SHE’S NOT THERE: MARLA MADISON
Okay, dying your hair orange might not have been the best idea, and neither was trying to scare off the traffic cop writing you a ticket for speeding by yelling, “BOO!” really loud in his ear! Those guys are notorious for not having a sense of humor, but the thirty days in jail should pass fairly quickly—especially if you win some great reading because it’s Daily Book Giveaway time!!! That should take your mind off things!
Today, it’s all about people vanishing! One minute you see them, the next minute you don’t! Are the disappearances connected or is it just one big coinkydink that they left town at the same time?!! The awesome mystery-thriller SHE’S NOT THERE by Marla Madison will have you searching for the answer late into the evening! It’s an unputdownable, page-turner that’ll have you hooked on solving the crime spree, and no, they’re not hiding behind your couch, so stop looking!
Marla has kindly offered up two ecopies of SHE’S NOT THERE. Just imagine reading it while stuffing your face with candy corn and washing it down with hot apple cider! Ah, Halloween! Doesn’t get much better than that! And Marla also picked up the gauntlet and written a fantabulous chiller for our Step of the Cat challenge! It’s called THE BLACK CAT MURDERS and it’ll be causing those little hairs on your knuckles to stand on end!!! (Yes, you do, too, have them!!! I can see them from here!) And, no, my soaping “MARLA, PLEASE WRITE THE STORY!!!” on all her windows didn’t influence her decision …. MUCH!!! BWAHHHHAHAAHAAHA!!!! So let’s get this pony on the road!!! GIDDY-UP, cause it’s HALLOWEENPALOOZA time!!!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Marla Madison is busy penning her fourth novel of suspense. She’s Not There, and Relative Malice are now available on Amazon.com in eBook and print form. Her latest, Trespass, is a sequel to She's Not There and will be available soon.
Marla blogs at Reading And Writing Are Fattening
and can be contacted at email@example.com
Marla lives on Prairie Lake in Northwestern Wisconsin with her significant other, Terry, a beloved shelter-dog, Skygge, and Poncho, an opinionated feline from the same shelter.
Also an avid reader of suspense, some of her favorite authors are Tana French, Lisa Gardner, Jeffrey Deaver, Jonathan Kellerman, James Patterson, Tess Gerritson, and Tami Hoag.
Marla lives on Prairie Lake in Northwestern Wisconsin with her significant other, Terry, a beloved shelter-dog, Skygge, and Poncho, an opinionated feline from the same shelter.
SHE’S NOT THERE
“A very good read. Kept me interested from the start all the way to the end.” – Amazon Reader
Women are missing . . .
Is the rising number of abused women who've gone missing a statistical anomaly? Or is a serial killer targeting this vulnerable group of women?
When the Milwaukee Police Department refuses to investigate because no bodies have been discovered, Lisa Rayburn, the clinical psychologist who discovers the anomaly, is drawn into an investigation to discover the cause after one of her own clients goes missing. She finds herself forming an unlikely alliance with a former policewoman turned security consultant, TJ Peacock, and the husbands of two of the missing women who may themselves be murderers.
When TJ is attacked, and a woman looking remarkably like Lisa is found murdered, they know . . . someone is willing to kill to protect his secret.
Can they reveal the killer before he gets to them?
When four family members are found dead after a home invasion, Detective Kendall Halsrud takes charge of the case. In the murder house, she discovers an empty crib with blood drops next to it on the wood floor. The family: a father, mother, teenage daughter, and young son have been fatally shot . . . but where is baby Philly?
The desperate search to find the child derails when a man is arrested for murdering the family and claims to have killed the baby. Suspecting he had an accomplice, Kendall isn’t convinced. Refusing to give up on finding the child, Kendall persists in unearthing the family’s secrets. With the help of a hacker turned spurious fortune-teller and a former cop hired by the missing baby’s uncle, she discovers a furtive pedophile ring is planning on buying and sharing a baby. Can she stop them while there's time to save Philly?
The black cat murders
by Marla madison
A lustrous patch of moonlight crept through the windowpane, highlighting the patchwork quilt and the lifeless body of the young woman that lie stretched out on a mahogany sleigh bed.
