Boogie Downby Daniel Serrano
Fierce and controversial, Detective Cassandra Maldonado played major hardball to join New York's most elite homicide squad. But she's never seen anything like the hauntingly brutal murder of FYSHBone, a rap superstar and media mogul. Cassandra's instincts tell her that Sabio Guzmán, Bone's risk-addicted celebrity lawyer, is keeping secrets worth killing for. With the Feds, the city's biggest loan shark, and a vicious music tycoon all out to silence Sabio for good, the heat Cassandra feels for him is destined to bring explosive bad news. Soon their careers and lives are on the line. They're left with everything to lose, nowhere to hide-and one deadly last chance to uncover the truth . . .
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By Serrano, Daniel
Grand Central PublishingCopyright © 2010 Serrano, Daniel
All right reserved.
Cassandra was an NYPD detective, an undercover assigned to stop a monster.
The newspapers called him the Marathon Slasher. He stalked female joggers at night. He shredded their faces with a scalpel.
Cassandra’s job was to lure the Slasher out of hiding. To act the part of a lonely jogger, unaware, reckless in her choice of shadowy cinder trails at dusk.
Cassandra was nervous. Undercover work was always dangerous.
Plus she had seen the photos in the case files. The scars. The grief in the victims’ eyes.
Her department-issued semiautomatic was holstered inside her waistpack.
Two male undercovers shadowed her. Ghosts, they were called. Their job was to protect Cassandra yet stay out of sight. Each pretended to be a lone jogger, one ahead, the other behind Cassandra, about a twentieth of a mile, approximately one city block.
Compost in a nearby field mixed with the July heat to deliver a sweet, disgusting smell. That summer had been a scorcher.
Cassandra spoke up: “Jennings, what’s your twenty?”
They communicated using radios rigged to look like MP3 players.
“Behind you, Detective, about an eighth of a klick.”
“All clear?” she said.
Cassandra glanced at her watch. “Ten-zero exactly?”
That would put Jennings thirty seconds back.
“Ten point oh exactly, Detective. Nobody’s gonna sneak up on you.”
Tactical teams throughout the park monitored their transmissions and tracked them on satellite.
Each jogger had a GPS chip on his or her person. Cassandra’s was tied to her sneaker. A command post managed the entire set from inside a fake Metropolitan Transportation Authority repair truck, parked on Broadway, under the number 1 train.
Cassandra radioed the lead ghost: “Jones? What’s your twenty?”
She envisioned Jones checking the GPS watch he had coaxed from Technical Assistance. “A block ahead of you, Detective. Ten-minute miles.”
Six miles an hour. Fast for her, this late into the run. Sweat salted her eyes.
Jones called. “Approaching the bridge, Detective. Ready for Cemetery Hill?”
Runners talked about the Hill. They feared it.
It was called Cemetery Hill because the city’s first native-born mayor had been buried up there. It was known as a spirit-breaker for runners, but supposedly rewarded your effort with a special view of Manhattan’s distant spires.
Previously Cassandra had always been too fatigued by this point to take the Hill and had stayed on the flats. This night she wanted to push herself.
Cassandra imagined the lead runner crossing the bridge that connected to the back hills. Thirty seconds later she came to the span herself. She crossed it.
Trees on either side of the trail reached for one another with their branches like laced fingers. They formed a dark canopy over the trail that enveloped all who passed beneath.
Cassandra pumped her knees. Her earphones radiated silence beneath her ghosts’ heavy breathing. She bopped her head and pretended to listen to music to appear like an easy target. In her mind, she got to the Spanish part of “Diamond Girl.”
The first hill rose. It quickly became vertical. Like running in sand. With boots on.
Cassandra immediately regretted her decision to take the Hill.
She felt jumpy. It was dark. A raccoon scampered from a bush and she flinched. Cassandra’s heart rate was off the chart. She labored to breathe.
She glanced back and saw only shadows. She glanced again and caught the flash of a man suddenly in, then suddenly out of sight on the curved path behind.
A running man.
Cassandra’s heart skipped. Where did you go?
She slowed to let the running man round the bend. He didn’t.
Where are you?
She whispered into her mic. “Jennings?”
“You see him?”
“In front of you. John Doe running man.”
“Just ahead of you, maybe half a klick.”
Jennings cleared his throat. “Negative.”
“On the Hill.”
“The Hill? I thought you said, ‘Skip it.’ ”
Jones cut in. He could see their locations on his special watch. “Detective, it looks like Jennings didn’t take the cutoff, he stayed on the flats. I’m heading back—”
Cassandra stage-whispered, “Negative. Slow your pace and stand by. Tactical units stand down.”
