Title: THE PROM DRESS KILLER
Author: George A Bernstein
Publisher: GnD Publishing
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Beneath the blazing sun and sizzling streets of Miami, a cold-blooded killer is at work. His victims? Young, auburn-haired women—four, so far—kidnapped and murdered. These victims show no signs of trauma, but all bear the distinct hallmarks of a serial killer. And this serial killer leaves behind a sickening calling card: each victim is found clad in a prom dress.
Homicide detective Al Warner is on the case but this killer has left shockingly few clues, leaving Warner with more questions than answers. Why were these girls taken…and then killed? Is this psychopath intent on killing redheads, and why? What, if anything, connects the victims? Why were the bodies arranged in peaceful repose, wearing prom dresses? How does that square with his leaving these carefully-arranged bodies in dark alleyways, discarding them as if they’re trash? And how long until this killer strikes again?
Sadly, one question is answered quickly when promising young attorney Elke Sorenstan captures the killer’s deadly attention and becomes the fifth victim. All signs say the killer is escalating—and that can mean only one thing: the killer is bound to strike again, and soon. With the stakes mounting and every tick of the clock marking that fine line between life and death, Al Warner doggedly pursues the ruthless killer before another victim falls prey. Warner’s worst fears are realized when newly-minted Realtor Shelly Weitz finds herself in the wrong place at the wrong time. Al Warner will have to act fast: the clock is ticking in this deadly game…and Shelly Weitz is dangerously close to dancing with the devil himself—a dance that will surely be her last. But as Detective Warner gets closer to stopping the madman behind these murders, he’ll risk losing everything—including his life.
A mesmerizing Miami mystery that ratchets up the suspense from page one, The Prom Dress Killer will leave readers breathless. Resplendent with pulse-pounding action, nail-biting suspense and unexpected twists, turns and surprises, The Prom Dress Killer is an outstanding new mystery that takes readers on a high-octane quest to catch a killer. George A Bernstein has crafted an eerily real, masterfully- plotted mystery that delivers thrills and chills from beginning to end.
About the Author: A native of Chicago, George A Bernstein is a retired president of a Chicago manufacturing company. After leaving Chicago for South Florida, George started a world-wide fishing and hunting tour service, Outdoor Safaris. He is a world class fly-fisherman who has held 13 IGFA World Records and authored the definitive book on fly-fishing for pike and musky, Toothy Critters Love Flies. He and his wife of 57 years, Dolores, live in South Florida. George is also the author of two previous Detective Al Warner suspense novels, Death’s Angel and Born to Die. He is currently at work on the next Detective Al Warner novel, as yet unnamed.
“What d’ya got, Jack?” Al Warner asked, settling his lithe, hard muscled six-foot frame on the corner of his ex-partner’s desk.
“Not much, Al. The criminalists swept the entire area of the parking lot, but they didn’t come up with anything.” Jack Harris flipped through his notebook, shaking his head.
“We know for sure she was snatched in the lot?” Warner asked.
“Yeah. Security cameras picked her up, entering from the library. There’re two cams on every deck, but unfortunately, Miss Williamson was parked where there was no real coverage, and we never saw her leave.”
“Terrific!” Warner said, his fingers gently probing the spot at the back of his skull, more itchy than tender now, under the mat of thick curly black hair.
“That whack on the noggin still bothering you, Al?” Jack asked.
“Nah, not really. Just habit. Good thing I got a hard head.” Warner picked the crime scene report from Harris’ desk.
“Yeah, lucky for you. Not so lucky for the guy who beaned you … or his two nasty partners.” He grinned, delivering a little punch to Warner’s arm. Harris marveled at the steel hardness of his friend’s forty-year-old body.
“Easy, there, bud,” Warner said, his lips ticking upward. “So no video of the snatch …?”
“If it was one. I ain’t so sure.” Harris stood, coming around the desk.
“The third redheaded gal to go missin’ in the last three months? No longer a coincidence, Jack.” Warner self-consciously dropped his hand from another visit to his itchy scalp.
“If it’s the same perp,” Warner continued, “which now seems damned likely, we got five, maybe six days to find her alive. This guy’s got a timetable, and he sure doesn’t waste much time between vics. He drops one in an alley and has usually swiped the next within two weeks, max.
“Did the cameras at least pick up auto traffic in and out? We need something, Jack.”
“Sure, they got every vehicle coming and going. Problem is, we don’t have an exact timeline when she went missing. She left the library at about five p.m., and we got no shot of her leaving the garage.”
“Let’s review the tapes, startin’, say, at four-thirty, through about six. Look for the same vehicle comin’ and goin’ durin’ that time. He had to drive in and out. Maybe we’ll get lucky,” Warner said.
“Okay, boss, but he coulda followed her there and just waited for her to come back.”
“Good point. So look for her arrivin’ about three p.m. ID the next three or four vehicles behind her, and then look for one of them leavin’ right after we think she was snatched.”
“That’s kinda thin, boss … and it’s gonna give me a lot of sore eyes.”
