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"The FBI man's in there with the body. Says he just got into town."
The heavy drawl belonged to Douglas Semer, medical examiner for the Orleans Parish, whom Trevor had met a short time earlier. A pale, older man with thick glasses that gave him an owlish look, he'd greeted Trevor's arrival with a hint of suspicion.
"How long's he been waiting?" another male voice asked. "Half hour, maybe."
A third man spoke. His voice was gruffer, as if he'd been smoking cigarettes for most of his life. "He say why the feds are interested in our dead body?"
"Nope. I told him I'd have to wait for the NOPD to get here before I could give a rundown on the gross exam." Semer's reply held a tone that suggested we local boys stick together.
Trevor returned his gaze to the stainless-steel autopsy table that held the victim's nude body. The girl's lips were blue and slightly parted, and her reddish-blond hair fanned out behind her head. A body block had been used to position the corpse for autopsy, and the telltale Y-incision that ran from each shoulder before extending into a single line down to the pubic bone indicated Semer had completed his job.
She was sixteen at best, years younger than the other victims so far. The fact that she was barely more than a child made this particular death seem even more pointless and brutal. Releasing a breath, Trevor stared at the engraving on the room's wall. The words were in Latin, but he made the translation easily.
This is the place where death rejoices to teach.
When it came to dead women lying on tables, he felt as though he'd already learned enough to last him several lifetimes.
The door to the autopsy room opened, and Semer entered with the two men he'd been conversing with in the hallway.
"Detectives McGrath and Thibodeaux, this is Agent Rivette with the FBI." Semer made the introduction, and Trevor stepped forward to shake hands. The first, McGrath, was middle-aged and heavyset with a balding pate and a mustache, and Thibodeaux was a lanky African-American with hair that had begun to gray at the temples. Like Trevor, they both wore holstered guns on their hips.
McGrath made a point of squinting at the guest pass clipped to Trevor's suit lapel. "So, Special Agent Rivette, Semer says you're from up north. Does that mean you're from the field office in Mobile?"
Trevor smiled faintly at his joke. "A little farther north than that. D.C., actually. I'm with the Violent Crimes Unit."
"VCU, huh? That's big time." McGrath's expression, however, indicated he was unimpressed.
Trevor continued, "I was on my way to your precinct to get a look at the crime scene photos, but I wanted to stop by here and see if the autopsy report was ready."
"Only an unofficial one," Semer stated. "Nothing's typed up yet and the toxicology results won't be back till tomorrow—"
"Rivette's a local name." The other detective, Thibodeaux, cut in. Leaning against the front of the built-in refrigeration unit where bodies were stored, he looked at Trevor with interest. "Genealogy's a hobby of mine. If I'm not mistaken, your last name's Acadian, isn't it?"
Trevor nodded faintly. "I've got some family here."
When he offered no further details, Thibodeaux moved his attention to the corpse. "This girl somebody special, Agent? You've come a long way."
"It's not so much the victim as the way she was murdered." A microphone used for recording the medical examiner's notes hung over the autopsy table. Trevor moved it out of the way so he could lean over the body and point out a puncture wound behind the tip of the jaw. "The jugular and carotid artery were severed in a single slice. The manner of death, along with the rosary used to bind the victim's hands, fits a pattern of murders in other cities over the past eighteen months. ViCAP kicked out your victim as another possible match."
McGrath tapped the notepad he was holding with a ballpoint pen. "You're saying we've got a serial murderer working New Orleans?"
"I doubt this is coincidental. The M.O. is too similar, which is why I flew down."
"To take over our case."
Trevor stared at an open cabinet that contained tools of the trade, including a rib spreader and handheld bone saw. He was prepared for resistance. "Look. I know local police and the FBI have a reputation for not getting along—"
"Like atheists at the Vatican," Thibodeaux muttered.
"That doesn't have to be the situation here," Trevor emphasized. "I'm not interested in who gets credit for what—I just want to find this guy. We can work this murder together, share information, or we can work it apart. But this is New Orleans, and I'm guessing you guys have a backlog of cases that need to be moved into the black."
Thibodeaux narrowed his eyes. "So it's a help me help you kind of deal?"
"Something like that."
Rubbing his jaw, McGrath asked, "How many victims?"
"Five, counting this one."
"D.C., Atlanta, Memphis and Raleigh. Now here. The good news for you is that he seems to have a one-vic-per-city policy. He may have already moved on, which means I will soon, too."
"And if he hasn't?" Thibodeaux inquired.
