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The Past Never Dies

THE PAST NEVER DIES is the second book in the gripping Elijah Shaw Crime Thriller Series set in Costa Rica.

Keep scrolling for more information and to read the first three chapters of the novel!

Book Description

Deeply shaken after witnessing — as a child — his mother’s brutal murder by a serial killer known as the Bedroom Killer, Elijah Shaw faces his fears and becomes one of the best homicide detectives in Costa Rica. As an agent in the elite Major Crimes Squad, a unit which investigates high-profile crime wherever it occurs in Costa Rica, he is tasked with solving the most heinous crimes in the Central American country.

Yet, with all his success hunting down and stopping serial killers like the Gringo Gulch Butcher, the long-dormant Bedroom Killer eludes Shaw. It’s a cold case that he won’t stop pursuing. Bringing the Bedroom Killer — his mother’s killer — to justice has become an obsession.

When Shaw receives letters purported to be from the Bedroom Killer, he dismisses them as a hoax. Until new letters share crime scene details, only the killer and the investigators would know. Then, his worst nightmare, new victims are killed and the disturbing crimes scene point to the Bedroom Killer.

But this time, another note is left, addressed to Shaw, and left on the dead bodies.

Is it really the Bedroom Killer, back after all these years? Or is it a copycat?

With the help of FBI Profiler Alexandra Needham, and a psychologist to deal with his childhood trauma and demons, Shaw tries to get to the bottom of the baffling case, before more innocent victims are brutally murdered.

Book Excerpt

Below are the first three chapters of THE PAST NEVER DIES. Enjoy! 

Chapter One

Human beings are creatures of habit. They get stuck in a daily rut and don’t pay attention to the dangers that might be out there. Especially within the imagined security provided by the white painted walls inside their homes.

To his delight, this was the case for Lucy Rios. After a long day at work, she was unwinding inside her single story colonial style townhouse, oblivious to the fact that he was outside watching her. And he had been following her for a while. He licked his lips as he watched her in anticipation as she went through her daily routine of preparing dinner. Taking a long bath. And watching television. As she always did, she fell asleep within a few minutes of turning on the TV. After an hour or two of going in and out of sleep on her couch, she gave up on the program and staggered to bed. Alone. As usual. He looked at the time. It was eleven o’clock at night. He would wait another few hours. Let Lucy’s REM kick in. Let the sleepy block getting even sleepier.

He enjoyed being out there late at night. At two in the morning, the world seemed different with the day sounds of snarling traffic, car horns, and people bustling about in a daze were replaced by crickets and the night wind. It’s as if all the ills of the world have gone to sleep along with its inhabitants. It’s dark and quiet in this pleasant neighborhood. So quiet. Everyone is in the comfort zone of their own homes and lives. Oblivious that he’s out there.

And that’s how he likes it, best. Under the cover of night, he feels invisible and invincible. He’s dressed in black, wearing a black backpack which has the tools he’ll need for his planned encounter with Lucy. He checks the time. 1:00 a.m. It’s hard to contain the thrill of the anticipation. He wants to go in right then and now. But he must be patient. To do what he does requires patience. He’ll wait another hour. He thinks of everything that led up to him standing out there prowling at one in the morning. 

He puts in a lot of legwork before showing up at his target’s home. He scoured online and offline for a new project. For her. And it doesn’t matter how long it takes — and it’s been a long time  — but once he finds a project, he doesn’t just pounce. It takes patience.

Even when he thinks he has one picked up, it doesn’t mean everything will line up for making contact. His patience once again pays off. He has to be sure. There have been projects he’s had to walk away from or projects he green lit but then something out of his control happens, and she doesn’t come home as planned. Or she doesn’t come home alone. Those projects were frustrating. It pinned up his urges and rage — which can lead to stupid mistakes that get him arrested. But not so far. And not on that night. Everything is going according to the plan with Lucy Rios.

Out there in the night, waiting, was his favorite part of the game. It’s the process leading up to the encounter that he likes best. He savors it.

