A psychic profiler, a time puzzle, a psychological ride.
When I decided to develop the thriller series Instincts(c). Floating a new and undeveloped idea to a group of readers familiar with my work, my newsletter subscribers, acted as a creative spigot. It wasn’t easy on my editor for the project because of the quick turnaround but for me, it was a gift.
The result is MAY BE FATAL, a novel deserving of a spot in your library and on your favorite device.
“Taylor Marsh may have you terrified and give you nightmares. … Expect the unexpected. Would recommend for lovers of psychological thrillers, mysteries and the paranormal.” – 5-star Amazon review
“I really enjoyed this book. It has a bit of a twist and was written in a bit of different way than I was used to but once I got some peace and quite to read on my own I found it went very fast and was a bit of a nail biter. Kept you going throughout the story. Very well written and a really good story line. I would recommend this book to anyone who like thrillers.” – 5-star Amazon review
THE FIRST THREE CHAPTERS
COPYRIGHT Taylor Marsh ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
September 2009: Thursday
No one saw him.
He made certain.
It had been two months since Raymond Drake’s last indulgence. He’d disciplined himself. Waited. But his fantasies weren’t enough. Tried to survive on the thrills inside his mind. Couldn’t anymore.
Had eyes on the front of her office building before anyone came in. Watched people enter. Delighted in their ignorance of what would come. Felt their surprise deep in his gut, as the pure pleasure of the fantasy played in his mind.
Held his excitement at bay.
She arrived in a sunflower yellow pantsuit. Virgin white blouse made him snicker. Four- inch cobalt blue strappy sandals. Her chestnut brown hair bounced at her shoulders. Long sterling silver wavy drop earrings dangled from each ear and peaked in and out of strands of her long locks. Streaks of red highlights flashed in the morning sunlight.
Oh, to grab her hair. Bend her to my will.
Dressed in black. Workout clothes formed to his physique. The leather jacket bulked up his frame to a formidable presence.
No one would glean a hint of viciousness.
It was good to be handsome. Unattached. A man with straight white teeth. His manicure flawless. Lace-up leather boots. No detail too small.
No one would suspect him.
Cunning was the initial wound. Delivered with a smile.
Before she blinked twice.
Thoughts of it aroused him. It began.
A gurgle of euphoria.
Visualization of her face. How it would be when he had her. In his grasp, to watch her lose her will.
He would set her free.
Deliver peace to her.
Unlike previous Thursdays, she’d exited the building alone at 7:11 p.m. Raymond had seen her colleagues leave earlier. They’d scheduled drinks at an upscale bar. The same time each of the last three weeks.
But today she walked off alone to the employee parking lot next door.
He followed unnoticed. The lateness of the hour buoyed him.
On her phone, oblivious, she hadn’t seen the tall, handsome man enter the garage. Had missed the quickened pace of his steps.
She laughed. In her own world.
Raymond Drake smiled. Followed his prey.
Better for him if he took her happy. But he must not catch her in the middle of the conversation. “Goodbye” was the signal.
He would purchase the look he craved through force. Terror to replace her uplifted mood.
The instant she realized her mistake. The look in her eyes.
What he craved.
Thoughts of it increased his breathing. Quickened his pace. A whiff of her. Wanted to stop and savor. Fierce need propelled him.
They were alone.
It happened in slow motion in his mind. Raymond’s hand over her mouth. She seized up. His strength lifted her off the earth. Midair, he beheld the moment.
Eyes wide, her mouth agape, shock, no power to protest.
Slammed down on the hood of her car, their eyes locked. She scooted backward. He grabbed her legs, pulled. Straddled the beauty below him. Towered over her. She lay still. Silent terror spread across her face.
The blade in his hand. Fingers to his lips. “Shh. I want to play with you.”
Her face scrunched together. Defenseless. She’d allowed herself to get distracted. Tears dropped down her cheeks.
Savor each second. This delicious fight. The moment of collapse. She would be his.
A pitiful whimper.
“Shh.” His teeth gleamed. Bright eyes. A smile from ear to ear.
