Read Blown Away Online

Authors: Shane Gericke

Tags: #Mystery, #Mystery & Detective, #Crime, #Fiction, #Psychological, #Naperville (Ill.), #Suspense, #Policewomen, #General, #Thrillers, #Serial murderers, #Thriller

Blown Away

Blown Away
Emily Thompson Mystery [1]
Shane Gericke
New York : Kensington Pub., 2006. (2006)
Rating:
***
Tags:
Mystery, Mystery & Detective, Crime, Fiction, Psychological, Naperville (Ill.), Suspense, Policewomen, General, Thrillers, Serial murderers, Thriller

SUMMARY:
Working her first homicide case, rookie cop Emily Thompson comes face-to-face with a twisted serial killer who, determined to make her his greatest trophy, forces her into a nightmarish realm of unspeakable horror where she makes a shocking discovery that is linked to her own past. Original.

PRAISE BLOWS IN FOR
BLOWN AWAY

“A labyrinth of rich suspense,
Blown Away
by Shane Gericke explodes across the page in a nerve-tingling tale of cops and a baffling serial killer. Fascinating, intense, the novel is utterly gripping. Shane Gericke writes with the clear eye of a hard-nosed reporter and the sweet soul of an artist. The power of
Blown Away
is visceral and unforgettable—you won't want to miss this gem.”

—Gayle Lynds,
New York Times
best-selling author of
The Last Spymaster
and
The Coil

“Blast off! Shane Gericke's
Blown Away
is a rambunctious, devious novel full of chutzpah, high energy and surprises. Forget roller coaster; this one reads like a rocket.”

—John Lutz,
USA Today
best-selling author of
Darker Than Night,
winner of the Edgar and Shamus awards

“The ultimate ‘game' of cat and mouse.”

—Alex Kava, international best-selling author of
A Necessary Evil

“Shane Gericke's smart and suspenseful book will keep you turning the pages…then get you up in the morning, hiding your board games away. A remarkably strong first novel; I can't wait for the next!”

—Deborah Blum, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of
Bad Karma: A True Story of Obsession and Murder

“Move over, Elmore Leonard, there's a new sheriff in town! Real cops, terrific action, a twisted plot that will keep you awake at night and a tough-gal detective who makes it all happen. More please!”

—Roy Huntington, editorial director,
American Cop
magazine

“As a veteran cop who's also female, I approach such thrillers with a jaded eye. But
Blown Away
didn't let me down! It's one of the rare books where the female lead isn't only a cop, she's smart, savvy and tough, too. We need more of this!”

—Suzanne Huntington, police officer, San Diego Police Department

“Watch out, V.I. Warshawski, there's a new detective in town. Shane Gericke's new thriller will keep you on the edge of your seat as some sharp cops take on a serial killer with a huge ego and deadly grudge. Here's the beach book for the summer.”

—Howard Wolinsky, author of
Serpent on the Staff

“A quickening series of savage clues suck rookie cop Emily Thompson and her fellow law-enforcement officers into a grisly guessing game—a game whose rules only the twisted killer knows. With insightful grace, Shane Gericke weaves vivid characters and nonstop action into a compelling page-turner. He emerges as a rising star of the police-thriller genre.”

—Peter Haugen, author of
World History for Dummies

“Shane Gericke's first novel is a fast-moving police procedural of the highest order. From the chilling opening chapter to the stunning conclusion, Gericke weaves a tale of a police hunt for a serial killer in which the cops and the criminal are compelling and realistic.”

—Tim West,
Sun Newspapers


Blown Away
tightens the plot around detective Emily Thompson like a terrifying noose. From the opening pages, Shane Gericke's characters race to stop serial killings that are based on a pattern both diabolical and seemingly innocent. The quiet Midwestern city of Naperville has never before seen a police thriller like this one.”

—Thomas Frisbie, author of
Victims of Justice,
the Jeanine Nicarico murder

BLOWN AWAY

SHANE GERICKE

PINNACLE BOOKS
Kensington Publishing Corp.

http://www.kensingtonbooks.com

To Jerrle, who brings out the best in everyone

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

My deep appreciation to those who helped wrench this story from my overly caffeinated brain.

Foremost is my editor, Michaela Hamilton, of Kensington Publishing. I wrote this novel, but she brought it to life. Thanks, Michaela.

