Hill Country Siren: A Joe Robbins Financial Thriller (BOOK 3) Episode 10

The final episode: Joe scales the stonewall outside Sophie’s estate and creeps toward the house. He finds the side door open. Forced. Johnson has a new crowbar.

Once inside, Joe discovers he can still save Sophie. Joe fights Johnson to a climactic finish upstairs.

Back in Austin, a shattered Joe has an eventful meeting with his ex-wife, Rose. In the last scene Joe takes Chandler and Callie to Krause Springs.

Read episode 10 (the final episode.)

Sanjay tries the rope swing at Krause Springs.

Sanjay tries the rope swing at Krause Springs.

Excerpt from the final episode of Hill Country Siren.

The wall stood eight feet high. I jumped to grab the top, hoisted my legs up and over, and dropped lightly amid the junipers. A high wind rustled fronds in the fan palms. As I walked toward the house a thrashing noise came from the ferns beside me.

I turned that way, my nerves on edge.

It was only a small animal. I took slow, measured breaths to steady my heart rate.

At the edge of the patio I crouched behind a flower bed to survey the backyard. The outdoor spots lit the pool and deck area. Bright lights shone in every room in the house, but I detected no movement.

Rico’s words rang in my ears.

But Sagebrush is a serial killer.

I ignored the words and flexed my shoulders to stretch the muscles in my back.

I crept from chair to chair on the patio, pausing often to watch the windows. The bamboo wind chimes rang on the back porch. The palm trees swayed. I looked behind me, and all around the yard. I made it to the back right corner of the house and tiptoed up four stairs to the side door.

It stood open. Forced. Johnson had a new crowbar.

He might have watched my every move from the security room inside. Had Rico reached the local police? I pulled out my cell and dialed 911. When they came on the line I whispered, “I’m outside Sophie Tyler’s residence at 1102 Benedict Canyon Drive in Beverly Hills. A serial killer is inside the house. Tell the police to be careful. He could have hostages.”

“What is your name, sir?”

“Joe Robbins. I’m a friend of Sophie Tyler’s.”

“Please stay on the line while I contact the police.”

Seconds could mean everything.

I hung up and rose to look through the door window. The mudroom on the other side was empty. I had to be silent now. Luckily, the door opened without squeaking. I stepped inside and searched the room for a weapon. I found an umbrella, not much use against Johnson’s crowbar.

I opened the door to the kitchen, every nerve alive, the umbrella held at the ready. The overhead lights shone brightly. I heard faint human voices. It sounded like an argument, but I couldn’t discern the speakers. My chest tightened.

A broken plate lay wedged in the corner at the far edge of the floor. In search of a better weapon I quietly opened a drawer on the left and saw odds and ends: spatulas, mixer attachments, can openers. I took another step into the kitchen.

A pool of blood seeped from the edge of the butcher block.

Read all of the final episode.

Check out the photo gallery for Hill Country Siren.


Joe shares the information he gleaned from Mark Cunningham with Rico. Back at his condo, he discovers a shocking surprise and a most unwelcome guest. The next day Joe returns to Cunningham’s ranch intent on pressing him for information about Sagebrush’s co-conspirator.

Read Episode 8.

Back at his condo Joe discovers a most unwelcome guest.

Back at his condo Joe discovers a most unwelcome guest.

Excerpt from Episode 8

The sun had almost set. As I sat on the sectional in semidarkness, my mind returned to the conversation with Mark Cunningham. I didn’t see a next move for me. I sifted through the new data and cross-referenced it with everything else I’d learned, trying to find a loose end or a logic stream to pursue. I had just poured a second glass of wine when it occurred to me: I forgot to tell Rico about Oklahoma.

After a few beers one night, the bouncer Buddy Wantannabe had told Cunningham he came from a small town in Oklahoma. Earlier, I had gotten the impression from Johnson that he might have killed his own father. If so, he had escaped undetected.

I stepped to my desk and woke up the laptop; the white screen glowed in the otherwise darkened room. I typed a search into Google: “unsolved murders in Oklahoma”. A number of websites popped up, one organized by the state, a site for the Tulsa Police Department, and a long list of private sites.

