Man Down

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Overview

Renowned former FBI criminal profiler and New York Times bestselling author John Douglas continues the electrifying saga of the Broken Wings -- a team of ex-FBI profilers who walk a razor's edge between the criminal mind and their own destruction.

Dark times have befallen Hollywood Jake Donovan and his unit. They're still struggling to recover from the nightmarish Black Diamond case when the Attorney General calls on Donovan. Terrorists have attacked the president's helicopter, ...

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Overview

Renowned former FBI criminal profiler and New York Times bestselling author John Douglas continues the electrifying saga of the Broken Wings -- a team of ex-FBI profilers who walk a razor's edge between the criminal mind and their own destruction.

Dark times have befallen Hollywood Jake Donovan and his unit. They're still struggling to recover from the nightmarish Black Diamond case when the Attorney General calls on Donovan. Terrorists have attacked the president's helicopter, and the assailants must be found out. But, before he can close in on the suspects, the government inexplicably shuts him down -- leading Donovan to suspect that something much more sinister is at work behind the veils of power.

When the Broken Wings' wealthy backer asks the team to investigate the whereabouts of her missing niece, Donovan realizes that the new case may lead right back to the case he just lost -- and into the nexus of a murderous conspiracy that threatens the security of the entire nation.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The midair explosion of a plane reportedly carrying the First Lady gets Douglas's sequel to Broken Wings off to a galloping start. Government officials hastily shoo swashbuckling hero Jake Donovan, a former FBI profiler and acclaimed nonfiction author, away from the scene of the plane crash, and before Jake can raise a fuss, he and his crack Broken Wings team (an independently funded cadre of retired elite agents) get an assignment much closer to home. Millicent DeVries, their wealthy benefactress, asks them to investigate the North Carolina murder of prominent research scientist William Rush. DeVries's married niece Janice is missing and may have been sleeping with Rush. The DeVries case looks like as if it might lead them back to the plane explosion, but the work of the team keeps being disrupted. DeVries family infighting threatens the Wings' funding. Jake's lover, Katie McManus, a crime scene investigator and Broken Wings member, inconveniently decides to cool their affair. And while Jake has heretofore had a good relationship with ex-wife Toni and their two children, Toni goes ballistic over the high-profile nature of the case. Her fears turn out to be justified: before long, their son, Eric, is kidnapped. With this sophomore mystery, Douglas drifts away from the sober, methodical, intricate presentation of forensic facts that won his first novel and earlier nonfiction well-deserved acclaim. Here, the plot is cluttered and not terribly suspenseful, with a resolution as neat as it is predictable. Broken Wings fans may feel this sequel is rushed and disappointing. (Nov. 1) Forecast: Douglas's longtime co-writer Mark Olshaker is not credited for this novel, which may have something to do with the dip in quality. Douglas will have to convince fans he can go it alone to keep this series viable. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Second in the Broken Wings series (Broken Wings, 1999, with Mark Olshaker) and first solo fiction by Douglas, famed as Thomas Harris's legendary FBI Mindhunter. Douglas has the drill for thrillers down pat: lots of bad guys, piles of bodies, big grids of electric danger, though he cannot fashion a stylish all-nighter like Harris's Hannibal Clarice. The five members of the privately funded but legally empowered Broken Wings team, former active FBI agents who went out of bounds and got themselves buried by the Bureau, do all sorts of quasi-illegal acts that normally would call for a warrant-but they're effective. A Blackhawk helicopter explodes over Washington, crashes into the Mall, and kills all aboard. The First Lady, at first thought to be a passenger, is safe. Terrorist act? All think so. The Broken Wings, called in to the case, find themselves then suddenly dismissed from it by the Attorney General, no friend of profiler Hollywood John Donovan, the team's boss and famed (like Douglas) for his nonfiction books on serial killers and his tech help with moviemakers who want to get things right. Taken off the case, the team agrees to assist their financial benefactor, Mrs. Millicent De Vries, whose niece and husband are missing. Also missing: nuclear scientist William Rush, who was working on a hush-hush weapon. Donovan finds the niece, Janice Calahan, sprawled naked and dead atop the similar body of William Rush. Did her missing husband find them in the act and shoot them both? But Donovan suspects his arch-nemesis, the phantom J.P. Napoleon, who seems to own everything and wants to own more (if he even exists). Well, like that Napoleon of Crime, Professor Moriarty, J.P. Napoleon is toorich a villain for Douglas to deliver up in a mere two novels. Meanwhile, Donovan's ex-wife Toni and his cooling paramour and teammate Katie both turn the screws on him. Page-turner full of sardonic asides.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780671017057
  • Publisher: Pocket Books
  • Publication date: 3/1/2004
  • Series: Broken Wings Series , #2
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 384
  • Product dimensions: 4.10 (w) x 6.60 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author


