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Night. Twenty-three triple-fenced acres. Bright lights create an unnatural daylight glow around the facility. The low, white, institutional outposts of a state hospital.
The Darden State Hospital for Criminal Justice, on the engraved granite marker at the entry gate, flanked by a guard house and a parked police SUV.
Within, locked doors lead to the quiet of long green corridors. Patients asleep. Restrained. Drugged. Muffled sounds as some within the rooms talk or even touch. Rules are broken when authority is removed.
A nurse sets up meds for the after midnight shift, counting pills, sorting them into cups.
The echoing rattle, squeak, slide of the wheels of a med cart as a psych tech and nurse move down the hall, their voices low and nearly inaudible.
A doctor passes them, clipboard in hand, flanked by two large men in white jackets and yellow shirts.
Sound of someone jogging down another hallway-a tap, tap, tap of shoes.
Doors are shut; vending machine area is locked; the white light from the canteen cuts a rectangle of brightness into the dimly lit hall.
Ward D, at the end, another corridor is closed off from the rest.
Twin red lights set above the emergency box interrupt the white and green of the hallway.
Two Correctional Officers stand guard in front of steel doors, each with a portal window.
Above the doors, a sign reads: Program 28 | Specialized Treatment and Observation. Authorized Personnel | Access Limited.
Through the port-hole windows, the hall has a metallic, futuristic look.
Rooms to the left, observation area to the right.
Three psych techs sit at desks, but seem to ignore the rooms. Joking. Gossiping. Complaining. Voices kept low.
The rooms are dark, behind bars and glass.
One of the forensics patients within Program 28 begins to wail as if to wake the dead.
In seconds, a psychiatric technician unlocks the door, running to the patient's bedside.
The lights come up in the room with the cot on which the patient sleeps.
Another psych tech stands in the doorway.
"What the hell," the psych tech says.
"Jesus H," says the other.
The patient, eyes closed as if he has been asleep the whole time and did not cry out, lies there, his prison issue pajamas torn across his chest.
On his stomach are words, carved as if by sharp fingernails.
It is a long sentence, and runs from just beneath his nipples to the small tufts of hair just below his waist line.
The psych tech near the cot scratches his head, but doesn't for a moment stop watching the patient on the cot.
His name is Michael Scoleri, but he calls himself Abraxas, and he was known, in the outside world, before he was sentenced to life as an SVP, and then reclassified as an SSPVS7, for carving this name on the bodies of the women he murdered.
Before he entered Darden State, he believed he was God.
Now, he's not so sure.
His restraints are torn at his wrists.
Blood all over his hands.
On his stomach, the words: SUFFER THE CHILDREN TO COME UNTO ME.
In smaller cuts beneath this, along his thigh, when he is inspected, there are other names, including LUCAS.
The stone angel stares with sightless eyes at the man.
In a stone room, miles from Darden State, steam rises from a pool of water.
The man holds a limp child in his arms, dipping the child's scalp back into the water.
Christmas is just a week and a half away. The snow-topped mountains above the Inland Empire of Southern California attest to winter, although, in the valley below, it is generally all palm trees and orange blossoms.
Two days earlier, in a ditch at the edge of an orange grove in Caldwell, California, a boy was found, dead, partially mutilated, with bird wings strung on a wire coat hanger, wrapped around his neck.
Then, another child, a girl this time, again with the torn wings at her neck, this time in San Pascal County.
"Another angel," one of the cops said, a young female investigator, who was on the scene within two hours of the second body's discovery.
The lead investigator, a broad-faced man of fifty said to her, "Let's get some geography on this, and the others."
"He puts them to sleep," she said. "Then he kills them. Then, this. What do you make of these marks?"
"Bites," the other detective said. "They're his teeth."
Suburban hillside, adobe ranch house, modest but lovely, lights on the front porch and in the narrow garden courtyard. Sunday night. The usual TV routine: flipping around forty or so cable channels to find a minute or two of some show or documentary. The TV screen alternated between a story about ancient Egypt on the History Channel, CNN, and the local news show. Settled on the local news, but now and then, Trey Campbell flicked back to CNN.
