On the trail of a serial killer, the path splits in two
FBI special agent Kelly Jones has worked on many disturbing cases in her career, but nothing like this. A mass grave site unearthed on the Appalachian Trail puts Kelly at the head of an investigation that crosses the linefrom Massachusetts to Vermont, from wealthy vacationers to poor transients, from a serial killer to a copycat nemesis.
Assisted by law enforcement from both states and a forensic anthropologist, Kelly searches for the killers. But as darkness falls, another victim is taken. Kelly must race to save him before he joins the rest in the boneyard.
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 1.50(h) x 5.00(d)|
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Kelly Jones strode across the Quantico campus, pausing briefly to let a contingent of new trainees walk by. The hint of a smile danced across her face as they passed, heading toward a brown, barrack-like classroom building. She had hated wearing that uniformthe navy golf shirts and khakis. It always looked as if they'd been sidetracked en route to the ninth hole. But in retrospect, those sixteen weeks of training had been some of her best, she mused as she continued walking. She'd loved the classroom time, the weapons training, and her daily runs along "The Yellow Brick Road," named for the saffron-colored rocks marking the trail. Ever since then her life had been a tangle of failed relationships and dead bodies, she thought ruefully as she hauled open the door leading into one of the nondescript buildings.
She paused briefly in the foyer, trying to remember the route to her supervisor's office. The Behavioral Science Unit was housed in the basement and was comprised of a confusing warren of hallways painted a cheerful color to mask the fact that there were no windows. Even after six months she still managed to get lost in here, mainly because she'd spent most of that time crisscrossing the country to assist on cases. Going by her gut, Kelly took a right and headed down a long, narrow passage, her footsteps loud on the sterile white tiles. After a few more turns she stood outside a door marked, Special Agent in Charge Gerald McLarty. She knocked and entered. The room stood in stark contrast to the hall outside. The floor was plushly carpeted in thick, slate-gray Berber wool. The wood-paneled walls were covered with framed antique maps, and a few plants sprouted unobtrusively in the corners. Kelly smiled at the woman behind the desk at the far side of the room, who gestured to the phone against her ear and pointed to the navy couch facing her. Kelly resisted the urge to grit her teethshe hated to be kept waiting. Especially today, when there were a million things to do before she headed home to pack. As she settled against the cushions, she started composing a list in her head. She'd have to finish the piles of paperwork from her last case, and make sure copies were sent to the appropriate departments. She desperately needed to stop by the dry cleaners before they closed, and despite the fact that she loathed shopping, she needed to find a good sunhat. Her red hair and fair skin weren't going to take kindly to the Caribbean sun, especially at this time of year. And back home she'd have to deal with her fridge, since some of the food was threatening to crawl off the shelves.
Her train of thought was interrupted by a door opening at the opposite end of the room. Gerry McLarty's voice boomed out, and Kelly smiled to herself. Her new boss was infinitely superior to her old one. He was one of the main reasons she'd decided to accept the promotion when they'd offered it to her. The difference between the two men was stark. While Assistant Special Agent in Charge Bowen had been a wormy pencil-pusher with no field experience who compensated by bullying subordinates, Gerry McLarty was a highly decorated field agent who had risen through the ranks by virtue of his own guts and brains, and was highly respected by everyone fortunate enough to work with him. Though he chafed at driving a desk, the mind that had helped capture some of the nation's most elusive serial killers had proved to be equally adept at managing the agents serving under him.
Kelly had initially been leery of joining the Behavioral Science Unit. She'd spent a good chunk of her career rolling her eyes at the composites compiled by BSU profilers, and the invitation to join their ranks had not been appealing. A phone call from McLarty had changed all that. He'd been impressed with her work on a case that garnered a lot of national attention, one that dealt with a series of murders in the tunnels beneath a college campus. He'd been persuasive, arguing that her style of investigation would fit in perfectly with the philosophy of the BSU. After considerable arm-twisting, she agreed to the transfer on a provisional basis.
