attorney Cullen Molloy attends his fortieth high school reunion, he doesn’t
expect to be defending childhood friends against charges of murder…
a small town on the high plains of Eastern New Mexico, life and culture are
shaped by the farm roads defining the 640-acre sections of land homesteaders
claimed at the turn of the Twentieth Century. Cullen and Shelby Blaine explore
first love along these section roads during the 1960’s, forging a life-long
As junior high school band nerds, Cullen
and Shelby fall under the protection of football player and loner, Buddy Boyd.
During their sophomore year of high school, Buddy is charged with killing a
classmate and is confined to a youth correctional facility. When he returns to
town facing the prospect of imprisonment as an adult, Cullen becomes Buddy’s
The case haunts the three friends into
adulthood, and it isn’t until their fortieth reunion, that they’re forced to
revisit that horrible night. When a new killing takes place, Cullen, Shelby and
Buddy find themselves reliving the nightmare.
Murder is an easy thing to hide along
old country section roads.
ambitious, evocative small-town tale located somewhere between Peyton Place and
The Last Picture Show.” –Kirkus Review
Murphey is a native of eastern New Mexico and spent almost thirty years as an
award-winning newspaper journalist in the Southwest and Pacific Northwest.
Following his retirement from the newspaper business, he and his wife Nancy
entered in a seventeen-year partnership with the late Dave Henderson, all-star
centerfielder for the Oakland Athletics, Boston Red Sox and Seattle Mariners.
Their company produces the A’s and Mariners adult baseball Fantasy Camps. They
also have a partnership with the Roy Hobbs adult baseball organization in Fort
Myers, Florida. They love baseball, fiction, cats and sailing. They split their
time between Spokane, Washington, and Phoenix, Arizona. Mike enjoys life as a
writer and old-man baseball player.
Research assistant Sarah Mackenzie enjoys collecting information for her uncle’s local history projects. But when she stumbles upon an open grave in Cornplanter Cemetery, she’s startled to find the body reminds her of someone she knew, someone she believed died ten years ago. Like opening Pandora’s Box, the discovery is full of unpleasant surprises and definitely not the kind this researcher likes to collect. To make matters worse, the local sheriff has learned about Sarah’s strained relationship with the victim, and the clues drop one by one to shift suspicion to her as the favored suspect. As the murders escalate and one becomes three, Sarah confronts her fear and searches for the truth, venturing into the world of Seneca Indian culture. Confronted with mysteries from the past as well as the present, she must find their common link in order to discover the identity of the Grave Maker and stop his killing spree.
Speeding around the curve, I passed Egypt Hollow Road. Twenty minutes to go—less, if I took the road at a reckless pace. I moved my foot to break. It wouldn’t help anyone if I ended up in a ditch. And, of course, I’d be the fool if all that greeted me was a hot meal, a happy dog, and Chaz back to crabby. Most likely, it was nothing. Just one of his sentimental, sullen moods when he dwelled on the past and told me stories about everyone he missed. That mood. It happened on occasion. After a bit, he’d drift back into his old self.
The truck bounced as I pulled into his drive. It was weed covered with plenty of chuckholes and little gravel. Chaz stopped his regular routine of yard maintenance over eight years ago, and I had little time to help. Once the truck ground to a stop, tires hit the railroad tie put there to block anyone from driving closer. I jumped out and landed with both legs running toward the door.
“Uncle Chaz! Opal!” I bounded up the stairs and shoved the door open. “Oh, my lord.”
I hurried to the wheelchair. Chaz’s body was slumped over. Reaching down, I placed two fingers on his neck and found a pulse, weak but still there. Blood trickled down the back of his neck. I winced when my fingers located the lump on the top of his head. “What happened to you, Uncle?” I whispered.
At the sink, I wet a towel to clean the wound. Without giving too much thought to the idea, I reached for the bottle of Wild Turkey and poured some onto the towel and then applied it to his head.
“Ouch! What in holy saints are you doin’? That burns like Hades,” Chaz growled and sat up straight.
