Fighting him every step of the way is Greta Murphy, sexy local TV reporter. With the eye of an eagle, the nose of a bloodhound, and a dangerously keen sixth sense, she'll do whatever it takes to capture The One Big Story that will propel her to stardom. When her relentless impulsivity threatens to blow the investigation wide open, Mac forces his hand, which creates further complications.
As Mac and Greta collide, the tension blurs the boundary between personal and professional roles. Will the spotlight be too bright for Greta as she reports the news... or will she become the news? Join them as they scour the countryside looking for the killer.
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|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.11(d)|
Read an Excerpt
CROSS TOWN MURDERS
By Ann J Colby
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2012 Ann J Colby
All right reserved.
Chapter One"He was working as fast as he could with the mist falling and the light starting to fade. It was the perfect setting for another one of his masterpieces."
The woods were mossy and cool. A light mist was falling, and yellow crime scene tape wobbled in the air. How many times had Greta arrived at a scene similar to this one with yellow tape, cop cars, and the smell of death lingering in the air?
She shivered as she stepped cautiously out of the news van onto the rain-slicked ground. Peering through the gloom, she saw Mac O'Brien pacing the woods like a wolf stalking its prey.
As she watched him, she noted that this evening Mac looked unusually haggard in his jeans and black leather jacket; he was putting in too many hours on the job and it was starting to take its toll. At six feet three inches tall with golden blond hair and hazel green eyes, he had the lean, muscular physique of a pro football player. He had the rugged good looks that every female likes, and it didn't take long for people, including her, to notice him. The two-day stubble, the thin scar on his chin that he got learning to play hockey when he was four, and the gruff attitude usually charmed the ladies.
As she picked her way carefully over pine roots toward the crime scene, Mac spied her across the way. Greta, tall and slim as a runway model with auburn hair and dark blue eyes, had that animal magnetism that drives men crazy, and Mac took in the black cowboy boots, jeans and blue pullover that were her usual attire when working a scene.
Shaking his head, he reminded himself that she was the enemy. A rising star in the world of news broadcasting, Greta had a natural oneness with the camera; her fans adored her hometown gal appearance. She also had taken on the one job no one seemed to want: tracking down the seamier side of human nature.
She kept track of missing women and their stories and was dogged in her pursuit of answers. It was no wonder Mac didn't sleep well at night. She was everywhere; on his TV, at his scenes of crimes, and in his dreams.
He was starting to bark orders to people to pick up the pace because of the weather and because of the press.
"Hey Mac, what can you tell me?"
"Well, for one thing, don't think of crossing that tape."
"Come on, Mac, we're buds."
"Not today, Greta."
He turned away and grunted at an officer who was standing by, watching the usual encounter. As he moved toward the body, he froze. It was never easy for Mac to see another senseless murder. He hated the job of notifying the loved ones of their loss.
But the toughest ones were the unanswered and unsolved cases. Unfortunately, for some of these women, the questions of who murdered them—and why—were never answered.
Greta turned and examined the wooded area in which they were standing. She was always looking for the best angle from which to shoot the crime scene footage. She never shied away from the gruesome scenes. She knew what would draw the audience in and make them watch her evening news segment.
Finding the angle was how Greta made her mark, and she was very good at what she did.
Mac stood in the lightly falling rain watching her. He shook his head, because he knew what he was going to see on the eleven o'clock news. She would start with a picture and teaser question to keep the public riveted to their televisions.
He would never understand the public and its need for the gruesome and ugly stories. If they saw, day in and day out, what he did, they would run her out of the business. But Mac knew deep down that they both were there to do their jobs.
Refocusing on the job at hand, he pondered who was this young woman and who could have done such a terrible thing. Stella had arrived from the coroner's office and was now stumbling towards Mac.
"So, what do we have this evening?"
"Hey, Stella. Looks like another butcher job, but I'll leave all of that deduction to you."
"Did you get everything you need, Mac? 'Cause this rain is doing a number on the body and evidence."
"Yeah, Stella, go ahead and finish up. I'm done with this for now."
"Great, I'll send ya an e-mail when I have something for you."
Stella got hard at work bagging up the remainder of a once promising life and Mac, having gotten what he needed, allowed the young woman the decency of being taken down to the county morgue, if one could call the county morgue decent.
As he started to wrap things up at the scene, he noticed that Greta was still there, instructing her cameraman to get a panoramic view of the mayhem that had occurred. He wondered if she ever got tired of the game and suspense of crime.
The woods had become completely dark when Mac got into his blue Mustang. Everyone wondered how he could afford a car like that on his salary, but he didn't care what they thought. People were so stuck in the 40s when it came to a policeman's salary. They didn't seem to know that times had changed, and a man could afford a decent ride. Just wait until he pulled out his black Ford F150 when winter came to town.
As he started up his baby, the radio was playing a sultry country song; he began to loosen up and calm down. He swung the Mustang around on the makeshift path that had been trampled by the cruisers and headed up Route 11 toward the station.
