When Crime Strikes a Crime Fiction Writer

I usually don’t get too personal with this blog, but it’s confession time.  I’m a victim.

Yesterday, I returned home to discover a grisly scene unlike any I’ve ever witnessed.  As I had a long career in law enforcement, I’m no stranger to the brutalities of life, but never has such a scene played out in my own home.  In the field of law enforcement, you have to disassociate yourself from crime scenes and make an attempt to be objective.  But, how do you do that when your own home has become a battleground?

Returning home from work, I entered the house to hear the sound of water rushing in the basement.  Unfortunately, the sound was not unfamiliar to me as we had had a waterline break five years ago and the result was a flooded basement.  Assuming the same thing had happened, I rushed downstairs to shut off the water.  As I expected, water was shooting out from behind a toilet, so I quickly reached behind the porcelain and grasped the valve to shut off the water flow.  I yanked my hand back in pain and saw blood streaking down my hand.  The valve had been severely damaged and crudely sharpened into a jailhouse weapon.  Bleeding and confused, I managed to shut off the water and then began examining the flooded basement.

Note the metal is completely disfigured and the line above has been shredded.

Note the metal is completely disfigured and the line above has been shredded.

I suddenly realized I was not alone.  In fact, every move I made was being watched.  Behind me, my two dogs were standing by the door leading out to the backyard and were trembling.  In fact, one of the dogs was wet from head to tail and was absolutely frantic.  Assuming they had been spooked by the water spraying, I reached for the sliding glass door to let them out.  That’s when I saw it.  The door was damaged in multiple places, the door handle broken, and blood (not mine) covered much of the glass as well as the door frame.

A portion of the door to the backyard - post blood clean-up.

A portion of the door to the backyard – post blood clean-up.

My senses went on high-alert and I began searching the house for a possible intruder.  Had someone circumvented our alarm and vandalized our home?  Was this the act of teenage vandals hoping to flood basements for no other reason than to cure boredom?  The former Secret Service agent in my was wondering if this was an elaborate diversion, and an intruder was lying in wait.

I searched the house and cleared it of any threats.  During the search, I heard the tell-tale chirp of a smoke detector that had a failing battery.  I thought, Great.  Just one more thing to add to the list.  Upon returning to the basement, I discovered the bottom corners of a door leading to a storage area was also covered with blood.  What the hell happened here?  Two damaged doors.  Blood everywhere.  A vandalized waterline.  My thumb bleeding.  Dogs trembling.  The scene was perplexing.  It was shocking.  It was… our home.  This – whatever THIS was – couldn’t happen here.  Not here.

I breathed deeply and cleared my mind.  It was important for me not to jump to any conclusions and to simply analyze the evidence on hand.  It was Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous detective, Sherlock Holmes who said, “It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.”  I remained still and thought deeply.  I considered every piece of evidence one by one and then searched for links between those item.  Slowly, a picture began to form.  Then… I knew.

The damage that only seemed to be on the inside of the doors.

The twisted metal.

The annoying chirping from upstairs.

Sherlock Holmes was the master of deductive reasoning, but it was the Beastie Boys who said, “I’m telln’ y’all it’s sabotage.”

Here is how the caper went down:

Event 1:  A 9-volt battery in a smoke detector drains to the point the detector repeatedly chirps.

Event 2:  Our beagle-mix (a beagle mixed with something dumber than a beagle) panics, as she does not like beeping noises of any sort.  They are the sounds of Satan’s birds.  Obviously.

Post-arrest mugshot.

Post-arrest mugshot.

Event 3:  The aforementioned dog attempts to exit through the basement door and tears the wooded frame and door handle.

Event 4:  Being unable to escape to the backyard, the beagle-mix does the next logical thing.  She attacks the waterline running into the toilet which is located in an adjacent bathroom.  I mean… what else could she do?  She chews on the metal valve, sharpening it into a blade, and manages to break a tooth in the process.  Next, with her mouth starting to bleed, she attacks the line itself causing water to spray throughout the bathroom.

Event 5:  Having turned into a bloody, soaked mess, the dog then makes another attempt to exit to the backyard, and then turns her attention on a door leading to a storage area.  It happened. Blood doesn’t lie.

Now… I thought I had solved this mystery, but the terror was not over.  Two hours later, after my wife and young daughter had returned home, my daughter went to her upstairs bathroom to get ready to take a bath.  My wife and I heard screams of horror and rushed to her aid.  At some point during the Day of Toilet-Terror, the beagle-mix had jumped into the bathtub and mutilated multiple bath toys and attempted to get to yet another waterline behind a toilet.  Since she already had a broken tooth by this point, the scene in the room was gruesome to say the least.  The photo doesn’t do the justice to the scene, as it appeared someone had attempted to dispose of a body in the tub, but got sidetracked by the Rupunzel shampoo bottle.

The Pennsylvania Chainsaw Massacre.

The Pennsylvania Chainsaw Massacre.

This story (which is 100% true) is intended to serve as a warning.  Anybody can be the victim of a crime.  The world is full of those who will do anything to wreak havoc and disrupt the lives of others.  The trick is to remember that you can never discount the possibility that an attack on your security may be an inside job and the trigger may be the smallest thing.  Such as a poorly charged 9-volt battery.

The trigger to the chaos.

The trigger to the chaos.

J.J. Hensley is the author of RESOLVE, which is set against the backdrop of the Pittsburgh Marathon, Measure Twice, and other works. Hensley is a former police officer and former Special Agent with the U.S. Secret Service.

Twitter @JJHensleyauthor


An addict is killing Pittsburgh city officials, but Homicide Detective Jackson Channing has his own addiction.



In the Pittsburgh Marathon, more than 18,000 people will participate. 4,500 people will attempt to cover the full 26.2 miles. Over 200 of the participants will quit, realizing it just wasn’t their day. More than 100 will get injured and require medical treatment. One man is going to be murdered.  When Dr. Cyprus Keller lines up to start the race, he knows a man is going to die for one simple reason. He’s going to kill him.


Finalist – 2014 International Thriller Writers Awards – Best First Novel
Named one of the BEST BOOKS of 2013 by Suspense Magazine!
Top Ten Books of the Year – Authors on the Air

 And look for my short story FOUR DAYS FOREVER in the LEGACY anthology

Legacy cover

Coming February 2016

image1Cyprus Keller wants a future.
Jackson Channing has a past.
Robert Chalk has a rifle and a mission.  Kill Cyprus Keller and anyone who gets in his way.




6 thoughts on “When Crime Strikes a Crime Fiction Writer

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