“Oh, thank you, God.” My legs gave way and I landed in the chair next to him. My eyes widened. The table was empty, cleared of all his papers and books. “What did you do? Clean house?” I stared, baffled. “What’s going on?”
“I was robbed, that’s what.” He touched the top of his head and grumbled a few expletives.
About the Author
Kathryn Long is a retired teacher turned fulltime writer. She loves filling her days reading and writing mysteries. Her credits include romantic suspense, A DEADLY DEAD GROWS and her self-published series, THE LILLY M. MYSTERIES. BURIED IN SIN is her latest release, published by Black Opal Books in March, 2019. She stays active on social media where you can find her on Facebook, Twitter, and her blog. She also belongs to Sisters in Crime and International Thriller Writers. Kathryn lives in northeast Ohio with her husband and pooch Max.
Last Van Gogh” received the 2019 Maxy Award for Best Mystery-Detective
brilliant and troubled artist. A lost masterpiece. The desperate search for the
unknown Van Gogh painting disappears from France at the outbreak of World War
Two. A notorious con man later claims he smuggled the immense painting to the
U.S. where it is never seen again. Ninety years later, his two sons, Adam and
Wesley Barrow, discover letters that supposedly confirm the painting’s
existence, now valued at $250 million if it exists.
by a dysfunctional childhood and skeptical of his father’s tale, Adam at first
dismisses the old letters.
painting’s possible existence also attracts the attention of three unscrupulous
collectors, allformer associates of
hisfather, one of whom engages a
professional killer to find the painting.
of its existence, Adam teams with Katya Veranova, a beautiful KGB defector and
ex-assassin, as they travel to Holland, Paris, California, and New York on a
desperate mission, forming an intimate but tenuous bond. Tracked by the unseen
contract killer and threatened at every turn, Adam and Kat face increasing
danger in their quest to find the last Van Gogh.
The ambulance bearing Wes disappeared around
the corner onto Wells Street, siren moaning as traffic pulled to the curb to
let Chicago’s latest casualty pass. They’d removed Vasily’s body after a flurry
of police photographs, Chicago’s finest dispersing the gawkers. The storm
whipped gray curtains of rain off Lake Michigan, washing blood from the
sidewalk as I surveyed the damage.
and blue strobes atop the remaining police cars illuminated my gallery like a
roadside strip club. Inside the shattered window, a desecrated painting hung
askew on the nearest wall, its frame splintered, the canvas holed by bullets.
Beneath the destroyed Expressionist nude, crumbled wallboard fragments littered
my proud new carpet. None of it mattered so long as Wes was alive.
raised my coat collar and retreated beneath the awning followed by a bored
Chicago police sergeant, glass crunching under our shoes. The cop was a street
veteran down to a scarred chin and wary expression, his belly encroaching on
his belt buckle. He removed his brimmed hat and brushed rainwater from the
clear plastic covering, wiping the checkered band with a thick thumb before he
tugged it back on with a street-weary sigh.
“Looks like you and your brother
dodged a bullet,” he said with a caustic half-smile. Discomfited by my
expression, he said, “Well, he didn’t actually dodge it. The EMT’s said the
bullet nicked the back of his calf without finding bone. Some blood loss but no
“I’ve got to call his wife,” I
“Sure, in a minute. First, you
wanna tell me what happened?”
Across the rain-slicked street, the
space sat empty where the Lincoln had waited for us. “We walked out and someone
started shooting from a car parked across the street.”
The cop contemplated my shattered
window. “I don’t figure the boys from the projects, but you never know about
those crazy bastards.”
I shook my head, recalling the
tinted window sliding down. Maybe a loan shark fed up with Wes’s late payments?
“The car was a black stretch Lincoln, the kind limo owners drive.”
