Series: Jeff Trask Crime Drama #7
Published by Self Published Genres: Crime Drama
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The best Jeff Trask novel yet!
For those who love Law & Order, the Jeff Trask Crime Dramas are just what you need to satisfy your inner investigator. It has the perfect fusion of crime and courtroom drama.
In this latest story, Jeff will be part of the investigation and prosecution of not just one but two serial killers working in Kansas City, Missouri. The fact that this story is based upon real life investigations and trials is horrifying. The whole first chapter makes me want to lock the door, climb into bed and hide under the covers from the cold-blooded, two-legged monsters that roam our planet.
Jeff’s new job as the U.S. Attorney’s Senior Litigation Counsel has him working with the Career Criminal Unit (or CCU). The CCU is made up of a mix of FBI, DEA, ATF, ICE, U.S. Marshals and local police working together in a way that helps catch the criminals rather than just power play off each other. Jeff’s current case has him in the middle of prosecuting a gang member known as WaSean “Gloomy” Stewart who is just a teen but who already has several brutal murders under his belt. Since those murders take place in furtherance of Gloomy’s job, trafficking drugs from the local Crips, that makes it a Federal prosecution. Federal crimes vs State crimes is something Jeff has to keep reminding the CCU team, because they keep coming back to Jeff on how to handle their current investigation of a serial killer known as The Butcher. The Butcher has been picking up prostitutes, chopping them up and dumping pieces of them in various dump sites.
Since serial killers come under county jurisdiction, Jeff can’t actually be involved in The Butcher’s investigation. The fact that they keep contacting Jeff to discuss their concerns about the case, leaves Jeff in the position of stepping on some toes, and in this novel, those toes belong to a former rival of Jeff’s from Washington D.C. who was just granted a political position as Jeff’s boss. Raymond Marsh hates Jeff since Jeff has shown Marsh up to be a lazy prosecutor and he would happily use any excuse to have Jeff removed from his position.
I am a big fan of shows like Criminal Minds and CSI but really love the balance of the law enforcement and the judicial side of investigations like we see in a show like Law & Order. I really enjoy the blending of everything that needs to come together to find the criminals and put them away. In the Jeff Trask Crime Drama, Jeff is a vastly experienced and hard working Prosecutor but he needs a crack team of investigators to get him everything he would need to bring the guilty to trial with enough evidence to get a conviction. Since Marc Rainer is the pen name for an actual former U.S. Prosecutor, the trial portion of the stories is brimming with explanation and insight into our actual judicial system. When Jeff explains to the investigative team that they can’t just go forward with the evidence we have, it’s “we can’t go forward with the evidence we have because…” This will then go on with explanations of trial law and hearings. While no one is going to be able to go practice law after reading a Jeff Trask novel, we do get a real appreciation of how hard the police and the prosecutors need to work go get their jobs done.
This story is big change to the usual storylines since Jeff Trask is a Federal Prosecutor and wouldn’t normally be involved in a serial killer case, except as we see in the Gloomy case involving drug trafficking. Not that there wasn’t excitement to the prior stories, but there is something about looking into the dark void of a serial killer’s mind that terrifies us on a primal level and yet we can’t look away. We just pray we never have to look directly into their soulless eyes. Adding in the POV from both killers, as well as several of the Butcher’s victims, adds a gruesome level to the story and highlights our basic fear of helplessness.
I also have a love/hate for any author who doesn’t consider any character sacred. Knowing anyone could become a victim at any time keeps the tension high as there is always a feeling of foreboding. I remember watching Showtime’s Dexter series where a major character was murdered by another serial killer. My husband knew what was coming and was watching my reaction to what was about to happen. When it was over, he wanted to know if I was aware I was rocking through the whole scene. I wasn’t at the time, but I will tell you there were several rocking moments during this novel. There was one victim taken by The Butcher and I couldn’t imagine we would have to live with their death and mutilation so we must be getting close to catching him, right? Nope, body parts in the dumpster. *more rocking*
I really enjoy the characters in this series as well as the writing style in bringing these characters and their stories to life. While I would recommend grabbing the whole series, you could read The Grinding Wheel as a stand alone.
The first of her senses to return was her sight, and she opened her eyes into a nightmare.
She was groggy and disoriented as the drugs started to wear off. She slowly realized she was lying on her back, and as her head cleared, she began trying to make some sense of what she saw above her.
