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Why 319? by @motownmysteries is a Fall Into These Great Reads pick #mystery #bookboost #giveaway
Title: Why 319?
Author: Mark Love
A serial killer is on the loose in metro Detroit. Three female victims have been discovered in motel rooms in different suburban cities surrounding Motown. The only connection is that each body is found in Room 319 and the killer leaves the taunting message “Why 319?” on the bathroom mirror, written with the victim’s lipstick.
Detective Jefferson Chene heads up an elite squad of detectives assigned to the case. With no home life, he devotes every waking moment to catching killers. But this one is more elusive than most. With no clues and no apparent link between the victims, Chene is at a dead end. But a startling revelation busts the case wide open. He’s closing in on the murderer, but will it be before another young woman loses her life?
Cantrell rolled an unlit cigarette across his knuckles. “We need to do this fast. Like the poet once said, timing ain’t waitin’ for no one.”
Despite his butchering of quotations, we all knew what he meant. We only had so much time to figure this out and find the guy before he struck again.
“We need to determine the common denominator,” Megan said. “There’s got to be something that all three of our victims shared. We just need to look at them closely and let them tell us what that is.”
Barksdale made a derisive snorting noise beside her. “Just how do we do that, McDonald? Call the psychic hotline? Break out the Ouija board?”
“We look at the evidence,” she said with a sneer.
“We look at the evidence,” Barksdale mimicked, waving his hands like a cheap carnival magician.
“Knock it off,” I said. “Megan’s right. We have to go through every bit of information we can find on the victims. That means reviewing the files, repeating every single interview. We take the investigation a step further. If the locals talked to three coworkers, we need to talk to six. If they interviewed one neighbor, we interview five.”
Barksdale turned his scowl to me. “So how are we going to do that before this pervert strikes again? We got other cases going.”
“Not no more, ya don’t,” Cantrell said. “As of right now, this un is your one and only. And Ah hate to ruin your Saturday, but there ain’t no days off until we crack it. Y’all need to break it down and find the pattern.”
If Cantrell expected any grumbling from the squad, he would be disappointed. Even Barksdale held his tongue for a moment.
“So how you figure we’re going to do this, Pappy? That’s a lot of territory to cover, no matter how you cut it,” Barksdale asked.
Cantrell shifted his gaze to me. “Whatcha think, Chene?”
“We could break it into sections. Laura could delve into their background. Barksdale could handle the autopsies. Koz could focus on the departments…” I stopped when I saw Cantrell slowly shaking his head.
“Y’all need to move faster.”
Laura spoke up for the first time. She was the newest member of the squad and still getting accustomed to Cantrell’s laid-back management style. “So how should we handle it, Pappy?”
“Y’all break into teams. Boy and girl on each. We got three homicides that we know of, so each team takes one. Y’all start from the ground up.”
Megan pointed out the obvious. “You realize we’re a girl short.”
Cantrell checked his watch. “Bloomfield’s offered up one of their detectives to work the investigation, so Ah agreed. She’ll be here shortly.”
This was highly unusual. Cantrell was adamant about keeping our investigations within the house. Once we took over a case, he didn’t give it back until it was closed. Then the brass would hold a press conference, explaining how the local department, working with the state police, had solved the crime. It made for great politics.
“When?” The anger in my voice surprised me. It was obvious to the rest of the squad that I didn’t like this sudden change.
“Maybe twenty minutes.”
Koz caught my eye. Without missing a beat, he pushed back from the table. “Guess I’ll grab a coffee while we wait. You did want to wait until the other detective got here before proceeding, right, Pappy?”
Cantrell tucked the cigarette into the corner of his mouth and snapped a flame with his lighter. “Yep.”
I waited until everyone else filed out of the room. Cantrell let his eyes close as if he were meditating. With the smoke curling up around his head, he looked like something out of a Tennessee monastery. The Art of Zen, courtesy of Jack Daniels.
“Well?” he muttered.
“When were you going to clue me in on this plan?”
“Y’all weren’t ready.”
I didn’t try to keep the anger from my voice. “Bullshit. I’ve been the lead on ninety percent of the investigations we’ve handled for the last three years. You know it. I know it. The whole freaking squad knows it.”
He took a long drag and pulled the cigarette from his lips. “But not everybody likes it.”
I didn’t even have to think about it. “You mean Barksdale. The guy’s a dinosaur.”
“Would that be a triceratops?”
I was surprised he was able to name one, but then, Cantrell could be full of surprises. Like this new plan. “So how do you see this?”
“We split into three teams, just like Ah said. We put Koz with Laura. Give them the oldest case, the Wayne County. You and Megan take the Macomb. Bloomfield will want their girlie working their crime. We stick her with Barksdale.”
“So why didn’t you tell me before?”
“You all right, Chene, but you ain’t no actor. Ah wanted everyone to know this was a surprise, even you. It made your reaction real. You gettin’ pissy ’cause Ah didn’t tell you about it first.”
I considered it for a moment. The old bastard had it down cold. Barksdale would have pitched a holy fit if I’d made the decision to split the team by case and assign him the outsider. He and Megan could barely stand each other. Laura was too new to stick with him. That left the Bloomfield detective. Since the orders were coming down from Cantrell, there was no way he’d argue it. Especially when it appeared that Cantrell did not trust me to make the call. It was a stroke of genius, pure logistical genius. I told him as much.
“’Tweren’t nothin. You might have figured it out in a couple of days.”
“Don’t be so modest, Pappy. You know how to manipulate him.”
It took me a moment to admit the rest. “And me too.”
He nodded slowly. “Hell, Chene, if Ah can’t ever manipulate ya, y’all ain’t no good to me.”
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What’s your favorite thing about autumn:
Football! I’ll watch a college game or two, but I’m a pro football junkie. There are the physical aspects, the strategy, the athleticism, and the impact each game has on the season. There are only 17 games in the regular season. Professional baseball has 162, basketball and hockey have 82 games. Every football game is more important. I try to get everything else done so I can kick back on Sunday afternoons and watch a game.
What inspired you to write this story:
Growing up in metropolitan Detroit, I was always intrigued at the size of the territory. There are nearly 6 million square miles in the tri-county area with a population of over 5 million. After interviewing several police officers as a reporter, it got me wondering how much or how little information they may share with other departments. That gave me the idea of creating a detective squad within the Michigan State Police who would be able to work cases regardless of jurisdictional boundaries.
After developing the squad, I wanted to pit them against a savvy killer. One who liked to taunt cops and lead them on a chase. Crossing into neighboring cities and counties seemed like the perfect way to get away with murder. At least, for a little while.
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Mark Love lived for many years in the metropolitan Detroit area, where crime and corruption are always prevalent. A former freelance reporter, Love honed his writing skills covering features and hard news. He is the author of the Jamie Richmond romance mysteries, Devious, Vanishing Act and Fleeing Beauty, and the novella Stealing Haven. His short story, Don’t Mess with the Gods, was written with Elle Nina Castle and included in the Magic & Mischief anthology. Love also writes the Jefferson Chene mystery series, WHY 319? Your Turn to Die and The Wayward Path. Love resides in west Michigan with his wife, Kim. He enjoys a wide variety of music, books, travel, cooking and the great outdoors.
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