The cop took a cheap spiral
notebook from his yellow raincoat and made a note. “But it could be gang
bangers the projects. They like to cruise the streets at night,” he said. “Lot
of random shootings. The worst call themselves the Deuce’s Disciples.” He
kicked at the glass rubble around our feet. “I think tonight probably was a
screw-up. Mistaken identity or drug deal gone bad.”
didn’t say so but the cop’s reasoning didn’t feel right, a bunch of brainless
bangers shooting up an art gallery from a limousine. Glad to be out of the
rain, the cop made another note and took on the jaded expression of
investigating endless mayhem. Another Saturday night shooting and one more
bewildered citizen he was supposed to protect.
dead guy,” he asked. “Customer?”
of my artists.” I almost told him about Vasily’s uncle and decided against it.
The police would find out soon enough, and a whole new avenue of investigation
would begin, including my association with Viktor Krushenko. I didn’t want to
think about it.
The sergeant closed the notebook.
“The detectives will want to talk with you tomorrow.” He frowned at the rain
blowing through my broken window. “Lousy fucking weather. Better get something
over that hole. We’ll keep a man here until you leave,”
He ambled back to the circus parade
of flashing lights and I went inside, wondering where in hell I’d find someone
to board up a window on Saturday night. I’d lugged the exposed paintings to the
work area, too disheartened to touch the ruined painting. I thought about Viktor
and knew I should call him, but I put it off. Viktor would know about the
attack soon enough and I tried not to think about what might follow. Vasily was
dead and that would bring repercussions for someone. Possibly me.
I called Barbara and got her calmed
down after a few minutes, explaining Wes was basically okay. She kept asking me
why Wes had been shot but I had no answer. I gave her the name of the hospital
where they’d taken him and said I’d meet her there. Hanging up, I stared at the
jagged hole where my front window once existed. I waved to the cop stationed at
the door and went to my office. Thumbing my iPhone for repair companies I
located one open 24/7. The answering service claimed they’d be on their way
within the hour and I almost believed the voice. Bundled in a raincoat I walked
outside and told the patrolman to go home, that I’d wait until the hole was
pulled up a chair by the front door as the adrenaline ebbed, watching cars slow
to ogle the destruction. Gusts of rain gleefully destroyed my new carpet and I
tried not to calculate replacement cost, wondering if my insurance covered
gunfire. To my surprise a panel truck arrived half an hour later. Two workmen
hammered up plywood sheeting, the rough wooden patch blighting the front of my
owning a car in a city where parking was a mixture of fate and voodoo, I called
Uber to take me to the hospital. During the ride, it occurred to me the
gunshots had been oddly muffled. I hadn’t told the cop, but the recollection
increased my uneasiness. Why would underage gangsters or a shyster bother with
Wes had been discharged by the time
I reached the hospital. A young black intern assured me the injury wasn’t
serious enough to keep him overnight. In the midst of usual Saturday night
mayhem and need for beds, they’d bound the wound and released him with a supply
of pain killers.
It was still raining as I called
Uber again and headed for Wes’s apartment. Barbara let me in and I found Wes
with a glass in his hand, leg propped on an ottoman, his smile vacant.
“Hey, this Vicodin is great stuff,”
he said as if he’d discovered the solution to world peace.
sat on the arm of his chair and shook her head at me with less than fawning
eyes. She inclined her head at the glass in his hand.
“Water,” she informed me.
Maybe the shooting would prove a
respite for him. Provide an enforced vacation from his favorite lounges and
liquor stores. Barbara sure as hell wasn’t going to let him mix painkillers
with booze. I pulled up a straight-backed chair from the dining room and tried
“You okay?” I asked.
“Is Vasily dead?”
“Damn. He seemed like a great guy.”
Wes shifted his weight and winced.
I looked around. The apartment was sparser than I remembered, and Barbara
appeared five years older. She was a lean woman who never worried about her
weight, a great wife to Wes but not my biggest fan. She believed I enabled him
with loans and bail money, short term solutions to his deeper issues. But what
was I supposed to do? Leave him to the mercy of the drunk tank? She loved him
in her own patient way that allowed me to look beyond her faults, mainly her dislike
hovered over Wes, curly auburn hair and blouse still damp from the rain, her
face wet with tears. “This is quite a night,” she snapped, her voice trembling
as she brushed away a limp strand of hair. “Our home gets broken into, then you
call to tell me Wes has been shot.”
