Friday, May 27, 2016

An Excerpt from Fertile Ground by B.E. Sanderson

Omnimystery News: An Excerpt courtesy of B.E. Sanderson

We are delighted to welcome author B.E. Sanderson to Omnimystery News today.

B.E.'s second entry in her S.C.I.U. series is Fertile Ground (May 2016 ebook format) and we are pleased to introduce you to it with an excerpt, the first two chapters.

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THE WOMAN STROLLED PAST ADAM TOWARD the produce aisle, the essence of her fertility wafting through the air like a perfume. He waited until she stopped to squeeze the cantaloupes before he followed. The fruit she fondled couldn't be nearly as ripe as she was, but by all appearances, the melons were more attractive.
  Today she wore her hair pulled back in a tight, unflattering ponytail, and her baggy clothing hid her as well as any camouflage. But he saw the female for what she was. A perfect vessel he'd spent weeks carefully choosing. Whether in this butt-ugly guise or when he'd first seen the girl with a simple dress flowing around those shapely bare legs, the essence of her femininity called to him. He wouldn't need to actually look at her. Not for long, anyway. Finding these women attractive had never been a requirement. He only needed to get inside and plant his seed. Then he could be done with her. For now.
  Nine months down the road, she'd bear a child in his image. They all did. And that's all that mattered.
  Seven weeks ago this girl had simply been another prey animal passing through his hunting grounds. She'd claimed his notice then, but he'd already had a target in mind. Since then, he had insured the other girl would be draped over the porcelain, proving that her womb bore his fruit. Time to move on to this next vessel.
  When the brunette squeezed a tomato to test its ripeness, he smiled. Even as dedicated to his mission as Adam was, he could spare a moment to appreciate the irony. Most likely the girl didn't possess the self-awareness to know how ripe her own body had become.
  Fertile ground. Like the others. And exactly like the others, she couldn't be bothered to keep track of her cycles. Women never watched for the signs. They never bothered to understand God's rhythm or His plan for the female of the human bond.
  Only Adam understood the Lord's intentions.
  "Be fruitful and multiply," he said on a whisper of breath as the girl painstakingly chose a half dozen apples, placed them carefully into a bag, and gently set it in her cart. Those meticulous hands would someday hold his son.
  A soft smile crept over his lips as he imagined his boy's sturdy legs taking their first steps. The toddler's smile of too-few teeth would express the initial joy of becoming a man and leaving the life of an animal behind.
  For the first few years, children were little more than the monkeys some claimed mankind descended from. Adam knew better. The beginning of a man's life amounted to a test. He could choose to crawl like an animal or not. Walking upright signified the passage from base creature into the greater ideals of God's plan.
  Adam's sons would know their true place in the world. The women could raise them through those monkey years. Time enough to claim them once they joined the human race. Once they became men.
  "Excuse me." The shy voice was so close he jumped. "Oh! I'm sorry. I didn't mean to startle you."
  He steeled himself against the annoyance welling up. Pasting on a deprecating smile, he tilted his head. "Not a problem. I was trying to decide if I want salad for dinner tonight."
  "It's just that … Do I know you from somewhere?"
  This wasn't the first member of his herd to recognize him. Sometimes, he let them stumble across him on purpose. It made the hunt so much more exciting. Gazing at her carefully, he pretended to try and place her face. "Were you at the protest on campus a couple months ago?"
  Her lush mouth split into a wide smile filled with the perfect teeth he hoped were natural. "Right. Over at Eastern. I figured that was you. Funny running into you here."
  "I was thinking that exact thing myself." Enough people populated the metro-Detroit area they never would've crossed paths accidentally, but letting her think his appearance was a coincidence or fate played into his plans.
  "Do you live near here, too?" Her green eyes narrowed under sculpted eyebrows. "Weird that I haven't seen you before."
  "I travel around the area for work. I happened to be driving by on my way east, saw this place, and got the idea to grab something for dinner." The words dropped smoothly from his mouth. He'd spoken the same lies too many times before for them to come out as anything but natural. Of course, it helped that they weren't total falsehoods. He did travel for work and he was hungry.
  "I live a couple blocks from here," she said, nodding in the general direction of her apartment. He pasted a surprised look on his face, as if he hadn't spent the previous night in her backyard watching her.
  "Small world." He grabbed a tomato and a bag of lettuce. "Well. Gotta get back on the road. It was nice running into you."
  "Sure. Next time you're in the area, look me up." Her words sounded friendly enough, but he knew she didn't want to see him again. None of them wanted to.
  But they all did.
  
