A remorseless killer. A string of innocent, clean-cut victims. Detectives M.C. Riggio and Kitt Lundgren must race against a cold-blooded predator who moves at breakneck speed in this heart-pounding thriller from New York Times bestselling author Erica Spindler.
Hot on the heels of their last case, partners Mary Catherine (M.C.) Riggio and Kitt Lundgren, detectives in the police department's Violent Crimes Bureau in industrial, blue-collar Rockford, Illinois, are called out to a college student's apartment where a young man with no criminal record, not even a noise complaint from his neighbors, appears to have been murdered in his sleep.
The trail seems cold, until another victim turns up, and then another… each one striking closer to home for M.C. The growing list of seemingly emotionless kills leaves M.C. and Kitt little to followlike the first victim, all the targets are young adults, kid-next-door types who've never taken a step outside the law. Meanwhile, the case starts to take its toll on M.C.'s personal life, setting her on edge with her partner and putting their hard-earned friendship in jeopardy. As M.C. and Kitt hunt a faceless killer, they are led deep into the cyberuniverse, where no one is who he seems and you never know who's watching. At the heart of this mesmerizing thriller is the relationship between two headstrong women as they struggle to balance their dual roles, to learn to trust, and to walk the fine line between upholding the lawand taking it into their own hands.
|Publisher:||St. Martin's Press|
|Product dimensions:||4.90(w) x 6.90(h) x 1.20(d)|
About the Author
New York Times bestselling author Erica Spindler, has written 28 novels, including Last Known Victim, Copycat, Killer Takes All, See Jane Die, Dead Run and Bone Cold. Erica lives just outside New Orleans, Louisiana, with her husband and two sons.
Read an Excerpt
Sunday, January 11, 2009
The kid's eyes snapped open. Matt Martin. Twenty-one-year-old computer-hacking loser. It took only a moment for his expression to shift from sleepy confusion to horrified realization: there was a stranger in his bedroom. That stranger held a gun to his head, to the tender place between his eyes, just above the bridge of his nose.
The one called Breakneck smiled grimly. "Hello, son."
The kid went limp with terror. His mouth worked but no sound emerged.
"The gun I'm holding to your head is nothing fancy. An old-fashioned .38 caliber, semiautomatic. Serviceable at best."
He kept his voice low, tone soothing. "What's unique about this situation, of course, is the weapon's proximity to its target, your brain. When I pull the trigger, the bullet will rocket from the chamber and explode out of the barrel and into your head. In response, your brains will explode out the back of your skull."
Breakneck firmed his grip on the weapon. "The sound will be muffled by the fact that the barrel is pressed to its target, the mess contained by the pillow, bedding and mattress."
The bony young man began to shake. The smell of urine stung the air. Unmoved by the kid's fear, he went on, "I'm going to ask you a few questions. Your life depends on your answers."
The kid's eyes welled with tears.
"I know who you are and what you do. I want what you stole from me."
"I don't know what you're —"
"Where is it?"
"What? I don't ... who are y —"
"I'm the guy you shouldn't have fucked with. I want my information. And I want my money." He increased pressure on the gun; the kid whimpered. "What do you think, son? Do we do this the easy way? Or the messy way?"
"Easy," he whispered.
"You jacked some information. And some money. Five hundred grand."
Recognition flickered in his horrified gaze.
Of course it did. One didn't forget stumbling onto that kind of money.
Especially a small-time little shit like this one.
"I see we're on the same page now. Good."
"I didn't take your money."
"I don't know!" His voice rose. "No one!"
His eyes darted back and forth. A clear sign he was lying. Breakneck could almost hear him thinking. Mentally scrambling for a way out, weighing his options: Give him the information? How much — or how little — would keep him alive? Did he dare lie? Struggle? Beg? What were the consequences of each?
All animals responded to predators in the same way, Breakneck knew. They fought for survival. Using whatever means at their disposal. Over the years, he had seen them all.
Some predators, however, were so smart, so skilled, the fight was as pathetic as it was futile.
"I don't want to hurt you, Matt. But I will. I'm going to count to three and then I'm going to pull the trigger. One," he said softly. "Two ... thr —"
"Okay, I found it, but I didn't move it!"
"Who did? A name."
"I don't know ... an e-mail address and screen name, that's all I have. It's marioman. At Yahoo. Check for yourself ... on my laptop. I'm Gunner35. My password's 121288. You can get it all with that. I promise ... go see. It's all there."