Grunts, groans, she shook her head no.
“Oh, yes.” The roundhouse right hook landed with a crack. Raymond watched her slide off the car to the concrete.
Head tilted. Pursed lips. His victim lay at his feet. “Beautiful girl.”
Checked his surroundings. Nothing moved. All quiet.
Leaned down. Turned the woman’s head. Whipped out a knife from his belt. Slashed at a section of hair near her scalp. A flick of his wrist caught flesh. The wound began to drip. Drip, drip.
A swipe of his index finger over the red droplets. The taste of her. Not her sex, but the flow of life itself. Eyes closed. The ritual he savored. Euphoric moments when he proved to be invincible.
The tune in Raymond’s head came across his lips in a shallow whisper. The thrill simmered inside him. His rigid member strangled against his pants.
In the moment of triumph, Raymond Drake believed no one caught him because his mission was divine.
Didn’t stop to secure his own safety. Over his shoulder, a fireman’s carry. He must be quick. His car nearby.
Opened the trunk. Extracted the needle from his bag. Plunged it into her thigh. Enough ketamine to knock her out for the drive. She’d not awaken until he reached the far edge of Maryland’s Eastern Shore.
No one worries about a stranger who looks like a Hollywood star and drives a classic sports car.
But experts agree white males commit most deviant sexual crimes.
It starts with a fantasy.
It ends in actualized terror.
Present Day: Friday Night
“Where is she?” Jack Stone looked at Trevor.
Lily saw him enter. She got up and moved closer to the back door. The look on Stoney’s face from across the room warned her what would come next.
Revelers packed the room. Music was loud. Small groups gathered in different parts of the living room. On a table was a punch bowl. Large empty liquor bottles rolled around on top. A cooler on the floor filled with ice and beer was half-full. There were other party treats available in the kitchen.
His voice. Amanda heard her dad from the room she was in. She perked up. A smile. The plan was in motion. He’d see her in the room with three men.
It’s what he deserves.
A tall Asian with jet black hair, perfect physique, thin and lithe, glided across the room. “Amanda’s in the last room down the hall,” Trevor said. He nodded in the direction. Jack Stone moved toward the room, but Trevor stopped him. “Stoney, be cool. You won’t like this, but she wanted to party with them.”
“Yeah. Amanda’s a grown up. Not much you can do.”
“She’s my daughter. Shecalled me.”
“Yeah, well, we both know why, don’t we?” The words hit low. The tone of his voice, the look on Trevor’s face worked as an epithet.
Stoney tensed up. Stepped closer to him. “Just say it.”
“Do I need to, boss?”
The shorthand language between them revealed their history. Trevor provided the deference required to discharge the tension between them. He worked for Stoney, but he didn’t intend to coddle him. The strained relationship between Stoney and his daughter Amanda was well known.
Respect required straight talk.
Stoney exhaled, looked up at Trevor. He saw Lily out of the corner of his eye.
She froze when her gaze caught his. Lily sped past people by the back door. No need to look behind her.
The second Stoney saw her he took off in the same direction.
Trevor saw Lily leave. He watched his boss tear across the room after her but wasn’t interested in why.
“Wait. Lily.” Stoney yelled as he ran.
She stopped in the middle of the backyard. Wicked, late summer rains had left the ground soggy. He walked toward her.
“What happened? Everything was good.”
“I told you. It’s over,” Lily said.
“Tell me how I can make it work.”
Lily shook her head. Looked to the trees, which bent in the breeze. Deep breath. “We were supposed to have fun, remember, no strings?”
“We did. There aren’t any.”
Laughter was her response. “You are too intense. There is never any let-up. It’s always about you, your company, your problems. I’m too young for this shit.”
His jaw dropped a little. The stare from him made her uncomfortable. Stoney cracked his neck. Opened and closed his mouth, the tightness in his jaw made his face muscles constrict.
“What do you want from me?” Lily looked around for a quick exit. Trees on all sides of the yard and a drop-off to the creek behind her.
“Then let me go.”
Stoney stepped back. His demeanor turned dark.
Lily didn’t move.
