Exclusive Excerpt: Hacked Up: A Thriller by Ethan Stone

Blurb:

Seattle is being plagued by a string of gruesome murders. For Detective Peter Tao, it’s a career-making case, but he’s struggling to find a lead. How is the killer choosing his victims? What is he trying to prove?

With a long list of suspects and nothing to connect them, Peter is more determined than ever to apprehend the murderer. Then Peter gets the one vital piece of evidence that ties everything together. Now he’ll have to look beyond the obvious to identify the killer before anyone else is murdered.

Solve the mystery in this fast-moving crime thriller by Ethan Stone.

Excerpt:

Chapter 1

Another day, another dead body.

I flashed my badge to the uniformed officer standing guard and stepped under the crime scene tape. The wind from nearby Elliot Bay had me pulling the collar up on my coat as goosebumps raced over my flesh. The rising sun did little to alleviate the chill.

“Hey, Detective Tao.” Dr. Jill Trencher, King County Medical Examiner, glanced up. The corpse lay on its back, jeans pulled halfway down, arms and legs tucked alongside the body, and eyes wide open. It appeared to be male, but I wasn’t sure. The lack of breasts pointed to one fact but there wasn’t any male genitalia either. No male or female parts. Just dried blood where something should’ve been.

“What do we have, Jill?”

She stood. “White male. Mid-twenties.”

I kneeled, eyeballing the body and mentally cataloging the young man’s features. Short, light brown hair, eyes the shade of a dull penny. Squat, muscular body. “Time and cause of death?”

“I’d say around midnight for the time of death. As for the how, there’s a wound on the back of the neck,” she replied. “I suspect the killer severed the spinal cord. Would’ve been fairly quick and fairly painless.”

“Even the castration?”

“From the looks of it, that occurred postmortem. I’ll be able to tell you more when he’s on the table. The crime scene unit has already been and gone. We’re just waiting on you. Took you a little longer than normal to get here.”

I stood and scowled. ­“I was home, in bed, where I still should be.” No need to tell her I hadn’t been alone, or who had been in my bed. “I’m not the detective on call.”

“That would be his fault.” Jill pointed behind me.

Turning, I faced my partner, Detective Jamey Nolan.

“Why aren’t you at home with Chelsea?”

He rolled his eyes and stuffed his hands in his pockets. “I happened to be at the station when the call came in from Harbor Patrol. Sounded like an interesting case so I took it.”

“Am I supposed to thank you?”

“Guess you’ll just have to deal with it, huh?”

I snorted, unable to argue. Not that I was all that upset. A man murdered and castrated could indeed be a fascinating case and a fresh change from the gang killings Jamey and I had been investigating lately.

“Are you guys done?” Jill asked. “Can I get the body out of here?”

I took out my phone and snapped a picture of the victim’s face.

“Yeah, are you finished whining, Tao?” Jamey asked.

Smirking, I replied, “Not even close, but I’ll save it until we’re alone.”

Jamey and I stepped away and watched as Jill and her assistants removed the corpse.

“So, why were you at the station before the ass crack of dawn?”

Jamey didn’t answer. Instead, he turned away and stared out at the bay. I stepped next to him and put a hand on his shoulder. “You and Chelsea having problems again?”

Jamey glared at me, but it wasn’t like I was wrong.

“You know us. It’s always something.”

“Wanna talk about it?”

He glanced over and shook his head. “Not right now.”

“Well, if you do, just let me know.”

Jamey waggled his eyebrows and flashed a cheesy grin. “I wouldn’t want to interfere with your plans.”

I elbowed him in the gut, and he pretended I’d hurt him. As far as I knew, Jamey was the only one of my co-workers who knew I was gay. I hadn’t told him. He’d figured it out shortly after we began working together five years ago. Not surprising, really, not with his twenty-six years of experience as a detective. It hadn’t bothered him a bit. In fact, he liked, no, he loved ribbing me about it.

“If you’d been worried about messing with my plans, you wouldn’t have taken this case.”

His eyes got large, and he put a hand to his mouth. “Did you have what’s his name over again?”

“If you mean Haro, then yes, he stayed last night. We were both asleep when the call came in.”

“That’s like, what, the fourth time he’s slept at your place?”

“Sixth, actually,” I said. When Jamey winked, I added, “And don’t get any ideas. This is strictly no-strings-attached.” Haro and I had a lot in common-namely, conservative, old-school parents who wouldn’t handle having a gay son well.

“Yeah, but I know sometimes those types of relationships can turn into more.”

I side-eyed him. “Even if settling down with a guy was in the cards for me, what makes you think I’m in any kind of hurry to do that?”

He patted my cheek. “I just want my best friend to be happy. Figure one of us should be.” Sadness took over his face again, and I wished I could do something to help him out. “I need coffee. What about you?”

“Definitely. I didn’t have time since I was so rudely woken up this morning.”

“Quit your whining.”

We strolled toward the nearest Starbucks. Living in Seattle meant there was basically one on every corner.

“I’ll whine if I want to, jackass. I was hoping for a morning BJ.”

“Shut up, Peter. You know I don’t want to hear about your sex life.”

“That’s because you’re jealous. It’s probably been months since you got any.”

Normally, that would’ve brought on a retort from Jamey, but instead, he fell silent. This wasn’t the time or place to push it, otherwise, I would’ve demanded he tell me what was bothering him. Instead, we waited in silence to cross the street.

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