After that come my superb agent, Bill Contardi, of Brandt & Hochman Literary Agents, manuscript readers Bill and Jan Page, photographer Ellen Newman, firearms consultant Roy Huntington, and my family and friends, whose unflagging encouragement over the years meant so much.

Finally, the women and men of the Naperville Police Department, who allowed me to observe, inquire, ride along, and otherwise learn what they do. They are Chief David Dial, Captains David Hilderbrand and Raymond McGury, Sergeants Elizabeth Brantner Smith and Michael Brian, Detective Nick Liberio, Officers Ann Quigley and Christopher Cali, Crime Prevention Specialist Marita Manning, and Investigations Specialist Kris Stockwell. May you all stay safe.

PROLOGUE

“911, where is your emergency?” Bertha Pruitt repeated.

No reply.

“Come on, caller, talk to me. This is Boston 911—oh Jesus!” The howl on the other end was so loud that several operators snapped their heads her way. Bertha waved them off. “Talk to me, caller, please!” she said. “Where is your—”

“Actually, Boston,” a silky male voice interrupted, “the proper question is, ‘What is your emergency?' not ‘Where is your emergency?' Understand?” His tone turned to disgust. “Or maybe you're just too stupid to understand my rules. Not uncommon with inferiors.”

Bertha's computer display started whirling and blipping like a slot machine. “Just what I need,” she muttered as numbers and street names danced and disappeared. “A caller ID crash.” She punched the alert button and watched Trout Lips, the shift supervisor, run for a headset. Normally, the E-911 software displayed the caller's location till the dispatcher finished sending cops, fire, Con Ed, or other personnel. Now the location changed every time she blinked—downtown Boston, Southie, Amherst, Cape Cod, downtown again, a nonexistent address in Boston Harbor. She shook her head. She'd have to keep the loony talking till the techs fixed the problem or the loony gave it up. Normally, she enjoyed playing Beat the Techs. Today, 911 calls were stacked thanks to the nor'easter slamming the coast. Which meant she'd wind up pulling another shift. She blew out her breath. She'd been looking forward to spending Christmas with her husband, five daughters, three sons-in-law, and eleven grandchildren. The first time in ages the entire family was home for the holidays…

Enough whining.

“Sir, I'm sorry if I sound stupid,” Bertha began in her most sincere voice. “I'm just trying to help. What was that scream? Do you have an emergency to tell me about?” No reply. “Or did you call me just to talk, see if we can figure things out?”

“I don't have an emergency, Boston. But a friend of mine certainly does.”

“A friend of mine,” Bertha repeated. Mirroring the caller's words often speeded the process. “Is that who screamed? Your friend?”

“Yes.”

“Does your friend need my help?”

“He needs somebody's, Boston.”

“OK, then,” Bertha said. “Where do I send my ambulance so I can help—”

“It won't work, Boston,” the caller interrupted.

Damn.
“Work? What won't work, sir?” Bertha said, all innocence.

“You want my address. So you can stop the screaming. It won't work.” The man coughed. “Here's the thing, Boston. My friend is a police officer. He's badly hurt. He might die.” A low chuckle. “Correction, he will die. Because in a few minutes I'm going to saw out his heart.”

She shuddered. In twenty-seven years of dispatching, she'd never heard anything more cold. “Sir, you don't mean that,” she said, knuckles whitening. No answer. “Are you still there?”

“Still here. Still mean it.”

Her head began pounding. “Sir, tell me what you're talking about. Please.”

A sigh from the other end. “Well, Boston, it's like this…You know, I really hate that.”

“Hate what?”

“Calling you ‘Boston.' It's so impersonal. What's your name?”

“I can't tell you that,” Bertha said as Trout Lips shook his head. “It's against departmental policy to identify ourselves to callers.”

“That's a fine rule, Boston,” he replied. “But why don't you tell me, anyway?”

“I can't, sir, I really—”

The bloodcurdling shrieks erupted again. “Come on, Boston, say it,” the wacko cajoled. “Be a good little girl and play along with my—”

“It's Bertha,” she said, hating him for it.

The howls trailed off. “No fooling?”

“Come down to the police station, and I'll show you my birth certificate.”

“Cute, Bertha.” Pause. “Bertha Bertha Bo-Bertha. Remember that old novelty song? Where you set names to music?”

“Yes,” she said cautiously.

“Why don't you finish yours for me?”

She stared at the computer. “Sing? My
name?”

