“So entertaining that you should think twice about using it for a bedtime read.” —Suspense Magazine
Haunted by a brutal childhood, forensic psychiatrist Dr. Claire Waters finds solace in helping other survivors of abuse. Her favorite patient, Rosa Sanchez, is finally getting her life together. So it’s a shock when Rosa is handcuffed and led away by a man Claire assumes is law enforcement. But as Claire soon realizes, Rosa has been abducted.
Claire turns to her friend Nick Lawler, a homicide detective in the NYPD. Nick will have to risk his career to find Rosa—and a deranged criminal who reduces his victims to nothing but bones. A brilliant gamesman, the killer has been preparing for this moment all of his life—when every letter is in place, every piece is in play—and the object of his obsession, Dr. Claire Waters, is in the game. Win, lose, or die...
Praise for Neal Baer and Jonathan Greene’s Kill Switch
“A prime-time thriller…suspense on the order of Silence of the Lambs.” --Denver Post
“A psychological thriller of the first order.” —David Baldacci
“Masterful, unforgettable, gripping.” —Douglas Preston
“Riveting and rich with character.” —Gayle Lynds
“A fast-paced, gritty crime thriller from two great storytellers.” —Christopher Meloni
About the Author
Jonathan Greene is a television writer and producer who spent eleven years as writer and Co-Executive Producer on NBC's Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. His nearly forty teleplays earned the show an Emmy Award and nominations for the Edgar Award and the Humanitas Prize. Previously, he was a producer and executive in television news and documentaries, and is a recipient of the duPont-Columbia Award. He was also a writer and Co-Executive Producer on the CBS medical series A Gifted Man and the ABC Family cable network series Stitchers. A native of New York, Mr. Greene earned a B.S. in Political Science and an M.S. in Telecommunications from Syracuse University. He lives in Los Angeles.
Read an Excerpt
By Neal Baer, Jonathan Greene
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2015 Neal Baer and Jonathan Greene
All rights reserved.
Claire Waters sat bolt upright in bed, one hand covering her mouth to muffle the scream that otherwise would have escaped, the other hand throwing aside the sky blue comforter covering her. Claire loved this time of year in New York City: early May, still cool at night in these minutes before sunrise. If you could tune out the perpetual noise from the street below in the City That Never Sleeps, it was perfect sleeping weather with the open window, at least for her.
As far back as she could remember, even in the frigid winters of her childhood home upstate in Rochester, Claire had always preferred a cold night's rest and could never sleep in a warm room, which for her was anything over sixty-five degrees. After all, she reasoned, you could always pile on more blankets (which she relished) when it was cold. You couldn't rip off your skin if it was too hot.
Right now, Claire wanted to rip off her skin. She was sweating profusely, and not because of the temperature. Her nightmares were becoming more frequent. And this one — a man in the shadows, holding a small knife and lunging at Claire just as she woke up — was the most vivid yet.
She tried to shake off the anxiety but her pounding heart wouldn't cooperate. She reached for the drawer in the night table beside her bed and the bottle of Xanax she kept there, but changed her mind, realizing that a quick fix wouldn't make the churning in her stomach go away. When it came back tomorrow night, and the night after, and the night after that, what then? Pop Xanax until it went away? The last thing she needed right now was to become dependent on benzodiazepines, among the most addicting substances on the planet. The nightmares were hellish, but benzo withdrawal could kill you. Literally.
As the anxiety lingered, she tried to count how many consecutive days she'd relied on the drug after one of these nightmares. When she lost count, she realized she'd already been on it too long. Had she counseled a patient to use it as she'd been doing, she'd lose not just her board certification as a forensic psychiatrist but likely her license to practice medicine as well.
Physician, heal thyself. Yeah, right. Whoever wrote the Bible had never tried benzos.
Claire realized she needed to follow the advice she'd give her patients.
She had to talk about it.
She had to feel it.
But all Claire could feel was emptiness.
Feeling is still too painful, she thought. And then came the thought that always followed: she'd suffered enough emotional pain to fill several lifetimes.
So she did what she'd always done when her emotions overtook her brain: shut them down.
She grabbed her iPod, put in the ear buds, and blasted Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven" as loud as she could stand. Music had always been Claire's therapy, especially through the worst times, of which she'd had more than her fair share in the past year.
