Authors: Alan Orloff,Zak Allen
— a horror/thriller
Diamonds For The Dead
(Agatha Award Finalist for Best First Novel)
Last Laff Mysteries
Agatha Award Finalist for Best First Novel
“…thought provoking debut…”
— Publishers Weekly
“A neat mystery…”
— Library Journal
“Alan Orloff’s superior storytelling skills shine in his tension-filled debut…”
— Mystery Scene Magazine
“DIAMONDS FOR THE DEAD has many wonderful characters, all very colorful and full of life.”
— The Mystery Reader
“A good read, with an ending I never saw coming.”
— Suspense Magazine
“DIAMONDS FOR THE DEAD is a little gem.”
— Reviewing the Evidence
“DIAMONDS FOR THE DEAD can be read as a wonderful whodunit - but the many psychological and sociological aspects are equally or even more compelling…Five Stars out of Five.”
— The Examiner
“Make room on your shelves for a fresh new voice in mystery writing. Alan Orloff's DIAMONDS FOR THE DEAD has it all: compelling plot, great characters, and the kind of tension that keeps you screwed into your seat for a one-sitting read.”
— John Gilstrap, New York Times bestselling author of NO MERCY and HOSTAGE ZERO
“Good-hearted characters who aren’t wimps make this premiere of the Last Laff series a winner.”
— Kirkus Reviews
“…Orloff does a great job of evoking smalltime, struggling comedy clubs.”
“Gritty and full of surprises, this is a fascinating glimpse into the world of stand-up comedy; it’s definitely worth a read.”
— RT Book Reviews
“A fun book with a traditional feel, but also a page turner.”
— Crimespree Magazine
“Well plotted, great characters, and a promising beginning to a new series.”
— Suspense Magazine
“… a wildly entertaining page-turner.”
— David Bickel, author of CREEPIOSITY and TV writer/producer of “The King of Queens.”
“An entertaining debut with a diverse array of engaging characters…”
— Mystery Scene Magazine
“You won’t die laughing from KILLER ROUTINE, but you’ll be seriously swept up in the story as Orloff turns family tragedy into triumph.”
— Reed Farrel Coleman, three-time Shamus Award-winning author of INNOCENT MONSTER
FIRST TIME KILLER
Copyright © 2011 by Alan Orloff
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever, including Internet usage, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without written permission from the author, except for brief passages embodied in critical articles and reviews.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Cover Design: Melanie Hooyenga /
Ink Slinger Designs
Interior Design/Formatting: Natasha Fondren /
The eBook Artisans
To my family, for putting up with my nonsense.
WHACKJOB. LINE TWO.
Radio talk show host Rick Jennings stared back at the instant message on his monitor.
WHACKJOB. The catch-all term his producer used for someone who sounded unhinged, someone with a bug up his butt. Someone unpredictable.
Twenty seconds to air. Over the span of his twenty-six-year career, Rick had received plenty of calls from fruitcakes. A few went well. Most ended poorly.
In the master control room, J.T. O’Connor, the show’s producer, held up both hands, fingers splayed. Ten seconds to air. Rick glanced at the monitor, and the studio walls seemed to close in around him as he read the words again. Why had he agreed to move to the
from his quiet midday show? Were calls from whackjobs going to be the norm?
J.T. pointed at him through the glass partition. Go time.
“Good afternoon everybody, Rick Jennings here. Welcome to the
, originating from Fairfax, Virginia, home of WTLK, the Talk of D.C. Syndicated in forty-two cities across this great country of ours. You know where you are.”
He leaned forward until his mouth was an inch from the Sennheiser microphone hanging in front of him. “Today, we’re going to open the show with a call. From a man with something important on his mind.” He paused, double-checked the phone queue, half-hoping the caller had hung up. “You are live! Speak to me, Jeffrey.”
No answer, unless you counted heavy breathing. He adjusted his headphones. “You there?” Rick paused, waiting for Jeffrey to muster enough courage to speak. It wasn’t always easy to get the words out knowing you were on a national radio show, where your hems and haws and stammers were broadcast to more than two million listeners expecting to be entertained.
“Yes, I’m here.” Jeffrey’s monotone voice sounded distant. Five more seconds of dead air crept by. “Rick?”
“Yes, Jeffrey. What’s bothering you? I’m all ears.” The deep timbre of Rick’s voice calmed his callers, and he knew it, counted on it, like LeBron counted on his crossover.
“People treat me badly. And…” Jeffrey’s robotic voice stopped abruptly.
“And they say mean things to me. They…they...”