Having watched her for weeks. Trolling. Stalking. Driving down the streets, she drove. Walking on the same sidewalk she uses. Casing her home. Her place of business. At the gym. Shopping. He knows what she eats. Drinks. Her penchant for pistachio ice cream from Pops. He knows her.

He’s everywhere she is, and she doesn’t notice him. It takes skill he has honed well over the years.

Then finally, it’s time. He checks his watch once again. Thirty more minutes and he’s going inside.

The excitement and anticipation of that night had been building up for a long time. Before he had even seen Lucy Rios for the first time.

Don’t look at your watch, he tells himself. But he could no longer contain the urge anymore. He felt like a walking pressure cooker that needed to be released before it exploded.

So there he was. In front of her house. Watching in the dark. Okay, look at your watch. He smiled. The time was now. Lucy Rios would soon be dead and Elijah Shaw would no longer ignore him.

Chapter Two

At seven in the morning, Elijah Shaw was on a run around the Sabana Park when his phone rang. He looked at the screen; it was his boss, Marlen Soto. 

He figured Soto was calling about the brouhaha he had gotten in with a fellow agent a few days ago. Had they decided his punishment? An official suspension or worse? He pondered his fate as he got off the pathway onto the dewy grass to avoid causing a bottleneck of runners and took the call.

“What’s up, boss?”

“Where are you?” Soto asked, sounding salty. Obviously, he was still pissed off at him.

“On a run in the park. What’s going on?”

“There has been a murder. You’re wanted at the scene right away. Claudia is on the way to pick you up. Right now,” Soto said.

He wasn’t expecting that.

“Okay. I’m close to home. I’ll run back and get ready,” Shaw said as he began sprinting back towards his house. 

Soto hung up, saying nothing more. Definitely still very pissed.

Not too surprising, Soto was still upset after what happened, Shaw thought as he doubled-timed it back to his house. He got back fast. As he went inside to get dressed, his partner Claudia Monge sent him a text: Get out of bed! 12 minute ETA.

Shaw smiled at her text. Smart ass, he thought. He set the phone timer for five minutes as he kicked off his running shoes and ditched his shorts and t-shirt on the way to the bathroom. He took a three-minute shower. There wasn’t any time for a shave. He checked the two-day stubble he had going. Not too bad, he thought, as he ran his index finger over the firm ridge of the scar over the front of his neck; a knife wound just above the vocal cords. A parting gift and permanent reminder of how close he’d come to dying at the hands of the serial killer known as the Gringo Gulch Butcher.

Maybe I should grow a full beard to cover up the scar, he thought as the timer chirped. He shut off the timer, ran a brush over his short, medium blonde hair with brown tones and sprinted into the bedroom to get dressed. Black polo shirt. Blue jeans. He picked up his holstered SIG Sauer pistol from the dresser and clipped it to his waist, then slipped on his OIJ windbreaker jacket and grabbed his badge and wallet as he headed out the front door. He was locking up as Claudia Monge pulled up fast in a white sedan that rocked a few times after slamming on the brakes.

“Today,” she hollered out towards the passenger window, which she had rolled down so the entire block could hear. He looked over at her. She had a smirk on her face. He jogged up to the car.

“Hey,” he said, climbing into the passenger seat. He was still buckling the seat belt when she pulled away.

“You know anything about this?” Shaw asked.

“All I know is that we have a dead female in La Aurora. But I’m surprised the brass asked for you,” Monge said.

“Same here since I’m still in the doghouse,” Shaw said.

Shaw and Monge had been partners for three years, but the Gringo Gulch Butcher investigation had frayed their working relationship. He had always been the odd man out in the unit, but the aftermath of the butcher case had him being even more of an outsider than before. But he would not worry about that now. If he was being called out to a crime scene, it meant there was a high-profile murder that needed to be investigated regardless of personal and professional setbacks he was having to deal with at the moment.

Shaw was an agent in the Special Investigations Unit of the OIJ. The OIJ was Costa Rica’s judicial police investigation organization, known for the Spanish initials of its name: Organismo de Investigación Judicial.

The judicial police agency was formed in 1973 and was modeled and inspired by the American FBI.

There were four special investigation units within the OIJ. 

