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VIOLENT VISIONS OF MURDER
Brianna Taylor tries to solve a mystery involving her brother’s dead twin, whose family says he is not their blood child, but was switched at birth. Her investigation draws her into the lives of Preston Marlowe and his two brothers, all under suspicion of murder. After falling in love with Preston she sets out to disprove Detective Sherman’s damaging evidence that could send Preston to prison. With their relationship under severe pressure, only their love binds them together.
The sequel to Violent Visions of Murder is Under Suspicion (which was inspired by an actual murder in my hometown).
When Brianna accidentally bumps into a risqué looking young man in the grocery store, the visions blasted through her brain like explosives powerful enough to make her black out and crumple to the floor. The event would prompt the announcement of Oakwood’s first case of murder in years.
As soon as she arrived home that day from the grocery store, she drew the picture while the man’s face was still fresh in her memory. She folded it, stuffed it into an envelope, along with an accusatory note about the man with enough detail to give an investigator worthwhile leads to follow. Then she mailed it to the Sheriff’s Department.
Brianna had no idea they would be able to trace her anonymous letter; however, soon after the letter arrived at its destination, two sheriffs’ investigators came knocking on her door.
The eldest showed his badge and introduced himself as Chief Investigator Tom Harrison, then stepped aside.
The youngest didn’t look much older than Brianna was, and wore a suit that must have been fresh from the cleaners because the trousers held their crease without the least wrinkle. He had black hair and was tall and slender, which reminded Brianna a little of her brother Jody. He was suave and handsome, and his face was expressively authoritative as he showed Brianna his identification. He announced his name as Investigator David Sherman while extending his right hand.
Brianna ignored his outstretched hand, learning a long time ago that grasping someone’s hand was the worst thing she could do if she wanted to keep her cool and maintain self-control.
Seeing she wasn’t going to take his hand, he pulled it back, and put his foot in the door in case Brianna decided to try to slam it shut.
“What do you want Investigator Sherman?” Brianna asked, directing her statement to him, since Tom Harrison appeared to be just an observer. Brianna blocked the door with her body when Sherman looked ready to walk over or around her.
She suspected this was about the letter she had mailed, although she couldn’t figure out how they traced it to her. Discussing its contents was the last thing she wanted to do. If her psychic abilities became public, her life would become a circus.
Sherman reached inside an inner jacket pocket and extracted a letter Brianna recognized instantly. She held a pose of indifference, trying to pretend she never saw the letter before.
“Are you familiar with this letter?” he asked. Before she could answer, he sounded off. “Don’t deny it. We’ve put considerable time in tracing it back to this address. I know you sent the letter.”
The silent partner shifted his feet and looked ill at ease. He knew David had transferred recently from a big city police department where he was a detective dealing with street hoodlums, gangsters and criminals of every caliber. It was a tough job and easily produced calloused detectives; however, he would soon learn this wasn’t the big city, and being a tough guy wouldn’t work so well with most Oakwood people who lived decent lives with nothing to fear from the law.
Brianna sniffed defensively. If he wanted answers, he wasn’t taking the right approach with her. “Is my name on the letter?” she snapped, offended by such an aggressive manner.
“Then I didn’t write it,” she asserted boldly, her chin tilted upward with daring.
He continued as if she hadn’t spoken. “…but the mail carrier saw the return address was left off, so she jotted your address on the envelope.”
“Isn’t there a law against tampering with someone’s mail? What if someone else put it in my box to be mailed?” she demanded querulously.
“But we know no one else did, don’t we?” he mimicked with a smirk. “Anyway, with the Anthrax scares we’ve had, the postal department likes to know the letter sender’s name, so that’s why the mail carrier jotted your address on it. She could have refused to accept it.”
Brianna’s heart rate increased with rising defenses. At that moment, her best defense was an offense. “What difference does it make who sent it? The idea was for the Sheriff’s Department to do their job and investigate the man who killed his best friend, rather than wasting time investigating the source of a letter.”
Frowning, he pushed past her and stepped inside. His silent partner followed up the rear. The front door opened directly into the living room, and he moved over to stand in front of a stuffed chair. The silent partner stood by the door, his arms wrapped across his chest and his legs slightly parted, looking a little like a genie who just floated out of his bottle. All he needed was a turban to complete the effect.
“May I?” Investigator Sherman asked, indicating the chair.
“By all means make your self comfortable,” Brianna retorted ungraciously.
Despite the intended insult, Sherman smiled. “Miss Taylor, I’m not here to waste your time or mine, so if you’ll just answer a few questions I can let you go back to what you were doing.”
Brianna glanced through the wide doorway to the dining table where her computer set. The article she was working on was nearly finished and ready for submitting to the magazine where she sold her seasonal articles about the river.
Wanting to get the interview over with, she took a seat on the sofa, all the while feeling anxiety take over. She had to fight for control to keep from squirming in her seat. She was picking up vibes from Investigator Sherman, a tough guy who liked to use tough tactics to get what he wanted.
Brianna was nervous with good reason. If word got out how she knew who murdered that man described in her letter she feared the consequences could be treacherous. People probably wouldn’t believe her, and would likely make her the laughing stock of everyone who knew her. On the other hand, curiosity seekers could invade her privacy and make her life miserable.
