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Authors: Harrison Drake

Death By Degrees

BOOK: Death By Degrees
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Table of Contents















Death By Degrees

Copyright © 2013 by Harrison Drake. All rights reserved.

First Kindle Edition: August 2013


Cover and Formatting:
Streetlight Graphics


This eBook is licensed for the personal enjoyment of the original purchaser only. This eBook may not be resold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you are reading this eBook and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.


The characters and events portrayed in this book are a work of fiction or are used fictitiously. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.


This one is for you.

Yes, you.

You, the reader.

You, the one who spends your hard earned money and precious time.

You, the one who posts reviews and recommends these books to your friends, family, colleagues.

You, the one who helps to keep my dream alive.

This one is for you.



Yes, you.


nce again, I cannot name the people who have given their time and energy to make this book a reality. I wish that I could, I wish I could shout it from the mountaintops. Perhaps one day. As for now, know that this book wouldn’t exist without you.

I can give a warm thank you though to the people at Streetlight Graphics who once again produced an amazing cover and formatted this book. The fact that the cover they produced came on the first try speaks volumes.

Other Books by Harrison Drake

Detective Lincoln Munroe

A Dream of Death

Blue Rubicon

Death By Degrees




The Homicide Files (Detective Lincoln Munroe Novellas)

Full Fathom Five

The Purest Treasure




My Life in Darkness

Chapter One

he weeks passed by, Christmas came and went, yet nothing changed - everything stayed the same. The awkward glances, the avoidance, the distant stares and escaped conversations. And, of course, the fear and the anger.

The hatred.

All of it deserved. Right or wrong, my actions and my investigation into the murder of one police officer led to the deaths of five more, as well as the incarceration of another seven once all the dust had settled.

Not to mention the suicide of a once highly respected judge.

It wasn’t something that people could easily forget about, even if it could be forgiven. But that wasn’t all there was. What had happened thirty years ago had become front page, international news.




The headlines were all the same. My eight-year-old self was thrust into the media; a scared, shaking boy who had killed a man - a pedophile and murderer - in order to defend his father and himself.

William Jeffries. Once a forgotten missing persons case, now a name spread across the pages and screens of the world. A pedophile, killed by the very boy he had tried to abduct.

Lincoln Munroe. Once a small-time homicide detective, fast becoming a household name thanks to everything that had happened.

It was a lot to deal with, a lot to take in; for me, for Kat, and for the kids. As if having to escape your fire-bombed house and flee the country wasn’t enough for two children to deal with. The skeletal remains of our house had stood during my investigation, long enough for us to remove the few belongings that managed to survive, then it had been torn down to the foundation.

We watched as the rubble was taken away, hauled off in dumpster after dumpster until nothing but a deep hole in the dirt was left behind. The basement had been finished and the fire had torn through it as well, the foundation damaged to the point of no return.

Once the trucks were gone they started coming back. They poured load after load of dirt into the hole, tamping it down with heavy machinery until the only sign that a house had ever existed there was the cracked and lonely driveway.

I wanted to salt the earth - a ring around the property; one last way to say goodbye to it and all the memories it had held. And a way to keep the bad memories in and the good ones out.

Kat wouldn’t let me. Leave it to the good Catholic girl to spoil a bit of ritual. It had all been too much and it had left us undecided on where to go next.

Undecided and homeless.

Kara put us up for two weeks before the four of us became like a plague, one that she felt extremely guilty about curing. A hotel was the next stop before we decided to take the cheque from the insurance company, rent a house in our old neighbourhood, and give it some time before we decided what to do with our empty plot of land.

And that’s what I was doing. I put some finishing touches on a new home I’d designed on company time, using a fancy computer program I never thought I’d be able to get to work. It had been slow in the office… very slow. Uncommonly slow. With all of our cases cleared Kara and I sat leafing through cold cases, twiddling our thumbs and trying not to pray for a murder.

The discovery of an old murder? That was okay. Praying that a body would be found didn’t violate morality rules, did it? Praying for murder did, of that I was sure.

The old adage of ‘be careful what you wish for’ never came to mind. Not until it was too late.

An annoying, computer-generated sound pulled me away from landscaping my virtual home and brought me back to the real world - the world of OPP Homicide.

An e-mail. I almost didn’t bother looking at it. Probably just another all members message about some cop in Western Region trying to sell his snowmobile. Or a reminder of some upcoming event I had no desire to attend.


ATTN: Detective Lincoln Munroe.


Damn it. Addressed to me. I had to read it now.



At 43.562746N, 81.643785W you will find the body of Jennifer Lynn Plimpton in a shallow grave.


Duncan Crawford

337 Pacific Avenue, Winnipeg, MN


Chapter Two

ennifer Plimpton.

I knew the name well. She had disappeared almost a year ago now, in the middle of last June; gone without a trace. All we knew was that she went missing in the middle of the night from her home. Her fiancée had gone to bed early after a long day working construction. Jennifer had stayed up watching TV on the main floor in a room at the rear of the house.