“You got robbed?” was all I could
think to say.
“Never imagined the art business
was this violent,” Wes laughed, his eyes swimming with the Vicodin. “Russian
gangsters and artists murdered in the street.”
“You sure you’re alright?”
He held up the glass of water. “I’m
fine, but I never needed a drink more in my life. What the hell happened?”
“The cops aren’t sure.”
“Great location you picked, Adam”
Barbara said over her shoulder as she strode to the kitchen. “A trendy
neighborhood. You serve Sneaky Pete wine at your gala last night?”
“C’mon, Barbara,” Wes croaked.
I resented her criticism. I hadn’t
envisioned a shooting gallery when I selected the location. “You’re clear on
the other side of town and you got robbed,” I reminded her, although the sparse
apartment didn’t appear a likely target.
“We need to talk about what
happened,” Wes said.
“I’ll talk with detectives
tomorrow. The cop told me…”
“Not about the shooting,” Wes said.
“Wes,” Barbara called from the
kitchen, “don’t start again.”
“He needs to know.”
“Know what?” I asked.
Barbara sat on Wes’s chair arm
again and lightly ran her fingers through his hair. “He’s not making a lot of
sense, what with the pills and all,” she said. “Something about a Van Gogh
painting your father claimed to have owned.”
“He told me about that, but what am
I missing here?”
“The letters are gone,” Wes said.
“We checked but they’re not here. Nothing else was taken.”
“You sure the letters were here?”
“I changed clothes before I came to
the gallery. They were in my jacket.” He looked on the verge of bursting into
tears. “Our one link to the painting.”
“You’re sure they were stolen.”
“I’m a recovering drunk, not a
moron,” Wes snapped, slumping back in the chair as the pills worked their
Barbara shot me a warning look that
hovered between ‘help me’ and ‘get the hell out of here.’ It was obvious they’d
fought a war over a fictional masterpiece that would solve their problems.
Wes bent forward and winced.
“Dammit, Barbara, it’s real.”
She searched his haggard face, her
own reflecting defeat fostered by years of disappointment. She started to reply
but looked away.
“Okay, I’ll agree our old man was
crazy,” Wes admitted, “but he had no reason to lie to us. No money in lying. If
he owned a forgery, why didn’t he pawn it off on somebody years ago? God knows
he always needed money.”
“This is crazy,” Barbara said.
“What about us? You’re putting this fantasy before everything we’re trying to
do. You’re in no shape to traipse after some painting. In case you haven’t
noticed, we’re almost broke. Where do you think we’ll find money to search for
your Eldorado? You have a portfolio or bank account I don’t know about?”
“Maybe we can find a backer.” Wes
insisted. I’d heard the same desperation when he discovered a liquor bottle was
empty. He looked up at me. “What about your gangster friend?”
“Viktor Krushenko is not my
“He was Vasily’s uncle. He could
“Wes, do you have any idea who
these people are? Where their money comes from? It’s possible Viktor was trying
to get rid of me after our argument. The bastard’s crazy, you saw that. You
heard how unhappy he was about the split Vasily was getting. Maybe he meant the
shooting as an object lesson to me and he screwed up. Either way, he won’t be a
happy Boy Scout when he finds out Vasily’s dead.”
“We need to find a way,” Wes said,
his optimism bolstered by the pain killers.
Barbara turned away again and I was
out of arguments. Our dead father was ripping our lives apart yet again, his
sons lost in his dysfunctional shadow.
Ottinger spent his early life in Savannah, Georgia. A graduate of Emory
University with a BA in history, he is also a graduate of Northwestern Graduate
Trust School in Chicago.
first novel, A Season for Ravens, published in 2014, was named by Reader Views
as one of its top-three Historical Fiction works of 2014-2015.The second novel, The Savannah Betrayals, was
published in March, 2018.His third
novel, The Last Van Gogh, was released in March, 2019 by Black Rose Writing.