John Douglas was the founder and head of the FBI's Investigative Support Unit, which was formed in 1980. He retired from the Bureau after twenty-five years of service. He is the author or coauthor of numerous books on criminal profiling, including The Cases That Haunt Us, The Anatomy of Motive, Obsession, Journey into Darkness, Unabomber, and the #1 New York Times bestseller Mindhunter, as well as the novels Man Down and Broken Wings -- all available from Pocket Books.

Visit his website at johndouglasmindhunter.com.

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Read an Excerpt

Man Down

A Broken Wings Thriller
By David Terrenoire Mark Olshaker John Douglas

Pocket

Copyright © 2003 Temperance Brennan, L.P.
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-671-01705-5


Chapter One

As I was packaging what remained of the dead baby, the man I would kill was burning pavement north toward Charlotte.

I didn't know that at the time. I'd never heard the man's name, knew nothing of the grisly game in which he was a player.

At that moment I was focused on what I would say to Gideon Banks. How would I break the news that his grandchild was dead, his youngest daughter on the run?

My brain cells had been bickering all morning. You're a forensic anthropologist, the logic guys would say. Visiting the family is not your responsibility. The medical examiner will report your findings. The homicide detective will deliver the news. A phone call.

All valid points, the conscience guys would counter. But this case is different. You know Gideon Banks.

I felt a deep sadness as I tucked the tiny bundle of bones into its container, fastened the lid, and wrote a file number across the plastic. So little to examine. Such a short life.

As I secured the tub in an evidence locker, the memory cells floated an image of Gideon Banks. Wrinkled brown face, fuzzy gray hair, voice like ripping duct tape.

Expand the image.

A small man in a plaid flannel shirt arcing a string mop across atile floor.

The memory cells had been offering the same image all morning. Though I'd tried to conjure up others, this one kept reappearing.

Gideon Banks and I had worked together at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte for almost two decades until his retirement three years back. I'd periodically thanked him for keeping my office and lab clean, given him birthday cards and a small gift each Christmas. I knew he was conscientious, polite, deeply religious, and devoted to his kids.

And he kept the corridors spotless.

That was it. Beyond the workplace, our lives did not connect.

Until Tamela Banks placed her newborn in a woodstove and vanished.

Crossing to my office, I booted up my laptop and spread my notes across the desktop. I'd barely begun my report when a form filled the open doorway.

"A home visit really is above and beyond."

I hit "save" and looked up.

The Mecklenburg County medical examiner was wearing green surgical scrubs. A stain on his right shoulder mimicked the shape of Massachusetts in dull red.

"I don't mind." Like I didn't mind suppurating boils on my buttocks.

"I'll be glad to speak to him."

Tim Larabee might have been handsome were it not for his addiction to running. The daily marathon training had wizened his body, thinned his hair, and leatherized his face. The perpetual tan seemed to gather in the hollows of his cheeks, and to pool around eyes set way too deep. Eyes that were now crimped with concern.

"Next to God and the Baptist church, family has been the cornerstone of Gideon Banks's life," I said. "This will shake him."

"Perhaps it's not as bad as it seems."

I gave Larabee the Look. We'd had this conversation an hour earlier.

"All right." He raised a sinewy hand. "It seems bad. I'm sure Mr. Banks will appreciate the personal input. Who's driving you?"

"Skinny Slidell."

"Your lucky day."

"I wanted to go alone, but Slidell refused to take no for an answer."

"Not Skinny?" Mock surprise.