The kid's voice rose as he spoke. Breakneck laid a gloved hand over his mouth to quiet him. "You did good, Matt. Real good. Thank you."
He moved quickly, snapping the young man's neck before he had a clue what was happening. With little more than a gurgle, Matt Martin died.
Wednesday, January 14
Moonlight bathed the room in icy blue. Detective Mary Catherine Riggio slipped out of bed and into her robe, then crossed to the window. The full moon had transformed the winter night into a sort of twilight zone, a surreal landscape caught between daylight and dark.
She looked over her shoulder to the bed. The man in it. She smiled, liking the way he looked there. The way he was looking at her.
"I'm fine. I couldn't sleep, that's all. Sorry I woke you."
"Liar." She turned back to the window. "It's beautiful."
She didn't think of herself that way, she never had. The proverbial tomboy, always scrambling to keep up with her five macho brothers. But he made her feel beautiful. Womanly.
Dan Gallo had come into her life and made her believe in things she never had before.
She glanced back at him. "Very funny."
"Do I look like I'm joking?"
M. C. searched his serious expression. She voiced the first thought that came into her head. "You're out of your mind."
"We hardly know each other."
"Not long enough."
"When it's right, you know it. It feels right to me, M. C."
He held her gaze. She pressed her lips together, panic licking at her. The past six months had been the happiest of her life. Her cousin Sam had introduced her to the handsome psychologist, then goaded her into accepting the man's invitation to dinner.
She could hear her younger cousin's argument even now: "What's the problem, M. C.? He's good-looking, single and Italian. What more could you want?"
Not a cop. Check. Not a psychotic criminal. Check.
Almost too good to be true. So, she had gone on a date. That one had led to others and within weeks, to their spending all their free time together.
Still, the idea of committing terrified her. The thought of losing him terrified her more.
"What about you, Mary Catherine?" Dan asked softly. "Does it feel right to you?"
She squeezed her eyes shut. Dear God, it did. He sat up and the blanket slipped, revealing his naked shoulders and chest. "I bought a ring."
"You did not."
His mouth curved into the crooked little grin she loved. "I did. But I'm not going to let you see it until you say yes."
She wanted to. But she was a cop. She'd been badly burned before. Reckless wasn't in her nature.
She opened her mouth to ask for more time; "Yes" slipped out instead. It felt so good, she said it again, on a laugh. "Yes, I'll marry you!"
He let out a whoop and jumped out of the bed. She met him halfway; he caught her in his arms and spun her around. They fell onto the bed, alternately laughing and kissing, whispering like kids sharing the best secret ever.
"Want your ring?" he asked. "It'll make it official."
"Damn right," she teased. "Otherwise I'm still available."
"Brat." He kissed her again, then climbed out of bed. Moments later he returned with a small leather box.
With trembling fingers, she opened it. A no-fuss, no-muss, emerald-cut solitaire. He slipped it on her finger; it fit perfectly. It fit her perfectly. Tears flooded her eyes.
"If you don't like it, the jeweler said you could exchan —"
"I love it," she said, lifting her gaze to his.
"Are you certain? I want you to have a ring you lov —"
"I love you," she whispered, then brought his mouth to hers and drew him with her to the mattress. There, she showed him how utterly happy he had made her.
Wednesday, January 14
The call had dragged M. C. out of the warmth of Dan's arms before the sun had even cracked the horizon.
Homicide. Downtown, Rock River Towers.
So much for the cocoon of love, she thought, thirty minutes later as she drew to a stop in front of the apartment complex. Rock River Towers had long been considered one of the city's premier addresses. Fourteen floors. Amenities. River views. Some of its shine had faded as this part of town had lost its luster, but certainly not all.
Bracing herself for the blast of frigid air, M. C. killed the engine and swung out of her SUV. She supposed she should be used to the cold, having lived in northern Illinois her entire life, but on mornings like this she fantasized about moving to Florida.
Hunching deeper into her coat, M. C. glanced around. Four cruisers, her partner Kitt's Taurus, the Identification Bureau guys. She crossed to the first officer. "Grazzio," she greeted the rotund, veteran patrolman, "how's it goin'?"
"I'm cold," he said. "And hungry. I'm getting too old for this crap."
"Tell me about it," she said. "What've we got?"
"According to his driver's license, one Matt Martin. Lived in unit 510. Corroborated by the name on number 510's mailbox."
"Part-time student at Rock Valley. Studying computer science. Got that from a neighbor."