“What else we got, Detective? Put one of the techs on it, if you’re gettin’ too old,” Warner said with a mischievous grin.
“Shit, you think I’d leave something like that to some nerd punk. I got a bottle of Murine.”
“Yeah, I figured. So get your lazy ass in gear. Let’s try to find this gal before the sands run out. I’m gonna zip by the parkin’ lot again, just in case we missed something. Her car been towed to the lab?”
“Yep. The Tech boys are about done.” Harris had returned to his desk, tilting his chair back. “I thought you might wanna take another peek at the scene. It’s still taped off, all the markers in place, and we got two full-time blues on the spot, so nothing gets disturbed.”
“Okay. Give me a copy of your interview notes of the lot’s attendants, and get on that film ASAP.” His voice raspy, he leaned forward, balancing on his arms, fingers spread like claws braced against the top of the desk.
“I don’t want a third pretty young corpse, all dolled up in a fancy prom dress, lyin’ in an ally somewhere. Not the goddamned Angel of Death, all over again.” Warner’s face contorted, as he slammed his fist down hard enough to spill the pencil container.
“Easy, boss.” Harris pushed away from his desk. “We’re doing the best we can, with what little we got.”
“Well it’s not fuckin’ good enough.” Warner straightened, catching himself from reaching for his last head wound again.
“I’m goddammed sick and tired of serial-killers around here. Three in the last three years is three fuckin’ too many! Let’s get this bastard before this last gal becomes his third vic, and before he takes a fourth.”
“We’re doing what we can, Al. He’s gotta make a mistake soon. I just hope we can do it this time without ya catching a bullet or rock off the noggin. Ya gotta stop playing those sympathy cards.”
Warner glared at the smaller man, but couldn’t contain his laughter, bubbling up, erupting like a ruptured dam … which in a sense, it was.
“Goddammed little shit! You always know how to cool my fuse when it gets too hot.”
Harris grinned. “Someone’s gotta chill ya out. You’re the best cop I know to solve these things, if ya don’t get too emotional about the vics. Never knew a detective who cared as much as you do, boss.”
“Thanks for the bucket of cold water, Jack. I get too wound up and I could miss something. Can’t afford to do that, ’cause this perp’s on a serious mission. I’m pretty sure bodies of pretty young redheads are gonna keep pilin’ up if we don’t nab ’im soon.
“Anyhow, get on that film, and get one of the techies to help. Two sets of eyes are always better. I’ll be back in a couple of hours. I‘ll wanna go over the patrol canvas reports, too.”
“Gottcha. Is Doc Guttenberg working on a profile?”
“Not yet. I’ll see Eva tonight and see if she can come up with something that might help.”
“Right. That’s real tough duty!” Harris grinned. “At least you two getting together is one thing good coming outta the last caper.”
Warner smiled. “Always lookin’ for the silver lining, huh.”
“Gotta be some perks in this job. I’ll call ya if anything comes outta those videos.”
Warner nodded, scooping up the file from Jack’s desk and heading out of the Miami-Dade Homicide Department. Something had to break, but time wasn’t on his side.
It never was, with a nut out there, killing innocent victims. Three years ago, it was teenagers. A year later beautiful young women … almost including Sharon. Now this nut— just sixty days after he snagged the perps with all those SIDS infants dying … and him taking a small boulder on the noggin in the process.
It’s redheaded women this time, meticulously groomed and dressed to the nines. Each was smothered, dying peacefully while apparently in a chloroform daze. It looked like the Unsub didn’t want them to suffer, but that seemed at odds with him laying them out in dark alleys like so much trash.
He hoped Eva could come up with something other than the killer seemed conflicted over his vic’s care. If nothing else, the lovely doctor would at least manage to drain off his tension.
He grinned, in spite of his anger. How was he so lucky to have that beauty love him? He thought briefly of Sharon, fleeing to Buffalo after her near deadly encounter with the Angel of Death. And then the blonde angel, Casey, consumed by the SIDS deaths of all those baby boys. That case eventually brought him to lovely Dr. Eva Guttenberg … and how lucky was that!
Will love last this time? He didn’t give it freely, and was too hard-case to receive it back very often. He was using up a lifetime of opportunities, and he didn’t want to screw this one up.
Unlocking his gray Dodge Charger coupe, he slid in, tossing the file on the passenger seat. He lingered, eyes focused on some distant, invisible spot, fingers tap-dancing on the leather cover steering wheel, considering the current serial lunatic.
This psycho wants something specific from these girls, and when they can’t feed his need, he discards them, cleaving to some unique, personal ritual, and looks for another. The fact they are in their twenties and redheads of similar size and build has a special meaning, but so far nothing has conjoined these gals except age group and hair color.
He sighed, firing up the engine, enjoying the rumble of its power.
“Better figure it out soon,” he mumbled, “or more bodies are gonna start pilin’ up. We’re one or two redheads away from city-wide panic.” Shifting gears, he drove out of the police lot, shaking his head.
They needed a break … and soon.