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He really was trying to be helpful, thought Jake. Still, something was bothering him about the information the guy was handing them. It was almost like he was trying to be too helpful.

Jake berated himself for thinking poorly about Larkin, after all, with everything he had witnessed that night it was no wonder that he wanted the bastard caught. At least that was what he had told the detectives. He had even come in voluntarily to answer questions, they didn’t have to ask him to be there.

He let the other team members ask the questions while he quietly made notes. But when Larkin couldn’t, or wouldn’t, get specific enough about which bar he and the mysterious John had picked the girls up in, Jake voiced his dissatisfaction with an impatient sigh and a snort. And he got a disapproving look from his superior for that.

“I don’t remember, we went to several nightspots, I don’t remember which one we were in when we met Holly and Beth. All I know it was somewhere in Westchester.” He whined. Larkin fixed his watery eyes on Jake. “I am so sorry, I really wish I could remember.”

Jake excused himself from the room, he’d get the notes from the rest of the interview from one of the detectives.

Larkin had worked with a police artist and now Jake had a sketch of the perp. He also had a photo of Holly and an artist’s sketch based on a reconstruction of Beth’s face. He sent those pictures over the wire to the local Westchester police along with a list of the clubs Andrew had named. Now if only someone would recognize the missing man and give them some clue as to his whereabouts.

Meanwhile he had pulled several missing persons files on descriptions matching the two girls; sometimes the victim’s identity was an important lead as to who the murderer was. There were a few files that came close, but so far nothing had matched.  Jake was suspicious by nature, and in this business it was best to check out everything, so he ran any information he had on Andrew Larkin through the computers as well. The man came up squeaky clean.

It irritated Jake that Larkin didn’t have even a traffic violation on his record. Something about Larkin bothered Jake and he was hoping to find something out about him that would justify his dislike of the other man. He just couldn’t figure it out.

The forensics team had found evidence that the car found at the scene was the same vehicle that had carried the two girls and Larkin. There were inconclusive signs of a fourth person. Only Larkin’s prints were on the steering wheel but that only confirmed the story that he had related to them. The carpeted floor mats were filthy and it seemed impossible to get a clean copy of any shoe prints. The well-worn cloth-covered seats didn’t give up much evidence either.

The team was thorough about collecting any evidence from the car in the hopes that they might get some leads on the identities of the other three occupants. The tires were well worn but scrapings were made from the treads to see if there was any telltale substance that might lead them to a garage, industrial parking lot, construction site or anywhere that Larkin might not have remembered driving to that night.

The lab techs collected shoeprints and fingerprints from all the responding emergency service workers and had diligently weeded those out of the prints found in the cabin. It was time consuming but necessary. Still, although they were able to pick up another man’s shoe prints, they had nothing else to go on.

Curiously neither of the girls seemed to have carried a purse with them, at least they didn’t have one at the crime scene. Both female victims had been dressed in similar gauzy robes with no underwear or footwear. What should have been their normal street clothes were missing and Jake wondered if the absent man had taken those items with him as some sort of perverted souvenir. It wasn’t unusual for the police to find a victim’s personal effects among a killer’s treasured possessions, a trophy collection of sorts.

Without any hard evidence, the trail was already feeling cold. Jake was frustrated at the lack of clues. The crime was definitely one of the more heinous he had ever encountered, he rarely felt as jolted as he did now. He couldn’t explain the strange foreboding he had about this case or the frantic need to solve it immediately.

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Final Sin was an
Honorable Mention in the Fiction Category of the 
2010 NY Book Festival 

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Prologue

He put his hand on the bartender’s wrist as she moved the open bottle towards his glass to refill.

“That’s going to be it for me, I’ve got an early morning.” He removed his hand from her wrist and watched as she pulled her slender hand away, noting the bright red of her nails. He remembered seeing red nails like that before. It was the same red as the cherry that topped the ice cream sundae you took your girl out for on a hot summer night. It was the same red as the Ruby stone that sat in a high school ring.

