THERE IS A METHOD TO HIS MADNESS
He chooses his tools with precision. Stalks his victims with cold efficiency. Plans his attack using mathematical logic. And now he is ready to play…
THERE ARE RULES TO HIS GAME When the killer's first letter arrives at the station, NYPD profiler Lee Campbell suspects the writer is daring him to match wits with a dangerous-and brilliant-criminal mind. But once this "Alleyway Strangler" starts leaving specially targeted messages with each surgically carved corpse, Campbell realizes it's not just personal. It's perfectly calculated-to destroy him…
Praise for the riveting thrillers of C. E. Lawrence
"Criminally compelling…Lawrence nails you to your seat."-Gayle Lynds
"Dark and atmospheric…unnerving."-Steven James
"Startlingly suspenseful…an extraordinary page-turner."-Cody Mcfadyen
"An intense psychological ride." -J. T. Ellison
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August 07, 2012
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Excerpt from Silent Slaughter by C.E. Lawrence
Lee Campbell drove his fist into the unyielding leather of the punching bag and felt the satisfying jolt travel up his right arm. Sucking in a lungful of air, he thrust again at the bag, delivering a vicious uppercut with his left hand. He followed with a solid roundhouse and a quick jab: left, right, left, right. Jab, jab-- left, right. As he punched harder and harder, he felt the sweat tickle his forehead, until it ran in rivulets down the sides of his face and neck. Jab, jab--left, right, left, right, left. He worked to a steady rhythm, comforted by the regularity of the blows. With every punch, he could feel his body loosen, anxiety melting each time he made contact.
Behind him, the grunts of weight lifters and the clang of metal weights reverberated and echoed off the rafters, amplified by the building's high ceilings. He paused for breath, wiping his face with the terry-cloth towel around his neck. It was late afternoon on a Monday, and there were three other men in the exercise room. Lee was the only white guy today; the rest were African American. The air was thick with sweat and testosterone. Lee mopped his brow as he watched a powerful-looking black man with massive shoulders load up a bench press bar with so many weights that the steel rod bowed under their combined gravity.
Lee liked it here. The Asser Levy Recreation Center was one of a dozen or so public rec centers run by the Parks Department. Membership was only seventy-five bucks a year, and it had everything: a serious weight room, exercise classes, outdoor and indoor pools, basketball and handball courts. There was even a Ping-Pong table.
He returned to his workout, pounding the bag until his knuckles stung and his muscles twitched with fatigue. Finally spent, Lee pulled off his boxing gloves and headed for the water fountain, incurring a raised eyebrow from the massive weight lifter and perhaps the hint of an approving nod. There was an unwritten code of behavior among men at gyms: only the briefest of eye contact, and smiling was rare. Most information was conveyed through nods and grunted one-syllable exchanges, maybe because anything more might be interpreted as a come-on.
The weight lifter's nod was not a flirtation; it was an acknowledgment of solidarity. Lee returned the nod, taking care not to smile, and headed past the lobby's stone urns to drink from the elegant fountain decorated with frolicking dolphins. The water was crisp and clear, and he drank deeply; then, slinging the towel over his shoulder, he headed for the shower.
Half an hour later he emerged, tired but relaxed, into the majestic lobby. Sunlight filtered lazily through the high windows as his footsteps echoed on the marble floors. Perched alone on a windy block of East Twenty third Street just off the FDR Drive, the Asser Levy Center had been built nearly a hundred years earlier as a bathhouse. Unlike the drab institutional buildings of present- day New York, it was a magnificent neo-Romanesque structure with vaulted ceilings, balconies, and skylights. There were other city gyms closer to him, but he liked this one best. Old buildings gave him a sense of being connected to the past. He pushed open the heavy door and walked past the heavy stone columns, down the steps onto Twenty-third Street.