Investigator Sherman might not be there to waste her time, but he was doing just that, Brianna decided, glancing toward her computer and the folder of work from a local ad agency that had to be finished before Wednesday. Her employer put out a weekly publication composed of free advertising to all except commercial enterprises, and made their money through publication sales. The more free ads they printed, the more papers they sold. Her job was to organize the ads under specific categories, type them on the agency template and submit them in time for the next publication.
Brianna submitted an application for the job after coming home from college, and the owner hired her. After proving capability of doing her job well, the management allowed her to work at home. That gave her two pluses: she wouldn’t be working in an emotional environment of people, and it would enable her to work on her own time-schedule to allow more time for the writing of articles she sold to magazines.
She sent Investigator Sherman a defensive look. “Ask your questions, sir. I would like to get back to what I was doing.”
“David will do, if you don’t mind. Is your name Brianna Taylor.”
“Yes, sir, my name is Brianna Taylor,” she said in a monotone, except for stressing sir.
“The name is David. Did you write this letter, Brianna?”
“The name is Miss Taylor,” she corrected. “What if I say I didn’t write the letter?” She could feel color fluctuating in her cheeks.
“I can charge you with obstruction of justice if you’re lying.”
“Okay, so what if I say I wrote the letter, sir?”
“Then you have a whole lot of explaining to do, Brianna.”
“The letter explains everything clearly, I believe. There is nothing to add that you don’t already have. I even drew you a picture.”
He stared at her, sizing her up. “Where do you know this man from?”
“I bumped into him in the grocery store,” she said, her cheeks turning redder from knowing how stupid it must sound. She didn’t want to tell him she was psychic, and trying to answer factual questions with non-factual answers made her sound like a fool, or an idiot, or both.
“I see,” he said questionably, his chin slightly tilted downward while he raised his brows the way some people did when they looked over the top of reading glasses. He wasn’t wearing glasses, however. His attitude mirrored comical doubt.
“You can check it out if you like. I fainted, and the store manager had to come running with smelling salts.”
A cynical grin spread on Investigator Sherman’s face as his head moved slowly from side to side. He glanced toward his partner with an expression that said the woman’s crazy.
Harrison kept a frozen look locked on his features and maintained his genie position.
“Let’s see if I understand you; you bumped into this man in the grocery store, fainted and was revived, then you came home and drew the man’s picture and wrote this letter and mailed it. Does that about describe the situation?”
The expression on his face spoke volumes of what he was thinking, and none of it was good. Brianna could see he thought she was a fruitcake.
“Mam, if you don’t know him, how is it you were able to put this information together in this letter you mailed to the Sheriff’s Department?”
“Why can’t you just take my word for it?” she snapped derisively, her patience stretched to breaking.
He stood up and paced the floor four steps one way then returned to where he started. He stared at her for a good minute, and then said, “Brianna, do you live here alone?”
His implication that she was crazy was so clear that it cut to the quick of Brianna’s temper immediately. She jumped to her feet. “Sir, only people whom I like call me Brianna, and I don’t like you. It is none of your business whether I live alone or not.”
He sat back down and leaned back into the chair with a sigh. “Miss Taylor,” he said sharply, “we can do this here, or you can come to the station with me. Take your choice.”
“I’ve told you all I know, but if it pleases you, please do continue asking your questions. I have answered them thus far—or weren’t you paying attention?” She remained standing.
He ignored her criticism. “If you don’t know the man, how can you justify saying that he killed someone?”
“The man who was killed is called Henry Holmes. I read in the paper he was pulled from the river with multiple jagged cuts and equally jagged stab wounds.”
“Is that where you got the idea to write your letter?”
Brianna was incensed. “Look, I gave you enough details of what happened that you should have traced the murderer right to his place of residence. I even told you about the bloodstains, which you’ll find there in the kitchen on the table, walls and floor. I’m sure you’ll also find the broken beer bottle there that killed him, if the killer hasn’t gotten rid of the evidence; but I doubt he has because he’s not much into housekeeping. He was drunk, and accused his friend of cheating at cards when he kept losing—and one last thing, the letter is dated before they pulled the man from the river. What more can I tell you?”
“You can tell me how you know all this? Can you think of a reason why I shouldn’t suspect you of having something to do with Henry Holmes’ death?”
Brianna glared at him. “Go to hell, Mr. Sherman. Any idiot should know I wouldn’t risk exposure by sending a letter if I had something to do with the man’s murder. I’m no authority on law enforcement, but perhaps you might benefit with some more training in PR skills and investigative tactics.” Her hands were on her hips and her legs spread slightly apart, and more upset than she could ever recall being previously, she shot flying daggers at him with her look.
Tom Harrison, the silent partner, shifted from one foot to the other, noticeably perturbed at Sherman’s forcefulness with a young woman who was the nearest thing they had to a witness in a brutal murder. As chief investigator with the Department, he was working the case with Sherman, giving him a chance to become familiar with department protocol and technique. He decided he didn’t like Sherman’s technique much.
