In the streets of New York City, the Slasher chooses his victim--and makes his move. As he wraps his fingers around the girl's pretty throat, his power increases. As he carves into her skin, his words become flesh. As he arranges her lifeless body in a loving tableau, his fantasies demand new, more violent sacrifices. . .
At first, NYPD detectives suspect a jealous boyfriend. But criminal profiler Lee Campbell senses something darker, even ritualistic, about the murder. More chilling, he's convinced he's witnessing the genesis of a full-blown serial killer. But time is running out. A new victim has been chosen. Campbell must search the most terrifying recesses of the human mind--and his own past--before the screaming starts again. . .
""Pulse-racing, compelling, first rate. Lawrence knows how to build and hold suspense with the best of them. Once you get into this one, you can't get out. A wild ride down a dark road."" --John Lutz, New York Times bestselling author of Urge to Kill
""C. E. Lawrence has achieved a rare level of authenticity, not only in character development but also in the realistic use of behavioral science. If you want to read a serial-killer thriller that's solidly based on frightening reality, this is the one."" --Louis B Schlesinger, Ph.D., professor of forensic psychology, John Jay College of Criminal Justice
""C. E. Lawrence delivers finely honed suspense, with unique twists, and accurately captures the logic and intuition of a profiler under pressure."" --Katherine Ramsland, professor of forensic psychology, De Sales University, and author of The Devil's Dozen
""Criminally compelling, Silent Screams by C.E. Lawrence nails you to your seat with a fascinating NYPD profiler who's hurled into the case of his lifetime. From the Bronx to Manhattan, Catholic churches to university classrooms, this journey into violence and the soul is unforgettable."" --- Gayle Lynds, New York Times bestselling author of The Book of Spies and The Last Spymaster
""Silent Screams is a wickedly brilliant, carefully wrought thriller where the roles of hunter and hunted are skillfully blurred. Team up with a virtuoso profiler and a street-wise Bronx detective as they are thrown into an escalating torrent of murder that threatens to sweep them away. It's ride that neither they, or you, will soon forget."" --Gregg McCrary, author of The Unknown Darkness: Profiling the Predators Among Us
""By setting the horror of fictional killings against the background of 9/11, C.E. Lawrence constantly reminds the reader that life is infinitely stranger than anything which the mind of man could invent. The deviant perpetrator of grisly murders is described as someone who has a sophisticated knowledge of forensic investigations. The same can be said of the author. Silent Screams beckons C.E. Lawrence to become a repeat offender in this genre."" --Marina Stajic, Ph.D., President of American Board of Forensic Toxicology
In New York not long after 9/11, appealing psychologist-turned-criminal profiler Lee Campbell is traumatized by the unsolved disappearance of his sister in the mid-1990s. Though still recovering from a nervous breakdown, Lee is determined to keep working with the NYPD and find the man who leaves his female victims mutilated in churches throughout Manhattan, even if it means enduring painful reminders of his past. Lawrence (a pseudonym for Carole Bugg?, author of the Claire Rawlings mysteries) assembles a quirky group of detectives and experts, all strong characters who can support future books in the series: Chuck Morton, the commander of the Bronx Major Case Unit, who married Lee's ex; Eddie Pepitone, a hustler who befriended Lee in the hospital; Dr. Katherine Azarian, a forensic pathologist and Lee's love interest; and brilliant criminal justice professor John Paul Nelson. Fans of Keith Ablow will enjoy this dark, intriguing thriller. (Dec.)
There are no customer reviews available at this time. Would you like to write a review?
November 30, 2009
Number of Print Pages*
Adobe DRM EPUB
* Number of eBook pages may differ. Click here for more information.
Excerpt from Silent Screams by C.E. Lawrence
Lee Campbell stood looking at the naked body draped over the altar of the church. The girl's delicate white skin was pale as the cold marble floor beneath his feet, in stark contrast to the vivid red wounds slashed across her torso and the purple bruising around her neck.