She felt the soft guitar melody begin to ease her tension, a drug of its own. As a research scientist, she knew that buried in her own brain, in the amygdala, the most primitive neural structure, was a switch that reacted to danger. When she began swirling into the abyss, her amygdala, her own neural makeup, sensed a mortal threat. But what? She'd had the nightmares since she was a child. They'd gone away three months after the horror of last year. And, though she'd made steady progress since then, they'd suddenly returned two weeks earlier. Why had they come back?
She turned to look at the clock on her nightstand. 5:29 a.m. Perfect. She set the alarm every night as a precaution, but never had to shut it off; she'd always woken minutes before it sounded. Even the mornings after those seemingly endless thirty-hour shifts as an intern and resident, when she'd come home and collapse into bed, sleep deprived, her only desire was to nod off and escape from the world.
Now, she threw her legs over the side of the mattress, turned off her iPod, removed the ear buds, and flipped on the light. The boxy dresser, nightstands, and headboard for the queen-sized bed were all made of beige wood and laminate, bought from one of those generic stores where you can pick furniture for every room of your apartment and have a completely furnished place the next day. She took in her surroundings: the parquet floors, rectangular, ordinary bedroom in a standard, stark, cookie-cutter, one-bedroom box on the twenty-eighth floor of a contemporary glass tower. About as nondescript as one could get in Manhattan.
Perhaps as nondescript as Claire wanted to be right now.
She looked at the framed photo of Ian, her fiancé, the image she woke to every morning, on the nightstand behind her clock. The apartment they'd shared had been cozily furnished with antiques and memorabilia, most of which Claire had sold or given away.
"Can you believe I actually live in a place like this?" Claire said to the photo.
As if he might somehow answer her.
Claire showered, ran a brush through her shoulder-length brown hair (no time for the blow-dryer), and pulled a sharp navy blue Donna Karan suit, a white blouse, and a pair of black Louboutin pumps from her closet. A year ago, when she'd entered the Forensic Psychiatry Fellowship at Manhattan State University Hospital, wearing this "costume" every day was unthinkable to her. She'd come there from research work in a lab at the National Institutes of Health, where nobody cared what one wore under their white coat.
But that was before the trouble started. In the months since she returned to the program following some much-needed time off, she found herself filling her closet with suits, shoes, and scarves. And actually enjoying wearing them. She wondered if her sudden interest in fashion was a way of filling the emptiness, the void in her life, with material instant gratification.
She was about to slip on her shoes when she remembered the guest sleeping in the other room. She picked up the pumps in one hand, carefully opened the door to her bedroom, and tiptoed toward the front door. She picked up her Coach purse and brown, soft leather briefcase and took a quick look into the living room. The sight of the man sleeping on the sofa bed brought the day's first smile to her face. Her father.
Frank Waters had begun spending more time with his daughter after she'd returned to the family's home in Rochester, New York, for a leave of absence from her Forensic Psychiatry Fellowship last fall. Frank, a physicist specializing in fiber optics, had worked his way up to vice president of his company, which built computer networks and the devices to run them. His new position freed him to step away from the office during the day, allowing for late breakfasts and early lunches between father and daughter, giving Claire time to enjoy the dad she had barely seen as a child.
Then one morning at home in Rochester, Frank was in the kitchen brewing a pot of coffee when Claire came in and announced it was time for her to go back to Manhattan and resume her life.
"I can't stay here forever sponging off you and Mom," she'd joked.
Frank had thrown his arms around Claire, his pride and joy, telling her he was ready to help her move.
Claire had called her mentor, Doctor Lois Fairborn.
"Sweetheart!" she'd exclaimed, just one of the many terms of endearment Fairborn used on a constant basis. "Please tell me you're coming back."
"I'm ready," Claire had said. "But I want to make sure it's what's best for the program."
"Having you here is what's best for the program," Fairborn had interjected, assuring her that she'd shoehorn her star student right back in whenever Claire thought she'd return to New York.
They agreed she'd appear at Manhattan State two weeks from the following Monday. Claire knew she'd need every second of the time before then to get herself settled.
Father and daughter had left Rochester early the next morning, a Friday, flying to La Guardia and renting a car to begin the always arduous task of finding a Manhattan apartment. In Claire's case it had to be one she could afford on the meager salary of a medical fellow. She and her late fiancé, Ian, had split the rent on their shared flat, a beautiful second-story floor-through in a small, secure building in Chelsea. Claire knew going it alone would mean a step down from that. She was hoping she wouldn't have to accept a one-room studio.
