His nightmares about the young men he lost in the war have been in his head so long he can sleep through them.

His anger, regret and sorrow over the death of his wife are fresher. But he has learned to live with that as well.

What troubles his sleep now is the murder of the Meecham boys. Leon and Jerome, brothers age 11 and 12, who vanished one afternoon on their way home from school. Their bodies were found two days later along some abandoned railroad tracks.

The boys’ murder was very similar to the other child killings in Atlanta in 1980. It looked like the work of the elusive serial killer who’s been stalking the city for months.

But Detective Cleveland Mock knew in his gut that his cases were different. He knew it, but he couldn’t prove it. And when his bosses insisted on adding the Meecham boys to the Missing & Murdered Children’s list, Mock went to the media. That got him kicked right off the special task force investigating the murders.

Mock is just about to get handed some new nightmares.

Because there are so few other detectives available, he gets assigned to the murder of Reverend Jimmy Lee Hightower. The charismatic preacher, whose name was a household word in the ‘80s, at least in Southern households, is found stabbed and dying at an Interstate rest stop.

His son, Rufus, a young man with a troubled past, is found standing over his dying father. But the murder weapon is missing and Rufus is standing mute.

The killing pushes an already-tense city toward the breaking point. Many believe Hightower was killed because of his civil rights work around the South. Protesters ring City Hall demanding Rufus’ release.

But Mock soon comes to believe that Rufus is covering for somebody: The Reverend was killed by someone close to him. Mock travels to Hightower’s hometown of Almah, Georgia, in Pate County to find answers.

In Pate County, he uncovers a trove of long-buried secrets – secrets that someone will kill to keep. And he encounters a sadistic killer guaranteed to add new nightmares to Mock’s collection.

The Moaning Bench © 2016

Coming in January