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Kiss of Death

Kiss of Death

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Kiss of Death

Length:
270 pages
4 hours
Publisher:
Released:
Dec 14, 2014
ISBN:
9781310516108
Format:
Book

Description

Psychologist Barbara Kosmin has never had a patient like William Foster: handsome, personable, and quite possibly a mass murderer. Four women have died within a year of marrying the man, in a way that brought him million dollar insurance settlements. That's so unlikely an occurrence that even he’s certain he’s caused their deaths, either by design, or by possessing the proverbial kiss of death. In desperation, Bill has turned to Barbara for help—or perhaps, to seek yet another victim.

Bill’s mothers-in-law believe he’s the personification of evil. The insurance investigator assigned to his case sees him as clever. Barbara isn’t certain. And that could be dangerous, both to her safety and her emotional stability—especially if he actually does possess the kiss of death.

Publisher:
Released:
Dec 14, 2014
ISBN:
9781310516108
Format:
Book

About the author

I’m a storyteller. My skills at writing are subject to opinion, my punctuation has been called interesting, at best—but I am a storyteller.I am, of course, many other things. In seven decades of living, there are great numbers of things that have attracted my attention. I am, for example, an electrician. I can also design, build, and install a range of things from stairs and railings to flooring, and tile backsplashes. I can even giftwrap a box from the inside, so to speak, by wallpapering the house.I’m an engineer, one who has designed computers and computer systems; one of which—during the bad old days of the cold war—flew in the plane designated as the American President’s Airborne Command Post: The Doomsday Jet.I’ve spent seven years as the chief-engineer of a company that built bar-code readers.I spent thirteen of the most enjoyable years of my life as a scoutmaster, and three, nearly as good, as a cubmaster.I joined the Air Force to learn jet engine mechanics, but ended up working in broadcast and closed circuit television, serving in such unlikely locations as the War Room of the Strategic Air Command, and a television station on the island of Okinawa.I have been involved in sports car racing, scuba diving, sailing, and anything else that sounded like fun. I can fix most things that break, sew a fairly neat seam, and have raised three pretty nice kids, all of who are smarter and prettier than I am—more talented, too, thanks to the genes my wife kindly provided.Once, while camping with a group of cubs and their families, one of the dads announced, “You guys better make up crosses to keep the Purple Bishop away.” When I asked for more information, the man shrugged and said, “I don’t really know much about the story. It’s some kind of a local thing that was mentioned on my last camping trip.” Intrigued, I wondered if I could come up with something to go with his comment about the crosses; something to provide a gentle terror-of-the-night to entertain the boys. The result was a virtual forest of crosses outside the boys’ tents. That was the event that switched on something within me that, now, more than twenty-five years later, I can’t seem to switch off.Stories came and came... so easily it was sometimes frightening. Stories so frightening that one boy swore he watched my eyes begin to glow with a dim red light as I told them (it was the campfire reflecting from my glasses, but I didn’t tell him that).Then, someone asked for a copy of one of my campfire stories, which brought me to the word processor. When that was finished, I wondered: could I write something other than technical articles and campfire stories? Something with dialog?“Something with dialog,” when completed, led to: Can I write in the first person? Do an adventure? A romance?That led to, twenty-eight novels and seven short stories in publication, with more on the way.


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Kiss of Death - Jay Greenstein

Jay Greenstein

All rights reserved

Published by Continuation Services at SmashWords

Copyright 2014 Jay Greenstein

Other Titles by Jay Greenstein

Science Fiction

As Falls an Angel

Samantha and the Bear

Wizards

Foreign Embassy

Living Vampire

An Abiding Evil

Ties of Blood

Modern Western

Posse

Romance

Sisterhood of the Ring – Six linked novels

Water Dance

Jennie’s Song

A Change Of Heart

A Surfeit Of Dreams

Kyesha

Abode Of The Gods

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. It may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to Smashwords.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

This novel is a work of fiction. All characters and events in this book are fictitious and created by the author for entertainment purposes. Any similarities between living and non-living persons are purely coincidental.

° ° ° °

Table of Contents

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Author’s Note

Water Dance Sample

Other Novels by Jay Greenstein

° ° ° °

Reverend Stanley Mellon was confused. Having officiated at hundreds of funerals he knew well the moods such a gathering created; everything from wailing grief to hysterical laughter. But he’d seen nothing like what confronted him this morning.

The family of the deceased was seated in the front pew, expressions solemn, as well-wishers filed past murmuring condolences. That was as it should be. That was all that was. The husband of the deceased seemed more haunted than filled with grief. He had the look of someone overcome with remorse—almost as though he’d been the cause of his wife’s death. He accepted handshakes and condolences, but oddly, shied away from the gentle kisses offered by the women, placing puzzled frowns on their faces.

