Humpty Dumpty: The killer wants us to put him back together again (Book 1 of the Nursery Rhyme Murders Series)

BOOK: Humpty Dumpty: The killer wants us to put him back together again (Book 1 of the Nursery Rhyme Murders Series)
12.01Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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From the #1 bestselling author in Hard Boiled Mysteries and Police Procedurals, Carolyn McCray, comes
Humpty Dumpty
, the first novel in the
Nursery Rhyme Murders
series.

**Warning: This book contains graphic/disturbing violence that can give you nightmares. This book is NOT for the faint of heart. Please do not purchase this book unless you are prepared for some sleepless nights!

Praise for
Humpty Dumpty

“Come for the murder, stay for the three-dimensional, realistically fractured characters! … Long plane rides and rainy Saturday afternoons were made for books like this. If you like your suspense with a side of gruesome and a dash of humor, this is it.”

Brandon Stanley

Amazon Reviewer

“Humpty Dumpty is a wonderful start to what I hope will be the first in a fun and thrilling series. I found myself flipping the pages to get to the end and what an ending. The story was well written and the dialogue was sharp, witty and fast-paced. The chemistry between the main characters, Joshua, Had and Cooper was magical… Eagerly awaiting the next installment in this series.”

Romano Robusto

Amazon Reviewer

“Another good crime series from one of my favorites. Once again Carolyn McCray has brought together an interesting cast of characters. Each member of the team has flaws, just like real people. The concept of using nursery rhymes as a theme for murder gives the story a creepy edge. The plot twists will keep you guessing.”

J. Duarte

Amazon Reviewer

“I am a big fan of this author’s novels… So, I have been excited and waiting a long time for this story… I was not disappointed and continued to read every single page all the way to an ending that was unbelievable, made me feel a little sick, and left me just as speechless as Agent Sariah Cooper… I have never read an ending to a book like this ever and it’s a vision that will be with me for quite a while.”

Robin Lee

Amazon Reviewer

 

"For me, a book that inspires my imagination so much that I can see the movie playing along as I go is a great read – and this definitely does that. Highly, heartily recommended for fans of murder/mystery novels, fans of James Patterson, and fans of action/mystery movies.”

Knikki Jacobsmeyer

Amazon Reviewer

If you enjoy the pace of Patterson, the glorious gore of Harris and the wit of Cornwall, you are going to LOVE
Humpty Dumpty
.

 

Main Menu

Start Reading

About the Authors

Afterword

Other Works by Carolyn McCray and Ben Hopkin

Copyright

 

PROLOGUE

There were times when living in Charleston, South Carolina was as close to heaven as Crista could imagine. Times when it came pretty close to the ideal version of the South. Ladies sipping mint juleps on the porch in the cool evenings of early summer. Fireflies winking and blinking in the burgeoning darkness. Children playing kick-the-can out in the street, pausing only for the slowly passing cars.

Today was not one of those days.

Late summer was pretty much always hot and humid in the Deep South. But this? This was way past anything reasonable. This was the kind of summer weather where the central air couldn’t keep up with the brutal heat, and stepping out of the shower didn’t make a hill of beans' difference in the level of moisture surrounding you in the air.

And for some idiotic reason, this was the day that the girls had decided—no, demanded, the little monsters—that they wanted to go to the park and have a picnic. Yay. Good plan, kiddos.

The heavy sound of the cicadas filled the air with a buzzing that somehow made the heat all the more oppressive. It was a sound that Crista missed during the winters, but right now it was the audible expression of a world gone thermonuclear.

Her husband Brady was stuck at work for at least the next three or four hours. And right at this point, Crista envied him. So much. The thought of being indoors in an office building that had an industrial-sized air conditioning unit sounded like such a fantastic idea. She wiped a sheen of sweat away from her face while she tried to ignore the trickle that was creeping its way between her cleavage and down the inside of her bra.

It was
so
hot.

The air above the parking lot asphalt shimmered with the promise of nonexistent water that made Crista’s parched mouth try, and fail, to create saliva. There was that bottle of water she’d picked up at the gas station ten minutes ago, but by this point it was probably close to boiling in the enclosed car where she’d left it. The thought of pouring hot water into her gullet made her want to cry just a little bit. Well, if she had enough moisture left in her body to create tears, that was.

At least everything was still mostly green. They’d gone to visit Brady’s family in West Texas a month ago and while it wasn’t nearly as humid as Charleston, everything had been brown. Crista had come away so depressed that she’d seriously considered trying to buy herself Prozac from Taylor, one of the soccer moms in the neighborhood.

There was no way the woman was
that
naturally happy. Chemicals of one kind or another had to be involved. Maybe it was meth? Crista would have to ask Jodi. Jodi was that neighbor who knew everything about everyone. It was enough to make a saint nervous. Crista did everything she could to keep that woman on her side.

A middle-aged Filipino man pushed a handcart with pictures of ice cream novelties depicted in glossy splendor on its sides. Pavlov’s bell had nothing on this guy’s chime. The kids screamed and swarmed around the man, clutching sweaty bills in their tiny fists. Red faces demanded instant satisfaction as fast as the man could deliver it.

Predictably, Crista’s own girls popped out of whatever hole they’d been hiding in, running over to see if maybe Mom would relent on her no sugar rule just this once. And you know what? Sure. Why not?

