Dr Jenna Ramey's newest case is a nightmare on a whole new scale, and it will find her BAU team (Behavioural Analysis Unit, an FBI Department) running point for a type of investigation they're almost never brought into, much less asked to lead.
A band of ruthless assassins converges on a bank in Washington, D.C. They slaughter everyone inside and all escape without stealing a dime and leaving only a message for police warning that another attack is coming. The attackers are more than willing to communicate who they are and what they want. The problem is, they only do so through cryptic messages hidden in a labyrinth of classic literature references.
With the clock ticking down the hours and minutes until another bloodbath, Jenna and the rest of the BAU team have a challenge profiling not one or two, but a dozen individual killers. But even if she is able to save the day, two enemies from her past are lurking right in her blind spot, ready to take advantage of her current preoccupation . . .
|Publisher:||Severn House Publishers|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.75(h) x (d)|
About the Author
Writer by day, ballroom dancer and choreographer by night, Colby Marshall has a tendency to turn every hobby she has into a job, thus ensuring that she is a perpetual workaholic. In addition to her 9,502 regular jobs, she is a proud member of International Thriller Writers and Sisters in Crime.
Read an Excerpt
A Dr Jenna Ramey Mystery
By Colby Marshall
Severn House Publishers LimitedCopyright © 2016 Colby Marshall
All rights reserved.
Cold sweat dripped down Beo's sides under his black cable-knit sweater as he rushed through the crowded room, frenetic energy driving him. Fear pulsed through him like it had a blood supply of its own as all around him screams and frantic movement hit him like he was running a giant, terrifying gauntlet. In the planning stages, he'd known it would be like this, but the real moment was different. Faster. Blurrier.
He nearly slipped as his foot hit something slick. He looked down briefly to see the puddle of crimson he'd skidded through. His breathing caught in his throat, panic gripping his chest. Don't think about it.
But even if he'd been wearing blinders and hadn't seen the body thud to the floor in his peripheral vision, the air inside the room wouldn't have let his mind drift. Body odor, urine, feces ... metallic blood. All were present in the muggy heat of the building where everywhere black-clad figures moved swiftly amongst patrons, killing each and every one in his path.
Had Beo not consciously known he was on their side, it might have overwhelmed him.
Out of the corner of his eye, Scarlett spun and whirled like a ninja through the crowd. He knew it was her simply by the way she moved. Precise. Deliberate.
The blade of her dagger caught the chandelier lights just before she plunged it between the ribs of the man in the white-collared shirt before her. The guy grunted as Scarlett slipped the knife back out as seamlessly as she'd thrust it in. In one more swift, solid movement, she pivoted around the clean-cut, thirty-something man, grabbed a handful of his dark hair in her left hand to pull his chin back, and swiped her dagger left to right across his throat.
Scarlett's hand grasping the man's hair let go, and without another look, she rushed in another direction.
Beo's gaze didn't follow her, though. He stood, vision fixed on her victim.
The man sputtered while he choked for breath. Eyes wide with panic, he sank to his knees. Beo's stomach clenched. Scarlett had the skill to have spared this guy a lot of agony if she'd gone for a quick jab into the side of the neck, but slicing across the trachea and making him suffocate was more her style. Dramatic. Showy. Poor bastard.
Beo ripped his stare away and urged his feet forward. In front of him, a tall and slender black-clad figure held a knife in a blonde young woman's back, rooting her to the spot like she was partly skewered. Damn. Scarlett's kill was bad enough, and I had to turn away from that and see this.
The girl cried soft, breathless tears, her eyes on her assailant's second knife – the filet knife lingering over her forearm. Just like Scarlett's reaming from moments ago, Mr Darcy could end this girl's suffering with a few quick stabs. Only, Mr Darcy's reasons for whatever it was he was about to do to the girl weren't like Scarlett's. Not a display but rather something much sicker.
Dear God. She could be Sabine's age.
From the left, a machete came wildly out of nowhere and dropped the girl.
'We don't have time for this shit. Keep up your hobbies in your own spare time,' Atticus growled at Mr Darcy.
Beo trudged on, looking for any business left to finish, but the black masked figures outnumbered the others. And yet, the choppy, desperate gasps of Scarlett's victim seemed to seek out his ears through the din of whines, sobs, and groans. The image of Mr Darcy holding the girl skewered in front of him burst forth in his mind. Hard to fathom how all these sick motherfuckers had ended up together in this one room.
Beo whirled around, his own knife grasped tightly at his side. His feet urged him forward across the floor until his boots splashed into the fresh stream dripping from Scarlett's victim's throat.
He stared into the man's eyes as he raised his knife, not sure whether the eyes of the man looking back at him were begging for help or mercy. Not that it mattered. Beo, for one, wasn't here because he enjoyed suffering.
'Clear it out!' a yell from the other end of the room rang out.
Beo glanced at his digital watch. They'd been in for just under two minutes. Right on schedule.
All the black figures bolted for the doors, leaping over bodies and dodging pools of blood.
Quite the opposite, actually.
