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Home Is Where the Hell Is

Home Is Where the Hell Is

by Shawn Denson


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Special Agent David Roberts is a top FBI profiler, focusing on violent offenders. His professional life is extraordinarily successful--but his personal life is in tatters. At the end of a difficult case, he finds himself with a unique opportunity: the chance to revisit his past and make up for the mistakes of youth.

Twenty years earlier, David was an awkward and bullied teenager living in a small Arkansas town called Grayson and suffering from unrequited love. Now, when a string of grisly and horrific homicides hits Grayson, David is ordered--against his will--to return to his hated hometown and investigate the crimes. As he searches for the killer, he encounters former schoolmates and peers, as well as Emily Anderson, the object of his teenage love, a woman he has never forgotten. David and Emily connect, and he begins to see that empathy and compassion should overcome the bitterness that has lived in his heart for so many years. But then the killer strikes much closer to home, leaving David not only questioning his career, choices and life, but also fearing for the lives of those he loves.

In this thriller, a gifted but flawed FBI agent faces the demons of his past while searching for a serial killer at large in his hometown.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781480820623
Publisher: Archway Publishing
Publication date: 09/14/2015
Pages: 510
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.14(d)

Read an Excerpt

Home Is Where the Hell Is

A Novel

By Shawn Denson

Archway Publishing

Copyright © 2015 Shawn Denson
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4808-2062-3


Part One: Brief Snapshots in Time

"The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it."

Albert Einstein

"The true hero is flawed. The true test of a champion is not whether he can triumph, but whether he can overcome obstacles — preferably of his own making — in order to triumph."

Garth Stein

"If you want to be a real human being — a real woman, a real man — you cannot tolerate things which put you to indignation, to outrage. You must stand up."

Stephane Hessel


"Free and clear! Agents, proceed inside!"

The SWAT team leader yelled aloud as his team exited the back door of the house. His voice carried in the chilly, Utah air. The words reached the ears of the two men by the front door as they crouched by the entrance. Special Agent David Roberts of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, thirty-four years old, glanced at his partner and nodded. Roberts' handsome features and dark eyes were locked into a mask of determination. His jet-black hair — a perfect coif — moved with his nod. Beating hard, his heart raced in his chest.

His partner, Special Agent James Avery, also thirty-four years old, returned the nod with one of his own, his face locked into the same mask as that of his partner and best friend. Covered with cropped blonde hair, his head gleamed in the dying light of the day. His blue eyes were steely and cold. The full lips of the man were turned downward in a slight frown. Avery's cheeks bristled with stubble because the man skipped his morning shave earlier in the day.

It's game time, thought Roberts.

Roberts was on the left side of the entrance to the house. The door was no longer on the frame, one of the SWAT officer's battering rams had just bashed it in. No longer rocking, the thick, wooden egress was still. The door rested on the floor. Avery was on the right side of the entrance. Both men had their Bureau-approved side-arms, the Glock twenty-two, drawn and ready.

The two friends looked at each other in the dim light, it was a cloudy day. Roberts pointed to himself, then pointed toward the front door. Nodding in response, Avery pointed at himself and made a covering motion over his head with his left hand. Both men tilted their heads at each other, moving toward one another. Roberts took the lead, darting into the small house. Avery was behind him a split-second later, scampering into the dark entrance to the domicile.

The house was dim, lit by the outside streetlights. Roberts and Avery, along with the local law enforcement, had found the breaker box outside with a smoking, black bullet-hole in it upon their arrival. Roberts secured the front of the house, a living room. Avery was busy securing the corners and the blind spots.

The den was clear.

The first room deemed safe by their standards, they swept the small, one-story home. As they moved from room to room, their noses wrinkled. The smell in the house was nothing short of horrible. A rancid mix of hot blood, decay, fecal matter, and spent sex hung heavy in the air.

God, it smells terrible in here, Roberts thought.

While the house was beautiful on the outside (there was even a white picket fence) the inside was quickly revealed for what it was. It was a slaughterhouse. A slaughterhouse for twelve poor, innocent victims. The walls were painted with drying blood splatters, still tacky in some areas. Human organs stood on top of dusty tables. Several knives, saws, and scalpels were strewn about, with no pattern to them at all. It was a random spreading.

Roberts and Avery scrutinized the house, checking every room. Both followed every protocol from the Bureau to the letter. They doubled back through the main hallway of the one-story home. Moving with a lithe grace, they worked as a team. As they passed the only bathroom in the house, neither of them noticed the section of the wall fall back. It slid to the side.

Roberts noticed the lights, however. Flashlights. Several of them bounced off the walls and ceiling. He looked at their location in the abode, deducing that most of the SWAT officers were nearing the front of the house.

The two men decided (without saying a word) that the basement was the one area of the house that was not secure. It was as if each could read the mind of the other. As they turned and swept the dining room one final time, Roberts noticed a severed penis sitting on the dining room table. Standing upright, the organ erected itself in a macabre way. The phallus was jammed onto a metal stabber used to collect discarded notes. Roberts wished at that moment he did not have eyes.

Repulsive, he thought.

