NYPD Homicide detectives Carrie Blake and Tom Elway have a talent for finding serial killers. Since they’ve been partnered up two years ago, they’ve taken down four. But these days, New York City’s gotten harder, its shadows longer and darker—and more and deadlier killers are stalking its streets.
These two cops—one a third-generation cop who loves law and procedure, the other a maverick who barely toes the line—are the best of the best, chasing the worst of the worst. And this time, the trail is going to lead them way too close to home for Carrie’s comfort.
Her decorated older brother Carl hasn’t been the same since his partner Benny was brutally attacked by a perp while on duty. When a series of vigilante-style murders rocks Manhattan, the trail leads straight to Carl.
Caught between family loyalties and loyalty to the law, Carrie can’t deny the evidence. The deeper they dig into this case, the uglier the story gets—one of broken dreams, betrayal, revenge, ritualized murder, and a terrifying drug known as the Devil’s Breath.
Can they uncover the truth before more people die, or will the devil they chase steal their very lives?
An incredible edge of your seat page turner that will have you guessing right til the very end.
Release date: December 27, 2021
Print pages: 298
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Deadly Truth: An absolutely gripping crime thriller
It was like the entire environment around him was some sort of vortex, except it only looked like it was spinning without really spinning. The closest comparison Carl could think of was the funhouse back when he was a kid. Deep within the funhouse was a spinning hallway where the bridge from one door to the next was a raised platform, surrounded on all sides by a rotating cylinder decorated in terrifying psychedelic shapes and colors, creating the optical illusion that the world was spinning out from underneath your own feet.
Even now, he could see the world beyond the vortex stably going on while the world within was long and distant, colorful, hazy, and turning over and over and over, in on itself again and again. But one thing was exactly as he remembered—he did feel extremely sick.
Odd, really. He felt like his mind wanted him to vomit though his body was forbidding him from doing so. Carl felt that usually worked the other way.
He remembered his mom and dad dragging all of their kids to the Fun Fair at the same time—cheaper than hiring babysitters, although not everybody enjoyed it. Somehow, his little sister Carrie had always been paired up with him, probably because he had been old enough to take some responsibility and watch out for her. As if his idea of a vacation was keeping a little brat from crying. He took her into the funhouse as well—she wasn't tall enough for any of the other rides back then—and tried to enjoy himself. Carrie often ruined it back then, Carl thought, with her crying and getting scared by even the littlest things.
Still, though, she'd held onto him. Trusted him. It had been a new feeling to him back then, being relied on by the weak and innocent and wanting to help them.
Carl sat, staring into the spinning-not-spinning world, wondering what had brought on all those thoughts and memories. Maybe it was because they seemed to be a million miles away as well, like watching something going on in front of him that really had nothing to do with him at all. Like a movie stared at through binoculars or a television screen that was miles away, swaying in the wind. Or something like that. Something which, despite knowing it was just there in front of him and that he could reach out and touch it, just felt like another world.
It's funny, Carl thought. The thing he saw down the vortex, when he looked, when he really did try his best to focus on what was in front of him, was the car radio. Funny, because even if the world was spinning out of control, Carl figured at least the music would be perfectly fine and within earshot.
Except it sort of was . . . and wasn't. It was there, of course. It was playing. Some radio station was playing late night jazz or something. Except when it resounded in Carl's ears, it bounced around, meant little to nothing, and could have been the sound of warbling fish beneath a churning ocean for all he knew.
It was just like the visuals, there and not there at the same time, floating around, lost and pointless.
Carl's mind drifted back to the old funhouse from his family trip and realized it kinda sounded like that there as well, with machines churning to spin all the wacky components of that building intermingling with badly orchestrated music and sound effects designed to be scary but not frightening enough to actually cause trauma and a lawsuit. And thus, it all just became kind of annoying. Carl remembered Carrie finding it rather annoying as well and sharing that information with her whining and persistent nagging to just go back to Mom and Dad.
Right now, in front of this radio in this moving car, in this spinning world, Carl wasn't sure where he was or where he was going. He wished he could, though. And more so than that, he wished he could see his family again. Even his sister would be a sight for sore eyes. The terror of the funhouse.
She didn't deserve this.
"I just . . ." Carl found himself muttering. Again, his voice sounded like it was somewhere else, far beyond the reach of the spinning world. "I just wanna go home."
"Don't worry, we're going home soon. Just gotta take care of something first, and then we're going home."
Well, that's good, Carl thought. This'll only take a moment.