I spent time on the state government site researching open cases with posted rewards but found nothing related to Johnson Sagebrush. The Tulsa site had summary facts of a number of cold cases, but nothing seemed to fit. A television news site from Norman had an old unsolved murder of a housewife. The subsequent Google hits seemed random: a media article on a single case, several missing-persons sites, and various crime-statistic sources.

But on the third page of the search I found a low-traffic true-crime site called Ten minutes later I stared at a high school picture of Johnson Sagebrush.

Dewey Couple Found Murdered; Son Missing

On a warm spring morning in April of 1986, June Sprinkle walked to the Wannamakers’ house next door to borrow a cup of sugar. She could see her friend Olive’s car in the driveway and was surprised when no one answered the doorbell. After ringing twice June walked around to the backyard thinking she’d find Olive tending her garden. Once there she noticed the back door slightly ajar. She feared Olive might have fallen sick, so she walked up the steps to knock.

“Olive,” she called. No answer. June took three steps into the kitchen and screamed. Olive Wannamaker lay on the floor in a pool of her own blood, dead of multiple head wounds from a blunt instrument.

June continued screaming as she ran from the house, afraid for her life. The police found Brownie Wannamaker in the garage in a similar condition. They discovered the murder weapon, a crowbar, in a trash can in the garage. Two days later Brownie’s 1982 Dodge Ram D-150 was found in a Target parking lot in Tulsa, forty-five miles away.

The Wannamakers’ eighteen-year-old son, Charles, had gone missing. Initially the police believed the murderer had killed or abducted Charles, and an organized search of neighboring areas was conducted; however, other factors have led Charles to become a suspect.

For most of his senior year Charles Wannamaker had sexual relations with one of his schoolteachers, thirty-five-year-old Annabelle Poteet. A single woman, Ms. Poteet resigned her position soon after the affair became public knowledge. Apparently the Wannamaker couple had discovered the affair and reported it to school officials. Ms. Poteet has cooperated with police in the investigation but has refused to speak to anyone else about the matter.

Charles Wannamaker was considered a polite student by his classmates, always smiling, never offensive; however, he appears to have had no personal friends. In his junior year Charles was charged with a misdemeanor for public disturbance when an altercation initiated by two football players ended with both of them in the hospital.

The murder remains unsolved, and Charles Wannamaker has not been found. The state of Oklahoma offers a reward of ten thousand dollars for information leading to the arrest of a suspect.

I pushed back from the computer and closed my eyes.

Charles Wannamaker had become Buddy Wantannabe and then later changed into Johnson Sagebrush. Four years elapsed from when he abandoned the truck in Tulsa to when he met Cunningham in Houston. What had transpired in those four years? Were there other aliases? Were there other victims? I feared the stripper Marci’s life had come to a gruesome end. If so, Johnson had killed at least four people.

Johnson claimed that everyone acted only in his own self-interest. He saw the world as Sanjay’s primitive man: There was no right and wrong, only strength and weakness, primordial rules. The strong took what they could take, and the weak suffered the consequences.

I thought of his parents. What was his mother doing as he walked into the kitchen holding the crowbar? Perhaps she cooked pancakes, relieved that Brownie had not assaulted her that morning as he did so many other times. What had she done to earn her son’s brutal justice? Had she reported the affair with Annabelle Poteet to school officials? Had the affair with Annabelle been the one thing Charles cherished?

I imagined Charles swinging the crowbar as his mother screamed on the floor. My throat ran dry. A sinking sensation invaded my chest. Sanjay’s mention of Darfur came to mind. What had he said? Anytime the fabric of societal control frays, the strong take whatever they want. I shuddered at the thought of living in such a place, ruled by the instincts of primitive men.

I had much to tell Rico and had promised to call him, but before doing so I had to step outside to breathe fresh air, to shake those terrible notions from my head.

Standing up, I stretched and moved toward the balcony. My fingers flipped open the lock and I slid the door across. As I stepped over the threshold a gentle breeze blew and brought with it a rich, deep, earthy scent: sandalwood.

I instinctively stepped backward into the room, and a rushed movement flew through the spot where I had stood.


