Below is a excerpt from chapter one of the upcoming Kate Taylor Mystery novel, Words To Die By from the mind of Lexis Calling. Enjoy!
Monday morning, November 18, 2013
“Well, how did I get here?”
– “Once in a Lifetime,” David Byrne and Talking Heads
Barely a day out of the looney bin and there I was, staring down at my neighbor’s mutilated corpse. Less than twenty-four hours since I’d said goodnight to Olive Morgan, and there on the floor at the foot of the bed lay her body, slashed and bruised and twisted amid sheets dyed crimson with blood.
And just as the coppery smell of that blood was about to send me reeling, just as my sobs began to devolve into a panicked yawping for air, my eyes skittered to the vanity mirror that tilted downward toward the corpse.
The killer had left a message, reflected perfectly in the mirror but written in reverse on the floor near the body. Written, presumably, in Olive’s blood.
At the sight of the crimson message, my brain took over, pushed aside the panic and sorrow, and kicked into focus. My heart rate began to slow, my breathing to return to normal. I fumbled inside my jacket, grabbed a crumpled tissue from the pocket of my coat and took a rapid swipe at my nose. I was still shaking, but I was on familiar ground now.
I began arguing with myself.
Did I have a right to be there? On some level, hell yes. Olive and I had formed a friendship, minted recently, sure, yet with bonds transcending ordinary time.
And innocently strolling toward the Morgans house to retrieve the gloves I’d left there the night before, I’d seen my neighbors’ front door standing wide open to the frigid November morning, a door streaked with what was presumably blood.
So, did I have the right to be alarmed? To go charging into the Morgans’ house like Marvel’s Black Widow? Again, hell yes!
But had I bargained for the carnage that had awaited me in that bedroom? Hell no.
But was I equipped for dealing with this? Hell, yes. I was a forensic linguist by training and profession, and while at first blush that might sound like nothing but sitting around staring at words all day, I’d seen my fair share of crime scenes—even consulted for the FBI tracking down a serial killer. A murderer who couldn’t resist leaving a trail of love letters to his victims.
I took in a sharp breath as I looked down at Olive once again. Looked at the fucked-up message her killer had left. Closed my eyes, memorizing the scene. I could do this, I told myself. I had to do this.
When I opened my eyes again, seeing my breath reminded me that—whether the Morgans were frugal about their heating bill, or the killer had dialed back the thermostat—body decomp was at bay but not suspended. Which meant I was on borrowed time. The clock was ticking, and I was asking for a boatload of trouble.
Barging uninvited into someone’s house on a mission of mercy was risky business for the most upstanding of citizens. But for me, Kate Taylor—newly released from the euphemistically dubbed “Fair Haven Retreat and Spa”—such a move could mean the final flush of a career already circling the drain.
So, yeah, I should have called 9-1-1 ten minutes ago. But I hadn’t. And I wasn’t ready to do it now. Not yet.
Olive Morgan had tugged at both my curiosity and my heartstrings. I felt that tug now, as I stood staring at the scene before me. In death, she insisted on some tangled enigma even beyond what she had presented in life. And something more than that, something deeper. Some chance at my own redemption rooted me to this spot.
And because I was damn good at my job (despite what some might say), because this dead body had once been my neighbor and my friend, and because I was tired of people literally getting away with murder—I wasn’t about to turn this over to the cops until I’d taken it all in. That accomplished, I’d hightail it home, record every last scrap before my weakened memory gave out. Then and only then would I call the cops.
After all, Olive was beyond help. Her killer, however, was not beyond capture. And Olive’s killer, I knew, had made at least one mistake.