Psychological Crime Thriller
Date Published: July 26, 2019 (preorder available now at 99 cents)
Marco Lumachi is a professional hitman. His name is not Donovan North, and he’s not a detective transferring from New York City to Landstaff Junction, Vermont. But the whole town thinks he is, and if he wants to stay alive, he needs them to keep believing that.
Because the real Donovan North — who happens to look a lot like Marco — was gunned down on the way to his new job, by a rival mob family who thinks they killed the hitman.
Forced to work on the right side of the law, Marco finds himself hunting down a serial killer who’s brutally murdered two women already. Worse, his new “partner” is beautiful, dedicated, and not buying a word of his cover story.
But the man he’s impersonating kept secrets of his own, and what Detective North was hiding could prove deadly … for Marco, and for the innocent women that the killer is still targeting.
New Heights Juvenile Detention Center — Bronx, NY
Seventeen years ago
I was out in the yard after another pathetic excuse for dinner, checking around to see if anyone had gotten a care package from home so I could muscle in on them and get something decent to eat, when I spotted the new guy over by the outside fence. And I couldn’t look away.
There must’ve been a hell of an expression on my face, because Jake Paladino came over and elbowed me, even though I’d punched him for less in the past. “Did you see a ghost, or what?” he wheedled, and then flinched away, clearly remembering too late that I didn’t appreciate being jabbed.
I let it go this time, though. I was too fascinated to be angry.
“Over there,” I told him with a bare nod toward the fence.
Jake followed my gesture, and the perfect bug-eyed jaw-drop that formed on his face almost made me laugh. He looked like a real-life cartoon. Wile E. Coyote, watching the rocket he’d just fired at the Road Runner bounce off a cliff and head back at him full speed.
“You got a brother I don’t know about?” Jake finally blurted.
I shook my head, my gaze not leaving the newcomer. Apparently it was true what they said: everybody has a lookalike somewhere in the world. And here was mine. The new guy was a mirror, a twin, a clone of me.
Jake shook off the shock first and started bouncing on the balls of his feet, a lunatic grin on his unfortunate face. The scrawny, twitchy kid who’d followed me around like a stray dog since the day I got locked up in this crap place claimed to be the son of a mobster, and swore he was going to introduce me to his father and bring me into the “family business” when we got out of here. But I only had a week left on my sentence, and Jake had six months on his. Plus, he was probably lying about his mob connections.
I was considering it, though. If nothing better came along before Jake got out of here, maybe I’d give the little weasel a chance to make good on his claims. Considering my talents, the mob might be a decent fit for my future.
Not that any of us in New Heights could have a real future. They called it a youth center, but it was really just a prison with brighter colors — and everybody knew that ex-cons were screwed. Even if they were just kids when they went in.
Nobody who came out of this place would ever be considered a child again.
“Jesus, look at him. Holy shit.” Jake giggled and almost nudged me again, but then he thought better of it at the last minute. “I bet he’s about to piss his pants over there. Hey, let’s fuck with him.” The jagged grin spread. “You know what? You could do anything, even in front of the security cameras, and just blame it on that guy. We should burn this place down or something. Oh, wait, how about we kill a guard?”
“No,” I said sharply. Sometimes Jake had to be corrected like a dog, and it was all I could do not to rub his nose in his own shit. “Leave him alone, for now.”
The new guy — my doppelganger — did look unsettled. But unlike Jake, I didn’t believe he was scared. Reserved, maybe. Hanging back, getting the lay of the land. His posture was guarded and self-protective, as if he was expecting some kind of abuse, and that could’ve been interpreted as fear. But I sensed something dark in him.
Or maybe I was only projecting my own darkness onto the spitting image of myself.
Jake lost interest in the other kid fast once I rebuked him. His face only fell for a few seconds, and then his smile bounced back. “Vince and them are trying to crowd the hoop again,” he said, pointing over at the rundown basketball half-court in the far corner of the yard, where four or five of the younger boys had begun a half-hearted game of Horse. “Want to scare them off?”
“Nah. I’m hungry,” I told him. “Go find somebody with a care package. I want good shit, nothing generic or homemade.”
Always happy to serve, Jake nodded vigorously and scuttled off. I watched him absently for a few seconds before I returned my attention to the new guy.
This time, my doppelganger was looking back. And there was no fear in him at all.
There was nothing in him.
It really was like looking in a mirror.
About the Author
S.W. Vaughn lives in “scenic” Central New York, with its two glorious seasons -- winter and road construction -- along with her husband and son. An award-winning author, copywriter, and blogger, she's been writing professionally for over 15 years.
Under Sonya Bateman, she is the author of the DeathSpeaker Codex series (urban fantasy) and the Gavyn Donatti series (urban fantasy / Simon & Schuster).