The Five, a Mary McIntosh novel
Maureen Meehan Aplin
Praise from WRITER'S DIGEST for Maureen Meehan Aplin's previous Mary MacIntosh books:
PANDEMIC PREDATOR: "Wow—good beginning, really jumps into the action. . . a wide-ranging, intriguing book."
SNAKE RIVER SECRET: "The structure of the book reminded me of the old Perry Mason novels, in which the legal staff itself is involved in the case personally. . . . Some very clever manipulation of clues, evidence, and trial procedure makes this a very good mystery."
DYING TO SKI: "(The)dialogues are brisk and realistic. A very intriguing premise. An excellent eye for physical details."
Book Description for The Five:
The sixth book in the author's Mary MacIntosh murder mystery series centers around a serial killer (Chandler Craig) who commenced his murderous rampage before the ripe of age 12, but due to a loophole in the law, is released from juvenile detention at age 21. "Mac" hosts a reunion for her four college roommates at her family cabin in the Colorado Rockies. Within months of his release from jail, Chandler shows up at the cabin and captures each of the five with means of force, violence and torture, telling them that “one of their husbands hired him to kill one of them, and it was up to each to convince him that she was not it.” Each friend struggles with the notion that her husband wants her dead, soul searching the past, present and future of the bonds of marriage and friendship. Chandler’s mayhem and means of torture stem from his abusive and tumultuous childhood and with each act of violence committed against THE FIVE, he reveals the depths of his hatred and sorrow. Mac's search for the truth behind Chandler’s motive to kill is entangled with the revelation of infidelity, betrayal, and conspiracy stemming from Chandler’s true birth father and a husband’s fall from professional sports grace – into a league of crime involving performance enhancement drugs that, if discovered, will certainly derail dozens of high-profile athlete’s careers. The grisly killings and complexity of plot make this sixth novel in the series a “Jeffrey Dahmer meets Scott Turow,” as the courtroom drama unfolds.
The Five, a Mary MacIntosh novel
Maureen Meehan Aplin
Copyright 2009 Maureen Meehan Aplin
Maureen Meehan Aplin
Copyright 2009 Maureen Meehan Aplin
It would end up being the most heinous crime the citizens of Douglas, Wyoming would bear witness to for centuries to come, and certainly was the most gruesome that anyone could ever remember. On October 1st, Carolyn Patterson had driven the simple five minute trek across the small town of five thousand to check on her daughter Wanda Sue, and her two grandsons, Chance and Bridger, at their townhouse on Fairway Drive. Carolyn was not the worrying type, but on this particular occasion she was concerned because she hadn’t heard from Wanda Sue for twenty-four hours. Normally, not hearing from an adult daughter for a mere day wouldn’t be enough to sound anyone’s alarm bells, but Wanda Sue was a single mom of two boys under the age of six, and she tended to call her mother three to four times a day for meaningless chit-chat or for childcare favors. Carolyn didn’t mind the calls, as she was a widow and the time with the boys filled her life with noise and laughter and discovery. Wanda Sue normally carried her cell phone in hand – as if it was her lifeline – so when Carloyn couldn’t get an answer or a returned call for twenty-four hours, she decided to put her mind at ease and drive to her daughter’s house. She put her car in gear and began the drive down Fourth Street, proceeding under Interstate 25, and then took the left turn onto Fairway Drive, which was adjacent to the town’s only golf course.
As she was driving, Carolyn couldn’t help but appreciate the sunny day, and welcomed how the water on the North Platte River shimmered from the gusty winds which were customary for this rural area of central Wyoming. As she neared her daughter’s townhouse, however, Carolyn noticed the first instance of dark clouds forming to the west, and realized that this was probably a telltale sign that the first winter storm was on its way. She rolled down her window as she pulled into Wanda Sue’s driveway, inhaling as much moisture as she could from the otherwise dry air.
As she stepped out of her car and began the walk towards the front porch, Carolyn was relieved to not only note that Wanda Sue’s Ford Fiesta was in the driveway, but that her front door was wide open; certainly that meant the kids must be out riding their bikes. Carolyn expected an immediate answer after she rang the bell since Wanda Sue was usually on red-alert when her kids were out playing in the front yard, so she didn’t pause long before opening the screen door after her call went unheeded. As Carolyn was getting ready to shout out Wanda Sue’s name, she barely missed stepping on Bridger’s body, which was lying in the middle of the floor, twisted and bloodied and mangled, with his arms outstretched toward the front door as if his five-year-old body was trying to escape the horror which took place inside. Bridger had been brutally stabbed, the blade of the kitchen knife still protruding from his back.