“Yes, Boston. It'll be fun! Here, I'll start. Bertha Bertha Bo-Bertha…”

She hated to participate in this maniacal karaoke, but another scream convinced her. She sang fast, clenching her fists. The screaming faded.

“Very good,” the wacko said. “Bertha what?”

Trout Lips shook his head and waved his arms, his mouth a grim line. Bertha debated furiously with herself.
Yes, save the poor officer. No, don't risk your family.

“I can't go further than Bertha, sir,” she tried. “Honest to God! It's for our own safety. And it would mean my job. My boss has warned me twice about no last names”—Trout Lips nodded at the exaggeration—“and if I tell you, I'll get fired.” She closed her eyes, fearing the next sound.

“Well, we can't have that,” the wacko said, surprising her. “I know how tough it is to get a job these days, with health insurance and all. I just appreciate that you didn't lie about your first name, my dear—”

“How do you know that, pal?” Bertha spat, incensed at his endearment. “You have ESP?”

“Who'd make up ‘Bertha?'” A slight pause. “Mine's John.”

“John,” she repeated. “That wouldn't be John Doe by any chance?”

He laughed delightedly. “Hey, you aren't stupid, are you?”

She ignored that, glancing at Trout Lips, who was growling into his phone, “Dammit to hell, my cop's in deep! Get off your ass and fix this!”

She rolled her eyes. If cussing could fix the problem, she'd have done it already. It wouldn't. She had to talk to John Doe. Listen. Talk some more. Coax, wheedle, flatter, threaten, tap-dance. Anything to keep him on the line.

“Now that we're clear on names, Mr. Doe,” she said, “can we get back to the issue at hand?”

“Mister
Doe?” he repeated, amused. “No need for formality, this isn't exactly black-tie.”

“OK…John,” she said. “Let's get back to the—”

“Dead cop walking?”

“That's exactly who I mean, John,” Bertha said. “What are you doing to this officer, John, and why are you doing it?”

“Very good questions, Bertha,” he replied. “Thanks for asking them, Bertha.”

She shook her head in frustration. The repetition of her name wasn't a variation on “my dear.” This man knew the cop playbook and wouldn't fall for any of her caller-bonding techniques.

“Would you like the officer to tell you, Bertha?”

She blinked at the surprise offer. “Yes! I would!” Abducted cops were trained to shout their location to anyone within earshot. If they didn't know, then they'd describe what they smelled, heard, or felt. Stinking fish might mean a harbor. Train whistles or heavy rumbles, a freight yard. She hoped this officer was coherent enough to try. “Would you really allow me to speak with him?”

“Hey, darlin', anything for you,” John Doe said breezily. “Hang on while I hold the phone to his ear. He's kind of tied up. Ha-ha.” A short silence, then Bertha heard raw, wet breathing, skidding on every exhale. She willed herself to relax. Tension made you miss the critical subtleties. “Hello?” she ventured. “Am I speaking to the officer?”

“Yes…I…I don't…know where I am,” a boyish voice said.

“That's OK, Officer,” Bertha said. “We'll figure it out together. My name is Bertha. I'm a senior 911 operator with the Boston Police Department, and I'm going to get you out of there.”

“I…I hope so….”

“I promise. Can you tell me your name?”

“Timothy O'Brien. Massachusetts State Police. I'm—” He loosed an unearthly howl.

“What's that lunatic doing to you?” Bertha shouted. “Timothy, speak to me!” No reply, just wild screams. Then he was back. “He cut me…” Ohhh, it hurts….” Gelatinous sobbing, fast and deep. “I was driving my car…Bertha, this hurts so awful….”

“Your car, Timothy?” she interrupted, glancing at the growing mob of bosses in the 911 room. “Do you mean your police cruiser?”

“No…personal car. Driving…home.”

“From where?”

“Barracks. After work.”

Bertha nodded. The 7,838 square miles of the Bay State were divided into thirty-nine state police districts called barracks. It was a yawning cop-to-acreage ratio, one she dared not think about right now. “What time did you leave the barracks, Timothy?”

“I think 8…no…8:15…night…last night.”

“At 8:15 last night, good! What direction did you drive?” No answer. “You know, after you left the barracks?” Still no answer. Too much for his terrorized brain. Break it into pieces. “What direction?”

“Huh?” he said.

“What direction?” Bertha repeated. “Which way did you drive? North? East?”

“When?”

“After you left the barracks.”

“Uh, I don't know.”

“Toward or away from the ocean?”

