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Bargain thriller alert! Last chance to download The Ticktock Murders by John D. Garrison for just 99 cents!

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The Ticktock Murders (Detective Becka Black)

by John D. Garrison

The Ticktock Murders (Detective Becka Black)
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Text-to-Speech and Lending: Enabled
Here’s the set-up:
Becka Black is a burned out police detective trying to escape from her past. She is tired of murder and chasing killers. All she wants to do is settle down in a small town in an easy job, solve the occasional robbery, and go home at the end of the day with a smile on her face.
But life has chosen otherwise for Detective Black. She has just arrived in town, and she is already in trouble. She has suddenly been thrust into the pursuit of a serial killer with her job on the line.
Ticktock is a serial murderer that has swept across the United States like a lethal plague. No one has been able to catch her. Ticktock’s trademark signature is a clock drawing at the scene of her murders, showing the exact time of death.
Now that killer is in her town and time is running out. Ticktock kills multiple times and disappears. If Becka doesn’t catch Ticktock by her last murder, Becka will lose Ticktock forever along with her job and possibly the love of her life.

And here, for your reading pleasure, is our free excerpt:

Alex Smith woke up with a scream on her lips, not quite realizing the scream she heard was her own. As sleep fell from her eyes and she came more fully awake, she stopped screaming, took a deep breath, and rolled over to her side, breathing heavily. Always the nightmares, the screams, she thought. Would she ever have a night of peace?

Knowing that sleep was now impossible, she swung her long, shapely legs over the side of her bed and sat there quietly for a moment. She brushed a strand of blond hair away from her tan brow and glanced at the Sig Sauer .45 caliber automatic pistol on the night stand by her bed. Her hand reached for the pistol. As she caressed the dark rosewood handle and cool gray metal barrel of the gun, calm returned to her. She felt safe and secure with the pistol in her hand.

She rose from her bedside, grabbed a heavy cotton robe from a nearby chair, and wrapped her lithe, muscular form in the soft terrycloth, shoving the pistol into the pocket of her white robe. She walked slowly toward the sliding glass doors of her bedroom, enjoying the soft feel of the thick carpet under her bare feet. She enjoyed living in luxurious, expensive apartments. She had always liked the finer things of life and, being rich, she could afford them.

She unlatched the glass doors and slid one of them back, stepping out onto the balcony of her fifth story apartment. The October night breezes were cool and refreshing. The bay below was a dark undulating mass of water in the night. A low half-moon hung over the bay, and she could see some faint lights in the distance on the far shore. She glanced back at the clock radio on the night table. Its large red numbers showed 3:15 in the morning.

Soon, very soon, she would have her long awaited revenge. A smile lit her lips as she anticipated the joy of finally facing her tormentors. She had been preparing for this moment for a long time. All of the other murders up to now had been merely a prelude to what she would do now.

Alex took a deep, cool breath and held it for a moment, then slowly released it. It was good to be home, at last. Here where everything had begun so long ago at Serenity Sanitarium.

She still remembered the tall white columns that lined the front entrance to the sanitarium and the smiling gray-haired men in the white coats. They all seemed so friendly, so reassuring, when she had first checked into the sanitarium. She had been a shattered, depressed young girl trying to recover from the deaths of both her parents. But it had all been a charade for the terror to follow.

Alex had discovered the truth quickly enough after they strapped her onto a stainless steel gurney and sent thousands of volts through her. She screamed then, screamed for mercy until her throat burned and the pain drove her down into darkness. But the doctors never listened, only smiled at her and told her the treatment was necessary for her to get better.

She remembered the mind numbing drugs that followed and turned her into a drooling idiot. For months she didn’t even know who she was or where she was–lost in a deep drug haze. It was like being dead.

Then one night, the nursing attendant was in a hurry and the pills had fallen from Alex’s hand onto the bed without the attendant noticing. Being afraid, she didn’t say anything, just drank the glass of water that always came with the pills. When the attendant turned back all she noticed was the water had been drunk. The attendant had patted her head like she was some good little girl and left.