"I think Skinny's hoping for some kind of lifetime achievement award."

"I think Skinny's hoping to get laid."

I pegged a pen at him. He batted it down.

"Watch yourself."

Larabee withdrew. I heard the autopsy room door click open, then shut.

I checked my watch. Three forty-two. Slidell would be here in twenty minutes. The brain cells did a collective cringe. On Skinny there was cerebral agreement.

I shut the computer down and leaned back in my chair.

What would I say to Gideon Banks?

Bad luck, Mr. Banks. Looks like your youngest gave birth, wrapped the tyke in a blanket, and used him as kindling.

Good, Brennan.

Wham-o! The visual cells sent up a new mental image. Banks pulling a Kodak print from a cracked leather wallet. Six brown faces. Close haircuts for the boys, pigtails for the girls. All with teeth too big for the smiles.

Zoom out.

The old man beaming over the photo, adamant that each child would go to college.

Did they?

No idea.

I slipped off my lab coat and hung it on the hook behind my door.

If the Banks kids had attended UNC-Charlotte while I was on the faculty, they'd shown little interest in anthropology. I'd met only one. Reggie, a son midrange in the offspring chronology, had taken my human evolution course.

The memory cells offered a gangly kid in a baseball cap, brim low over razor-blade brows. Last row in the lecture hall. A intellect, C+ effort.

How long ago? Fifteen years? Eighteen?

I'd worked with a lot of students back then. In those days my research focused on the ancient dead, and I'd taught several undergraduate classes. Bioarchaeology. Osteology. Primate ecology.

One morning an anthro grad showed up at my lab. A homicide detective with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg PD, she'd brought bones recovered from a shallow grave. Could her former prof determine if the remains were those of a missing child?

I could. They were.

That case was my first encounter with coroner work. Today the only seminar I teach is in forensic anthropology, and I commute between Charlotte and Montreal serving as forensic anthropologist to each jurisdiction.

The geography had been difficult when I'd taught full-time, requiring complex choreography within the academic calendar. Now, save for the duration of that single seminar, I shift as needed. A few weeks north, a few weeks south, longer when casework or court testimony requires.

North Carolina and Quebec? Long story.

My academic colleagues call what I do "applied." Using my knowledge of bones, I tease details from cadavers and skeletons, or parts thereof, too compromised for autopsy. I give names to the skeletal, the decomposed, the mummified, the burned, and the mutilated, who might otherwise go to anonymous graves. For some, I determine the manner and time of their passing.

With Tamela's baby there'd been but a cup of charred fragments. A newborn is chump change to a woodstove.

Mr. Banks, I'm so sorry to have to tell you, but -

My cell phone sounded.

"Yo, Doc. I'm parked out front." Skinny Slidell. Of the twenty-four detectives in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg PD Felony Investigative Bureau/Homicide Unit, perhaps my least favorite.

"Be right there."

I'd been in Charlotte several weeks when an informant's tip led to the shocking discovery in the woodstove. The bones had come to me. Slidell and his partner had caught the case as a homicide. They'd tossed the scene, tracked down witnesses, taken statements. Everything led to Tamela Banks.

I shouldered my purse and laptop and headed out. In passing, I stuck my head into the autopsy room. Larabee looked up from his gunshot victim and waggled a gloved finger in warning.

My reply was an exaggerated eye roll.

The Mecklenburg County Medical Examiner facility occupies one end of a featureless brick shoebox that entered life as a Sears Garden Center. The other end of the shoebox houses satellite offices of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department. Devoid of architectural charm save a slight rounding of the edges, the building is surrounded by enough asphalt to pave Rhode Island.

As I exited the double glass doors, my nostrils drank in an olfactory cocktail of exhaust, smog, and hot pavement. Heat radiated from the building walls, and from the brick steps connecting it to a small tentacle of the parking lot.

Hot town. Summer in the city.

A black woman sat in the vacant lot across College Street, back to a sycamore, elephant legs stretched full length on the grass. The woman was fanning herself with a newspaper, animatedly arguing some point with a nonexistent adversary.

