Mapping The Night by J David Bethel (EXCERPT)

Hello, readers! This week we have the privilege of giving you a sneak peek at J David Bethel’s latest suspense-filled thriller, Mapping The Night.

The upcoming novel follows the hunt for a serial killer terrorizing New York City’s Upper East Side in attacks carried out only under cover of dark, bringing the reader into a shadowy underworld where evil lurks everywhere and nothing is as it appears. This opening scene was inspired by newspaper coverage of a real life murder, but leads our fictional investigators into an elaborate cover-up that could very well reach into the highest levels of American government. There are people in politics who are responsible for this killer being on the street –- and who do not want him caught.

Read on for a gripping excerpt!


Pendrage and Lattimore slowed to a stop under the red and yellow canvas porte cochere in front of the Gramercy Residences. Pendrage leaned forward and studied the wide flight of stone stairs leading to the glass double-doored entrance.

“Here?” Pendrage asked incredulously.

“You heard the call,” Lattimore answered as he pushed open the passenger side door and rolled his round body to a standing position. “Fuckin’ cold,” he said, the words coming in white puffs.

Pendrage walked around the front of the cruiser and stood next to his partner. The long, lanky officer was a distinct contrast to his short, stout companion.

As the officers walked up the staircase, flanked on either side by marble statues of lions depicted alert and ready to spring, Lattimore pointed at a man in tails and top hat standing behind the closed doors. “Gotta be the doorman. Must be the guy who called it in.”

The automatic doors swung open with a hiss as the men approached.

Inside, Pendrage shook off the cold as he rubbed his arms.

“Are you…?” Lattimore started to ask the gaunt, hollow-cheeked man holding his hands tightly together in front of him exposing boney, white knuckles. The question went unfinished as the man nodded toward two women seated on a floral cloth couch to the left of the entrance.

The officers maneuvered around the setting of furniture in the lobby, which was tastefully decorated with an arrangement of couches and chairs surrounding a low-slung table that held a Baccarat crystal vase and a box of tissues. They stopped in front of the women; one standing, the other folded into herself, shoulders shaking.

Hair pinned up in a bun, the more composed of the two was draped in an unbuttoned cloth overcoat exposing plaid flannel nightwear and silk slippers. The thrown together ensemble fell in clean lines on the tall, attractive woman who stared at them blankly. The face of the other was hidden by a tissue pressed to her nose. Shoulders slumped, she was a mess in black yoga pants, white, long-sleeved pullover, running shoes and a goose down vest.

“Ma’am,” Pendrage said, nodding at both women as he removed his hat. “Did you make the call about a body in an apartment?”

The woman behind the tissue came up for air saying, “Yes, well, no.” She raised her red, swollen eyes to the man who had followed the officers from the door and stood opposite the women, behind a facing couch. “Cecil did.”

The officers turned their attention to Cecil. “You did?”

“Yes,” came a deep-voiced, rumbling response sounding like it emerged from the back of the man’s throat.

“We asked him to,” the cloth coat draped woman said, bringing the attention of the officers back to the huddled pair.

“So,” Pendrage continued, “you were the ones who found the body.”

“I did,” the tissue crushing woman choked out. “I went into Regina’s apartment as I do every morning to help her with Jason and….” She closed her eyes tightly squeezing out a rush of tears. She reached for the box of tissues, shaking her head. “I can’t. It’s too awful.”

“Lily came to my door,” the comforting woman said. “She was hysterical. I live across the hall from Regina. Regina Wozniak. Lily is one door down from her.”

“Your name, ma’am?” Pendrage asked.

“Katherine Miller. Kate.” She tilted her head toward Lily. “Lily Banbridge.” She put her arm around Lily and brought her close. “She said something was wrong and we went back to Regina’s. Lily wouldn’t go inside. I did.” She shook her head. “We came down here and asked Cecil to call 911.”

“Who’s Jason?” Lattimore asked.

“Regina’s son,” Cecil answered.

