The Tunnels (A Kelly Jones Novel)

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9780778324461: The Tunnels (A Kelly Jones Novel)
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An old, abandoned tunnel system beneath a prestigious New England college becomes the gruesome stalking ground of a serial killer...
The crime scenes are both grim and otherworldly.
The bodies of two female students are found mutilated
and oddly positioned in the dark labyrinth beneath the
school—haunting symbols painted on the walls above them.
In her decade tracking serial killers, FBI special agent Kelly Jones
has seen some of the worst humanity can inflict. Yet the tragedy
unfolding at her alma mater chills her to the bone. Evidence
suggests that the connection between the victims—daughters
of powerful men—and the cryptic message behind the killings is
rooted in a dark, ancient ritual. As the body count rises, so do the
stakes. The killer is taunting Kelly, daring her to follow him down
a dangerous path from which only one can emerge.

"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.

About the Author:

Michelle Gagnon has worked as a bartender, dog walker, Russian supper club performer, model, personal trainer, and writer. She lives in San Francisco.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

"What's his name?"

"Chad Peterson, a.k.a. smart–ass punk."

"Great. I can hardly wait." Kelly Jones sighed, quickening her pace as Agent Roger Morrow struggled to keep up.

"Jesus," he huffed. "It's called walking, Jones, not jogging."

"Sorry." She shrugged. "A decade of living in New York will do that to you. Relationship to the victim?"

"None, or so he claims. They hooked up at a party Saturday night, he took her into the tunnels—you know, get her a little scared and you might get lucky, that sort of thing—they heard a noise in the chapel and bolted, got separated, then Prince Charming spent the rest of the night tucked soundly in bed."

"And the girl?"

"Like I said, they got separated."

"And he didn't go back for her? What a hero. Any chance it was him?" "Nah. Normal kid, no history of anything besides the usual prep–school bullshit. Roommate confirms he was in bed, asleep by 2:00 a.m."

"But then frat brothers will say almost anything, won't they? Give me a minute alone with him." She threw open the door of the FBI command trailer. Sunk deep into one of the swiveling chairs was a young man, face buried in his hands. He lifted his head and regarded her forlornly. It was obvious he'd been crying. Pinned to the bulletin board behind him were photos of the girl. It was a common tactic, leaving a suspect alone with the crime–scene photos. The innocent ones crumbled at the images, and the others...nine times out of ten they gave themselves away, unable to fully contain their pride. Chad Peterson appeared to belong to the former group, although Kelly wasn't letting him off the hook yet. She fixed him with a glare and planted herself in front of the chair, peering past him to examine the gruesome images of the crime scene. The trailer was sparsely furnished, desks and swivel chairs bolted to the floor, most of the wall space occupied by dry–erase and bulletin boards. A coffeepot and microwave in the corner served as the kitchen. Right now, all of the boards in the office were empty save for the one she squared off against.

This wasn't her first homicide. Since joining the Bureau a decade earlier, she had investigated dozens of deaths across the country, ranging from prostitutes dumped in shallow graves to children maimed beyond comprehension. But these shots were uniquely horrific. The girl hung from a rope coiled around one of the beams supporting the roof of the tunnel. Her naked body was splayed like a butterfly on display, head dangling forward, eyes open as if gazing down at the terror inflicted on her body. Her jaw hung abnormally slack and distended. Below the rope, her chest was carved open to expose broken ribs; the lungs were missing, an odd trophy to take, Kelly thought. Blood trailed down the girl's leg from another gash on the inside of her upper thigh. The incisions were surgical, probably done with a large hunting knife, Kelly surmised. Scrawled across the bottom of the photos in black ink was, "Anna Varelas, 20 yrs., Cauc female."

"So." She turned to the boy. "Anything you want to tell me?"

"I'm so sorry..." he began, voice strangling with emotion. "When she didn't come back, I just assumed she found another way out, you know? I never thought..." He dissolved into sobs.

Kelly twisted the top off a bottle of water and handed it to him. He took it gratefully and swallowed a few gulps, breath heaving between sips. She watched him silently. Not even De Niro could pull off a performance of this caliber. The kid was definitely clean. Being an asshole didn't make him a killer, she thought grimly. Which unfortunately made her job harder. "Have you seen her before?"

"Sure." He nodded his head slowly. "Around campus. But this is the first time I ever talked to her, I swear. I don't know who could've done this. I feel terrible, I never should have left her alone down there."

"No, you shouldn't have." "I just don't get it. I've been in those tunnels a hundred times, I've never seen anything or anyone—"

"There's a first time for everything." Kelly perched on the edge of the desk facing him and crossed her arms. "So here's what we're going to do. We're going to go through your story, step by step. Anything you can remember, even if it doesn't seem important, you're going to tell me. I want to know everything you said and did, everything you heard and saw, up until the moment you got into bed. You got it?"

He cleared his throat loudly. "Sure." He finished off the water and pushed a stray hair out of his eyes, surreptitiously wiping away the last of his tears. "FBI, huh? I thought you guys only came in for the big cases."

"This is a big case."

"Well yeah, I know. But I figured one murder, the cops would handle it first, right? Aren't you guys only pulled in for federal stuff?"

She considered telling him about the other girl, then decided against it. "You don't know who she was?"

"Who, Anna? She said she went to boarding school in Switzerland."