It was way too hot to argue with them. She couldn’t even muster up her normal righteous anger at the ice cream man for corrupting her children with his devil wares. In fact, maybe she’d send an extra buck or two with Molly, the oldest of her three girls. See if maybe there was some frozen confection in that man’s cart that wasn’t sweet enough to make her teeth rot right away.

Crista dug around in her purse, encountering a liquid chocolate bar that she’d confiscated from her middle child the other day. That was a decision she was regretting, as brown stickiness now coated most of the contents of her handbag. Closing her fingers around her wallet, she fished around until she came up with a five and two ones. That should be enough to make everyone happy… until the ice cream started to melt. Whatever. She’d cross that bridge when she got to it.

Molly was placed in charge of the transaction, and the new responsibility shone from her face, with the radiance of power combined with a layer of sweat. She turned to run toward the ice cream Mecca, but tripped over her own feet in a fit of excitement. Landing face-first in the sand, Molly somehow managed to keep a tight grip on the money with which she’d been entrusted.

At least the girl had her priorities straight.

But the screams that issued forth from her daughter’s throat drove all thoughts of fiscal responsibility right out of Crista’s mind. She rushed over to Molly, trying to see what had caused her yelling fit. Was she hurt? There was no blood that Crista could see, although it did seem like Molly’s hand was sticking up out of the sand at a strange angle.

And then Crista’s screams joined those of her daughter.

The hand wasn’t Molly’s.

 

CHAPTER 1

Joshua Wright was having a wonderful time, in spite of the crowd. Okay, okay, maybe even
because
of it. It was his youngest daughter’s birthday and everyone was there. Friends from the neighborhood, family… yes, his father-in-law George was there too, but it wasn’t that bad. It was Olivia’s big day, and little Livvie was her boompa’s favorite, so the old man was on his best behavior. Still not a match for a normal person on a bad day, but no major fights yet.

Jacquie, his wife, was bringing in the birthday cake, three candles burning brightly in the darkened dining room. She was singing, her face lit from beneath from the cake. There was no denying it—his wife was a stunner. How she had come from that cranky grouch of a father, Joshua had no idea.

Speaking of the old curmudgeon, George approached Joshua from the side, holding out a card to him. Strange. Why was he giving Joshua the card? It was Livvie’s birthday. A strange dread settled into the pit of his stomach as he opened the bright pink envelope, uncovering the frilly greeting card inside.

There were puppies all over the surface of the missive. Fitting. Livvie loved dogs. She loved all animals, but dogs were her go-to choice. There were times that Joshua thought that his little girl liked animals a lot more than she did people. Deep down, he was pretty sure he agreed with her.

Opening the card, Joshua read the words that had been carved on the inside, the words scrawled with deep fury, cutting deep into the paper. The meaning of the words seared into his soul, burning away all happiness, all light. All love.

She would have been 16 today.

An agonizing flush of shame and horror washed down Joshua’s spine. The cake in front of his beautiful little blonde-haired girl went suddenly dark, all light fleeing the room in an instant. He couldn’t breathe. He was choking on his guilt. She was gone, and it was his fault. All his fault.

Joshua’s eyes opened up, releasing him from the nightmare. He felt the oppressive heat of the late afternoon that was ebbing into the dull, patient simmer of early evening. July in New York.

She would have been 16 today.

This year’s card that his nightmare had mimicked lay open on the dashboard of Joshua’s car. He’d gone in to the post office box expecting it, but hoping nonetheless that it wouldn’t be there.

He should have known better. Hope was for suckers and characters in romance novels. Same difference, now that he came to think of it.

Even with everything that Joshua did to try to lose track of the days of the year, he always knew when they were coming. The un-birthdays. There was no forgetting. Ever.

They weren’t the worst. Not by a long shot. No, that honor was reserved for the anniversary. That was the day that belonged to the cemetery, with its flowers and close-shorn grass and weeping willows. It was the day that belonged to death and pain and loss.

It was the day of the visit.

The cards were bad enough. Each one would hit him like a sledgehammer striking an anvil. The pain would be anticipated for the week leading up to the dates and would linger for at least a month following them.

But nothing could compare to the date of the anniversary. That was a day that tore his beating heart from his chest, ravaged it and then replaced it as if nothing had happened. Recovery from that day wasn’t even completely possible. Each one left him lower than the previous. And it had been thirteen years now. Maybe at some point there wouldn’t be any lower for him to sink. In a strange way, he looked forward to that moment.

So, at least it wasn’t that. The anniversary was coming up soon enough, but it wasn’t today. Today was the day of lesser pain. Still more than enough to send Joshua into a shame spiral. Still enough to make him want to numb all the pain. He scooped the card off of the dash, stuffing it into his back pocket. Not because he wanted it closer to him. More to keep him from seeing it.

You weren’t supposed to have favorites, but Livvie had been his youngest. She had still looked at him with un-disappointed eyes. Eyes that said he had still been her hero. Eyes that had still believed he could do anything.

In his mind, he envisioned her whole. The reality was far more graphic, far more painful. But that’s how she appeared in the imaginings of his soul.

He was parked on a side street out in Queens, everything he owned stuffed in the backseat. The remains of his fast food “dinner” lurked in the passenger seat, the grease from the slice of pepperoni pizza absorbing into a pinkish-orangey blob on the paper plate, the odor pervading the close confines of the 1997 Buick LeSabre.

BOOK: Humpty Dumpty: The killer wants us to put him back together again (Book 1 of the Nursery Rhyme Murders Series)
12.01Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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