There had been no plan to avoid the drugs, just an accident. By this time, after long months of drugs and electroshock, she had been reduced to a mindless animal that only reacted to fear and pain. She hadn’t told the attendant that the pills had fallen onto her bed for fear of being punished.

By the next morning, the mental fog of months had begun to lift. By that afternoon, her mind was working, and she realized with horror that she was in a mental institution, and she had been here for some time. The next evening, when more pills were given to her to swallow, she had purposely pretended to take them, later spitting them out after the attendant left.

With the drugs no longer affecting her mind, a plan begin to form in her brain. She would escape this place of torture and pain. They wouldn’t expect it as long as she pretended to be in a drugged out stupor.

The next morning the attendant took her to the electroshock room. She began to panic even before she was fully in the room, twisting and turning, trying to escape her restraints. She didn’t understand why, but something deep within her did.

She understood all too well a minute later when the intense voltage sent her into convulsions of intense pain. She screamed then, pleaded for them to stop, not caring if they discovered she was faking taking the drugs.

But they didn’t stop, and took no notice of her screams. Apparently, her screams and pleadings were normal. She just didn’t remember them. This was the first time she was mentally fully aware of what was happening.

Later, when they dumped her, quivering like some spastic jelly fish onto her bed, she realized that most of her past memories were gone. She could remember her name, a mental image of her parents, but that was all. Her mind was almost a total blank.

Intense fear swept over her then. She had lost herself, who she was. It would take months after she escaped to piece back together her past life, to realize she was a teenager from a wealthy family and the only survivor of a terrible automobile accident.

It took years and a very good lawyer to regain control of her life and her family’s fortune. But she did it, then changed her name, removing all traces of her past, and then left Bayview; she thought forever.

But years later, while serving as a cop, the rage attacks began. She had been drawn to the police as a career. The violence and action had attracted her. Then a sudden confrontation with a particularly violent criminal triggered something inside of her. She killed the criminal without a moment’s thought.

Tremendous waves of anger and rage had erupted within her, causing her to temporarily lose control of herself. After the rage subsided, she had stood over the criminal’s body a long time, trying to figure out what had just happened to her.

Later, the rage attacks surfaced again. She would destroy anything within reach, screaming and shouting obscenities. For years afterward, when she felt those symptoms coming on, she would hide herself in her apartment or a nearby hotel room until the rage attacks passed. Slowly, she came to understand why she felt these rage attacks.

There was a deep abiding anger inside of her, a rage that knew no consolation. At first, she didn’t understand, but then as she studied her past, she found the source of that rage. It was the men in that sanitarium that had tortured her.

Anger and rage that she thought had disappeared had only bored deeper within her, working their poison through all the following years as she tried to establish a normal life for herself. Then they rose to the surface once more.

Slowly, over time, the rage had developed into an irresistible compulsion to kill. Her targets were always doctors, usually psychiatrist and any doctor involved with mental health. The hatred and rage would build over weeks and months until she felt that she would explode if those intense emotions were not released. Killing released them.

Her compulsions drove her to kill any psychiatrist she could find and if none were nearby, then any doctor would do. She bathed in the intense gratification and release of the rage that was constantly with her when she killed.

The newspapers had nicknamed her Ticktock because she always left a silver plated pocket watch beside her victims, showing the exact time of their deaths. It was her signature so that everyone would know who killed them.

She continued to kill over the years, developing her technique and preparing herself to return to Bayview to kill those psychiatrist she both feared and hated–the doctors at Serenity Sanitarium. She had dreaded coming back here, facing the pain and agony of her past, but it was only here that she felt there might at last be a chance to obtain some measure of peace.

Her knuckles turned white as she tightly gripped the iron railing that enclosed the balcony, remembering the pain and suffering she had endured in that sanitarium. Now she would face her torturers and kill them. No matter the cost, even her own death. No price was too much. She took a long, deep breath of cool air, letting the pain of past memories flow away from her for a moment.