"Right. She's Dmitri Christou's daughter." Kelly sighed inwardly at his blank stare. "The Greek shipping magnate? Makes loans that float the economies of small countries?"

"No shit?" The boy looked awed. "But I thought her last name was—"

"She was going by her mother's maiden name here, as a security precaution." "Wow...I had no idea."

"That was the whole point. Anyway." Kelly pulled a notebook from her inside jacket pocket and flipped to a clean page. "You met around what time last night?"

"So what do you think?"

She looked up from her notes to find Morrow watching her, rocking back and forth on his heels with a half smile.

"Not our guy." She rubbed her eyes with a thumb and forefinger and suppressed a yawn.

"Told you. Long day, huh? Where'd they pull you in from?"

"Jersey."

"Oh right, the chicken guy. Nice work on that one."

"Thanks. How's Carol?"

"Counting down the days until my retirement."

"Really? I didn't think you were close." Kelly had worked a few cases with Morrow in the past, including a particularly nasty one with teenagers who took horror movies far too seriously. She wouldn't have guessed him to be a day past forty–five, bald head and paunch aside.

"Just ten years to go," he joked, rolling his eyes. "You want to talk to the other couple that was with them?"

Kelly shrugged. "You tell me. Did they see or hear anything?"

Morrow shifted his belt back below his paunch. "Naw. Those two could have seen Jack the Ripper drag someone into an alley and they wouldn't have anything to report. Their daddies must be rich, otherwise there's no way they would've gotten in here. You stop by the sites?"

Kelly shook her head. "No time yet." She nodded at the board behind her. "But a picture's worth a thousand words."

"Gruesome, huh?"

"Yeah, gruesome." Kelly sighed. Ten years of this work and it never seemed to get any easier. If anything, the killers she tracked became more creative and vicious in their cruelty. "What did the M.E. list as cause of death?"

Morrow sank into the chair opposite her. "From the looks of it he strung her up first, but the rope was knotted to choke without breaking her neck. Actual cause of death was massive blood loss. Stabbed the femoral vein and collected the blood in a bucket while she was still alive and kicking."

"Tricky stuff." Kelly chewed the end of her pen.

"Could be a surgeon, someone with medical training."

"I checked, no med school here. I was thinking a butcher."

"Not a lot of those here, either," Kelly noted. Morrow shrugged. "You never know, maybe a scholarship kid or prof with a blue–collar daddy." He walked over to the board and pointed to one of the photos, the camera zeroing in on the girl's toes dangling just above the ground. "You see these circles, here? The bigger one was left by the bucket, wax residue indicates the other two were candles. He tore her jaw in two, snapped her ribs and yanked out her lungs."

"Postmortem?"

"God, I hope so. We should know for certain this afternoon. Not the way I want to go, I'll tell you that much."

Kelly leaned in to squint at the photos. "Any sign of rape?"

Morrow shook his head. "M.E. doesn't think so, at least definitely not with the Christou girl. Believe it or not she was still a virgin, probably the last one on campus. The other one, she's not so sure."

"Tell me more about her."

"Almost identical M.O.s. Lin Kaishen, Chinese, twenty–one–year–old senior, daughter of a U.N. diplomat. Turned up in a connecting tunnel about a half–mile away. She'd been missing for about two weeks, not that anyone knew it. Her friends assumed she went home for the break before midterm exams, parents thought she stayed to work on her thesis. We're trying to pin down exactly when she got grabbed. Not a pretty sight after the rats got to her. I've got the shots here if you want to take a look at them."

"Sure." Morrow tossed her the file. She caught it midair and flipped it open. This girl was slighter and more fine–boned, with long black hair trailing down what remained of her face. Her legs were spread, pinned to the wall with heavy black rebar. Again, the lower jaw dangled grotesquely and ribs peeked out from her torn flesh. Kelly's eyes narrowed. "Body position's different."

"And that's why they pay you the big bucks. For some reason he skipped the legs on the Christou girl. Maybe he forgot the rebar at home."

"But remembered the bucket and candles? Might mean he's refining his M.O.," Kelly mused. It generally took serial killers some time to hit their groove, so to speak. The best chance of catching them was always early on, when they hadn't yet perfected their technique and were most likely to make a mistake. With any luck, they were dealing with a newcomer here. "So sure it's a he?" Morrow asked.

Kelly shrugged. "To mount the girls like this would take someone pretty strong, or maybe two people. What are this one's stats?"

Morrow flipped through his notebook. "According to her driver's license she was five–six, a hundred–fifteen pounds."

"Add five to that. Girls always lie about their weight." Kelly peered closely at the last photo in the batch.

"What's that behind her? Was that already there?"

"That, my friend, is our best lead. And the answer to why he collects their blood. Apparently he's too cheap to invest in a set of watercolors. We found a couple of them painted down there, mostly in the tunnels leading to the chapel." He tossed her two more photos. "These were taken once the bodies were removed."

Kelly examined one photo closely. The paint had been smudged by the girl's body, blurring the details of a crudely scrawled image. It was difficult to tell whether it was supposed to be human or animal, but it was most definitely a face of some sort. Two eyes glowered fiercely from beneath a shaggy brow, pointy ears jabbed out from the sides, and a long bedraggled beard dangled almost to the floor. Even here, under the fluorescent glow of the trailer lights, the sight of it induced a prickle at the base of her spine. She could only imagine how much worse it would look looming out from the darkness of the tunnels. "He uses the girls' blood as paint?"

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