CHAPTER TWO
  
A baby wailed its displeasure, jerking Agent Teri Buchanan upright and causing her to hammer both shins on the seat in front of her. The businessman there craned his head around to glare at the source of his discomfort. She grimaced back. Nothing like a red-eye flight to bring out the best in people. Nothing like a lack of coffee to bring out the worst in Teri.
  Still, she must've slept. And so deeply that she'd missed the pilot's standard 'we're beginning our descent' speech. The problem was she didn't feel the slightest bit rested. Wired, maybe. Keyed-up, definitely.
  Popping a hard candy into her mouth, she readied herself for her first arrival into Detroit. She certainly didn't need to wade through crowds in a strange airport with her ears plugged from air pressure. That kind of headache she could live without, especially if she wanted to make a good impression on her first day in a new assignment.
  Her watch said 5:42 when the plane landed. The timepiece, along with the rest of her, was still on Dallas time. Adding an hour, she did a little more math and calculated she had barely enough time to make it to her new office before the conference call from Director Walter Graham. She'd seen the man on Friday, for petesakes, but a text the day before her Monday flight made it clear he wanted her in this meeting.
  The question was 'why?'
  "I really appreciate your assistance with staffing this branch, Teri," he'd said. He acted like she didn't have an ulterior motive for getting the flock out of Texas. They both pretended the move had only been to improve her skills and advance her career. When she thanked him, neither delved too deeply into her gratitude.
  Teri had her reasons. She needed to get away from Dallas. If only to get out from under the shadow of Graham's golden girl, Jace Douglas, and shine in an environment all her own. If she had to hear about how Jace had brought down the car-be-que killer one more time, she might scream. If she had to watch the woman, who had everything Teri could never have, parade around the office doing everything right, she'd implode. Hell, the woman had even come back from the case with a new partner — both personally and professionally.
  She'd hate the woman if Jace wasn't so damn good at her job.
  What she couldn't afford to admit, even to herself, was that Jace had nothing to do with her need to transfer. Teri was running from the weight of her past. And putting as much distance as she could between herself and him.
  Even as she pushed herself out of her too-small airplane seat and tugged her carry-on from the overhead compartment, she could still hear his breathy grunts in her ear. She could feel his weight upon her —
  A wayward elbow to her ribs pulled her back into focus. If she allowed herself to fall into old memories best left to rot, she'd never get the hell off the flying sausage casing.
  Following the sea of lemmings through the terminal, she made it to baggage claim ahead of her belongings. One of her bags tumbled out onto the conveyor before too long. The other had to have been the last bag unloaded from the plane, and it looked like a gorilla had used it for a trampoline. Cursing her dumb luck and lack of time, she made a mental note to harass the airline later and scurried for the taxi area.
  Not long after, she slid into the back of a cab and headed east toward the city. The Detroit office, according to her orientation packet, wasn't actually in the city proper. It was tucked into a suburban industrial park on the western outskirts of the metropolis. That suited her fine. From what she'd heard, Detroit wasn't the safest of cities to live or work in.
  Exactly the sort of place to put a new branch of the S.C.I.U., though.
  A quick glance at her compact showed the ravages of red-eye travel. Her shoulder-length hair had taken on a luster that leaned more toward dirty-dishwater than the ash-blonde she paid good money for. The bags under her eyes were only slightly less heavy than her luggage. And at some point, her skin had lost the rosy-glow one would hope for on the first day at a new job.
  Pawing through her purse like a raccoon after crayfish, she located what few cosmetics the TSA would allow through to the gates and did her best to recreate Agent Teri Buchanan of the Serial Crimes Investigation Unit. Another glance in the mirror told her the effort was pointless. She looked more like the witness to a horrible crime than a woman who investigated them.
  The taxi pulled in front of the Detroit branch of the S.C.I.U. with five minutes to spare. Not enough time for her to find her office and settle in, but hopefully enough to secure a cup of strong coffee before facing the Director. Graham wasn't exactly a hard-ass to work for, but she didn't want to push the boundaries by straggling in all bleary-eyed and caffeine-deprived.
  "May I help you?" said an elderly woman seated behind a counter more suited to an insurance agency than a branch of Homeland Security. To one side was a bouquet of flowers in a bright mug declaring her the World's Best Grandma. To the other sat a plate of cookies.
  Teri refrained from shaking her head. This wasn't Dallas. This was Detroit, and the sooner she got used to how things were done around here the better off she'd be.
