Excerpt “Little Girls Sleeping”
The oversized tires obliterated the rural roadway before the large truck came to an abrupt stop. The driver stalled the engine. Dust rose in a curious flowering cloud, swirling in front of the vehicle’s hood and creeping toward the back of the camper shell. When the surrounding vicinity finally cleared, a dense forest landscape emerged.
The truck overlooked the sheer cliff and rugged scenery that had become a permanent roadblock. The usual silence of the deserted region was interrupted by the incessant and rhythmic sound of a cooling engine.
Tick… Tick… Tick…
The vehicle remained parked. No one moved inside the cab or got out. The truck stayed immobile as if an unlikely statue in the vast wilderness—a distinct contrast between nature and manufactured steel.
The truck sat at the ideal vantage spot, which was both mesmerizing and terrifying for any spectator; but still the occupant chose to wait. The intense high beams pierced ahead into the picturesque hills, leaving a hazy view of the area above the massed trees.
When the driver’s door finally opened, a man stepped out, his steel-toed leather work boots hitting the dirt. They were well-worn, reflecting the many miles he had walked and the many hours he had labored. Swiftly the door shut as the man, medium build and wearing only a plain dark T-shirt, walked to the back of the truck and, with a loud bang, released the lift gate. He moved with purpose and with a calm assertiveness, as if he had performed this particular task many times before. His weathered hands, calloused from years of working with heavy tools and machinery without the protection of leather gloves, had a certain agility and speed.
He grasped two well-used shovels, a large arching pick, and a bulky utility garbage bag. As he tossed the bag onto the ground, the top burst open and several medium-sized teddy bears spilled out. Their smiling faces accentuated the brightly colored ribbons tied around their necks, contrasting with the muted shades of their surroundings.
The man pushed the floppy bag aside with the toe of his boot. He worked in quiet solitude, no humming, no whistling, and no talk.
He flipped on the flashlight fixed to his baseball cap. Straight ahead and slightly arced, the large beam illuminated his path while he strode steadily toward a particular wooded area.
The surrounding thickets and trees remained still without any wind to rustle the leaves. The only audible sound was the man’s quick footsteps—never with any hesitation. He walked with the gait of a young man, despite his stature of someone older.
He hesitated as if he had forgotten something, standing motionless with his arms down at his sides and his head hung forward as he shone the bright light at the ground and the tops of his boots. He still held firmly to the tools. He mumbled a few inaudible sentences of a memorized prayer, which sounded more like a warning than a passage from the Bible, then he raised his head and continued to walk into the dense forest.
Dropping his tools, he carefully pushed a pine branch aside and secured it with a worn piece of rope that had been left for the purpose. An opening was exposed—a tunnel barely large enough for a man to enter.
He grabbed his digging tools once again and proceeded. The flashlight on the front of his cap brightened the passageway as it veered to the right. He followed, only ducking his head twice before the path opened to an area with several boulders sticking out of the cliff. Clusters of unusual rock shapes, some sharp, some rounded, made the terrain appear more like a movie set or backdrop.
A narrow dirt path of crude, sloping man-made steps dropped fifteen feet to a landing jutting out from the rock formation. A small yellow flag was stuck into the earth, marking a spot. A slight evening breeze picked up, causing the flag to flutter.
The man balanced the shovels and pick against the hillside and pulled a hunting knife from a sheath attached to his belt. Pressing the bone handle tight against his palm, he drew the blade through the packed dirt to mark a rectangular pattern on the ground.
He stared intently at the soil, then retrieved the pick, gripping it tight, and swung it hard against the dry, heavily compacted earth. It dented the surface, spewing chips of dirt in every direction. A few small rocks buried in the soil since the beginning of time hampered his progress, but after several more arced swings, the ground began to crumble, exposing the fresh earth.
The heavy pick was exchanged for one of the shovels. Soon there was a small pile of California soil, comprised of sand, silt, clay, and small rock. The repeated movements of dig, scoop, and deposit continued for more than forty-five minutes at a brisk pace. The hard work of manual labor didn’t deter him. It only made him more determined to create a work of genius—his ultimate masterpiece.