Windrow and Greene Publishers in Great Britain earlier published his
non-fiction work on the art of historical miniatures, an art form in which he
gained international recognition as a Grand Master painter.He authored a magazine column for seven
years, trained and lectured extensively in the financial field, wrote articles
for trust and investment publications, and has spoken to large and small
audiences. He served as president of Scribbler’s Ink, a Houston writers’ group.
founder and owner of a wealth management training/consulting firm, he and his
wife also owned an art gallery in downtown Chicago. Both are inveterate fly
fishermen and now live in Atlanta Georgia.
a world where modern governments failed their citizens and long-simmering
conflicts escalated into global war. Imagine if its survivors migrated toward
those who share the same faith. Imagine the continents are ruled by religions.
the mysterious death of a teenage girl triggers memories of a similar childhood
event, police Detective Sami Ali becomes consumed with solving her murder.
Persecuted by the shame of his past, Ali will stop at nothing to find the
killer, even if his investigation puts his wife and daughter at risk.
he follows the clues, Ali collides with another lost soul – a foreign spy.
Elise De Jong’s official mission in Eurabia involves the acquisition of a
priceless item that could shift the balance of power among the theocracies. But
she also has a personal objective – to find her last living relative, the
little sister whom she hasn’t seen since her birth.
succeed in their missions, Elise and Ali must find common ground despite their
religious differences, for they can depend only on each other.
Sami Ali knew he’d been assigned the dhimmi’s murder because he was the worst
detective on the Budapest police force. And he understood exactly what his boss
expected him to do – use minimal departmental resources to conduct a basic
investigation, find no evidence of religious cleansing, and bury the case.
knew such a weak effort rendered him a fraud and he didn’t care. Pride didn’t
pay his daughter’s tuition. His job was to follow orders and provide for his
family. Also, his father had made him take an oath as a child to hate
Christians and Jews for the rest of his life. He didn’t give a damn about the
body had been found at the Matthias Catholic Church, one of only three
remaining Christian churches in the section of the city known as Dhimmi Town.
Gothicspires decorated with gargoyles
towered above a diamond-patterned roof, green and brown ceramic tiles
glittering in the sun. Ismael, the crime scene technician, was kneeling beside
the corpse near the altar when Ali arrived inside. His friend reminded Ali of a
mongoose – unassuming at first glance, but pity the snake who dared to test his
comes Saturday,” Ismael said.
comes Sunday,” Ali said.
salutation had originated in the Middle East during the early twentieth
century, long before the third world war, the collapse of governments and
economies, and the migration of survivors toward people who shared the same
we’ll take care of the Jews, who pray on Saturday, and then we’ll take care of
the Christians, who pray on Sunday.
old prophecy had been fulfilled in Arabia. Then, after Muslims flooded Europe,
Sharia law had been enacted throughout the continent. Only the dhimmis
prevented the prophecy from being true in what was now known as Eurabia, too.
now there were one fewer dhimmis.
couldn’t see the corpse. Ismael was hovering over it, blocking his view.
are we celebrating?” Ali said.
by strangulation,” Ismael said.
blood. He strangled her with his hands.”
blood. You’ve got to be kidding … Wait. Did you say her?”
on both sides of the neck but no actual prints. He must have worn gloves.”
of struggle?” Ali said.
that I can see.”
stepped back to reveal a girl’s corpse, a lithe figure with hair the color of
sun-drenched wheat. “Look, A. She can’t be more than fourteen or fifteen.”