Shaw and Monge were part of SIU-2, which handled major violent crimes in the country against tourists, politicians, or any person deemed a VIP by the powers that be. Any high-profile killings in the country were investigated by SIU-2 agents, considered elite among the already elite OIJ corps.

But Shaw wasn’t supposed to handle fresh cases for the time being. They’d put him on the equivalent of a timeout for law enforcement officers, as he had been dealing with the physical and mental aftermath of his last case, which ended the reign of terror unleashed by the Gringo Gulch Butcher. It was the first active serial killer case to hit the small Central American country in decades.

Three months had passed since the butcher almost got the upper hand on Shaw and slashed his neck—missing Shaw’s right carotid artery by mere inches.

Shaw not only had to deal with the injury but with an overwhelming crush of media scrutiny, as a video at the scene captured everything that went down that night, also showing him profusely bleeding from the neck wound. 

The video had gone viral to the tune of over two million views on YouTube before the OIJ had it removed. Not that it mattered, considering how the internet worked. The video had been downloaded and re-uploaded hundreds of times to other YouTube channels, and the unedited, graphic version kept popping up on sites like LiveLeak and the plethora of shock sites active online.

That unwanted attention had hampered his already precarious relationship with the other OIJ agents.

The animosity and jealousy over the media and public attention he got after the butcher case had boiled over a few days ago when he punched another agent who had been needling him for months over that case and his newfound fame. That punch put him on the timeout he was going through.

“I’m really sorry about everything that’s gone down the past few months,” Shaw said as Monge continued driving to Ciudad Colón, a town in the Mora county of the San José Province.

Monge turned to face him briefly before giving her attention back to the road. She shrugged.

“Hey, it’s all water the bridge as far as I’m concerned. You just need to get your shit together, man,” Monge said.

“I know. It’s my damn temper.”

“Losing your cool over a dumb ass comment from a dip shit like Walter Mendoza was not very smart.”

Shaw knew she was right, but it wasn’t just any old dumb ass comment like she put it. It was a new nickname being thrown around at him by a few assholes in the agency. Hollywood Barbie. 

Even though Shaw was born and raised in Costa Rica, his father—whom he had never met—was an American who had skipped town, hightailing it back to the US, leaving his mother alone and pregnant with him.

Shaw’s complexion was a mixture of his father’s fair-skinned American-Irish heritage and his mother’s Guanacaste dark brown skin, but compared to most ticos, he was fair-skinned and taller than average. His dirty-blond hair and crystalline blue eyes had made him stick out his whole life.

He had read that even though Costa Ricans assumed that just about everyone in the United States had blond hair and blue eyes, those were rare features even in America—but in Costa Rica they were a goddamn anomaly that put a target on his back for bullies. 

Shaw had always stood out looking more like an American surfer from Southern California than the true-blue tico he was.

And it wasn’t just his looks. His mother had named him after his father. A gesture he couldn’t understand. The man had abandoned her, leaving her alone, pregnant, and broke. Why would she give her bastard child that asshole’s name? Shaw assumed his mother had been hopelessly in love with the man, which is why she burdened him with the gringo name of his deadbeat father: Elijah Shaw. 

If the asshole had a middle name, Shaw’s mother must not have known it, so she added Isidro for the Catholic patron saint of farmers, harking back to her background as the daughter of a farmhand who eked out a living in the highlands of the Guanacaste Province. 

So his name was a hodgepodge of two unique cultures, American and Costa Rican. Growing up with the name of Elijah Isidro Shaw Montealegre had meant that he had to learn to fight from a young age.   

Because of his American-sounding name and looks, he had been nicknamed Barbie—which he loathed—since childhood. 

As if that nickname wasn’t bad enough, after the media attention given to him over the Gringo Gulch Butcher case, the assholes in the squad room had added Hollywood to a nickname he already despised. Hollywood Barbie.

Shaw knew better than to let that stupid nickname bother him, but it did. He let morons like Walter Mendoza push his buttons. But Monge was right. He shouldn’t have let Mendoza get under his skin when he referred to him as Hollywood Barbie for the umpteenth time. He regretted his action the second his fist connected with Mendoza’s face. But that fist had sailed. And he had to deal with the consequences of his actions.