After grabbing bagels at Daniel's on Third Avenue, they were walking down Fortieth Street toward the East River. Just past the ancient firehouse, Frank steered her into a high-rise, luxury, doorman building with a sign outside announcing there were apartments available within.
"Are you kidding me?" Claire whispered as she looked at the rich furnishings in the lobby. "This place is way out of my league."
"Indulge the old guy, okay?" Frank had replied, not bothering to slow down.
The building's rental agent took them to the nicest one-bedroom she had. On the twenty-eighth floor, facing east toward Second Avenue, with views over the East River to Long Island City and the rest of Queens beyond. And a terrace from which one could enjoy them.
Claire was about to thank the agent for her time and make a graceful exit when Frank had asked, "How soon can she move in?"
"Monday," the agent had replied.
"Do you accept cosigners on the lease?" asked Frank, patting his pockets for his checkbook.
"As long as you pass the credit check," the agent had responded.
"Dad," Claire had pleaded, "I still can't afford this."
Frank was already writing out a check and handing it to the agent, whose eyes, when she saw the amount, grew as wide as saucers.
"That should cover one month's security and half a year's rent," Frank assured her with the click of his ballpoint pen.
An hour later, with the paperwork all signed and credit approved, they'd walked through the building's ornate marble lobby and out onto Fortieth Street. Claire's head was still spinning. Her father had always been such a meticulous, careful man, especially when it came to money.
"Dad," she'd said, "you didn't have to do that."
Frank walked with purpose, the stride of a man well satisfied with himself. "All your life, even as a child, you never asked for anything. Not a toy, not a book, not a cent. Nothing."
It was the first time he'd said anything like that to her.
"Are you telling me or asking me why?" she'd asked him.
Frank continued as if he hadn't heard her. "Everything you've achieved, everything ..." He'd drifted off, as if having the conversation with himself. "You did it all yourself." He'd seemed to realize she was right beside him. "We saved so much money for your education," he'd said. "Enough to pay for everything, in full, no loans. And you kept getting full scholarships so we never had to use any of it. It's been sitting there, in a trust account with your name on it, all these years. I just thought it was time we put some of that cash to good use."
He looked up at the apartment tower that was soon to become Claire's new home and raised his arm, palm upward, as if holding a new world in his hand. "It's time you let yourself live a little," he'd smiled. "Just a little."
Now she was about to open the door when a wide-awake voice came from behind her.
"You look beautiful."
Claire turned. Her father was sitting up. Frank Waters was tall, thin, sporting a full shock of thick gray hair and the piercing green eyes his daughter had inherited. His devotion to the gym made him look and move like a man who was a decade younger than his sixty-six years. He lifted the comforter, revealing blue silk pajamas a shade lighter than Claire's suit.
"Thought I was being quiet," Claire said, heading into the living room.
"You didn't wake me," her father assured her.
She gave him a kiss on the cheek. "Go back to sleep," she said.
"Nah," Frank replied. "Gotta hit the gym and then I have a day full of meetings. What time do you think you'll be home?"
Claire knew it was his way of being protective. "Probably around eight," Claire replied. "My day's loaded too."
"That why you're so rattled?" Frank asked.
Claire thought she'd given away nothing. How did he know?
"I could always tell when you were upset," he said, "even before you knew."
"It's nothing," Claire replied, slipping her pumps on. "I had a nightmare."
"You had those as a child too," said Frank, trying to find his slippers with his feet. "You'd wake up in the middle of the night and tell me all about them."
"I'd tell you about this one. But I can't remember it." She pretended to adjust her skirt so she wouldn't have to look at him. She didn't want to talk about the dream lest it make her late and open the anxiety floodgates.
"Maybe I can jog your memory," Frank offered through a yawn as he opened the drapes, not waiting for Claire to refuse. "Do you remember how you woke up?"
"I sat up in bed with my hand over my mouth," Claire answered, checking her watch to give her father the hint that she didn't have time for this.
It didn't work. "So I wouldn't hear you scream?" Frank asked as he folded the comforter. "Why would you think to do that in a nightmare?"
Claire smiled at the irony of having her head shrunk by a physicist. "So I wouldn't wake you up?" she asked playfully.
Now her father smiled. "Maybe the nightmare was about me."
"I don't think so," Claire said.
"But you said you don't remember," he reminded her, folding the bed back into the sofa. "So how can you be sure?"