To the man’s right sat the family of the woman in the casket. They, at least, appeared normal, if that term could be applied to such a situation. Nearly everyone else in the room looked and behaved as expected. Nearly everyone. The primary exception were three mature women dressed all in black and sitting like a row of starlings behind and to the left of the husband. Their eyes were locked on him in a combined glare—one whose force should have flayed the flesh from the man’s bones.

The woman closest to the aisle was tiny, her skin like parchment overlaid with a dusty layer of chalk, her lips compressed into a single red line like a knife-slash. She’d not stirred from her contemplation of the back of the husband’s head since Reverend Mellon mounted the steps leading to the pulpit. Looking at her he had the thought that if she hadn’t occasionally blinked he would suspect her of being some sort of diabolical mannequin. Never, in thirty-eight years of ministry, had he witnessed such anger on the face of a human being.

The woman in the center seemed the balance point of the three. She looked to be in her forties, and had she been smiling might even have been attractive. But no trace of good will colored her features. With her it wasn’t anger that boiled through the air toward the man. Instead, she wore a look of concentrated hatred so deep and so malevolent that were it to have true substance it would surely have caused the man to burst into flames. Her lips moved constantly, as if whispering to herself. And though he could read no words from them Mellon had no doubt that the woman was summoning the forces of evil, their fury directed against the husband. Fortunately for him they didn’t materialize.

The third woman, in her own way, seemed the most puzzling. Her face was a dead face, missing the slightest trace of emotion or expression that might have made it seem human. Her features suggested a possible Native American heritage—a subtle flattening of the features and a shading of the skin spoke of mixed blood. Instead of hate or rage her expression spoke of patience—the patience of a snake waiting for the field mouse to take that final step.

In and of themselves the three women would have been enough to bring concern to Reverend Mellon’s mind. The man who sat alone at the back of the room, however, most worried him. He spoke to no one, not even to the family of the deceased. He ignored the woman in the casket, the center of attention for all but he and the three women. He simply sat at the rear of the room observing the husband. Occasionally, he removed a small notebook from his breast pocket and made a notation. He wore an uninspired brown suit, obviously purchased for utility not style. A policeman? Possible, though unlikely. And perhaps it was only fantasy, but his suit, at the junction of sleeve and body, gave the impression of a holstered pistol.

The minister shivered and breathed a small prayer that there not be a killing before the morning ended. He gave a moment’s thought to where he might hide, should gunfire erupt, then cleared his throat, loudly, and forced himself to begin the service, one he’d finish as quickly as possible.

Thankfully, the funeral proceeded without incident to a conclusion at the graveside. With relief, the last blessing was intoned. Still, it was with curious eyes that Reverend Mellon watched the husband walk to the limousine that would carry him home, wondering if another funeral lay in the near future.

° ° ° °

Chapter 2

Barbara Kosmin was bored. Theodore Starns, her present patient, was playing his usual game of poor me, complaining about his mistreatment at the hands of the world.

She studied him as he talked, fighting the urge to point out that his problems were not only of his making they’d been deliberately caused, so he could wallow in the self-pity that was his only hobby. With a sigh, she accepted the fact that even being presented with irrefutable proof would make no difference to the man, would in fact anger him—and offer further evidence of mistreatment by a hostile world. With him slow and gentle guidance was needed to change his world-view.

As she scribbled on her notepad she thought on how sad it was that she spent so much time preparing herself to care for people who would, at best, ignore her efforts. The mental river runs in deep channels and its course is not easily changed.

The tiny beep of the session timer roused her from her note taking.

Okay, Mr. Starns, she said, flipping the book shut. We both have a lot to think over. Why don’t you try a few of the things we discussed, and next week we’ll see what effect they’ve had? The man nodded, murmuring an insincere, Thank you, Dr. Kosmin, as he left. She shook her head at the closed door. Little chance of his trying any of what they’d discussed. At this point he was seeing her because his wife demanded it of him. In agreeing to do so he’d cling to the notion that his wife, like the rest of the world, detested him. Unfortunately, to maintain that world-view he resisted all efforts to change. Progress would come, but slowly.

Putting the notebook aside she thought for a moment on the frustrations inherent in her chosen career. Unlike the medical practitioner, she couldn’t rush through a caseload and see more patients to increase her income when bills came due. Each patient paid for, and received, fifty minutes worth of one-on-one attention, so the only way to raise her income was to either charge more or work longer hours. The first was impossible—most of her patients were not able to pay more than her current, rather modest rate—and working longer hours required more patients. The alternative, going back to being a case-worker for the city’s welfare agency, wasn’t acceptable, even had they been hiring. Two years of that exercise in frustration and futility—mostly with the city government—was enough. Starvation was preferable to going back to that particular form of slavery.