It had been more than eight years since he had seen that high school ring. She had been wearing it on a gold chain around her neck as she kissed him and told him she’d see him later. He waved as she got into the car with her friends and they drove off. Even though it had been a girls’ outing, he was supposed to drive them that day. One of her friends was planning to move into the dorm at the university in Syracuse later that summer and they all had wanted to help her make purchases for her room. But the restaurant manager had a last minute opening and he was grabbing all the work he could. So he stayed behind. He stayed behind and worked so they would be a little bit closer to being able to afford getting married.

His high school ring was never supposed to replace her engagement ring. He had been planning on buying one. But they wanted to move the wedding date up. They needed the money so buying the diamond was put on hold. Tom was still working the busboy job that had carried him through his senior year of high school. He had applications in at lots of other places for full time jobs, but the summer wasn’t the best time to get hired. His dad had wanted him to go on to college, but college wasn’t in his plans. Not anymore. He proposed to Joyce on their high school graduation day.

Joyce’s parents tried to convince them each to go to the local community college. They kept telling them that a two year engagement wasn’t all that long after all. Tom and Joyce knew they couldn’t wait the two years. So he worked as many hours as he could as a busboy. He managed to pick up a few extra hours pumping gas at the local station also. Joyce babysat and she was going to start selling plastic kitchen containers to all the area housewives. She wasn’t planning to buy anything that day. She was just going along for the ride. She was just going to enjoy the day with her girlfriends. He wanted her to have fun.

He was dead on his feet after the shift at the restaurant and he just wanted to go home and watch TV. His mom called him before he left work. His fifteen-year old cousin had run away again, something she did an average of twice a week since coming to live with them when she was twelve. Tom always knew where to find her and he picked her up on his way home that night. They were sitting in his car while he once again lectured her about her behavior when the police car pulled up. Tom knew that his world was about to end when he saw Joyce’s father get out of the back seat.

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He entered the autopsy suite passing the heavy wooden sign next to the door. It said, “Hic locus est ubi mors gaudet succurrere vitae”. Once before when Jake had been here, he had asked for a translation of the Latin words and was told, “This is the place where death rejoices to teach those who live.” He was anxious to learn and he hoped Holly would be anxious to teach. He had high hopes that they could learn something, anything that would lead them to the murderer. Two men were waiting for him as he donned a surgical gown and protective eyewear.

Holly’s body was already lying on the shiny, aluminum dissection table. The table, a little more than waist high, was edged with an aluminum channel to allow blood and fluids to drain away from the body. The room was uncluttered and glaringly bright. It was a stark reminder of the lifelessness of the cadavers stored in the drawers along the wall. Soft music played from a radio on the counter in contrast to the harsh reality of the body lying motionless on the sterile looking table. Jake was always impressed with the clean up after an autopsy, the table always looked totally fresh and unused in time for the next patient. And there was always a next patient to fill the spot. That supply never seemed to end.

Dr. Ramos, the pathologist in charge of the lab, explained that one of his residents had already taken care of Beth, the charred corpse, early in the morning. He would complete his report and get it to Jake as promptly as possible. The first-year-resident assigned to assist Ramos with this autopsy was looking ever so proper in his starched white lab coat and was nervously readying a number of quart-sized jars for organ tissue samples to be sent to the lab for toxicology tests.

The doctor donned clean gloves before adjusting his goggles. “Pretty messy scene last night, huh?” Ramos spoke with ease, almost as if he was chatting with a familiar friend over a card game. Well into his sixties, the study of body parts and what they could tell you about how a person lived and died had always fascinated the doctor. He was well accomplished in his field and his word was highly respected in all the circles of investigation and trial. The doctor lived by the words on the door and truly believed that the dead rejoiced in communicating with him.

Although it was Ramos’ responsibility as Medical Examiner to pen all final autopsy reports, in recent years he had often allowed younger pathologists and first and second year residents to perform the more mundane procedures. He was personally overseeing this autopsy on Holly as a favor to Jake and to help speed along the findings and bring closure to his investigation. Dr. Ramos had the utmost respect for Jake Carlson, he had always been a man of his word who always sought the truth and justice for the victims. Ramos also got a special kick out of Jake’s interest in the autopsies and his own regard for listening to what the dead had to say.