He replayed the images of the crime scene in his mind. The body had been oddly placed, as if it was deliberately arranged, and the positions of the wounds were strange as well. A pair of lights shone annoyingly in his mirror, but what was worse was the van they were coming from. He'd know that van anywhere; it was Greta's.
Chapter TwoAs Mac pulled into the station, the News Ten Today van was right behind him. He had a fleeting impulse to stop on a dime just to shake Greta up, but he was already on thin ice with Lieutenant Riley. Opting for mature, Mac pulled the Mustang into the first empty space he found. The News Ten Today van pulled in with Greta, jumping out before it had come to a stop.
"Mac, Mac, hold up," Greta called.
"Come on, Mac, I didn't do it!"
"Listen, Greta, that's not funny, and you know the drill. I'm saying nothing to you about those woods."
"All I'm looking for is a short statement about what happened," Greta wheedled.
"Like hell, Greta, All you're looking for is your damn angle for the news. I catch your segment now and then and all I see is shock value that's promoting your career."
"Come on, Mac, that's cold and you know it. I'm just trying to keep the public informed."
"I guess that is where we'll always disagree, Greta. It's just career moves to you, but it's crime and life to me."
As he looked at Greta, he could barely see the pretty woman behind the job that he despised. Turning and bounding up the steps into the station, he left her sputtering about his lack of cooperation.
Once he had entered the police station, he instinctively looked toward Riley's office to see if his night was going to get worse. Luckily, Riley's door was closed, and Mac smiled to himself; the evening might not be as bad as he had feared.
As he hung up his coat, he heard the usual tapping of the computer keys and the background buzz of the station tending to the business of crime. That sound was top ten country to Mac.
He sat down at his desk and looked across it to see his partner, Jake, gnawing on his pencil. Jake was in his late forties and had the cynical eyes of a man who had seen more than was good for his soul. He was tall with thinning blond hair; but that was all that was thin.
The body might be rotund, but the brain was a lean machine. Jake had an amazing talent for staying calm in a crisis while thinking full speed ahead. That was one thing that Mac both respected and resented about him. The two of them made a great pair on the force: Mac, hot headed and spontaneous, and Jake, cautious and objective.
Jake looked up, saw Mac staring at him, and gave him a little wink just for the fun of flustering his partner.
"Damn it, Jake, I hate it when you do that," Mac grumbled in irritation.
"Not my fault you're so good-lookin' and when you give me that stare ... well, let's just leave it at that." Jake batted his eyelashes and smiled. He knew what buttons to push to drive Mac ape-shit, and once again he was successful.
Mac turned away, shaking his head in disgust, and headed for the coffee pot, when he spied Riley zeroing in on them.
"Damn, I was hoping to get home tonight without having to see that wind bag."
"Easy, big fella," Jake whispered as Riley approached. "No time to piss off the boss. We haven't been on the best of terms with him lately. Remember those pertinent details we "forgot" to give him on the last case?"
Eventually that omission had made the lieutenant look foolish in the media.
And that was another reason he could get pretty steamed at Greta; she had hung old Riley out to dry on her news show, and Riley didn't cotton to the fact that Jake and Mac had set him up.
"McAllister, what the hell is News Ten Today here for? You and Jackson plotting another scheme to show up the boss?"
"Well, if it isn't Captain Riley. Sorry, my mistake; it's still just
Lieutenant Riley, right?"
"Keep it up, McAllister, one of these days you'll say one piece of crap too many and we'll see who's laughing last."
"Easy, Mac, keep your cool," Jake muttered as he walked quickly toward Riley. "Lieutenant, I'm not sure what News Ten Today is doing here, but I'm sure Mac'll fill us both in later." Jake maneuvered Riley toward his office.
"Just have a few questions to run by you, Lieutenant, if you have a minute."
Riley looked back at Mac, who had poured his coffee and was now sitting at his desk with his feet up, seething with envy.
Mac knew he had to check his attitude towards Riley, but he couldn't help but hate the guy. Riley was a typical product of the 'good old boy' network; it wasn't what he knew that had gotten him promoted, but whom he knew. They had started out together at the academy, but from day one everyone there knew that Riley was the commissioner's little boy. That wouldn't have mattered to anyone if Riley hadn't lived down to the role.
What a pain in the ass he was. He couldn't keep up with the rest, but he knew how to play the game, a game that Mac refused to play. He prided himself on not following in the lock steps of others. What he had earned through hard work, Riley had inherited, and Mac figured it was only a matter of time before he decked the s.o.b. The image of Riley's nose dripping blood made him smile.
He was just finishing up his coffee and the sixth overdue form when Jake reappeared from Riley's office.
"Man, Mac, you gotta stop pissing in his Wheaties. The man is awfully high strung." Jake eased down into his chair and reached for his coffee mug. He took a hefty slurp of leftover, reheated, coffee.
Lowering one eyebrow and leaning forward, Jake asked, "And by the way, Mac, ole buddy, what was the beautiful Greta doing here? Don't keep your partner in the dark. Was she here for business or pleasure?" He waggled his eyebrows and leered at Mac.