Amanda watched her father and her best friend from the window. Their relationship public for the first time. No one had seen what she had. The gooey center of her father’s infatuation on display. The scene outside was less obscene than what she’d witnessed before.
He thought his secret was safe. Didn’t bother to call out, but assumed I wasn’t home. I saw them.
Not a word from Lily to her best friend about her sloppy heart, or how she’d wandered into treacherous territory.
The daughter now watched her father proclaim himself to a woman who treated men similar to the way her father treated women. Disregard bellowed from the body language of her dad’s lover.
Amanda was numb.
Even after I call him for help. He can’t stop himself.
It would have been simple to hide their affair.
She wanted to humiliate him.
Her thoughts were a conglomeration of disrespect and loathing.
Therapy made it worse. Amanda had ditched it many times. Hard to keep track of all the doctors, therapists, and quacks her mother dragged her to see.
Daddy thought I’d grow out of it.
Instead, Amanda had grown from hard to handle adolescent to out of control teenager. Both of her parents prayed high school would change her. No such luck. During a date with a young man, she’d gotten aggressive. The high school senior said they were making out when she attacked him. Tried to get his pants off. It terrified the young man because Amanda had a pocket knife in her hand. He told police, when he fought back she said, “Shut up. I won’t cut it off. But you need a little trim.”
The police had been stymied. Amanda’s parents said it was absurd to think a young woman would sexually assault someone who was bigger and stronger. They sloughed it off to teenage hormones.
No one could handle the truth about Amanda.
Experts told her parents girls don’t commit sexual acts of aggression. Not possible. “Think about it,” they had said. When Amanda’s therapist at the time said she believed his daughter had assaulted the young man, Stoney fired her. Nothing made Amanda happier. It would take weeks to find another shrink. She would be free of them all until they found another doctor.
One month became two, which turned into six months. Amanda had graduated with honors from high school. “I told you I’m fine,” she said. Desperate to believe it was over, her mom and dad relented.
Therapy was in her past.
Nothing to see here.
Adulthood freed her.
Amanda stewed in her mania until she had seen Lily with her dad. What had her best friend done to him? She waited. Watched. Made sure no one challenged her sanity again.
A stable job as a research assistant to a Washington, D.C. think tank convinced them all. Years of diligence. She was normal to the outside world.
Amanda watched her father with Lily. He was desperate.
She doesn’t give a shit.It made her hate her friend a little less.
A young man came up behind Amanda. “Hey, come on. Let’s party.” He kissed the nape of her neck. She didn’t respond. Her eyes were glued to the scene in the backyard.
Another guy in the room took off his shirt. “Let’s go, baby. I’m ready.” He jumped on the bed.
The third guy turned the lock on the door. “No one but us. We won’t tell.”
Her father reached for her friend, but Lily backed away.
Amanda smiled. Her hand came up behind her. She put it on his head. “Mm, I like it.”
The scene outside shifted.
Lily’s hands came up in front of her. Amanda didn’t need to listen to what was being said. Lily was pissed. She let her dad have it.
I call him for help and look where he goes.
Amanda smiled.“Come on.” She took the guy’s hand. They started to join the other young man on the bed.
Clothes hit the floor.
“I’ll watch for a while,” one guy said.
“I don’t care,” she said.
The knock was loud, followed by more bangs on the door. “Amanda, I know you’re in there.” Trevor kept it up. “Your dad’s here. You got what you wanted. Don’t make it worse.”
Peals of laughter from the other side of the door.
“Okay, I’m out.” Trevor walked away and into the kitchen.
“What’s up?” The man had a swastika tattoo on his forearm. Dirty brown teeth.
“You’re sure this is cool?” Trevor looked at the tattooed man who had offered the house for the party. “No one will get jammed up for being here, right?”
“Relax. The boss owns the house. We’re good.”
Trevor was unaware the drugs the man had brought were laced and lethal. The man’s boss was a habitual criminal. Part of a syndicate who imported counterfeit narcotics laced with fentanyl out of China, via the web.
Trevor shrugged. “Okay. So, you guys set?”