"Come on, Marie, talk to me," he whispered. He bent down over her, looking for petechial hemorrhaging in or around the eyes, but could find none. The lack of patterned abrasions meant there had been no ligature. "So he used his hands," he murmured. Some strangulation victims had no sign of injuries at all, so he was grateful for the bruising around her neck--pronounced enough to suggest that this, and not the slash wounds, was the cause of death. He thought about what her last moments were like: eleven pounds of pressure for ten seconds could cause unconsciousness, and thirty pounds of pressure, for four or five minutes, would result in death.
He observed the blue creeping into her lips, the porcelain smoothness of her dead cheeks. At least he left her face alone. He had always found it odd that strangulation victims sometimes looked strangely peaceful, with all of life's pain, suffering, and uncertainty behind them now. Lee felt a stab of envy in his stomach, and a warning sounded in his head. He could not allow himself to linger over such thoughts. He closed the door of his mind to the desire to be where this dead girl was now, to be done with the mad dance of life and its many trials.
But, of course, there had been nothing peaceful about her death. His eyes fell on the jagged letters carved into her naked torso: Our father who art in heaven. The O encircled her left breast like a red halo, the blood droplets symmetrical on her pale flesh. For some reason, he was reminded of a red and white hula hoop his sister had as a child. The writing was uneven and slanted downward--a job done in haste, he concluded, by a killer who was not yet comfortable with this part of his work.
The blood had dried and was caked in little mountainous crusts of crimson on her pale skin. The word "Heaven" was cut into her abdomen, just over the light dusting of dark pubic hair on her pelvis. There was little excess blood around the altar, and no signs of struggle, suggesting that she was killed elsewhere.
"What happened to you?" Lee whispered. "Who did this to you?" Even at a whisper, his voice echoed and fluttered, ghostlike, through the tall stone columns of the chapel's interior. Lee had never been on the Bronx campus of Fordham University before, and he was surprised by the size of the campus chapel. But then, Fordham was a Catholic school-- in fact, the college seminary was just across the quad.
Lee studied the dead girl's face, waiting for the eyes to flutter open, and realized with a start that she resembled his sister--the same curly dark hair and white skin. He had often imagined seeing Laura like this, wondering what he would do or say, but her body had never been found. And so that encounter hung in suspended animation, waiting for him in some near or distant future. He looked down at Marie, cold and unmoving upon the altar, not a line creasing her smooth cheeks, her youth a rebuke to the person who had squeezed the life from her body. Lee was relatively new to such intimacy with the dead, and it held a fascination he knew was not entirely healthy.
But Leonard Butts, the Bronx detective assigned to this case, had no such fascination, nor was he of a sentimental turn of mind.
"Okay, Doc," he said, approaching Lee. "You 'bout done there? ME's here, and we'd like to get the vic downtown ASAP."
Butts indicated several men unloading a stretcher from a van outside the chapel. Lee could see the words MEDICAL EXAMINER in large yellow letters emblazoned on the backs of their dark blue jackets as they brought in the stretcher, its wheels clacking on the stone floor. A couple of members of the forensics team glanced up briefly, then went on with their work--dusting, photographing, inspecting. They worked with swift, practiced gestures, moving smoothly through the crime scene, gathering evidence. A thin young Asian woman snapped photographs of Marie from every angle, her face set in a stoic, businesslike expression.
Looking around, Lee felt that he was the only one out of place here--he alone had nothing to contribute, nothing to offer toward the solving of this terrible crime, this trespass against society and decency. He wondered if his friend Chuck Morton, commander of the Bronx Major Case Unit, had made a mistake in calling him out to this crime scene in the predawn hours. After two years as the NYPD's only full- time criminal profiler, Lee still had doubts about whether he was up to the job.
"Well, Doc, whaddya think?" Detective Butts's Bronx accent bit through the solemn atmosphere of the chapel.
