Virginia State Police Agent Dakota Sharp confronts The Dollmaker’s handiwork for the first time—
A tall, lean woman in her early thirties approached him. She was dressed in jeans, a loose T-shirt, leather jacket, and booted heels. Ink-black hair skimmed her jaw, a delicate cross on a chain hung around her neck, and a detective’s shield was clipped to her belt. Her lips were fixed into a grim line.
He recognized her. She was new to the Richmond division of the Virginia State Police, having transferred in from the Tidewater area.
Sharp pulled his badge from his breast pocket, held it up for her to see, and attached it to his belt. “Agent Dakota Sharp.
She extended her hand. “Agent Julia Vargas. Thanks for coming so quickly.” Her handshake was firm, her gaze direct.
“What do you have?”
Agent Vargas rubbed the back of her neck as she glanced back toward the body. “I received a call from the local deputy because this scene is so odd. One look and I knew I needed a second set of eyes.”
“Male or female?”
“Body of a young female. I’ve seen a lot of heinous acts, but this one takes the cake.”
“What’s different about her?”
She shook her head. “You’re going to have to see it for yourself.”
“Okay.” He tugged a set of black latex gloves from his pocket and slid them on over his hands. “Lead the way.” She turned toward the yellow tape, raising it to allow him to pass first. A ring of officers and forensic technicians parted as he approached.
For a moment, he simply stared at the scene. His brain didn’t quite process what he saw until he brushed away the shock and refocused.
Leaning against the tree was the body of a woman, dressed like a doll. White billowy dress, knee socks, shiny patent-leather shoes. However, it was her face and eyes that took his breath away. Her eyes were tacked open, revealing unnaturally large pupils staring sightlessly at him. Her face was painted white, cheeks tinted a blush red, with eyebrows arched in a thin line. The hair, twisted into twin braids, was a wig.
His gut clenched. When he spoke, his voice sounded ragged, rough.
“No, it’s not paint,” Agent Vargas said. “It’s ink. All tattoos.”
Copyright 2016 © Mary Burton
Here’s a scene from THE SHARK in which Dr. Kincaid, the Medical Examiner, Joshua Shield, head of Shield Security, former FBI agent Clay Bowman and Virginia state trooper Riley Tatum look for leads in a murder—and suspect propofol as the means.
He released the button and the elevator descended, the doors opening to the cool antiseptic air of the medical examiner’s offices and Joshua Shield.
Shield was dressed in his trademark dark suit with his shock of white hair combed off his angled face. He strode straight to them, his attention riveted on Riley. Dark eyes collected and inventoried details quickly. “Trooper Tatum. I’m Joshua Shield.”
“I recognize you from your press pictures.”
Bowman noticed that most people were intimidated by Shield. They dropped gazes, shuffled feet, or fidgeted in some way. Not Riley. She glared at him as if he were a rookie intern late for his first briefing.
Shield extended his hand to her. “Nice to finally meet you,” he said. “Mr. Bowman speaks well of you.”
Clasping hard, she held his gaze.
“Solving this case is a team effort,” Shield said.
Smiling, she shook her head. “We’ll see.”
Bowman gave her props for not pulling punches.
“Consider the advantages of my expertise,” Shield said. “My company resources helped you in the past.”
“You were an uninvited guest that I could have managed without.”
He grinned as if enjoying the sparring.
Before he could respond, Dr. Kincaid appeared. She wore a lab coat and glasses that covered slightly bloodshot eyes.
“Dr. Kincaid,” Bowman said. “We appreciate you meeting us. Sorry to get you out of bed so early on a Saturday morning.”
“Mr. Bowman, Mr. Shield, you gentlemen have friends in powerful places.” Calm and unruffled, she extended her hand to both.
Shield shook her hand. “We help each other out when we can.”
Dr. Kincaid glanced at Riley. “I’m assuming Agent Sharp called you.”
“No, it was Mr. Bowman. But I contacted Agent Sharp.”
“Good,” Dr. Kincaid said. “Follow me.” She led them down the long hallway and pushed through a set of double doors. “I understand you also want to see Vicky Gilbert’s body.”
“Correct,” Shield said.
“Your timing is fortuitous. The funeral home is picking up her remains in a couple of hours. Her mother opted for cremation.”
“And you’ve done a complete exam?” Shield asked.
“I have. I’ve collected enough samples so that we can run any kind of test conceivable in the future if necessary. The Gilbert family is anxious to have a memorial service.”
“Their daughter ran away from home over a month ago and they didn’t call the police or try to find her,” Riley said. “What’s the big rush now?”
A slight shift in Riley’s tone could have made her sound bitter. But she kept her voice monotone, effectively hiding any potential anger or resentment.
Bowman reached in his breast pocket and removed a slip of paper. “Dr. Kincaid, I’d like you to test for this sedative.”
“Propofol? That’s a very powerful narcotic and I don’t see it often.”
“If we’re dealing with the man we suspect is the killer, this is likely the drug he used on his first four victims. This killer is a creature of habit. The sedative is one of his signatures.”
Copyright 2016 ©Mary Burton
Virginia state trooper Riley Tatum and former FBI agent Clay Bowman are in the midst of a missing person case in this excerpt from The Shark, the first The Forgotten Files novel.
“I can help you, Sandy.”
“Don’t worry about me,” she said, sliding from the booth. “Just find Cassie. She has a chance to get out.”