“Well, hopefully since I’m been called out to this case, I can get back to work. Working gets me too busy to sit and think about that type of stuff,” Shaw said.

“Oh yeah, not dealing with it sounds really healthy there, partner,” Monge said. Then, under her breath, she imitated the sounds of a ticking time bomb. “Tick, tick, tick.” That got them both to laugh out loud. 

They pulled into the pleasant neighborhood of La Aurora in the Heredia province, a mixture of single-family homes and condos. It was an established neighborhood close to the Plaza Real Cariari, one of the large and modern shopping centers that had been popping up all over the metropolitan zone in the last couple of decades. It was a well-developed urban neighborhood.

“A lot of neighbors nearby,” Shaw noted as Monge parked the car.

“Which means lots of Ring cameras. Hopefully, we can nip this in the bud quickly,” Monge said.

“We’ve yet to have a case solved by Big Brother. It’s always boots on ground and a slog,” Shaw said.

“We’re due, then.”

“Okay,” Shaw said with a smile.

They got out of the car at almost the same time, looking around, taking in the environment. They were both armed with their OIJ-issued Sig Sauer pistols holstered on their hip.

It was warmer and muggier here than it was where Shaw lived in La Sabana, courtesy of Costa Rica’s micro-climates.

Already a large police presence was there, with several vehicles marked Fuerza Publica—Public Force—the uniformed national police force in Costa Rica, and the Municipal Police of Heredia and even more vehicles with the judicial police markings of the OIJ stamped on them.

The large van of the OIJ forensic team was parked in front of the victim’s house. No doubt Lola Quesada and her team were already inside processing the crime scene, Shaw thought. 

Uniformed police manned the yellow crime-scene tape while they kept a close eye on the neighbors who seemed to stand watch on the other side of the tape, trying to figure out what had happened on their quiet street to merit such a police presence.

Shaw and Monge ducked under the tape and headed towards the front door. Marlen Soto, Shaw and Monge’s supervisor waited for them on the front lawn. He nodded in greeting as he made his way towards them.

“What’s going on, boss?” Monge asked.

Soto was sweating, and he looked pasty, like he had just eaten bad clams.

“Female, twenty-nine years old. She was tied up. There was blunt force trauma to the head, signs of a sexual assault, and stabbed. Over ten times,” Soto said, quickly glancing at Shaw, then looking away.

That MO was disturbing and familiar to Shaw.

“Where was she attacked?” Shaw asked.

“Looks like the killer confronted her in the living room. He then dragged her to the bedroom, where he assaulted and killed her.”

Shaw felt as if the blood had drained down to his feet. He felt light-headed. Soto must have sensed this because he spoke to him gently, as if he was no longer upset over the punch.

“You okay, Eli?” Soto asked.

“Yes. Why wouldn’t I be?” Shaw said, sounding more defensive than he’d intended. 

“There’s more.”

“What else?”

Soto glanced down for a moment before turning towards Shaw and finally saying, “The killer left a note behind. It was, um, attached to the victim.”

“Attached? What do you mean, attached?” Shaw asked.

“The son of a bitch nailed it to the victim’s forehead,” Soto said.

“Jesus,” Monge said.

That’s a new sick trick, Shaw thought.

Soto cleared his throat as he leaned in closer towards Shaw and Monge.

“There was one more thing… the killer addressed the note to you, Eli.”

Chapter Three

Shaw felt all eyes on him as he walked through the crime scene. It felt like he was slogging through mud.

There were two other homicide investigators at the scene, part of the regular homicide branch: Francisco Pacheco and the last person Shaw wanted to see, Walter Mendoza, the man he had punched the previous week.

Mendoza stood by the bedroom door, his arms crossed, glaring at Shaw. It was an awkward reunion. The last time the two men had seen each other, they were being separated and held apart by fellow agents like baseball players during a game brawl.

The only friendly face he found there was Lola Quesada, wearing a face mask and in full on forensic investigator dress mode—a white coverall with hood, boots, and blue gloves.