A dark shadow spread narrowly along the length of her torso. A large black cat was displayed on the body, stretched its full-length along her torso, its front paws resting on either side of her ivory neck, and its dark tail grazing the vee where the trunk of her body met her legs.
“You shittin’ me?” Detective Brian Haymaker spouted the question, clearly not expecting an answer. “This looks like a scene from a horror flick.”
His partner Tasha Wade ran the light from her flashlight over the bodies of the woman and the cat. “I don’t see any blood, do you?”
Haymaker moved closer to the bed. “Her neck doesn’t look right.”
“She was strangled?”
“I don’t think so. There’s no bruising on her neck, but it looks like it’s positioned funny.”
Tasha grimaced. “Her neck’s broken?”
“We’ll need the ME to confirm that, but it looks like it.”
“So—we’ll look for someone strong who hates cats.”
“And women.” Brian pulled on a pair of rubber gloves, and then turned on the ceiling light. He carefully pressed the pillow from the side of the woman’s neck and examined her left side, then the right. “No signs of strangulation.”
“Maybe they smothered her with the pillow,” Tasha suggested.
“They’ll have to trace the call that tipped us off. Think it was the doer?”
“Hard to say,” Brian said, still carefully examining the body. “It could have been a neighbor who saw or heard something.”
“This whole set up, it’s too posed. Could be a serial.”
“We can’t jump to conclusions,” Brian warned her. “It’s a lot more likely this was an isolated killing.”
“Just sayin,’ we should be on the lookout for another one.” She wanted to add they should also be looking for other similar murders prior to this one, but didn’t want to annoy her partner any further.
It wasn’t until the second murder mimicking the first had taken place only a quarter mile away that the detectives were forced to investigate the black cat angle. The second victim, about the same age as Hannah and with the same long, dark hair, was also found with her cat along the middle of her dead body. Like Hannah, she’d led a quiet life, had no boyfriend, and no one had any idea who would want to harm the woman. The two women had nothing else in common except their long, dark hair. And the black cats.
After the detectives had exhausted every other angle, including contacting the local FBI to see if there had been similar crimes elsewhere (there hadn’t been), they were forced to investigate ways the presence of the black cats could be meaningful. Both women had owned their cats for a number of years and both cats were black. One came from an area shelter and the other from a family of barn cats belonging to the victim’s brother and his wife. So there was no connection between the cats.
Frustrated, their next step was contacting veterinarians and the local shelters in Milwaukee County. If their perp only killed women with black cats, he had to have a way of finding out who owned one.
It became a time-consuming task. The force had every available officer on it, spreading out the search to all the suburbs. It was only by a chance mention by an assistant at a veterinarian’s office in West Allis that Brian heard about a shelter owned and operated independently by a woman living on the outskirts of Franklin, in the tiny area of St. Martins. St. Martins, famous for its annual street fair and flea market, consisted of a few square blocks of homes and a main street filled mostly with taverns.
Lara Jamison’s Cat Rescue was in an old farmhouse on the edge of the small community. The square house had a ground-level addition on the front with an attractive blue-doored entryway and benches under a pair of shuttered windows.
A bell tinkled as Brian and Tasha opened the door. They were immediately surrounded by a pack of five cats, some purring, some just sizing them up. One, and of course it had to be the white one, rubbed against the bottom of Brian’s black slacks. He bent to shoo it away when a tall woman carrying a tiny gray kitten entered the room.
“Hi, sorry to disturb you. I’m Detective Haymaker from the Wauwatosa Police Department and this is my partner Detective Wade We’d like to ask you some questions if you have a minute.”
Lara Jamison was dressed casually in jeans and a dark-red hooded sweatshirt. Her face, angular and rather plain, was hidden behind a pair of tortoise shell eyeglasses. “Of course. Just give me a minute to put this little guy back in his box.”
When she came back in they declined her offer of coffee and Brian asked, “Have you sold any black cats recently?” The fact that the victims had been found with their cats had been kept from the media.
“I don’t really sell cats here. They can be adopted, but my fees are only enough to cover the cost of spaying and neutering. And the people who adopt have to fill out the same forms here as they do at the local shelters.”