The music on the car radio slowed down and reached its conclusion, resulting in a rather lovely little jazz piece playing its way out. There was a round of applause in the darkness. Carl couldn't figure out if this was a recording of a live concert playing out on the radio or if he actually had other people in the car with him, all tuning in, all applauding politely to the string arrangement, all, like the world, miles away.
As the next little tune began to perk up, starting with some soft piano playing and joined by a base thereafter, it launched into a lovely little concert piece that resulted in the audience beginning a friendly applause of glee at hearing a popular tune commence, which, Carl thought, he probably wouldn't be able to recognize even if it didn't sound like every literal song in history playing at the same time and flooding the air with noise. Mercifully, it didn't last long because Carl felt a slight lurch before the car shut off and took the radio with it.
Now at peace from the music, Carl could focus on how uncomfortably dry his throat was and how badly he wanted water right now.
"Step out of the car and head inside."
Okay, Carl thought. His arm stretched a million miles and steadied a previously spinning door as he opened it and came out into the world around him.
Somewhere far up above, it was like the sky was a glass dome encircling the city. It was colored over in the deep night sky and barely allowed for any stars to pop through the illumination of New York's brilliant lights. Even the city skyline itself was just painted onto the inside of the dome, at once alive but also fictional and unreliable. The glass dome still spun, as did everything else on this rocky walkway.
Carl kept on, out the car and into a dockside warehouse which was only illuminated by moonlight pouring in through the windows high up above. Despite this, there was little to see except for storage areas for shipping containers and vehicles for moving them.
Somewhere off in the back corner of the warehouse, there was some shuffling. Carl moved in its direction, floating off the ground as if in a dream. He was still thirsty.
Somewhere below his belt, a gun was pressed into his hand.
Carl rounded some storage cartons and barrels and made his way to the back of the warehouse, where he thought at first that the entire back corner of the warehouse was filled to the walls with shipping containers. As he drew closer, the containers seemed to open for him, floating as he did, allowing him entrance to a secret passageway that dug deeper into the containers, creating a sort of hallway leading to . . . somewhere. Carl had no idea where he was. He didn't even know why he came.
"Keep going, almost there."
But at least he was almost there. Wherever there was.
The shuffling off in the darkness was becoming more pronounced. As was the weight of the gun in his hand. Carl wondered if they had anything to do with each other.
"Yah, man," came a drawling voice from somewhere deep within the darkness of the artificial hallway, around another corner of crates. "Kee-ouh? Kee-ouh, that you, man? I–I got the money this time. I can pay you for next time too, so we—"
Carl rounded the corner and stared through an infinite spinning of colors and darkness into the eyes of a shamble of a man standing at a dead end surrounded by the high-stacked walls of the shipping containers. Carl couldn't understand for the life of him why this man—or anybody, really—would agree to put themselves into this place, trapped on all sides by the ugliest of metal walls. Did he live here? Who was he? He was too far away to see clearly. But even in the dark, he could see his bloodshot eyes go wide with terror as he looked right at him.
"Sorry, Oroville Jones, I'm afraid you won't be seeing Keenan Otis anytime soon. He died a while back, and I just used him to get you here alone."
Oh, yeah, Carl thought. This was Oroville. That guy . . . he knew him. Funny meeting him here. Looked scared to death, really.
Carl approached closer. Oroville began scanning his surroundings as if he didn't already know he was surrounded by metal. The only way out of here was to go past Carl and head out the way he came in. Carl wondered why Oroville was just standing there. After all, it wasn’t like he would stop him.
"Pick up your gun."
It was a whisper, but Carl thought that was fine. He pointed his gun at Oroville, who stopped looking terrified and then changed to looking something that Carl rarely saw in real life, something he couldn't quite put his finger on. If only Oroville weren’t floating closer and away from him at the same time like that.
What would he call that look? Carl thought. Sad? No, not sad, though obviously depressed.
"C'mon, man," Oroville whimpered. "Please, I don't even know ya. I jus' didn't wanna go back."
"Yeah, I figured. It could have been anybody, right? Wrong place, wrong time? That kinda thing?"
Bitter? Angry? All of these were applicable, all of them were there, but there was still something else . . .
"But see, here's the thing, Oroville. If it's any consolation, this isn't about you either. I admit, it was once. But that's all over with now, for a long, long time."
"Now, at this point, if I had to be honest with you, Oroville . . . it could have been anybody. And I'd still be here doing this. Now that I can. Literally . . . anybody."
Oh, I know, Carl thought, smiling. Resigned!
Carl fired and watched as Oroville Jones flew back, his chest bursting with blood as he fell to the floor.
"What? No, come on! In the head! Put two in the head!"
