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By TRACIE FEHR
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2012 Tracie Fehr
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Chapter OneSeven Days Earlier
I was singing in the shower when I heard the doorbell chime. Grabbing a towel, I dried off quickly and put on my robe, tying it as I went to the door.
"Who is it?" I asked, trying to reach the peephole, which was too high for my five-foot-one frame to look through.
"It's me, Toes. Open up, we got a case."
Smiling and letting out a small sigh, I unlocked the heavy wood door. "Hey, Seth, come on in, it's not even six thirty. You're lucky I'm awake." I liked to sleep at least till seven.
"Yeah, I know, but you're gonna like this one," Seth said as he waltzed past me to my glass-top kitchen table and plopped down in one of the black-cushioned chairs. Chuckling to myself, I closed the door behind him and relocked it before heading to the table.
"Do you mind if I finish my shower before you dazzle me?" Already enjoying the fruit plate and toast I had set on the table for myself, Seth mumbled something and waved me away. I shook my head and returned to the matter at hand.
Refreshed from finishing a cold shower, having forgotten to turn off the water, I returned to the kitchen. My partner was in the process of making me fresh toast and cutting more fruit to replace what he had eaten.
"Wow, you didn't need to make me breakfast."
"I didn't want you to wait too long to read the file; you may know what to do."
I was puzzled. Seth was really good about including me in our investigations, but he always made the decision on which cases we would work. I picked up the file and paced as I read the details. It was a horrifying one, yet I was pulled toward it. There were twelve victims. Only bits of bone and small scraps of clothing were left. No leads, yet plenty of useless evidence: footprints compromised by the weather, DNA from random people who found the remains, and specific patterns disturbed. This was going to be a nightmare to sort out.
My people are some of the world's greatest scientists. Jasper is my first in command. He specializes in trace evidence, bugs, and mathematical time lines. Jasper also enjoys the occasional crazy experiment. Torrance, my second in command, is the medical examiner on our team. Because we touch so many different parts of science, we have an intern program. George and Natasha are the interns currently working with our team.
Every four years, the interns move on and we get two new interns to teach. George and Natasha have been with us for eighteen months. Our goal is to open up the minds of the interns in dealing with everyday things they may encounter. George helps Torrance by taking photos and collecting samples from the crime scene. Natasha is an expert in facial reconstruction and recreating the crime to help determine how things could have happened. She also helps Jasper with experiments.
My boss, Edward, dabbles in all the fields and deals with the politics involved. Seth is an FBI special agent and my partner. I contract out to the FBI when needed and work with Seth. My job at the lab is to profile killers and interpret evidence.
"There is a lot of information here, but nothing is helpful," I noted after looking through the file.
Seth brought my breakfast to me and sat down. "That is why I need you to look at it. The FBI is seriously considering bringing in the Behavioral Analysis Unit."
Glancing over at him, I asked, "And you don't want to do that?"
He shook his head. "I have nothing against profilers, but I need to know if you can do this yourself or if you need help. I don't want to see any more victims." He paused as a sheepish look crossed his face. "I have a confession to make, though."
"What?" I asked, not knowing if I would like this.
"Well, first I need to know if you'll do it."
"I don't mind the extra help; twelve is a lot of victims. We have to find this guy, so yeah, I'll do it. Just give me twenty-four hours to go over the evidence and see what I can make of it. Then call in the BAU."
He smiled and replied, "Good, I already sent the bodies to your lab!" He ducked as I threw my orange peel at his head.
"Well, let's go," I said as I gathered up the papers and put them in my bag.
I climbed into the passenger seat of the black FBI issue Lexus RX hybrid. As Seth drove, we discussed the case. "Do you have any thoughts on the unknown subject yet?" Seth asked.
I looked into the side mirror as I spoke my thoughts. "Definitely male. Probably charming and good looking. That's how he gets his victims." I paused, watching the dark blue car behind us. It had been with us for the last three turns and didn't appear as though it wanted to pass. It felt as though we were being watched.
"Toes, are you all right?" Seth asked as our eyes met for a second.
"We have a tail. Dark blue car—I don't know the make or model. It looks high-end, but that's all I can figure out. The car doesn't have a plate."
Seth grabbed his radio and made a coded call to dispatch to get someone on the car following us. Then he said to me, "I don't know if it will help, but a squad car is being sent into our general location. Hopefully, they can get the license plate from the back of the car."
"Well, every little bit helps," I said. We stayed on our course, and the car hung on our trail like a hungry dog. It made me a bit nervous. Suddenly, the car sped past us and whirled onto another street. That was when I noticed the squad car. The back of the mystery car was covered in mud, so we couldn't make out the license plate.
"Whoa, someone was in a hurry, eh?" Seth asked.
