Silent Slaughterby C.E. Lawrence
He chooses his tools with precision. Stalks his victims with cold efficiency. Plans his attack using mathematical logic. And now he is ready to play. . .
THERE ARE RULES TO HIS GAME
When the killer's first letter arrives at the station, NYPD profiler Lee Campbell suspects the writer is daring him to match wits with/b>
THERE IS A METHOD TO HIS MADNESS
He chooses his tools with precision. Stalks his victims with cold efficiency. Plans his attack using mathematical logic. And now he is ready to play. . .
THERE ARE RULES TO HIS GAME
When the killer's first letter arrives at the station, NYPD profiler Lee Campbell suspects the writer is daring him to match wits with a dangerousand brilliantcriminal mind. But once this "Alleyway Strangler" starts leaving specially targeted messages with each surgically carved corpse, Campbell realizes it's not just personal. It's perfectly calculatedto destroy him. . .
Praise for the riveting thrillers of C. E. Lawrence
"Criminally compelling. . .Lawrence nails you to your seat."Gayle Lynds
"Dark and atmospheric. . .unnerving."Steven James
"Startlingly suspenseful. . .an extraordinary page-turner."Cody Mcfadyen
"An intense psychological ride." J. T. Ellison
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By C. E. Lawrence
PINNACLE BOOKSCopyright © 2012 C. E. Lawrence
All right reserved.
Chapter OneLee Campbell drove his fist into the unyielding leather of the punching bag and felt the satisfying jolt travel up his right arm. Sucking in a lungful of air, he thrust again at the bag, delivering a vicious uppercut with his left hand. He followed with a solid roundhouse and a quick jab: left, right, left, right. Jab, jab—left, right. As he punched harder and harder, he felt the sweat tickle his forehead, until it ran in rivulets down the sides of his face and neck. Jab, jab—left, right, left, right, left. He worked to a steady rhythm, comforted by the regularity of the blows. With every punch, he could feel his body loosen, anxiety melting each time he made contact.
Behind him, the grunts of weight lifters and the clang of metal weights reverberated and echoed off the rafters, amplified by the building's high ceilings. He paused for breath, wiping his face with the terry-cloth towel around his neck. It was late afternoon on a Monday, and there were three other men in the exercise room. Lee was the only white guy today; the rest were African American. The air was thick with sweat and testosterone. Lee mopped his brow as he watched a powerful-looking black man with massive shoulders load up a bench press bar with so many weights that the steel rod bowed under their combined gravity.
Lee liked it here. The Asser Levy Recreation Center was one of a dozen or so public rec centers run by the Parks Department. Membership was only seventy-five bucks a year, and it had everything: a serious weight room, exercise classes, outdoor and indoor pools, basketball and handball courts. There was even a Ping-Pong table.
He returned to his workout, pounding the bag until his knuckles stung and his muscles twitched with fatigue. Finally spent, Lee pulled off his boxing gloves and headed for the water fountain, incurring a raised eyebrow from the massive weight lifter and perhaps the hint of an approving nod. There was an unwritten code of behavior among men at gyms: only the briefest of eye contact, and smiling was rare. Most information was conveyed through nods and grunted one-syllable exchanges, maybe because anything more might be interpreted as a come-on.
The weight lifter's nod was not a flirtation; it was an acknowledgment of solidarity. Lee returned the nod, taking care not to smile, and headed past the lobby's stone urns to drink from the elegant fountain decorated with frolicking dolphins. The water was crisp and clear, and he drank deeply; then, slinging the towel over his shoulder, he headed for the shower.
Half an hour later he emerged, tired but relaxed, into the majestic lobby. Sunlight filtered lazily through the high windows as his footsteps echoed on the marble floors. Perched alone on a windy block of East Twenty-third Street just off the FDR Drive, theAsser Levy Center had been built nearly a hundred years earlier as a bathhouse. Unlike the drab institutional buildings of presentday New York, it was a magnificent neo-Romanesque structure with vaulted ceilings, balconies, and skylights. There were other city gyms closer to him, but he liked this one best. Old buildings gave him a sense of being connected to the past. He pushed open the heavy door and walked past the heavy stone columns, down the steps onto Twenty-third Street.