Beo plunged the knife into the side of the man's neck, ending it. He watched him fall face first on to the wood grain. Shame it had come to this, but it had. For all of them.
Scarlett had her reasons. He had his.
Now, all that was left was for them to get the fuck out.
For now, anyway.CHAPTER 2
'And you promise to be a good girl for the teacher.'
Jenna Ramey tucked a stray blonde strand behind her three-year-old daughter's ear as she knelt in front of her. How had she let her dad and brother talk her into this? She was about to leave Ayana in the wide-open, in public, for the first time since she could remember. Sure, her elaborate system of locks and passwords for the house had been a pain in the ass for everyone, but she'd proven time and time again that it was also necessary. Anything could happen in a place like this ...
Ayana, however, didn't seem nervous at all. Her chubby hands grasped the straps of her purple Hello Kitty backpack as she nodded in earnest.
'And if you need anything, you tell the teacher to call me, OK?'
'If you take much longer, she won't have to tell the teacher, because she'll be old enough to drive off, buy her own phone, and call you herself,' Charley said, rolling his eyes.
Jenna shot a glare at her brother. 'Look, Charley, I know you don't agree with everything I've done to protect Ayana over the years, but I think you'd at least understand it and cut me some slack.'
He looked down at Ayana. 'The teacher laid out coloring sheets over there. You know, ever since you drew me that picture of the Cowardly Lion, I've really wanted one of the Scarecrow, too. What do you think?'
Jenna bit her tongue as Ayana nodded and rushed toward one of the low tables, where she slung her backpack to the floor and grabbed an orange crayon.
'You let her watch The Wizard of Oz? Seriously?' she snapped.
'Oh, come on. She's seen the barracuda eat the main character's wife in Finding Nemo. No one even dies in The Wizard of Oz,' Charley answered. 'And maybe I'd cut you more slack if all these crazy shenanigans you've put us through to protect Ayana had actually worked. Claudia found us anyway, so obviously there's no need to keep racking up costs on the child's future therapy bill by continuing to deprive her of socialization with kids her own age.'
Jenna didn't look at her brother. She couldn't, because as much as she hated it, he was right.
As Jenna watched Ayana scribble on the white construction paper, she sighed. So few things were normal about A's childhood, thanks to Claudia. Her dad was gone. She had hardly been let out of the house the past year. It wasn't fair to A, but then again, Claudia's effects on their lives weren't exactly fair to any of them.
The ring of Jenna's phone echoed through the preschool classroom so loudly that everyone – including the toddlers – turned to stare at her. She grabbed the phone from the back pocket of her khakis.
'Sorry,' she muttered, wandering toward the door even though she wasn't quite ready to walk out of it and leave Ayana here. She pressed the button to take the call. 'Jenna Ramey.'
'Jenna, it's Saleda,' came the voice of her superior, Saleda Ovarez. 'Drop everything and meet me at headquarters ASAP. We've got a situation.'
Jenna's gaze darted back toward Ayana, who was still coloring at the table, not paying any attention to the fact that her mom was still in the room. Jenna's heart picked up as her imagination ran wild with scenarios where she came back to pick Ayana up only to find her daughter was missing. After Claudia had left that note about Yancy, they'd gone months on tenterhooks waiting for her to do something awful, but Jenna could just imagine how the one time she dropped her guard would be the one time when Claudia would swoop in and take advantage. Just like always.
She shook the thought away. She'll be fine.
'With the Northeast Strangler case?' Jenna asked, surprised. They'd been working on the serial killer's case for a few months now, unfortunately. The guy had a very distinct pattern of a new victim every two weeks, and it had only been three days. She was planning to go in to the office and pick up where they'd left off yesterday when she finished here, but the only reason Saleda would call an ASAP on that case would be to fly out because there was a new crime scene to investigate.
'Negative,' the Special Agent in Charge of the FBI's Behavioral Analysis Unit said. 'We're handing the Northeast Strangler case off to another team. We've been called in about another crime scene. A bank here in DC.'
'Local police aren't handling their own bank robberies anymore?' Jenna asked, confused.
'I said it was at a bank. I didn't say it was a robbery,' Saleda replied.
Jenna shook her head, trying to clear it. Maybe it was her daughter's first day of preschool. Maybe it was that she hadn't had her coffee yet. But somehow, this didn't make sense.
'I don't get it.'
A long pause.
'Look,' Saleda said, 'I probably shouldn't tell you this over the phone, since the locals want to get your objective opinion walking in, but you should probably be ready for what you're going into. A group of masked people stormed a bank in town this morning. They didn't take a thing, but they killed everyone inside. Everyone. And it was apparently brutal, Jenna.'
Jenna tore her eyes from Ayana. Even after all the years she'd gone after monsters – serial killers, rapists, and mobsters – as a forensic psychiatrist with the FBI, she still couldn't stand to talk or hear about the gruesome crimes she investigated with her daughter's innocent face in front of her.
'That still doesn't explain why they're calling us in,' Jenna said. They were based in DC, sure, but the FBI didn't have jurisdiction here unless there were crimes across state lines or there'd been a kidnapping.
