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"A crime of opportunity becomes serial murder when a sociopath decides the way to his true-love's heart is through homicide"

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THANK YOU ALL FOR THE MANY, MANY, MANY WONDERFUL BOOK SIGNING EVENTS.  I’VE COMPLETED THE THIRD NOVEL, LOCAL NOOSE.  PLEASE CHECK BACK FOR INFORMATION ON WHEN IT HITS BOOKSHELVES.



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BANG! BANG! BANG!
The sound of gunshots rang out from around the corner. All of the children standing around the van screamed and scattered. Steve revved up the truck and the crew was off in the direction of the gunfire.
They drove up to a horrible scene, three blocks away.
A young man was lying on the grass, a bullet had gone straight through the front of his head and had exited out the back. A steady stream of people had already come out to investigate the commotion.
Steve jumped out of the van and grabbed his camera. PS grabbed her newspad and jumped out as well and began to move into the crowd and among the on lookers. "Did anyone see anything? Did anyone see anything?" She asked.
A few on-lookers shook their heads no, but for the most part people looked at her as though she was speaking some sort of foreign language. The curious stepped back to let her pass through the crowd, but no one said anything.
All of a sudden a piercing scream came from the back of the crowd which had quickly swelled to about fifty. A girl, barely a woman ran up yelling and crying, pushing and elbowing her way through the crush of spectators with one hand, grasping her swollen belly with the other.
"Ziggy, they got Ziggy?"
She ran forward and dropped herself on top of the figure that lay on the ground laboring to breathe. "Why'd they do this? He didn't bother nobody. They got Ziggy," she cried.
Finally the sound of sirens could be heard rounding the corner. Two police cars pulled up, and within five minutes an ambulance came roaring to a stop several feet away from the dying teenager.
Paramedics jumped out of the vehicle and ran toward the young man on the ground whose body began to convulse.
He was obviously slipping away.
One technician carried an oxygen tank and mask, the other had a big orange tool box. They fell down beside the young man and went to work.
Someone from the crowd lifted the sobbing young woman from the teenager's side and cradled her. She was very young, probably not more than fifteen, but PS could see that bulge in her stomach quivering as she stood there crying, pounding and praying.
Steve had the camera rolling on it all.
This would be intense video. The news crew had gotten to the scene well before the medical technicians. Usually when the TV cameras pulled up to a scene like this, there was either a sheet on the ground and a chalk drawing being made, or the body had already been spirited off to the hospital.
But this time, they were the first on the scene. And this time the reporter took great interest in the dynamics that surrounded a neighborhood shooting, since technically it was the first she was covering from almost the moment the bullet left the chamber and found its mark.
Some of the little kids PS had just been talking to a few minutes before, who had scattered at the sound of gunfire three blocks away, had found their way to this horrible scene.
They were no longer afraid - the gun shots had ceased.
Now they danced and played mere feet away from the man surrounded by paramedics - gurgling, eyes fixed and dilating. A few of the kids played chicken, as they dared each other to get close enough to see the blood pouring out of the entry wound. The brave would venture close enough to yell, "Ewww", and then titter off to laugh and joke with the others.
The little boy named Jumandi ran up to touch the feet of the young man who lay on the grass with blood spewing from his forehead in spite of the best efforts of emergency technicians. It was a joke for the young boy. A game.
PS wondered where his mother was.
If she had heard shots fired in her neighborhood, she was sure that she would have gathered her children quickly and hurried them into safety behind closed doors, calling a realtor on the way.
But this shooting didn't seem to be anything more than the usual spectacle here. People milled about and talked. Some watched the paramedics with their hands over their mouths.
One man walked up to a young girl in short, short shorts, with her hair pasted to her head like a tower, and asked for a cigarette.
"Do I look like your personal vending machine?" She fussed.
"Ah, com'on girl. Why don't you ease up offa one a them smokes?" He cajoled.
She did, he bummed a light, and then kept on going, leaving her to count what was left in her crumpled pack of generic cigarettes without even a thank you.
PS marveled at how casual people seemed to take the shooting. She half expected to see popcorn and pizza vendors, and almost wasn't surprised when an ice cream man rode by on a cooler, hooked up to a tricycle-like contraption that was blaring loud, obnoxious music.
Several of the kids and one or two of the adults, meandered over to him and conducted Haagen-Dazs business, a few feet away from the dying man.
There were some shocked and saddened faces, and obviously that one young pregnant woman who'd run through the crowd was distraught, but other than her, no one seemed to be particularly moved.