A lieutenant inside the fake repair truck radioed.
“Detective, you have to abort. It’s too dangerous. Jones, turn around and rendezvous with her. Jennings—”
Cassandra cut in: “No, Lou, please don’t. If it’s him, he ain’t made me. Don’t blow my cover.”
“I’m fine, Lieutenant. I have my firearm.”
It got harder to breathe.
The lieutenant hesitated. “Ten-four.”
Cassandra didn’t waste oxygen thanking him. “Jennings, are you hauling back?”
“Fast as I can.”
Cassandra glanced behind. Nothing.
I saw you. I know you’re back there, running man.
Cassandra touched the cherished gold ring on the chain around her neck. She said a two-second prayer and quietly unzipped her waistpack. She felt the gun and removed a small can of pepper spray.
Her feet were like buckets of wet cement.
“Halfway up the Hill, Detective. Don’t see nobody.”
How is that possible? The curvature of the trail was not so great; one of them should be able to see someone between them.
Cassandra glanced back.
When she turned to face forward the Marathon Slasher leaped from behind a tree with his scalpel out.
Cassandra snapped her head back. The blade missed her throat by a whisper but sliced the earphone wires. The Slasher swung his free hand and tore her necklace off.
Cassandra aimed the spray but the Slasher knocked her hand and the aerosol discharged into her face.
The sting exploded up her nostrils. It lit her eyes on fire. The can dropped from her hand.
Cassandra’s eyes welded shut. She threw a wild punch.
The Slasher slapped her with a hand like cast iron. He grabbed her ponytail and yanked her off the trail into some trees.
“No!” She kicked. “Stop!” She could not see.
Her sneaker with the tracking chip came off.
Cassandra plunged her hand into her waistpack.
The Slasher threw himself on top of her. They tumbled downhill, grabbing each other.
Suddenly he was above her, scalpel high.
Cassandra jammed the gun under his chin.
She strained to keep her eyes open. “Toss the blade!”
She flicked the safety and cocked the hammer. “I swear to God!”
The Slasher tossed the scalpel.
Cassandra pressed the muzzle to his carotid. “Off me! Kiss the dirt!”
The Slasher moved slowly.
Cassandra got to her knees and jammed the muzzle into the back of his head. She forced him face-down and scrambled for the cuffs in her waistpack. She restrained his hands behind his back, then spun away to empty her water bottle into her eyes.
She gagged, hands on knees.
There was something in her bra. She felt it.
Her special ring!
The necklace was gone, but the ring had fallen into her cleavage. Cassandra held back a sob.
The Slasher spoke to her in Spanish. “I will peel your face away and the world shall see who you really are.”
His accent was unfamiliar to her. He was not Puerto Rican, Mexican, or Dominican. Cassandra’s backups, Jones and Jennings, called from the running trail.
Her eyes swollen almost shut, she bent and grabbed the links between the cuffs. She put her foot on the Slasher’s shoulder and yanked. His rotator cuff popped.
She spoke Spanish. “Threaten me again and I’ll kill you.”
Her ghosts ran up with flashlights and guns drawn. Jones had a finger through the laces of her running shoe.
Cassandra snatched it and pointed. “Weapon’s in the bushes. Locate it for Crime Scene.”
Jones searched for the scalpel. The Slasher squirmed and moaned. Blue and white lights flashed through the trees. Sirens approached.
Jennings bent toward Cassandra. “Great work, Detective. You collared the Marathon Slasher.” He put his hand on her lower back. “Wanna go for a drink after the paperwork?”
Mucus dripped from Cassandra’s nose. She looked into the man’s face. He had been assigned to protect her.
She thought of something sarcastic to say, but heaved on his sneakers before she could get it out.
Excerpted from Boogie Down by Serrano, Daniel Copyright © 2010 by Serrano, Daniel. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
Daniel Serrano was born and raised by his mother in the tough streets of New York and Chicago. The eldest of three boys, Serrano witnessed gangs, crime, drugs, poverty, and even murder, as his family lived the urban Latino struggle. After drifting through menial jobs for years, he enrolled in the Weekend Program at Shimer College and studied the classics.
Serrano went on to earn a law degree from St. John's University. As an attorney, he has spent the bulk of his career advising politicians and alleged criminals. He is currently at work on his next book. Daniel currently divides his time between New York City and Puerto Rico, where he is hard at work on his next novel.
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