A man in a Hornets jersey was muscling a shopping cart up the sidewalk in the direction of the county services building. He stopped just past the woman, wiped his forehead with the crook of his arm, and checked his cargo of plastic bags.

Noticing my gaze, the cart man waved. I waved back.

Slidell's Ford Taurus idled at the bottom of the stairs, AC blasting, tinted windows full up. Descending, I opened the back door, shoved aside file folders, a pair of golf shoes stuffed with audiotapes, two Burger King bags, and a squeeze tube of suntan lotion, and wedged my computer into the newly created space.

Erskine "Skinny" Slidell undoubtedly thought of himself as "old school," though God alone knew what institution would claim him. With his knockoff Ray-Bans, Camel breath, and four-letter speech, Slidell was an unwittingly self-created caricature of a Hollywood cop. People told me he was good at his job. I found it hard to believe.

At the moment of my approach Dirty Harry was checking his lower incisors in the rearview mirror, lips curled back in a monkey-fear grimace.

Hearing the rear door open, Slidell jumped, and his hand shot to the mirror. As I slid into the passenger seat, he was fine-tuning the rearview with the diligence of an astronaut adjusting Hubble.

"Doc." Slidell kept his faux Ray-Bans pointed at the mirror.

"Detective." I nodded, placed my purse at my feet, and closed the door.

At last satisfied with the angle of reflection, Slidell abandoned the mirror, shifted into gear, crossed the lot, and shot across College onto Phifer.

We rode in silence. Though the temperature in the car was thirty degrees lower than that outside, the air was thick with its own blend of odors. Old Whoppers and fries. Sweat. Bain de Soleil. The bamboo mat on which Slidell parked his ample backside.

Skinny Slidell himself. The man smelled and looked like an "after" shot for an antismoking poster. During the decade and a half I'd been consulting for the Mecklenburg County ME, I'd had the pleasure of working with Slidell on several occasions. Each had been a trip to Aggravation Row. This case promised to be another.

The Bankses' home was in the Cherry neighborhood, just southeast of I-277, Charlotte's version of an inner beltway. Cherry, unlike many inner-city quartiers, had not enjoyed the renaissance experienced in recent years by Dilworth and Elizabeth to the west and north. While those neighborhoods had integrated and yuppified, Cherry's fortunes had headed south. But the community held true to its ethnic roots. It started out black and remained so today.

Within minutes Slidell passed an Autobell car wash, turned left off Independence Boulevard onto a narrow street, then right onto another. Oaks and magnolias thirty, forty, a hundred years old threw shadows onto modest frame and brick houses. Laundry hung limp on clotheslines. Sprinklers ticked and whirred, or lay silent at the ends of garden hoses. Bicycles and Big Wheels dotted yards and walkways.

Slidell pulled to the curb halfway up the block, and jabbed a thumb at a small bungalow with dormer windows jutting from the roof. The siding was brown, the trim white.

"Beats the hell outta that rat's nest where the kid got fried. Thought I'd catch scabies tossing that dump."

"Scabies is caused by mites." My voice was chillier than the car interior.

"Exactly. You wouldn't have believed that shithole."

"You should have worn gloves."

"You got that right. And a respirator. These people -"

"What people would that be, Detective?"

"Some folks live like pigs."

"Gideon Banks is a hardworking, decent man who raised six children largely on his own."

"Wife beat feet?"

"Melba Banks died of breast cancer ten years ago." There. I did know something about my coworker.

"Bum luck."

The radio crackled some message that was lost on me.

"Still don't excuse kids dropping their shorts with no regard for consequences. Get jammed up? No-o-o-o problem. Have an abortion."

Slidell killed the engine and turned the Ray-Bans on me.

"Or worse."

"There may be some explanation for Tamela Banks's actions."

I didn't really believe that, had spent all morning taking the opposite position with Tim Larabee. But Slidell was so irritating I found myself playing devil's advocate.

"Right. And the chamber of commerce will probably name her mother of the year."

"Have you met Tamela?" I asked, forcing my voice level.

"No. Have you?"

No. I ignored Slidell's question.

"Have you met any of the Banks family?"