She saw an image above her on the ceiling. A young woman was bound—no those aren’t ropes; they’re leather belts, so she’s not tied, she’s strapped down—to a table. The table looked like it was made of metal—stainless steel, maybe—with wings reaching out from the top so that the woman was positioned as if she was on a cross. The leather belts around her wrists, ankles and forehead held her hands, head, and feet in position on the table.
Her head throbbed for a moment, and she tried to bring her right hand to her forehead. Her hand refused to move. She jerked her head from side to side, moving it only slightly, but just enough to confirm that she was the woman strapped to the table. The image above her was not a poster or a photograph, but a reflection in a large mirror suspended on steel chains that hung through the tiles of a suspended acoustic ceiling.
She stared at the edges of the mirror, starting to panic, and looking for something she could use to understand her situation. She could see the sides of the room, but because the mirror was hung so that her head was at the top edge of the reflection, she had no view of the area behind her, past the head of the table. The reflection showed that she was in a long narrow room. The walls were made of concrete cinder blocks, painted in a faint shade of green so long ago that more bare concrete than paint was now showing. There was a counter along the side to her left, with tools and machines mounted on a workbench. Something was hanging on a coat tree near the wall at the far end of the bench. Two large freezers lined the other side of the room. Between them was the door to a pen of some kind, big enough for a large dog.
A severed deer head was looking at her in the mirror from the top of one of the freezers. She smelled a dark, sweet odor, and decided it was the stale stench of blood. There were a couple of deer heads mounted on the walls, so she assumed that the odor was probably from the processing of venison.
She felt her pulse and her breathing racing.
Easy, girl. Probably just another kinky john. He must have slipped me something. Let him have his fun, keep your cool, and get out of this and go home. Don’t worry about the money. Wait for your chance and just go. Give him what he wants and just get the hell out of here.
She scanned the mirror again.
Where is the creep, anyway?
She wondered whether she should call for help. She had no idea where she was. If he heard her, would it make him mad? Maybe he was close by and was waiting for her to wake up.
At least that would get this party started, she thought, and then that would get it over with.
“HEY!! HEY!! Anybody?!!”
“Is anybody there? Please?!”
Unoiled hinges creaked on a door at the end of the room past her feet.
She strained her head against the restraining belt to get a look at the lower edge of the mirror. It looked down on a pudgy man with long, stringy gray hair surrounding a bald spot. He was dressed in dirty bib overalls. She followed him as he walked the length of the metal table, disappearing as he passed her head and the top of the mirror image. She heard a door open and close on squeaking hinges at that end of the room, and a strong chemical odor filled her nostrils. Moments later, the door hinges creaked again.
He was suddenly leering at her over her left shoulder, looking down into her eyes. He said nothing, but just stood above her, studying her face. He turned away just as suddenly as he had appeared. She looked at the mirror again and saw him reappear by the counter on her left side. She heard some machinery start up—a high-pitched, whining sound—and she felt her breathing racing once more.
“Hey, now. You wanted some fun, why don’t we just do that and then you can take me home? Hell, you don’t even have to drive me. Just let me give you want you want and then let me go, okay? Please?”
There was no response from him. Instead, she saw him grab something from the top of the workbench and she heard what she thought was the grinding of metal on another surface. He walked past her, disappearing once more from the mirror.
He was suddenly by her head again, leaning over her and staring into her eyes.
“WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME?!!” she finally screamed.
She saw a light flash in his eyes as her cry echoed off the walls. The lids of his eyes narrowed, and the corners of his mouth turned up a bit, almost into a smile.
I get it, she thought. He wants me to show fear. That’s not going to be a problem here …
She screamed again, involuntarily this time, as his right hand suddenly flashed close to her face. He was holding an enormous pair of shears. He pressed the flat edges of the blades into her cheek, still staring into her eyes and measuring her reaction.
“WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!! WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME?!!” she screamed, twisting her torso and pulling against the straps on her wrists.
She tried to turn her head so that she wouldn’t have to look at his face, but the belt had her skull locked in position. He remained above her, looking intently into her eyes as he brought the shears back above her face. He began opening and closing the blades—slowly at first, then more rapidly—the shears making an angry clacking sound as they slammed together. He lowered the blades close to her face, making her fear that she was about to lose her nose. She screamed again, a terrified wail this time.
He was out of view again for a second. She closed her eyes, sobbing.
When she opened them, he was by her feet, waiting for her to look at him. She strained her eyes down past her cheeks, pulling against the head strap, shifting her gaze first down her body then up to the mirror, trying to see what he was going to do next.
