Sample Sunday: Gothica

In the second book of the “Fringe Killer” series, Detective Davenport finds herself dealing with horror brought to life from the past. A killer is terrorizing the same building that held him prisoner – decades ago.

A killer from the past manages to escape the bonds of time and redefines “horror” for Jamie Davenport. In this new entry to the “fringe-killer” series, Gothica, Detective Davenport finds herself dealing with horror brought to life from the past. This time the killer is terrorizing the same building that held him prison – decades ago. The building now serves as a club for the darker denizens of Louisville…and a breeding ground for the emotions needed to bring evil back to Gothica.

Weaving elements of both the horror and the thriller genres together, Gothica tells the tale of the past and the present as they collide in the darkest recesses of a club built upon suffering and sorrow. Jamie Davenport and Skip Abrahm are tossed into a world of gothic delights and horror as another Fringe Killer is brought to life. Purchase links (for various formats) located in the right navigation.


Police Headquarters

Wednesday Afternoon

I TOLD Skip about the plan to take a walk on the dark side this Friday. He was so excited I thought he was going to throw a sissy fit right then and there. He went all manic on me, trying to tell me about all the different outfits he could wear that night. When I told him I wasn’t sure if I had anything to wear, his mouth picked up even more steam.

Skip insisted on taking me shopping for the perfect outfit. He wanted to go tonight, and when I informed him that I had managed to get Craig to agree to dinner plans, I thought he would cry. Instead, we decided on the following evening for our night of glam. He informed me of all the stops we would pull with my look. Skip was in awfully high gay for being at the precinct. Sometimes, he forgot the frat-boy fellowship of the other officers. Let a little queen loose among that crowd, and the poor thing would be caught like a queer in headlights.

“I see you in burgundy lace and black velvet.”

“You want me looking like one of the Heart sisters? I’ll be singing Black Velvet all night. That group would kill me.” I gave Skip a quick snip.

Skip agreed to no lace or velvet. I was feeling more leather-ish lately, anyway. Maybe a corset. Hell, maybe I should go all-out Cat Woman. It couldn’t hurt to help snare one Craig Wayne into this little kitten’s trap. All of a sudden, I felt as if I were in a Batman flick. I wanted to reach down to my thigh and pull out my trusty whip and meow and purr as I took down the bad guys.

Daydreaming can be such a kick.

Before Skip slipped out of my office, I asked him to hit up some of the gay community for as much info on Spookee as they could dredge up. Skipper said “Aye, aye,” blew me a kiss, turned the masculine back on, and walked out the door.

I turned to my computer and opened up my web browser to do a little googling on Mr. Spookee.

At first, the hits were all leading me to Goth clothing stores or BD/SM sites. But after quite a bit of scrolling, I managed to come across a posting to a local Goth mailing list called Consortium666.

The post was a manic diatribe on how lame the status quo among the Goth community had become, and how it was “time for a purging” among the ranks. The post was signed, “Your Executioner, Reverend Spookee Deluxe.”

“Reverend Spookee Deluxe?” I said out loud. What kind of freak show was I dealing with? I switched my search and tried the new moniker. Nothing.

Just as I was about to give up, I came across a web site of one of the darklings from Gothica. Apparently, one Mr. Grim was a photographer in the making and kept an online scrapbook of the weekly happenings at the club.

I clicked on the last week’s event.

In the picture was who I thought would be Spookee.

It was a picture that must have been taken right before the attack. Dead center was the victim. Behind the victim was who I assumed to be Spookee, mimicking the victim’s movements. Below the picture was the caption “Degauss sees his shadow – 6 more weeks of baaaad weather.” Unfortunately, Spookee’s face was hidden by Degauss, so no description could be taken.

Was the photographer prophetic, or was he just being clever? I took a closer look at the picture. Unfortunately, it was too dark to see any details of the Reverend Spookee Deluxe. Fortunately, our computer lab was amazing at extracting information like this. On a number of occasions, Jason Roberts had pulled through for me when all else failed.

I copied the picture onto my hard drive and composed an email to Jason. I knew he’d be on it like a geek on caffeine.

Back to this Mr. Grim. I decided it was in my best interests to look him up and see if I could get any information about Spookee. Par for the course, there was precious little information about Grimm on his web site. But, there was an email address. I popped him a little note asking if he would be willing to meet with me. I expected to be completely blown off due to the circumstances, and the fact that I had to state my title, duty, and reason for contacting him.

As soon as that email was composed and out of my sight, I received a reply from Jason asking me to come down to his lab. I logged off of my computer and made my way to the dungeon.

