Jarod liked teaching. Sparking new thoughts in fresh minds was exhilarating.
He winged the class, giving them a dissertation on a carousel of slides
featuring artwork by highly disturbed adults and children, while barely
glancing at Dr. Prescott’s notes.
When the lights came on, he fielded questions from the undergrads and
discussed a wide variety of pathologies that both interested and amazed
his students. Many of them stayed after he dismissed them, clustering
around him with still more questions, but when he caught sight of the
woman standing in the doorway at the back of the room, he promised them
more next class and shooed them away with a warm smile.
“Dr. Prescott,” he called. “I was hoping to meet you today. I’m Jarod
Young.” He ascended the steps in the amphitheater toward her, and she
came down to meet him halfway. Her pretty face was drawn, and there were
dark circles beneath her eyes. He also noticed with a twinge of remembered
pain that her short hair was copper red. Just like Zoe’s. This pretend
was starting to hit just a little too close to home.
“Dean Adams called to let me know I had a sub today,” she told him. “I
was planning to do this lecture anyway, but when I got here you were already
in full swing, so I thought I’d just listen. You’re good. Some of your
insights were… fascinating.”
Jarod beamed. “Thank you. I’ve done a lot of this over the years.”
“The dean mentioned you had taught at Quantico. For a man your age, that’s
pretty impressive by itself.” She eased past him and went to the slide
carousel at the center of the room. “This one, for instance, this drawing
by little Jessica Hamilton…” She searched through the slides for a moment,
turned on the projector and flashed what appeared on the surface to be
a benign child's drawing of a little girl, a house and some trees. "The
first few shrinks to get a look at this drawing didn't pick up on her
predilection, but you did. And I know you didn't get that out of my notes,
since there was only her name and age in the file. Jessica was one of
my patients, and came to me through the courts, so I knew every detail
about her case."
"Did you get her after she had killed for the first time?"
he asked solemnly. The signals in that drawing had been abundantly clear
Tamara Prescott glanced up at him sharply. "How did you know she
"Look at the trees and flowers," he offered as he strolled
toward her. He pulled his laser pointer from his blazer pocket and aimed
it at the projection screen, drawing attention to the trees. "Those
aren't plants. They have faces and hands. They're the people who live
in her world. And the ones she's got gathered up into a bouquet in her
"Were her victims. All very young. Younger than she was." Tamara
sighed. "That picture hung on her therapist's wall for a month before
the first body was found. They knew she was troubled, but nobody saw the
signals, not even me at first. You nailed it with a glance."
Something sick settled in the pit of his stomach as he looked at that
drawing, understanding its elements too well. He turned his back to it
and shut the projector off. "Practice. But I'd rather not talk about
cases, if you don't mind. I'd like to know what you want me to do to help
you with your work, until you're ready to handle it all on your own again."
Tamara's blue eyes narrowed slightly. "I was wondering who sent
Jarod smiled. "Professor Denisof sends his regards."
Her suspicions instantly melted away into the ghost of a buried laugh.
"How is the old guy?"
"Enjoying retirement. Still proud of his best student. And in case
you're wondering, this is a favor to him in exchange for something he
did for me. I'm not cutting into your paycheck. This is just a professional
Dr. Prescott looked distinctly uncomfortable at the mention of money.
“Are you sure you can afford…”
“Money’s not a problem,” he assured her. “I got a nice severance package
with my last job, and the next one starts when I get there. How are you
She shrugged. “Things are a little tight. I’m trying to pay off Tal’s
medical bills. We had agreed to that.”
“Even though you weren’t married.”
Tamara’s bittersweet smile brightened her face as she reached to liberate
the tray of slides. “Not yet. Just another couple of weeks, and we would
Jarod drifted closer, and settled one hand onto her shoulder. “I know
how you feel, Tamara.” He let just the right amount of heartbreak show
in his eyes. “I lost someone special, too.”
She smiled sadly. "It's really hard sometimes, you know? We were
so close to having everything… the wedding, and Tal about to submit a
new book to his publisher…."
"What sort of things did he write?" Jarod asked gently.
"Nonfiction, mostly. He called this one Penumbra. Said it
was appropriate, since it was the story of a profiler, a man who lived
his life with the shadow of others constantly hanging over him."
"It sounds… interesting." Jarod had been a profiler himself,
but knew he couldn't discuss that with the woman in front of him.
“You know, I started a support group for those who have lost a loved
one," Tamara was saying. "We've already had our first session;
why don’t you come to the next one? Just sit in on it with me. You don’t
have to talk if you don’t want to.”
Jarod usually preferred a one-on-one setting to that of a group. His
smile hardened, felt as if it might shatter at any moment. “I’ll try,
but I’ve got a couple other projects to work on while I’m here. If you’ll
leave the information on my desk, I’ll see what I can do about attending.”