Mac looked at Jake with disgust and simply shook his head.
"Come on, boy, don't keep me guessing," Jake whined.
"You know damn well it was only business. That woman doesn't have any other life but that TV show."
Jake smiled. "Well, if it was business, what have you got?"
Mac sat back and worked the crime scene through his head before filling Jake in.
"Got another one, Jake. Female, twenty something, long brown hair, naked and placed in a praying position. I think we've got something really bad going on here, but I don't want to pull Riley in until I can put a few pieces of the puzzle together."
"What is this now, Mac, two, three with the same MO?
"Yeah, the third one found in the last three months. Remember the first body was down by the old dam, and the second one was tossed up on the old logging road. I don't like it, Jake; I just don't like it."
Jake frowned and shook his head as if he were trying to dislodge a bad looking hat.
Mac looked up at the clock and decided to call it a night. As he pulled on his jacket, he looked at Jake, who was again gnawing on his pencil ruminating over the latest murder.
Mac walked outside and looked to the sky to see whether the rain was going to end. No such luck, and with that dismal thought, he got into his Mustang.
Driving to his apartment, he listened to Reba sing a ballad about cheating spouses, and it reminded him of his first marriage. What a disaster that had turned out to be; he hadn't been able to decide whether he had fallen in love or lust, and as time went on, he didn't really care. Needless to say, both of them had been guilty of destroying that marriage. April couldn't stop sleeping around, and Mac couldn't stop working.
As the song came to an end, he pulled his Mustang into the spot designated for his apartment. The gray buildings with the cold look of a prison, the uniform lawns, and the semi-clean pool were what Mac called home. His apartment wasn't much, but he liked it. He wasn't in it all that much, but it fit the bill.
He had a bedroom and a small, pale blue bathroom with just a walk-in shower. His kitchen and dining room were basically one room divided by an island counter and three bar stools. He didn't need a big kitchen; all that he required was a coffee maker, a fridge for his beer, a microwave for his Lean Cuisine, and a crock pot for those nights he was feeling like Emeril.
The dining room was furnished with four hideously hard chairs that no one sat on for more than five minutes and a cabinet that housed his mother's china. His living room had the obligatory black leather Lazy Boy recliner and a mustard yellow plaid couch that he slept on as much as he did his bed. His flat screen, high def TV was mounted on the wall opposite the recliner, and his Academy pictures and pictures of his mom, dad and sister Julia hung on the other wall. His bedroom housed the king size bed that he retained custody of after the divorce and enough pillows to suggest a woman's touch, although it had been a long time since that bed had felt a woman's touch or anything else.
He tossed his jacket on one of the stools and glanced over at his answering machine, thankful that no light was blinking. He was tired of Julia trying to fix him up with some sorority girl pal of hers. She was away at college studying classical literature at Syracuse University, and at her age, the world was fresh and new and everyone was good.
Mac, however, knew the other side of life and had long ago lost that innocence of youth and the belief in the goodness of mankind. He opened the fridge and pulled out an ice cold Smithwick's. Nothing announced Irish more in his world than his fridge. Popping off the top to his beer, he checked out the mail: nothing but bills and credit card applications. It always made him smile to think that some poor fool thought he could afford to pay bills with a credit card. He tossed the junk mail into the trash.
Crossing the room to turn on his TV, he flipped on ESPN to watch PTI. He always enjoyed listening to the banter between Kornheiser and Wilbon, because that was about the only thing that really took him away from the events of the day.
He finished his dinner and was flipping through the channels good when he clicked on to Tonight with Greta.
He knew he should keep on flipping, but there was something about that woman that made him sit down and watch. He didn't know if it was her good looks or the way she exuded confidence in what she was reporting. As he watched, he became so enraptured by her that he didn't even see the gruesome footage playing out behind her.
Then, as if a bomb had exploded in his head, Mac focused and saw himself on the screen.
"Damn it to hell! That woman is incorrigible," Mac yelled. Slamming the remote down, he stormed into his bedroom. The only thing that would really remove Greta was a hot shower. Stomping into the bathroom, he was reminded once again the blue must go.
As the bathroom steamed up, he let the hot water roll off of him in long thin lines that traced every contour of his lean, muscular body. He was enjoying the hot water when his thoughts returned to the young victim; no matter how many times he showered, he was never really rid of a crime until he solved it.
He sighed and stepped out of the shower to hear the phone ringing. His machine picked up and the voice on the other end had a simple question for Mac.
"Did you like the way she was praying?"
Chapter ThreeMac stood frozen in place. His heart was racing like a thoroughbred horse as he tried to make sense of what he was hearing. He finally broke through the haze and raced for the phone, only to hear the hollow sound of an empty line. There he stood, stark naked, dripping and staring at the phone as if it were going to ring again. The crime of the day had just intensified, and he headed back into the bathroom to grab a towel and to plan his next move.
He roared out, cringing as he remembered the sleeping neighbors.
Excerpted from CROSS TOWN MURDERS by Ann J Colby Copyright © 2012 by Ann J Colby. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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