Roberts shivered a little. He turned and opened the basement door, starting down the stairs. Avery scanned the room once more, his shadow moving on the dim wall. Turning, he followed Roberts into the basement. As they headed down the stairs, a small shadow on the wall moved. The shadow — in the shape of a man — grew to tremendous size.

The rapid beating in Roberts' chest was fading. Then the smell hit him, stronger and more awful than ever. He almost had to pull his tie over his nose to act as a gag as he descended the damp, wooden steps. Bowing with his weight, the steps did not crack or splinter. Clearing the stairs and coming to a halt, his dress shoes kicked up a small amount of dust from the dirt floor of the cellar. Little dust puffed up, because most of the floor had blood splattered everywhere.

Avery came to a stop beside him a second later. Both men stood, slack-jawed and wide-eyed, at the sight they had just discovered. The basement was a half-finished, full sized space. It could almost be inhabited by a person.


All twelve of the missing people were in the dank cellar, their bodies anchored to the wooden paneling with sharpened lawn darts. The darts looked to be hammered with a crudity that screamed desperation and urgency, perhaps by a sledgehammer. Every single victim was mutilated severely, some worse than others. At worst, one corpse appeared to be nothing more than a disemboweled torso, a head, and arms. As Roberts and Avery stood viewing the horrors unfolding before their eyes, the basement door upstairs latched shut. A deadbolt turned and Roberts did not hear it.

Fortunately for the two of them, Avery did hear the muffled click. Turning, he glared at the door and his eyes widened. He finally found his voice after the briefest of moments.

Avery yelled, "David! Drop!!"

That call — given many times during his career by his partner and best friend — had saved Roberts' life every time Avery had to make the call. Often it was under severe stress and duress. Roberts listened to Avery again, he hit the deck as two gunshots rang out. Dropping, he felt the air move above his head. The shots fired just missed their intended target, whizzing in the air where his head had been just a second ago. With a deafening thud, the bullets embedded themselves in the wooden paneling. As Roberts dropped, he rolled his body. He could not believe they had passed the sick bastard they came in to arrest as they swept the house!

The profiling Roberts had done in this case had led them here, to Provo. Twelve homosexual men had disappeared. Due to the amount of blood found in the victims' apartments and homes, it was believed all twelve men were dead. Roberts worked what Avery called "his magic," his profile leading them to this normal-looking, picturesque home in Utah. Despite them following protocol to the letter, they found themselves trapped in the basement with the psychopath that had made headlines in the national news for the past month. It was a firefight to the death with a monster.

It was over in less than ten seconds.

As Roberts dropped and rolled he maneuvered his lithe, muscular body with astounding grace and ease. He came up in a classic shooter's stance, aiming upward at the basement door. He fired off a round as did Avery. This killer (nicknamed "The GLAAD Slayer" by the insensitive tabloid press) got off one more round with his weapon. The bullet Slayer fired grazed Roberts' right bicep. Roberts hit the blood-soaked floor, his arm spraying fresh crimson.

That bastard shot me! Roberts thought.

Roberts (despite being injured in the exchange) hit his mark. As did Avery. Both of their bullets — it was impossible to tell which man fired which shot — made contact, hitting the killer in the right hand and shoulder about a half-second apart. Slayer dropped the firearm as his right hand erupted in a shower of blood, bone, and muscle fiber. The shooting iron, a forty-five caliber revolver, fell from his grasp. The weapon clanked down four of the ten steps of the stair-case, coming to rest on a wooden board. Sitting there forgotten, the firearm had a fresh coating of blood and tiny bits of bone.

The slug that hit the shoulder threw Slayer backward. For a moment, he looked like a classic bad guy who just taken a bullet in a major motion picture. It lasted a second. Then he hit the basement door. He lost his balance and fell, rolling down the stairs. He ratcheted down all ten steps, coming to rest about a foot away from Avery. Roberts was still on the floor, clenching his right bicep. His fingers could already tell him that his upper arm was soaked.

Ignoring his bleeding bicep and the accompanying pain, Roberts stood. He moved forward as Avery leaned down, and they both advanced on Slayer. Roberts attempted to cuff the suspect while reading him his Miranda rights. Avery, meanwhile, was tending to the wounds that both men had inflicted on the madman with their side-arms.

Cuffing him proved to be difficult, however. He was missing most of his right hand. All that remained was a portion of the palm, his pinkie finger, and his thumb. The rest of the hand was nothing more than a raw, bleeding hole of meat, tendon, and bone. Roberts finally settled on cuffing his left hand to the back belt-loop of his slacks. Using Avery's cuffs, Roberts shackled his legs.

Once he was restrained, the two partners turned the suspect. They brought his face into the dim light, revealing him. Roberts leaned down as did Avery. Peering in, they tilted their heads back. They turned and looked at each other.

Roberts said, "Jimmy, isn't that —"

Avery's eyes were wide. His mouth was moving the slightest bit. He found his voice after a second, interrupting Roberts. "Jesus H. Christ, David! That's Gregory Dombovitch, head conductor of the Washington Symphony! We took those two girls from the office to a concert of his only two weeks ago!"

