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FBI profiler Sophie Anderson is struggling to move beyond a case that six months ago nearly cost her her life and even now threatens her sanity.
She is increasingly haunted by her ability to experience the minds of killers in the throes of heinous crimes; her talent is uncontrollable and unpredictable. But these intensely sickening flashes often serve as invaluable clues in tracking down criminals, and Sophie is compelled to suffer the horrors in her head in order to see justice done.
When Darren Carter, a Tucson police detective and friend, asks her to come to Arizona for a vacation, she's relieved to take a break. But that vacation abruptly ends when bodies start showing up on a university campus and she and Darren are pulled into the case. The horrifying methodology, the deliberate body positioning and the distinctive red heart scrawled on each victim indicate to Sophie that a new serial killer has laid claim to the area. However, Sophie is puzzled by the fact that certain signature elements are different in each killing. Even more confusing is the fact that the FBI database has a record of many of the signatures--but they have been used by different serial killers.
As the bodies continue to appear, Sophie must hone her terrifying skills to try to track down the killer--or killers.
"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.
P.D. Martin was born in Melbourne, Australia, and developed a passion for crime fiction and storytelling at an early age. This interest was backed up with formal education through a bachelor of behavioral sciences (with majors in psychology and criminology) and a postgraduate certificate in professional writing (creative writing). Please visit her at www.pdmartin.com.au.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
I hold my Smith & Wesson 9mm semiautomatic in front of me, legs shoulder-width apart,and line up the gun's sights,aiming at his chest—the heart to be precise. The middle sight is pointed squarely at the target, and the outer sights are horizontally level. I take a breath, hold it and squeeze the trigger. The gun recoils, but after each backward motion I readjust my aim and fire again.I empty my whole magazine—eight shots—and revel in the muffled yet rhythmic click...click...click as my shells are thrown onto the ground near my feet.
"Nice grouping, Anderson."
I jump slightly, instinctively tightening the already firm grip on my gun. My rational mind wins out over my impulses and I resist the temptation to swing the gun around and point it. I turn to see Andy Rivers, the head of the Behavioral Analysis Unit, standing next to me. I relax my grip. Rivers's dark, wiry hair is offset by patches of gray at his temples, the only sign that time—or perhaps stress—is catching up with him. In his midforties, he's been the head of the unit for nearly ten years, and I don't imagine he'll be leaving any time soon. He's too good at his job. I take off my earmuffs and goggles and the muffled world returns to normal.
"Hi, boss." I look back at my target and the bullet holes clustered around the heart. "Thanks."
I'm standing in booth twelve of one of the FBI's firing ranges at Quantico, Virginia. Our unit is part of the National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crimes—NCAVC—and we get to share the FBI Academy's three hundred and eighty-five acres with new recruits and several other active units. The impressive complex includes three dormitories, a dining room, a library, an auditorium, a chapel, a gym, a large running track, a defensive-driving track, several firing ranges and the famous Hogan's Alley—a simulated town. Over the past year, since I started with the Bureau, I've spent a lot of time here...it's home now.
I push the button in my booth that initiates the pulley system and the target sails toward me. The range consists of fifteen booths, each with a pulley system to move the targets backward and forward—from the booth to the twenty-five or fifty-yard mark. When I first came to the States I was constantly converting to metric, but now I'm used to the American way. The targets contain the impression of a person, an outline of someone's upper body in black ink. My paper target arrives and I take a closer look. I've emptied three rounds into the paper and the heart region is just one large hole where bullets have penetrated it again and again.
I was always one for firing practice—and not just in the few weeks before our yearly firearms test like some of the agents. But since one especially intense case I worked, I've been coming here a lot. An awful lot. Sometimes I spend hours in a trancelike state, my gun pulsating as I fire over and over again.
Rivers smiles for an instant before staring at the target. "Anyone we know?" he asks quietly. I know what he's hinting at, but I don't want to talk about it. My compulsory fortnightly sessions with the Bureau psychologist Dr. Amanda Rosen are bad enough. It's been six months; I should be over it.
I shrug. "Just practicing." I'm lying and he knows it, but we both leave it. I bite my lip and reload, distracting myself with the repetitive motion of forcing bullets into the gun's magazine.
Rivers watches my hands. "Practicing," he says with a hint of dis-belief.
I release my lower lip from my teeth and consciously alter my body language, acting for my boss. "You know me, I'm a perfectionist." I force a light tone into my voice.
He pushes his gold-framed glasses higher onto his nose, masking his dark brown eyes. "That's why I wanted you in my team."
I nod and smile genuinely, still humbled by the fact that Rivers handpicked me to work as a profiler in his team. The Victorian police sent me out here for the Bureau's six-week International Program and I wound up with a job offer. Funny how things work out.
"Anyway, I better get to it. I've got my firearms test coming up." He gives me a wink and moves into the booth next to me.
"You don't fool me. I know you come down here more than once a year."
"Maybe. But keep it to yourself, Anderson."
I laugh, put my earmuffs and goggles back on and attach a fresh target to the clips. Once the target is back at the fifty-yard mark, I raise my gun and let him have it.
