A serial killer is leaving a trail of dead women across Chile, Peru, and Bolivia. The gruesome corpses all seem to have died in exactly the same macabre way. There may be a link to a small group of scientists who meet annually in different locations in the region. Roger Bowman and Suzanne Foster are asked by the local police to attend this year’s meeting of the group in Lima, Peru to try to find out who was present at the previous meetings when the murders occurred. And the reader is off on a fast paced pursuit of the killer through Lima, Cuzco, and Machu Picchu in Peru and Chile’s Atacama Desert. This is a true whodunit mystery novel set in an unusual and exotic locale.
Excerpt from “The Surreal Killer”
Chapter 1. Santiago, Chile, A Year Ago
He always thought of this part as cutting the calf out of the herd. The problem: Pick up the woman somewhere, somehow without any witnesses to the event. The solution this time: he found her hitchhiking late at night on the deserted street in a poorly lit part of town. He stopped the rented car and offered her a ride. She looked at him, decided he was safe, jumped in the car, congratulated herself on her good luck, and asked if he was heading towards the next town.
“Yes, I am. Where can I drop you off?”
“Anywhere near the middle of town would be great.”
“You’ve got it.”
The car started off in the right direction.
“Can I offer you a little brandy? It’s cold out there,” he said.
“I’d love a sip or two.”
He removed a flask from his pocket and passed it over.
“Thanks a lot,” she replied, and took a long slow swallow. She returned the flask to the driver.
Five minutes later the long-acting drug in the brandy had worked its magic and she was completely helpless. Wide awake, but totally unable to move or speak. She stared at the driver with terrified eyes. The driver steered the car onto a dirt road and drove about half a mile into the woods. After stopping the car, he came around to the passenger side, and pulled her out onto the ground. She noted that there was grass and dirt in the clearing. He pawed her body for a few moments, but didn’t seem interested in undressing or sexually assaulting her beyond the unwanted touching. Out came his syringe, and with a few well-coordinated movements he injected a few mL of fluid directly into her jugular vein. The powerful drug did its work and she was now completely paralyzed.
He opened the trunk of the car. Out came a disposable paper coverall and disposable latex rubber gloves, which he donned. Out came a large machete and a protective plastic face shield, which he also put on. He returned to his terrified victim, dragged her about 150 feet from the car, and proceeded to systematically whack away at arms and legs with the machete for several minutes after she had completely bled out. The mutilation of the corpse continued for what seemed to be a long time after she was clearly dead. Finally he dropped the machete, picked up a small stick from the ground nearby, and dipped the end of the stick in one of the many pools of blood around the body. Very carefully, using the blood as ink, he wrote the words “no mas” on the ground near the body. At that point he made a low, throaty growl that might have meant that he was finally satisfied with the result, and the machete overkill came to an end.
The bloodstained and splattered paper coveralls, latex gloves, and face shield came off and were thrown on top of the dismembered body. So was the machete. Careful examination revealed that there was no apparent blood visible anywhere on him or his clothing after the disposables were taken off. Back to the trunk of the car from which he removed a large plastic container of gasoline that he poured over the body and the disposables. One flick of a match and everything went up in flames, which burned long and hot. When nothing remained but charred flesh, teeth, bones, and ashes he returned to the car and went on to his destination, satisfied that any forensic evidence had been destroyed in the fire. Nothing remained that could link him to the dead young woman, who was a perfect stranger. He smiled a genuine smile of satisfaction.
Jerold Last is a scientist on the faculty of the University of California and a big fan of California mystery novels. He taught a popular Freshman Seminar on California Mystery novels for several years at UC Davis.
The settings and locales for all three books, The Empanada Affair, The Ambivalent Corpse, and The Surreal Killer are authentic; the author lived previously in Salta, Argentina and Montevideo, Uruguay for several months each, and selected several of the most interesting locations he found for Roger and Suzanne to visit. The Empanada Affair’s title comes from a local food served ubiquitously as an appetizer in the region. Another book in this series is in preparation; look for it later in 2012.