Behind him loomed the twin high-rises of Kips Bay; directly to the south were the lower brick buildings of Peter Cooper Village, already festooned with colorful Christmas decorations. Two blocks to the east, the icy waters of the East River flowed sluggishly south into New York Harbor. He loped across the four lanes of Twenty-third Street into the grounds of Peter Cooper, past an apartment with a first-floor window almost entirely obscured by blinking green and red lights. A cardboard reindeer beamed out at him from amid the bulbs, its oversized nose cranberry red. "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer." Dozens of Christmas pop songs were composed every year—why had that one in particular caught on? A story about the redemption of an outcast—too bad that in real life such redemptions were rare, he thought.
An arctic blast of wind from the river swooped between the buildings and pushed against his knees, slicing through the denim of his jeans. He pulled his jacket collar up to shield his neck and shoved his raw hands into his pockets, wishing he'd remembered to wear gloves. Lee had taken up boxing at the suggestion of his friend Chuck Morton, and as he wove his way through the secluded courtyards of Peter Cooper Village, he thought he had never received better advice. There was nothing like whaling away at a punching bag—or an opponent—to calm the nerves.
As he was about to cross into Stuyvesant Town at Twentieth Street, he realized he was ravenous. He turned west toward First Avenue, heading for his favorite bagel joint, Ess-a-Bagel. Just as he reached the avenue, his cell phone rang. He dug it out of his pocket, holding it close to his ear to compensate for the roar of traffic. This stretch of First Avenue had earned the nickname Bedpan Alley (a pun on Tin Pan Alley) because of the number of hospitals lining the street, and the traffic was constant and relentless.
"Campbell here," he said, cupping his other hand over his ear.
"Hiya, Doc." It was Detective Leonard Butts, formerly of the Bronx, recently reassigned to a Manhattan precinct.
"Hi. How's life in the big city?"
"Yeah, very funny."
Lee liked to tease his friend about his new post, though both of them knew that his old Bronx beat was far rougher than the relatively posh Thirteenth Precinct, where he was now stationed. His new beat included the neighborhoods of Gramercy, Chelsea, and the Peter Cooper Village/Stuyvesant Town complex.
Butts cleared his throat. "Listen, I got somethin' I'd like to run by you, if you got the time."
"Where are you?"
"Can you come to the station house?"
"I'm right around the corner. I'll just grab a bagel and meet you there."
"Ess-a-Bagel or David's?"
Butts sighed wistfully. "What kind are you getting?"
"Whole wheat, everything."
Lee could tell that Butts was struggling with his conscience.
"Can you, uh, get me one too?"
"Sure. Same thing?"
"With a schmear—thanks."
Lee smiled as he shoved the phone back into his pocket. Food was his friend's greatest weakness. He had never known anyone who loved to eat so much. At his wife's insistence, the portly detective had recently gone on a diet. He'd succeeding in dropping ten pounds, but it was a constant battle, and he complained bitterly about it.
The woman behind the counter at Ess-a-Bagel was built like a linebacker, tall and broad of shoulder, with shoulder-length, brassy blond hair. After giving his order, Lee realized he was short on cash. He pulled a credit card from his wallet and waved it at her.
"You take plastic?"
She snatched it from him. "I take everything except children and husbands. I have enough of one and no need for the other." Her accent was an unlikely combination of England's West Country and Queens. Her heavy blue eye shadow was pure Maybelline, circa 1963.
She gazed defiantly at him, her large eyes doleful under a massive layer of frosted Azure Sky. He laughed dutifully and saw her face soften as she thrust a brown paper bag of bagels at him, still warm from the oven. Saliva spurted into his mouth as he clutched the bag in one hand, signing the receipt with the other.
"Thanks," he said. "Take it easy."
"Honey, I take it any way I can get it," she said, flicking a few stray poppy seeds from her apron. "Have a nice day," she added, displaying a set of prominent teeth that might look good on a Kentucky Derby frontrunner.
"You too," he replied, and he made his escape into the frosty December air.
In this town, everyone was an armchair philosopher or a closet wit; wisecracking was a way of life, and everybody had an opinion. There were more characters in New York than there were potholes. Still, he thought as he pulled his collar up against the wind, that was one of the many reasons he loved this town.
Chapter TwoWhen Lee arrived at the station house, he found Butts pacing in the lobby. The detective took the bag Lee proffered him, pulled out his bagel, and bit off a chunk.
"What do I owe you?" he grunted through a mouthful of bagel and cream cheese.
"Nothing," Lee said, looking away, his appetite shriveling before the smudges of cream cheese clinging to the detective's thick lips.