A glance at the clock, showed seven minutes before the hour, and the start of the next session. No sense reviewing her notes and making plans for the following visit because Ted Starns was a textbook case, and the course of his sessions as predictable as the coming of the seasons.

Left with a few minutes of free time she debated the advisability of calling Martin and offering a truce. The legal aspect of the divorce was almost complete. But still, they seemed to drift together and apart with a rhythm like the changing of the tides. Now they were at ebb. Eventually, though, one of them would call the other, they’d go out and enjoy themselves, and end the evening in bed. That was to the good, though, because no man moved her to passion like Martin Kosmin. To the bad, the man was impossible, and also drove her to screaming rage, the reason they weren’t speaking at the moment.

For the tenth time that day she slammed closed her mental phone book.

No! I won’t be that stupid again. I won’t. The marriage is over for a reason, and this time it’s going to stay over.

Still, the idea of cruising the singles bars in search of a man, or worse yet, cruising the romance sites, held no appeal. And passion with Martin, even passion ending in a screaming argument, might beat another boring night of textbooks.

With a sigh she pushed that subject aside once more. Soon, she’d make an appointment to speak with Kate Reinheart, her own psychologist. Soon, but not too soon.

The door chime announced the opening of the waiting room door and brought Barbara out of her reverie.

I’m in here, Mr. Foster, she called. You can come right in.

Just a minute, a male voice answered. I need to hang up my jacket.

She had the thought that the first meeting between doctor and patient, at least in her field, should be conducted in a way that neither had sight of the other. That way, appearances wouldn’t place preconceived notions in the minds of either party. In this case she visualized the owner of the voice as a dark intense man in his twenties, a match for her own appearance. It came as a surprise, therefore, when a tall blonde man wearing a troubled expression entered the room. He appeared to be about six-one, and had the build of a tennis player. He might have been handsome, but on seeing her he stopped just inside the door, frowning.

She rose, drawn to her feet by the surprise and perhaps dismay showing on the man’s face.

Mr. Foster? Can I—

He waved her away and assumed control, quickly modifying his expression to one of mild concern, as he said, It’s nothing. I was expecting someone older. A woman who was… He waved a hand in her direction. Someone not quite so… He took a breath, and made an uncertain wave of the hand as he said, So attractive.

She allowed herself to slip back into the chair, concerned, but not so concerned that she wasn’t pleased to be thought attractive. I can give you the name of a man, or an older—

No! More gently, he repeated, No. I was…I was surprised. That’s all. He smiled as he added, I’m a little gun-shy where women are concerned, at the moment.

An interesting statement. She restrained the impulse to continue the conversation and motioned him to a chair. Reaching into her desk for an induction form she said, Why don’t we get the formalities out of the way first?

When he appeared to be settled she said, Okay, Mr. Foster, I have your eye color as brown but you’ll have to give me the rest.

Such as?

Such as your full name and your address…the usual stuff.

With a nod of agreement he began to reel off the statistics of his life. His name was William Foster, with no middle name. His address was within walking distance of the office, and his age, surprisingly, was twenty-six. By his appearance she placed him several years over that.

And what do you do for a living? she asked, mentally betting on teaching. He had that scholarly cast to his face and his demeanor during the questioning had suggested patience under stress—certainly a prerequisite for the profession of teaching.

Surprising her once again, the man didn’t answer immediately. Instead, he looked uncomfortable, and shifted in his chair as though suppressing the answer that came to mind. Finally, and with obvious reluctance, he said, I really don’t do much of anything, I’m afraid. It’s not something I usually admit to, but I suppose you need to know, so…I’m…well, I’m independently wealthy.

For a long moment she didn’t know what to say. His statement matched up not at all with his appearance or his address. Certainly the neighborhood wasn’t the home of the poor, but neither was it the dwelling place of choice for the wealthy. It was a solid middle class neighborhood—the kind of place where the majority of her patients lived.

Independently wealthy. Not rich but independently wealthy? An odd turn of phrase, and a surprise, too. This case might offer more than playing detective—seeking clues in the patients words, behavior, and their lifestyle—as to what troubled them. This offered a delicious new level of data. This was a case to savor.

Independently wealthy, she echoed. Would you care to expand on that?"

No. A flat statement. Not angry words, or words delivered in a mind your own business tones. Just a simple Next question please statement.

Before she could respond he held up a hand and said. Okay, I suppose that’s what I’m here for.

We can wait until you’re more comfortable, Mr. Foster, I—

Bill. My name is Bill.

Thank you…. You can call me either Dr. Kosmin or Barbara, whichever makes you more comfortable. I’m not very formal about the title.