This time her smile was genuine, and warm. “That would be nice. I’ll
look forward to seeing you there, Jarod.” She sighed. “Meantime, why don’t
we go back to the office and go over my schedule? I’m trying to get back
into teaching, but I’m still tying up some loose ends of Tal’s, going
through his things. You know.” Tears gathered in her eyes. “After I do
a little of that, it’s just really hard to come in here and start talking
about aberrant behavior.”
“Yeah,” he agreed. “Want some help with those slides?”
She glanced at his arm. “Looks like you’re the one who needs help,” she
teased. “How’d it happen?”
“Science experiment gone wrong,” he answered evasively.
He escorted her back to the office, keeping up the banter between them,
and delving into the professional aspects of the department of psychology,
while keeping her interest steered away from him and his recent past.
* * * * * * * * *
She was just settling in behind her desk with some of her ill-gotten
gains when Miss Parker's office door swung open. Broots darted inside
and closed the door, staring at it for a second as if he thought it might
open right up again on its own… or if someone was following him. Then
he dashed across the room to her desk and bent over it conspiratorially.
He was sweating, and his eyes were bulging with fear.
“Miss Parker!” he whispered. “Something weird is going on!”
She rolled her eyes at him and dropped her glance back to the folders
spread out on her desktop. “Since when does anything normal ever happen
He leaned closer. “This is weirder than usual. I went to Mr. Raines’
office, just like you told me. I was expecting to find most of his stuff
being farmed out to other people, since he’s dead and all, and if anybody
asked me, I was going to say that I was taking some of his projects to
Sydney. But when I got there, you’ll never guess what I found!”
“No!” He was so worked up that he didn’t even notice her barb. “Willie
was standing guard, and Raines’s office was locked up tighter than a drum!”
He blinked. “What does that mean, anyway? Are drums always tight?”
She sighed impatiently. “So? Wait till Willie has to go to the bathroom
and prance right in there!”
He backed off slightly. “You don’t get it,” he hissed, inching closer.
“Why would they have his stuff nailed down in the first place, if he’s
dead? Wouldn’t they be handing his projects out to people who can finish
For a moment, she was silent. “You’re right, Broots,” she whispered back.
“They’d do exactly that.”
She stood, scooped up the folders and the DSAs and handed them over to
him. “Copy these for me and have the originals back on my desk ASAP. I’m
“You don’t think--“
“I’m going to make certain,” she snapped, and stepped out from behind
the desk to lead the way out of her office, listening for his obedient
footsteps to follow her out the door. She could almost feel his furtive
looks all around him as he skulked in her wake, but her awareness of Broots
was fading. She could smell something unpleasant on the wind, and was
determined to follow it to its source.
* * * * * * * * *
The victims were all Asian women in their 20's. They were smart. They
were pretty. But that seemed to be what drew their killer to them.
Jarod read over the reports, poured through the case files, studied the
photographs of the bodies, the grave sites, the murder locations. All
of it was eerily familiar, as if he had seen it before, but he knew he
had never heard of Lung Li until Tamara Prescott asked him to handle the
research project on this particular serial killer for her.
She had given him a stack of four files from Peltier Maximum Security
Prison from which to choose one subject. The study was being done at the
request of the FBI, as a comparison for their Behavioral Sciences training
classes. Braden University provided several guest lecturers for the academy's
BSU, and often participated in field studies with the Bureau, Tamara had
explained to him. She specifically requested that he consider doing the
study on this particular offender. She had interviewed him before and
found him charming, though obstinate, but was unable to get straight answers
from him; perhaps being interviewed by a man would shift the balance.
He read over each of the files, except for one. That one he opened, glanced
at the first photograph, and closed the folder, sliding it quickly to
the bottom of the stack. Lung Li's was the next folder he opened, and
he decided to follow Dr. Prescott's suggestion.
And so he began to simulate Lung Li, imagining him at the murder scenes,
the things he did to all those women. Some elements were puzzling, but
eventually he understood the motivation, the intricacies of the crimes.
That Lung Li was an extremely sick, dangerous man was obvious. But there
was always a method behind the madness.
Jarod understood that all too well. Simulating the behavior of a serial
killer had been hard for him as recently as two years ago; each subsequent
time it became a little easier, though it also made him uneasy for reasons
he didn't totally understand.
He laid the photographs out all over the desk in his tiny, cramped apartment.
Some of them he laid on the floor, on the tops of opened drawers and tacked
to the walls, until the photographs of murder and mutilation virtually
surrounded him. With sweat beading on his brow, he fired up his laptop
computer and began to write, to fill in the blanks on all the survey questions
he was supposed to ask Lung Li. And he let Lung Li answer every one of
them with unvarnished, twisted truth that was his alone.