  "Agent Teri Buchanan." She smiled as brightly as the morning would allow. "I'm supposed to be in the nine o'clock conference call, but I don't have time to visit my office. Can I stow my bags here?"
  "Agent who?" The woman gave her a thorough once-over, pursing her lips when her gaze landed on the wrinkled skirt and rumpled blazer. She flipped through some notes and lifted an eyebrow. "I'm sorry. I don't have an agent here by that name. And everyone is in a meeting right now. If you'll have a seat, I'll have someone come talk to you when their meeting is over."
  Coffee. I need coffee.
  "No. I'm Agent Buchanan. I need to report to Supervisory Agent Richard Jensen —"
  "I'm sorry, miss, but he's in a meeting."
  Oh, holy shit.
  "Yes. I'm aware he's in a meeting. I also need to be in that meeting." Her luggage could sit in the waiting area until later. "Could you point me in the direction of the conference room?"
  "No visitors allowed past the foyer, miss. If you give me your name … "
  "Agent. Teri. Buchanan."
  The woman smiled. "That's funny. We have an Agent Terry Buckman starting today but he's late."
  Teri opened her mouth to calmly explain to the woman that she was the missing agent, but closed it upon realizing she was in no shape to pull off 'calmly'. When the woman told her to have a seat again, she almost forgot the need to make a good first impression. Lucky for her, a man in a charcoal gray suit chose that moment to stride up.
  "Marty? Any word from Agent Buchanan?"
  "Buckman," the older woman corrected.
  Teri stepped closer to the counter and presented her hand. "Agent Teri Buchanan. Are you SSA Jensen, by any chance?"
  The man gave a sidelong glance to his receptionist and accepted Teri's handshake. "Call me Rick. If you'll follow me, the Director's already on the line." She pointed to her bags. "Bring those inside and leave them. We'll take care of everything after the meeting."
  Ignoring the receptionist's confused look Teri stepped to the security door as Jensen — she couldn't imagine calling him 'Rick' — waved her inside. The suitcase that would still roll moved a few feet before its handle snapped and it collapsed under the weight of its damaged brethren.
  Expletives flew before Teri could stop them. After she and her new boss dragged the lost causes through into the main offices, she gave the pieces of shit a kick and stubbed her toe, causing a stream of expletives to spew forth.
  "Sorry about that." Whether he assumed she meant the faulty luggage or her sailor's mouth, she couldn't guess. She wasn't quite sure which apology would carry more weight with the man anyway.
  To her surprise, he laughed. "Not a problem. We've all had those days. Today is yours."
  She prayed he didn't know that this was only one of many she'd had over the course of the past year. If someone had asked her twelve months before whether she'd ever leave Dallas, the answer would've been a firm 'no'. Her attack had been bad enough, but after the sham of a trial and her months of therapy, and after seeing her hopes of becoming the golden girl at headquarters fall to someone else, she had jumped at the chance to leave. She was counting on Detroit being a new start and a fresh chance.
  Jensen led the way through to what appeared to be the bullpen of a telemarketing firm — minus the actual employees. Rows of empty cubicles sat as if waiting for a population that had suddenly disappeared. Along the walls, she could see doors to offices and conference rooms. The smell of coffee drifted from a corner room as they passed.
  "Sorry we don't have time for the nickel tour," he said.
  Teri couldn't care less about the tour, but she would've loved a minute for some java. Too bad for her caffeine addiction, speaking up now wouldn't endear her to the man in charge. Maybe a more relaxed man, like she suspected Jensen might be, could've overlooked it, but Director Graham wasn't to be kept waiting. Not waiting for long, anyway, unless you wanted an assignment in Backwater, USA, ferreting out the cause of a decline in the prairie dog population.
  Sucking it up, she continued to trail along behind her boss until he stopped at a corner door. The room inside would've been spacious if not for the large conference table in the middle, or the dozen chairs scattered around it with only half of them occupied. The flat screen monitor occupying one wall added to the claustrophobic feeling. Walter Graham's face blown up to obscene dimensions made her want to run.
  One hand went to her hair. Another patted at her blazer in a futile attempt to smooth away the damage of a long flight. Hastily, she grabbed one of the empty chairs and lowered herself into it, ready to begin her first meeting at her new assignment. She'd worry about eye contact with her fellow agents later. Like at some distant point when she didn't appear to have crawled out from under a rock.
  "Good morning, Agent Buchanan. Thank you for joining us," Graham said. On anyone else's lips, the words could've been sarcasm meant to make her feel guilty. But after working with him, Teri knew sarcasm wasn't Graham's style. "I trust your flight was okay."
  "It was fine, sir."