“Look, why don’t you take a deep breath. Relax. Then tell me what the problem is, okay?” Rick massaged the back of his neck while he waited a beat for the caller to collect himself. It was going to be a long afternoon. Another in a series of long afternoons slowly stretching into a daisy-chain of interminable weeks.
“Listen, Jeffrey. We’re on live radio, man. If you want to talk, I’d love to hear you. Otherwise…” Rick let it hang, consulting the monitor and reviewing the queue of other callers. A half dozen waited, all with more compelling stories. Maybe something upbeat to get the show rolling.
“They call me names.”
“What names?” Rick’s eyes wandered to master control. Behind the thick pane of glass in the adjacent room, J.T. ran the board, while Celia Perez, the Program Director, circled her hand in the air, telling him to move things along. No matter what happened, she wanted more action, more drama, more listeners. More
“Nasty names. They call me nasty names.”
Rick moved his hand closer to the dump button, which some intern had painted neon pink. Management sent out weekly memos warning them about fines for indecency. Rick didn’t much care for the FCC’s politics, but he had a job to keep, a family to support. “Come on, Jeffrey. Sticks and stones, and all that. Ignore them. Take the high road. You’re a good person, right?”
“No, Rick. I’m not.”
“Hey, don’t be so hard on yourself. Everyone feels down sometime.”
“I’ve done a bad thing. A very bad thing.”
“What did you do?” Rick smoothed his voice out. “You can tell me. I’m a good listener.”
“Okay. Here it is,” Jeffrey said, then paused. Rick resisted the temptation to hit the drum roll sound effect. “No. Never mind. Never should have called.”
“Hang on, hang on. Calm down. Let’s talk it over,” Rick said.
Rick brought his lips closer to the mic’s black windscreen. “This is a call-in show, Jeffrey. You tell me your problems and I try to help you. That’s how it works. But you’ve got to trust me. Haven’t you ever listened before?”
“Actually, Rick, I have,” Jeffrey said. “I’m a long time listener, first time killer.”
ICK PRESSED HIS
headphones tighter. “Come again?”
“You heard me, Rick. I said I was a long time listener, first time
Jesus Christ. What was it with these wackos? Titillating radio, perhaps, but would things ever get back on track? He lifted his head, saw Celia tap her chin with a pen, then point it at him, eyes sparkling.
Make it good.
?” asked Rick.
“You heard me.”
“Okay, I’ll bite. What did you kill? A cockroach? A squirrel? A six-pack?” Rick took a deep breath. In, out. No matter how much the callers irritated him, he needed to stay cool. He’d be home soon.
“Have your fun,
.” Flat in tone, yet it raised goosebumps on Rick’s arms. “I’ll be getting the last laugh. Believe that.”
Rick started to hang up, but hesitated. Something about this guy’s voice kept him from switching to the next call. A bleak coldness. “You called me, Jeffrey. Let’s hear it. What did you kill?”
“Not what. Who.”
With callers on the
, it was usually a cheating boyfriend or a mother-in-law gone apeshit. Didn’t get too many self-proclaimed murderers calling. Rick glanced through the window at Celia. A wide grin lit up her dark face. Must be in hog heaven. He leaned in closer to the mic. “Okay. Who? Who did you kill?”
Five long seconds of silence. Then Jeffrey cleared his throat. “White male. Twenty to twenty-five years old. Dark hair. Kinda handsome, really.”
Rick swiveled back to master control. Celia pulled some imaginary taffy with her hands,
stretch it out, keep going
. “You really expect me to believe you killed someone and then called up a radio talk-show? Get real.” Rick’s hand started for the phone. Screw Celia, it was time to move on. “Say goodbye, Jeffrey.”
“I can prove it.”
“Why should I listen to you?”
“Because I have the blood of another person on my hands.”
Was this guy for real? The one-in-a-thousand caller who was certifiably nuts? “Jeffrey. What do you want from me? Doesn’t sound like you’re so smart, calling in, confessing to a murder. Sounds like you’re a chucklehead. So unless you’ve got something else for me, sayonara, baby.”
“Don’t disconnect me, Ricky. You don’t want to make a big mistake.” Jeffrey paused, letting the dead air stand as an additional challenge to Rick.
Rick scoffed. “A big mistake? Hah. Listening to you was the only mist—”
“You know this person. Or should I say,
“What?” Rick searched master control again, hoping J.T. was laughing about the prank he was pulling. Not even a smile. “Who? Who is it? Who are you?” Rick’s mouth was an inch from the mic, words coming out louder and closer together. His pulse quickened.