Lee glanced up at Detective Butts, who had an unlit cigar dangling from his mouth. He had told the man twice that he had a PhD in psychology, and was not a medical doctor, yet Butts still insisted on calling him Doc. With his beard stubble and unkempt hair, the detective looked like the kind of man you might see lurking around an off-track betting parlor. Lee couldn't blame him for the beard stubble; after all, it was 6 A.M., and he could feel the scratchiness on his own chin. But he suspected that even with a shave and a haircut Butts would still look disreputable.
Instead of the handsome, regular features of a stereotypical Irish cop, the detective had a decidedly uneven face, with flaccid jowls, a bulbous lower lip, small eyes, and a complexion like an unkempt gravel road. There was no discernible change in the thickness where his skull began and his neck ended; his neck rose in an unbroken line up to the top of his head, crosshatched tanned skin fading into gray hair stubble. Lee was reminded of the mesas he had seen in Arizona. To top it off, Butts was short and thick--Elmer Fudd in a trench coat. Lee thought the unlit cigar was a bit much, as though Butts was deliberately trying to look cartoonish.
"Well, whaddya think?" Butts repeated. "Boyfriend did it?"
"No," Lee replied. "I don't think so."
"Strangulation is typical of domestic violence cases, y'know," said Butts, his small eyes narrowing even more in the dim light of the chapel. When Lee didn't respond, he added, "You know what percentage of murder victims know their killer?"
"Eighty percent," Lee replied, bending down over Marie again.
"Yeah," Butts said, sounding surprised that he knew the answer.
Lee straightened up and stretched his cramped back muscles. At just under six foot two, he was half a foot taller than the stubby detective. He ran a hand through his own curly black hair, which was getting shaggy in the back.
Butts frowned and deepened his bite on the cigar. "So who do you think did it?"
Lee stepped aside as the men from the medical examiner's office loaded the body onto the stretcher. All around him, the forensics team members continued with their work; silent and efficient, they were the opposite of this stubby detective with his battered cigar and bad skin.
Lee looked down at his hands, feeling their uselessness. "I don't know," he answered.
Butts made a sound between a grunt and a sigh. "Humph.
Okay, Doc--well, when you get some ideas, let me know."
"Oh, I have some ideas," Lee replied. "I just don't know what they add up to yet."
Butts moved the cigar to the other side of his mouth. "Yeah? Well, let's have 'em."
"It's too early yet to draw a lot of conclusions, but I don't think the attacker knew his victim."
"Really?" Butt's voice conveyed his disapproval and disdain.
"This was not a personal crime--this was a ritualistic murder."
Butts cocked his head, letting the cigar dangle from his thick lips. "How do you figure that?"
"Look at the positioning of the body--he wants to shock us. And then there's the carving."
"Well, yeah, I can see that," the detective said irritably. "I'm not saying this perp isn't a creep. You should see some of the things I seen these guys do to their girlfriends."
"And leave her in a church?"
Butts sniffed at the body like a bird dog. "She wasn't killed here--she was brought here."
"Exactly my point."
"These days you got a lotta weirdos out there. You never know what they'll do."
"Who ID'd the body?"
"Chapel priest. Same one who discovered her. Said he came in for early prayers and found her here." The detective lowered his voice as though he was afraid someone might overhear. "You know, I had a guy once who killed his mother, then dressed her up for church."
"Someone who kills like this is displacing his rage onto a stranger. This is a ritualistic display of the body--it's impersonal."
Butts plucked the cigar from his mouth and stuffed it into his shirt pocket. "Okay, Doc--you're the one with the degree." He turned to the forensics team. "You boys 'bout done there? I'm gettin' hungry." He turned back to Lee. "Wanna go for some eggs? I know a great little place on Arthur Avenue."
Lee did his best not to be irritated at this homely little detective for his casual attitude toward death. "Thanks--another time, maybe."
The detective didn't appear to take the rejection personally. He shuffled across the smooth floor toward the side exit, scratching his chin. "Okay, Doc, catch you later."
"I'll be out in a minute," Lee called after him. It was only then he noticed the young priest huddled in the corner, his arms wrapped around his body, a mournful expression on his face.
