Authors: Colby Marshall
The Dr Jenna Ramey series
FLASH POINT *
The McKenzie McClendon series
CHAIN OF COMMAND
* available from Severn House
This ebook is copyright material and must not be copied, reproduced, transferred, distributed, leased, licensed or publicly performed or used in any way except as specifically permitted in writing by the publishers, as allowed under the terms and conditions under which it was purchased or as strictly permitted by applicable copyright law. Any unauthorised distribution or use of this text may be a direct infringement of the author's and publisher's rights and those responsible may be liable in law accordingly.
First published in Great Britain and the USA 2016 by
SEVERN HOUSE PUBLISHERS LTD of
19 Cedar Road, Sutton, Surrey, England, SM2 5DA.
This eBook edition first published in 2016 by Severn House Digital
an imprint of Severn House Publishers Limited
Trade paperback edition first published
in Great Britain and the USA 2016 by
SEVERN HOUSE PUBLISHERS LTD
Copyright Â© 2016 by Colby Marshall.
The right of Colby Marshall to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988.
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data
A CIP catalogue record for this title is available from the British Library.
ISBN-13: 978-0-7278-8632-3 (cased)
ISBN-13: 978-1-84751-737-1 (trade paper)
ISBN-13: 978-1-78010-801-8 (e-book)
Except where actual historical events and characters are being described for the storyline of this novel, all situations in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to living persons is purely coincidental.
This ebook produced by
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Falkirk, Stirlingshire, Scotland
For Courtney, whom I'll always want to share a closet with during a thunderstorm.
Though I wrote
alone, many exceptional people helped bring it into the world.
First and foremost, to the incomparable Faith Black Ross: when we started this series together, I had no idea I'd just met an editor I would trust implicitly with my writing and feel so at ease with. For being a phenomenal editor, for inspiring me, for being one of my heroes, and for being my friend: thank you. To the sensational team at Severn House Publishers: I can't thank you all enough. It's an honor to be a part of the Severn family.
To my biggest cheerleader, advocate, and my own personal superhero â my agent, Rachel Ekstrom.
Your steady guidance keeps me on track, and your enthusiasm for my career energizes me. I'm thrilled to call you my ally, partner, and friend. To the whole team at IGLA, thank you for your hard work and dedication. And to the dynamic team of Danny Baror, Heather Baror-Shapiro, and everyone at Baror International: thank you for giving me the chance to have my book seen all over the world.
As always, thank you to those who have helped me find my place in this industry. To Pat Shaw, Amanda Ng, Ken Coffman and the Stairway Press family, and the charming and terribly witty Loren Jaggers: thank you for your tireless hours and full-throttle attitude. Thanks to Matt Stine & 27Sound Entertainment for my the rockin' internet digs. And to Bob Stine, who I'm pleased to call not just a mentor, but a friend: for introducing me to ITW, lending a hand when I needed one, and steering me in the right direction to get my books off the ground, words will never be enough. You are â and always will be â one of my favorite people.
Researching elements that end up in my stories is important to me; a special thank you to everyone who pitched in to keep my details as accurate as possible (except where I specifically took license to use a little artistic freedom). To Dr Richard “Dick” Elliot for his invaluable consults on forensic psychiatry and profiling. To Kelly Hines, Rick Campbell, Dr Tyler Darnell, Courtney Hatlee, R.N., Lynne McElheney Squarez, Sarah Kitchens Chancellor, and Margeaux & Doug Copeland, for providing your expertise for various scenes/settings. Thank you to Kimberly Thompson and Abby DeLuca, for your assistance in language pathology, and to D.P. Lyle M.D. for putting me in touch with a terrific linguistics contact. To Tiffinie Helmer, for her knowledge on hunting knives. And thank you to Randy Olson, for taking time out of his busy day to make sure I still knew how to do math.
Thank you to the many other writers, for their advice and encouragement: Y-Nots, Purgs, Pitizens, and ITW Debut Class. A special thanks to Jenny Milchman for sharing her know, and to Kay Kendall and Rick Campbell: thank you for your support in all facets of life.
Thanks to everyone who makes my day to day life a place where creativity can survive
thrive. To my theatre families at Theatre Macon & Macon Little Theatre â especially my YAC kids for many laughs and even more inspiration, and to Ellen Wilson & Spencer Maddox, friends I can count on. To Emily, Paige, Sasha, and the Millers for time to type without “help” from those not tall enough to ride rollercoasters.
