A tour-de-force thriller about a female medic on a SWAT team and the dangers (and inner demons) she must confront--perfect for Tami Hoag fans.
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St. Martin's Press
February 28, 2003
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Excerpt from With a Vengeance by Eileen Dreyer
It was the cicadas that pushed everything into critical mass.
The cicadas and a paranoid schizophrenic.
The cicadas, a paranoid schizophrenic, and a hat made of defective aluminum foil.
But mostly, it was the cicadas.
St. Louis in the summer is miserable enough. Hot, humid, and suffocatingly still, it resembles an anteroom to hell. Tempers shorten. Frustrations sharpen. What would be annoying any other time becomes unbearable.
But that summer was even worse. A cicada population of biblical proportions had awakened from two separate periods of dormancy to drive every person in the bistate region to violence. Breeding and eating at a ferocious rate in their hurry to mate and die, the insects whined out a satanic symphony of grinding dissonance that could incite a saint to suicide.
Within days, minor car accidents escalated to hostage situations, suburban soccer moms were arrested on felony weapons violations, and sporting events saw more action in the stands than on the field. The recently declining violent crime numbers swept right back up, police ran double shifts, and emergency departments started stockpiling antipsychotic drugs like nuclear arms.
Which meant that nobody was really surprised when the disturbance call went out at 11:32 A.M. on a late-July morning for the four hundred block of Ohio Avenue on the city's south side. A bare-bones kind of street, Ohio boasted faded brick multiple-family dwellings that housed the substrata of people hanging on to the fringes by their fingertips; new immigrants, ex-project inhabitants, chronic defaulters. In a word, the kind of block where disturbance calls were as common as bill collectors.
Usually, though, the calls came long after lunch, when the avenue's less wholesome tenants woke from their nightly revelries. Eleven-thirty was a little early, even on this kind of hot, still, muggy day.
But then, the cicadas were out.
The responding unit arrived on the scene at precisely 11:53 A.M. to be met by a young black woman up to her elbows in toddlers, and one teary-eyed ten-year-old in a pom-pom skirt. A baby on one hip and a hand on the other, the mother didn't bother to wait for the cops to get all the way out of the car before she started in on them.
"He crazy!" she shrieked, waving her free hand at the undersized cheerleader who slumped next to her. "He tried to boil my baby, say she a devil, and all she done was try and sell him some damn candy bars. You get in there and drag his skinny white ass down here 'fore I boil it myself, you hear My Sherees, she gotta sell forty bars by tomorrow, and he got the whole box in there, that crazy fucker."
Busy slipping batons into belts and caps onto heads, the cops, a rare two-person ride that consisted of a young white male and a more mature black woman, nodded like synchronized swimmers.