Time suddenly stopped in Carolyn’s world, and she stood there trapped in a moment that she wished she’d never come upon. She didn’t process what happened following her discovery, and most certainly didn’t hear her deathly scream echoing out the front door and along the neighborhood. She was still standing there, alternating between frozen gasps for breath and hoarse, tired screams when detectives arrived at the scene in response to a suspicious noise complaint called in by a neighbor. It took several officers to physically remove her from the scene and it would ultimately take many Xanax before Carolyn would ever be able to calm down.
As detectives combed through the Patterson crime scene, they reacted both physically and emotionally. Even the most hardened of detectives would go home that night feeling a bit more likely to wake up their children from a deep sleep to kiss them on the forehead and tell them how much they loved them. Newer detectives reacted with revulsion and disgust. No officer, regardless of their tenure, had ever seen such a vicious – and obviously prolonged – attack. As if the forty-two stab wounds to her head and chest weren’t enough, Wanda Sue had also been bludgeoned and strangled. Whoever had done this to her had obviously disregarded her attempt to protect her eldest son, Chance, because his severed right hand was still clamped tightly in Wanda Sue’s. And if severing the little boy’s hand did not prove sufficiently depraved, the child’s remains also showed that his head was nearly decapitated in the struggle.
News of the triple homicide spread quickly throughout the small town, and sent shock waves through this normally tight-knit and quaint western community. Many residents felt unsafe for the first time in their otherwise uneventful lives, and made it clear to law enforcement that the killer needed to be caught immediately. Rumors quickly spread that the crime must have been committed by one of the meth-using oil riggers, whose influx since the re-emerging energy boom had set off a wave of crime in the entire state. Many were quick to agree with this theory, as it not only made sense, but provided a door for many people to close on this stressful and tense situation. Detective Frank Brown was not one of them.
He’d been assigned the Robinson case a year prior – the only other unsolved murder in Douglas during the preceding fifteen years. Patricia Robinson lived less than a mile from Wanda Sue, and she had also been stabbed with a kitchen knife. Until this triple murder, Detective Brown had suspected that Patricia Robinson’s estranged husband was responsible for the deed; his quick departure and currently unknown whereabouts only furthered the suspicions in Detective Brown’s mind. The only problem with this theory was the fact that their daughter was not abducted, despite the fact that the little girl was at home when the crime was committed. In fact, she was still hiding in her closet when the police found Mrs. Robinson’s fatally-wounded body.
The similarities in the two crime scenes were too great for the detective to overlook, and so he pulled out his old notes accompanying the Robinson file and began to compare evidence. Detective Brown sipped from his cup of coffee as he began to note the similarities in the two cases, many of which were not immediately apparent on their face. After quickly reviewing his handwritten notes and refreshing himself on some of the details in the Robinson case, the detective found himself surprised at just how parallel the cases actually were.
In both the Patterson and Robinson cases, the killer used a weapon that was already in the house. This suggested the killer entered the house for another purpose such as burglary or rape. Detective Brown knew from his thirty-some years of experience that robbers more often burglarized houses they are familiar with and often chose houses close to where they live. Since the two adult victims lived within a half mile of one another, the detective figured that the murderer might live in one of the homes or townhouses that lined the golf course. The golf course community was separated from the rest of the town by Interstate 25, so the perpetrator would have to cross under the freeway if he didn’t live in the golf community.
In addition, each case documented a frenetic display of overkill towards each victim, which also suggested that the perpetrator was the same person. Few killers stab a victim with such force and frequency. And in the Patterson killings, the detective realized that the killer left behind blood, suggesting that he or she had been injured in the process of the crime. The detective took special note of this, because he realized that the perpetrator could potentially be seeking medical attention in the days to come. With that in mind, he notified all area hospitals and physicians to be on the lookout for a person who required emergency medical care.