The junior college, affectionately called "Rock Bottom" by the locals. "Who found him?"
"A neighbor called. Because of the smell."
"You have contact info?"
"Got it. Vic's been dead awhile."
M. C. didn't bother asking him how long, that'd be up to the forensic pathologist and ID guys to establish.
The elevator took her to the fifth floor. She stepped off and the smell hit her hard. M. C. dug a small jar of mentholated ointment from her pocket, applied a smear under her nose, then started down the hall.
The smell would have been subtle until the apartment door was opened. It reminded her of the time the family deep freeze in the basement had gone kaput. Nobody'd had a clue until her brother Max opened it. The house stank for months after.
Martin would have some damn unhappy neighbors for a while.
M. C. reached 510 and greeted the officer standing duty. He handed her the scene log. She signed in, then handed it back. "Coroner's office been contacted?"
He grunted an affirmation and she stepped into the stifling hot apartment — and immediately began to itch in her wool sweater.
Her partner, Detective Kitt Lundgren, poked her head out the bedroom doorway. Early fifties, a veteran of the Violent Crimes Bureau, Kitt had endured some of the worst life had to offer — and come out stronger. When they'd been paired to work the notorious Sleeping Angel Killer case, M. C. had considered Kitt a burned-out head case and fought the partnership.
Now, M. C. couldn't imagine the job without her.
"Body's in here," Kitt said.
M. C. nodded and headed that way, picking her way around debris. "What's the thermostat set on? Eighty?"
"Could help establish TOD. Maybe he was killed before the outside temp rose. What was it this past weekend?"
"Single digits. Could be the perp wanted to speed up the decomposition process?"
"Last to the party again," ID Bureau Detective Rich Miller called as she entered the room.
The Identification Bureau served as the department's crime scene techs. They did it all: collected and processed evidence, dusted for prints, photographed the scene, even gathered insect life from corpses.
Bobby Jackson, the newest member of the ID team, snapped her picture and grinned. "Poor Mary Catherine, dragged out of her nice, warm bed."
He didn't know the half of it. She smiled at the thought, wondering how long it would take Kitt to notice the ring. A part of her wanted to shout out her happiness, but the other wanted to hold it close for just awhile longer.
"If you two don't mind," M. C. said, "Mr. Martin here is needing some attention." Without waiting for a response, she turned her attention to the victim. He rested on his back in the bed, covers up to his chest, head at an unnatural angle. The arm under the bedding lay over his chest, the other on top of the covers, at his side. It didn't look as if he had struggled against his attacker, though looks could be deceiving.
He'd been tall and skinny with a shock of bleached blond hair. Here, as in the living room, junk food and fast-food wrappers were scattered about. A half-dozen empty energy drink cans littered both nightstands. His favorite appeared to have been Red Bull.
She gazed at them. Energy drinks had become popular with young people. Too popular. The media had been buzzing with stories of their use — and abuse.
Had he used the caffeine-loaded drinks to stay awake? M. C. wondered. To study? Or do something else?
"No blood," Kitt said.
M. C. inspected the hand on top of the blanket. "Nails appear clean."
"Check this out," Kitt said, indicating an angry-looking bruise on his forehead, between his eyes.
Perfectly round. Like the ring on a bull's-eye.
M. C. drew her eyebrows together. "What the hell made that?"
"Our victim found himself in a tenuous position, Detectives."
They turned. The statement had come from Francis Xavier Roselli, the coroner's lead pathologist. Small, precise and a devout Catholic, the first thing Francis did at every scene was cross himself, whisper a prayer for the departed's immortal soul and ask for the guidance of St. Luke.
"Excuse me?" Kitt said.
"Our vic had the business end of a gun pressed to his head." The pathologist worked his fingers into snug-fitting latex gloves. "Pressed quite firmly, judging by the color of the bruise."
It's why he hadn't struggled.
"The outline's crisp. Your perp never wavered. His hands were not shaking."
M. C. indicated the circular, yellow stain on the light-colored covers. "Scared the piss out of the poor kid."
"Then he killed him," Kitt murmured. "That's cold."
"But he didn't shoot him," M. C. added. "Interesting."
Francis joined them. "It looks to me like the perpetrator broke his neck. I'll know the full story after autopsy."
The pathologist didn't expect a comment, nor did he wait for one. While he examined the victim, M. C. and Kitt took in the rest of the apartment.