An object collided with the sliding door. Shattered glass fell.

I shuffled farther into the darkened room and almost tripped, my heart pounding. I gasped for air.

I saw him. His silhouette framed the doorway, his bald head dark, his solid frame heaving, and the crowbar hanging loose in his hand.

Read all of episode 8.

Episode 9 will be published on May 26.



Select a new cover for Hill Country Greed

A marketing consultant recommended I redesign the covers for my first two novels before publishing the third in the series. Let me know which of these you prefer. 1) Falling Coins  2) Bridge in Center

Bridge in Middle

Bridge in Center

Falling Coins

Falling Coins



Happy New Year!

I hope that you and yours have enjoyed a safe and happy holiday.

If you’re searching for an entertaining read for the coming winter nights check out my second novel, Hill Country Rage, now available on Amazon.ebook-cover final HCR-1536x2048

In this sequel to Hill Country Greed, Joe Robbins tangles with a Mexican drug cartel as he seeks justice for the murder of his best friend.

You can read the first four chapter free here or with Amazon’s Look Inside feature.

Praise for Hill Country Rage:

Patrick Kelly proves once again that he has what it takes to write entertaining, page-turning novels. – Amazon Vine Voice Review

Joe may be a good CFO, but he’s an even better detective and carries the mystery like a seasoned professional.  –  Kirkus Reviews

Read the full Kirkus Review here

Fast-paced and action packed, the book is a great read and filled with atmospheric details about Austin and the surrounding area. Joe [Robbins] is a flawed hero, but one readers really care about, a tough guy with a head for numbers and a heart that’s easy to break. – Amazon review

Best wishes for a prosperous 2015!


Patrick Kelly delivers thrill ride with HILL COUNTRY GREED: AN AUSTIN, TEXAS MYSTERY

My debut novel, Hill Country Greed: An Austin, Texas Mystery, was recently published and is available on Amazon and other online retailers.  Woo Hoo!!   Hill Country Greed ebook-final-1536x2048

Click to read the first five chapters free.

Click for the Amazon listing.

Here are a few of the Amazon reviews the novel has received.

I need a second helping of Hill Country hijinks now! – Larry Sykes

Honestly, I found it hard to believe this was Mr. Kelly’s first effort. The story sucked me in quickly and never bogged down. The mystery kept me guessing until the very last, when everything came together in a most satisfying manner. Hill Country Greed is chock full of sexy, sleazy, smarmy, and smart characters, all well developed and fascinating in and of themselves. Joe Robbins is a complex and flawed hero who’s grab for the golden ring left him bruised and bedded, but not beaten! I don’t know what Mr. Kelly has planned for his second novel, but I’m anxious to find out more about Joe Robbins’ back story and what makes him tick!

In the words of Oliver Twist, “Please, sir. I want some more.”

Hill Country Great! – Karen D. Snyder

Great read! Well constructed. Characters were well developed. Pat Kelly has created the next Stone Barrington with a twist. Looking forward to the sequel.

Great dot-com era thriller – Ryan C.

I worked in the high tech sector in Austin during the dot-com era, which is the backdrop for this book. And I can tell you, this book captures it perfectly. Anyone who was in this business in the ’99-’01 timeframe will recognize the people and the mindset that permeate the software company depicted in the book.

Really captivating story, lots of good plot twists & turns, and very hard to put down. Buy it, read it today, you’ll love it!

Don’t Miss This One! – Bolin Millner

If you like thrillers, and even if you don’t, you’ll love this book. First of all, the protagonist, Joe Robbins is a highly skilled and complex character. He is a family man as his relationship with his young daughters shows. I hesitate to say that this relationship with his girls is “endearing” because I don’t want to give you the wrong impression – he is hard as nails in a lot of ways. He knows his way around the board room and he knows martial arts. (He knows his way around the bedroom too!) This book has an immediacy to it – you feel like you may have heard about the corporations and the personalities involved on the evening news. The reader gets to enter an intriguing world, filled with power players and greed, while at the same time the book is an imaginative and engaging mystery. Personalities and plot make this a great read. Don’t miss it.

