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By Jennifer Chase
On the floor, amongst the piles of freshly pressed laundry, lay the woman’s lifeless body, her pale yellow nightdress soaked in blood.
“I didn’t do it…” came a whisper from the corner of the room.
Detective Katie Scott has never seen two people more in love than her aunt and uncle as they danced on the decking the night of their wedding anniversary party. But the next morning, when Katie finds her aunt’s body sprawled across the floor, that perfect image is shattered forever.
All fingers point to Katie’s uncle, Pine Valley’s beloved sheriff and protector – after all, his prints are all over the antique knife found at the scene. Grieving, but certain of her uncle’s innocence, Katie is consigned to the cold case division after she’s discovered searching the house for clues. Does someone want to keep her as far away from this investigation as possible?
Ignoring warnings from her team, Katie digs into her uncle’s old case files and discovers photographs of the body of a young girl found tied to a tree after a hike in search of a rare flower. Her body is covered with the same unusual lacerations her aunt suffered. Katie knows it can’t be a coincidence, but every lead she follows takes her to a dead end.
Moments before the sheriff is arrested, Katie realizes that a single piece of thread she found at the crime scene could be the missing link that will stitch old crimes to new. But how can she prove her uncle’s innocence without throwing herself directly into the line of fire? She doesn’t have a choice, he’s the only family she has left…
PRAISE FOR FLOWERS ON HER GRAVE:
Her Last Whisper is a work of crime and detective fiction penned
by author Jennifer Chase. Written as the second book in the Detective
Katie Scott series, this action-packed thriller sees the return of our
anxiety-ridden heroine as she battles both her PTSD and a whole new
mystery. When local nurse Amanda Payton is found dead, Katie uncovers a
trail leading back to a case that was overlooked some weeks ago. And
when a new young woman also fails to arrive at work and is linked to
Amanda, Katie soon realizes that she’s uncovering a whole pattern of
victims she must endeavor to save.
Gripping, emotive and highly realistic, this is a fantastic and in-depth crime mystery for fans to devour. Katie is a capable heroine, ex-military with lots of sharp mental connections made and a strong stomach, but she also has real-life struggles that many ex-military personnel have and it makes her really endearing as a central figure to investigate the mystery. Author Jennifer Chase doesn’t spoon-feed information either but lets it weave naturally into the descriptions and dialogue, allowing us as readers to piece the clues together with Katie in what is definitely a well thought out plot. The conclusions are exciting but also satisfying when all loose ends are tied up, though it makes for a harrowing journey along the way. Overall, Her Last Whisper is a fantastic and thrilling crime read which is sure to please fans of the genre for its depth and development.
— K.C. Finn for Readers’ Favorite
Amazon → https://amzn.to/2IOsQQW
PROLOGUEStepping from the main hiking trail, the park ranger took a moment in the shade to catch his breath and stomp the caked dirt from his hiking boots before beginning his search of the camping ground. Just as he was finishing the last dregs of his water, the static from his walkie-talkie interrupted the quiet of the forest around him.
“Rob, are you there yet? Over.”
Pressing the button, he replied. “Just got here. Over.”
“See anything? Over.”
Looking around the campsite, he saw a pot with remnants of soup, two bottles of water, and a blue tent. Everything looked normal, until he saw some blue shreds of fabric tangled in the low-lying bushes. Curious, he walked over to them, leaned down, and pulled one of the long pieces of fabric out of the brush between his fingers. Something dark spattered the end of the fabric.
“Rob? You there? Over,” headquarters asked again.
“I’ll get back to you. Over,” he said securing the walkie-talkie to his belt.
“10-4. Over and out.” And then the radio went quiet.
Rob turned, searching the nearby area. “Hello?” he called out. “Hello?” he said again—this time louder. “Cynthia? Cynthia Andrews?”
Rob scanned every tree and bush within the vicinity, but there was no sign of the missing grad student. Perhaps the girl’s family was right to be concerned that she hadn’t contacted them in several days.
He let out a sigh and watched as a light breeze swirled dust clouds on the dry earth in the distance. And that’s when he saw it. The shredded remains of a tent. His first thought was a bear attack, but few inhabited this area. His hand twitched at the gun in his holster, readying himself for what, or who, he was about to encounter as he approached.
Camping gear was scattered around the area: a large canteen lying on its side; two extra gallons of water; several packets of freeze-dried foods; a small skillet and a boiling pot. Ten feet away there was an open journal lying next to a pink hoodie. He pulled out a small digital camera and took several photos to see if Cynthia’s family recognized anything as hers—if it came to that. He’d watched enough forensic shows to understand documentation was extremely important for any type of search or investigation.
Reaching for the sweatshirt he flipped it over to find one of the sleeves stained with dark blood, almost brown in color. He dropped the garment on the ground in horror as the forest closed in and a flock of birds burst from the trees above him.
Eyes darting, he noticed large heavy footprints moving north accompanied by a set of smaller, barefoot prints heading in the same direction, as one followed the other—or chased.
He felt the hair rise on the back of his neck and down his arms as he followed the trail through clustered pine trees. Deep into the woodland the footprints disappeared, replaced by divots and drag marks, the obvious signs of a struggle in the dirt.
Where did they go?
The wind, picking up, whipped and whispered through the trees forcing a shower of pine needles and cones to drop around him. He spied an area where small branches had been broken and followed the trail into a clearing where he was surprised to find ropes tied around a large tree trunk in unusual knots.
Slowly, filled with dread, he walked around the tree.
What he saw on the other side would be burned into his memory forever, he thought. The excessive violence. The horrifying, gaping wounds. The terror in her glassy eyes. It took every ounce of strength he had to take in the devastating scene before him.
The young woman, barely clothed in a workout t-shirt that read “No Pain, No Gain” and a pair of panties, had been bound to the tree with ropes across her chest, hips, and thighs. Her arms were fixed above her head, which now flopped forward limply. In between the restraints were wounds, huge slices down each side of her stomach, allowing her intestines to spill out. It was unclear if the wounds were caused by her killer or wild animals. Chunks of her thighs and calves were missing.
Rob stepped back as her hair stirred in the wind and stuck against her face, caught in her slightly open mouth. He ran back to the original base camp and fumbled for his radio. “Dispatch, we need the police up at the first camp area from Dodge Ridge as soon as possible. We have… there’s a…” he couldn’t find the words. He cleared his throat and tried it again, “Dispatch, we have a dead body.”
Jennifer Chase is a multi award-winning and best-selling crime fiction author, as well as a consulting criminologist. Jennifer holds a bachelor degree in police forensics and a master’s degree in criminology & criminal justice. These academic pursuits developed out of her curiosity about the criminal mind as well as from her own experience with a violent psychopath, providing Jennifer with deep personal investment in every story she tells. In addition, she holds certifications in serial crime and criminal profiling. She is an affiliate member of the International Association of Forensic Criminologists, and member of the International Thriller Writers.