Sounds of Murder
Pamela Barnes Acoustic Mysteries Book 1
by Patricia Rockwell
Genre: Cozy Mystery
SOUNDS OF MURDER tells a tale of academic intrigue and death. At Grace University, a small southern college, no one in the Psychology Department likes Charlotte Clark, so no one is particularly upset when she is found murdered in the department’s million-dollar computer lab. But because she discovered the body, Associate Professor Pamela Barnes feels obligated to find Charlotte’s killer. When she discovers a recording of the murder that was accidentally produced during Charlotte’s struggle with the killer, she begins her own investigation.
Along the way, Pamela agonizes with her own conscience as she fights her growing fear. She attempts to understand her mysterious Department Chair, keep her curious colleagues informed, placate her protective husband, and avoid antagonizing a local rube detective who belittles her efforts--all while she struggles to make sense of the sounds on the recording.
As she gets deeper and deeper into her analysis—trying to connect what she hears in the recording with sounds from people (and potential killers) around her--she gets closer and closer to the killer. However, the killer is observing Pamela’s efforts and resolving to stop her.
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Pamela followed Kent, running behind him around the corner of the main hallway towards the experimental computer laboratory at the far end of the side hallway. She could see in the distance that the door to the lab was wide open and the lights were on. Kent ran through the doorway and Pamela followed on his heels. He went immediately to the first row of computer carrels, to Carrel #4, one of the department’s special "souped up" computers. Pamela could see a woman in the carrel bent over the computer desk, a tousled head of blonde curls. As she drew closer, she realized that the woman was Charlotte Clark.
"It's Dr. Clark," said Kent, "Dr. Barnes! I think she's dead!"
Pamela's heart seemed to stop beating as she froze in place, staring at Charlotte, who was seated, bent over the desk. She saw immediately that the power cord from a set of headphones was wrapped tightly around her neck, the headphones themselves hanging uselessly down the side of Charlotte's neck. The side of Charlotte's face was tinged grayish-blue.
"Oh, my God!" Pamela whispered, suddenly digging in her purse on her shoulder. After a few seconds of scrounging, she located her cell phone and tapped in the number for the campus police. The call was answered immediately.
"Please," she spoke as calmly as she could, "please, come quickly. Someone has been hurt...I think dead."
Kent stood by, slightly behind her, waiting as she made the all important call. She continued to speak into her cell phone.
"I'm at Blake Hall, on campus. The experimental computer lab...on the main floor--on the north side, by the parking lot entrance––all the way to the end of the side hallway." She turned her head to Kent and whispered to him, "They're on their way. Stay here."
"Don't worry, Dr. B." he responded, "I'm not going anywhere."
She returned her attention to the cell phone as she heard the voice ask additional questions.
"Yes, this is Dr. Barnes, Pamela Barnes. I'm in the Psychology Department. I just found her...Dr. Clark...here...in the lab." She looked over at Charlotte. "Please, hurry!" she urged into the cell phone. Then she listened as the voice at the other end was evidently giving her instructions.
"Okay, just a minute." She handed the cell phone to Kent. "Hold this and stay on the line," she said to him. Then she carefully bent over Charlotte Clark and placed her hand firmly on Charlotte's neck, feeling for a pulse. There was none. After a few seconds, she then gingerly bent down close to Charlotte’s face to listen for breath noises. Charlotte's head was turned to the left, her mouth open. Pamela placed her ear close to Charlotte's mouth. All she sensed was the smell of cigarette smoke—Charlotte was a habitual smoker. It was quite obvious to Pamela that there was no breath coming from Charlotte Clark's body. She was dead.
She then stood up and stepped back from the body, her eyes never leaving the corpse. As she held her hand out to Kent, he placed the cell phone back in it.
"I just checked for pulse and breathing sounds," she told the police dispatcher on the phone. "I couldn't feel or hear anything." She continued listening to the voice and the obvious directions that were being given. "No," she answered into the phone, "Don't worry. I won't touch anything. Yes, I’ll stay right here." She turned her head to Kent and whispered to him, "Kent, please go to the outside entrance and direct the campus police here when they arrive. It should be any minute now."
"Right, Dr. B," he said, hurrying out the lab door, "I'm on my way!"
With Kent's departure, Pamela was alone. As she stared down at the body of Charlotte Clark, it suddenly dawned on her exactly what she was seeing. This was not a natural death. Charlotte didn't keel over from a sudden heart attack. The power cord wrapped around her neck made it perfectly clear that Charlotte had been murdered.
