12 Days of Nerdiness, day 10, Vanessa Skye

 

While exploring darkness in others, be careful not to
expose your own.
 
That’s what Chicago detective Alicia Raymond discovers
when she’s assigned to investigate the torture and murder of a middle-aged
trucker. 
Better known as Berg, Alicia is forced to confront her
darkness: her obsessive need to track down killers; her increasing craving for
violence; her potentially devastating feelings for her partner.
When she finds herself sympathizing with a sadistic killer
exacting revenge for a decades-old crime, she realizes the most dangerous
secret of all might just be her own state of mind. As Berg’s carefully
constructed life falls apart, she faces a choice: surrender to the evil inside
or finally acknowledge the brutal past she would rather bury.

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The Enemy Inside is
the first in the Edge of Darkness series, which challenges the
concept of justice, asks if vengeance sometimes justifies murder, and explores
whether you can ever heal from a broken past.
 
Excerpt from The Enemy Inside
The
eighteen-wheeler’s headlights cut a path through the murky darkness,
illuminating the outbound Chicago highway in a ghostly glow, its rumbling
engine the only sound in an otherwise silent night.
Shifting in his sticky seat, the driver twitched
and spat through the open window. It was well after midnight. He had been on
the road for almost twenty-four hours straight, hadn’t slept for forty-eight,
and was feeling stretched to the very end of his last frayed nerve.
He realized he should have stopped and had a break
or a coffee before getting back on the tollway and heading out of the city, but
it was too late now. The tollway was close to deserted as he sped west, the
sprawl of suburbia thinning and being replaced by swathes of protected forests,
expensive houses, and semi-rural property. There was nothing else for him to do
but drive all night to northern Wisconsin, where another load and a lucrative
payday awaited him.
The highway was dull, the same as every other road
he’d driven on over the last thirty years. He felt like his life was playing on
some kind of endless, tortured loop. His was a lonely existence, punctuated by
the odd burst of static on his CB radio and the occasional disembodied
conversation with other drivers.
He shifted again and looked at the clock stuck to
his dash.
2:00 a.m.
He was ahead of schedule, thanks to some homemade
stimulants and a lack of rest, and again considered pulling over to get some
food or maybe a few hours of sleep in his cab. While sleep sounded like
something he should get, his cock throbbed, reminding him of other, more urgent
priorities.
He needed a woman. Any woman.
He wasn’t an attractive man. He was heavyset,
hairy, and balding with an array of amateur prison tattoos covering his body.
Few women were willing to spread their legs for him. The only satisfaction he
got was from the occasional truck stop lot lizard or cheap hooker when he
loaded or unloaded in a city.
As the joyless decades passed, his need for more
violent satisfaction had grown, and he had enjoyed himself immensely with a
drug-addicted hooker last month. His erection strained painfully against his
jeans as he savored the memory of the encounter: her shrieks of pain, thick,
red blood mixed with slippery tears, and the muffled thuds of his fists
striking soft, pliable flesh. The memory excited him so much he thought he
might explode right there in the cab. He needed to feel some battered flesh
writhing under him again—and soon.
He grunted, then hocked up phlegm from deep in his
throat and spat again. His personally manufactured stimulants had several
unpleasant side effects, the main ones being an increase in libido, a
frustrating lack of sensation, and a disgusting chemical taste in the back of
his throat he could never get rid of.
The truck’s lights illuminated unexpected movement
far ahead on the tollway shoulder. He forgot his desire for a moment as he
shifted forward in his seat to get a better look at the solitary figure walking
on the side of the highway.
He shifted down a gear, and the old air brakes
hissed in protest as his lights settled on a petite woman with frizzy blond
hair, her arm outstretched in the universal hitchhiker’s salute.
A gift from God.
He pulled alongside her.
Weighing perhaps one hundred pounds soaking wet,