I looked over at him and studied his profile. At the moment, he was serious. His forehead was furrowed while his eyes were sharp and watchful. A muscular man, he possessed a kind heart. Yet he could be tough and hard when needed. He spiked his hair and preferred casual dress to the standard suit. Once again, I realized that I was lucky to have him as a partner.
Arriving at my lab, we stepped out of the SUV and walked to the door. Once inside, I headed to my office. Grabbing my lab coat, my mind began to unwind. I'd just sat down when Jasper knocked on my door.
"Morning, boss," he said as he walked in. "We have the bodies laid out the best we could; you can take a look whenever you're ready." Jasper was a small man about five foot nine and somewhat melancholy. He was a great scientist, though, which showed in his hard work.
"Thanks, Jasper. Give me about twenty minutes, and I'll be there." He nodded and headed back to the forensics platform. The platform was like a small stage with high tech security. There was a set of stairs leading up to the floor with sensors that went off unless a secure card was swiped. My team and Seth where some of the few that were authorized to have one of these cards. I opened the file again; this time, I really dug into the details. The victims that the killer chose and the way the victims' bones were placed seemed familiar. It nagged at me. Where had I come across this before? I turned my computer on and pulled up my Internet browser. I typed in the key words to find a similar crime and left my office as the computer searched the data.
Arriving at the forensics platform, I swiped my access card and joined Seth, who stood by the remains. I looked over the partial body and walked toward the other tables holding bodies. We had twelve partial sets of remains—all female. This was the work of a coldhearted maniac. I strode over to the computer monitor and typed in my user ID and password before looking at trace results. "So they were all found in the same grave, but they had different soil samples?" I asked Jasper.
He joined me at the monitor. "Yeah. It's weird that they would have that. George took multiple samples of the dirt around the bodies and it was all the same. Just the dirt embedded in the bones was different."
"So you're saying they were buried, then dug up, and put into a mass grave? How did we find it?"
Seth stepped forward to answer this one. "A group of campers came across it. Digging a hole to make a fire, they found little pieces of bone. As they continued digging, they found a skull. It freaked them out a bit, and they called us."
I nodded at Seth and turned back to the screen in front of me. I went back to the first body. I picked up the bits of bone and studied them, looking for anything that could help us in identifying the victim. I could definitely say this was murder; it was no coincidence that the girls were all in the same grave. They had been put in according to their age. The oldest body had been dead roughly thirteen years. The most recent body had been in the grave for about a year. We needed to determine the exact time of death, so we could catch this monster. All serial killers have a pattern.
After examining the evidence, Seth and I returned to my office to go over my notes. I knew I would not sleep until I understood the killer's deranged mind. Sitting in a beanbag chair with my papers and a clipboard, I began writing out my thoughts. This always helped me to connect the dots and determine patterns of the killer. Holding my coffee with one hand and jotting notes with the other, I realized something. A date or event held some type of significance to this man. I needed to know if there were more murders before the oldest set of bones to verify my date theory.
"Seth, can you see if there are more files or cases open that are similar? I have an awful feeling there are more bodies out there."
Seth stood up and stretched his arms and back. "Yeah, I'll do that, and then I'll bring some supper back. Anything special you want? My treat!" He grinned playfully.
I returned the smile. "No, just the regular is fine. Thanks, though!"
"You got it! Give me about an hour."
Chapter TwoI stood up from my beanbag chair, walked behind my desk, and sat in my office chair. Trying to form a profile, I went over my notes again. I would discuss this with the BAU before releasing any information to the press. So far, I knew the perpetrator was a handsome Caucasian male between his thirties and fifties. He was also patient, since he'd had a cooling-off period of a year. I needed to find out what the kill meant to him. First, I had to figure out the date.
"Hey, Toes. Hungry?" Seth smiled and held the bag toward me.
I hadn't realized it was so late. My stomach rumbled in answer to his question. Laughing, he set the food on the coffee table adjacent to my desk and sat down on the floor. I got up from the chair and joined him.
"Steak?" I asked.
"Yeah, it is," Seth laughed. As he pulled out the food, I almost groaned. It was a huge steak. I love my meat! He set it front of me, took my hand, and prayed for the food. "Dear Lord, we are so grateful for the blessings you have given us, and we pray that you help us catch this guy and bless this food. Amen."
I looked up and met Seth's eyes. He stared back at me, still holding my hand. As he opened his mouth to say something, my stomach growled and broke the silence. Laughing nervously, I took a big bite of my steak.
George came storming in. Tall and well-muscled, he had a no-nonsense manner.
"Boss, you're gonna want to see this. We found something, and it's pretty big." With that said, he ran out.
Seth and I looked at each other and shrugged. He stood and offered me a hand. I took it and stood up. Our hands tingled in anticipation of the news. I let go, and together we strolled toward the platform. Swiping the secure entry card, we walked up the stairs to where the rest of the team was.