FM For Murder
Pamela Barnes Acoustic Mysteries Book 2
Who shot the disk jockey while he was on air? No one saw the killer, but many heard the murder on the radio. Local police are mystified and ask Psychology professor and acoustics expert Pamela Barnes to assist them in investigating the crime. Can she determine who shot the deejay just by listening to the radio station’s audio recording of the killing? And how does this crime connect to the impending death of a wealthy carpet manufacturer hundreds of miles away? And the driven behavior of his conscientious son who hides a very important secret? Unknown to Pamela, another thread of this strange mystery is about to unravel. Will she be able to solve it before another victim is claimed?
In FM FOR MURDER, the second in Patricia Rockwell's acoustic mystery series, we follow feisty amateur sleuth Pamela Barnes who doesn’t let academic duties prevent her from fighting crime. And Pamela fights crime with the tools she knows best—sound waves.
“Okay, folks out there in radio land, that was Calliope’s Doom with their new song, ‘Cursed Bones.’ Their newest tune, following closely on the heels of their first big, success—‘Entrails of Love.’ This is Black Vulture with the best of death and dying, torture and blood. The most alternative of alternative rock for those of you who have nothing better to do on a Saturday night. Make that Sunday morning now here at KRDN, 933 on your FM radio dial. Just a few minutes after midnight. And for those of you crazy enough to stick with me until 4 a.m. (or should I say, those of you, without anything more interesting to do), I’ll be playing a host of your favorite songs from some of the best alternative bands in the country.
For example, there’s a new CD I just got in from one of my favorite new bands—Ochre Fugue. As you know, Ochre Fugue recently played locally to a packed crowd at the Blue Poppy in downtown Reardon. That was a gig, wasn’t it? Obviously, they have lots of fans here in our little berg. I was lucky enough to get to interview Jake Millet with the band. I know, I know; you’re all jealous. Well, eat my liver. Getting to interview bands is one of the perks—one of the very few—of my job here at KRDN. Believe me, I don’t work here for the pay (hope the station manager isn’t listening).
Ah, shoot! Gotta do a commercial now. This one is for—hmm, let’s see—Avery’s Auto Repair on South Jackson. Let me try to read this with some energy: ‘Hey, guys (and ladies), Avery’s will fix your wheels for a fair price’—and let’s face it—most of us don’t have new cars so we probably need a fix-up more often than not, right? But, ‘the Avery brothers have been in Reardon for—ever. Simple, honest, repair work. They don’t have a fancy location or building, but they do good work. So, check ‘em out.’ And I’d add to that--especially you students. I mean, Christmas break’s coming up in a week or two and if you’re planning on driving home to visit Mommy and Poppy you’d better be sure your wheels will make the trip. And you’d better be sure you arrive wearing clean clothes too; parents like that that sort of thing. So I hear.
Okay, now, as I said before, I’m going to be playing a track from Ochre Fugue’s new CD. In just a minute. What are you waiting for, right? I first heard this group in the Big Easy, several years ago. I was makin’ the rounds of the clubs and ran across this band at a vampire underground party. What a sound they have. Dark. Scary. Like blood, you know, from the coffin. Makes you cringe all over. The bass player has a great get-up. I’d describe ‘em in more appropriate language if it weren’t for the FCC breathin’ down my neck. You know what I’d like to say, though, don’t you? All two of you. Don’t expect there’s too many fans listening in after midnight on a Saturday—unless you’re a real loser. Like me. Still working on your graduate degree after six years. Right?
Anyway, I got the Ochre Fugue disc prepped for you. Let’s see, which track should I play? Oh, wait. Just heard a car pull up outside the studio. Looks like I’ve got a visitor. Well, what do you know! That hardly ever happens this far out in the boonies—especially this late. Well, that’ll be su—per! I get bored all alone out here at the studio all night long—deejaying and doing all my own tech work. If any of you guys ever want to drop in and visit—great. Just come on by—if you can find it. Okay, here he comes in the door now. Hey, maybe it’s a she—better yet! My lucky night!
Oh, hi! Come on in! I’m Theodore Ballard—Black Vulture to my fans. You a fan of alternative rock? What the? Hey, that’s a gun! What do you need a gun for? Why’re you pointin’ it at me? Wha––? No! No!”
Voice Mail Murder
Pamela Barnes Acoustic Mysteries Book 3
Sex! Knives! Voice Mail Messages!