she opened the cab door and hauled herself and a small purse into the truck.
She must really need a ride. I only
get the desperate ones or the ug-os that no one else will pick up.
He was excited to see she was pretty in an almost
familiar kind of way, as if he had seen her before in a movie or on television.
She had light blue eyes and distinctive tight, blond curls. He absentmindedly
wondered if the carpet would match the drapes, and couldn’t wait to find out.
She looked exhausted, as if she’d been walking for a while.
“Thanks,” she said softly, flashing him a forced,
nervous smile while she settled in the passenger seat. She quickly pulled
across the frayed seatbelt and clicked it into place.
A safety-conscious hitchhiker? That’s
a new one
. “No problem,” he
replied.
She clutched her bag to her chest like a life
preserver.
As he eased the rig back out onto the highway, he
smiled to himself. This’ll be easy.
Chapter One
“Are
you prepared to be happy, Berg?” Detective Inspector Jay O’Loughlin asked his
partner, as he rushed into the dirty, overcrowded Chicago squad room.
Berg, in the middle of massaging her temples,
looked up from her desk and brushed her long, wavy dark hair behind one ear.
Buried deep in mounds of endless paperwork, the offer of a distraction sounded
good. Her chair creaked as she stood to stretch and smoothed the wrinkles out
of her suit skirt.
“How happy?” she asked. “Happy like I just
found a great pair of Manolos in a half-off bin, or happy like I hit a moving
target at two hundred yards?”
Jay flashed her one of his trademark, sexy smiles.
“Berg, I know target practice is your idea of heaven, but I’m talking happy
like I’ve just had the best sex of my life and she voluntarily goes home
afterward.”
“Wow, Jay. In your world that’s pretty fucking
happy.” She walked out of the squad room and he followed. “So, where are we
headed?” she asked, turning back and catching Jay’s lingering stare on her
lower legs.
“What? Oh, to the morgue.”
“Gee, the morgue. Yay.” She stopped to face him. “I
fail to see how that is going to make me happy.”
“You’ll see,” he replied with a glint in his cobalt
blue eyes. “Think of it as an early Halloween treat.”
They walked down the corridor in a comfortable
silence, pausing to press the call button for the elevator.
Berg, formally known as Detective Alicia Raymond,
leaned against the wall and studied Jay. They had been partners for two years
in the newest section of the Chicago Police Department’s Bureau of
Investigative Services, the Special Crimes Unit.
Jay was one of the best cops in the district, and
she enjoyed working with him, his constant need to check her out
notwithstanding. He was tall—one of the few men in the station taller than she
was—and handsome in that naughty Irish way, with blue eyes, an easy smile, and
wavy, dark brown hair that was a shade or two lighter than her own.
His only bad quality was that he’d slept with
nearly every woman in a two-mile radius, both in and out of their district.
There had been some station talk, early in their partnership, of a marriage
fifteen years ago when Jay was a young cadet. But he point-blank refused to
acknowledge whether the rumor was even true the one time Berg had mustered up
the courage to ask. They never discussed the subject again. Since then, Berg
had lost count of Jay’s conquests.
Still, while
everyone knows he’ll fuck anything that moves, it doesn’t stop the women
flocking to him like bees to honey.
Berg shrugged.
The elevator arrived and they stepped back to let a
young female officer get out. She pushed between them, pausing only long enough
to direct a malevolent glare at Jay before stalking off.
Berg laughed. “If looks could kill, you’d be dead a
thousand times over. Don’t you ever get tired of picking up young officers,
then discarding them like used tissue and spending the rest of your life
avoiding their hatred?” Berg grimaced at her partner as he raised an eyebrow in
response to her question. “You needn’t look so smug.”
“Seen her naked. So worth the death glares,” he
said with a grin.
Despite her disapproval, Berg couldn’t help but
smile as she contemplated his general appeal. Jay was impossible to dislike.
Men and women were equally drawn to him for his easygoing character and
self-deprecating laugh. A well-connected, third-generation cop, he was
dedicated to his job and solved more than his fair share of cases with diligent
work and deadly charm.