It was a shame, mused Ramos that Jake hadn’t chosen medicine as his career, but then again, he was very good at what he did. If he weren’t so good, he never would have made it to the rank of Commander, especially as early as he did. Carson had certainly been a few years younger than his two most recent predecessors had been when they earned their titles. In the good doctor’s opinion, if that old goat sitting in the Chief’s chair ever decided to retire, Jacob Carson would probably find himself heading up his department.

Jake sighed. “Yeah. Unfortunately, with all the people who responded, all the trampling through the place, I can’t shake the gut feeling that we missed something.”

A crime scene should remain undisturbed, victim’s bodies should remain where they’re found, there shouldn’t be any bloody footprints belonging to rescuers. While so many of the EMS and fire personnel were careful not to disturb any more of the scene than they needed to, it had been impossible to maintain the complete integrity of the scene. Too many shoeprints to get anything clean, too many clothing fibers left by responding police and rescue workers, and the fire department destroyed evidence as it put out the fire.

It made Jake feel more than a little guilty and certainly sinister that he would have preferred no survivors that had to be removed from the cabin. Of course he wanted survivors, he corrected his thoughts silently, he just wished they had all been outside of the cabin when they were found. “Now we’ll have to waste time getting shoeprints and all from everyone who was there.”

“I’ve already begun my external examination. We’ve recorded the height and weight, her clothing and the general appearance.” The girl had been dressed in a torn, gauzy white shroud similar in shape to a judge’s robe, or graduation gown, and it had emphasized her youth.

The gray-haired doctor motioned that he was once again turning on the tape recorder to dictate his findings. “We have multiple lacerations and avulsions of both breasts, while there was profuse bleeding, no arteries or veins were compromised. This appears to be a non-fatal injury.  There are also severe contusions and rope burns circling both wrists and ankles, these appear to be consistent with a struggle. There was no evidence of tissue samples under the victim’s nails. Some light bruising around the mouth and laterally on both cheeks are in conformity with the type of gag the police report described.”

“The pattern of the lacerations and the tearing of the breasts seem to have been done with a common variety garden tool. We are comparing the markings to some of the hand tools found at the scene.” The abandoned tool shed was located at the perimeter of an old farm that had been sold to a developer for new housing. Like most of the suburbs, active farms and open land was giving way to an increased population.

Dr. Ramos removed the thin white sheet that had covered the young girl’s body. “I noted the absence of any body hair on the trunk, including the pubic area. She seems to have been freshly shaved. There also appears to have been vaginal bleeding.” He gently inserted a speculum into the cadaver’s vagina and adjusted the light behind him. Jake was impressed with the respect Dr. Ramos showed in his handling of the young victim’s remains.

“There appears to be several lacerations and contusions along the inner membranes. My impression is that a hard object penetrated the victim, possibly something jagged. I am going to swab the vaginal canal for any evidence of fluids.” If any semen was present, then the DNA would be run through the computers.

Remembering that Julie had told him about Andrew Larkin telling her he had sex with Holly, Jake made a mental note to have Larkin called in for a DNA sample for comparison. He watched as several swabs were bagged and labeled for the lab. He spotted a small amount of a white chalky substance on the side of Holly’s knee. “Doc, what’s this?” Jake pointed making sure not to touch and contaminate the body.

“I don’t know.” Ramos walked around the table to Jake’s side. “Only one way to find out.”  The doctor scraped the white substance with a cotton swab and dropped it into another plastic specimen bag to send to the lab.

Dr. Ramos finished his examination of the outer body. Then he picked up a shiny knife and cut a large Y-shaped incision into the girl’s chest with a sharp, long blade and separated the fractured ribs that were not uncommon after CPR compressions. Since dead people didn’t bleed, there was only minimal oozing along the incision.