Ali said. The first syllable of his friend’s name was the only sound he could
muster because the sight of the girl had taken him to the place he hoped to
a waste,” Ismael said.
childhood memories were secured in an impenetrable vault protected by imaginary
barbed wire, steel walls, and padlocks. Whenever something or someone prodded
the vault, its protective devices tightened. This time, however, its defenses
disintegrated and the locks sprang open. Out streamed the vision he loathed so
much it made him long for sudden death.
was all in the past, Ali tried to tell himself, but no one could detect a lie
more easily than a cop, even a lousy one. A similar-looking girl was lying
before him. And she, too, was dead.
eyes,” Ismael said. He reached over and lifted the dead girl’s eyelids.“You see the eyes?”
looked like aquamarine jewels.
course Ali had noticed the eyes, as surely as he’d noticed the girl’s oval
face, alabaster skin, and golden locks. It wasn’t their beauty that shocked Ali
and Ismael, but rather their presence in their sockets, because the typical
religious cleansing involved their removal. Lower your head – submit to Islam –
lest your eyes be snatched.
nodded for Ali to come closer, then glanced in both directions to make sure the
other two technicians taking pictures of the church interior couldn’t hear him.
wasn’t killed here,” Ismael said. “She was brought here after the fact.”
can you be sure?”
lowered his voice further. “Because there was a witness.”
lost his breath. “A witness?” There were never any witnesses in Dhimmi Town, at
least none brave or stupid enough to come forward.
caretaker who called it in. He was here when the killer brought in the body.
Point of entry, front door. Point of exit, front door.
saw the killer?”
was taken to headquarters to give his statement and for his own protection. But
I don’t think it’s his protection your boss will be worried about. Especially
not with the world leaders in town for that conference. Think about it. The
heads of all four kingdoms – the Buddhists, Hindus, Christians and us – all in
the same place. Can’t have religious cleansing when the religions are trying to
find a way to get along, can you?”
heard the question and understood Ismael’s point. His boss wanted the case buried
quickly. But that mattered less to Ali than Ismael’s previous implication, that
the higher-ups would do everything necessary to make sure the witness was
silenced. To Ali’s own amazement, something compelled him right there and then
to do everything in his power to make sure the witness was heard.
was he too late?
told Ismael he’d be in touch and rushed out of the church.As he ran toward his car, the call to prayer
sounded. It was the second such call of the day which meant it was just past
noon. The sound of the Muezzin’s mellifluous voice always slowed Ali’s pulse,
drained him of angst and sorrow, and lifted his spirits. The thought of not
stopping whatever he was doing to contemplate the substance of his Islamic
beliefs five times a day was unthinkable.
that’s exactly what he considered doing the moment the initial call sounded.
The image of the dead girl from his youth gripped him so tightly that he wanted
– no, he needed– to begin a thorough
investigation of this girl’s murder immediately. One death bore no relation to
the other. More than twenty-five years had past since the first girl had died.
The victims merely resembled each other.
realized this but it made no difference to him. To say that he’d failed the
first girl was a gross understatement. He couldn’t contemplate repeating the
mistake. Did he even have the skills to solve a murder? Ali wasn’t sure
himself. The other cops called him the Dhimmi Lover precisely because he had no
love for them. It was a joke well-known throughout the force. What would they
say if the worst detective in Eurabia started acting like a real police? The
Dhimmi Lover actually trying to solve the murder of a dhimmi? They’d all get a
laugh out of that one.
the second call came for prayer to begin, Ali didn’t stop to face Mecca.
Instead, he climbed in his car, hammered the gas pedal and raced toward the
station. Never before had he thought of the streets of Dhimmi Town as his own.
Who in his right mind would want them?
they were his, he realized, whether he liked them or not, just as surely as he
was among the few Muslims not prostrating themselves before Allah in the
capital city of the central region of the Eurabian Caliphate.
hoped like hell no one recognized him behind the wheel.
Stelmach is a mystery and thriller writer and the author of the Nadia Tesla
series. His novels have been Kindle #1 bestsellers, optioned for film
development, and translated into numerous foreign languages. Prior to becoming
a full-time writer, Orest was an institutional investment portfolio manager for
twenty-five years. He is a graduate of Dartmouth College and the University of
Chicago Booth School of Business.