He acknowledged that with a little nod before saying, I’ve received several large settlements, which allow me to either work or not, as I choose. I trained to be an English teacher, if it makes a difference…and I still work with the local schools, though only as a volunteer these days. He gave a little shrug and a smile before adding, I’m helping keep the school budget balanced I suppose.

Bingo! She suppressed a smile at the accuracy of her guess as she recorded the information.

Enough to retire on? she said, as she wrote. I envy you.

More than enough. But my needs are simple, if you’re wondering why I don’t live in a tower-condominium somewhere downtown.

She looked up, meeting his eyes. I was. What do you call simple?

He shrugged. A clean place to live. Friends who don’t measure you by how much beer you drink, what you drive, or how expensive your furniture is.

And?

And having enough money to do the things I enjoy.

Sounds reasonable. Anything else?

Silence followed, of long enough duration that she looked up to see if he’d heard.

As her eyes met his he gave a tiny shake of the head. No, nothing else. Not any more.

Not anymore, he said, as if in resignation. That was more interesting than almost anything else. But that had to come later. For now the preliminaries needed to be dealt with.

Okay, she said, placing folded hands on her desk and a disarming smile on her face. It’s time for the hard questions, starting with how I can help you. She suppressed the urge to reach for a notebook. Something about him said it might be best for him to view her as a sympathetic ear for now—someone to talk to informally.

He looked away, chewing on his lip, obviously steeling himself for an admission he found distasteful.

About to tell say that it wasn’t necessary to tell her anything he wasn’t comfortable with, she stopped when he turned back to her, and in a rush, said, I’m here, Doctor Kosmin, because I think I’m a murderer.

It took all the control she had to keep from showing the shock his remark generated.

You think you’re a murderer? You’re not certain?

No, I’m not, at least not totally. But I…I guess I have to be. There’s no other explanation that makes any sense.

I see. She sat for a moment, reviewing her options. If she proceeded he was a patient—could be thought of as one now—and protected by privilege. That would prevent her from going to the police, except for the protection of someone’s life. But if she attempted to terminate the session and reject him as a patient, she might well be endangering her own life.

Finally, deciding to say the hell with privilege and to call the police if what he told her warranted that, she said, And who might you have killed?

Silence followed, for the space of several breaths, as the man shifted uneasily in his chair. Finally, he glanced at her, as though reassuring himself of something, and then turned his eyes to the wall, his voice bleak as he said, Doctor, as far as I can tell I’ve murdered every woman who ever loved me.

° ° ° °

Chapter 3

That’s a fairly strong statement, Bill. Would you care to expand on it? Barbara forced herself to remain motionless, and to release the pressure on her folded hands, lest the whiteness of her knuckles give away the tension that threatened to overcome the professional facade of calm. She was a woman, alone with a man who claimed to have murdered an undisclosed number of women. Acutely conscious that any shout for help would be inaudible beyond the walls of the building, she casually changed position, to place her hand closer to the emergency call button. The police would take time to arrive—too much time to be of help—but the sound of the local alarm might give him pause. Still, something about him argued against taking that step. His words were ominous but his body language, tone, and demeanor in general, told her to wait.

Her attempt to appear normal must not have been successful because he glanced at her, then turned more fully in her direction, meeting her eyes as he said, You’re in no danger, Dr. Kosmin. I’m not… A sigh. Not that kind of murderer.

Seeking to turn away from anything that might upset him she said, "You said you thought you might be a murderer. That’s a far cry from being one."

He shrugged. You’re right, but I don’t see any other possible explanation.

Seeking to take charge of the situation once again she said, It might make sense to start at the beginning. To find out why you think so. She placed her hands back on the desk.

He was silent for a time before nodding. I suppose you’re right. And that means I’d better start with my mom.

She pointed toward her desk drawer. Better not to reach without asking, or to make any sudden moves for that matter.

Do you mind if I take notes? As insurance she added, if you don’t feel comfortable with that I—

No, it’s okay. Apparently pointing at the drawer rather than taking out the notebook hadn’t been lost on him because he smiled, gently, and reassured her with, I’m sorry I frightened you, Doctor, but unless you marry me you have no reason for fear.

A real smile came to her lips as she extracted a fresh spiral-notebook from the drawer. Flipping the cover over she placed his name on the front page as she said, Since I’m already married we can eliminate that possibility. Hopefully, the pose of still being married would keep him at an emotional distance. Apparently, it did because he smiled, and looked at her quizzically, asking with his eyes if he should begin.

Start with generalities, she suggested—both because she preferred it that way and as a way of controlling the direction of the session. "Did you have a happy childhood?

I suppose so. I never knew my dad. He was in the military, and never came home from his service.

I’m sorry.

He shrugged. "I don’t remember him and mom didn’t seem to have a problem getting along without him, so it’s no big

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