After cutting the cartilage that held the remaining ribs to the sternum, Ramos folded back the skin to expose Holly’s heart and lungs. “This girl was a heavy smoker.” He directed Jake’s attention to the less than pink lung tissue he had just sliced into. “Her heart is somewhat enlarged and shows some signs of cardiomyopathy,” he looked up at Jake to explain, “that’s a muscle weakness.”

“After the heart is weighed, I’m going to have some tissue samples sent to histology. Since the police report indicated that there had been cocaine use reported, I’ll ask them to look for some amounts of Benzoylecgonine in her body.” Benzoylecgonine was a telltale and lasting ingredient found in cocaine, an element that sometimes could be found up to a few weeks after its use in a person’s bladder.

The examination continued with an ongoing litany for the tape recorder. Ramos indicated that, since the girl’s stomach was nearly empty, death had been several hours following her last meal, possibly a full day or more. The information bothered Jake, but he wasn’t sure how important it was or not. Larkin had indicated meeting the girls in a bar, Jake figured they’d have ingested at least drinks, pretzels or popcorn. If she had been a frequent cocaine user, that could explain why she hadn’t eaten recently.

“She appears to have a small needle puncture in her antecubital fossa,” the doctor pointed towards the crook of the girl’s right elbow. “But there are no track marks or other visible punctures to suggest any illicit needle drug use.”

A little bit more than two hours after Jake had entered the room Dr. Ramos and the resident had returned the bulk of the organs to Holly’s body cavity and the resident was busy sewing up the Y-incision. Various samples of tissue were packaged and on their way to the lab for study. “Based on my initial examination, the apparent cause of death was cardiac arrest. Contributing factors would include an enlarged and weakened heart and severe blood loss.”

Dr. Ramos let the resident finish sewing the cadaver closed and preparing the body for release while he went to wash up. “So Jake, are you up joining me for lunch?

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It was 1985 and the little town I loved in was horrified at the murder that captured newspaper headlines. The site of the murder was just a few minutes from my home.

Using my EMT skills, I used to work in the infirmary of a local summer day camp in those years. Every day, as I drove to work, I went past the driveway leading to the smokehouse where the victim’s body had been burned beyond recognition. The police caught the murderer and the trial replaced the actual murder headlines.

But each time I passed the mailbox at the end of the crime scene driveway I was filled with an unease, there were nights when the horror at what had occurred there just wouldn’t leave my mind and I would lay awake staring at the ceiling.

When I wrote Final Sin I used a mental image of the crime scene that had haunted my town and I developed a different crime, a crime that included a body that had been set on fire. But that is where the similarity ended…

… Deputy Sheriff Commander Jake Carson has his hands full with the investigation of a brutal multiple homicide, a troubled son and a vindictive ex-wife when he meets young, free-spirited paramedic Julie Jennings. He is immediately drawn to her and finds himself unexpectedly falling in love. Julie finds herself just as drawn to him. When Julie becomes the subject of an obsession, it puts both of their lives in extreme danger… Romance…danger…adventure…suspense…another great Chelle Cordero novel sure to grab readers from many genre!

Final Sin was an Honorable Mention in the
Fiction Category of the 
2010 NY Book Festival 

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Final Sin is available in Print, E-book & Audio

Now Available in Spanish and German translations!

Book Discussion Packet

JUST BROWSING THE INTERNET AND FOUND A FEW TERRIFIC QUOTES TO SHARE

 

“True friendship is when you walk into their house and your WiFi connects automatically.” ~ Author Unknown

~~~~~

“Every house where love abides
And friendship is a guest,
Is surely home, and home sweet home
For there the heart can rest.”
~ Henry Van Dyke

~~~~~

“People who laugh actually live longer than those who don’t laugh. Few persons realize that health actually varies according to the amount of laughter.” ~ James J. Walsh

~~~~~

“To have once been a criminal is no disgrace. To remain a criminal is the disgrace” ~ Malcolm X

~~~~~

“But,instead of what our imagination makes us suppose and which we worthless try to discover,life gives us something that we could hardly imagine.” ~ Marcel Proust

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