She glanced at the darkness that surrounded her. Alex loved the night; the darkness was soothing and somehow comforting. The stars glittering in the vast dark vault of heaven above her were her friends.

She reached into the right pocket of her robe and softly caressed the cold metal of her pistol. Alex smiled as she thought of what was to come. All the years of killing, of drifting from city to city, had led to this moment and this place. At last she would be free of the rage and anger that drove her, free of the nightmares and terrors that lay in wait for her every night. She would live again.

She placed both hands on the iron railing of the balcony. The cold metal of the iron felt good against her skin. It wasn’t freezing, not yet. It was still early fall and the weather was mild in the south. She watched a fishing boat with its lights blazing heading out to sea for some night fishing. The bay was lovely this time of night, calming and restful as the dark waves ran to shore.

She frowned a moment as troubling thoughts pushed to the surface of her mind, struggling to get free. A part of her, buried deep within, knew that she was mentally unbalanced, out of control. There were brief moments when sanity came close to the surface of her mind, when she realized the terrible things she had done, knew that going from city to city killing was a maniacal, pointless exercise in terror. But then the rage and thirst for revenge that constantly hung over her mind like a large, dark cloud would come storming back, drowning out everything but that single purpose of revenge.

Then there was the lone survivor with the face of a saint that had forgiven her for what she was about to do–murder him. She had wanted to kill him, tried to kill him, but something deep down inside of her wouldn’t let her. Her finger had frozen into immobility on the trigger.

He had talked to her of forgiveness and cleansing of her soul. Alex told him that she didn’t believe in God and didn’t have a soul, but he continued to talk about heaven and hell, about repentance, and that everyone, even her, had a soul. Finally, in disgust, she had walked away from him. The only doctor to escape her vengeance.

Later, after walking for hours, she thought about going back and finishing the job, but she knew that she couldn’t face him again. He had looked too deeply inside of her, made her question herself, what she was doing, made her afraid. She continued to walk long into the night, turning his words over in her mind, wondering how true they were. If she had a soul, if there was some sort of accountability for what she had done, if there was a hell–she shuddered and shut all of those thoughts out. She couldn’t think about that, not now; she had work to do.

She would have her revenge even if she burned in hell for it.


Chapter 2


Detective Becka Black stood in the middle of the back room of a small, rundown house, surveying the cluttered piles of stolen property from dozens of homes and businesses. The burglary ring had been busy over the past month. Now, early on a Monday morning, she had finally broken the case and the perpetrators were on their way to jail.

The sunlight shining through a single, cracked window pane lit up the room and highlighted Becka’s short, vibrant red hair which framed an attractive but lean face. Detective Becka Black was a tall, athletic-looking woman, standing six feet tall, wearing a black leather jacket zippered half-way up over a pale pink cotton turtleneck blouse with the sides of the blouse neatly tucked into the sides of her beige pants.

She looked more like a model than a detective, but she was stronger and tougher than she looked which had surprised more than one suspect who thought they could overpower her. She was an independent, strong-willed woman that liked to think that she could handle any situation that confronted her. As a detective, those traits had allowed her to excel in her profession.

The morning sun was bright and warm for an October morning. Her green eyes swept the surrounding room again, shaking her head slowly. It had taken her too long to break this case.

Her reputation had been tarnished as a result; the mayor and the city council had unrealistic expectations of what she could do. She wasn’t some kind of superwoman; she was just a detective doing the best job she could to solve a case.

She also knew the limitations of her current job. She no longer had the resources or talents of a big city police department, but somehow they didn’t understand that in Bayview with the exception of the Chief. You had to be a cop to understand how hard this case had been.