Lola Quesada was the supervisor of the crime scene investigative team of the judicial police.

Shaw nodded in her direction like a drowning man reaching for a lifebuoy. She nodded back and headed towards him.

“Hey, Eli; it’s a bad one,” Quesada said.

“So I’ve heard,” Shaw said as he slipped on white booties and latex gloves. Monge and Soto did the same.

“Look in the master bedroom down the hall, but touch nothing,” Quesada said sternly.

“We know the drill, Lola,” Monge said.

It was a warning Lola uttered at every crime scene, regardless of whether she was addressing a rookie or seasoned pros like Shaw and Monge.

The agents with the regular homicide unit stood by, pouting at every step Shaw and Monge took. The scorn wasn’t just because of Shaw’s scuffle with Mendoza a few days ago; it was a normal reaction SIU agents got from the other agents who didn’t like them swooping in to take the case away from them, which was why they referred to SIU agents like Shaw and Monge as “poachers.”

Shaw blocked them out. All he could think was about the note left for him. 

He looked around the house. It was a pleasant home. Single story, ranch style. A lot of windows overlooking the front and back yard and the mountain ranges that surrounded the Central Valley.

Shaw looked inside the bedroom. He felt numb. It was as if he was looking at a photograph of a crime scene by the Bedroom Killer from decades ago. Like he was looking at the crime scene of his own mother.

There was blood spattering everywhere. An image of a Jackson Pollock painting flashed in Shaw’s head. Then he looked at the victim. He froze. 

“Victim’s name was Lucy Rios,” Quesada said gently. As if she knew how the crime scene similarities to the Bedroom Killer were affecting Shaw.

The victim had been left lying on the bed naked. Hog-tied by her hands and feet just as the Bedroom Killer had done to his previous victims, including Shaw’s mother all those years ago.

Shaw felt his body tremble, his throat clenched tight, making the scar left by the Gringo Gulch Butcher on his neck pulse in pain.

Crime scene photographs of the BRK’s previous victims had long ago been etched into his brain as he tried in vain to find his mother’s killer. He knew this scene. He knew it much too well. 

Quesda went over the details of the brutal attack. It was a carbon copy. The victim had been killed in her own bedroom, and the hell she had endured was the same: head blunt trauma, strangulation, and multiple knife wounds to the abdomen, down to the way the killer had left the body, naked and hog-tied—a final indignation thrust upon his victim just as the Bedroom Killer had done all those years ago.

“It can’t be,” Shaw said. It was almost a whisper. He didn’t even realize he had said it out loud.

“It was identical to the modus operandi of the Bedroom Killer,” Quesada said quietly to Shaw.

“Are you okay, Eli?” Monge asked.

He stood under the doorframe and discreetly did his breathing exercises. A panic attack, along with his recent problem with Mendoza, would probably end his career in law enforcement.

Lola seemed to know what he was going through, so she gave him a moment to collect himself.

“No one else comes into the bedroom, just one inspector at a time,” Quesada barked. Shaw wasn’t sure if she was doing it to give him a moment or not, but he appreciated it and he took time to compose himself with his back to everyone on the other side of the bedroom entrance.

Shaw knew that the others at that crime scene were aware of his personal connection to the Bedroom Killer. And they were seeing the similarities in this crime scene to those of the Bedroom Killer. And because of a blogger hack pseudo-journalist by the name of Neil Ashby with the website, it seemed everyone in the country also knew what he had gone through. They left him without a shard of privacy. 

It was Neil Ashby who had relentlessly written article after article about the Gringo Gulch Butcher and about Shaw and the FBI profiler Alexandra Needham, who had been sent to help the OIJ track down the Butcher. And it was Ashby’s video recording of him, injured with his neck slashed, that had gone viral, turning Shaw and Needham reluctantly into Internet celebrities.

Luckily for Shaw, there was just another person in the bedroom. A blood-spatter analyst, and he was way too busy working the crime scene to notice or care what Shaw was doing there, breathing oddly. It took a few seconds, but for Shaw it felt like he had been standing like a deer in headlights for an hour.