“Her son,” Pendrage said, an edge to his voice. “He’s still in the apartment? Alone?”

“We tried to bring him with us,” Katherine said, “but he wouldn’t come. He held onto Regina’s legs and I couldn’t get him to leave.”

“I think I’m going to be sick,” Lily said frantically and shot off the couch. She ran toward the back of the lobby, Katherine in tow.

“How old is the boy?” Lattimore asked, turning toward Cecil.

“He’s in second grade, so, what? Seven?”

“What’s the apartment number?”

“Ten seventeen.”

Pendrage and Lattimore walked across the lobby, past portraits of men in high collars standing stiffly behind large desks. They were identified by brass plates on the wall as the architect and financier responsible for building the Gramercy. The portraits were dated 1923.

As the elevator doors slowly shut, enclosing the officers in a dimly lit, dark wood- paneled, brass railing lined box, Pendrage said, “I thought I was through with this shit. Escaped five years in Brownsville. A few arrests. Some armed robberies, but no bodies. I come to the Upper East Side and now this.”

“Yeah, well, into every life a little rain must fall,” Lattimore said, the sarcasm dripping.

When the elevator doors parted, the officers were accosted by a trio in various stages of morning dress. The first was a short, bald man, his open robe exposing black, silk underwear. His hairy upper body on display. “What the hell is going on? I heard screaming.”

“Please back up,” Lattimore said, maneuvering past the man whose place was quickly filled by an older woman pushing a walker into his path.

“It was Lily,” the older woman said, bouncing so agitatedly on the bars of her walker that her glasses fell from her nose and clattered to the floor. “She was yelling something about Regina.”

Lattimore picked up the glasses and handed them to the woman.

Lattimore and Pendrage weaved past the walker and toward another man in an NYU stenciled sweat shirt and black running shorts, who stood in a doorway.

“Didn’t ask for the keys,” Lattimore said, his frustration evident. “That was monumentally stupid.”

“No, need,” Pendrage answered, pointing ahead, where the NYU man stood, his shoulder resting against the jamb of the open door to apartment 1017.

“Ray Willis,” the man said, pushing away from the door and holding out his hand. “Former cop, chief of police actually, in Gambier, Ohio. Keeping everyone out. No contamination.”

“Thanks,” Pendrage and Lattimore said as the man stepped out of their way. They shouldered through the opening, careful not to touch any surface and stood at the head of a long, wood floor hallway. The bare walls were covered in woven beige grass cloth. An open sliding glass door was visible at the end of the hallway which led to the living room. Sheer lace curtains were billowing into the room.

“It’s freezing,” Pendrage said.

The officers made their way down the hall and stopped at a door open to a large kitchen dominated by an island over which hung a wrought iron rack displaying copper pots and pans. A double-doored refrigerator and stove flanked by pantries filled the facing wall.

They stood a moment, exchanged glances and approached the only other door along the hall.

“Help,” pleaded a high-pitched voice, forced through a sniffing sob.

“Fuck,” Lattimore whispered as he preceded Pendrage into a large bedroom. A boy was kneeling next to a bed and the body of a young woman. She was covered from shoulder blades to upper thighs by a white towel. Her shoulders, arms and legs were bare.

As the officers approached, a towheaded, red-faced boy turned toward them. He was pressing a plastic refrigerator bag of green peas to the forehead of the woman in the bed. “Please help her,” the boy said, his eyes going back to the body. “I can’t make her wake up.” He raised the bag slightly to show it to the officers. “I can’t make her wake up.”

There were three other bags around the woman’s head. The melt left rings under each one. There were no signs of a struggle. The room was neat and tidy. The body showed bruising around the woman’s throat and there was swelling around her left eye.


From Mapping The Night by J David Bethel. Copyright © 2024 by the author and reprinted by permission.

Mapping The Night by J David Bethel will be published June 1 2024 by Brick Tower Press and is available for pre-order from all good booksellers, including

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