Who stabbed the philandering football coach in the back? Was it one of the three women who left romantic voice mail messages on the cell phone found next to his body in the motel room?
The police don’t have a clue. None of the coach’s family, friends, or colleagues recognize the voices of the unidentified women--and probable mistresses. Who could they be? This sounds like a case for Pamela Barnes, local Psychology professor, acoustics expert, and sometimes amateur sleuth. Can she identify the three women (and potential murder suspects) from just the sound of their voices on the voice mail?
Who are these mystery women and how did the popular coach manage to conduct affairs with all of them unbeknownst to everyone around him? And how did he keep his trio of lovers from finding out about each other—or did he? It’s a tangled romantic web that ultimately led to murder and Pamela Barnes is determined to figure it out.
Balancing on one foot after another, she slid on a pair of tan leather three-inch heels and pranced away from him. She picked up a small black leather book that lay beside the television set on the long dresser and opened it.
“Same time, next week?” she asked as she ran her finger down a page.
“I’ll arrange something and call you,” he nodded, dutifully, laughing. He leaned back again on the bed and watched her final preparations. There was something totally engaging about watching a woman get dressed—not as engaging as watching her get undressed, he thought, but he liked to watch the ceremony of it all. Like locker room preparation.
“It’s easier for you than me!” she scolded him with a shake of a well-manicured fingertip, tucking the black book into the purse and placing the strap of the purse over her shoulder.
“Yeah, yeah,” he replied. “I have all this free time . . . ” He gestured around the small motel room.
“You at least have more control of your time than I do,” she teased. “I’m at the mercy of . . . others! You know that!” She headed towards the door.
“Be careful when you leave,” he said as she reached the door. She stopped abruptly.
“I always am,” she whispered conspiratorially, leaning towards him. She smiled. “I don’t want to be seen any more than you do.” She opened the door, remaining slightly behind it and peered out carefully into the bright afternoon sunlight. After a second or two, she gave him a silent kiss, donned a pair of sunglasses, and slipped quietly out the door and disappeared from sight.
After she closed the door, the man stood up and stretched. He was exhausted but pleasantly so. He could easily take a nap—maybe a two or three hour nap. He could probably get away with it. No one really paid that much attention to his goings and comings—at least in the early afternoons. Even so, he couldn’t stay here indefinitely. Looking at his watch, he saw that he’d already spent over an hour with the woman. He needed to get going. He rose and ambled towards the bathroom, grabbing his shirt and trousers along the way. He slipped into his clothes and was just splashing water on his face as a sort of wake-up call when a knock on the door to the room caused him to freeze.
Was she back? Did she forget something? Must be. Or it could be the maid.
“Who is it?” he called out as he walked to the door. No response. Gingerly, he peered through the small glass peep hole. What the . . .? He pulled back sharply, flattening himself against the wall.
“I know you’re in there,” said a voice he recognized.
Double checking the peep hole, he realized that he was right. What was going on? Maybe it wasn’t anything he couldn’t handle. Probably something totally innocuous, he told himself. Carefully, he opened the door.
“Uh, hi.” Play it cool.
“What are you doing here?” asked the visitor at the door.
“What do you mean?” he stammered. “I. . . I. . . was just trying to get away. You know, some privacy.” He could feel his face redden and a thin layer of sweat was beginning to form at his temples. The visitor moved closer to him, looking first directly into his eyes, and then, pointedly, inside the motel room.
“Privacy?” asked the visitor.
“Yes, ah, yes. Sometimes, I really need to just get away for a while—be by myself.”
“You’re by yourself?” asked the visitor, with a slight smile.
“Sure. Alone. You can see,” the man answered, his arm gesturing towards the interior of the room.
“Why don’t I believe you?” The visitor pushed past the man and entered the room. The dark motel room contrasted sharply to the bright sunny day. As the visitor’s eyes adjusted to the darkness, the contents of the room became clear; the visitor could see the primary object in the small room—the king-sized bed, sheets rumpled.
“Doesn’t look like you were alone,” said the visitor, staring down at the bed—and the stained sheets.
“I was,” responded the man, closing the door. This was embarrassing. And this discussion was much too loud and likely to be heard by someone outside.
“I was alone,” he repeated, more insistent, walking closer to the visitor. “Besides, it’s none of your business.”
“Yes, it is,” the visitor said quietly, and remained staring at the man.
