Thursday, May 15, 2014

FINAL TRIMESTER
by
Dianna T. Benson

Paramedic Jodi Duncan recognizes the work of a serial killer before Myrtle Beach PD even suspects a connection between the deaths of two pregnant women. Despite the vast differences in the two cases, Jodi urges Detective Nate Quigley to think outside the box.

After digging deep into the separate investigations, Nate finds no evidence to support a serial killer theory, and he warns Jodi to back off police business, which only fuels her obsession with the cases. When another pregnant woman is murdered, Nate is named lead detective on the case. As he works to link the deaths and unmask and stop a serial murderer, Jodi becomes the killer’s new target, a killer who is determined to ignore God’s harassment and the devil’s badgering and live his life according to his own will.

EXCERPT:


Chapter One

     Time to kill again.
     Darren Holcomb climbed the stained wooden staircase of his luxurious Myrtle Beach house, his hand sliding up the banister. A sense of euphoria dominated his brain, empowering him.
     Don’t do this, God’s voice warned him with a keen tug.
     I’m not listening to You, Darren shouted back inside his head. You can’t control me. I run my own life. On my timeframe, not Yours. Leave me alone.
     Good, the devil interjected. Come my way.
     I’m not listening to you either, Darren snapped. Neither the light nor the darkness leads me. I’m not some puppet anyone can direct.
     You’ll be evil’s puppet if you kill her, God’s commanding voice boomed.
     You don’t understand! Darren yelled back, his temples pulsing with a rush of blood flow. You never understand.
     He stomped up to the top stair. Drawing in a breath, he pushed the conversation aside, and regained control before crossing the threshold of the opened French doors of his posh bedroom.    
     “Good mornin’, hon,” he said with a smile.  
     “Whoa—” Kathleen sprang upward in their king-sized bed, her red curls framing her pale but beautiful face with a bounce “—Darren.” She blew out a breath. “You scared me.” Lying down again, she tucked herself under flowered covers; her body sagged from obvious exhaustion.  
     He sat on the edge of their pillow-top mattress, inches from her bulging pregnant belly. A heightened eagerness filled him. “Did you throw up all night?” 
     “Off and on, not all night,” she teased in her optimistic way. She patted his kneecap. “I thought you’d be in Charleston all week. It’s only Tuesday.”
     “I drove home early. We covered everything in a day.” 
     “One day?” Her eyes narrowed. “How’s that possible?”
     It wasn’t. At all. “Lucky, I guess.”
     “Hmm. Luck?” She shook her head on the pillow. “No. You’re amazing.”
     He winked. “Must be.”
     Inside his pocket, he wrapped his hand around a half-inch tube. He pulled out the double-dose epinephrine auto-injector, prescription medication for patients in anaphylaxis shock, an acute allergic reaction.
     “The FDA just released this. Developed by obstetricians to treat severe nausea and vomiting during pregnancy.”
     “Really?” Her baby blue eyes widened with hope. A split second later, skepticism flashed across her puzzled face. “Darren, I haven’t heard a thing about this med. You’d think Dr. Carter would’ve mentioned it to me.”
     “The drug’s release date was originally projected after the start of the New Year.”
     “Ahh,” she nodded, “several months after I deliver the twins.”
     “See why he didn’t say anything to you? I spoke with him yesterday. Informed him the drug’s approved and released. He recommends you try it.”   
     “Is it an A-category pregnancy medication? I won’t take it, Darren, if it’s a B or lower. With my blood pressure, I’m already taking a B med.”
     After two miscarriages, her extra caution was warranted, but nothing he couldn’t manipulate with time and precision. Although hopefully not too easily. Solid challenges vitalized him.
     “It’s an A-med. Totally safe. Controlled human studies demonstrate no risk to the fetus.”
     Her lips curved into a wide smile. “Wow. This is amazing.” She pointed to the plastic tube in his fisted hand. “That’s mine? Dr. Carter called in a prescription for me?”
     “No. I’m dropping off a box of samples to his office this afternoon. He wants you to try a sample. See if it works. If so, he’ll call in a script for you. Just like we did with the migraine med before this pregnancy. Do you want to give this a try?”
     Still smiling, she nodded. “I may be able to eat tonight and keep it down. Gee,” she winked at him, “I’m so fortunate to have a husband with medical know-how and firsthand access to meds.”
     Pathetic how gullible she was behaving. She surrendered too willingly. It surprised him. Disappointed him. Disheartened him. He’d anticipated more from her.
     Leaning up on her forearms, she tried to eye the tube inside his fist. “How’s it administered?”
     “It’s a shot. I inject it into the side of your leg.” He curled her red, unruly hair back behind her left ear. “This is a double shot, Kathleen. Once I give you the first dose—” he pointed to the second capped needle on the tube’s other end “—I’ll give you a second dose.” He patted his pocket. “Then two more injections from another double-dose shot. Two double shots are recommended for women who experience severe symptoms all three trimesters. Like you.”
     Her pale face brightened a bit. “This is a breakthrough for pregnant women.”
     “A huge breakthrough.” He adjusted his eyeglasses on the bridge of his nose. “The negative side is you will feel your heart rate kick up. You may feel dizzy. Some tremors. Even anxiety. All just side effects.”
     “That’s nothing.” She batted the air. “I can handle that after nearly a year of hanging my head in the toilet and feeling like the walking dead. I just hope it works miracles, like those migraine shots you gave me.” She yanked back the edge of the covers. “Okay, let’s do this.”
     Since she’d endured persistent vomiting to the point of dehydration and hospitalization several times during pregnancy, it was understandable she was eager to try the med after just a little coercing.
     But still. No challenge. Too easy. Unsatisfying. She failed him yet again.
     She didn’t deserve to live a minute more.
     He unscrewed the green cap, pulled off the gray safety release, then jabbed the spring-loaded needle into the side of her thigh, shooting epinephrine through the needle’s membrane and into his wife’s system. For fifteen seconds he held the auto-injector against her skin to complete the process of administering the 0.3milligrams of medication.
     “Time for the second dose.” He popped off the cap over the needle on the other end of the tube and plunged the needle in a few centimeters from the first injection site.
     She’d never been one to bruise, not when she’d tumbled down off the top of a six-foot ladder and landed on concrete, not even when they’d crashed on his motorcycle on their third date. No matter what, her skin didn’t blotch the colors of any contusion. She’d never bruise from spring-loaded needles—most patients didn’t—and any slight redness or the tiniest marks of pinpricks would blend in with her mesh of freckles and red-haired complexion. No medical doctor would examine her leg and locate an injection site.
     It was the perfect murder weapon.
     He recapped both needles, and slipped the epinephrine injector into his pocket. “Kathleen, let’s go ahead with the third and fourth doses. Okay?”
     “My heart rate is speeding up. Racing.”
     “Good. That’s good.”
     “Darren, four doses in two double shots seem like too much.”
     “That’s the dosage to treat both nausea and vomiting.”
     He uncapped the second auto-injector and repeated the regimen, delivering a lethal totality of four doses to his wife, especially lethal in a woman with hypertension. Days ago, he’d swapped her blood pressure med—methyldopa—with placebos.
     He slipped the second empty auto-injector into his pocket, planning to dump both where no one would ever link them to his wife’s death or to him.
     A boom of thunder rumbled outside. A haze darkened the window, clouding over the early morning sunrise. Remnants of Hurricane Rita.   
     He pointed to the dark wooden mini-blinds covering the window. “It’s forecasted to rain all day today.”
     “Oh?” She squirmed as if in pain. “I didn’t have any plans to go to the beach and surf, so I’m good.” 
     He laughed. “You never fail to have a sense of humor.” He’d always liked that about her. Pity she hadn’t miscarried this third pregnancy. Miscarry and miscarry and never deliver a baby. What a dream wife. But it didn’t pan out. Time to move on.
     “My heart is pounding, Darren. I’m so shaky.”
     “It’ll pass.” When your heart stops. “Be patient. Relax.”
     Lightning flashed outside the window. Another boom of thunder.
     “You’re right. I’ll relax.” She spread her palms over her bulging belly as if cradling their unborn babies. “The boys are really moving around. I can’t wait to hold them in my arms.”
     I’d be a good daddy.
     No, I wouldn’t. It’s already too late anyway. Death for her is imminent. 
     Stop killing, Darren, God’s voice cut in.
     No. I don’t want to stop. I can’t stop. All these women need me. Countless broken women are desperate for my love.
     But then you kill them, God harped at him.
     You don’t get it. Until You do, conversations with You are pointless.
     Another streak of lightning. More rumbles of thunder.
      I know what I’m doing.
     At thirty-five weeks gestation, Kathleen was near delivering. It was time to say good-bye to this pregnant woman and continue to enjoy life with his pregnant girlfriends until the end of their lives inevitably rolled around by his hand.