Trey Campbell sat up after he and his wife had put the kids to sleep. She was doing the L.A. Times Crossword, wearing her reading glasses, with the bright lamp turned up. Every now and then, she'd ask him a word. "What's a seven letter name of someone who starred in old MGM Musicals?"
"The whole name?"
"Just the name."
"Well, I mean Astaire. Or Garland."
"It's my brain. It's like I have the most expensive computer chip in my head, and all it remembers are MGM movies from the '30s and '40s. Or who starred in all the Dracula movies. Or what was the name of Henry the Eighth's fifth wife. Or which Wallace and Grommet episode involves sheep. Totally useless. If I could just apply it to solve the problems of the human condition ... Hey, what about-" He was about to mention another name of two from the MGM musicals, but had flicked to local news. He kept the sound slightly low, out of respect for his wife's crossword puzzle obsession.
"I don't think it's either of those. I think there has to be an 'r' as the second letter."
He'd been hoping to catch the news before going to bed the same night that the third body was found. He'd heard from some buddies across town that there were some kids missing in over in San Pascal County, and when the news piece flashed onscreen he turned the volume back up.
Just the tail end of the story. "-a man that the Inland Empire Daily has dubbed 'The Red Angel'-" And then the news story ended. Trey had missed most of it.
"Red angel?" his wife asked. "Is that what they call this guy?"
"Jesus," Trey said. "Somebody's killed kids in San Pascal. This must be the case Elise is being called in to consult on."
"Dr. Conroy?" Carly had a slight edge to her voice. Conroy was a beautiful woman on top of being an excellent forensic psychiatrist. Carly was rarely jealous of other women, but Conroy, more often than not, looked like a movie star along the lines of Sharon Stone-sexy and beautiful and smart and classy-and completely out of place at Darden State where most of the staff looked like the most ordinary group of mortals in the world.
Whenever Carly mentioned Elise's name, it was always with a hint of annoyance that Trey might have to work in close proximity with her. They even joked about it, but he knew not to push that button with his wife.
"We talked Saturday night. She wouldn't tell me the specifics of the crime, just that some of the detectives had been bringing her in to try and work up a psychological profile of the killer. I just didn't think it was right here. This fast. I thought it was an old case."
They watched the rest of the news broadcast in silence, but other than the name the local media had just given the kidnapper and killer, not a lot of information was being let out.
When it was over, he said, "They don't have anything. They wouldn't put this on the news if they did. Not yet. They're trying to get someone to come forward, I'd guess. Awful. Awful. I guess this guy has a strange M.O. for them to call him the Red Angel."
"Terrible," Carly said. "Makes me want to double check the burglar alarm."
"What a nightmare for those parents. I can't even imagine," he said. He leaned over and kissed Carly on the forehead. "We're lucky."
She put the magazine section down, and leaned into him.
"I don't know what I'd do if something ... well, not that it will."
"I'm sure they'll catch the guy. Soon."
"You never know. Back east with that sniper awhile back, it took longer than anyone thought it would."
"This one," his wife said, "they'll catch."
"I wish I knew what this guy was thinking. I wish there was a way the cops could stay a step ahead of him."
"Don't start that stuff," she said. Sweetly, but firmly.
It raised its ugly head between them. The conflict.
How he could sometimes start to think like the psychopaths he worked around at Darden State.
About getting inside their heads.
It was a talent he hated, but he had it, and had tried to accept it.
"I just don't know," he said. "When you're a kid, you think the world is one way. And then you get older, and you grow up, and you get kids of your own. And you know it's never always a good place to be. The world. For those kids. For their parents."
"I know. It's like we're still living in the jungle, and there's always someone out there, reading to attack," she said. "It's the world. What was it you told me? The predatory nature of human beings."
"Yeah, but not like that."
"I don't know. Seems pretty much like that. That's a human monster. You work with them. You know."
"I work with them where it's safe. Out of their cages ..." He didn't finish the thought.