“Why are you here anyway?” the man asked, flustered—no, angry now. He was not going to engage in a verbal battle with this person. It would just be a waste of time. “I was just leaving,” the man announced suddenly. He strode over to the nightstand where his wallet, cell phone, and keys were located. He picked up the wallet and shoved it in his back pocket. He reached down to grab his cell phone and keys. As he did, he felt a sharp pain in the center of his back.
“What the. . .?”
The pain tore into his body. Then again. A horrific, searing pain. He turned, or tried to turn. As he stretched his head to the side, he saw a hand holding a large, sharp instrument, poised in the air, ready to drop. The hand hit his back again, digging the sharp implement into it. And again. He tried to reach out—to speak—to call for help. Surely, someone here would hear him, someone must be around. It was a motel, for God’s sake. Maybe a maid, the desk clerk? But . . . no, it was too late. Another blow fell onto his back. And another. Sharp blows continued to pummel him. That sharp, horrible pain that he couldn’t stop. That was the last thing he remembered as his body slid quietly to the floor of the motel room—the sharp pain. His cell phone and keys dropped from his hands and silently landed onto the mottled green rug. The cell phone bounced when it fell and slid under the bed, out of sight.
Not waiting to check on the man’s condition, the visitor quietly placed a “Do Not Disturb” placard on the outside room door, and disappeared down the back stairs.
Stump Speech Murder
Pamela Barnes Acoustic Mysteries Book 4
James Grant, a young politician with everything going for him, including the most recent polls, gives a rousing stump speech in a local park. His campaign for mayor against the entrenched incumbent looks unstoppable. That is, until the police discover him standing over his wife’s dead body with the murder weapon in his hands.
It certainly looks as if James is guilty. But psychologist and acoustics expert Pamela Barnes has other ideas–and they include helping this young man prove his innocence and succeed in his bid for mayor.
Can Pamela’s knowledge of sound help her find the real killer and exonerate James? Or will this young politician’s most recent stump speech be his last?
After her morning classes, Pamela nabbed a copy of the local newspaper–the Reardon Advocate– from Jane Marie’s desk and seated herself in the secretary’s alcove where she poured over the front page story. The headline read, “Local Mayoral Candidate James Grant Arrested for Wife’s Murder”:
“Reardon city police were called to the home of James and Stacy Grant at 110 Cornelia Blvd., yesterday at 5.36 p.m. According to city Police Chief Joseph Bellows, a 911 emergency operator directed officers to the Grant home when Mrs. Grant called 911 at 5:28 p.m., to report that her husband was attempting to break into their home. When officers arrived, they discovered the front door open and inside found James Grant kneeling over his wife’s dead body, apparently attempting to revive her. Officers also reported that they discovered a large, bloody, brass candlestick on the ground next to the body.”
Hmm, thought Pamela. According to this report, James had apparently been trying to revive his wife. If that was true, and it wasn’t just a hoax to make himself look grief-stricken, then it implied that James entered his home and discovered his wife—already dead. A distinct possibility. Of course, it was also possible that James left the rally yesterday, went home, got in a terrible fight with his wife––and killed her. Then when the police arrived, he just pretended to be reviving her. Or, he could have killed her and then become genuinely remorseful and he actually was trying to resuscitate her. There were a number of possible scenarios, she thought.
One element that seemed to hold promise for some immediate investigation, she said to herself, was the time element. Because of the call to 911 and the almost immediate arrival of the police who had recorded the exact time of their arrival—two important pieces of information were known to the minute. Stacy Grant had called 911 at 5:28 p.m. and the police had arrived at 5:36 p.m.—only eight minutes later. How likely was it that Stacy Grant could notice her husband attempting to break into their home, call 911, James Grant could break in, bash his wife over the head with a brass candlestick, and then attempt to revive her just as the police arrived? Could all of that have happened in the space of eight minutes? Pamela surmised that it was possible but unlikely.
Murder in the Round
Pamela Barnes Acoustic Mysteries Book 5
A night out with her husband to watch her best friend perform in a local community theater “in-the-round” production surely shouldn’t be cause for amateur sleuth Pamela Barnes to use any of her acoustic detecting skills. But when one of the actresses collapses on stage and dies, Pamela finds herself in the thick of things. The recorder in her purse making an audio copy of the performance for another friend who couldn’t attend, may now prove important when it’s determined that the victim was poisoned. Do the sounds on the recording hold any clues to the identity of the murderer? It looks like Pamela is on the sound trail again, and she––and her pals in the Pyschology Department at Grace University––will not stop until they find the person who committed this murder in the round.
