Authors: Morgan Hannah MacDonald
Tags: #Fiction, #Mystery & Detective, #Hard-Boiled
Morgan Hannah MacDonald
Morgan Hannah MacDonald
Copyright 2012 by Morgan Hannah MacDonald
Cover art and design by Owen Moody
Copy Editing by Jim Thomsen
Proofreader Trisha Wilson
Iron Horse Formatting
All rights reserved.
This book is a work of fiction. References to real people, events, establishments, organizations, or locations are intended only to provide a sense of authenticity, and are used fictitiously. All other characters, and all incidents and dialogue, are drawn from the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real.
This book is dedicated in loving memory of my father.
August 27, 1930-May 4, 2010.
He supported me my entire life and always had faith in me no matter what path I chose.
He was truly the wind beneath my wings.
I love you, Dad.
Your favorite daughter.
Table Of Contents
Beware the SANDMAN. He’ll put you to sleep…forever.
A serial killer on the loose, a woman being stalked, and a homicide detective who must find the connection between the two before she becomes the next victim.
He collects women. He imprisons them, plays with them, tortures them. Until they bore him. Then he removes a souvenir. They call him the Sandman.
Meagan McInnis is being plagued with late night calls, yet when she answers, no one is there. Then one night she makes a grisly discovery in her own backyard.
The caller is silent no more.
Homicide Detective J.J. Thomas realizes that Meagan is the key to finding the Sandman. Now, not only must he protect her, but he must find the connection between Meagan and the killer before she becomes his next victim.
The night was winding down and the moon hung low on the horizon. It wouldn’t be long before the sun’s first rays kissed the sky. Sean O’Brien parked his Ford Explorer along Christianitos Road at the top of the trail that led to Trestles Beach.
He opened the door while raising his mug to swallow the last bit of coffee. He only had time for one cup today, he was in a hurry. He wanted to hit the water before sunrise. Exiting the SUV he cupped the keys, grabbed his backpack, then slammed the door shut with his foot. He proceeded to the back of the truck, where he pulled his surfboard out through the tailgate.
The half-mile descent to the beach stretched before him. The crickets’ familiar melody kept him company. There was a rustle of leaves close by as an animal scampered through the dense foliage. His anticipation grew at the sound of the waves crashing below. Two long months had passed since he’d been surfing. He wasn’t a kid any more. His work and family kept him busy.
Sean had been born here in San Clemente, a quaint little beach town in Southern California, just north of the San Diego County line. The town gained infamy back when President Nixon owned a home on the cliffs above Trestles that was commonly known as the Western Whitehouse.
Although the calendar said it was winter, the outside temperature was a warm sixty-five degrees due to the storm brewing off the coast of Baja. The latest surf report promised six to eight-foot swells and the water temp hung at around fifty-eight. He couldn’t pass up this opportunity.
He’d shimmied into the bottom half of his spring wetsuit at home and let the top dangle loosely down his back. A fisherman knit sweater covered his naked chest. He carelessly pulled his long sandy-blond hair back and tied it with an elastic band at the nape of his neck.
Once he reached the end of the trail, Sean turned left and headed down the beach to his favorite spot. His rubber thongs slapped sand against the back of his legs. He walked a couple hundred yards further before he threw his backpack on a mound of seaweed against the base of the cliff, far out of reach of the incoming tide. He needed dry shorts for the ride home.
He stepped out of his flip-flops and carelessly threw his sweater in the general vicinity of the backpack. Then pulled on the rest of his wet suit, grabbed his board and ran toward the waves. When he hit the water he dove in, immersing himself completely. Once he surfaced, he drew in a quick breath. The cold water shocked his system, but swept away the last remaining cobwebs in his brain and made him feel alive.
Sean paddled out past the break and turned around to face east. Bobbing up and down, he watched the sun’s rays break through the clouds, reaching their long arms down from the heavens. The sky, once purple, turned pink, then orange as the lazy sun crept above the surrounding cliffs.
God it was beautiful. This was his church, his religion.
When the show was over, he lay back down on the board and paddled toward the shore to catch his first wave of the day. After two hours of near-perfect sets, it was time to join the real world. Life was good.
