one feels drawn along moment to moment feeling the pressure to find a little boy before he's killed. This atmosphere Kathryn Casey creates is exhilarating and realistic enough with all its symbols, loose gaps and questions. Sarah Armstrong, the Texas Ranger who is the central figure of Ms Casey's mystery series, is intelligent, driven and womanly. Not your typical pushy and sometimes offensive woman law enforcer, Sarah is a refreshing alternative. I like her strength that comes from competence, self-confidence and a cooperative spirit of equality, a valuable sign of a woman's "coming of age" in a man's world. It stands Kathryn Casey well for the creation of such an admirable and unique character. I loved Sarah's winning ways and was inspired by her leadership and heroics. Succinct and thorough, highlighted with family, friendships and love interests that make Sarah's life full and compassionate, I grew interested in adjunct characters who aren't over-played but who easily might work into future books. I felt an ominous sense of their safety hanging over "The Killing Storm." Her mother, a rancher and bakery owner is also a strong, wise, silver-haired, very capable woman to be admired; and, her early teen-aged daughter is a trooper, too. Kathryn Casey's years as a non-fiction crime writer (she's published several books in this genre), and magazine writer, are evident in her well disposed novel. She leaves no rock unturned as investigative thought processes form, and she doesn't waste the reader's time by dragging the story on with unnecessary side commentary as if we were novices. Ms C. respects the intelligence of her readers, obviously...another refreshing find in a mystery writer. Some of this ability must come from her writing and researching of non-fiction murders. She understands and conveys the facts at a pace that keeps us wanting more. I believe she understands the psychology and mind of a killer and lets us in on that, too...an altogether enticing and proverbial "edge of the seat" experience. What more can be said except this novel is one you who love a good mystery will not want to miss, and will want to collect along with your favorite authors. I certainly see Sarah Armstrong's in my future...I'm absolutely reading the first books in this series. I shudder to draw a comparison for you with another mystery writer. Kathryn Casey is a singular writer whose characters will be read for themselves alone. 5 stars Deborah/TheBookishDame