To Danielle, James, Will, Nikki, & Falkor, for everything you do for me and are to me. To JP, for keeping my “wife” happy, and for going all the way into the pages of a book to marry her. To Herbie and Riley, who add zany zest to the otherwise mundane. To Meg, because I couldn't make it without you. And to Courtney, for believing in this series â and me. The dedication says it all.
To Ashlee, for reading every word I've written for almost a decade. Thank you for being what I need at any given time. Thank you for allowing me to name a character in this book for you. Now, any time I'm wishing you were right here in my living room, all I have to do is open up my laptop and you are.
To Mom and Dad: thank you for cheering me on, spurring me forward, and loving me. Thank you for valuing my happiness, sharing my triumphs â I owe so many of them to you. And to the littlest members of my family, for their hugs and laughter, energy and spirit. I love you.
Finally, to David, for not just understanding my dream, but for taking it on as your own. After all we've been through the past few years, you've amazed me, kept me sane, stayed steady, been a force of nature. David, you truly are my champion.
Last but certainly not least, to my readers: be this your first or fifth book of mine, thank you for reading. I wish you a pulse-pounding ride, full of twists, and excitement. And as always, I hope this story will keep you reading late into the night!
Cold sweat dripped down Beo's sides under his black cable-knit sweater as he rushed through the crowded room, frenetic energy driving him. Fear pulsed through him like it had a blood supply of its own as all around him screams and frantic movement hit him like he was running a giant, terrifying gauntlet. In the planning stages, he'd known it would be like this, but the real moment was different. Faster. Blurrier.
He nearly slipped as his foot hit something slick. He looked down briefly to see the puddle of crimson he'd skidded through. His breathing caught in his throat, panic gripping his chest.
Don't think about it.
But even if he'd been wearing blinders and hadn't seen the body thud to the floor in his peripheral vision, the air inside the room wouldn't have let his mind drift. Body odor, urine, feces â¦ metallic blood. All were present in the muggy heat of the building where everywhere black-clad figures moved swiftly amongst patrons, killing each and every one in his path.
Had Beo not consciously known he was on their side, it might have overwhelmed him.
Out of the corner of his eye, Scarlett spun and whirled like a ninja through the crowd. He knew it was her simply by the way she moved. Precise. Deliberate.
The blade of her dagger caught the chandelier lights just before she plunged it between the ribs of the man in the white-collared shirt before her. The guy grunted as Scarlett slipped the knife back out as seamlessly as she'd thrust it in. In one more swift, solid movement, she pivoted around the clean-cut, thirty-something man, grabbed a handful of his dark hair in her left hand to pull his chin back, and swiped her dagger left to right across his throat.
Scarlett's hand grasping the man's hair let go, and without another look, she rushed in another direction.
Beo's gaze didn't follow her, though. He stood, vision fixed on her victim.
The man sputtered while he choked for breath. Eyes wide with panic, he sank to his knees. Beo's stomach clenched. Scarlett had the skill to have spared this guy a lot of agony if she'd gone for a quick jab into the side of the neck, but slicing across the trachea and making him suffocate was more her style. Dramatic. Showy.
Beo ripped his stare away and urged his feet forward. In front of him, a tall and slender black-clad figure held a knife in a blonde young woman's back, rooting her to the spot like she was partly skewered.
Damn. Scarlett's kill was bad enough, and I had to turn away from
The girl cried soft, breathless tears, her eyes on her assailant's second knife â the filet knife lingering over her forearm. Just like Scarlett's reaming from moments ago, Mr Darcy could end this girl's suffering with a few quick stabs. Only, Mr Darcy's reasons for whatever it was he was about to do to the girl weren't like Scarlett's. Not a display but rather something much sicker.
Dear God. She could be Sabine's age.
From the left, a machete came wildly out of nowhere and dropped the girl.
âWe don't have time for this shit. Keep up your hobbies in your own spare time,' Atticus growled at Mr Darcy.
Beo trudged on, looking for any business left to finish, but the black masked figures outnumbered the others. And yet, the choppy, desperate gasps of Scarlett's victim seemed to seek out his ears through the din of whines, sobs, and groans. The image of Mr Darcy holding the girl skewered in front of him burst forth in his mind. Hard to fathom how all these sick motherfuckers had ended up together in this one room.