“You okay, Eli?” Quesada asked this time, quietly.

“I’m fine,” Shaw said, finally. “Thank you.” 

He regained his composure, and he took in the room without thinking about his mother’s crime-scene photos, although it was like looking at a facsimile of her murder. Those images of his mother’s crime scene played in his head like an insidious Super-8 home movie on a loop as he looked at Lucy Rios’ body. 

He knelt next to the bed to inspect, making sure not to get too close to mess with evidence and upset Quesada.

Again, it was as if he were looking at one of the old crime scene photos from the 1980s. The one difference in this crime scene was the note that the killer had left on the victim’s body. BRK had never done that. Shaw looked for the note, but it wasn’t there. Yet he saw the puncture on her forehead, where the sick bastard must have nailed the note.

“I was told there was a note on the victim’s forehead addressed to me,” Shaw said, standing up.

“There was. We removed it, and we have bagged it for analysis. I’ll text you a copy,” Lola said as she removed her phone from a pouch around her waist, like a Hazmat fanny pack.

“I can’t text with these gloves, but you can look at it here,” she said, handing the phone to Shaw. 

Quesada had one of those big smartphones referred to as phablets by its fans. She had the note loaded and zoomed in so he could read it easily.

Dear Hollywood Barbie,

I told you it was me. Not to ignore me. But you did. So now I’m back. And you won’t be able to ignore me again.

Yours forever,

BRK – BedRoomKiller

Shaw had to step outside and get some fresh air. Even Mendoza, the man he had punched last week, seemed to have softened his stance and looked away as Shaw made his way outside. Mendoza knew the contents of that letter. Everyone there did.

Everything was a blur as Shaw stood out in the front yard. He removed the gloves and the booties. He breathed in the muggy morning air.

Shaw regulated his breathing; he couldn’t let them see him this way if they were going to allow him to work on this case. He had to compartmentalize what had happened to his mother, right quick.

“You okay?” Shaw heard Monge asking behind him. Her voice was soft, concerned. It was about the tenth time someone had asked if he was okay. It was ticking him off. Made him feel weak. It shouldn’t, but the brain does its own thing sometimes.

He turned around to face Monge and Soto, who had followed him outside. Soto had been angry with him after his altercation with Mendoza, but now there was empathy and concern. Just what Shaw wanted to avoid. The last thing he wanted from anyone—especially from his boss, partner, and that asshole Mendoza—was pity. It was just another murder case. He’d investigated dozens. This is just one more.

“I’m good,” he lied, knowing they weren’t believing him.

Soto sighed loudly and said, “I don’t think I can take another of these nut-job serial killer cases.”

“It’s our bread and butter,” Monge said.

That made both Soto and Shaw smile.

“I guess we’re the actual nut jobs to do this job,” Soto said. And that made all three of them chuckle. A welcome respite.

After another moment, Monge turned serious.

“Could it really be BRK? How old would be now?” she asked.

“Late fifties to early sixties,” Shaw said, refocusing on the task at hand.

“That’s old as the hills to inflict that type of carnage on a twenty-nine-year-old fit woman,” Monge said, pointing towards the house.

“It’s not that old, not like he’s sneaking out of a geriatric ward,” Soto said.

Monge shrugged. Shaw smiled. She had just turned thirty, so he assumed that to her, a sixty-year-old might just be ready for geriatric care. Soto was fifty-five and seemed insulted at that assumption from Monge.

Shaw changed the subject. He had to be involved in this case. He turned towards Soto. 

“So, what’s my role here? I need to be part of this case.”

Soto spoke quietly. “We’ve barely recovered from the last shit show with the Gringo Gulch Butcher. And now, here we go again. I’m not going to bullshit you, Eli. There is a tug of war between the powers that be to determine if you can be part of this investigation with what you went through on your last case, and your personal connection with BRK and what went down with Mendoza. I think it will be a miracle that they’ll let you in within a mile of this case. And I’ll be honest with you: I agree. You’re too close to this.”

Shaw was about to protest, but Soto didn’t let him speak.

“Save it, Eli, because it’s not up to me, anyway.”

The Past Never Dies

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