* * * * * * * * *
When a detective wanted to know why something was happening, standard
advice was to follow the money. In this case, Miss Parker decided, it
was a case of follow the sweeper. Willie knew Mr. Raines better
than anyone else, except perhaps her father. If anyone could lead her
to old wheezy's current whereabouts, be they under or above ground, it
would be his personal errand boy.
Apparently, though, she'd misjudged the size of the man's bladder. Willie
never took a bathroom break. Instead, he stood stiffly in front of Raines'
office door for hours, studying the passersby and turning away those few
brave souls who dared to request admittance. Only when another black-clad
statue arrived to replace him did he finally leave his post, and head
directly for the elevator.
Sliding neatly into the flow of traffic, she stepped into the car along
with half a dozen others, pressing the button for Sub-Level 5 and the
Tech Room. No one would question her desire to talk to Broots about Jarod's
latest whereabouts. That was her job.
The doors opened at her floor, and she stepped out under Willie's watchful
eye. After they closed, instead of heading for Broots' desk she hung back
and watched the indicator. SL-7… SL-12… SL-16. All reasonable floors.
It was only when the elevator car descended into the very bowels of the
Centre that she guessed its final destination.
Renewal Wing. If there were a better place to slip underneath
everyone's radar, she couldn't think of it. Somehow, she was certain,
Raines had managed to escape the grim reaper yet again, and was hiding
in a part of the Centre no one visited unless they had a good reason.
She broke into a feral smile. Putting paid to Dr. Billy's latest trick
was certainly a good enough reason for her. "Haul out the good china,"
she whispered to no one in particular. "You're about to have company."
* * * * * * * * *
Peltier Maximum Security Prison
Peltier Island, on the Potomac River
“You know the procedure?” the guard asked casually.
Jarod nodded. “Keep back from the enclosure gates at least five feet.
Do not pass anything to or accept anything from the inmates. No personal
information on my part.” He handed over his briefcase for the guard to
rifle through. After a very thorough search, he took it back.
“Okay,” Officer Walters agreed at last. “Walk through the metal detector
and meet me on the other side."
The Pretender passed through without incident. A muscle twitched in his
jaw. “I don’t look forward to this.”
“No one does. Even their regular shrinks don’t like seeing them.” Walters
shot a nervous glance toward the steel and thick Plexiglas door that separated
him from the cell corridor. “They’re some bad dudes, man. Be careful.”
Jarod offered a pained smile. “I will, believe me. I know more about
these guys than I want to.”
After another pat-down, the guard finally allowed him to pass through
the electronic gate. He flinched when he heard the massive door clang
shut behind him, but straightened his suit jacket and marched down the
wide aisle between the thick stone wall and the bank of small but well
lit cells. He did not meet the eyes of the first man in the cell, though
he saw the movement of his head as he walked past.
That would be Ron Chambers, put away for his crimes against a sorority
house full of college girls. In the next cell was Pauley Fishman, a man
of questionable intelligence who killed a farm family and lived in their
house with their rotting bodies for four months. At the third cell, he
put his head down and tried not to look, but it was impossible.
The man was as tall as he, but broader, more muscular. His light blue
eyes were piercing, and his dark hair was pulled back, secured at the
nape of his neck. He smiled and rose from the table at the center of his
cell, where he had been drawing.
“And what are you doing here?” Kodiak Brown asked. “Come to pay me a
visit?” He strolled up to the Plexiglas front of his cage and leaned casually
against it as Jarod walked past.
He couldn’t maintain eye contact with that man, knowing what he had done.
Jarod could still see the mangled bodies of his final victims in the photographs
taken in the basement of his country home. Brown had a particular enjoyment
of torture, and had murdered almost a dozen women after weeks of captivity,
during which he put his victims through unspeakable torment.
Jarod blinked away tears that sprang to his eyes, and concentrated on
his job. These interviews, though difficult, were part of the process.
He had a mission to accomplish, and getting through them was necessary.
He had a list of questions he was supposed to ask, and he was supposed
to try to get the inmates to converse with him as a psychological professional.
The university had gone to a lot of trouble to arrange it, and he had
to get it done.
But when he passed Brown’s cell and took his seat on the molded plastic
bench across from Lung Li’s cell, he wasn’t sure he was going to make
it all the way through. He could feel Brown’s gaze on him, and it made
his insides clench painfully. Jarod opened his briefcase, took out a tablet
of paper, a pen and the printed list of questions.
“Good afternoon, Mr. Lung,” he began coolly. “Thank you for participating
in this survey.”