Behind him loomed the twin high-rises of Kips Bay; directly to the south were the lower brick buildings of Peter Cooper Village, already festooned with colorful Christmas decorations. Two blocks to the east, the icy waters of the East River flowed sluggishly south into New York Harbor. He loped across the four lanes of Twenty-third Street into the grounds of Peter Cooper, past an apartment with a first-floor window almost entirely obscured by blinking green and red lights. A cardboard reindeer beamed out at him from amid the bulbs, its oversized nose cranberry red. "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer." Dozens of Christmas pop songs were composed every year--why had that one in particular caught on? A story about the redemption of an outcast--too bad that in real life such redemptions were rare, he thought.
An arctic blast of wind from the river swooped between the buildings and pushed against his knees, slicing through the denim of his jeans. He pulled his jacket collar up to shield his neck and shoved his raw hands into his pockets, wishing he'd remembered to wear gloves. Lee had taken up boxing at the suggestion of his friend Chuck Morton, and as he wove his way through the secluded courtyards of Peter Cooper Village, he thought he had never received better advice. There was nothing like whaling away at a punching bag--or an opponent--to calm the nerves.
As he was about to cross into Stuyvesant Town at Twentieth Street, he realized he was ravenous. He turned west toward First Avenue, heading for his favorite bagel joint, Ess-a-Bagel. Just as he reached the avenue, his cell phone rang. He dug it out of his pocket, holding it close to his ear to compensate for the roar of traffic. This stretch of First Avenue had earned the nickname Bedpan Alley (a pun on Tin Pan Alley) because of the number of hospitals lining the street, and the traffic was constant and relentless.
"Campbell here," he said, cupping his other hand over his ear.
"Hiya, Doc." It was Detective Leonard Butts, formerly of the Bronx, recently reassigned to a Manhattan precinct.
"Hi. How's life in the big city?"
"Yeah, very funny."
Lee liked to tease his friend about his new post, though both of them knew that his old Bronx beat was far rougher than the relatively posh Thirteenth Precinct, where he was now stationed. His new beat included the neighborhoods of Gramercy, Chelsea, and the Peter Cooper Village/Stuyvesant Town complex.
Butts cleared his throat. "Listen, I got somethin' I'd
like to run by you, if you got the time."
"Where are you?"
"Can you come to the station house?"
"I'm right around the corner. I'll just grab a bagel and meet you there."
"Ess-a-Bagel or David's?"
Butts sighed wistfully. "What kind are you getting?"
"Whole wheat, everything."
Lee could tell that Butts was struggling with his conscience.
"Can you, uh, get me one too?"
"Sure. Same thing?"
"With a schmear--thanks."
Lee smiled as he shoved the phone back into his pocket. Food was his friend's greatest weakness. He had never known anyone who loved to eat so much. At his wife's insistence, the portly detective had recently gone on a diet. He'd succeeding in dropping ten pounds, but it was a constant battle, and he complained bitterly about it.
The woman behind the counter at Ess-a-Bagel was built like a linebacker, tall and broad of shoulder, with shoulder-length, brassy blond hair. After giving his order, Lee realized he was short on cash. He pulled a credit card from his wallet and waved it at her.
"You take plastic?"
She snatched it from him. "I take everything except children and husbands. I have enough of one and no need for the other." Her accent was an unlikely combination of England's West Country and Queens. Her heavy blue eye shadow was pure Maybelline, circa 1963.
She gazed defiantly at him, her large eyes doleful under a massive layer of frosted Azure Sky. He laughed dutifully and saw her face soften as she thrust a brown paper bag of bagels at him, still warm from the oven. Saliva spurted into his mouth as he clutched the bag in one hand, signing the receipt with the other.
"Thanks," he said. "Take it easy."
"Honey, I take it any way I can get it," she said, flicking a few stray poppy seeds from her apron. "Have a nice day," she added, displaying a set of prominent teeth that might look good on a Kentucky Derby frontrunner.
"You too," he replied, and he made his escape into the frosty December air.
In this town, everyone was an armchair philosopher or a closet wit; wisecracking was a way of life, and everybody had an opinion. There were more characters in New York than there were potholes. Still, he thought as he pulled his collar up against the wind, that was one of the many reasons he loved this town.