Roberts nodded back in response. He was in a slight state of shock. Dombovitch tried to plead with his two arresters in English. Then, he tried Spanish. After that, he spoke in French. Giving up on languages, he sang. Even as they were restraining him and waiting on help to arrive, both Roberts and Avery could not help but marvel at the man's amazing singing voice.

How long were the three of them locked in that musty, dank, and blood-soaked basement before backup and medical personnel arrived? It could not have been more than two minutes before SWAT, State Police, and FBI broke down the door and relieved the two men of duty. But to Roberts and Avery, it felt like hours.

That was always the case when you were locked in the dark with a monster. Dombovitch was a psychopath. A disarmed, wounded, and insane murderer who sang to you with a pleasant tenor range, but that that did not change the facts.

He was still a monster, no matter his vocal range.


For Gina Williams, pleasures in this world were rare. One of her few pleasures was coffee in the early evening. Even more pleasurable than just coffee in the evening was when she had it on the porch, watching her daughter play. And even more enjoyable than that was when she did all of these actions with her best friend, Colleen Brinkmeyer.

That was what the two women were doing on a very pleasant evening in Grayson, Arkansas. Gina and Colleen — who had been friends since middle school — chatted as they sipped their java. They watched their daughters play together. The breeze held a slight chill, but the early October air was kind, warm, and just fine.

Gina was thirty-three years old, bordering on beautiful, with dark doe-like eyes and shoulder-length dark hair. Her smile was a mischievous grin most of the time. The petite stature of her body, while a little soft after the birth of her two children, was still good enough to catch an appreciative glance when she was out running errands. The posture, however, told another story. Not a life of champagne and caviar but rather a hard life, filled with sacrifices for her children.

She allowed herself to be talked into having sex with her high school boyfriend and got pregnant at a very early age. Her parents disowned her, her father calling her a slut and her mother slapping her face. The boyfriend never married Gina, instead he ran off after a few years. After giving birth to her first daughter, she toiled as a waitress for a few years, then she met a man. She was pregnant with his child not long after, which produced another daughter. Unlike her first sperm donor, he married her. After a short and very stormy marriage, he left.

Good riddance, Gina had thought.

Her friends, Colleen included among them, often joked that she was ready to give up on men. That she was ready to become a lesbian. Gina laughed at this, but knew that she was not ready for that step. She had given up on men, however. She mused — in her most private moments — that she was not that far away from trying another woman.

Instead of a lover, male or female, she devoted her life to her two daughters. To the best of her ability, she tried to raise them right. Despite her mistakes, she worked to instill in them superb values she hoped they would carry with them for the duration of their lives. She wanted her daughters to make better choices than she did. She worked hard after the end of her marriage and saved up enough to buy a home on the northern side of town. The northern side of town was a lot more upscale than the southern side of town, where she had lived her entire life.

Gina and Colleen sat on the porch, in the comfortable silence of longtime friends. The conversation had dried up about half an hour ago, but neither seemed to care that much. They watched, both of them smiling as Gina's daughter, Cindy, ran across the yard. They chuckled as Cindy stole a doll from Colleen's daughter, Samantha, and took off across the yard.

Gina was thinking. Not about her life. Or even that of Cindy's life. She was thinking about her other daughter, Allison.

Allison was sixteen years old. She had a boyfriend, Sammy, who Gina just couldn't bring herself to accept. Her daughter thought that the pimply faced geek with the hot-rod loved her. Gina found her daughter's thoughts and actions naïve. Allison thought that a few dinners at McDonald's and some awkward backseat groping was love. The teenaged girl had already proclaimed that she was crazy about Sammy and her intentions were to follow him to California as soon as they were eighteen. They would be movie stars and be rich and famous.

Gina tried to tell her she needed to focus on herself, and not on a silly boy. She answered in the simplest of teenage musings. Her broad statement for her mother's nagging came with gestures. The mother had to use every bit of self-control she had in her fiber to not wring her daughter's unappreciative neck when she delivered her base response. It was usually accompanied by a flip of the neck, which was bad. Or the flip of the hand, and that was even worse.

Allison said, "Whatever."

Gina's smile faded as she spotted Sammy's hot-rod passing Colleen's house. The dragster was heading toward Gina's home at a high rate of speed. Frowning, Gina wondered where the local police were at that exact moment. She also knew it was time to get home. With a great deal of regret, Gina bade Colleen a good night. Both women smiled at each other. Colleen knew about Gina's issues with Allison's boyfriend.

The two women kissed cheeks and hugged. Gina walked off the porch and onto the front yard. She took Cindy's hand. Finding out from her mother that they were leaving, Cindy wailed, yelling out her objections to her mother's plans. Gina ignored her. Taking her daughter's hand, the mother walked her child the four blocks back to their home.


Excerpted from Home Is Where the Hell Is by Shawn Denson. Copyright © 2015 Shawn Denson. Excerpted by permission of Archway Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Election Night (2008), ix,
Prologue: 1994, xiii,
Part One: Brief Snapshots in Time, 1,
Part Two: Views of the Old Homestead, 69,
Part Three: Hell's Backyard, 303,
Epilogue: Loose Ends, 461,
Author's Notes, 475,

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