"Then we got a bigger problem than one dead body." McGrath scratched behind his ear with the pen. "The media give this prick a name yet?"
Trevor crossed his arms over his chest. "The press hasn't connected the murders yet due to the widely dispersed locales, and because certain identical facts have been kept confidential. Internally, he's being referred to as the Vampire, based on the method of killing and because several of the victims have been tied to the goth club scene in their respective cities."
"Well, this one was found in an abandoned shotgun on Tchoupitoulas, nowhere near any of the nightlife," Thibodeaux said. "'Course, lividity suggests she was relocated several hours after death. The amount of blood at the crime scene also doesn't match the severity of the vic's injuries."
McGrath turned to the M.E. "Speakin' of, we got an ID on her yet?"
"Still a Jane Doe," Semer said, taking his cue. He went to the autopsy table and clicked on the overhead lamp, then snapped on a pair of latex gloves. "You boys ready for the full tour?"
The harsh lighting made the dead girl's ashen skin look nearly transparent, and the body cavity sagged along the closed autopsy incision due to the removal of internal organs.
McGrath blanched. "Jesus, Semer. What you do with the stuff you pull out of 'em, I don't wanna know."
"Then I won't tell you." Semer shifted his eyes to Trevor. "But Agent Rivette is correct—the cut to the throat was the fatal strike. It was basically an exsanguination. Approximate forty percent blood loss."
Using his gloved hand, he indicated other incisions on the body. "All these other cuts, mostly superficial, were made antemortem."
He pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose. "If you want my opinion, I'd say the son of a bitch took his sweet time with her before she died."
What had once been a working-class neighborhood had taken a distinct turn for the better, but the house in New Or-leans's Faubourg Marigny District still looked familiar to Trevor Rivette. Changes had been made, of course, so that the house was a better fit with the BMWs and Volvos parked along the tree-lined street, vehicles of the upwardly mobile families who now inhabited the area, pushing up the homes' value. Like the neighboring houses, the West Indies-style cottage was no longer a staid white. Painted a vibrant raspberry, its gingerbread trim was well cared for and accented in pink. Wrought-iron picket fencing bordered the yard, and rattan rockers sat on the covered front porch next to green ferns in clay pots. From his vantage point on the sidewalk, Trevor heard children's laughter coming from somewhere down the street. A wind chime on the house's porch tinkled in the warm zephyr of the early evening.
If he didn't know better, he might think this had been a good place to grow up.
He opened the fence gate and walked the short distance up to the porch. As Trevor stood on its whitewashed, wood-planked flooring, his hand rose from his jeans pocket to rub briefly at his forehead. This was Annabelle's house now. The ghosts were still here only if he let them be.
She must have been waiting for him, because the door opened before he knocked. Annabelle Rivette smiled as she pulled her brother into her arms. When she finally released him, Trevor stared into the face that was ingrained in his memory. Annabelle had changed little. Her wavy, brunette hair and sky-blue eyes were exactly as he remembered.
"It's been a long time, Trevor," she said.
"Too long," he admitted. He was regretful of how much time he'd allowed to pass. It had been three years since he was last in New Orleans. He'd returned for their mother's funeral, but even then he'd arrived only a short time before the service and left soon after. There had been a justifiable reason—a double homicide in Richmond had pulled him away. But they both knew that even without the responsibilities of his career with the FBI's Violent Crimes Unit, he'd have found it difficult to stay.
A child's thin voice called from inside the house, and Annabelle led Trevor from the porch into the front room. Nearly everything here was different. The high-ceilinged space was painted blue and beige, and an area rug covered the wood floors. Plantation shutters had taken the place of heavy curtains over the windows. The stiff antique furniture was also gone, banished in favor of an overstuffed couch and matching chair with an ottoman. Even the fireplace mantel, which was original to the house and hand carved from cypress wood, had lost its dark stain. It was repainted white, and the antique mirror that had once hung over it was replaced with a cheerful painting of a French Quarter scene.
"There you are," Annabelle said as a little girl came into the room. "Haley, this is your uncle Trevor."
Haley stared up at him unabashedly. A stuffed animal, a purple angora cat that looked as if it had seen better days, dangled from her grasp. Tendrils of curly hair had escaped from her ponytail, and she brushed them out of her face with a slight frown of annoyance.
"I haven't seen you since you were a baby," Trevor said.
"I'm not a baby anymore. I'm five years old." She held up one small hand with all her fingers outstretched.
He smiled as he knelt down, putting himself at eye level with his niece. "What I meant was that your mom sends me photos, but I didn't realize how big you'd gotten."