  "Good to hear. Sorry you couldn't have more time to settle in, but we need to get down to business. As I was saying before you arrived, I'm pleased to have the Detroit office of the S.C.I.U. up and running. Within the next year, the Secretary hopes to have at least two more regional offices open to mirror the one here in Dallas. He's meeting with the President this morning to detail his plans, and, knowing him, he'll find a way to make it happen." Graham picked up his own mug and took a gulp before continuing. "Still, a lot depends on the success of your branch."
  This was news to Teri. As far as she knew, San Diego had been running for a year and a half with no bumps in the road. Why Detroit would be any different was beyond her. Hearing the existence of the Denver and Tallahassee offices depended on their performance made her stomach clench.
  "Of course, I'm not trying to put undue pressure on you."
  Too late.
  "I need you to be aware that the S.C.I.U. as a growing division within Homeland Security stands or falls on these regional offices. Previously, we've been confined to specific cities. Chicago. New York. Los Angeles. San Diego.
  "And while they've done exceptionally well in covering the specific metropolitan areas, they haven't had the time or the manpower to cover any outlying areas where serial criminals may go less noticed. That's why I need you to shine."
  Heads around the table nodded as if they'd heard it all before. Teri found herself nodding along with them while she simmered inside. Graham hadn't said any of this when he asked for volunteers to man Detroit. He hadn't bothered to mention it when he was briefing her before her transfer. He sure as hell hadn't hinted anything was riding on her performance when he patted her on the back Friday afternoon and wished her a safe journey.
  Damn him.
  "Thank you, Director Graham." Jensen said as he turned toward the assembled agents. "Most of you have had to deal with my being a pain in your asses for at least a few weeks now. But our newest team member needs to be welcomed. This is Special Agent Teri Buchanan."
  Confused looks made their way around the table. She could've sworn she heard the name Buckman again, but she let it slide. Instead, she stood and smiled at each of them. They all smiled back, and she sat feeling a smidgen more at ease. Maybe this assignment could be as good as she hoped.
  It's a start, anyway.
  "And now that you've met, let's get down to business … " Jensen picked up a tablet, letting his eyes scan down the device. Indicating a large, dusky-skinned man across the table from her, he said, "Now, as I said during our video conference last week, Agent Washington here has a lead on what may be a serial murder case down in northern Ohio. He's driving to Toledo as soon as this meeting wraps up to coordinate with the local authorities."
  Graham nodded. "If you need help assuming jurisdiction, let me know."
  "Yes, sir." He tapped his screen. "Also, the files we discussed are waiting on Agent Buchanan's desk. She'll start putting together a profile —"
  The Director cleared his throat. "I'm still not quite certain this is what you think it is, Rick."
  "Sir, I —"
  "But we'll see what Teri can come up with. If she agrees with your assertion that a serial rapist is hunting the Detroit area, then you'll have my blessing to proceed. Until then, keep a low profile. We don't need even a whisper of this getting out to the press."
  "But, sir —"
  "See what you can put together for me by next week's conference call."
  After the words 'serial rapist' touched her ears, Teri could feel herself shutting down. Everything else her superiors said seemed so meaningless. Her brain scurried between the fact Graham had known about this before he authorized her transfer, and the fact that she had no business working sex crimes of any nature, let alone a rape case. Even if Jensen hadn't read her file, Graham knew. After her own incident, the Director had given her an ultimatum: therapy or unemployment. Then her therapist had presented him with weekly progress reports, for petesakes.
  This wasn't just blindsiding her. It was punching her in the stomach and then tripping her.
  Someone coughed and she raised her eyes to find everyone staring. As if the day hadn't been bad enough already.
  "Pardon me?"
  "Are you on board, Buchanan?" Rick said.
  "On board?"
  "With putting together something we can use for victimology?"
  Teri had to stop herself from breaking into hysterical laughter. A rape victim putting together the victimology that would lead them to a serial rapist? It was too ludicrous. But it was the job, and she had to do it whether the thought of it scared her shitless or not.
  "I'll get started going through the files as soon as possible, sir," she said, falling into the pattern of her job. As long as she focused on her work, she could fight the fear crawling under her skin.
  "I appreciate your commitment, Teri," the Director said.
  For a moment, she might've thought she heard a trace of regret in Graham's voice, but then the impression disappeared. Regardless, her boss had to know exactly what this case would do to her. If she thought for a second she could get away with it, she'd ask him what he'd been thinking when he assigned someone like her to a case like this.
  The meeting droned on way longer than it should've, but she ignored most of it. Agents were given assignments. Others updated the Director on the cases they were already working. By the time Graham finally let them go do their jobs, her nerves were jangled and her coffee jones had grown to biblical proportions. The first tremors of a headache sent shockwaves through her scalp.