"So what did you find?" Seth inquired.
"This," Jasper said, shoving a bone under Seth's nose.
He moved back a step, bumping into my toes. "Oooh," I muttered, moving back by hopping on my other foot.
Seth grabbed me to keep me from falling. "Toes, I am so sorry. Are you all right?"
I grimaced, but it was just a dull throb instead of a screaming pain. "I'll live. It's no big deal, really," I lied. I hated to see him upset over something so puny. "Let's see this great discovery." Stepping toward the table and out of his grasp, I put on gloves and took the bone in my hand. Turning to the workbench, I stuck it under a microscope. The bone showed striations and a date. Striations were only common if the bone was either cut or sawed. The killer had engraved October sixth on the bones with some sort of engraving tool. Shivers coursed up my spine as my blood ran cold. Thoughts raced through my head. I turned toward the team.
"Toes, what's wrong?" Seth asked with lines of concern crossing his forehead.
"Are all the bones marked with this date?" Everyone except Seth nodded in unison. "Then we may have a problem." I couldn't help but wonder, Was it only a coincidence that October sixth was my birthday?
"What's going on?" Seth demanded.
After asking everyone to join me, I returned to my office. I sat at my desk for a moment before speaking. "I did some research before and discovered there are more unsolved homicides in similar nature dating back to 1987. By adding this date into the equation, we came up with seven more victims." A gasp went through the room, but I wasn't finished yet. "The first victim was Maria Bochetti. It was said that she ran off with another man, leaving her husband, Anton, and her son, Salmon, behind. At the time, Salmon was fourteen years old. Anton died three years later of a heart attack."
"We have to track this kid down and find out if he knows something," Seth declared and rose to his feet.
"He enlisted in the army after high school and, unfortunately, he was declared dead three years later," I replied.
Seth sank back down on the sofa.
"That was good work guys. Go home; it's been a long day. I'll see you back here tomorrow morning at nine."
After everyone but Seth left, I let him in on a little detail that no one else knew. "Seth, I don't know if this is just coincidence or if it is important, but my birthday is October sixth."
His response was quick and to the point. "Toes, you're staying at my apartment tonight."
I shook my head. "No, Seth, I'm going home. You are more than welcome to sleep in my spare room, but I may be working through the night."
"Fine, we'll stop by my place so I can grab my bag."
Knowing it was useless to argue, I gathered my papers and folders. We headed out the door, leaving my steak on the table forgotten.
At my place, I unlocked the door and went inside. I turned on the lights and set my keys on the table beside the door. Seth walked in behind me closed the door and made sure it was locked securely.
"If you come this way, I'll show you your room," I said. He followed me past the living room and kitchen. Entering the hallway, I opened the hall closet to grab sheets and pillowcases.
"Toes, I can make my own bed," Seth protested.
"I don't mind. You can scout the rest of the apartment, so I can relax later," I joked. He gave me a strained smile and disappeared into the living room.
I'd just finished making the bed when my phone rang.
"Hello," I answered.
"Is someone there?" The sound of hushed breathing angered me. "If you won't answer, I'm going to hang up," I threatened.
"This is an old friend."
I was stunned. Of all the creepy voices I had ever imagined, this one was not one of them. The voice was quite pleasant.
"Who is this, and what do you want?"
"This is Dekker. You may not remember me, but we met in college. Would you like to have dinner with me?"
Slightly shocked, my mind refused to process. "Um, I don't have time at the moment, but maybe we can meet next week."
Sounding disappointed, he replied, "All right, I'll give you a call next week then."
"Okay, sounds good. I'll talk to you then," I said. He hung up, and I felt badly about not meeting him.
"Everything okay?" Seth asked as he walked toward me.
"Everything is fine. Is your room okay?"
"Yeah, it's great. Do you want to go through the folders again?"
Seth looked tired. I figured I'd let him go to bed and finish looking at the folders when he was asleep. "No, I'm good for now. I need to give my mind a break."
"I understand. I'll see you in the morning."
When I heard him close the door to the spare bedroom, I silently walked to the kitchen table, where I had left the folders. I picked up the papers and saw different files underneath. Thinking these must be the other case files Seth had found, I added them to my pile and carried the files into the living room. Sitting on the floor and leaning against my chocolate-colored leather couch, I sorted out the different cases by date—oldest to the most recent. There were quite a few. I took some notes and moved the cases that were slightly different. I came up with twenty-one victims. According to the calendar, there would be another victim in eight days. I couldn't make sense of this killer. When most psychopaths kill, they don't move the bodies after twelve years and throw them in a mass grave. Many revisit the dump sites, but they don't dig up the bodies. This killer was definitely strange.
Excerpted from Facing Fear by TRACIE FEHR Copyright © 2012 by Tracie Fehr. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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