At that moment, the house lights began to dim.
“Oh, I think they’re ready to start,” whispered Pamela. She reached down and adjusted her purse, making certain her audio recorder was functioning.
“Is your recorder working?” Rocky asked her quickly.
“Yes, yes,” she replied. “I set it and it’s been recording you for the last few minutes. It’ll pick up the show just fine.”
“Ugh,” he moaned as he closed his program and leaned back to concentrate on the performance. “You’ll probably use my words to blackmail me.”
“You mean all those nasty things you said about my friends?” she asked with a sly smile.
Rocky mumbled but otherwise remained silent only because the lights were lowering and the entire audience were concluding their own personal conversations and becoming quiet. After the total blackout, Pamela could hear actors entering quietly from the entrance ways. When the lights came up on the central stage area, two men dressed in Edwardian finery began a dialogue that immediately indicated their relationship as gentleman and butler. Pamela was soon engaged in the play and her recent discussion with her husband seemed far away. Shortly into the play, Joan Bentley made her entrance as Lady Bracknell, the mother of the show’s heroine. Joan’s character was larger than life, overbearing, authoritarian, and brilliant––much like Joan herself. Of course, Joan was nowhere near as pushy as Lady Bracknell, thought Pamela, but Joan and her character did share a devastating wit. As the play progressed, Pamela enjoyed listening to Joan’s lines and comparing her friend to this fictional character. Joan made a marvelous Lady Bracknell, she realized. That her friend was a wonderful actress did not come as a complete surprise to Pamela, but it was still a thrill to see Joan flaunt her talents here in this public arena––even if it was only a community production.
Soon, the first scene in the first act ended in a blackout. Pamela could hear actors and stagehands moving about quickly––actors apparently exiting and stagehands making small changes to the scenery and props on stage. At least, she surmised that’s what was happening, as she couldn’t really see anything in the dark. After a brief few minutes, the stage lights came back up, and the next scene began. In this scene, Joan was seated almost in front of Pamela at the small table with the actress who was playing her daughter, Gwendolyn. Pamela enjoyed the delightful dialogue between the two actresses as they held and drank from cups of a delicate rose-covered china tea set.
The actress portraying Gwendolyn said a line and then daintily sipped tea from her cup while awaiting her stage mother’s response. As Joan delivered a delightful monologue, the young actress across the table from her appeared to choke. Joan looked up briefly at her acting partner, but continued her speech. When Joan’s speech ended and it was obvious that it was the younger woman’s turn to speak, the young actress grabbed her throat and gasped audibly, attempting to speak without success. Joan reached over and patted “Gwendolyn” on her back gently. Pamela had no idea whether this stage business was planned or if it was spontaneous, but she was absolutely certain that the next event was not in Oscar Wilde’s original script.
Gwendolyn rose, still clutching her throat tightly, and reached out with her free hand, trying to speak. As the entire audience watched in horror, the young actress suddenly fell to the stage floor.
Patricia Rockwell is the author of the Pamela Barnes acoustic mystery series. This amateur sleuth solves crimes using her knowledge of sound. The series includes SOUNDS OF MURDER, FM FOR MURDER, VOICE MAIL MURDER, STUMP SPEECH MURDER, and MURDER IN THE ROUND. Her new series, Essie Cobb senior sleuth, features a 90-year-old assisted living facility resident who solves mysteries. The books in this series include BINGOED, PAPOOSED, VALENTINED, and GHOSTED. FIRECRACKERED, the fifth in the series, will launch on June 25, 2016.
Dr. Rockwell has spent most of her life teaching. From small liberal arts colleges to large regional research universities--and even a brief stint in a high school, her background in education is extensive. She has taught virtually everything related to Communication--from a fine arts speech-theatre orientation to more recently a social science research approach. Her Bachelors' and Masters' degrees are from the University of Nebraska in Speech and her Ph.D. is from the University of Arizona in Communication. She was on the faculty at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette for thirteen years, retiring in 2007.
Her publications are extensive, with over 20 peer-reviewed articles in scholarly journals, several textbooks, and a research book on her major interest area of sarcasm, published by Edwin Mellen Press. In addition to publications, she has presented numerous papers at academic conferences and served for eight years as Editor of the Louisiana Communication Journal. Her research focuses primarily on several areas of communication: deception, sarcasm, and vocal cues.
She is presently living in Aurora, Illinois, with her husband Milt, also a retired educator. The couple has two adult children.
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