  "Grab some coffee before you explode," Jensen said as they walked toward her office.
  "Is it that obvious?"
  "Redeye plus Detroit Metro multiplied by rush hour. Anyone would need some high-octane after that." He gestured in the direction of the break room her nose had already located. "You might need to make a fresh pot, though. Meet me back at your office when you're ready."
  "I can handle making coffee if you tell me where my office is."
  He reddened. "That's right. The clusterfuck that was your arrival." Letting out a deep breath, he shook his head. "I'll talk to Marty and straighten things out. Tell you what. You hang out in the break room with your coffee. I'll stop by the front, get your luggage to your office and then meet you here."
  She relished the idea of a few minutes to think before she had to jump into the next set of hurdles for the day.
  The pot had finished perking moments earlier when Jensen returned. She'd already robbed it of its first, strong offerings and a half a mug's worth warmed her insides.
  "Want some?" she asked. "It's not half bad."
  "Never touch the stuff." Bypassing her, he beelined for the fridge and came back with a green can. "The only way to enjoy caffeine. I keep the place stocked and you're welcome to one whenever you feel the need."
  Teri held up her mug. "I'll stick with the coffee, but thanks."
  Minutes later they'd made it through the maze of empty cubicles to an office tucked in the opposite corner from the break room. The door was open, but the nameplate on it said Agent Terry Buckman.
  "Sorry about that. Marty got her wires crossed from the get-go, and she's the one who orders office supplies."
  Taking a deep breath, she gathered up all the irritation of the day and then released it as she exhaled. "Not a problem. One of the bobbles of a transfer, I guess."
  Sliding past her, Jensen settled himself behind her desk. "Have a seat. This will only take a moment."
  "So you're tech support as well as location supervisor?" she asked as he began tapping away at the keyboard.
  He shrugged. "Tech support isn't in the budget for this location yet. If you have any questions someone here can't answer, you have to call someone by the name of Lynn? In Dallas? Let me know if she ever gets back to you. I'm still waiting for someone down there to reset a password from two months ago."
  "I know Lynn from way back. She's been kind of busy since she was promoted to head of IT down there, but I'll see if she can't light a fire under someone's ass for us." Teri picked up the phone while Jensen stabbed away trying to get her computer to respond. Within minutes, Lynn had located his request and berated some poor tech junkie for not getting to the Detroit office sooner.
  "Should be working for you now," the woman said when she returned to the line. "Let me know if you need anything else. And Teri? Congratulations." Without another word, Lynn dropped the line.
  "Thanks for taking care of that." Jensen motioned toward the stack of files in Teri's overflowing inbox. "Sorry you have to jump into this but —"
  "But the area's seen a rash of serial ra … " She swallowed and hoped he didn't notice how she couldn't seem to get that one word past the boulder in her throat. " … similar crimes you think might have the same unsub." Grabbing the first few files from the teetering stack, she tried to remind herself they were just cases. Like any other cases she'd ever worked on.
  Except they aren't. Not anymore.
  Since her therapist had released her to work in the field again, she'd been doing her job like always, tracking down the most well known type of serial criminal: murderers. She knew serial rapists existed. She knew the S.C.I.U. worked those cases, too. She simply hadn't been subjected to any of them before. And now she was staring down the barrel of a potential serial rape case.
  "This is a lot of sexual assaults," she said. "But isn't that common for a metropolitan area of this size?"
  He tensed. "This is only a fraction of the whole, but these are the ones that seem to fit together some way. Twenty-two assaults over the past five years dovetail into my theory."
  "And they're all connected?"
  "They don't appear to be on the surface." He pulled a file from the middle of the stack. "This one had the earmarks of a date rape. Another was a blitz-style, brutal and quick. A third girl was found unconscious on her kitchen floor when she wouldn't answer her mother's calls." He shook his head. "She came out of her coma after a couple days, but she doesn't remember a thing."
  Teri couldn't recall her own attack. From all accounts, the blow to her head hadn't rendered her unconscious long enough for her to be in a true coma, but she'd been out long enough to scare the hell out of her parents. "Memory loss is common even with mild head trauma," she said, quoting what she'd been told. "What makes you think there's a commonality if the attacks were so different?"
  "Call it a gut instinct. Or maybe I'm seeing something in those cases that my conscious mind can't process yet. All I know is the more I dig into this, the more I think we're looking at a single subject rather than a string of coincidental sexual assaults." He sat back with the file in his hands, gazing at the cover but not opening it.