"No, but I took statements from folks who were snorting lines in the next room while Tamela incinerated her kid." Slidell pocketed the keys. "Excusez-moi if I haven't dropped in for tea with the lady and her relations."

"You've never had to deal with any of the Banks kids because they were raised with good, solid values. Gideon Banks is as straitlaced as -"

"The mutt Tamela's screwing ain't close to straight up."

"The baby's father?"

"Unless Miss Hot Pants was entertaining while Daddy was dealing."

Easy! The man is a cockroach.

"Who is he?"

"His name is Darryl Tyree. Tamela was shacking up in Tyree's little piece of heaven out on South Tryon."

"Tyree sells drugs?"

"And we're not talking the Eckerd's pharmacy." Slidell hit the door handle and got out.

I bit back a response. One hour. It's over.

A stab of guilt. Over for me, but what about Gideon Banks? What about Tamela and her dead baby?

I joined Slidell on the sidewalk.

"Je-zus. It's hot enough to burn a polar bear's butt."

"It's August."

"I should be at the beach."

Yes, I thought. Under four tons of sand.

I followed Slidell up a narrow walk littered with fresh-mown grass to a small cement stoop. He pressed a thumb to a rusted button beside the front door, dug a hanky from his back pocket, and wiped his face.

No response.

Slidell knocked on a wooden portion of the screen door.

Nothing.

Slidell knocked again. His forehead glistened and his hair was separating into wet clumps.

"Police, Mr. Banks."

Slidell banged with the heel of his hand. The screen door rattled in its frame.

"Gideon Banks!"

Condensation dripped from a window AC to the left of the door. A lawn mower whined in the distance. Hip-hop drifted from somewhere up the block.

Slidell banged again. A dark crescent winked from his gray polyester armpit.

"Anyone home?"

The AC's compressor kicked on. A dog barked.

Slidell yanked the screen.

Whrrrrp!

Pounded on the wooden door.

Bam! Bam! Bam!

Released the screen. Barked his demand.

"Police! Anyone there?"

Across the street, a curtain flicked, dropped back into place.

Had I imagined it?

A drop of perspiration rolled down my back to join the others soaking my bra and waistband.

At that moment my cell phone rang.

I answered.

That call swept me into a vortex of events that ultimately led to my taking a life.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Man Down by David Terrenoire Mark Olshaker John Douglas Copyright © 2003 by Temperance Brennan, L.P.. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

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First Chapter

Chapter One

From deep in sleep I hear something fall. Something big. It shakes me and I open my eyes to complete darkness. I smell fresh-cut lumber and newly turned earth. Above my face and as far as I can reach, my fingertips touch wood. I'm in a coffin.

An important part of me knows that I am still asleep and that this is a dream. Still, a dark flower of panic blooms inside my chest and I will myself, against my own panicky animal instinct, to breathe slowly and deeply, letting the focus calm me so that I can think of what to do.

There is air enough, brought in by a steel pipe cool to the touch. I don't see it, but I know it is there. I also know the pipe is threaded on both ends. And as my fingers trace the grooves, I know that the killer will soon come and cap this pipe and I will suffocate, slowly. What is worse, I also know that in the final minutes I will try to claw my way out, no longer able to control my instinct. When I am reduced to an animal, blind to everything but bright fear, that moment is when he wins and achieves release.

We don't know for certain, we have no hard evidence, but we believe this end moment is what gets him off. In all the children we've found, not one has been sexually assaulted or even struck. There are no signs of the control fantasies most predators exhibit except, of course, for the imprisonment itself. But there are those final moments when his victim is stripped of humanity and begs for his life. I say his life because all of the victims, fourteen that we know of, have been boys. They have all been blond. They have all been taken from their homes and buriedalive.

I think of the boys and repeat their names in a murderer's rosary. Saying them gives the victims some dignity, I think, and blunts his power over the lives they had before he took them. In the exercise of memory, it also blunts his hold over me as I lie here in this black box. I go over the details of each case, one by one, reciting their mysteries and praying for an insight that has escaped me before. Each time, the boys were taken from their bedroom. There is no sign of struggle. A personal object is taken. It's never anything of any value except to the victim. A toy, perhaps a photo. It's the single most important detail we've kept from the press. First, because it helps us eliminate the false confessors, and second, we want our killer to hang on to his souvenirs so that when we catch him, he will convict himself with his own sad collection.