Becka sighed heavily. She had been the only detective working the case; she was lucky to break the case at all, but her boss, Chief Williams, was the only one who really understood her dilemma, but then he was part of the problem. She gathered that in order to convince the city council to hire her, he had oversold her abilities and talents. The mayor and city council expected wonder woman to show up, not a plain ordinary detective.

There had been tremendous pressure on the Chief over the last month, but he had stood up under the pressure well, and she admired him for that kind of courage. There had even been talk of firing her. She had been here only a few months and was still on probation. To the Chief’s credit, he had backed her and gave her the time she needed to solve a difficult case.

She gathered that Bayview wasn’t use to any real crime, other than the occasional theft or break-in. This burglary ring had been a real shock to the citizens of Bayview and made them feel vulnerable and unsafe.

She knew from past experience those ugly feelings would fade with time unless something else happened. She fervently hoped nothing did. She had come to this small town hoping for a quiet, uneventful career as a small town detective. No more rampant street crimes and multiple murders for her. She was through with that violent life style.

Becka had always considered herself a good detective, a cut above the rest and taken pride in her abilities, as proved by her past citations. She had a talent for breaking open cases. It was her other attributes that got her into trouble.

“Good job, Detective. If I was still counting on the county detectives, these perps would still be free.”

“That’s why you hired me,” Becka replied, shifting her green eyes to meet her Chief’s gaze, forcing herself to smile. He had just walked into the room. She hadn’t expected him to show up.

“Absolutely correct. For a small town like Bayview to snag an experienced, big city detective like you was a major coup for us.”

“Sorry, this case took so long to break. These guys were part of a bigger ring that stretched back over a major part of the state. That made it harder to crack.”

“But you did; that’s what counts. You have been here only a short time, and you have already made a significant contribution. I just stopped by to see the wrap-up and let you know how pleased I am.”

“Thanks,” Becka said, pausing a moment, before adding, “I don’t think the city council was impressed. They still holding out for a guy?”

Becka knew that the council had wanted a male detective and had held up her selection for several months demanding that the Chief produce one. The Chief had finally convinced them that she was the best available for the small salary the city had offered.

The Chief smiled. “The council has unrealistic expectations as we have previously discussed. I know this last month hasn’t been easy for you–working a difficult case and worrying about being fired, but you have proven yourself now. I think you will find things will get better. We rarely get anything like this burglary ring in this town. So relax and bask in your victory. I think you will find this is a nice town to work in.” He turned and walked out, stopping to chat with several of the other police officers outside.

A few minutes later, in the living room of the dilapidated old house, she met Sergeant Timothy James. He assisted her on occasion, a sort of part-time investigator that the Chief had assigned to her. She was the department’s only full time investigator, and she wasn’t likely to get any full time help any time soon. And that was okay. This was a chance for her, a badly needed chance.

“See the Chief?” Becka asked Sergeant James.

“On the way out. He was all smiles. I guess the city council will get off his back about you now.”

“Let’s hope so.”

“Well, the Chief won this round.”

“They still aren’t satisfied, are they?” Becka said, knowing the answer already to her question.

Sergeant James shook his head. “There are some stubborn people on the council. And of course, they all have their own agenda.”

“I never suspected the in-fighting could get so intense about me. Perhaps I was just naive. I suppose the council is still looking for any excuse to bounce me out of this job.”

“Pretty much. They thought they had it with this rash of burglaries, but you came through. The pressure should ease off, at least for a while.” James paused a moment, then added, “These things take time, Detective. They will eventually accept you. The Chief is a good man to have in your corner.”

“I appreciate the candor. You are probably the closest thing to a friend I’ve got right now.”

James smiled and said, “I’ll be there to back you up whenever you need it. I promised the Chief. Besides, I have a good feeling about you. I have over twenty-nine years on the force, and I have learned to trust my instincts.” He glanced at several officers heading toward the back room. “I’d better help the other officers finish the inventory of the evidence. You heading back to the office?”

She nodded. “I have a mountain of paperwork to finish up.”