At last he stepped back and admired his handiwork, perspiring heavily through his shirt from the effort. Exhilaration filled his body, keeping his muscles flexed and his heart pumping hard. He leaned against the shovel, a smile forming on his lips as he waited for his pulse to return to normal, and marveled at the unmistakable outline of a freshly dug grave.
Welcome, Jennifer! Is your new crime thriller based on a true story and if not how did you come up with the idea?
Jennifer: Little Girls Sleeping is not based on a true story; however, there are definite true-like aspects to the novel. The main character, Katie Scott, comes home from Afghanistan where she had served two tours as an Army K9 handler. She had taken time off from her current position as a police patrol officer to serve her country. After arriving home, her uncle wanted to keep her busy until she figured out what she wanted to do and to settle back into civilian life. And her uncle just happens to be the sheriff, so Katie helps out with administrative duties at the department where she stumbles across a cold case of an eight year old girl—Chelsea Compton—who had disappeared without a trace four years earlier. This one case ultimately alters Katie’s path as it reminds her of a close childhood friend that disappeared from camp. This case sets her on a wild journey of investigation and an encounter with a killer that she’ll never forget.
Can you brief us on who the main characters are?
Jennifer: Detective Katie Scott is a determined investigator working for the local sheriff’s department trying to balance her previous military life with being back home again. Through some political interventions, her uncle, Sheriff Scott, manages to cut through some red tape and bring home her partner, Cisco, an eighty pound black German shepherd.
Katie’s homecoming wouldn’t be complete without running into her long-time childhood friend Chad Ferguson, a local firefighter. Sparks begin to fly between the two which in turn causes some interesting complications.
Sheriff Wayne Scott, the town sheriff and Katie’s uncle, runs the police department in town with integrity and honesty. When it becomes known that a serial killer is on the loose and preying upon local little girls, he must make some decisions that will forever change everything at the department and ultimately divides the town.
Deputy Sean McGaven is a deputy sheriff that has been assigned to work with Katie on the investigation. It proves to be a bumpy and often strained relationship between the two.
A clever and cunning killer identifies himself as someone who wants to protect young, innocent girls from the evils of the world. He would rather have those little girls sleep peacefully forever than be exposed to many of the unspeakable things happening in society.
You have a background in forensics which I know must have come in handy! Can you tell us about that?
Jennifer: Yes, I love forensics and it does help with the stories I write whether it’s physical or psychological evidence. Many years back, I experienced a text book psychopath that moved in next door to me, threatening to kill me repeatedly, and let’s just say many of my experiences with him are just as scary as anything you’re going to read in a novel. This experience exposed me first hand to this type of person and from it I went back to school and obtained my degrees in forensics and criminology. I’ve never looked back or questioned if this was what I wanted to do. I enjoy learning about new forensic technologies whenever I can. With every book I write, I love to incorporate forensics and take readers on an adventure into the criminal mind.
In your studies of the criminal mind, what did you find the most fascinating?
Jennifer: As a criminologist, I find it fascinating what makes someone commit a specific crime while someone else, thinking about committing the same crime, doesn’t take that extra step into criminality. There are definite lines crossed as well as the lack of impulse control. Although not always the case, I find it most interesting when someone who is defined as a serial killer can live a “normal” life while searching, abducting, and killing victims. Many researchers and detectives try to find the “links” to figure out what makes a serial killer tick, when in fact, there are so many aspects, but in the end every case needs to be sorted through individually. There are no shortcuts or a recipe for a serial killer—each case is unique.
While writing your book, did you find yourself thinking about it during off times when you weren’t writing?
Jennifer: Absolutely! Writing serial killer thrillers can be intense, so I try to balance my day with healthy breaks. No matter how hard I try to take that relaxing walk at the beach I find my mind wandering back to the book. Maybe I’m thinking about the ending or tweaking a scene. Whatever it may be, when I’m in the middle of writing a book, it’s always on my mind.
What is next for you, Jennifer?
Jennifer: Little Girls Sleeping is the first book in the Detective Katie Scott series. There are two more books scheduled at this point. I’ve just finished the second installment and I’m outlining the third. I’m very excited! It has been loads of fun spending time with this character and all her adventures.
I do have two other series, the Emily Stone Thrillers and Chip Palmer Forensic Mysteries I’m currently outlining more books to come