Sean climbed out of the water with his board under his arm. He dragged his hand down his face to brush the salt water away from his eyes. His breathing was labored; he’d gotten in a good workout today. He walked up the beach a ways before he detected a strange odor. As he neared his destination, the stench invading his nostrils became more pungent.
I hope there wasn’t another damn sewage spill
Soon he heard a strange buzzing sound. He stopped, brows furrowed, and concentrated on zeroing in on the exact location of the noise. Failing at this, he shrugged, and then continued up the strand. But with each step his uncertainty grew. The irritating cacophony had increased in volume.
Within seconds he found himself about fifty feet from where he’d left his gear. Before him lay a blanket of black that appeared to be moving. “What the fuck?” He hesitated, waiting for the synapses in his brain to start firing, before taking another step.
When he found no logical explanation, he gently rested his board on the sand and made his way closer until he stood directly in front of the sight. His hand cupped his nose. The stench reminded him of hard-boiled eggs gone bad. Very very bad.
Okay, strike the moving blanket crack. It was more like a black cloud hovering over his belongings. Flies. He had an inkling that it was not the seaweed they found interesting. Something dead had washed up on shore and he was less than eager to find out what it was. His mind conjured up a few possibilities; a seagull, a fish, a seal? Whatever it was, it would not be pretty no matter how long it had been dead.
Slowly, he reached down to pick up his sweater with one hand, while the other reached for the strap on his backpack. His actions were no more cautious than if he were lifting a bomb.
The flies swarmed up for a brief moment, just long enough to reveal their prey, before settling back down into a dark writhing carpet.
An unintelligible sound escaped his lips. He gasped for air while instinctively taking a step back. He’d seen some hairy things in his life, but nothing even close to this. Icy fingers of fear raced up his spine, his heartbeat hammering in his chest.
Sean couldn’t look away even if he had wanted to. Some strange fascination took hold of his brain and wouldn’t let go. Systematically his mind dissected the grisly scene before him.
Sticking out of the rolling mound of seaweed was a woman’s arm, stiff as a mannequin’s, extending skyward as if reaching to him for help. The mottled blue hand wore long red fingernails, two of which had been broken down to the quick. Seaweed was wrapped around her arm like a feather boa.
Sean’s gaze then locked onto another object protruding from the sandy grave. A leg severed mid-thigh, but closer inspection revealed it was really half-buried. It too appeared tangled in the bubbly brown vegetation.
The foot, like the hand, wore a shock of bright red polish on its perfectly manicured toes, clashing with the bluish pallor of the flesh. His eyes grew wide at the sight of flies and sand crabs greedily devouring the soft tissue. He choked back bile.
The spell was broken.
Sean stepped backward so fast he tripped over his own feet and landed on his butt. He scrambled up and raced toward the shore. He couldn’t get away fast enough. He reached the water’s edge before collapsing to his hands and knees. His insides lurched so hard that he thought he would spew his stomach lining. Dry heaves continued long after his stomach had emptied. He collapsed on the sand, exhausted. A wave washed over him, but he hardly noticed.
Homicide Detective J.J. Thomas woke from his coma-like-sleep to mass confusion. The ringing phone dueled with the incessant shrilling of his alarm, and the combination hit his head like a ton of bricks. He glanced at the clock a mere second before swatting it off the nightstand in an effort to quell the infernal noise. No such luck. At least he could quiet one of the offending devices without actually having to get out of bed.
He snatched the receiver. “What!”
“You think you’re on vacation or something?” the captain bellowed in his ear. Thomas winced. He wished he would lower his voice to a dull roar. “Jesus Christ, Thomas, Carla’s been trying to reach you for the last fifteen minutes since dispatch failed. You know how hysterical she gets, she was ready to call in the National Guard. Now get your lazy ass down to Trestles Beach. I trust you know where that is?”
“Yeah, be there in twenty,” Thomas grunted.
“Make it ten!” The line went dead.
Why the fuck does the captain always feel compelled to bust my balls? Does he think the corpse is going to just get up and walk away?
Thomas rarely had the luxury of an entire night’s sleep, so, given that he had made it until seven-twenty, he considered himself lucky. Throwing back the covers, he swung his legs off the side of the bed, and sat up quickly. Too quickly. Instantly his hands flew up to his temples in an attempt at keeping his head from exploding all together.