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Killing Kate

A Novel

The next page-turner in Julie Kramer’s bestselling series featuring intrepid television reporter Riley Spartz is “a flat-out tour de force of harrowing twists and turns” (New York Times bestselling author William Kent Krueger).

Crime-solving means high ratings for Minnesota TV reporter Riley Spartz when she nails the culprit behind Silencing Sam (“Sexy, sinister.” —Linda Fairstein). But the stakes rise when Riley must piece together a serial killer’s murderous motive for Killing Kate.

Channel 3’s news director sends Riley on a dog rescue story sure to win over Minneapolis–St. Paul’s viewers. But when the Twin City’s latest murder victim is someone from Riley’s past, she can’t stay away. Kate Warner was her college roommate’s sister, and the killer’s signature—a chalk outline of a winged angel—links him to a string of homicides across the Midwest. Unearthing his agenda leads Riley to the legendary Black Angel statue in an Iowa cemetery—and may lead to a twisted trap designed just for her by the angel killer himself.

Killing Kate CHAPTER 1
Waitresses were easy to research. For the price of lunch or coffee he gathered most of the information he needed. First, he’d stall in the doorway of the restaurant skimming the menu. Then he might walk past the tables to the bathroom. Or maybe even pretend he recognized someone sitting on the other side of the room. All were opportunities to scan for a promising target—preferably a blonde—and note which section of the room she was serving.

Once he was seated, the rest came effortlessly. Often she wore a name tag. And if not, her name usually appeared on the bill. So no introduction was necessary. Her job was to be nice to customers. Even those she might give a cold shoulder to under different circumstances. Flirty charm meant the difference between twenty percent of the tab or being stiffed.

He could pretend they were new friends and practice making sociable conversation. Sometimes he even imagined they were married and she was preparing a home-cooked dinner for him after a long day at work. And he always paid in cash, so there was no check or credit card to trace back to him.

While she fetched water or restocked the bread basket, he recorded details in a small notebook to further the illusion his meal was business-related. Name. Physical description. And most important, how he was treated. If he detected scorn, he circled that entry with a red pen. That was his code for which ones needed to learn respect. He chose the color red deliberately.

Once, he stared so intensely at his server that she dropped silverware and backed away clumsily into another diner. He had meant his attention as a compliment. But instead of being flattered, she pointed him out to a coworker and even from across the room he could see her lips mutter “pervert.”

He wrote down the affront. Then circled her name in red.

When she finished her shift, he was waiting in the parking lot to see which vehicle she drove. Women were always cautious going to their cars, and security cameras were mounted everywhere. He knew better than to approach her during that short trek. Home was where they felt safest, and there, it was simple to catch them off guard and out of sight of witnesses.

Patience was paramount.

He knew better than to follow her directly home, because the last thing he needed was a suspicious cop and a police report with his name and vehicle information on file. He stayed on her bumper only long enough to get her license plate number. Later, he popped her address from public records and watched to become familiar with her work schedule. It was important that she be dressed in the role.

To be assured of privacy, he also needed to learn the routine of her household. Whether she lived alone, with a roommate, or had a family. The journey to the end took weeks.

He also hungered for permission. But that blessing now came easily.

So one day when the garage door opened for her car, he followed inside . . . crouching low and close to the side of the building. When he cornered her, he was disappointed that she had no idea who he was, how he had picked her, or why he was wearing gloves and a hairnet.

“Say it,” he told her.

But she was confused and didn’t know what he was talking about. All she could mumble were a few shaky words that sounded like “please” and “don’t hurt me.”

But he’d heard similar stammers before. “Say it,” he threatened her with a club held high.

She covered her head and sobbed, her shoulders quivering. She couldn’t seem to hold eye contact with him. That wouldn’t have changed anything, but he relished the fog in their eyes.

“Say it,” he insisted, “say ‘pervert.’ “ He smashed his weapon against the garbage can, denting the lid.

Finally, she raised her face and repeated the word.

Then he brought the club down. And when she was dead, he arranged her body just perfect and added his special touch. Turning her from devil to angel.

He was their salvation.

He never visited the same restaurant twice. He never cruised places in the town where he lived. He didn’t mind driving long distances because he enjoyed the feeling of control behind the wheel. And on the special nights, he parked about a half mile away, carrying his tools in a backpack. After all, he had plenty of time.

He also had a formula that worked. But it soon grew unsatisfying.

So he broke the pattern. Ditched his distant waitress mania, instead focusing on a closer, more deserving target: Kate.

It was hard to admit to himself, because it meant acknowledging he’d made mistakes, but he’d come to realize he hadn’t played fair with the first ones. Those women had deserved to know why he had come. Initially, he had worried that such a warning might alter the outcome, but he also savored the idea of them brooding over who or what or when or where.

Kate’s transgression was plotted, not fleeting; so she had plenty of warning about his displeasure.

But the risk of discovery was worth the expression in her eyes as the club came down.

He would kill to see that look again.
Photograph by Garrett Young

Julie Kramer is a journalist turned novelist. She writes a series of thrillers set in the desperate world of TV news. Julie has won the Daphne du Maurier Award for Mainstream Mystery/Suspense, RT Reviewer’s Choice Award for Best First Mystery, as well as the Minnesota Book Award. Her work has also been nominated for the Anthony, Barry, Shamus, Mary Higgins Clark, and RT Best Amateur Sleuth Awards. She formerly ran WCCO-TV’s investigative unit before becoming a freelance network news producer for NBC and CBS. She lives with her family in White Bear Lake, Minnesota.

More books from this author: Julie Kramer