'Locals invited us to consult,' Saleda said.
Mass murder at a bank where nothing was taken. Surely someone was missing something. Unusual, though, the locals thinking they needed the FBI.
'They'd usually rather have a serial who kills their own family before they bring us in,' Jenna muttered.
'Yeah, but maybe they're afraid this time, it could be their families,' Saleda replied. 'Jenna, twenty-one deaths, not a robbery, and no sign of motive except ...'
'Except what?' Jenna blurted, impatient.
'I know this is your little one's first day at school and everything, and I don't want to make any of this worse for you or make you more nervous than you are ...'
Jenna's chest tightened. 'Unless you tell me Claudia is responsible for this, I doubt I'll be more worried than I already am,' she lied. Even though she'd arranged with the school for her brother, her father, and Ayana's dad's cop brother Victor to stay with Ayana all day at preschool with explicit instructions that A was to remain in their line of vision at all times, she still would never be confident her mother couldn't weasel her way in if she wanted to.
'All right,' Saleda said, her voice grave. 'They left a message at the crime scene. It says no one in the city is safe. Whoever they are, they promise they're going to attack again.'CHAPTER 3
Jenna Ramey pulled her beat-up Blazer into a church parking lot across the street from the bank. The police had setup a command center from the spot, and she'd need to check in. After putting the SUV into park, Jenna shot off a quick text to Charley, asking if Ayana was OK.
She sent the same one to both Vern and Victor – someone bad could intercept one phone easily, but three phones would make it harder to contaminate the message. If Claudia did get in, Jenna would find out from one of the three. Not to mention they had a list of safe words to respond to her check-ins, and none possessed a written version of the passwords that would change depending on what time she texted. Claudia had no way to possibly know, so if something went wrong, the wrong word back to Jenna from any of the three would tip her off fast.
Jenna looked out at the crowd of cops swarming the parking lot as she waited for replies, and her gaze met Saleda's. Her superior waved for her to come on over, the raised eyebrows and bugged out eyes telling Jenna that Saleda's patience was thin. She glanced back down at her phone. The red light blinked.
A text from Victor: Plankton.
She backed out of it and opened another from her father.
Disarray, Vern's text read.
Nothing from Charley yet, but Jenna smiled. Both of those were the right responses. Everything was fine.
She turned off her ignition, climbed out of the Blazer, and strode toward Saleda.
'Glad you could make it and finish your favorite song at the same time,' Saleda griped.
Jenna ignored the snipe. 'The rest on the way, or is Dodd getting the jump on us as usual?'
Saleda glanced toward the bank. 'Porter and Teva are on their way from Quantico together. I assumed Dodd was on his way, too, but now that you mention it, we should probably check and make sure he's not already inside. He does like to do that.'
'So, close to a dozen UNSUBs stormed this area this morning with weapons and slaughtered everyone inside,' Jenna reviewed, a convenient change of the subject. 'They didn't take anything, but all the perps made a clean getaway before first responders arrived, correct?' Saleda nodded. 'That's what I understand. All they left behind were dead bodies and a note. Irv should have an image of it on our tablets by now.'
As Jenna fussed with her touchpad, waited for it to power up, Saleda continued. 'We don't have an exact headcount of the perpetrators yet. No one in the immediate area canvassed so far has any useful information, but we're still working on it since a few people at buildings nearby at the time have yet to be located.'
The image of the note left inside the bank by the perpetrators popped up on Jenna's screen, and she and Saleda huddled closer to read it simultaneously:
The past is over and done. We must concern ourselves with the things that are to come. Do you feel it? The suggestion that begins to creep into your mind? That undefinable something that is present in one thing before you, yet lacking in another. You cannot describe it. You cannot tell just what it is. It will take a sharp instinct to detect and perceive it. Do not linger where you stand, but concern yourselves with where you will go from here, for there is not much time. We are coming, and you will not know when, until you can look past these menial words on what will become this glorified piece of paper, you will not grasp it and move on. We are coming. We have moved on.
'Well that's ... formal,' Jenna said, not too sure what to make of the communications the killers had left. 'Any other evidence? Weapons? Surveillance footage?'
'Weapons were all blades, from the looks of the victims, apparently, but I don't have anything more specific than that. Video surveillance at the bank was MIA – from inside the building, the parking lot, and the drive-through teller. Guess they took it with them.'
The first color of the day flashed in Jenna's mind. She noted it, catalogued it, then let it go. There would be way more, and that one couldn't possibly mean anything yet. Not until she walked the crime scene and could put it together with some of the rest of this madness.
Saleda and Jenna showed their badges to the cop manning the police-taped outline of the bank's property. He checked and double-checked their faces, then triple-checked by OKing them with the cops at the command center across the street as well as the one in charge of the scene on this side of the road.
Finally, he nodded. 'You can come on in.'
Jenna and Saleda ducked under the tape and headed toward the door, but the cop who'd checked them out walked with them, abandoning his post.
Excerpted from Flash Point by Colby Marshall. Copyright © 2016 Colby Marshall. Excerpted by permission of Severn House Publishers Limited.
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