“Yeah. Happy customers.”
The drug dealer’s partner walked into the room. A rugged, lean African American male, with a shaved head. “Hey, I’m Tack.” A nod. “You leaving? We just started.”
“You’ve got my cell,” Trevor said. “Work fast and don’t get comfortable. I have a hunch you won’t be here long.”
The tattooed man moved closer to Trevor. “Good man.” He patted his shoulder. “Is there something you need to tell us?”
“One of the women called her father. He’s got juice.”
Trevor walked out of the kitchen, across the living room. He saw a woman he recognized on the couch. She appeared to be asleep. He walked over. “Hey, you okay?” He touched her. She didn’t move. “Hey. Janet, hey.” Trevor slapped her face, but she didn’t respond. “Shit.”
He dialed 911 on the way out the door. “Party at Riverbend Road. Some chick overdosed.” Trevor hung up. They would trace his cell phone, but he didn’t care. He was protected.
Ducked his head back into the kitchen. “What did you guys do? Ambulance on the way. Police will be…”
The men were out the back door before Trevor finished speaking.
Present Day: Friday Night
“Don’t do this,” Stoney said.
“Oh, you’ve got to be kidding.” Regret hit Lily.What have I done?
“I love you.”
She froze, shook her head. “This is…No, you don’t. You want what you can’t have.”
“Don’t tell me how I feel.”
“You sound like a girl.”
“I told you, I’d do it. I’m divorced now…you and I can be together.”
The air drained out of Lily. She stared at the man she’d had fun with for two years. She no longer recognized him. “Your divorce has nothing to do with me.”
“I…” Words wouldn’t form. “You’re right. Doesn’t change the facts.”
“No, it doesn’t. Fact one, your daughter is my best friend. Fact two, you were a distraction. Fact three, this is your midlife crisis.”
Stoney shook his head. Looked away.
“Remember what I said when we started? Do you?”
He ignored her.
“Jesus. Talk about denial.”
When he looked at her again, Lily saw it. Fury and frustration. He didn’t like being told no.
“What did I say or do to give you that impression?” Her voice trailed off. She turned, started toward the trees at the end of the yard.
He grabbed her arm.
“Let go.” Lily stopped, looked down at his hand. He hadn’t released her. “Stoney, don’t start this again.”
“You came into my marriage and…”
“Whoa.” Stared at him. “Don’t you dare. Don’t try it.”
“You’re right. Sorry.”
The tension dipped.
“It doesn’t have to end like this. We had fun. Let’s part as friends, okay?” The look on his face was her answer. Was he going to cry?
“But I want you.”
“Get over it.”
“I can’t. I won’t.”
“That’s unfortunate. We had fun, but I’m done.”
“You’re, what, fifteen years older than me? Not going to happen. I told you.”
“We want different things.”
“I want you. You want me. Simple.”
“Wanted you, past tense.”
“So, you used me.”
“What? What are you talking about?”
“I didn’t need to hire you, but I did.”
“I’m the best researcher you’ve got.”
“You got what you wanted and now you’re not interested. Callous bitch.” Stoney’s voice was loud. The veins in his neck stood out. His cheeks flushed.
“Guys do it all the time. I’m so done.”
“I won’t take no…”
Lily turned to bolt, but Stoney grabbed her again. She pushed back at him. He pulled her close. She brought her knee up and her foot down on the arch of his right foot. He yelped. Strained not to buckle while the pain shot up his leg. She broke away for an instant. He leaped for her. She slipped on the slick grass. His hands on her shoulders, Lily’s effort to escape escalated. One last push, she would be free. Stoney grabbed at her again but as he did, Lily gained traction on the grass and fled.
Stoney tore after her. Chased her to the end of the yard. Lily was over the crest of the hill where the ground turned to a slick mudslide. He grabbed for her backpack purse hiked high on her shoulder. Felt something and pulled, but the purse stayed in place. Her feet slipped. The lack of traction propelled her down the hill.
He was left alone.
Lily was gone.
COPYRIGHT Taylor Marsh ALL RIGHTS RESERVED