As she stepped outside, she paused on a small porch and watched as Jack Rand, the town’s local crime reporter, drove up in that old battered blue Jeep of his and parked. He had a nose for news. She was not surprised to see him here so soon.

A small smile parted her lips as Jack got out of the Jeep and walked toward her. His sandy-colored hair and tall, lean six-foot-two-inch frame made her heart skip a beat. He was wearing a pair of faded blue jeans and a dark blue sport coat with an open-collar white shirt; she had never seen him dressed up in a real suit and tie. He always wore casual clothes which only accented his rugged good looks.

She watched him approach with that dimpled smile and those light gray eyes fixed on her. Damn, but he looked good this morning.

Becka felt a strong attraction to Jack, but so far their relationship had been casual: friendly dates and light chatter. He hadn’t even tried to kiss her yet; she wondered about that. Did he not find her attractive?

“Finally nailed the burglars, huh?” Jack grinned as he stepped up on the porch. “I knew you would.”

“You were one of the few. I gather the city council was about ready to send me packing.”

“Those stuffed shirts are always hard on new hires. They are set in their ways and hard to win over. Don’t worry, they aren’t dumb. Eventually, they will see what a great cop you are.”

“Detective, not cop,” she corrected him. “That seems to be Sergeant James opinion as well.”

“I always thought James was smart,” Jack grinned.

“It’s just…I hate feeling like I am walking around on eggshells with everyone waiting for me to mess up so they can fire me.”

“Yeah, I sort of felt like that when I first went to work for the Progressive Times. No one really knew me, knew what I could do, and I felt like there were others in line behind me waiting for me to stumble. Not a nice feeling. But it worked out for me, and it will for you too.”

“Thanks for the vote of confidence.” She glanced back inside and then said, “Sergeant James is inside taking an inventory of the stolen property. We arrested three suspects. They have already been taken to the police station to be booked. I will be interviewing them later. That’s about it for now. I’m heading back to make out the official police report. I’ll send you a copy of my report when I’m done.”

“I appreciate that,” he said, glancing at his pocket watch, which he then put back into his pocket. “I’ve got a close deadline. I’ll check inside, take a few pictures, and talk to Sergeant James, if that’s okay.”

Becka nodded, then she moved closer, touching his arm. “See you tonight?”

“Sure, Bayside Seafood okay? It’s close, and I have a craving for seafood.”

“You always have a craving for seafood.”

He shrugged with that cute helpless expression of his and walked inside the house. She sighed once and headed for her car. She hated seafood.



Chapter 3


Doctor Julian Tate, noted psychiatrist and currently employed at Serenity Sanitarium, stood in his barn piling hay for his horses into a neat pile in one corner of his barn. He was a tall, thin man with a small gray goatee perched on a narrow chin, wearing denim coveralls.

It was early Monday morning, and he was trying to finish his morning chores before going into work when he heard a car drive up. He didn’t bother to check who had come visiting. Whoever it was would find him soon enough. He had to get this hay taken care of first.

After a few minutes, he heard the barn door creak and turned to see a tall, lean blond in a gray pants suit standing in the doorway, her long hair falling to her shoulders. He didn’t recognize her, yet there was something oddly familiar about her, especially when she moved. The way she moved, the tilt of her head, stirred a memory he couldn’t quite place.

“May I help you?” Dr. Tate asked, puzzled by the appearance of this stranger so early in the morning. He stopped pitching hay into the corner of his barn and turned to face her, sticking his pitch fork into the soft earth.

Alex smiled. It was a hard, angry smile. Then, with her right hand in her coat pocket, she walked farther into the barn, stopping only a few yards from Tate.

“Have you forgotten me? You use to tell me I was your star patient, that I would make you famous.”

“I don’t…”

“Perhaps my old name would help. You knew me as Mary, a frail, shattered sixteen year old girl trying to get over the death of her parents.”

“Mary Carson, of course, I thought there was something familiar about you. You know, I devoted an entire chapter to you in one of my books.”