PS walked around and looked at the blank empty faces as they watched those paramedics work on that teenager. "Does anyone know this young man?" She asked.
"Yeah, I know him," a voice answered from the crowd. "But I don't want to be on TV."
"That's fine. You don't have to be. Who is he?"
"His name is Lathan. But we call him Ziggy. I just saw him around the corner at his girl's house."
"Why would someone want to shoot him? Was he in a gang, was he selling dope?"
"Naw, not this one. He was a nice kid. Everyone in the neighborhood liked him. You didn't see him around too much. He caught a bus out of here to go to some private school, somewhere I don't know. But he was a good kid. He didn't get mixed up in this shit 'round here."
"So why was he shot?" PS persisted.
"Don't know," the fellow in the dark, loose clothing answered with a shrug. "In the wrong place at the wrong time I guess. We've had some trouble around here, guess he just got caught in the middle of it. He lives in that house over there. I guess he was walking home, coming from his girl's house, you know? That's all I know."
The stranger with dark eyes melted into the crowd, and within seconds PS couldn't distinguish him from anyone else.
The number of people standing around staring had doubled. There had to be a hundred people crowding the corner of Tuxedo and Peerless. She could feel the growing hordes pressing against her, tugging at her clothing to get her attention, touching her hair.
PS got a deep sense of foreboding. A realization that she wasn't safe, even around all of these people. Perhaps the shooter was milling around in this crowd. Maybe he came back to take a look at his handiwork. The reporter looked carefully at the people standing around. Several of the young men had on dark clothing, baggy sweat pants and hoods. They kept their hands sequestered in their pockets and their eyes darted from side to side.
For all she knew she had been standing next to the murderer, asking him questions. She didn't know. All she knew was she didn't belong here.
She inched her way toward Steve who was shooting the paramedics as they lifted the young man on to a gurney and into the ambulance. They were still working on keeping him alive. One would pump and pound on the young man's chest, never even stopping to clear the sweat off of his forehead. Even after the back doors were closed, PS could still observe through the window the desperation in the movements of the medical technicians. As one would throw up his hands in exhaustion and despair, another one would slide into place, never missing a beat, pushing and pounding and coaxing the dying young man's heart to beat again.
The crowd parted again as an older woman was escorted to the scene by two neighborhood men. She was wearing a tattered housecoat, and slippers. She'd obviously just pulled curlers out of her hair, as you could see the neat sections of tightly curled gray hair all over her head. She had great difficulty walking, possibly because of her weight and age, and she limped painfully as quickly as she could on big, fat, swollen ankles and feet.
"Where's my grandson?" She cried. "I want to see my grandson. Lathan!" She screamed as she made her way into the clearing. Her cry was shrill and hung in the air, almost like a high pitched chime.
It made PS wince.
"Lathan!" The woman wept as she made a spry sprint toward the ambulance.
A police officer stepped in to intercept her before she got to the vehicle, which was still stationary, its flashing lights darting about the darkness. "They're doing all they can for him ma'am. I need you to come with me so I can talk to you."
"Lathan!" The old woman gasped as she put her hand to her mouth, and blinked back tears, unable to tear her eyes away from the back windows of the ambulance.
The young officer held her as her arms flailed, lifting her housecoat to reveal a tattered white slip and control top pantyhose.
After whispering gently in her ear, the officer gently led the woman away. Several times she looked back toward the ambulance where the paramedics were still feverishly working to re-start the dying man's heart.
The boy's grandmother had a face with deep wrinkles in it. Her eyes were swollen and tearful.
"Oh God, no," she wept as she was slowly led away. "Not this one, not my Lathan, please Lord."
All the while she was escorted away, PS sensed this was not the first taste of tragedy in the aging woman's life. She had a way about her that revealed a painful existence.
The reporter struggled to stifle her own ache that began creeping into her heart. "How do they stand it?" She said aloud. "How do you live through this kind of grief?"
Asked and answered. PS knew exactly how. She'd seen it up close in ways she never thought she could imagine.
Somehow your lungs keep filling with air, even when it hurts to breathe. Somehow each foot continues to take one step at a time, even though in your heart you're crippled. Somehow the fabric of a person's soul becomes the most enduring garment a human can wear.
WARNING: ROUGH AND EXPLICIT LANGUAGE, SEXUAL SITUATIONS AND AN EXTREMELY ADDICTIVE STORY LINE. image
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