“All right then,” Brian said, “have you had any adoptions of black cats lately?”
“If you’ve been to the shelters, Detective, then I imagine you already know that black cats are the last ones to be adopted.”
He knew that and wondered when she’d get to the point. “But have you had any adopted recently? In fact, we’d like you to check your records for any you’ve let go out in the past two years.”
When she hesitated, Tasha asked, “Do your records include the color of the cats?”
“I do keep records, and yes, they include a description of the cat. But I’ve only been doing this for about a year now, so I can tell you right now there have only been two black ones adopted.”
“I’ll need the names and contact information of the people who adopted them,” Brian said.
She gave him a perplexed look. “May I ask what this is about?”
“It’s related to an investigation. That’s really all I can tell you.”
Lara left the room. Always the detectives, Brian and Tasha scoped out the room while she was gone, the cats following on their heels. Tasha looked down at them and told them not to tell Lara they were checking out the premises. There was a small desk on the left with an old fashioned phone and a few framed pictures. A two-drawer file cabinet sat beside it and on the other side of the room was a couch well covered to protect it from cat hair. Two tall, upholstered cat trees sat sentry on either side of the sofa. The three cats still following them raced for position on the nearest tree.
Tasha studied the photos on the desk, moving away quickly as Jamison came back in the room and handed Brian a slip of paper with the information he’d requested.
“There you go. Will there be anything else?”
Brian had the distinct impression she wanted them out of there, but then many people were uncomfortable with police in their homes.
“One other thing,” he said. “Why don’t people want black cats? Is it the bad luck thing?”
Lara smiled and as she did, her rather hard features softened. “No, I don’t think it’s that old superstition ‘bad luck if a black cat crosses your path’. It’s hard to say, really. Black dogs aren’t popular either. I think there may be an ancient belief that black animals are disciples of Satan. But still, you wouldn’t think people today would be concerned about anything like that.”
He handed her one of his cards. “Call me if anyone comes in and wants to adopt a black cat.”
Detective Tasha Wade was tired of the smell of animal shelters and veterinary offices. They hadn’t eaten all day and she suggested they stop for lunch at a diner they passed. Once they’d finished their BLTs and fries, Tasha called in the names of people adopting black cats at Jamison’s shelter and found out that one was a seventy-three year old woman and the other a couple in their eighties. “I don’t think they have anything to worry about from our killer, do you?”
Brian snorted. “Hardly. Unless they’re giving the animal to their granddaughter who’s twenty years old and has long black hair. I don’t get it. What does owning a black cat have to do with the murders if no one is into the superstition thing anymore?”
Tasha wrinkled her nose. “Some sicko could be into it.”
“Possible, I suppose.”
“You know, my mom told me when she was a kid she had a cat.”
“And that’s relevant how?”
“Her folks made her get rid of it when they brought her little brother home from the hospital after he was born. She said back then people believed that cats got in cribs with babies and smothered them. That was back in the day, before they knew anything about SIDS.” Her eyes widened. “That’s it. Someone who thinks a black cat smothered their baby is taking revenge.”
Brian snorted. “Right. Then why kill the girls?”
“I don’t know. But he’s due to kill again; there was one week between the other two. If that’s a pattern, tomorrow is the night. I still think the department should put out a warning to women with black cats.”
“That’s not up to us. I think they’re afraid of a mass slaughter of all the black cats in the city. But I plan on making a pitch to the boss for it to be made public tomorrow. Human life trumps cats’.”
The next day, in desperation, the detectives separated in order to cover more ground in their rounds of veterinarians and shelters. By four-thirty, it was getting dark and Detective Tasha Wade was near the end of her shift. Her last vet stop had taken her out to Hales Corners, a southwestern suburb of Milwaukee. She sat in the waiting room while the staff finished up an emergency surgery. While she waited she struck up a conversation with a woman holding a trembling Chihuahua. After the woman and her dog were called into an exam room, something she’d said came back to Tasha. Something about her nanny. She’d seen her nanny on the nanny-cam, giving their dog a swift kick to get it out of the baby’s room. A chill ran down Tasha’s spine. What if a cat did smother the baby? With today’s video technology, it could be easily proven, tossing out the mysterious SIDS as the culprit for every infant death.