Haley swung the frazzled cat back and forth, her eyes still fastened on Trevor. "You look like Uncle Brian."
His chest tightened at the mention of his brother's name. He thought of Brian's dark hair and blue-gray eyes, so much like his own. "Yeah, I guess I do."
"Mommy says you have a gun, like a policeman. Did you bring it?"
"I left it at the hotel." He didn't mention the compact off-duty gun, a .380 Beretta semiautomatic he was carrying concealed in an ankle holster. "They're not safe, you know."
"Then why do you have one?"
Trevor looked at Annabelle. The grin on her face seemed to say, See what I put up with?
"Dinner will be ready soon, sweetie," she said to Haley. "Why don't you go play for a while. Uncle Trevor and I are going to talk about grown-up stuff."
"Can I watch cartoons?"
"Knock yourself out," Annabelle replied, and Haley disappeared down the hallway.
"Thank God for television." She looked at Trevor, who had stood back up and was glancing around the room. "Do you want something to drink?"
"Just a soda, if you have one."
He followed her into the small kitchen. Trendy Mexican tile had replaced the worn linoleum, and there were new appliances in eggshell white. A pot of something savory bubbled on the stove, filling the air with the scent of tomatoes and spicy peppers. A gourmet coffeemaker sat on the counter, instead of the old-fashioned percolator Trevor recalled from his childhood. Like the parlor, everything about this room was fresh and new. It was as if Annabelle thought she could transform the house's karma by ripping out enough fixtures and flooring, and covering the walls with a coat of paint. The image of a hulking man with a swinging fist clutched at him, stealing his breath before it disappeared as swiftly as it came. Trevor touched the scar that ran along the base of his chin. His proof the past existed.
"You okay?" Annabelle handed him a soda from the refrigerator.
"Yeah." He nodded, aware that despite their time apart, his sister still had the ability to read his face.
Annabelle had also gotten out a soda for herself, and they sat down across from one another at the table. He took a sip from the can that was already slick with condensation and stared out the window into the small backyard bordered by an ancient brick wall. A massive, moss-draped live oak provided a canopy for nearly the entire patio area and farther back, a child's swing set. Looking up through the tree's outstretched limbs he could see slivers of sky as daylight faded into the gathering dusk.
"Sawyer Compton says hello," Annabelle said. Sawyer was an old friend who'd grown up a few streets over. He'd played football at Louisiana State University before attending law
school, and Trevor knew he was serving as assistant D.A. for the Orleans Parish. "How is he?"
She smiled as she lifted the soda can to her lips. "Maybe you should stick around and find out for yourself. He's having his annual crawfish boil in a few weeks."
"You know why I'm here, Anna."
Her expression turned serious. "Your job. It's the only thing that could make you come home, short of a family crisis. How many days are you here?"
"I don't know yet."
"But no longer than you have to be?" When he didn't answer, Annabelle relented. "You look tired, Trevor "
Her words trailed away as he reached out and took her hand. His eyes fell on her wrist, which had become visible at the sleeve of her cotton blouse. Annabelle said his name softly, but he held on to her, his fingers tracing the raised edges of the scar. He knew there was a matching one on the other wrist, which she'd discreetly hidden under the table out of his view. Trevor's brow furrowed.
"You ever see him, Anna?"
"Dad?" She shook her head. "No."
"Does Brian ever see him?"
"I doubt it."
Posted October 2, 2014
This is a well written book, with strong well developed characters. I throughly enjoyed reading it. Read it cover to cover in less than 24 hours.
Only downside is this author only has 3 books out there. Like most readers when I find a talanted author I can't get enough of them and I couldn't help feeling let down when I finished the third book.
Well worth the read.
Posted April 22, 2013
This was an awesome debut novel. The plot was solid from start to finish. I am a real sucker for romantic suspense when it is done well. It pulled me in right away and kept me on the edge of my seat. There were some great twists along the way. I was not able to guess who the creepy serial killer stalker was before it was revealed and it was a real “Say what?!?” moment.
The main characters in the book were well-developed and their individual stories added depth to the overall plot. Both Trevor and Rain frustrated me endlessly but they were both basically likeable characters. I liked the relationship that developed between them and the way it developed. I was particularly fond of Trevor’s family and the subtle way the author used them to connect him with Rain.
I would definitely recommend this book to anybody who enjoys a suspenseful story with a little romance thrown in. There are two more books in this series and both are on my to read list. If this is Ms. Tentler’s debut, I can’t wait to see what else she has in store for us.