Not the typical college kid's bachelor pad. M. C. moved her gaze over the apartment's spacious interior. Nice place, though the kid had pitted it out. Drink cans and food wrappers littered every table. Dirty clothes strewn on the floor, furniture. She stepped over an open bag of corn chips. If Matt Martin had owned a vacuum, he'd never used it.
Stylistically, the furniture was a mixed bag. But it was all of good quality. Leather couch and armchair. Tall, ornate armoire. Marble-top dining table.
"Imagine what the bathroom's going to look like," Kitt said.
"I'd rather not, thanks." She picked up a cup containing a nasty-looking black liquid. She sniffed it and made a face. "What the hell?"
Kitt peeked over her shoulder. "Chewing tobacco."
She set the cup back down. "What do you think the rent on this place is?"
"Dunno. Seven bills, maybe more."
"He lived well for a twenty-one-year-old, part-time student."
"No joke." M. C. checked the front closet. She thumbed through the several coats that hung there, including a leather bomber jacket and a topcoat. A cashmere topcoat, judging by the feel of it.
They made their way into the kitchen. The refrigerator and freezer were well stocked. A wine rack sported a couple of bottles of red wine. Nice bottles. Ones that went for twenty bucks apiece.
Better than she could afford.
M. C. glanced over her shoulder at Kitt, who was leafing through a stack of mail on the counter. "This kid have a job other than being a student?"
"Could be his parents have money."
"Could be. Or he has a job that pays well."
"That'd be my guess."
"Which would explain how he ended up dead."
M. C. brought her left hand to her head. "So, we begin with his fam —"
"What the hell is that?"
"That." Kitt grabbed her hand. "It's a ring!"
M. C. laughed and held her hand out.
"My God, when did that happen?"
"Last night. I thought maybe he'd talked to you?"
"Not a word." Kitt lifted her gaze from the ring. "And you said yes?"
"Obviously." M. C. frowned. "You sound surprised."
"You two hardly know each other."
"Six months." It was weird hearing her own protest being offered to her and defending it with Dan's. "Long enough to know he makes me happy."
Kitt opened her mouth as if to say more, then shut it and shook her head. "Congratulations."
"You were going to say something else, what was it?"
"I just want to make sure you're doing this for the right reasons. And not because of Lance and how that —"
"Or because you're turning thirty and you think you have to be —"
"Married? Because that's what my mother's drummed into my head?" She sent Kitt an exasperated look. "I've never done what my mother thought I should before. Why would I start now?"
Kitt laughed. "She's going to be ecstatic."
"We'll see. After all, Dan's only half Italian."
"Detectives?" They turned toward Francis, standing in the bedroom doorway. "I'm finished here," he said, removing his gloves.
"Any surprises?" Kitt asked.
"None. No outward evidence of drug use, though toxicology will give us the full picture."
"What're you thinking about time of death?"
"It's hot in here, which would have accelerated the process. ... Best guess is late Saturday night, early Sunday morning."
Excerpted from "Breakneck"
Copyright © 2008 Erica Spindler.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Another edge-of-your-seat thriller from Spindler. Her writing style is easy yet engaging and the well-paced suspense kept those pages turning. I really loved the two female detectives- very well-balanced and realistic characters. But not so overly drawn that they took away from the crime story itself. The computer-hacking crime was easy to understand, not weighed down by techno-garble or too far-fetched. Plenty of red herrings to keep you on your toes and a breath-taking conclusion.
This was a great book from begining to end. At the end of each chapter, the author left me in suspence! I couldnt even put the book down
In this sequel of Copycat, Kitt and M.C. return in this mystery. When Matt Martin is killed, it's up to the detectives to find out why. When it hits close to home for M.C., twice, they try to connect the dots, especially when the FBI is involved. Enthralled into a net of cyberthieves, it's up to Lundgren and Riggio who's in charge of it all. In the middle of winter, it's up to Kitt, who's trying to resuscitate her marriage, and M.C., who's personally involved into this mess, to work together as a team, right to the end. Lots of action-packed chapters to keep you guessing to the very end.
This was a very good book. I am just disappointed that ERica has chosen in her last few books to leave out the romance. I love romantic suspense books. I tolerate mysteries.. so please Erica go back to your original way of writing. Nothing was better than your first ten books.
Erica Spindler wrote a great book. I was on the edge of my seat and could not put this book down. Great job with developing the characters and the plot.
I loved this book. Finished it in two days because I couldnt put it down.