Very fast paced and entertaining read – highly recommend it! – Peter Zapple

I received Hill Country Greed on a Friday night and finished reading it by Sunday. I found it to be a fast paced and very engaging read that I found very difficult to put down. The story contains enough twists and turns to keep even the most veteran detective story reader off-balance and wondering what is going to happen next. Patrick Kelly does a great job of bringing the dot com era to life, from both the financial and human perspective. I also enjoyed his descriptions of Austin and Las Vegas and eagerly look forward to his next book!

A great mystery that will have you guessing until the end – Andrew

Hill Country Greed is an exciting mystery that will pull you in and keep you guessing until the very end.

The story is told by the CFO at a fast growing software company in Austin in the late 90s. The company is gearing up for an IPO as the markets crater.

Austin residents will find it particularly as much of the action takes place at well known Austin locations.

Definitely worth reading.

Very entertaining story! – KS

Hill Country Greed is a fantastic debut novel that I found myself unable to put down until it had revealed all of its secrets. Mr. Kelly’s story is full of great characters, scenes and dialogue that truly make you feel as though you were there. I highly recommend this.

Conclusion: If you like financial thrillers or business mysteries or stories about Austin, Texas, you should DEFINITELY read Hill Country Greed. Click to read the first five chapters free. You WILL be entertained.

Thank you for visiting.  P.K.

Evolution of a book cover: Hill Country Greed

When I started writing Hill Country Greed I had no idea of the importance of the cover to the marketing of a novel. I didn’t know anything. I was too busy learning how to write an entertaining story to worry about marketing. But after I had invested five hundred hours in the story and was ready to share it with friends and family, I wanted a visual image to accompany the manuscript.

The first book cover, inspired by the prologue

The first book cover, inspired by the prologue

Back then the title of the book was We Happy Few, a snippet of Shakespeare that recurs several times throughout the story.

My vision for the first cover was inspired by the nightmare described in the prologue. I sketched that vision with pencil on pad and then asked my daughter, Alex, to turn it into a full-color image. Alex produced this cover in about an hour, and it was distributed to eight beta readers.

My beta readers encouraged me to keep writing, and I invested a few hundred more hours in polishing the manuscript. I also began researching the marketing aspects of publishing and read several articles espousing the importance of the book cover.

A dramatic scene at the Driskill Hotel

A dramatic scene at the Driskill Hotel

I had heard from several readers that the dramatic Driskill Hotel scene was the hook that compelled them to read the entire book. Hoping to capitalize on that sentiment, I hired a professional cover designer and asked him to create an image of that scene.

Over the same period of time, I changed the title to Beware the Brass Ring and introduced the notion of a subtitle. Here’s the result:

The artist did a fine job of rendering the image; however, once I saw the cover, I found it too ghoulish for my story. My beta readers felt the same way.

Over the course of writing the book I took several day trips around Austin to do scene research.

Climatic scene occurs at bluff overlooking the Pennybacker Bridge

Climatic scene occurs at bluff overlooking the Pennybacker Bridge

On one of those trips I took several photos of views from the Overlook above the Pennybacker Bridge. That location is important to the story, and I thought the view might make a good cover. For the second time I asked my daughter, Alex, to help. By this time I had adopted the title Hill Country Greed: An Austin, Texas Mystery.

I really like this cover.  Alex did a fantastic job; she created the clouds and changed the hue just enough to give the cover a suspenseful look.

Meanwhile, I continued to research book covers and learned about the importance of visibility of the title on the Thumbnail-sized photos that are shown on retail websites. The title was too small on the third cover, and I couldn’t envision how to make it bigger with the bridge as the central focus.

Final cover photo is from the Overlook

Final cover photo is from the Overlook

I hired a second professional designer and got lucky with Jason Alexander of Expert Subjects, LLC. To begin, I gave Jason several photos I had taken from the Overlook. The next day he gave me three different cover concepts to consider, including what would become the final cover. At first, I found the different font sizes of the words in the title and the bubble-effect of the letters strange, but they grew on me day by day, and now I love it.

What do you think?

Hill Country Greed: An Austin, Texas Mystery will be published in February, 2014.