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Man Down: A Broken Wings Thriller

Man Down: A Broken Wings Thriller

4.5 4
by John E. Douglas
This time the chips are truly down for Hollywood Jake Donovan. A government scientist, Dr. William Rush, has been found dead in a North Carolina state park; he'd been doing sensitive research -- possibly a weapons project -- and he'd been brutally murdered. His colleague, Janice Callahan, is also missing...A crime of passion? Or a threat to national security? Jake


This time the chips are truly down for Hollywood Jake Donovan. A government scientist, Dr. William Rush, has been found dead in a North Carolina state park; he'd been doing sensitive research -- possibly a weapons project -- and he'd been brutally murdered. His colleague, Janice Callahan, is also missing...A crime of passion? Or a threat to national security? Jake Donovan -- down on his luck after being mysteriously yanked from the investigation of an assassination attempt on the First Lady -- and his Broken Wings team are assigned to the case by their wealthy benefactor Mrs. De Vries, who also happens to be Janice Callahan's aunt.
But it's not going to be easy for Jake. As he digs deeper into the mystery he is shot at, his car is blown up, and his fingerprints keep turning up where they shouldn't. His personal life is no picnic either: His Broken Wings colleague and girlfriend Katie leaves him for her ex-husband; his former wife has had it with the danger his work brings to her and their two children; and he is plagued by nightmares of the Black Diamond kidnapper, the one criminal whom he has never been able to catch. But the worst blow comes when Donovan's adored son, Eric, is abducted right out of his own bed. Hollywood Jake Donovan finally knows what it's like to be a victim.
In their efforts to save the country, as well as the offspring of one of their own, the Broken Wings team races across America on the trail of a complicated conspiracy. Can they get to the center of the web in time? Once again, John Douglas has delivered a mesmerizing and edge-of-the-seat ride into the world of criminal profiling.

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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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 buried alive.

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."


"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.

Meet the Author

John E. Douglas is a former special agent with the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, one of the first criminal profilers, and a criminal psychology author. His works include Mindhunter, Obsession, and Journey Into Darkness, among others.

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Man Down: A Broken Wings Thriller 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
You thought the Lion King was bad? <br> Clown fish are hermaphrodites (If I spelled tht right I will bale myself a huge cookie) so if the only female dies and there are two males left, one of the males becomes females to keep their species alive. So Marlin and Nemo from Finding Nemo... <br> RUNING PEOPLE CHILDHOODS ONE COMMENT AT A TIME! Youre welcome. <br> <p> You should write more. ^.^
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Funny that you just realized the incestrous nature of the Lion king.
Barney Landrum More than 1 year ago
A very good read, exciting, fast moving, and shocking but believable.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago