Murders for Substance, Book 1
Dr. Kep Woodhead is a brilliant, irascible forensic toxicologist with a dark past. Bernadette Becker is a disgraced federal investigator with one last chance. They’re both assigned to a strange poisoning case: a graduate student has been found dead in a 15th-century chapel, a needle filled with a controversial hallucinogen sticking out of his arm. The priest, the professor, the piscary president, the protestor, the protégé—they all emerge as suspects to stop the victim’s research project, and soon Becker’s life is in danger. Do Becker and Woodhead have a prayer of discovering the truth before more people are killed?
“So no one’s been down there since six o’clock?”
“I don’t know.”
“Let’s go check,” Bernadette said.
“What—so you can get your team in without my permission?”
“Humor us, please,” Bernadette said. “If something’s wrong with the aquarium rooms, no one is receiving those emergency calls.”
Lightman scoffed. “We’d see it in the building. Lights and an annoying beep.”
“Okay, fine,” Lightman snapped. “If it will get you out of my hair.” He shuffled out of his office, past Kymer Thompson’s desk, and ran his hand over his face. Kep and Bernadette followed closely. He turned down the hall and took the staircase down to the ground floor.
At the bottom of the stairs, he turned to the unmarked metal door and paused.
“That’s strange,” he mumbled.
“What’s strange?” Bernadette asked.
“There’s normally a red light…” His voice faded as he punched in numbers, but there was no soft beeping when Lightman pushed the buttons, and no green light when he was done. He frowned and tried the door.
It swung open.
The room was dark and quiet.
“What the hell,” Lightman mumbled. “This room isn’t supposed to be—”
Then the smell hit Bernadette’s nostrils. Fish—a hundred times stronger than the last time she’d been down here.
Where was the sound of the pumps in the aquarium?
Why wasn’t the alarm going off?
A light. Bright, sharp.
Kep had turned the light of his phone on and he shined it in the clear acrylic tanks.
At first, Bernadette saw nothing but water—a little dirty, but she could still see through it. She’d expected to see the lamprey larvae darting around, or trying to find the detritus and algae that made up their diet.
Instead the tanks looked empty.
Then Kep moved his light up to the top of the water of the center tank.
Hundreds, maybe even thousands, of lamprey ammocoetes, floating on top. Most were one or two inches in length—like worms. Bernadette felt sick.
And there was a dead body floating in the tank among the larvae, face down.
She recognized the leather jacket right away.
Thank you, Paul Austin Ardoin and RABT Book Tours
About the Author
Paul Austin Ardoin is the Amazon bestselling author of The Fenway Stevenson Mysteries. Book 1, THE RELUCTANT CORONER, is his debut novel. He has published short fiction and humorous essays in the anthologies Bottomfish and Sweet Fancy Moses, and non-fiction works about computer security in California Computer News and European Communications.
Paul is a California native who put his creative writing degree to use by authoring marketing materials for computer security companies for the better part of two decades. When he’s not writing novels or trying to save the world through better computer security, Paul plays keyboards in a dance rock band. He lives in the Sacramento area with his wife, two teenagers, and a menagerie of animals.
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