“What do ya got, JR?” My mood was lifted quite a bit in the hope that Jason had managed to extract something the naked eye wasn’t able to see. He was sitting in his normal position, hunched over a keyboard with his face glued to his huge flatscreen monitor. The techies had all the fun toys.

Jason must have been engrossed because my voice scared him right out of his boxers. He jumped and knocked over his Mountain Dew. Scrambling to catch any of the liquid before it reached his mouse and keyboard, he slipped and fell, smacking his jaw on his chair.

I ran to help him up. He seemed more concerned with the radioactive-green drink about to overtake his precious happy hacker keyboard than his own physical wellbeing.

“Looks like your kung fu is a little weak today, my friend.” I helped Jason up off the floor. His chin was bleeding, and he seemed a bit shaken.

“Save the…” Before he could even get out the rest of his thought, I ran to the restroom and brought back a mass of paper towels.

“Here comes momma!” I slapped the towels on the desk just in time to save the mighty keyboard from a fate worse than death.

“Thank you.” Jason spoke through the pain of his busted chops.

“I have something very interesting to show you.” He was back on his stool and staring at his monitor. On the screen was the picture I had sent him. Only, it was much larger than how I had seen it.

“I managed to enlarge it quite a bit before it started pixelating. Looks like the photographer knew his resolutions.”

Jason turned his monitor my way. I looked at it but wasn’t quite sure what I was seeing that was supposed to be so interesting.

“I don’t get it.” Obviously, my lips had relayed the brain signal before I could put it through my stupid-filter.

“It’s this…” Jason pointed to a figure to the right of Spookee and Degauss. Instantly, I realized it was Pixshe looking off toward the basement door. And walking through the basement door, unharmed, was Zombie.

“Well, that proves he was attacked in the basement,” I said, half to myself. “Of course, no one could find anything downstairs to corroborate that fact. Wait, can you tell me the exact time this photo was taken?”

“Not from this copy. I’d have to have the original file from the camera,” Jason said with obvious embarrassment. “Wait a sec.” His embarrassment was superseded by some unknown excitement. He pulled the monitor back toward his face and worked some of his mojo on the picture. He seemed to be focusing on a wall.

“Look over here. See that widescreen television? See what’s playing?”

I had to admit to Jason that I was pretty clueless here.

“That, my dear, is The Brain That Wouldn’t Die. It’s a classic B movie.”

Again, I was stumped. “And what does that have to do with the time that night?”

“I was watching that same movie the very night of the murder. It was on AMC.” He looked up at the ceiling for a moment. “I believe it aired between 1:30 and 3:30 that night.”

Jason zoomed in even closer.

“And, I happen to know the scene that is playing occurs near the beginning of the movie, which would place the time somewhere between 1:30 and 1:45.”

Jason sat back in his chair, obviously very proud of himself. As well he should be. I leaned over and kissed him right on the lips. I had no idea why that happened, impulse, I guess. I think Jason was as shocked as I was. We stared, bug-eyed, at each other. “Sorry, I’m so used to working with Skip that…”

“Oh, no need to apologize, sweets. I haven’t had any lovin’ for a while. It was nice.” Jason grinned sheepishly.

I winked at Jason as I turned and left; he winked back. All was good. I ran full-bore to my office and picked up my phone to call Tasha Dearing. Tasha was our medical examiner extraordinaire and would, without question, give me the answers I needed.

She answered the phone in her usual, overly-professional manner. “Medical Examiner Dearing speaking.”

“Tash, it’s Jamie.” There was a drawn out pause. I was expecting a ‘Hi Jamie, how ya been’ moment. None came. It was awkward, so I marched on. “I need some information.”

“Go ahead.” Again with the uber-professional tone.

“I need an approximate time of death on the Zombie that came in Friday night.” I realized how that sounded as soon as it left my lips.

“Officer Davenport, I don’t generally like to refer to them as Zombies…” I had to cut her off before the riot act went into full swing.

“There was a young adult male brought in Friday night who went by the name Zombie.”

“Oh, right. I remember the guy. Let me see what I can dig up on him.”

I found it ironic that I had been chastised for what Tasha thought was gallows humor, but she was able to toss it out on the table without remorse or regret. I guessed it came with the job description. How else could one deal with dead people all day?

“It looks as if time of death has been placed around two a.m.”

That was conclusive enough for me. The murder had to have taken place in the basement, which meant that, for Spookee to have committed both crimes, he would have had to knife Degauss, and then run directly for the basement after Zombie. It wasn’t much of a step forward, but it was something.

I hung up with Tasha and gave Skip a ring to tell him the news. He wasn’t nearly as excited about what I had discovered as I thought he would be.