Tasha felt she was on to something important. And something from yesterday tweaked at her too. Something about that woman who had her own cat rescue. What was it? It wasn’t coming back to her, but she remembered Jamison’s place was near where she was now.
She made the short drive to St. Martins in minutes after leaving the vet’s office. Once more, she was impressed with the neat appearance of the place. After entering the doorway, three black cats came out to greet her. Tasha felt the hair on her arms tingle as Jamison followed the cats into the room.
“I have a couple more questions,” she said as she pulled out her ID.
Jamison waved it away. “At least now I know what it’s all about. I heard the broadcast today on the news,” she said. “It’s horrible what’s happening to those girls and their cats. But I already gave you and your partner the names of people who adopted black cats.”
“We forgot to ask you if you’d had any calls from people who specifically wanted a black cat.”
“No. Not that I recall anyway. I think I’d remember because I always have one or more black cats here.”
Something about this woman rang false. Tasha wanted to leave and run a background on her, but wanted to look around more before she left. She began coughing, pretending she couldn’t contain it and then asked for a glass of water.
After Jamison left Tasha eyed the room, seeing nothing different from yesterday. Then she noticed the photos and stepped closer for a better look. Two were of an elderly couple holding a baby that appeared to be a newborn. That was what had been tweaking her—baby pictures. The other photo was the baby in a white wicker bassinet. Missing from the photos was the mother. Was Lara Jamison its mother?
Tasha felt a movement behind her. She turned, expecting that the motion was caused by a cat and saw Jamison coming at her with a knife flashing in her hand. Tasha braced herself. Then she thrust her left hand up at the arm holding the knife, grateful for all the self-defense classes she’d taken that had taught her how to disarm an attacker. The woman had at least thirty pounds and four inches height on Tasha. But once the knife had flown out of her hand, a lightning-fast blow by Tasha to Jamison’s head took her down.
Two hours later, Tasha was back at her desk with an ice bag pressed to her right eye. Jamison had gotten in a few nasty blows before Tasha had managed to cuff her.
“That eye will be at least ten shades of black and blue tomorrow,” Brian said. “Good job, partner. But you should have called me first. You could have gotten killed.”
“I thought about that too late. I kept thinking about cats smothering babies and had a hunch when I remembered she had those photos. It was awfully thin, all hunch and no substance.”
“Sometimes those are the things that work.”
“Lucky for me Jamison’s out of shape or she’d be serving me for cat food tomorrow.”
“Is she in an interview room?”
“Not anymore. She blabbed all the way here, and couldn’t wait to tell me the whole story. And “she” is a he. His name is Lawrence Jamison and his wife died a year ago. He didn’t have anyone to help with the baby and hired a nanny to take care of the child while he worked.”
Brian jumped in. “Let me guess—the nanny had long dark hair and owned a black cat.”
“Right. Jameson had a nanny cam video of the cat sleeping with the baby right before it died. The medical examiner and the kid’s doctor blamed its death on SIDS, but Jameson always insisted it was the nanny’s cat.”
“No wonder no one listened; it seems far-fetched. He should have just blamed the nanny.”
“They thought the photos weren’t conclusive, and that the cat’s fur would have allowed the baby enough room to breath. The time on the video showed the cat in that position for only about five minutes and they didn’t think the child would have smothered.”
Brian sat back and crossed his arms. “Wow. That’s pretty bizarre.”
“It gets better,” Tasha said. “They found the baby when Jamison got home from work, about six p.m. The plug on the cam had “accidentally” came out of the wall at about five. The nanny claimed she was running a mop around the room and probably knocked it out.”
“So no one even considered the nanny might have smothered the baby?”
“Not once the ME said the death was SIDS.”
“Gotta feel sorry for Jamison,” said Brian. “No wonder he went whacko. I don’t get the disguise though. Does the guy want to be a woman?”
“I don’t know. He’s writing his statement now. I was about to go back in.”
“What happened to the nanny?”
Tasha couldn’t hide a smirk. She’d also just gotten off the phone with a detective from Illinois.
“She’s living in Chicago now—with three black cats.”