No parent had ever heard the scrape of a window or the slide of a dead bolt. No mother had heard her child cry out. No father had heard the floorboards creak under the weight of an intruder. In the morning, all that was found was the killer's calling card.

It was a literal card, a playing card made by Signet Games, makers of dozens of children's games as well as traditional bridge and pinochle decks. But the killer's card was not from a traditional deck. These decks had had a small run and their distribution was limited to Vietnam. The owner, himself a WWII veteran of the OSS, had made them specially for a unit of assassins. There were fifty-two cards in each deck, all with the same design -- a single black diamond. When a Vietcong tax collector or political officer was terminated, his killer left one of these black diamonds on the corpse to "spook the gooks."

This was my first unsolved case as a profiler, when the science was still considered voodoo by most of law enforcement. I didn't have the political muscle to break open hidebound bureaucracies. It took nearly a year for the CIA to declassify the personnel list and another eight months for the Bureau to track down all of the squad's surviving members. Most of them had settled down and started families and were angry when we brought out their dark past into the sunlight and laid it on their swept suburban doorsteps.

Others lived on the fringes, a big part of them still in Vietnam. Some of them were downright scary, alone in the woods, hiding from everyone but themselves. All of them had secrets, to be sure, but every one of them was eventually cleared of being the killer.

Over the time it took us to locate and interrogate all of these veterans, six more boys were taken from their beds, buried in plywood boxes, and kept alive for days, after which the killer would cap the air pipe and listen as the boys cried out. We believe he masturbated as they died. It is a detail that sickens me still, even after interviewing some of the most twisted killers on earth. The press had dubbed him, without much imagination, the Black Diamond Killer.

For these reasons -- the abductions, the card, the cruel deaths, and that final act, I pushed myself to find him. The case filled my nights, even though I was working dozens of different cases at the time, interviewing murderers for my first textbook, appearing on television shows at the request of the director, and acting as technical consultant to several motion pictures. It was this last, this continual lunching with stars, that led my rivals in the Bureau to dub me, again without much imagination, Hollywood Donovan.

I was exhausted, physically and mentally. I had come down with a case of viral meningitis that I wrote off as a cold, and I flew out to Oregon, site of the abductions, to assist the local police. It was there that I collapsed and nearly died.

Then, as suddenly as they began, the abductions stopped. We don't know why. We suspect the killer died or was arrested for another crime. And now, eighteen years after the last boy, Billy Jimeson, was found, I was dreaming inside a box, my fingertips running over rough plywood, searching for answers.

From far away I heard a phone ring. I tried to holler but the sound that came out of my mouth was an unformed animal grunt. The ringing got louder. I heard the cap thread onto the pipe. I heard it being twisted until it snugged. My flow of air stopped.

The ringing was here, inside the box.

My lungs pulled in what could be my final breath.

Slowly, the darkness fell away and I came up, slick with sweat, twisted in sheets. Katie's side of the bed was cool. I was alone. I fumbled the phone to my ear. "Donovan."

"It's Andrews, Mr. Donovan, from Special Agent Burke's office."

"Yeah, right. I remember."

"I'm outside your door, Mr. Donovan. I've been knocking and ringing your bell."

"What? You're at the door?"

"On my cell phone, yes."

"Okay, okay, I'll be right there."

I threw my feet to the floor and stumbled to the front door, wrapped in a sheet. In the hall was a young man holding his ID so I could see it. I recognized Vince Andrews, a conscientious hard-charger known in the Bureau as a blue-flamer for the fire that shoots out of his ass.

I know the type because I was a blue-flamer once, too. But that was a long time ago. The Bureau, like all institutions, will throw cold water on a flamer faster than a fireman. Most agents with initiative will either get out or give up and join the ranks of gray plodders. Occasionally, someone like Andrews will sneak through and shine like a battlefield flare in the night, making enemies just by his brilliance.

"Come in." Normally, Andrews was buttoned up, a recruiting poster of a guy. This morning he looked as if he'd run through a hurricane. His tie was twisted, his hair blown about.