He raised his eyes to the mirror so that he could see hers. He held up the shears again, clacking them open and shut. He saw the terror on her face, nodded, and then began cutting the right leg of her jeans, beginning at the bottom seam, and working his way toward her waist. He worked methodically, cutting slowly through the denim, making sure that the bottom blade of the shears pressed into her leg with every snip, not cutting her, but threatening to puncture her skin with every movement.
A horrible realization hit her like a lightning bolt.
He’s destroying my clothes. I’ll have nothing to wear if I leave this place. That’s because he has no plans of ever LETTING me leave this place!
She said a prayer. She couldn’t remember the last time she had prayed, but she prayed now with every fiber that remained in her soul.
He reached the top of her jeans and cut through the waistband. He turned back toward the foot of the table and began repeating the process on the left side of her jeans.
“You don’t have to do this. Please,” she begged, whimpering pitifully.
He looked at her eyes again in the reflection in the mirror above them, keeping his gaze fixed on her face as he cut another few inches of the jeans leg. Three more bites of the shears brought him back again to the waistband, and a final cut severed the band.
He laid the shears down on the table beside her for a moment and returned to her feet. He untied her sneakers and pulled them off, dropping them onto the floor. He pulled the cotton socks from her feet and dropped them before grabbing the inside seams of her severed jeans—one side in each hand—and jerking them from under her in a single motion.
She screamed again.
He went back to the bench. She strained to watch him and saw him hunched over a power tool. She recognized it as a bench grinder, a tool she had seen as a child in her grandfather’s workshop. She heard the whine of metal on the stone. She screamed once more, and suddenly realized that the scream of the bench grinder was roughly matching her own. She strained her eyes toward the left of the mirror; he was looking at her reflection again.
She saw in the mirror that his right foot was on a pedal on the floor—a pedal with a wire running up to the bench grinder.
She screamed again, crying for help, and noticed that he was pressing the pedal, trying to elevate the pitch of the grinder to match the notes of her own cries. He saw that she had discovered his game, and smiled as he stared at her, revealing a set of brown, badly formed teeth.
“YOU SICK BASTARD!” she shrieked.
He came back to the table with the sharpened shears and began cutting her blouse, bottom to top first, then each sleeve, still moving slowly, methodically. He pulled the dissected garment off her, leaving her lying on the table in only her thong and bra. He took the shears back to the grinder.
He doesn’t need to sharpen those damn things again for my underwear, he only wants me to scream some more. I’m not going to play that game. Two snips and I’m naked.
“I know what you’re trying to get with that thing,” she said, her voice as steady and even as she could make it. “I’m not going to give you the satisfaction. If you have to play a rape game to get your little rocks off, I can play that with you. If you have something worse in mind, then just get it the hell over with. I’m done giving you anything else. You’re just a pathetic, sick, disgusting LITTLE SHIT!”
His eyes darkened, burning with rage. Whatever rays of light in them that had been generated by her fear disappeared completely.
Oh, God! What have I done? Did I blow my last chance with him?
She tried another futile pull with each arm against the belts on her wrists, involuntarily whimpering again.
The grinder stopped and he disappeared again. She rolled her eyes back toward the top of her head and tried to shift her head from side to side.
He always comes from that direction … where is he? God, please help me!
The shears were the first thing back in her view, plunging by her face and slicing her bra in two as he cut the fabric between the cups. The shoulder straps were next. He immediately walked to the center of the table and cut the side straps of her thong. He put the shears down again and pulled the bra and thong from under her in two violent jerks.
She whimpered, but fought back the impulse to scream again, staring instead at him with a glare of defiance.
He walked back to the head of the table, leaning over her head and peering once more into her eyes. She refused to meet his gaze, turning her eyes away from his.
He was suddenly gone again, then he was back at the bench grinder, hiding his work this time with his body. The grinder continued its wail for several minutes, and she saw him put something down behind it on the work bench. Then she saw him walk to the end of the bench and take something off the coat tree.
It hadn’t had a discernible form before, but as he put the garment on, she could tell that it was a large apron—an apron covered in dark brown, dried stains.
Those are BLOOD stains!
He reached to the top of the coat tree and pulled off a set of goggles. He walked back past the grinder and picked up something before disappearing again beyond the head of the table.
She waited, whimpering involuntarily. Nothing happened. She heard nothing, saw nothing. She looked up again at her naked form stretched out on the table.
It can’t end like this. Maybe he left. God, I hope he left.
She screamed again.
He was back above her, a hideous, hovering figure in the goggles and a dirty surgical mask. He was holding the biggest meat cleaver she had ever seen.