Posted September 15, 2012
Liked the story and characters. Main characters, Rain and Trevor, could've been a bit more developed but overall a good read. Will be reading the next one in this trilogy.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 20, 2012
Posted March 23, 2012
the book was exceting and made you want to keep reading until it was completed. I am now reading Midnight Fear and it is just as compeling as Midnight Caller.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 7, 2012
I am always looking for new authors, and I was pleasantly surprised. Karen Rose is one of my favorite authors, and while this book/author is not quite the same calibre, it is still a pretty good story. The romantic encounters and interactions between the main characters are sometimes too predictable, but there were a few twists in the serial killer/mystery part of the story that kept things interesting. All in all, I enjoyed the book and will read more from this author.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 21, 2011
This was the first book I've read by Leslie Tentler and I'm so glad I bought the book! It was very suspenseful with many twist and turns and the romance was steamy too! It gives the reader a real feeling of living in New Orleans. I highly recommend this book and can't wait to read her next one.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 19, 2011
This romantic suspense novel is the debut book from new author Leslie Tentler. Late night talk show hose Rain Summers is the daughter of a murdered singer from New Orleans who is credited with being goth before goth was a trend. Special Agent Trevor Rivette is a native of New Orleans who left in his team and has spent the ensuing years trying to forget his childhood. Now he is back and dealing with a case that involves Rain, but may also be personal. As the case progresses, he finds that trying to protect Rain and identify his unsub may be more than he can handle on many levels.
Although I have read many romantic suspense novels throughout the years, it is not the genre that I read the most. In fact, I think most of the books that I have read in this genre were probably written by Nora Roberts. This one had an interesting plot line that kept me involved. In addition, the characters of Rain and Trevor were quite interesting, and their personal stories were enticing. I really enjoyed the mystery story line and although I figured out who the killer was before it was revealed, there were enough possible suspects to keep me guessing through a lot of the book. Unfortunately, the romance story line was a bit predictable, and the very end of the book fell a little flat for me.
All in all a good read from a new author, which I enjoyed enough to look forward to her next effort.
Posted May 20, 2011
Posted March 9, 2011
Posted March 1, 2011
Late-night, radio psychologist Rain Sommers is used to a certain amount of celebrity within the dark and depraved back alleys of the bayou. As the only survivor of her legendary parents' murder/suicide, she's built a remarkably normal life working with troubled teens. However, one caller's more than scary obsession with her and her murdered mother has even the cynical Rain running frightened as a vicious serial killer known only as the Vampire begins to prowl the New Orleans Goth scene.
FBI agent Trevor Rivette is positive her caller and the killer he's been tracking across the country are the same. It becomes terrifyingly obvious that the Vampire has a burning need and Rain has become his obsession. Allowing Trevor access to her very private past is painful, but Trevor has his own demons in this town. As his buried history mixes with Rain's disturbed present, he may die trying to keep Rain safe from a monster.
"Midnight Callers" doesn't have the awkwardness often found in a debut. Strong and compelling characters blend nicely into the balanced backdrop of New Orleans shadowy Goth community. It is easy to envision her secondary characters reaching out to take the reins in future installments as this refreshing new talent proves she's got a promising future in this genre.
Reviewed by Shannon Raab for Suspense Magazine
Posted February 12, 2011
Posted December 16, 2010
In 1981 British guitarist Gavin Firth murders Goth singer Desiree Sommers, the mother of his two years old child Rain. Gavin then kills himself in a shocking murder-suicide. Decades later in New Orleans, their daughter Dr. Rain Sommers hosts the late night talk radio show Midnight Confessions.
FBI Violent Crimes Unit Special Agent Trevor Rivette hunts Dante the Vampire serial killer. The psychopath slashes the throat of his victim before leaving behind a rosary just like that worn by Desiree. This beast has murdered five women across the country. After stops in DC, Atlanta, Memphis and Raleigh, he has arrived in New Orleans where he kills three teenage Goths. His next chosen one is Rain, but not if Trevor has any say.
Although the theme of a "vampiric" serial killer has been used before and not just in urban fantasy (see Violets Are Blue by James Patterson), readers will relish this well written tense thriller. The key trio seems genuine as Rivette knows the stakes are personal when he falls in love with Dante's next intended victim. Romantic suspense fans will enjoy Midnight Caller as the taut tale means leaving the lights on after midnight.
Posted January 27, 2012
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Posted July 22, 2011
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Posted August 24, 2011
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Posted July 18, 2012
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Posted January 11, 2012
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Posted June 26, 2011
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