Friday, 10 August 2012
Author Spotlight - Excerpt from Serial Games
If it isn't a game, then why do you say you're losing?
The words of FBI Profiler and Special Agent Margaret Weston's mother echoed in her head. The previous evening, they had another heart-to-heart phone call. All of them ended the same: you are not in competition with your sister.
Maggie shoved the thought from her head. She needed to concentrate on work. She could win at work. Maggie pulled the daily paper from underneath a pile of notes for a case due to the Richmond office. The headline caught her eye.
Suspect in Gruesome Murder of Four Surrenders
Maggie bit her lip as she unfolded the paper to continue reading. For the last week, a small community in western Virginia had been held hostage over the discovery of four bodies found in the backyard of an ex-cop. The officer married four times; after two to five years of marital bliss, he would report his wife missing and move on to the next.
Maggie shuddered. The suspect reminded her of the profile she completed on another monster; a man obsessed with women who possessed certain features. Nine women went missing from his hometown and were never heard from again.
Maggie's fingers shook as she refolded the newspaper. She could only imagine the suffering those women endured at his hands; their worst nightmares realized. Maggie whispered a silent prayer of thanks. Everyday Burrows remained off the streets was a day the people of Culpeper, Virginia would be grateful for. Maggie expelled a breath of relief. Each day offered her an opportunity to identify and catch the bad guys... Maggie lived for it.
A knock at her office door drew her attention. Her colleague, Special Agent Douglas Fairbanks, peeked his head in, a noted look of concern crossed his features. "Maggie, you have a visitor."
She waved her hand for Doug to enter. She didn't expect the agent from the Richmond office until tomorrow. She gathered the loose papers on her desk into a couple of piles, careful not to cover her notes for their case. Maggie glanced up and ceased her organizing. She slowly rose from her chair, her eyes focused on the man behind Agent Fairbanks.
"This is Deputy US Marshal Brandon Worth." Doug stepped aside and allowed Maggie a full view of her visitor.
A dark-haired, square-jawed man about six-feet tall and all muscle confidently entered the room. Maggie let out a restrained breath taking in his stonewashed jeans, tucked-in collared shirt, and dark brown blazer. His pale eyes grew larger when they met hers, but by the time he crossed the room to meet her, they were unreadable.
Maggie walked around to the front of her desk. "This is Agent Margaret Weston. But everyone calls her Maggie." Doug continued. The man extended his hand during the greeting.
"Marshal." Her hand fitted to his and an onslaught of heat surged up her arm. His firm grip and million-dollar smile nearly put Maggie in a trance. "Please have a seat." She pulled her hand from his and gestured toward two chairs angled in front of her desk. Maggie laid both her palms on the sides of her skirt and took her time walking back around to her seat. The last thing she wanted to do was trip over the corner of her desk.
"Sorry to drop in unannounced." A deep rich voice filled the room.
Maggie decided it matched him perfectly. She shook the thought from her mind, shocked she found it there in the first place. "Thanks again, Doug," she called before he softly closed her office door behind him. "On the contrary, Marshal. How may I help you?"
His eyes sparkled and he smiled slowly. "First off, call me Brandon."
Maggie nodded, unsure if she could be informal with him so soon.
"Second, I need your help."
Maggie furrowed her brows. Did her boss forget to leave her a note about another case? Maggie worked a full load with profile write-ups needed by several regional offices. "You're in need of a profiler for a prisoner?"
Brandon's eyes shadowed over. He placed his elbows on the armrests, interlacing his fingers in front of him. "Something like that. Do you recall a John Michael Burrows?"
Maggie's eyes widened. "Funny you should mention his name. I was just reading an article in the paper reminding me of him."
John Michael Burrows made her career, with barely ten years on the job. The FBI's DC profiling division accepted Maggie's transfer request a couple of years ago and almost as soon as she stepped into the office, her supervisor introduced her to her first assignment -- Burrows. At first, police couldn't identify a suspect in a series of unsolved female disappearances in Culpeper County. A persistent investigation linked the victims to each other, the common denominator being their unidentified suspect. Maggie finally broke the case with the discovery of someone they all had in common. That someone was Burrows.
"I'm not going to lie. This office is because of Burrows." She casually waved a hand around. Brandon turned his head to get a 180-degree view.
"It's very nice." He grinned. She detected a note of amusement in his voice. "Your reputation precedes you."
Maggie dipped her head, embarrassed. The spacious office boasted an open floor plan with locked file cabinets on the far wall opposite her desk. She completed 10,000 steps a day just walking from one end to the other multiple times. Yet, she did enjoy the floor to ceiling windows showcasing a great view of the downtown DC area.
Maggie inhaled deeply, hesitant to dwell on the compliment. The FBI awarded her a special accommodation with the capture of Burrows. She held the honor of being the first African-American female profiler to ever identify and capture a serial killer. In the Virginia judicial system, the Burrows case set a precedent; Maggie provided expert testimony pivotal to Burrows receiving the death penalty for the murders of nine women, whose bodies were never found. Maggie signed the final draft of Burrows' investigative report over a year ago with no real test of her performance as a profiler since. No case had reached that level of difficulty.
"Really, Marshal..." Maggie wanted to dispel the perception.
"Brandon." He urged.
Maggie cleared her throat. "I was just doing my job, and I'm glad the case is over." Maggie swallowed to relieve her dry throat. The headline of the newspaper article flashed in her mind. The ex-cop and Burrows were too similar; the need... no, the desire to kill women.
Brandon cleared his throat. "Um, not quite..."
Maggie's breath caught, her chest tightening. Not over? Brandon's hands gripped the sides of his chair. US Marshals handle the transfer of prisoners and the apprehension of fugitives ...
"Don't say it." Maggie breathed.
Maggie's eyes fluttered trying to comprehend the news. She looked away. Escaped? The greatest danger to women in the history of central Virginia back on the streets? The Burrows' case received the highest media coverage due to the threat to public safety, a title not held by any perpetrator since the DC sniper. Her breathing became more labored as the news sunk in. "How did this happen?"