He walked over to the man, who looked even younger close up, with his smooth pink skin and sleek black hair. There was no stubble on his face--he looked almost too young to have any.
"You knew the victim, Father...?" Lee asked.
The priest's eyes were dark and pleading, like a puppy's. "Michael. Father Michael Flaherty."
"You were able to ID the body?"
"As I told him, I knew her because she was one of my--"
"One of my comparative religion students." His voice was thin and ragged; he looked away, perhaps suppressing tears.
"As I told the detective, she wasn't a regular in church. She attends another one, I believe." He sighed and rubbed his eyes. "Ralph is going to be so devastated when he hears about this."
"Her boyfriend. Nice kid, a science major." Father Flaherty let his hands fall to his sides, a gesture of surrender. "I, uh...I just came in to pray and tidy up the altar." He glanced at the vases of drooping and withered lilies to one side of the altar. A CSI worker was bent over them, dusting for fingerprints.
The priest swallowed hard. "And... there she was." He gave Lee a searching look. It was clear he was studying Lee to see how his explanation was being received. The priest was obviously concerned about establishing his own innocence, but that didn't necessarily mean he had anything to hide. Lee knew that even innocent people are often nervous in the presence of the police.
"Okay, thank you, Father Michael," he said, handing him a business card. "Here's my card if you think of anything else."
The priest looked at the card. "The detective already gave me one of his. Aren't you working together?"
"Yes, we are, except that--well, we sometimes work on cases from . . . different angles." He hoped that was enough to satisfy the priest. He had no wish to discuss the tension between criminal profilers and traditional law enforcement.
The priest fished a handkerchief from his pocket and gave it a swipe across his nose. "All right. He already asked me the usual questions--could I think of anyone who would want to hurt her, and all that. I couldn't think of anyone."
Lee wasn't surprised. He was beginning to believe that no one would be able to think of anyone who wanted to hurt this unfortunate girl--except, of course, her killer. He shuddered as the team from the ME's office loaded poor Marie into a shiny black body bag. Marie. He forced himself to recite her name, to think of her as a person, not as "the vic," as precinct detectives often referred to their crime victims. It was more painful to keep a sense of her as a person, but it helped to motivate him. Lee held his breath as they zipped up the body bag. He hated the sound of the metal teeth as they caught one another--so cold, so final, a young life reduced to that terrible, sad sound of metal on metal.
He approached one of the techs from the ME's office, the thin young Asian woman who had been taking the photographs earlier. Her skin was as uncreased and pristine as Marie's--he thought she might be Korean, or possibly Chinese. Her shiny black hair was looped back in a ponytail, and her jumpsuit looked two sizes too big for her slender body.
"Can you tell me if the wounds were postmortem or--" Lee began.
She replied quickly, as if wanting to get this over with as soon as possible. "Most likely postmortem. There wasn't much bleeding."
"Most likely? Is there any chance--?"
She shook her head, her black ponytail slicing the air. "It can be difficult to tell, but here you can see where the blood trickle ends. I can't say for sure, but my best guess is that these wounds were postmortem...I hope to God," she added in a low voice. Lee thought he saw her shiver inside her oversized jumpsuit.
"And the weapon?"
She frowned. "Hard to say for sure, but nothing fancy-- possibly an ordinary knife, the kind you could get anywhere."
"Thank you," he said, turning away.
As he left the chapel, a wicked wind whipped up around Lee's ankles, flipping his coattails skyward, scattering a few wisps of dead leaves up into a spiral swirl, like a miniature tornado. The sharp, dry gust took his breath away. He shivered and shoved his hands into the pockets of his green tweed overcoat. A thin, pale dawn began to bloom in the eastern sky as he gazed down at the southern end of Manhattan, where a smoldering gash in the earth was all that was left of the once-proud towers. It was barely five months ago that the planes dropped from the sky like some mythic beasts, their tongues dripping with fire and destruction... and despair....
He forced his mind back to the present.