“Sweetie, we swept the basement. There was nothing down there that would indicate the murder occurred on that floor. And, there was nothing to prove a second person was even in the basement at the time. It was clean.” Skip was obviously playing me like a parent to a child.

“Skip, I understand your doubt. But, something happened down there. Zombie had to have been killed in that basement.” I was feeling desperate. I hated desperation; it only led me to do and think stupid things.

“Could it be possible that the wounds were self-inflicted?” Skips voice was hesitant and a little frightened of the possibility.

A silence was shared between the two of us. It was certainly possible that the wounds were self-inflicted. Given the nature of the crowd, I would believe just about anything.

“Meet me in Tasha’s domain. I want to see about the feasibility of suicide.”

We hung up, and I immediately headed down to the medical lab. It was a game we played with each other. Clinging onto our childhood, we’d run, full-bore, down the halls to see who could make it to the endpoint the fastest. I beat Skip by a good thirty seconds.

“How do you always beat me down here? Do you know a short cut or something?” Skip kicked his foot in a mock fit.

I gave Skip a wink and said “Wouldn’t you like to know?”

We walked into Tasha’s lab where she appeared to be about to begin cutting into a body.

“Tasha, I have a question for you.” I stopped her before she could insert the scalpel into the blue man’s chest. No matter how long I remain a detective, no matter how many murder scenes I scour, I can’t seem to stomach seeing dead bodies cut open.

Tasha turned around. She was obviously not pleased with the interruption. “Yes?” Was all she said.

“The Zombie kid…” I waited for Tasha to acknowledge that she knew who I was speaking of. She nodded. “Is it at all possible that his wounds were self-inflicted?”

She immediately shook her head. “I thought of that, already. Let me show you something.”

Tasha led Skip and me over to her desk where a haphazard pile of autopsy photos were spread. She rummaged through the stack until she found one particular photo. “This is the victim’s back. Take a look at the severity and saturation of the cuts. To do this to himself, he would have had to have been an expert contortionist. I’m talking Cirque du Soleil stuff. Not likely. In fact, I think I can safely say it would have been impossible for these wounds to have been self-inflicted.”

I felt myself deflate. I don’t know why I had been hoping this was a suicide. I guess because I didn’t want to think this Spookee kid was any more elusive than he already was.

“But, one thing struck me as odd.” Tasha had my full attention with this. “There were over twelve hundred slashes on this man’s body. Even at the rate of one slash per second, it would have taken twenty minutes to do this work. However, every inch of the victim was covered in cuts, but portions of his body were still covered by either clothing or shoes.”

She had me with the math, but she lost me with the clothing. “I don’t get what you’re saying.”

“The killer would have had to strip the victim down completely to do what he did in the time allotted. What I’m being told by Jason is that there is roughly a 15 minute window for the murder to have occurred. But it wouldn’t have been possible for it to happen that quickly. To strip the victim, slice the victim up, and then place the articles of clothing back on the victim would have been impossible. That is, if only one person were involved in the killing.”

Great. Now I had the M.E. telling me there were possibly two killers involved. Just what I needed.

Skip and I left the M.E. lab and headed back to our offices. We were treading the stairs one at a time.

“That just sucks my ass.”

“What, sweetumz?” Skip’s arm came around my shoulders. He was always quick with the comfort.

“We’re having enough problems locating Spookee. If there are two of them…”

Skip stopped me halfway up the flight of stairs. “Jamie, we’ll catch this guy. You’ve got to stop stressing about this. You don’t work well frazzled, and you know it. So, let’s take this one clue at a time.”

He was right. For reasons unbeknownst to me, I had already managed to let this case get under my skin. I wasn’t sure if it was the idea that a punk kid had been giving us the slip so easily, or if it was just another disenfranchised group of people that I had decided to champion. Either way, I was red-hot to solve this as soon as possible.

“Let’s hit the War Room and break this bitch down. Race ya!” Skip didn’t hesitate. He took off flying up the stairs. The beast knew I couldn’t stand to lose a challenge. After I pulled my eyes from rolling into the back of my head, I began bounding up the stairs. But, it was too late. Skip had too much of a head start on me.

By the time I reached the War Room, he was already reclined in a chair trying to look all Rip Van Winkle. I snuck up behind him and slapped him on the head. “Tag, you’re it!”

“You dare mess with the coif!” Skip’s eyes bugged out of his head.

I sat down beside Skip and stared at the white board. “Let’s see what we have so far.” The board was blank. “I see.” I stood up and grabbed a marker. On the board I wrote:


in tall black letters.