Riley slid to the edge of the booth, pulled another business card from her back pocket, and pressed it into Sandy’s hand. “Just in case.”
“I have your number.”
“Then give it to another girl who needs help.”
“You lived on the streets, didn’t you?”
Riley dug a twenty out of her pocket, set it on the table, and placed her untouched coffee cup on top of it. “What makes you say that?”
“A vibe. Like you get what it’s like. No judgment in your eyes.”
“I been a cop for eight years. I’ve seen my share.”
“A lot of cops see.” She texted a message on her cell phone. “Few understand.”
“Lucky, I guess.”
“See you around, Lucky.”
Riley watched the girl push through the front door and cross the lot outside. She moved toward a dark truck, spoke to the driver, and climbed inside the cab.
Never in Riley’s career had she wanted to see two people behind bars or dead more than she did Darla and Jax. Jo-Jo might not ever testify against Jax, but he’d broken enough laws, including evading the police and possession of drugs in his car, to get him some time in prison. A prison sentence would give her the time to build a human trafficking case against him.
Outside, she walked toward the parking lot, watching as Bowman stepped away from his vehicle. He wore a dark sports coat over his white shirt and dark pants, but when a flap of wind caught the edges of the jacket she glimpsed the weapon at his side.
“What did she say?” he asked.
“There’s a motel about twenty miles east of here.”
“You want to check it out?”
“I do. If we don’t find Cassie, I’ll call Sharp.”
The first forty-eight hours in a missing persons case were the most critical. Didn’t seem like a case could go cold so fast, but the best leads vanished with the ticking clock. She didn’t want to rely on Bowman, but she wanted to stack the odds in her favor. She didn’t want to lose this hand. “Okay.”
“I’ll be right behind you. If we get separated, wait for me.”
Copyright 2016 ©Mary Burton
Mary Burton’s The Dollmaker, The Forgotten Files Book 2
Medical Examiner Dr. Addison Kincaid in conversation with newly hired forensic pathologist Dr. Tessa McGowan just after hearing that a murder victim is about to arrive.
“What makes the case unique?” Dr. Kincaid asked.
“Vargas said you’d need to see it to believe it.”
“Thanks, Jerry.” Dr. Kincaid checked her wristwatch. “Looks like our day isn’t over yet.”
“I’ll get changed,” Tessa said.
Dr. Kincaid stopped, as if she’d caught herself. “You both were so professional this morning, it was easy to forget you two know each other.”
“I’ll take that as a compliment.”
Dr. Kincaid rubbed the side of her neck. “Why accept this job here? You knew you’d bump into him sooner or later.”
“It’s my hometown, too. And it’s not like I hate the guy. He’s one hell of a cop.”
“He’s intense. I like him, but I’d hate to cross him.”
“Not a good idea when he’s on a mission to solve murder cases. He’s possessed.”
“Because of his sister?”
She’d never heard Dakota talk about his sister to anyone. “You know about Kara?”
“He asked me to review her autopsy file a couple of years ago. I went over it with a close eye but didn’t discover anything that made me think the cause of death wasn’t an accidental overdose.”
“I’m sorry to hear that. I’m not sure he’ll ever know any peace.”
“Did you know his sister?”
“As a matter of fact, I did. Both of us were local girls, and we ended up at the college here together. We had a lot in common. And we got along well until that last night.” Tessa drew in a breath, knowing she was opening a door that had been so hard to close.
“Look, I don’t mean to intrude.”
“It’s okay. Might as well tell you. Kara and I and a couple of our friends went to a fraternity Halloween party together. It was a warm Friday night, midterms had just ended, and we were ready to have a good time. I left the festivities early. I ended up getting hit by a car blocks from the party. I don’t really remember the accident or the days surrounding it. My aunt told me later friends visited me in the hospital and told me Kara’s mother was looking for her. My aunt said my cousins were there, and they offered to call around, but they all agreed what could be done to find Kara was being done. I was released on a Wednesday, the same day she was found dead.”
“I’m sorry,” Dr. Kincaid said.
She balled up her cap and tossed it in the trash. “The whole family fell to pieces. I was on pain meds, so I really don’t remember. My cousins tell me the funeral was one of the saddest moments of their lives. Dakota couldn’t get home until a month after the funeral, and by then I was in rehab. Dakota and I didn’t meet up again until about two years ago.”
Talking about this felt oddly disloyal to Dakota, but she wanted it out in the open. Life was full of enough drama without secrets. “We fell for each other, rushed into a marriage that imploded all in the course of one year.”
Dr. Kincaid didn’t comment, but she was listening.
“As you know, Dakota is totally dedicated to the job. He doesn’t rest when he has an open murder case, especially when it’s a young person. I understand somewhat where he’s coming from, but there came a point when it came between us. When I learned about the opening on Project Identify, I took it. Now I’m back.”
Dr. Kincaid shook her head. “He’s not changed.”
“I know. But I have.”
Copyright 2016 ©Mary Burton
Hold the date and enter now for prizes all day long on Tuesday!
One week to go until the November 15 release of The Dollmaker, the second of my The Forgotten Files novels.That’s time enough for one more Flash Giveaway starting now and ending midnight on Wednesday, 11/9. Enter for a chance to be the winner of an early copy of The Dollmaker. Meet Tessa, Dakota and a killer whose penchant for real life—if not live—dolls accelerates as each deadly case emerges.
a Rafflecopter giveaway