Detective Leonard Butts was one of the homeliest men he had ever seen. Short and pudgy, everything about him was round. He had a thick body, fat sausage fingers, and a plump, fleshy face. Even his head was unusually spherical, like a basketball, with a wispy thatch of sandy hair that never seemed to lie flat, no matter how much he combed it. His eyes were small and close-set, dwarfed by a bulbous nose and continuously inflamed complexion. Boils erupted like sunspots on his oily skin, perhaps encouraged by his atrocious eating habits. In spite of his wife's newly imposed regimen of diet and exercise, the stubby detective strayed easily and often.
He chewed on the bagel, a blissful expression on his face. "Man, this is good."
"So, what do you have for me?" Lee asked.
"Follow me, Doc," Butts said, leading him through the lobby to a small office at the end of a short corridor. "My new digs," he said, closing the door behind them. Three desks sat spaced evenly apart in the cramped room. Two were tidy and orderly; the other was a mess. Butts sat down at the third desk.
"Nice," Lee said. "Your own office?"
"Naw, I share it with two other guys, but still, it's better than the Bronx." Butts shuffled through some papers with one hand, the other still clutching the half-eaten bagel. "Have a seat," he said, clearing off another pile of papers from a beat-up captain's chair next to his desk.
"Thanks," Lee said. He sat down and looked around. A frugal afternoon sun crept listlessly through the single window, filling the room with pale gray light. "Who's this?" he asked, pointing to a photograph of a young woman tacked to a large bulletin board on the wall.
"Lisa Adler," Butts said. "Her mother reported her missing two days ago."
"That's what you wanted to talk to me about?"
"Not really." Butts took another bite of bagel and scratched his head. "Although I suppose there could be a connection. Ah!" he cried triumphantly, plucking a sheath of plastic from the clutter on his desk. He thrust it at Lee. "Have a look at this."
Inside the plastic sleeve was a letter. Neatly typed, in Times New Roman font, it could have come from any number of mass-produced laser printers. He read the letter without removing it from the plastic.
Dear Detective Butts,
I just thought I'd say hello because you'll be seeing a lot more of me. Or, rather, hearing a lot more. I very much doubt you'll ever see me. Still, you never know—anything's possible. I hear you work with that hotshot profiler. Good luck to both of you ever catching me.
The game's afoot!
Yours, The Professor
There was no signature or handwriting of any kind on the letter.
"You've dusted it for prints?" Lee asked.
"Completely clean. The envelope he used is on the other side."
Lee turned over the plastic sleeve and studied the envelope. The letter was addressed to Detective Butts, Thirteenth Precinct, Manhattan, printed in the same font as the letter. There was no sign of handwriting anywhere on the envelope.
"Probably a waste of time to do DNA testing," Lee remarked. "He avoided using his handwriting. I doubt he'd be stupid enough to lick the envelope."
"That's what I was thinkin'," Butts agreed. "Plus, there's been no crime to link it to yet, and the labs are backed up as it is. What does it mean, Doc? Do we have to worry about this guy?"
"I'm afraid we do."
The department got hundreds of crank letters every year, most of them irritating but harmless. Lee's experience told him that this one was different. The writer was clearly literate and intelligent. Worst of all, Lee was quite certain, he was very dangerous.
"What do we do now?" Butts asked.
"You're not going to like my answer."
As he spoke, the weak afternoon sun lost its struggle with the advancing darkness and slipped behind a dense cloud cover, leaving the room in the gloom of early-winter twilight.
Chapter ThreeEdmund gazed lovingly at the girl on the bed. She had stopped struggling now and gazed up at him with terror in her eyes. Small-animal sounds came from her throat, like the whimpering of a rabbit. The black duct tape over her mouth made it impossible for her to make any serious noise. He took in the sight of her, reveling in every detail: the fair skin with its faint dusting of freckles, the nails with their chipped polish, in need of a manicure.
Too bad, he thought. She had had her last manicure. Lust surged through his body at the thought of the complete power he had over her.
Most of all he liked to watch their eyes. The moment when their fear turned to pure animal terror was delicious—it never failed to send a shiver of pleasure down his spine. There was an instant when they all realized they were going to die, and watching the hope drain from their faces was thrilling, an intoxicating nectar. And the more he drank, the more he craved.
He had it all planned out—the who, what, where, and when, right down to the last detail. The key to success was organization.