  Teri narrowed her eyes. "What made you dig into this in the first place?" She didn't have the full skinny on his background. He'd been working in the Homeland Security regional office, investigating potential terrorism coming across from Canada, as far as she knew. Graham must've had grounds to promote him to Supervisor of this new branch of the S.C.I.U., but she didn't see the reasoning. Maybe she didn't need to.
  "A friend in the D.P.D. asked me to check into something and I didn't like what I saw."
  "So this is a theory from an L.E.O.?" The whole thing sounded hinky, but she wasn't in a position to make those determinations. "Is that part of the reason why Graham's having a tough time putting his full approval behind this?"
  He nodded.
  "But you must have given him sufficient cause to not shut this down." And sufficient cause to send me into this nest of scorpions. She didn't want to believe she'd been handpicked for a rape case. Graham wouldn't be so cruel.
  "I wouldn't worry too much," she said with more conviction than she felt at the moment. "If Graham didn't think there was anything to support your theory, he wouldn't waste resources. Not even for the week he gave us to solidify this."
  "I'm not sure what the Director is thinking. For all I know, he's only humoring me long enough to get me off his back. Lord knows, I've been after him to send me someone since I got the first inkling this could be more than the local authorities want to admit." Jensen set the file in his lap and stared off into space for several minutes.
  When he spoke again, the gaze he leveled at her sent a shiver up her spine. "Or Graham could've sent you here to mold this office into exactly what he wants. With you as the new Supervisory Agent."
  Teri didn't know what was on the Director's mind either, but she hoped this thing hadn't been the set-up her new boss feared. She did want to head her own branch, but not if it meant climbing up Rick Jensen's back with cleated shoes.
  "You make it sound like he'd send me to spy on you." She tried to keep the tone of her voice light.
  "Wouldn't he?" For a second she hoped maybe he was kidding, but the intensity of his gaze said differently.
  "Director Graham genuinely needs good people on staff up here. You're the best he has. I don't see him jeopardizing the future of the S.C.I.U. by replacing you with someone who's never had supervisory experience." She straightened in her chair. "And frankly, I like to think he picked me to work beneath you because you have something to teach me. Not so I could give him weekly reports on you."
  And not so he could see how well I handle things since the incident.
  "We'll see." The tone of his voice made it clear he might've already seen enough.
  She longed to launch another denial, but it wouldn't do any good. Jensen sounded like he'd made up his mind and nothing she said would sway him. Only the Director knew his plans for the future of the Detroit office. Her pay grade wasn't high enough to guess. Neither was her new supervisor's, but that didn't seem to deter him.
  Ugh.
  This had to be the worst first day she'd ever had — including the dog-washing gig during summer vacation where she spent her entire first day drenched in pooch-scented water. "Is there anything else I need to know about the case before I start developing a profile?"
  Jensen suddenly seemed decades older then when they'd met that morning. Whatever drove this theory of his was taking an obvious toll, one Graham probably hadn't failed to see. "Only that I'm sure there's a link between these cases somewhere and I'm counting on you to find it."
  As he rose to leave, she stood as well. "Sir? If you don't mind my asking, why aren't you farther along on this case?" The instant the question left her mouth, she wanted to kick herself. She fully expected him to rip her a new way to go. Instead, he grimaced.
  "Do you have any idea how many murders there are in this geographical area? Detroit, Toledo, Gary, Cleveland? Hell, Flint could keep a branch running all on its own. Be glad Chicago hasn't been thrown at us, too. In the face of all those deaths, rape gets shunted aside."
  Teri opened her mouth to protest, but Jensen held up a hand. "Don't start. I'm not saying it's right. I'm simply saying how things end up working. Death trumps rape."
  Death trumps rape. The words played over and over in her head like a skipping record and she wanted to scream about how death would sometimes be preferable to living day after day with the memories of —
  "Who's been working this so far?" she said, trying to break away from that train wreck of thought.
  "All of us. None of us. Whoever can grab a spare moment." He pushed his hand through his hair. "I wish I could say I've been burning the midnight oil on this, but lately, I've been 24/7 getting this location on its feet. My focus has had to be elsewhere. Any other questions before you get started?"
  She had more than a few, but they would have to wait. The stack of folders was shrieking her name, demanding the attention they hadn't received. If there was a connection to these attacks, she would find it. And then she would hunt down the man behind them.