Sherman didn’t like anyone telling him to go to hell, and was trying to control himself, but he wasn’t doing a good job of it as he came out of his chair and took a step toward Brianna.
Brianna backed away from him, wanting space between them. She didn’t have to ask him what he was thinking. He was all ready putting two-and-two together, although he was having a hard time assembling it as anything other than fiction or surrealism.
“What do you do for a living, Miss Taylor?”
“That question is personal and has nothing at all to do with your investigation.”
“Then let me guess. Are you one of those psychic people who read minds?”
“Is that a professional question or a personal one?” Brianna asked acidly.
“Look, Miss Taylor, I’m trying to conduct an investigation here, and you seem intent on screwing it up.”
“Wrong, sir! You seem intent on screwing it up. You ask questions that have nothing to do with your investigation, you like to play the tough guy, and you’re extremely argumentative.” She glanced over at the silent-one. “Perhaps your partner needs to ask the questions.”
The silent-one, Investigator Harrison, an icon with the department for the past twenty years, suddenly shifted his weight. He didn’t like the damn job of shadowing these new guys, supposedly training them. Sherman wasn’t a rookie since his previous experience on the police force earned him an impressive referral and resume. He was a certified Florida officer recently transferred to the sheriff’s investigative team, and assigned the Henry Holmes case as his first assignment. Harrison’s job was to observe, take notes and serve as a backup. He was having trouble remaining passive.
Sherman’s face turned crimson at Brianna’s statement, the blood rising up from his neck and throat into his face. He felt the heat of it. The tiny curl at the corner of his lips reflected his mood. He was angry as hell.
“Sit down!” he ordered, motioning toward the sofa where Brianna sat earlier.
She glanced sharply at him, afraid that if she angered him too much, he could drag her in on a trumped up charge that wouldn’t hold ice water, but would make things uncomfortable enough that she wanted to avoid it. “Okay, you don’t have to yell,” she replied and fell heavily on the soft cushion.
Brianna used every tactic she could think of to divert the questions away from her visionary giftedness.
“Miss Taylor, I need you to tell me exactly how you discovered the information you’ve written in this letter about Henry Holmes’ murder.”
She hedged. “It was just woman’s intuition. I felt something when I bumped into him at the grocery store.”
“And you expect me to charge the man with murder based on your woman’s intuition?” he asked with a twisted grin resembling a sneer.
“No, sir, I do not. I expect you to go investigate what I’ve told you, find some evidence, and then charge him.”
His frustration was obvious when his face turned red again.
Harrison, the silent one, stepped forward. “Miss Taylor, a man has been murdered, and your letter is the first piece of evidence we’ve had. If you can tell us anything at all that will help us find the man’s murderer, then that is all we’re asking.”
“Mr. Harrison, I can only tell you what I’ve all ready said in the letter. I have no other information for you,” she said, throwing out her hands despairingly and shrugging her shoulders.
“That’s not entirely so, ma’am. You had to gain the information from some source. That is what we need to know. How did you learn about the information you put in your letter?”
“Woman’s intuition,” she said sharply, flinging out her hands and arms in another exasperated shrug.
“A few times during my career when leads on a case ran cold, we’ve requested the help of psychics with some fairly good results. Are you suggesting that you gained this information through psychic abilities?”
Brianna’s face tensed, and she pursed her lips, feeling heat flood her face. She scratched an unknown itch on her neck, buying time. “If I was a psychic—and I’m not saying that I am—do you think I would admit it to you. If word got around to that effect my life would never be the same again.”
Brianna glanced at Sherman whose skepticism and amusement shrouded his face. “Look at your partner,” she said to Harrison. “He’s laughing at the thought of such a thing. Psychic abilities aren’t something most people are ready to believe. Can you imagine the ridicule I would have to endure from disbelieving people like him? Even worse, if someone did believe I was psychic, curiosity seekers would never leave me alone again. I’m not a palm reader, Mr. Harrison, and I sure don’t want people knocking on my door with their palm sticking out.”
Harrison nodded his head. He understood her concern. Lots was written about psychics lately, and some television networks ran stories about psychics helping to solve crimes, but she was right—most people weren’t ready to believe anyone had the capability to envision facts and details of a crime. If people couldn’t think it, feel it, or do it themselves, they didn’t believe it.
“Miss Taylor, I understand what you’re saying,” Harrison said agreeably, “and for the time being we’re willing to let it go at that. After we investigate the details in your letter, however, if our investigation is inconclusive we’ll be back and expect you to give us some much better answers than you have today.” It was a threat of sorts, but at least he let Brianna off the hook for the time being.
As it turned out, the Sherriff’s Department was able to make a strong case against the murderer. When he knew he was cornered, he made a deal with the district attorney, confessing the whole story about the killing, which miraculously fit the details almost precisely to those in Brianna’s letter.
Investigator David Sherman, with egg on his face, made a special trip out to see Brianna and tell her the news. He also apologized for his earlier attitude during his questioning of her, and admitted the Holmes murder was his first case after transferring to the Sheriff’s Department from his previous job on the police force. As a token of friendship, and for the pleasure of calling her Brianna rather than Miss Taylor, he invited her out for dinner.