He glanced at the wall clock. It was exactly six, the big and little hands forming a perfect 180-degree angle, a straight line ... the shortest distance between two points. The sight of it sent warm little shivers down his spine. Six o'clock, and all's well. Time to get to work.
Chapter FourLee left Butts with instructions to inform him of any updates and headed back to his apartment through the descending December dusk. He decided to walk the mile or so home, turning south on Second Avenue. The storefronts sported festive holiday decorations, the nodding Santas and grinning elves in stark contrast to the grim thoughts running through his head. As he walked, he pondered the nature of the letter writer and didn't like his conclusions. Intelligent, mature, organized. And cruel. The man's coldness practically leaped off the page.
Of course, there was no telling what his crimes were or would be, but this was no ordinary jealous husband or bitter ex-employee about to go on a rampage. This man would be more difficult to catch than the average criminal because, more likely than not, he would not know any of his victims. He was in complete control, and he was enjoying himself.
In short, Lee concluded, he was very likely a sociopath.
Similar thoughts crowded his mind as he passed the cozy, misted windows of the Stage Restaurant, a tiny Polish hole-in-the-wall serving fabulous homemade soups, pierogis, and the best turkey burger in the East Village. Next door to the Orpheum Theater, it served a constant stream of actors and audience members, both locals and tourists. The customers perched on the stools lining the counter were not thinking of roaming sociopaths as they hunched over bowls of steaming cabbage soup.
That was his job. As the only full-time NYPD profiler, Lee was technically a "civilian adviser"—but he was called in on the hardest cases, the ones resistant to forensics and ordinary detective work.
He turned west at the corner of Second Avenue and Seventh Street, where for many years the Kiev was a popular place for late-night revelers as well as the neighborhood's elderly Eastern European residents. The Kiev was gone now, replaced by a trendy Korean restaurant, the kind of place where sleek young Asian waiters looked as bored as the well-heeled clientele.
The venerable Veselka still remained, though it had lost some of its downtown charm in a renovation a few years ago. He preferred it in the old days, when he would squeeze past the hodgepodge of tables scattered at odd angles in the crowded front room to get to his favorite table in the tiny back room, underneath a narrow winding staircase leading up to a tiny, cluttered office.
Dusty ferns and spindly spider plants festered in moldy pots on the windowsill, as they had for decades, watching over endless cups of coffee served to aspiring actors and anarchists, scholars and scoundrels. That was the Veselka he loved—dirty and rumpled as an old coat. The new one, with its forest green trim and tidy paint job, was indistinguishable from Starbucks. New York was constantly reinventing itself, and it could break your heart. But he was hungry, so he stopped in for a bowl of soup.
Excerpted from SILENT SLAUGHTER by C. E. Lawrence Copyright © 2012 by C. E. Lawrence. Excerpted by permission of PINNACLE BOOKS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Oh C. E. Lawrence had done it again. Silent Slaughter is great. The character driven novel is endearing, action filled and just plain great. I can't wait for the next installment to come out. Highly recommend the whole series of novels.
C.E. Lawrence has done it again and given the reader an unforgettable ride with a twisted serial killer who succeeds in outwitting New York’s “Finest” with his savage rampage of death and destruction. Once again, Lee Campbell, the only police profiler in the city, seeks to stop the all too successful psychopath. As the killer becomes more daring, the reader literally feels the fear of the victims as if it were his own. The individual characters come alive with Lawrence’s skillful descriptions, and if you have any interest in New York City, you have the added bonus of fascinating details of its eateries, alleys, and byways. Once you start Silent Slaughter, you will not readily put it down except to eat or sleep. It is “The Thinking Man’s” thriller!
Silent Slaughter by C.E. Lawrence is the fourth book in the Lee Campbell series. Full Disclosure: I received this book through a LibraryThing giveway and have not read the previous books – something I plan to soon remedy. This book is a fast-paced thriller where the NYPD criminal profiler is chasing a brilliant serial killer who taunts him with letters and the disfigured bodies of his prey. The killings soon escalate, drawing Lee further and further into the hunt for this sadistic killer. The search for his long-missing sister and his niece’s problems must take a backseat for now. Even though I’ve never read any of the previous books, Silent Slaughter is perfectly readable on its own, though the hints of backstory tantalize you to start from the beginning of the series. If you like Lee Child or other criminal thrillers in the same vein, you will love this book.
She comes across many diffrent herbs in one place. She gathers as much as she can carry and sets off.