The weather came up on TV, "Lows in the 20s in the mountains. Good skiing up in Big Bear through the upcoming weekend. White Christmas up in Arrowhead. For those in the Valley, it looks like mild 65 to a high of 70 on Monday, dropping slightly through the week. Chance of showers mid-morning tomorrow, changing to clear skies by evening."
When he switched the TV off that night, Trey said a prayer for the dead kids, and then another one for his own two children. He went around and double-checked the locks on the door, his nightly ritual for the past several months. Also, triple-checked that the burglar alarm was on and working, it's small yellow light flashing in its white plastic case.
He tried not to run through, in his head, the killers he'd worked with most of his adult life, as if sifting through them to understand the mind of this new murderer who went after children.
The Red Angel, he thought. Why do they call you that?
Excerpted from Red Angel by Andrew Harper Copyright © 2004 by Dorchester Publishing. 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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Posted February 17, 2004
The second I started reading this book I was hooked. Andrew Harper goes inside the mind and tells a story of the horror of the human heart. The part that scared me the most was that this actually could happen.I recomend this book to anyone and everyone.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 10, 2004
The storyline has Thomas Harris stamped all over it, but if you can get over that, you'll find this book to be fun and filled with vivid prose. Harper keeps the action going and, by the time you reach the climax, there is no way you can put this down!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 21, 2003
I had to read a book for a report due in two weeks. I dont like reading books that much, but a friend of mine told me about this book. I borrowed it from her and did the report on the book and got an A.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 20, 2003
Program 28, Ward D., Darden State Hospital for Criminal Justice, the Thrill-Kill row as it is called, houses the most dangerous psychopaths incarcerated on the West Coast. But in the Inland Empire area of Southern California around San Pascal, Redlands and Riverside, a killer, known as the Red Angel, continues to elude the authorities, striking again and again in broad daylight, preying upon the most innocent of victims, young children. In Ward D., one of the patients, Michael Scoleri, who calls himself Abraxas, the true God, claims to be in telepathic communication with the killer. When the young son of a forensic psychiatrist at Darden State becomes the Red Angel¿s latest victim, Scoleri offers to help authorities for a price. With time running out, the decision must be made whether to wait and hope the killer is captured in time, or to trust Scoleri, a brutal murderer and rapist, to lead them to the Red Angel. Andrew Harper, the bestselling author of BAD KARMA, knows our worst nightmares, and he aims straight for the heart. Building layer upon layer of tension, Harper calls upon his extensive knowledge of investigative and forensic procedure to bring characters to life in this fast-paced thriller. Readers are mesmerized as a seemingly invisible monster invades quiet communities, kidnapping children and sacrificing them to his own god. Intense and terrifying, RED ANGEL is dark suspense at its best. -- Shannon RileyWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 9, 2008
After being attacked by an escaped mental patient in his own home who threatened his wife and children, Troy Campbell needed plenty of time to recuperate both physically and mentally. Now the psychiatric Technician and Supervisor of D ward at the maximum security hospital of Darden State is ready to tackle the six inmates of Program 28, Sexual Sadistic Predator Violent Sociopath Level seven. One of the worst of these offenders is Michael Scoleri, a man who has the looks of a choirboy but the heart of a monster.<P> Somehow, some way, Scoleri is getting messages from the Red Devil, a disorganized psychopath who is kidnapping young children, drugging them, than drowning them. Before he dumps their dead bodies he attaches bloody wings to their necks, fastened with a coat hanger. His latest victim is the son of Darden State psychiatrist Elise Conroy and she intends to use Scoleri to track down the Red Devil in defiance of all the rules with only the help of Troy Campbell.<P> Andrew Harper is the one of the best crime thriller writers of the decade just as Douglass Glegg, Harper¿s alter ego, is a master of horror. RED ANGEL is not for the faint of heart because there are some very gory and visually graphic scenes. The protagonist is a good and noble person who wants to know how a sociopath comes into being, a trait that causes him to become involved in dangerous situations. If this book is an example, Leisure¿s new line of thrillers will be a smashing success.<P> Harriet KlausnerWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.