Lung was average sized, average build, average in every sort of way,
except in the crimes he had committed against the women of his race. He
seemed congenial and interested, which Jarod knew was a ruse to draw the
other person in, get them to relax. Charm was a big part of what had enabled
this Chinese-American man to coax women into close quarters, where he
would rape and torture them for days before disposing of their bodies
in wooded areas. But Jarod already had his answers. Here he was simply
going through the motions.
He ran down the list in typical clinical fashion, with Lung teasing and
hinting with his responses rather than answering them outright. Jarod’s
pen did not move even a single time to take note of those answers, and
when he thanked Lung for his time and started packing up, the inmate called
him on it.
“Aren’t you going to take notes? You might get something wrong if you
don’t write it down now, while it’s fresh.”
Jarod cocked his head slightly and studied the man. He reached into his
briefcase and pulled out a set of neatly typed papers, stapled together
in the upper left corner. “I really don’t need to, Mr. Lung, since I’d
already written my report before I got here. This was just for the record.”
Lung chuckled. “So you already know everything about me, huh? That’s
a new one. Docs here have been trying to figure me out for years.” He
stepped closer to the reinforced acrylic door, arms crossed. “What’s your
opinion, then? Why do I do what they say I did to get me in here?”
“Because you like it,” Jarod answered succinctly. “It’s validation of
how smart you are and how stupid the women are when they go with you.
And the power you wield over them, man! That’s intoxicating, isn’t it?”
His voice emphasized the understanding of how powerful that attraction
was to the other man. “It’s not about the sex, though that’s a nice bonus.
It’s about the power, the invasion, the shattering of their trust in that
moment when they know you’re the Big Bad Wolf. It’s all about the looks
on their faces, their pleas for mercy.” He leaned closer to the transparent
shield, half smiling as his dark eyes gleamed with empathy. “And the screams.
It’s like a symphony, isn’t it?”
Echoes of them teased his ears, twisted his heart up into a knot. He
could see by Lung’s expression that he was right on, yet not satisfied
with the depth of his assessment. “But no one knew about the blood, did
Lung’s eyes narrowed.
Jarod glanced at a photograph in a folder in his briefcase. “You bled
them, just a little, here and there, while you tortured them. You gathered
the blood into vessels to mix with the earth where you buried them, didn’t
you? But nobody ever knew that little detail except you.” He paused. “And
Lung’s hands curled up into fists. His teeth ground together, his eyes
flashing with leashed rage. Abruptly he smiled, only the merest flicker
of anger still showing in his eyes. “And why would I do such a thing,
Jarod replaced his report into the case, closed and locked it, and stood.
He made eye contact after straightening his jacket, and took the briefcase
in hand. “Because you’re a sick, twisted bastard with no regard for human
life except your own,” he snapped. He took a step closer to the door,
intending to impress the other man with his greater height and physical
presence, but Lung stayed where he was, smirking back at him. “And because
you had gods to appease, so they would give you a son. Instead, you got
five daughters. I’d say your gods didn’t like you very much, wouldn’t
Lung lunged at the barrier, slamming into it with his shoulder, then
backed off. “Come see me again, Doc. Maybe next time you’ll actually listen
so you can find out just how wrong you are.”
But Jarod wasn’t listening. He had taken one step toward Kodiak Brown’s
cell, and made eye contact. His feet stopped moving. He was riveted to
the spot, his palms sweating.
Brown chuckled huskily, the sound a soft growl with a dark edge to it.
“What exactly do you know about me, doctor?”
Jarod swallowed hard, fighting back tears, trying desperately to avoid
the agony welling up in his soul. “Everything,” he whispered. “I know
everything about you.”
Brown winked at him as his smile grew brighter.
Jarod bolted past, stumbling to a walk just in front of the first cell.
He was flushed and sweating when he signaled the guard to let him out.
The guard searched him and his case again, and then permitted him to leave.
He had to maintain a calm demeanor as he left the prison, returned to
the ferry and drove back into town.
But he didn't go back to the university right away. He had to go to his
temporary digs first and stand under a hot shower, where he could weep
in private and attempt to wash away the blood his mind told him was still
covering his skin. That sim had been a lifetime ago, but it never left
him completely. And seeing Brown brought too much of it back, more than
he could handle.
He thought instead about Zoe, of the light and joy she had brought into
his life. He remembered making love to her, and how wonderful it had been.
The memories helped, but then came the awful shadow of her death and the
tide of grief that came with it. Even that was more tolerable than seeing
that man in his cell. Jarod struggled to tamp down those terrible memories,
so he could get on with his work. He had people to help, and he couldn’t
do it if he was a mass of tangled emotions.
But he would never be able to leave Kodiak Brown behind, and he knew