Hearing footsteps, he turned to see a man standing next to a blue van parked at the back of the church. He was dressed in a workman's jumpsuit and carried a tool case.
"Who's that?" he asked Butts, who had stopped by the side exit to speak to one of the crime scene technicians.
"I dunno," the detective answered, walking over to converse with the man.
"Locksmith," he said, returning to where Lee stood. "Got a call from the college administration that there was a broken lock in the basement. I told him to come back tomorrow."
Lee turned to Father Michael, who had wandered out of the church. The priest looked lost, and had the glazed look of someone in shock. "Were you aware of a broken lock in the basement?"
Father Michael shook his head. "No. But the maintenance staff might have put the call in. You'd have to ask them."
"Right," Butts said, writing it in his notebook. "Do you think there's a connection?" he asked Lee.
"I don't see one, really--I mean, the killer came right in through the unlocked side door, and presumably left the same way."
"I'll check it out anyway," Butts said.
"He took something," Lee murmured to himself, "but what?"
"Whaddya mean, he took somethin'?" Butts asked.
Lee gazed over the wounded landscape of the city, soaking in its stark and terrible beauty. "A souvenir, a memento."
"Jeez. What for?"
Lee turned to face him. "What was the last trip you took?"
Butts pushed back his battered fedora and scratched his head. He reminded Lee of a character out of a 1940s screwball comedy.
"I dunno... The Adirondacks, I guess."
"And did you buy anything there?"
"Uh, the wife bought some dish towels."
"Did she need dish towels?"
Butts frowned. "Actually, come to think of it, she's got dozens of 'em. She always buys one when we go somewhere."
"Right. So why buy what you don't need?"
Butts snorted. "Look, Doc, I learned a long time ago that when it comes to women, it's better not to ask certain questions, know what I'm sayin'?"
"But there is an answer to this one."
Butts jabbed the toe of his shoe into the dirt, kicking up the soft black soil.
"She says it reminds her of the trip."
"Exactly. That's why sexual murderers often take something from their victims: to remind them. It's like hunting trophies--they serve no purpose, other than to bring the killer memories of the crime itself. The souvenirs help them relive the whole thing over and over."
Butts tore off a piece of a jagged fingernail with his teeth and spit it out. "Man, this is twisted stuff. Mostly I just handle homicides, you know? Drug deals gone bad, abusive boyfriends, family fights that escalate--run-of-the-mill stuff. This is a whole new kinda weird."
"Yes, it is."
Butts looked at Lee suspiciously. "Doesn't this stuff keep you up at night?"
"Sometimes. But knowing those people are still out there keeps me up even more."
"Don't take this the wrong way, Doc, but you don't seem like the type. ...I mean, how did you get into this kind of thing?"
"It's kind of personal."
"Sure, sure," the detective answered, his homely face crinkled in sympathy. "No problem--I get it. Didn't mean to pry."
Lee looked away--he didn't trust his reactions around other people. He wasn't entirely in control of himself yet, not quite recovered from his breakdown.
The two men stood side by side, looking southward, watching the thin gray mist of smoke snaking upward from the ruined earth.
Butts shifted his weight from one foot to the other. "Well, then, I'm gonna move along now. I'll, uh, catch you later. I'll call you when we find the boyfriend."
"Sure. See you later."
He watched as the detective trundled off after the forensic team, his rumpled gray trench coat flapping in the wind.
Lee closed his eyes and let his head fall back. He could hear bagpipes, faraway and sad--their thin, plaintive tones carrying across the East River to where he stood on this melancholy bluff. He often imagined he heard bagpipes in times of stress and sorrow, and he had come to welcome the sound rather than taking it as a sign of deepening mental illness. It comforted him, bringing him back to the hills of his Celtic ancestors, where mountains rose sharp and bare from rushing riverbeds below, a mysterious and stark landscape that ran through his veins as strongly as his own blood.
He gazed up at the sky, where a lone crow scraped its way north, black and solitary against the creeping dawn.