McLarty's ruddy face poked around the corner of the door and immediately lit up. "Agent Jones! They told me you were back. Get in here, I want to hear all about it." He summoned her with a beefy hand and she followed him into his office. Here the nautical theme continued, maps now interspersed with photos of McLarty with various dignitaries including the president, the attorney general, and Bono from the band U2.
"So." He plopped into an enormous leather swivel chair and folded his hands together on the desk. "How did everything turn out in Cleveland?"
Kelly gave him the rundown on how she'd helped the local homicide unit track down a man suspected of abducting over a dozen children in the past decade. They had him in custody now, and were hoping to extract a confession based on evidence tying him directly to at least two of the killings. As she spoke, however, she got the sense that her boss's mind was somewhere else. "Everything okay?" she asked, when there was a long pause after she'd concluded her report.
"Sure, sure." McLarty tapped a finger on his desk in a quick staccato. His edgy energy was an office joke, but he seemed even jumpier than normal today. His enormous frame was contained in an impeccably tailored suit, and the fluorescent lights reflected off his thinning blond hair. He examined her with sharp green eyes and said, "You're due to take vacation time?"
Kelly nodded. "Yes, I'm all set to leave tomorrow."
His gaze dropped to the floor, and a pit formed in Kelly's stomach. "What's going on, Gerry?" she asked, already dreading the answer.
"We might need you. Just for a few weeks " he continued hurriedly when he caught the expression on her face. "Thing is, I'd send Manolo, but he and Jennifer are stuck doing the antiterrorism-training thing, and everyone else is on active assignment. You're the only one in the unit that's qualified and free right now."
Kelly bit her lower lip. She should have known. The first vacation she'd planned in five years and work got in the way once again. Her longest break since joining the FBI had been the week she took off to settle her mother's affairs after her death. How typical that a case would come along just as she was getting ready to board a plane. For a moment she questioned again her decision to remain at the Bureau. Instead of transferring, maybe she should have left altogether.
Gerry caught the look in her eyes and shook his head. "Jones, I feel terrible about this. How about I tack on a few extra vacation days when you get back? After all your hard work, you deserve it."
Kelly wanted to point out that she already had months' worth of vacation time accrued, but asked instead, "What's the case?"
"Ever been to the Berkshires?" When she shook her head, he continued, "On the bright side it'll be kind of a minivacation for you anyway, it's gorgeous there this time of year. Lot of New Yorkers keep a second home there. In the summers they've got the Boston Symphony, theater, you name it. The wife even dragged me to a dance festival there once, didn't take to the people rolling around in tights but the spot was pretty " His voice trailed off at her raised eyebrows. "Anyway, they've found a boneyard there."
"What, like the ones Bundy left?" Kelly asked. Any agent who'd dealt with serial crime knew the stories of how Bundy had used a few different dump sites in Washington State for his victims, places he came back to time and again with fresh bodies.
McLarty shrugged. "Maybe. It's not clear yet, all they've found is skeletal remains. Five bodies confirmed so far, possibly six, and they're still looking."
Inwardly Kelly groaned. "Skeletal? How old are they?"
McLarty shook his head. "Don't know that yet either, but I'm sending along a forensic anthropologist, he should be able to help. You'll be leading a task force of officers from Massachusetts and Vermont. And Jones, tread carefully. Unless you can find any evidence of a federal statute being broken, you're there in a strictly advisory capacity."
"So the bodies are spread across two states? Sounds like a jurisdictional nightmare," Kelly said, not even bothering to keep the despondency from her voice. For this she had to miss her vacation.
"I know," McLarty answered sympathetically. "So far the search area spans a couple of miles on either side of the state line, which is why we're being called in. Apparently animal trails might open it up even further."
"Five bodies is a lot to stumble across all at once," Kelly noted. "Were they buried?"
McLarty shook his head. "Apparently not."
"Strange that no one smelled them decomposing," Kelly said, intrigued in spite of herself.
"See? It could prove interesting." McLarty settled onto the edge of the desk, facing her. "And honestly, Jones, you get in there and nothing seems to be happening, after a few weeks with no leads I'll pull you in. We'll tell them you'll go back if new evidence materializes. I just need you to run interference until then." He hesitated briefly before continuing. "From what I understand, so far the task force members haven't exactly been getting along."
