• L.T. Vargus & Tim McBain

When multiple murders terrorize a small town college campus, FBI profiler Violet Darger heads to rural Michigan to investigate. As soon as she arrives, a grim history begins to emerge.

Couple Killer

by L.T. Vargus & Tim McBain

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author's imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.


The blood gleams on the sidewalk. A patch of red wetness about the size of a silver dollar.

Brian stops and stares at it. Head angled so that his chin almost touches his chest. Shallow breaths billowing in and out of his nostrils.


Even partially lit in the streetlight's glow, the pool looks dark on the concrete — like a puddle of chocolate syrup — but it glints red where the light reflects from it.

Definitely blood.

Could be fake, but… looks real enough.

He surveys the empty street around him. Scans up and down the block for any sign of life. Not sure if he wants someone else to be there or not.

There's no one. It's late. Coming up on 2 A.M., he thinks.

Brian is drunk. Shitfaced drunk. Vision blurry. Legs a little wobbly.

It's rush week. Brian has just left an Asig party where he'd been forced to humiliate himself. Dropping on the ground and pretending to sizzle like bacon anytime one of the brothers shouted "oink." Anything to make the cut.

He'd guzzled down more than a dozen Bud Lights to try to dull the indignity — a hell of a lot of alcohol by his standards.

The walk home has been a bumpy affair to this point. His legs rickety beneath him. He had been about halfway back to the dorms, having just made a left onto Winchell, when he came upon the blood on the sidewalk and stopped in his tracks.

And now here he is. Standing still. Alone on an empty street.

He looks at the blood again. Really looks. Concentrating this time to make the drunk juddering of his vision smooth out.

He starts to trace his eyes down the cement path leading on from here, and a cold feeling creeps over him as he does.

There's more blood. Drops and smears and patches forming a dotted line over the sidewalk. The wet places sheening faintly under the orange of the streetlight.

A trail.

A trail of blood stretching out in both directions from where he stands.


A voice speaks just behind Brian's neck and makes him pogo straight up. His head cranks around to see who it is before he can process the words being spoken.

"What's crackin', preppie?"

The figure behind him — his roommate, Cody — recoils a little himself as Brian jumps. Staggers back a step and a half on drunken sea legs. Teeters.

"Whoa," Cody says. "Calm down, weirdo. Jesus Christ."

Cody extends his arms. Clutches Brian's shoulders to steady himself. His stupid sandals scuffing at the concrete. Spiked hair bouncing. Frosted tips glittering under the streetlight.

"Damn, preppie. You're jumpy as hell tonight. Even more spastic than usual."

He calls Brian "preppie." Makes no sense to Brian. Cody himself couldn't be preppier.

Cody is a business major, and like all business majors Brian has met, he's a total bro. Polo shirt. Puka shell necklace. Tribal tattoos. Basketball shorts year-round.

And those goddamn flip-flops always snapping against the bottoms of his dumb feet.

The bro fishes a pack of Marlboros out of his pocket. Lights one up. His face glows a deep orange as the lighter's flame flickers beneath it.

Cody goes to Color Me Tan pretty much every weekend. Sprawls in a tanning bed. Bakes his skin to a deep hot dog shade somewhere between bronze and burgundy. He's always asking Brian to go.

But all of Cody's primping seems alien to Brian's sense of style — strictly casual. T-shirts. Jeans. An English major.

"Seriously, though. Why are you standing here like a lobotomy case, homie?"

Cody refers to them as "friends." "Homies." Sometimes "boys." A couple times he even called Brian his "main dawg."

Brian strictly uses the term "roommates" to describe the relationship.

Now that they're both rushing Alpha Sig, though, maybe they could be allies, Brian thinks. Maybe.

"There's blood," Brian says, regretting it even as the words leave his mouth. Stupid.

"There's… blood?" Cody says.

"On the ground."

Cody stumbles forward. Looks at the spot on the sidewalk. Bends at the waist to get a closer look. Head leaned forward, eyes squinted to slits.

Finally, he gets down on hands and knees. Practically sticks the tip of his nose into the red pool. Then he jerks himself up onto his knees. Twirls to look at Brian. Points two copper-toned index fingers at the bloodstain.

"Dude! This right here! Do you know what this is?"

Brian blinks before he answers.

"Uh… blood."

"No shit. But it's gotta be part of the hazing thing, man! You know it is. They knew a bunch of us would have to walk this way to get from the Asig house back to the dorms tonight, dude. Perfect setup."

When Brian doesn't say anything, Cody goes on.

"It's like a scavenger hunt. We've gotta follow this blood trail. See where it takes us, right?"

Brian blinks again. Tries to process this.

"Mm… I don't know."

"It's like a test of courage, kinda. If we bitch out, it's… like… bad."

"It's just… Shit looks pretty real to me."

"Don't be a pussy, Brian. We've talked about that, haven't we? How you're a giant gaping vag all the time, and no one likes it?" Cody says, getting to his feet. "Come on."

To Brian's chagrin, this actually is something Cody has talked about numerous times. His roommate offers up a kind of bro wisdom, always telling Brian that being a coward is what drags him down, especially with girls. Maybe the tan idiot is even right about that last part — Cody certainly has more luck with the ladies than Brian does.

Still, no one would believe how many times the term "giant gaping vag" has come up between them in the time they've lived together. It's been… excessive.

Brian thinks about asking which way they should follow the trail, since it leads both ways from where they stand. Instead he falls in behind Cody, who has already begun tracking the blood splotches heading toward campus and their dorm room — that's probably for the best, anyway. Get this over with and go to bed.

They walk in silence. Both sets of eyes angling down toward the sidewalk.

Maybe Cody is right. Maybe it really is a hazing stunt. Still, Brian can't help but feel slightly queasy as they draw closer to... wherever this leads.

He stumbles after Cody, and it occurs to him that the hazing rituals have gotten more creative of late. Ever since that freshman died during rush week a few years back, the frats have been forced to veer away from the strictly drinking-based antics.

The local news outlets plastered the kid's face everywhere for weeks in the wake of his death. Brian can still see the picture in his head even now.


A shadow walks the streets at night. Stalking couples in their cars. Flashlight in one hand. Gun in the other. Killing people is so much fun.

When multiple murders terrorize a small town college campus, FBI profiler Violet Darger heads to rural Michigan to investigate. As soon as she arrives, a grim history begins to emerge.

The crimes have progressed steadily over a period of 18 months.

Indecent exposure to stalking.

Stalking to rape.

Rape to murder.

The UNSUB's emphasis on power and control rapidly verges toward full blown sadism. He grows ever bolder, ever more vicious.

What could be more dangerous than a killer aroused by expressions of rage? Increasing brutality. Overkill.

Understanding his psychological motivations will guide the efforts to stop him.

Darger digs into the history. Tries to figure out how the perpetrator advanced unchecked to graver and graver trangressions.

What she finds buried in the police records unsettles her as much as the murders themselves.

While a faceless killer terrorizes the campus, the school administrators remain focused on burying the story.

The revelation creates another complication: The students feel disenfranchised. Angry.

Prostesters gather on lawns. Ignore the citywide curfew. An uprising brewing all over campus.

Darger must navigate an uncooperative administration, a powder keg of a campus, and a killer as savage and dangerous as any she's ever faced.

When it all boils over, chaos descends on the townspeople. And the killer walks among them.


Crime, Thrillers & Mystery - Detective & Crime Fiction








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Stalking couples in their cars. Killing people is so much fun.

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