I’m delighted to be able to share an extract with you today from The Man On The Roof, a psychological thriller by Michael Stephenson as part of the blog tour.
Someone has been creeping in the dark while the others sleep, and they’ve done terrible, terrible things.
“There was a man on your roof,” claims curmudgeonly lane-hermit Herbert McKinney. Then, he initiates an unprovoked fight with a local punk. Drama escalates when that punk’s dead body is found hanging at mid-street one August morning—a boastful killer messaging their next prey. All fingers point to Herbert as the culprit. Soon, the five couples he calls neighbors come under suspicion, too. When lead detective Cady Lambert divines blackmail as the motive, eyes cross to find who hides the most shameful secret. Husband versus wife, friend versus friend, the shiny suburban veneer of innocence has been forever tarnished. As hidden deviousness boils from their pores, there lurks a thief, a pill addict and a sadist—secrets worth killing for.
Now, as the man on the roof helps guide justice and watches devious neighbors slip in and out of sleepy houses, confusion and questions persist. Who dies next? What have they learned? Who is becoming a monster? Who already is one? And just how many secrets can a small group of multi-ethnic Ohioans have? Only one cemented truth exists: the killer will kill again.
A tension-building psychological mystery-suspense thriller, The Man On The Roof propels the reader through a tangled, volatile and suspenseful thicket of deception, murder and friends, inviting the reader to discover the murderer and who hides which lie.
Monday, Two Nights After Discovery
The doorbell preceded a knock at the Walters’ house. From outside Detective Lambert could hear the ruckus of a gathering. Thinking it the normal sound of family, she stood on the porch none-the-wiser of what lay in wait.
The door opened to Shanna. Shocked, her eyes illuminated as she stepped back and forgot to breathe. “Oh! Cady, I mean, Detective Lambert, what are you doing here?”
“I needed to speak with you and your husband. Mind if I come in?”
“Uh…” Giving no time for answer, Cady stepped across the threshold to a startling sight. Just to the right, in the living room, crowded everyone who witnessed the boy’s body, save for the old man. Gabby, Trevor and Chante sat next to each other on the couch. Yoko sat on a fold-out chair next to Allegra who sat in a recliner. Roscoe and Martin stood off to the side near the TV and Pat leaned against the wall near the archway into the room. Out of view, Jordan sat tucked against the wall on the floor at the very back (his choice).
All eyes went to Cady. Roscoe approached from the other side of the room, passing Pat as he scooted out the way and unfolded his arms to pocket his hands.
“Cady,” Roscoe greeted her as Shanna closed the door.
“Ross,” she responded.
“What’s this visit for?”
“Common courtesy, cop to cop, you know,” she answered.
“Common courtesy…?” he asked as Shanna moved to his side.
“You’re officially part of the Zach Landon investigation,” Cady said.
Roscoe, taken aback, started to smile as he rubbed his wife’s arm. She felt so warm. “Really? Captain’s decided to put me on the case?” It’d be his first since last year’s demotion.
As Detective Lambert started to respond, Lillith descended the stairs looking to slate her thirst.
“No, you misunderstood. You’re a potential suspect,” Detective Lambert said.
Her face flush from the accusation, Shanna’s daughter said, “What? Dad, you killed Zach?”
“No, honey, no. Please go back to your room and let us talk about this.”
Shanna interjected, “You heard your father. Go, please.”
She sucked her teeth, spun around and marched back upstairs.
Back in the room, Allegra gave her husband a look. A familiar look, she tilted her head to the side, lifted her eyebrows and poked her lips sideways. She needn’t accuse with words for Trevor to get the point. Chante noticed the look and looked down to the couch side where sat Jordan. Trying to get his attention, she matched eyes with him, darting them back to Allegra to guide his vision. In unison, they both rolled their eyes at the judgy bitch. Martin smirked and Pat stayed inert. Gabby’s mouth fell open stunned.
“You’re actually saying I’m a suspect in that boy’s murder?” Roscoe said, his arms unwrapping from his wife.
Detective Lambert nodded, “Yes. In fact, you all are.”
Gasps and the breath of panic moistened the air as all facial expressions changed to one—the look of startled innocence.
“What?” Gabby asked.
“That can’t be. You’re bullshitting!” Martin yelled.