— ♦ —

B.E. Sanderson
Photo provided courtesy of
B.E. Sanderson

Former sales "road warrior" and corporate "Jack of all trades", B.E. now lives the hermit's life in southwest Missouri, where she divides her time between doing writerly things, inhaling books, networking on the internet, and enjoying the "retired" life with her husband and her crazy cats.

For more information about the author, please visit her website at website and her author page on Goodreads, or find her on Facebook and Twitter.

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Fertile Ground by B.E. Sanderson

Fertile Ground by B.E. Sanderson

The S.C.I.U. Series

Publisher: B. E. Sanderson

Amazon.com Print/Kindle Format(s)

Adam Wyte has been nothing special his entire life, but everyone will remember him once his mission is complete. His diabolical plan to sow his seed and reap sons is so far along, no one can stop him now. And his carefully chosen list of women will help him — whether they want to or not.

With the shadow of Jace Douglas' success hanging over her, Agent Teri Buchanan transferred away from the S.C.I.U. headquarters intent on proving she's as good as the next woman. And if moving to the Detroit branch also lets her bury the memories of her own attack, even better. When her first assignment means hunting down a serial rapist turned killer, she can't let her fears interfere with her job. Even if she ends up confronting a need to carry out more justice than she ever received.

Fertile Ground by B.E. Sanderson. Click here to take a Look Inside the book.

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