Checkmate. The conversation ended where it always did — at a brick wall. Frank, in perpetual motion, replacing the couch pillows, tried another tactic.
"You know," Frank began, plopping down on the sofa, "when you were a child you used to talk to someone who wasn't there."
"Yes, Dad," Claire said, sighing. "That I do remember."
"We were worried about you. Your mom and I."
"It's common for children to have invisible playmates," she said in her official psychiatrist's voice.
Frank knew that tone; he'd heard it from his daughter many times and was no stranger to what it meant: I've gotta go. He'd used a similar tone with her many times — something he didn't like to admit to himself — and knew when to stop pressing her.
"It's okay. Don't be late," he said as he rose from the sofa.
He came over, gave her a kiss. "Have a good day, puppy," he said.
Claire smiled over his shoulder as he hugged her; he'd called her that pet name for as long as she could remember and she loved it each time. She kissed his cheek again and turned to head for the door, feeling just a little more secure.
* * *
He didn't want to be late. He gathered all the items he would need: the pots, the rolled up cloth with the razor-sharp chef's knives and shears. He felt a pounding in his head. A rhythm almost like a drumbeat that drowned out any thoughts that would stop him from what he was compelled to do. He grabbed the tent along with the pots and knives and left his apartment, stepping out into the cool, early morning sunlight that promised a beautiful day.CHAPTER 2
"Bet you didn't think you'd be talking about brain science here," said Claire, hoping she could stimulate the brains of the seven people sitting before her as opposed to putting them to sleep. "But there's a lot of new evidence out there that's helping us explain why people turn to a life of crime."
"Because they're psychos," murmured Miguel Colon, twenty-five, a serious-looking, hard-bodied Latino with a tattoo of a dagger adorning his oversized right bicep. His Hispanic-Bronx accented comment brought snickers and smiles to the others in the room, including Claire.
"Not all of them," Claire corrected. "But you're not wrong either, Miguel. It's just a bit more complicated than that."
Miguel and his five young colleagues who sat at a modern, graphite-colored table before her were students at Manhattan State University's renowned School of Criminal Justice and Forensic Science.
Claire turned to the dry-erase board behind her and in large block letters wrote a single word — EPIGENETICS — which she underlined and then turned back to the group.
"Anyone know what epigenetics is?" she asked.
Not surprisingly, not one hand went up. And the one man in the room over the age of forty, Professor Walt McClure, knew better than to raise his.
McClure was a "friend" of Claire's mentor, Lois Fairborn, and speculation was that they were a lot more than just friends. He taught the class in which Claire now sat, a senior seminar in criminal profiling, and had asked Fairborn (perhaps during pillow talk) whether Claire would be up for coteaching the class with him, enlightening his students on recent advances in psychiatry and genetics, especially the emerging field of epigenetics, and how it might apply to criminal behavior. Fairborn had approached Claire with the request shortly after she returned to work two months earlier. At the time it was the last thing Claire had wanted to do. But she owed Fairborn for her compassion, understanding, and flexibility in arranging her leave from the fellowship and found it impossible to refuse. Believing it would be a one-time deal, Claire figured she'd do it, get it over with, and hope it didn't hurt too much.
Excerpted from Kill Again by Neal Baer, Jonathan Greene. Copyright © 2015 Neal Baer and Jonathan Greene. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Claire was a forensic psychiatrist. Music had always been Claire’s therapy. Claire had nightmares since she was a child.They had gone away for three months but now they were back. Two weeks ago they came back. Claire was teaching with Professor Wolf McClure. Claire was enlightening Professor McClure’s students on recent advances in psychiatry and genetics. The students were headed into law enforcement. Miguel Colon was Claire’s hero coming up from gang member parents and working toward the FBI. Claire was a fellow in Forensic Psychiatry fellowship at Manhattan State University. She also still had her patients. Rosa is her model patient. Claire calls a detective she knows named Nick to help her find Rosa. Nick was slowly going blind and on desk duty. Claire had seen Rosa handcuffed and taken away by someone she thought was law enforcement. Rosa ends up dead with only her bones found. Then Nick and Claire find many other woman had died in the same way.The killers object of obsession is Claire. I enjoyed this story. It dragged a little but not enough to make me not want to finish the story. The suspense in this story was off the hook. I liked the characters especially Nick and Claire and all the twists and turns they both went through. I recommend. I received an ARC of this story for an honest review.