When her fiancée woke up in the morning just before six Jennifer was gone. The front door was wide open, the TV was still on; a half-eaten bowl of popcorn and barely touched bottle of water sat on the coffee table. She might as well have just walked out of the house - left without saying goodbye.

The investigators had nothing to suggest foul play other than the repeated urgings of family and friends to investigate further, that there was no way she would ever disappear like that. She was a student and in the process of finishing her Masters degree in Psych with a focus on childhood psychology. She loved children and her family said she couldn’t wait to have her own. Instead, she spent the summers off school taking care of her sister’s two girls, aged seven and five, while school was out and her sister worked.

With only a couple of weeks to go before school was out for the kids, Jennifer was planning everything that she would do with them over the summer. She had scoured the internet for craft ideas, games, recipes - anything she thought that they would like. A binder full of printouts sat on the kitchen counter for weeks after. Her fiancée had been unable to move it; her nieces would never be able to experience the simple joys held within.

I’d read through the report a few times. At first there was the possibility that Jennifer had just needed a break, left without telling anyone and would make her way back or contact family when she was ready. As the weeks went by and the hope of a simple answer dwindled, foul play became more and more likely despite the lack of evidence.

Cops get hunches. It’s a part of the job. Everyone has their instincts, their gut feelings they just can’t shake. When it came to Jennifer my gut was loud and clear.

And now it had been proven right, something I could take no pride in.

It took us two hours to confirm that the e-mail was real - an hour to get as close as the roads would take us and another to find where the body was buried, trekking through the densely wooded area. The body was exactly where the e-mail had said it would be, a spot that wasn’t hard to see once we closed in. The differences would have been obvious even to an untrained eye.

It wasn’t a new grave, but it was far from old. The dirt had settled so that only a slight mound remained. It was the foliage that gave it away. All around us were the skeletons of various plants, grasses, and bushes, all lost to the winter’s cold. But above the body only the thin wisps of the recently born and more recently deceased grasses lingered - new life growing over new death.

The forensics team came along for the ride, saving us the trouble and wait of having to call them out once we’d discovered the body. The name of the victim had been almost enough, but it wasn’t the first time we’d had information about Jennifer. There was the psychic who told us she was alive and well living in Estonia, the false confession we were given by a man with a history of mental illness, and more tips and sightings than I could count.

There was something about this one though. They say you can’t read emotion in an e-mail, or a text message. I’ve always disagreed. This e-mail felt serious, the author flat, level, and clear. My mind ruled out nervous prank, and went straight to treating the message as gospel.

There wasn’t much we could do at first. Once enough of the body was uncovered to confirm what we had the scene was held for an anthropologist to attend. My minimal background was enough to have me held at the scene – at least this time there was no chance that I’d be helping to excavate the body of someone I’d killed.

A few university courses, a couple of digs and assisting on a few excavations was the limit of my experience, so I was happy to see that when the expert walked up two and a half hours later it was an old professor of mine.

The man was a genius, very well known in both his field and mine. And while he lacked the looks and hyper-rational mindset of my favourite fictional forensic anthropologist, he at least had knowledge of pop cultural topics and modern slang. Didn’t stop me from calling him Bones though.

“Don’t call me that.”

“Yes, Dr. Heinlen. How’s it been?”

“Same as always. Just enjoying the summer right now. You’re lucky you called today, I leave tomorrow for Africa.”

“Must be nice.”

“Not for vacation, working. Under the hot sun twelve hours a day. I’ve stocked up on Robaxacet for the trip.”

I laughed. It could still be fun, especially if he made the eureka discovery he had always hoped for.

Samuel Heinlen, anthropologist, renowned for his study of early man and proponent of the “Out of Africa” theory. His job was to try to unearth the remains of pre-humans – a search for another Lucy. If he found one, maybe he’d name it after me.

“What do we have?”

“Very shallow grave burial, no more than ten months old. She went missing last June and we have no reason to believe the killer kept her alive. Odds are she was buried shortly after she was abducted. Partial skeletonization of the remains suggests more than six months. There isn’t much skin left on the parts we’ve exposed.”

His eyebrows raised slightly.

“Our test dig exposed what looks to be the right arm. Just to be certain we weren’t dealing with an animal burial and a hoax we brushed enough dirt away to reveal the skull. Clearly human.”

“We can go in a few minutes,” he said. I looked up at him, wondering as to the delay. My eyes met his and he drew my gaze to the north, back toward the main road. I could see shapes moving through the thick brush and trees and it wasn’t pretty. They moved in stops and starts, side to side as they tried to weave their way toward us. Even if he hadn’t shown me they were coming, it wouldn’t have been long before I heard them.

The cracks of branches, the thuds as heavy cases hit solid tree trunks, the curses and shouts of pain, the grumbling – it was all too familiar.

Graduate students. Maybe a couple of undergrads as well.

“I should have noticed you were a little light.”

“Why would I carry a thing when I have able-bodied students jumping at the bit to prove themselves?”

I laughed. It wasn’t that long ago that I’d been one of those students lugging his gear for him.

He must have been thinking the same. “How long has it been, Lincoln? Ten years?”

“Are you trying to get a free meal out of this? Maybe a little extra from the expense account?”