“Oh. I, uh, well…”

“Was the sun in your eyes?”

“Yes. Setting. It was red. Big. Pretty.”

“You drove west, Timothy. Good. What happened after you started driving west?”

Long pause. “I stopped.”

“To do what?”

No answer.

“C'mon, Timmy, I need to know,” Bertha cajoled. “I want to help you.” Still no answer. “Answer me!” she roared in Full Metal Sergeant, drawing a startled glare from a boss. “I'm giving you a direct order, Trooper O'Brien! Tell me why you stopped your car last night!”

“To…help…a man change a flat tire,” he replied, the logjam breaking. “Yeah! Highway 143, east of Chesterfield, next to the river bridge.” Trout Lips typed the location into the statewide emergency network. In seconds, every cop in a hundred miles would mash gas toward the tiny town in western Massachusetts. “I squatted to work the jack,” the trooper continued. “He slugged me on the head. When I woke up, I found myself handcuffed. To this operating table.”

“When did you wake up?” Bertha asked. No reply. “How long have you been awake?”

“Hour.”

“One hour? Are you sure?”

“Been counting minutes.”

She glanced at her watch. John Doe had had him fifteen hours. Subtract one for the time on the table and…

Sigh.
They could be right here in Boston. Or down along the Cape. Holed up on a coastal island. Or stuffed in a spider hole in the Florida Panhandle. Maybe even in Canada, though she believed this abductor was too smart to risk Homeland Security sniffer dogs. She shook her pounding head. “You said an operating table, Timothy?” she asked. “Can you describe it for me?” Any little clue could jog a local constable's memory.

The trooper groaned. “I'm in an operating room. Handcuffed to a table, so I can't move. There's a large overhead light with a reflector. Two big air tanks. A metal tray with tools. Hammer, scalpels, pliers. The room is small. The walls are…breathing.” Before she could ask what that meant, his voice became deeper, more defiant. “He's dressed in surgical scrubs, Bertha. Rubber gloves. A bag over his head. Holes for his eyes. Another for his mouth. His lips are painted a girly cherry red so he can hide even that much. Hey! You! Take off these handcuffs, and fight me like a man—”

“Forget that! Tell me everything else!” Bertha interrupted. “Height? Weight? Eye color? Tattoos? C'mon, you know the drill.” She was amazed the abductor hadn't stopped this conversation already.

“He's tall. Almost seven feet. Mirrored sunglasses. Can't see his eyes.” The trooper sounded much weaker. “The damn walls keep breathing…What…what's your name again?”

“Bertha,” she said. “It's Bertha. Timothy. What do you mean the walls are—”

“He cuts me, Bertha,” he gasped. “With the tools. Ankle, throat, ribs, hands. Hurts so much—”

“I've been carving on the lad since he woke, my dear,” the kidnapper interrupted. “Just surface cuts. In exactly the right places, of course. He's not bleeding much.” Serene chuckle. “Not yet.”

Bertha thought of her father, who'd worn a Boston shield for thirty-two years before retiring happily to the golf course. Not one injury all those years, not one wacko whispering death in his ear. “What did Timothy do to make you hate him?” she tried.

“Nothing.”

“Nothing?” she said, genuinely curious. “Then why are you doing this to him?”

“I needed to know.”

She glared at the lead technician, who shook his head in exasperation, as if to say, “Hell, lady, I don't know what the hell's wrong.” She went back to the caller. “Need to know what, John?”

“If I could do it,” he replied. “It's one thing to dream about executing a cop, Bertha. You can plan and rehearse all you want, and that's fun. It's another thing to actually, you know, do it.” He was extremely calm. Robotic. No, that wasn't it, not exactly.
Unsure.
As if he needed to talk himself into this.

“Soda,” she croaked, throat parched. “Hurry.” Trout Lips ran for one. Her supervisor was a good guy, but stunningly inept at his job. He survived because he was the mayor's cousin. That guaranteed him two things—a city paycheck and a catty nickname. His came from his enormously fat lips, which stuck so far out they resembled a trout's.

The soda can hit her desk. She drank fast, sorting options. John Doe was approaching the center of the high wire, not sure if he should keep going, and risk falling, or walk back to the stability of the platform. Forward, victory, backward, safety. She could play with that. Ask about his life, his dreams, what bothered him so much he'd execute another human being in cold blood. Let him unburden his soul if he had one. In return, she'd tell him about herself, provide her full name. She owed that much to the brave young man on the table.

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