"Fantastic," Kelly muttered. "When do I leave?"
"Tomorrow morning. As a special favor, I've arranged to have a Massachusetts State Police chopper pick you up in Boston to shuttle you the rest of the way. Thought that might cushion the blow."
Kelly smiled weakly with what she hoped looked like gratitude. "Thanks, Gerry."
He waved her off. "Don't thank me, I know if I were you I'd be cursing my name the whole way there. But I won't forget this, Jones. Next time a cherry assignment comes along, I'll see you're first in line."
"Great," Kelly said with marginally more enthusiasm. Which was curious, she pondered ten minutes later as she settled in behind her own desk. A year ago she would have jumped at the promise of first dibs on important assignments. Hell, she would have chosen nearly any assignment over a vacation; the thought of lounging on a beach would have been completely unappealing. Funny how things change, she mused. Of course, the murder of her partner last year had hit her hard, making her question for the first time in her life the path she'd chosen. During her decade-long career at the Bureau she'd been driven, single-minded in her need to hunt down killers like the one who stole her brother's life when they were children. But despite all of the interesting cases the transfer to BSU had brought her, she'd felt her enthusiasm flagging lately. When it came right down to it, she was tired of being surrounded by death.
Her eyes drifted across the matte-gray walls of her cubicle. To call it spartan would be putting it kindly. The only evidence that she'd ever used the space was a university mug on her desk that held a handful of pens. Not a single photo or newspaper clipping decorated the walls, and her computer monitor was set to the default image. Of course she'd barely spent any time there, she reasoned, knowing full well that even if she never left the office she probably wouldn't have been tempted to add anything personal. That just wasn't her style.
She gnawed her lip in agitation, eyeing the desk phone as if it might bite her. After a minute she picked it up, muttering, "Might as well get this over with."
It rang twice before someone answered and asked, "All packed?"
Her eyes squeezed shut as she responded, "I've got some bad news."
"Great to see you," the bald man exclaimed, shaking his hand heartily. "How are the wife and kids?"
He matched the enthusiasm of the grip. "Doing great, enjoying the last bit of summer." He smiled widely, casting through his memory for baldy's name. Finally, it came to him. "How about you, Allen? Haven't seen you folks at services lately."
"Oh, you know " Allen's voice trailed off and his gaze shifted to the ground.
Belatedly, he recalled a rumor he'd heard at the church potluck, something about Allen's wife and a gardener. His ratcheted his grin up a few notches. "How about this weather, huh? Unbelievable!"
"It sure is. No better place to spend the dog days of summer." Allen's expression brightened again. They were standing outside the Wal-Mart in North Adams, Massachusetts. The enormous white-block building looked particularly incongruous set against the backdrop of rolling hills and trees. "Planning on taking full advantage," Allen continued, holding up his shopping bag and nodding toward the fishing pole jutting out the top. "How about you, what you got there?"
"Nothing much, just doing a little work around the house," he said, keeping his own bag down, handles firmly closed.
"I hear you. Hey, how about those bodies they found up by the border? I hear there were a dozen of them, maybe more."
Allen lowered his voice. "I've got half a mind to take the kids back to the city early this year, cut the summer a little short."
"No need for that." The man scoffed. "Probably just some lost hikers. Half those assholes on the Appalachian Trail have no right being there."
"Maybe." Allen sounded doubtful. "Still, we're heading out a little early this year. So if I don't see you again "
"Absolutely, have a good one!" His grin vanished as soon as Allen lumbered away across the parking lot. His truck was parked in the opposite direction and he strolled toward it, keeping his head down. Once there, he opened the doors to the king cab back seat and dropped the bag into the wheel well. It landed with a clank. He draped an old blanket across, concealing it, then slid into the driver's seat. He pulled the hat brim down low over his eyes as he pulled out of the lot, ruminating on what Allen had said. So people were frightened to the extent of leaving early, which was a shame. This time of year the Berkshires were so lovely, he thought ruefully. Chasing away good churchgoers had certainly never been his intent.