As Andrews came in and took in the details of my living room -- the book on the table, the half-filled glass from the night before -- my phone rang again. "Damn, I'm popular this morning."

"Mr. Donovan..."

I held up an index finger. "Let me get this."

"Sir?"

"One minute." I answered the phone. "Donovan."

"Jake, have you heard?"

"Katie, where the hell are you?"

"I was at the gym."

There's something wrong with Katie's voice, but I'm not awake enough to figure out what it is.

"You usually wait for me."

"Sorry, Jake, I woke up early. Have you seen the news?"

"What news?"

Andrews interrupted, "Special Agent Burke wants to see you right away."

"Hold on a minute, Katie." I put my hand over the receiver, the full darkness of bad news settling over me. "What's wrong, Andrews?"

"Special Agent Burke wants to see you right away. The whole building is a madhouse."

This was bad. I knew Neil Burke, special agent in charge of the Washington office, and he wasn't someone who would let it turn into anything close to a "madhouse." A recipient of the Navy Cross for valor in Vietnam, Neil faced each and every crisis with calm determination. Katie had once said that if Neil was on fire, he'd politely ask for a glass of water. Neil set the tone for the entire Bureau, and even when the press was howling at the door and heads were rolling down the aisles of Congress, Neil was relaxed, even icy.

"Katie, Andrews from Neil's office is here. I've got to go."

"Okay, Jake. I've got my cell phone if you need me."

"Right, good, see you later."

I wipe the sleep from my face and say, "Okay, Andrews. Do I have time for a shower?"

Andrews shook his head. "I don't think so, sir."

"Damn." I rubbed my beard. "A quick shave?"

"The director asked for you personally."

That sealed it. Whatever had happened was big. Orlando Ravan, a stickler for chain of command, rarely asked to see me, preferring instead to send assignments through Neil. "What's going on, Andrews?"

"You haven't seen the news?"

I glanced at the bedside clock. "I don't usually watch TV at six in the morning."

Andrews went to the window and pulled back the curtains. From my balcony I have a terrific view across the Potomac. I can see the Jefferson Memorial, the top of the Lincoln Memorial through the trees, and the Washington Monument standing tall in the center of the Mall.

This morning, the lights of police cars, fire trucks, EMS vans, and Park Service patrols bounced off the Monument's sides and filled the cherry trees with cheap lightning. Beyond that, a column of black smoke rose in the air and spread flat over the city, adding a pall to an already overcast day.

"There, sir, the smoke," Andrews said.

I went to the window. "What is it?"

"A plane went down, sir."

"Oh, no. Do we know if it's an accident?"

"No, sir. Right now, nobody knows much of anything. But we think the First Lady may have been on board."

Copyright © 2002 by Mindhunters, Inc.
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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    exciting crime thriller

    Wealthy power broker Mrs. De Vries funds Broken Wings, a unit with broad investigative powers headed by the charismatic Jake Donovan, a brilliant profiler with a very high-resolution rate on the cases he investigates. When an airplane blows up over Washington, killing everyone aboard, FBI Director Ravan asks Jake to investigate. When Jake arrives at the bureau he is told to go home and he realizes that his old enemy, the Attorney General has yanked him off the case. He is then asked by Mrs. De Vries to find her missing niece who was supposedly having an affair with William Rush, a scientist who had been working on a top research project, but is now dead. Jake and the team learn that Mrs. De Vries¿ niece has also been murdered. When the Broken Wings start putting the missing pieces together, they have their funding cut off, their investigative credentials destroyed, and the final blow comes when Jake¿s son Eric is kidnapped. They have to find out how all these events are linked if they hope to rescue Eric. MAN DOWN is an exciting crime thriller that has so many unexpected twists that readers will make this a one-sitting reading experience because they want to find out who is the mastermind behind all the interconnected incidents. The hero of this novel holds up under adversity in such a stoic manner that the audience will be rooting for him to triumph over all his enemies, known and unknown, though his seeming unconcern is tested with the abduction of Eric. Fans including this reviewer will eagerly await the next Broken Wings thriller. Harriet Klausner

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