“I’m glad you found me so useful,” she sarcastically replied. Her frozen, grim smile never changing.

“When you escaped, I was very disappointed. I was really only beginning with you. There is so much we could have done together.” There was a wistful smile on his face as he remembered. “You would have proved so many of my theories.”

“Despite the pain of your patient? I remember as well doctor. I remember the thousands of volts pouring through my body, the agonizing convulsions, and the screams, the terrible screams. Do you realize the hell you put me through?”

“I know it was difficult, but it was for your own good. It was the only treatment that seemed to work. You were in a severe dissociative state when they brought you to the sanitarium. There were days when you completely shut down, refused to acknowledge any external stimuli. Nothing seemed to work. Electroshock treatment was our only recourse, and it worked. Surely, you see that?”

“All I remember is a young girl screaming for you to stop, to let her go. You tortured me for two years. And you killed.”

Doctor Tate frowned at that remark. He was beginning to be a little afraid. The woman was obviously full of anger and resentment. She could be dangerous.

“Who are you referring to?” he finally asked.

“Don’t tell me you have already forgotten Jenny, sweet Jenny. She died on the table of your torture machine.”

Dr. Tate inhaled sharply. He had forgotten about the young dark-haired woman with a weak heart. Of course, they hadn’t known about the weak heart then. Only when she died under the electroshock treatment did they discover that Jenny Wool had a history of heart trouble.

“That was an unfortunate accident. The entire sanitarium was sorry about that.”

“You weren’t all that sorry, not enough to stop, were you? You went right on with your treatments.” The accusation was sharp and angry. The smile gone from her face.

“We stopped electroshock treatments,” Tate said, nervousness showing in his voice and face.

“But not immediately, no you continued your torture on me until I escaped.”

Tate had been a psychiatrist long enough to know that he was in danger. He needed help. He removed his cell phone from his pocket to make a 911 call, and then saw the automatic in her hand pointing directly at him.

“Drop the phone, doctor.”

Wetting his lips nervously, he let the small cell phone slide off his outstretched fingers. He knew now that she had come to kill him. In his best professional manner and voice, he forced himself to smile.

“Don’t do anything drastic, Mary.”

“My name is no longer Mary. That woman died a long time ago. My name is Alex now.”

“Alex, I can help you. We can talk this out. ”

She shook her head and then smiled. It was a cold, vengeful smile. “No one can ever talk this out.”

He drew himself up straight, full of pride and defiance. “I have helped many people in my lifetime, restored them to a useful role in society.”

“You have destroyed a lot of lives, including mine. I was fortunate enough to finally escape or who knows what would have happened to me. I could have become another one of those mindless vegetables you keep locked up in the off-limits area of the sanitarium.”

He raised his eyebrows slightly. “You know about those? No one is supposed to know about them.” He paused a moment, frowning with his eyebrows drawn close together and thinking hard. “Many of those patients came to the sanitarium like that. There was nothing we could do for them except house them and take care of them. They were incurable.”

Alex took two steps closer, her knuckles white on the handle of her pistol. “How many of them were your electroshock patients?”

Doctor Tate backed up. His eyes nervously darted from side to side. “A few, only a few, but I couldn’t help them.”

“More than a few. You cover up your failures well, Doctor.”

He suddenly took a step forward and tried to smile, failing. He had to reach this woman, somehow divert her from murdering him.

“We can straighten this all out. No one needs to die.”

“Yes, they do,” Alex said as she squeezed the trigger, putting a bullet right between Tate’s eyes. He fell back in sudden shock, hitting the ground hard, face up, his eyes already glazing over.

“You won’t terrorize anyone else now,” Alex said, tears of relief and satisfaction streaming down her face.

At last, she had confronted her monster and banished him. She had dreaded this confrontation and been eager for it at the same time. She had been afraid of Tate for a long time. She was free of him at last.

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The Ticktock Murders

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