From the International Award Winning EMILY STONE THRILLER SERIES: Vigilante detective Emily Stone has covertly hunted down killers and closed more serial cases than most seasoned homicide cops combined. Her exceptional profiling skills and forensic techniques, along with deductive crime scene investigations, have made her a compelling force that cannot be beat. She has reached her ultimate breaking point and now must face her toughest opponent yet – her biggest fears. With preciseness, the Tick-Tock Killer has taken his next child victim and promised to dump the body precisely four days later, mocking police and the community. Stone struggles to balance her inner demons and ghosts from the past, against the wits of a brutal and cunning serial killer in an all-out battle of psychological warfare. Can Stone save the next child in time? Dark Pursuit is an action-packed cat and mouse game that will take you to dark places rarely explored.
Friday 1600 Hours
Twelve clocks hung on the wall in the living room, dining room, and kitchen areas. Each timepiece was precisely set to coincide with one another down to the exact second. Some clocks had chimes; some had high-tech sounding strikes, while others emitted the incessant click of the second hand. The chronometers proved an important part of any endeavor to be on time.
The clocks collaborated, announcing it was 4:00pm on Friday.
Kevin Werner had a daily ritual. His day began when most were leaving their jobs and heading home. He preferred the late afternoon and nighttime to perform his best work.
He spent exactly one hour each day making sure that everything in the house was neat, in its proper place, and organized. His personal grooming regime of shaving, teeth brushing, and shower was included and took up exactly fourteen minutes of the designated hour. Eating a meal was a separate ritual and earned the leisure time of a separate fifteen minutes.
He moved frequently and it took him a considerable amount of time to reorganize the house to his exact requirements. Most houses he occupied were large, remote, and not occupied in months. On some occasions, the large dwellings were vacant for years. All homes had basements, strong structures, more than three bedrooms, and heavy-duty hardware at the doors and windows.
His thoughts and strategies were never far from his next intervention. The replicas, the pretenders, were everywhere and growing exponentially. They were no better than the cold blooded reptiles that crawled along on their bellies.
Carefully gliding the straight razor over his face, he counted the seconds in his head. Numbers meant nothing to him, but time was everything. He stared at his reflection in the mirror. It never became mundane or a daily chore to gaze at the outline of his impression. He enjoyed studying the perfect contours of his face, smooth skin, and the way he looked after the grooming.
Perfection steeped in its rarest forms.
His entrance into the world was on time, exactly at the stroke of midnight thirty-one years ago. The doctor had predicted his birth. Most marveled at the accuracy, but Werner knew that he was special. Not special in how the media portrayed certain people by garish television shows, or by the amount of wealth one person obtained, but special in an exceptional and profound way, that made him the real thing.
He smiled. Small creases appeared at his mouth and eyes.
Werner’s mother was one of those rare individuals that were indeed special and she had passed the yet undiscovered gene down to him. No other child could, or ever be, compared to him. She made sure of it and taught him everything he knew. She made sure that she would never have another child again.
One winter night Werner recalled with vivid color detail, after she had become pregnant, he had helped her fall down the stairs to miscarry. The thumping sound as his mother’s body tumbled down the stairs remained ingrained in his memory. Her explanation was that no other child would outshine his special qualities. Other children were only replicas, imitations and facsimiles of a person. Death and extermination was the only recourse and females were the worst replicas because they beguiled most into believing that they were good.
Werner and his mother had spent hours together, learning, talking, sleeping, and experimenting. With every passing second, the level of their extraordinary beings morphed together and had become extraordinarily magnified, they were complete. It pained him deeply that she passed away to cancer three years ago. She was his mentor, confidant, and his only true love.
Werner brushed his teeth, exactly twenty brushings per section. He spit into the sink and marveled at the precise mouth discharge around the drain. It too had a special quality to it, foaming and glistening like a rare piece of artwork from a true master. He turned on the cold water and washed it away.
Next, he carefully combed his dark brown hair in place. The last and final piece of the grooming ritual was getting dressed. He could have stayed in front of the mirror naked and admired his physique for another hour, but he had work to do. His mother showed him why he was special many times, and encouraged him to experiment with his body.
After contemplating for exactly one minute, he decided to dress and get to work. Forced to vacate his favorite visiting place, the newest obstacle, a full-grown replica, made him frown. The small cabin was a place where he and his mother visited frequently and it had a sentimental value for him.
He knew that nothing ever stayed the same, and it was his time to evolve into his next new time period. The part that angered him was that he wanted to make the decision to move to another location on his own direction – not under someone else’s timeframe.
Werner sat down at his desk, tapped the spacebar on the keyboard, and the flat screen awoke. The brightness filled the room. The monitor projected a blank background with a large digital image of the day, month, temperature, and time. He clicked on a folder labeled new project.
A photo gallery appeared.
Additional computer folders alphabetically organized were by a pseudonym and date of extermination. He knew the names of the little girl replicas, but he preferred naming them what he felt was appropriate and not their phony birth names.
He clicked on his last file entry.
An array of photographs appeared and exhibited expressions of a little girl from happy to terrified. He documented his victims with care and with the eye of a well-seasoned police photographer. The computer gave the evidence of his work from stakeouts to death. He loved to look at them when he was feeling down and missing his mother.
Jeannie Sanders was a smart little girl and tried many ways to deceive him with her pleads and even well placed compliments. She was crafty and could manipulate with her lies. Werner decided that her pseudonym would be reptilia because she spoke of honest words, but was completely cold on the inside. His favorite image was after he slit her throat – peaceful and quiet. He had contemplated whether or not cut her snake-like tongue out, but the timing was not absolute. Perhaps another time would present itself.
His eyes scanned the folders and stopped on one titled stranger. He stared at the screen for more than two minutes until it became blurry and his eyes stung from not blinking. Slowly he moved the mouse and pressed his index finger against the button to open the file.
A photo of a blonde woman lying on her side came into view.
Werner marveled at the sight of her. He had never seen a grown woman look dead before except in the movies. Her athletic body, curvy figure, firm breasts, and her bloody face kindled something deep within him. His mother warned him about women like her, clever, beautiful, resourceful, but even he could see that she was different. He thought he had taken care of her on the road. He loved the sight of the car careening over the edge. That imagery kept him fulfilled in the dark hours.
She had surprised him with her stealth and ability to find his hideout. The gun barrel pointed at him with the look of determination on her face, but he could sense that she was scared. She appeared driven, but haunted. It reflected in her dark eyes as if she had seen a ghost. Of course, no one would be able to get the upper hand against him ever because his mother watched over him, and she made sure of his safety.
Thank you Mama.
His mother had told him to act quickly and he seized the moment without hesitation. With a punch to the face, the woman fell instantly to the ground. He beat her several times and was going to kill her, but something had stopped him. A strange prickly feeling flooded through his body. Nothing like that had ever happened to him before. In an unexpected way, he felt that she was a small part of him or at least understood him. It occurred to Werner that the woman was a part of something much bigger. He spared her life and dumped her in the grave.
He knew she would be coming after him.
Werner pushed the print button on the keyboard. The buzz of the printer ejected an eight by ten photograph of Emily Stone. The piece of paper slid into the tray. He snatched up the image and studied it for exactly one minute, scrutinizing every detail from her position to the curves of her body.
“What’s your name pretty lady?” He smiled as he ran his index finger over her outline. “Don’t you worry; we will see each other again.”
Next time he would not spare her life.