Murder On The Lake Of Fire is the opening installment in the Mourning Dove Mysteries Series by Mikel J. Wilson. It is a mystery romance with LGBTQ+ characters and recently published on December 1st, 2017.
At twenty-three and with a notorious case under his belt, Emory Rome has already garnered fame as a talented special agent for the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. His career is leapfrogging over his colleagues, but the jumping stops when he’s assigned a case he fought to avoid – to investigate an eerie murder in the Smoky Mountain hometown he had abandoned. This mysterious case of a dead teen ice-skater once destined for the pros is just the beginning. In a small town bursting with envious friends and foes, Rome’s own secrets lie just below the surface. The rush to find the murderer before he strikes again pits Rome against artful private investigator, Jeff Woodard. The PI is handsome and smart, seducing Rome and forcing him to confront childhood demons, but Woodard has secrets of his own. He might just be the killer Rome is seeking.
Emory didn’t have long to contemplate. A woman’s scream pierced through the fog. His first instinct was to reach for his gun, which wasn’t there. He cursed himself for leaving it in the living room, but no matter, he had to act. He leapt over the fence and raced into the woods.
Without a flashlight, he had to slow his pace after a few steps. His eyes were now dependent on the deceptive moonlight diffusing through the fog, but even that light couldn’t penetrate the soupiness below his knees. Each step from here on out had to be gauged on the probability of hidden obstacles.
Speed-walking deeper into the woods, he heard the distant cooing of a mourning dove. He stopped to listen for anything human, and he could hear faint rumblings coming from the same direction as the bird’s call. He pursued the voices, stumbling over tree roots and the occasional pine cone as he course-corrected more than once. Even when the voices became more distinctive, he couldn’t understand a thing they were saying.
Emory saw a glow up ahead, and as he moved closer, he entered a small clearing. In the center stood a modest shack with a double-sloping roof attached on its longest sides. Erected adjacent to the house was a barebones outhouse. Light spilled from the only window on the side of the house. Emory crept closer. As he peered through a lower corner of the window, he could see it wasn’t a home at all, but a church.
He saw a woman in front of a pulpit, writhing on the floor like a possessed sidewinder. Encircling her were seven men, each with one hand on the woman and one hand raised as if taking an oath. Another man danced around the seven men while clutching three rattlesnakes in his right hand. Each time the dancing man passed a table, he drank a clear liquid from a mason jar atop it. In the pews, congregants performed a choreographed modern dance – many with eyes closed and gripping a Bible in an angry fist, while some flailed their arms above them like they were swatting at a flying terror. Except for the woman being healed, everyone inside the church was chanting nonsensical languages.
As he watched, a face popped up before him. On the other side of the glass, a woman with dark eyes and a scornful glare was looking into his eyes!
Startled, Emory stumbled back from the window, tripping over his own feet and falling onto his butt. Hearing something from his right, he jerked his head around. A scowling man approached him from the outhouse. The man didn’t say a word, but he was stomping his way closer.
Emory jumped to his feet and bolted for the woods. He could hear the snow crunching as the man pursued him.
Within seconds, Emory tripped over a root and went tumbling forward. He parted the thick lower layer of fog as he crashed to the ground. He turned himself around, but the approaching footsteps gave him no time to get to his feet and run.
Emory lay himself down with his back on the ground and allowed the fog to pour over him. He could hear the man just feet away now, but the fog that now concealed his body also kept him from seeing where the man was. Please, don’t step on me! A boot clomped down within inches of his head. He squeezed his eyes shut.
The man stood still for a moment, waiting for any sign of movement. When none came, he turned around and walked back the way he had come.
After several undisturbed minutes, Emory’s head and upper body rose from the fog like a zombie from the grave. He looked all around before rising to his feet. He started walking back to his old house when a flashlight’s beam slapped him across the face.
Mystery and science fiction author Mikel J. Wilson received widespread critical praise for his debut novel, Sedona: The Lost Vortex, a science fiction book based on the Northern Arizona town’s legends of energy vortexes and dimensional travel. Wilson now draws on his Southern roots for the Mourning Dove Mysteries, a series of novels featuring bizarre murders in the Smoky Mountains region of Tennessee.
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