“I most certainly would never do something so heinous to someone I barely knew,” Allegra shouted.
“Calm down, everybody, just calm down. No reason to start getting loud,” Roscoe said. The rabble quieted allowing him to ask, “Why are we suspects? Why am I a suspect?”
“Why not? You have means, you have motive, you’ve taken a life before…”
“In the field, yes. But that’s always been in the pursuit of justice, in the legal pursuit of justice. If I really had anything against the boy, I would have brought a lawsuit.”
“Come on, Ross. You know just as well as I do that you wouldn’t have gotten a conviction. You wouldn’t have done anything but waste time. Two underage kids doing what kids do. You’d have to prove it, and we all know how hard that is,” she informed him. “That puts you and your wife in a bad light.”
“That’s them, what about the rest of us?” Trevor barked.
Cady’s eyes catching his junkyard aggression, she stepped around Roscoe and Shanna and farther into the room, slipping her hands into her pockets as she said, “Due to newly-found evidence, we have reason to believe Zach may have procured secrets through illegal means. We believe he may have been murdered because he was blackmailing one or two or a few of you. Or maybe there’s an even worse reason.”
The first to roll her eyes, Allegra threw her head to the side, and said, “I do not keep secrets, so I should be counted out, thank you.”
“You’ll remain a suspect until we can reasonably cross you off the list, ma’am,” Detective Lambert said.
“Don’t call me ma’am, Cady! You know I do not like that. It makes me feel… well, I do not like it,” Allegra responded.
“OK, Mrs. Haggerty,” Cady said.
“So, what, just because everyone has stuff they maybe wanna keep private, that means one of us killed him?” Jordan asked from the corner.
Craning her neck to see him, she responded, “That and the fact that his body was left to hang on the banner just outside your homes. Those who seek meaning in things like this might say there’s a message being sent to someone, or the killer was smart enough to…” she paused to look back at Shanna and Roscoe for a moment before continuing, “… deflect blame onto an easier target.”
“Bullshit! This guy isn’t smart. He’s just an arrogant asshole looking for attention,” Martin said.
“Yeah, he’s trying to be the next Dahmer or Gein,” Chante said.
“This guy may not even be a guy. Whatever the case, they did it for a reason we have yet to glean. Now, the best thing to do would be for you all to cooperate with the investigation. The more you try hiding, the guiltier you’ll look,” she said.
Dense breathing for all as eyes wandered the room. While the neighbors watched each other, studied their so-called friends, Cady spied the surroundings, looking for clues. Nothing sticking out, she cataloged the room in her mind for later access.
Swiveling around, she patted Roscoe on the shoulder in passing.
“Wait, if you think one of us is the killer, does that mean the rest of us are in danger?” Shanna asked, panic settling in her skin.
Avoiding the question, Cady looked back into the filled room and said, “You know, I was set to visit each house, yet I find you all here… partying after a murder.”
“We are not partying, we are planning for Labor Day weekend. It would be foolish for us to all make the same dish,” Allegra said.
“Planning for a party. Even better,” Detective Lambert responded. She exited. Roscoe, Shanna and Pat stood at the door watching as she got in her car and left. Roscoe closed the door and hung his head.
The rest of the group breathed sighs of relief, realizing the situation’s mass. Finally, Martin broke the silence, “Oh no! Allegra, you’re still bringing your potato salad to Labor Day, right?”
“Of course,” Allegra said.
“Thank god. Was worried we might forget why we’re here. So it’s not canceled?”
Back at the door, Roscoe rubbed his wife’s arm.
“Common courtesy?” Shanna asked him. “Why come over here to tell us that? Why tell a potential murderer they’re under investigation?”
Roscoe paused, looked around the room and tried to produce a plausible answer. “We usually don’t.”
“Then why was she really here?” Pat asked.
Even if no one else suspected, Roscoe knew she came for an entirely different reason. Had it not been for the gathering, she would have visited at least five different houses filled with “suspects”… and clues. Not his trick, she must have learned that all on her own. Now, they too were faced with a mystery: Who on their street was becoming a monster? Who already was one?
Thank you to Michael Stephenson for inviting me to take part in the tour. And if you would like to purchase a copy of The Man on the Roof, you can do so by clicking the link below.
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