Bio:



After majoring in communications and a ten-year career as a travel agent, Dianna left the travel industry to earn her EMS degree. An EMT and a Haz-Mat and FEMA Operative in EMS since 2005, she loves the adrenaline rush of responding to medical emergencies and helping people in need, often in their darkest time in life.Her suspense novels about adventurous characters thrown into tremendous circumstances provide readers with a similar kind of rush. Dianna is a lifelong athletic competitor and outdoor enthusiast in climbing, running, cycling and scuba diving and she loves to travel and read.
Married to her best friend, she met her husband, Leo, as they walked down a church aisle in a wedding as a bridesmaid and groomsman when she was eleven and he was thirteen. She lives in North Carolina with her husband and their three athletic children.
In 2009, Dianna was offered a four-book publishing contract, but soon after that her husband was diagnosed with head and neck cancer. She turned down that contract to focus on their young family of five, and God carried them all through the surgeries and radiation treatments.

“Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not be faint.” – Isaiah 40:31


What now seems like two hundred years ago, Dianna competed at the National level in tennis. She won three State Championship titles and was awarded the Dr. Pepper MVP. She also competed as an equestrian in three-day eventing (stadium jumping, cross-country and dressage) as well as various horse shows. Enjoying both climbing and skiing, to date Dianna has reached thirty-one summits of Colorado’s 54 Fourteeners (peaks over 14,000 feet in elevation) and she loves to hike all around North Carolina. Having more of a love for speed than form in skiing, she races downhill as fast as possible.
Dianna’s personal quote: “The grass isn’t greener on the other side, it’s just different.”


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1 comment:

  1. Pre-orders for the print book of Final Trimester are currently available wherever books are sold. The e-Book format on Kindle and Nook is available now. The print book releases June 19, 2014. I enjoyed my time here on Agatha Remembered. Thank you, V. B. Tenery.


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