Okay, Carl thought. He walked over quickly to Oroville, who was crying out in pain, clutching at his bleeding chest wound. When he was over top of him, Oroville shook violently, terror crossing his face as he reached out, trying to block the next shot with his open palm, as if that would change anything. At the very least, Carl knew well enough that a shaking target like this would make for a difficult shot and waste bullets.
So, he reached out with his foot and pressed down on Oroville's trachea.
Carl saw all of this happening and yet still felt like he was floating far, far away.
Oroville gasped pitifully, scratching at Carl's jeans, struggling to get him off his neck. "Please," he managed to wheeze out, crying and gnashing his blood-soaked teeth.
It looked awful, Carl thought, but at least he was in a single spot. Two quick shots later, the man wasn't moving at all.
Carl looked at his other hand and saw what he thought might be a large plastic bag. That's odd, he thought. He didn't have a thick plastic bag that he could recall. Still, it was there. Started to feel real, too.
"Get him in there before he bleeds out. Then get him in the back of the van."
Carl flew down from wherever he was spinning and slid the body of Oroville Jones into the large plastic bag. It was thicker than what a normal garbage bag was, harder plastic, he thought, like the material of a tarp. It was especially large, capable of comfortably fitting the man within. Either that, or the man was rather small. He certainly felt frail enough, bony and malnourished, as if he had been suffering for quite some time now.
As Carl hoisted the body into his arms, he wondered how he himself was doing. He still felt like he was somewhere else but slowly coming back. The world was taking form again, bit by bit, the full pressure of the body weighing down his arms. His throat remained as dry as ever, and he was even starting to feel a bit nauseous. Carl wondered if that was because of the gooey sensation of the bag filling with the man's blood or if he just hadn't realized he may have felt nauseous for ages.
He came back to the van, and the doors were open—Carl didn't remember leaving the doors open. He threw the body in the back, nonchalant. He left for the front seat, and the doors closed somewhere behind him.
In the passenger side seat, Carl listened to the engine roar to life, and the radio came back on. It was, somehow, the same tempo of the same jazz song from before. Either this was a very long Jazz song or that whole thing in the warehouse didn't take up much time at all. Either way, the music was starting to come in a little clearer. Only a little, though.
The van didn't travel too far before stopping again. Too bad, Carl thought. He was just starting to get used to this little jazz station. He found himself stepping out of the van again. This time, the sea air was more pronounced. The car had stopped only a little bit away from the edge of a pier by the Hudson River. It had a rather grungy, dirty aroma, but it was also unmistakably the river he grew up with and loved. All those memories, Carl thought. Walks along the piers. The Fun Fair. His kid sister. Helping the innocent, protecting the law. Why is it all far away now, like a dream? he thought.
"Get over here and weigh him down."
Carl obediently went over to the back of the van where the bag of Oroville Jones was already conveniently out and on the ground. Opening it up, Carl began to put heavy stones into the bag alongside the now drenched-in-his-own-blood corpse. He wasn't sure how many stones to use. He just knew it had to be heavy.
Eventually, Carl felt some pressure on his shoulders. Firm, but still reassuring, paternal. He eagerly wished to feel this protection upon him again and obeyed the silent command that this was probably enough stones. Why is this sensation so familiar to me? he thought. And why did he want it so badly? Like he didn't want anything else in the world.
Carrying the body of Oroville Jones was reasonably easy to do back in the warehouse, but now, the bag of plastic was quite heavy with several pounds of stones, and Carl quickly found out the hard way that he'd never be able to carry it. Rather, he dragged it as hard as he could across a wooden pier, each wooden board groaning under the weight of the admittedly very resilient plastic bag.
Finally, Carl got to the edge, and with a final heave, he shoved it into the water.
The splash caused rings to emanate from where the body had fallen in, focusing with each ebb and flow of water a central focal point. Carl couldn't take his eyes off the center, where the figure of the flooded bag began to sink down, down into the dark water until it was no longer discernible among the black, inky void of the Hudson River.
Carl, however, found himself seeing the water like he had never seen it before, like he was seeing it for the very first time again. Like he was that kid again, innocent, filled with happiness and childish petulance, with his own memories and stories, now watching as the world slowly began to take focus again. The night sky was wide, the skyline was real, and deep down in the depths of the water, it was like a story, another person's story, a story of murder and horror was taking place.
Carl looked down into his hands. Are these the same hands, he thought, that held my sister's hand through a funhouse? “Did," he whimpered, watching his hands begin to shake. "Did I just . . . what just . . ."
"It's all right. You're just sleepwalking again. It was all a dream. C'mon, let's get you home."
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