When Detective Brown returned his attention towards his two case files, he couldn’t entirely concentrate on the material within. His mind was still focused on the more recent crime, and the likely injury that was sustained by the unknown perpetrator. While trying to shake the thought from his head, the dark cloud forming in the back of his mind started to take shape, and he suddenly recalled the specific incident which his mind was trying to bring back to his attention. The incident in question was one which he’d initially written off as peculiar, but nothing more, although he now appreciated it a bit more for its unusual timing. Two days following the Patterson crime, Detective Brown spotted a familiar face. He stopped his patrol car in Riverside Park, which was located adjacent to the North Platte River, to speak with Chandler Craig, a dark-haired twelve-year-old kid whom he had once coached in a local soccer program. Detective Brown knew that Chandler had been caught a few times for petty theft and graffiti, and was disappointed that his son’s old friend was turning into a defiant pre-teen. Detective Brown remembered being surprised at seeing the kid out so late, not only for his age, but also for the season. October 3rd in Douglas was generally brisk, but this late at night was outright cold – and dark. He’d approached the boy, asking him whether he was aware of how unsafe it was to be out alone that time of night, and whether he was aware of the recent crime over at the Patterson house.
Chandler was noticeably tense, but admitted that he was not only aware of what had happened, but actually seen the bodies coming out of the townhouse given that he lived just a few doors down the street from the Patterson residence.
During the conversation, Detective Brown noticed that Chandler had a dark colored sock wrapped around his right hand. When he’d asked Chandler about the curious wrap on his hand, the boy had responded roughly that his “son-of-a-bitch” step-dad had pissed him off, and he’d punched a golf cart windshield down at the club as a result. When the detective suggested that the kid get medical attention, Chandler shrugged, adding almost as an aside that he’d been soaking his hand in the river and that it was feeling better. The detective left, but was a bit bothered by the fact that a kid would admit to vandalism to a police officer, and even more bothered by the fact that he appeared to be avoiding medical attention for the obviously infected injuries to his hand. The kid’s mom was a nurse, so she surely would have recognized the severity of the injury had she seen it. Why would an injury to this twelve-year-old kid’s hand be something he’d want to hide from his own mom?
The disturbing connection between Chandler Craig and the Patterson perpetrator didn’t register with the detective immediately, partly due to the fact that Chandler was a good-natured kid overall, and the petty crimes he’d committed were not atypical of a soon-to-be teenager. As the detective drove around Douglas, however, he couldn’t help but think about the cut on the boy’s hand and the fact that the youth lived on the same street as both victims’ residences.
Detective Brown decided to stop by the country club Chandler said he’d vandalized to check on the condition of their golf carts. Despite some serious praying and a whole lot of second guessing throughout the drive to the club, the detective wasn’t entirely surprised when management informed him that no golf carts had been reported damaged within the past six months. The supervisor in charge was very amenable to the detective’s inquiry, and accompanied him towards the storage garage to complete a close inspection of every cart on hand. There simply were no carts anywhere on the country club premises with even a scratch to the windshield, let alone sufficient damage anywhere on it to cause the type of injury that the detective had observed to Chandler’s hand. As the detective began the slow walk back to his car located in the upper club parking lot, he received a call from the crime scene investigator who was still processing some of the evidence picked up at the Patterson home. The detective was informed of several recent findings, but stood ramrod straight when he heard that the perpetrator left a bloody sock imprint at the scene, along with his foot measurement of size fourteen.
Detective Brown called his partner to see if he would accompany him on the drop-by that he realized he would have to make that evening at the Craig residence. When the two officers arrived at Chandler’s home, they immediately asked for Chandler and his mom to come with them to the police station. Detective Brown was secretly hoping that the questioning would be routine and uneventful, doing nothing more than eliminating the lad from the radar screen of suspicions. Deep down in his gut, however, the detective realized that what lay before them would prove anything but uneventful. What Chandler ended up sharing with them proved to be vile and disgusting, and truly disturbing to say the least. He quickly learned that Chandler maintained several social networking sites, but most frequently updated his Twitter page with disturbing mental imagery. Past tweets to that account boasted about the sound of a knife slicing through human flesh and bone and were filled with gory details about torture and cruelty towards animals. He recounted the gleam and pleasure he had experienced watching a toad die after pitching it with a fork when he was five, and later incidents of killing snakes, mice, kittens, and a neighbor’s dog. Chandler’s mother appeared truly surprised to learn that her son had a webpage, let alone what the webpage itself contained, and admitted that she should be more diligent in supervising his computer use.
The detectives also learned that he had unusually large feet for his age – size fourteen.
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