Today, Dr. Amanda Rosen wears her pinstripe pantsuit—straight, classy pants and a plain white blouse that pulls slightly across her chest. The white shirt highlights her olive complexion, making it seem even richer, darker. Hanging on her chair is the suit's matching jacket, a short, bolero-style number. She's covering old ground, crossing her Ts and dotting her Is. The case I was involved with six months ago got out of hand and she needs to know I've dealt with everything that happened.
Usually our expertise is requested for cases the police have been unable to solve. We do most of our work remotely, examining crime-scene photos and reports, which are sometimes months or even years old. Then we draft our profile of the perpetrator and send it to the cops. Occasionally we work in the field, in the thick of it, and this case was one of those times. It was a big case, pursuing a killer dubbed the DC Slasher, and two profilers were assigned to the task force. But things turned bad when the killer targeted the Bureau... and me.
Dr. Rosen's eyes fix on me, trying to read my body language, trying to break through my defenses. If my plan's working, she thinks she's in. Her dark brown hair is cut so it falls around her face in wisps, but today she wears it swept back in a French roll. Small strands have broken free and arc across her face. Her full lips are pursed, waiting for my response, and her dark brown eyes are sympathetic. Her eyes are her most powerful weapon.Sometimes when she looks at me I feel stripped bare as if she can see right through me, through the charade.
"Yes, it's going well," I say.
I haven't told her what disturbed me most about the case, and I never will. I can't tell the Bureau shrink that I had dreams and waking visions that came true. Hell, I can hardly believe it myself, especially given I haven't had any psychic episodes since.
"So you feel you've put the case behind you now, Sophie."
I take a breath, careful not to answer too quickly. Desperation could give me away."It's hard, of course, but I love my job. I like being part of the fight."
"Yes—" she studies her notepad and then looks up "—the fight. You've clocked up a lot of time on the range and in the gym recently." I shrug. "I'm keeping busy." A half truth. "I'm not the kinda gal who likes to sit around and watch TV."
"No. That doesn't match your personality profile. But maybe there are other reasons too?"
She leaves the conversation open, prompting me for the response. I know what she's looking for and decide it might be in my best interests to give it to her.
I nod. "It's true. I am more—" I search for the right word "—security conscious these days."
"Does it give you a sense of control?"
"Yes." I answer slowly, pretending to think about what I'm saying.
"Being physically fit, strong and a proficient marksperson make me feel safer."
"How much gym time are you doing?"
I know the summary's right in front of her. We have to swipe our ID card every time we enter and exit the gym, and that data is automatically compiled. Same for the firing range.
I shrug, pretending I'm not overtly aware or conscious of my movements. After a respectable pause I say,"Probably an hour a day." I keep my mouth shut about the morning runs and the midnight excursions to my apartment's gym. I haven't told her much about my sleeping problems either...and I don't intend to.
"Sounds like a lot."
I shrug again. "Not really. It's about routine. And keeping in shape." I smile, a forced smile. "Besides, gotta keep those calories off." I pat my stomach, even though I'm in the best shape of my life. My daily routine includes kung fu exercises and even body conditioning so I can take punches and block harder. Nobody's going to get to me.
I close my eyes and for an instant I see him standing over me. Memory's a bitch.
* * *
AmericanPsycho: These are the last two.
DialM: Susie Dean and Jonathan Cantor.
AmericanPsycho: Yup. We'll get to know them and the other six real well in the next eight weeks.
DialM: Eight people, eight weeks.
DialM: Very equitable. Two each.
NeverCaught: I can't wait.
BlackWidow: But there are three men—Jonathan, Danny and Malcolm—that makes three for me!
NeverCaught: She's right. What's up with that? AmericanPsycho: Six girls and two men might have looked suspicious.
DialM: You're very erudite, Psycho.
NeverCaught: ***ing big words.
NeverCaught: What the...
AmericanPsycho: My censorship extends to language, Never. NeverCaught: Whatever.
AmericanPsycho: Back to business. Have you checked out the bios?
NeverCaught: Yup. And man am I loving it. We've got Cindy the Vegas showgirl, Malcolm the hunk, Danny the macho *****head, Brigitte the exotic sexpot, Ling the shy one, Clair the singer, Susie the loser actress and Jonathan the geek. BlackWidow: Jonathan's cute.
DialM: I like them all. All good choices. You really are spoiling us, Psycho.
AmericanPsycho: I told you it was pure genius.
BlackWidow: Yes, well done. This is so self-indulgent. NeverCaught: Much more fun than stalking.
DialM: Their ignorance is our bliss.
NeverCaught: Yes. Can't wait for the first kill.
It's early, 6:00 p.m., when I swing into the garage underneath my apartment block and park my Buick in my assigned spot.My apartment is in Alexandria, which is perfect because it's halfway between DC and Quantico.
I purposefully load up my left arm with my handbag and the grocery bag from the trunk so my right hand is free. Free to lock the car, press the elevator button, open the door...and get my gun. A girl's got to be prepared, right?
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