Friday, October 5, 2012

The Professor by Cathy Perkins


The Professor presses his palm against her flank, feeling the liquid warmth of her blood, hotter than her skin. Hot, like the life force that he has claimed... The power over life and death is the ultimate thrill.

Someone is murdering women on South Carolina's college campuses: three women, three different schools. The Governor's order to State Law Enforcement Agent Mick O'Shaughnessy is simple: make it stop. More political maneuvering diverts Mick to nearby Douglass College. There, instead of another dead body, he finds Meg Connelly, grad student and faculty advisor for the latest victim.

Determined to finish her master's degree, Meg doesn't need anybody's help - including her estranged family - to succeed. There's something irresistible about Mick, but the last time she let someone get close to her, she lost everything except her self-respect.

As the investigation heats up, so does their relationship. But Mick's interest in Meg doesn't just endanger her heart--it puts her in the sights of the killer.


Wednesday afternoon

The body lay in dappled shade. Patches of light caught pale flesh—an ankle here, a hip there. Resurrection ferns spread lacy fronds, partially concealing the limbs. Mick wondered if the irony was deliberate.

This deep into the woods, the trees blocked the breeze and the humidity increased as the air sucked moisture from the thick mulch spread across the forest floor. The noxious mixture of smells pressed against him in a cloying layer that was nearly visible amid the shifting patterns cast by the overhead branches. Pausing at the edge of the clearing, he batted at the flies circling his head. He hated flies. He associated them so strongly with death that a fly in his condo drove him crazy.

Two local detectives looked up, acknowledging Mick's presence. His short hair marked him as a cop as much as the holstered pistol and gold badge clipped to his belt. The locals would already know who he was. He hadn't been able to escape the publicity surrounding the murders—the Captain kept putting him in front of television cameras. The Greenville, South Carolina, stations had been particularly relentless in their quest for footage, repeatedly lurking outside the upstate SLED—State Law Enforcement Division—field office.

The medical examiner crouched over the body, obscuring the head and upper torso. He stood when Mick approached, revealing the now familiar pose. Emily Geiger—if the nude corpse was Emily Geiger—lay on her back, arms opened with the hands palm up in a welcoming gesture. Her legs were spread, bent at the knee, a blatantly sexual posture. Frozen in full rigor, the body would have to be photographed and transported in this degrading position.

Until the Newberry police department asked SLED for assistance, Mick had no authority at the scene. He listened as the ME reported his findings to the local detectives. While they talked, he studied the men, looking for the best way to interact with them. Detective Larry Robbins looked like an oak tree, stocky rather than fat—the kind of guy Mick would want on his side in a bar fight. His twenty years of experience showed in his eyes: weary, heard-it-all-before cynicism. Jerry Jordan, on the other hand, was a greenhorn. He was trying to project confidence and experience while keeping his lunch down. The effort sharpened his jaw and squared his shoulders, but he still looked like a kid in over his head.

The ME estimated the time of death as sometime Monday night. "Lividity's fixed. Rigor's just starting to relax, so it's been less than forty-eight hours. I'll be able to narrow it down when I get back to the lab, but she's been here at least twenty-four hours."

"How can you tell?" Robbins asked.

The doctor gestured at the sample he'd collected. "Blowflies. They show up within fifteen minutes of exposure and lay eggs in the natural orifices and open wounds. The egg stage lasts twenty-four hours. These are blowfly larvae."

Jordan looked even more nauseous.

"A dump site." Robbins gave the clearing a disgruntled look.

The ME continued. "Lividity indicates she died lying faceup, but see the dual pattern on her arms and legs? They were repositioned after the blood pooling started, but before rigor set in."

"What time would you estimate she was moved here?" Mick asked when no one else did.

"Early Tuesday morning, roughly six hours postmortem. I expect he moved her while it was still dark."

You can find The Professor at AMAZON (kindle and audio) and at B&N


Cathy Perkins' mystery and romantic suspense writing lurks behind a financial geek day-job, where she learned firsthand the camouflage, hide in plain sight, skills employed by her villains. Born and raised in South Carolina, the setting for The Professor, she now lives in the Pacific Northwest with her work-a-holic husband and a 75-pound Lab who thinks she's still a lap-puppy.

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