“That long, eh?”

I nodded. “Fifteen.”


My thoughts exactly.

They were getting closer, one running into everything in his path as she stared at the device in her hands.

“Najat Şentürk. She’s coming to Africa with me. Thought she’d better know how to read a GPS. Finding your way in here isn’t like listening to a voice telling you when to turn.”

Najat looked to be in her early twenties. I couldn’t place her name but her olive skin tone and dark hair led me to think she was from somewhere around the Mediterranean. She was average height but a little heavier than average, although she carried it well. I knew those extra pounds. It was the weight gain that came from spending all one’s time studying, and from eating poorly as a result. She seemed to have an athletic build though, and likely would bounce back quickly once she had time to devote to exercise once more. It was something I knew all too well, except at my age the bouncing back took a lot longer.

“Apparently that isn’t easy, either,” I said. “When people first started getting the portable GPS devices in their cars, I got sent to investigate a single vehicle collision. Twenty-two years old and he never thought to question the GPS when it told him to turn left where there wasn’t a road. There was a tree though.”

Samuel laughed. “I thought those stories were just made up.”

“Not at all. I couldn’t figure it out. Thought he was drunk at first even though it was the middle of the afternoon. Couldn’t smell a thing on him. Next guess was something medical - maybe a seizure or something. He finally admitted the truth. Wrote off his dad’s Jag.”

“Ouch.” He shook his head as we kept watching the shapes getting closer and closer. “Figured they’d have been here already. We left the van at the same time.”

“I’m a little surprised you even let them have a GPS.”

His eyes moved upwards, he was trying to remember something. “Was I that mean to you?”

“Actually no. Other than making me lug around all your tools, your tent, your lunch…”

“That’s unfortunate.”

“Thanks,” I said. If we’d been a little closer, I probably would have punched him in the shoulder.

“Do you ever wonder if you made the right decision?”

I thought about his question for a moment, thought about the events of the past year. I didn’t pursue a career in anthropology because I met Kat and we wanted to start a family sooner rather than later. And I didn’t feel that being gone sometimes for months at a time on digs was the best way to raise children.

“I wanted a different life for the kids, one I thought would be better. Sure as hell hasn’t turned out that way.”

He nodded. “It wasn’t easy keeping a family together with me traveling all over. But we managed. If it was a long dig and a safe place they came with me. If it was only a week or so, well… we all looked at it as a vacation – me from home and them from me.”

I smiled, my mind too laden with thoughts of what the kids had been through to laugh. “Builds character,” I could hear my father saying.

All I could do was hope that he was right.

“Dr. Heinlen.” The grad students had arrived. Sweaty, exhausted and decorated with scrapes from the brush and branches but alive.

“Where’s the blue case?”

The five of them looked at each other, staring at the loads each one carried. There wasn’t a blue case among them. Their eyes moved up, flitting back and forth across each other’s faces, waiting for someone to volunteer to go back to the vehicle. Finally, the holder of the GPS spoke up.

“I’ll go.” The enthusiasm in her voice was astounding.

“Lincoln, I’d like you to meet Najat Şentürk. She’s working on her Ph.D.” She smiled faintly. I could tell that she didn’t like being the centre of attention. “Her eagerness to please reminds me a lot of you back in the day.”

I shook hands with Najat before being introduced to the remainder of Samuel’s assistants.

“Do you need me to go back?” Najat said once the introductions were over.

“No,” the doctor said. “There is no blue case.”

“Still an ass, after all these years,” I said.

“Some things should never change.”

The excavation continued and even gave me a chance to get down and dirty with the tools once more. The department could pay the dry cleaning bill for my suit; patches of brown and green clung to the black. I understood the need for suits, it was to promote an air of professionalism. Function on the other hand, would have been better served by running shoes, shorts and a t-shirt.

Foot pursuits in dress shoes, especially on snow and ice, was not an easy task. Fighting with a tie on was just asking to get strangled, and digging in dress pants was like playing in the sandbox in your Sunday best. It may have been fun, but it usually led to being yelled at.

“You ever had anything like this?”

I was on my knees in the dirt, leaning over the near skeletal body. “No, but it’s not uncommon.” I knew she wasn’t asking about the body, Kara knew all too well I’d just dealt with another shallow grave burial. “People do occasionally come clean on their crimes. Just not often. And an e-mail? Seems a little weird.”

“Wasn’t there one a while ago where someone walked into a detachment to confess to a murder?”

Like me walking into the Commissioner’s office? It wasn’t what she was getting at, probably hadn’t even come to mind for her.

I couldn’t think of the exact case she was talking, but it did happen. There were times when it was right after the crime, others where it had been years, even decades. Maybe the killer finally gave into the guilt, maybe they found God – there were many different possibilities.

But confessing to a crime was a very personal thing, something that most people wouldn’t take light enough to do by e-mail. A theft, maybe. But murder? It was like breaking up by text message. After a couple of dates, maybe acceptable. The day before the wedding? Appalling.

“I think there’s more to this, Kara. It hasn’t been sitting well since the e-mail came in.”

BOOK: Death By Degrees
7.91Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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