“You need to become familiar with the phrase don’t crap where you eat,” she said.
He chuckled. “Maybe if you ever had sex, you’d understand. There’s no
need to live up to your nickname all the time, Iceberg. You need a good
humping.”
Berg gritted her teeth and crossed her arms. “You
volunteering?”
Jay stepped back and raised his hands in surrender.
“Hell no! I mean, don’t get me wrong, you’re great to look at and all, and I’m
damn sure the sex would be great, but I saw what you did to that veteran cop a
couple of years back after he dared to pat you on the ass. You barely moved and
the guy was on the ground faster than kids in an earthquake drill. What was
that, kung fu?”
Berg raised an eyebrow. “Karate.”
Jay took another step back. “Yeah, well, whatever
it was, I don’t plan on being on the receiving end of it, nice as the view may
be.” He slowly raked his eyes down from her face to her body, lingering on her
chest before looking away.
“We’ve been partners for two years—do you think you
could keep the staring to a minimum?” She glared at him.
Jay winked. “I’ll work on it.”
They approached the morgue, barged through the
two-way doors, and walked into the cold, sterile silence.
Jay crossed the white linoleum room with a few
strides and pulled open a metal refrigerator drawer. “Ta-da!” He made an
exaggerated flourish, sliding out a body covered with a sheet. “One dead
scumbag.” He waved toward the covered body like a manic The Price is Right model.
Berg looked dubious as she wrinkled her nose and
lifted the white sheet to view the corpse. “A dead fat guy? You better have
something more for me than some dead scumbag, Jay. I got up from my desk for
this.”
“What if he was a serial scumbag?”
Berg arched an eyebrow. “How serial?”
“Like the guy responsible for the missing
hitchhikers?”
Berg’s heart lurched. They’d been working on the
missing hitchhikers for six months. During a routine review of missing persons’
files, Berg had noticed an anomaly—five local women between the ages of
eighteen and twenty-one had gone missing over the past two years without a
trace. Missing persons were not all that uncommon; most eventually turned up
locally or out-of-state, but these women had simply disappeared.
There had been something about the victims that got
to her, so Berg dug a little deeper, talking to any available friends and
family between working her regular cases. She had discovered that all the women
were known hitchhikers. While many had come from broken families, they had no
criminal record and no reason to disappear into the ether without a word to
anyone.
Curiosity piqued, she had taken some DNA from the
missing women’s personal items and family members. Then came a stroke of luck.
During a CODIS, or a Combined DNA Index System, comparison between the Missing
Persons’ Index and the Unidentified Persons’ Index, she’d gotten a match.
Decomposed remains matching the DNA of one victim, Amelia Smith, had been found.
Then the trail went cold—no more witnesses and no
new leads. Nothing.
While her hunches had generally panned out, with no
hard evidence connecting the victims to each other or yielding a major
breakthrough in the case, Berg had hit a wall. It was the most frustrating and
mysterious case she had ever worked on. She had come up with squat beyond the
one match, and she had to wonder if she’d seen patterns where there were none.
“You wouldn’t tease a girl, would you?” she asked
Jay, now interested in the body.
Jay laughed. “I sure would, but not you, Berg.
Name’s Danny Taylor, fifty-five, independent trucker based out of the city. The
body was discovered three days ago, five miles from his truck on the tollway,
near the Poplar Creek Forest Preserve. He had been tortured and dumped.”
Berg rubbed her arms free of the goose bumps that
were emerging due to the frigid air drifting out of the open refrigerator
drawer. “What does the ME list as cause of death?”
Jay looked through the medical examiner’s report.
“Not sure yet, but the ME thinks shock or loss of blood. Hard to ascertain with
so many injuries.” He nodded toward the man.
Berg studied the body critically. It was mottled
with bruises, stab marks, and deep gaping wounds. Ligature furrows on his hands
and wrists, combined with his blue fingers and toes, indicated he’d been tied
up for a good length of time prior to death.
“Of course,” Jay said with a grimace, “he may have
willed himself to die once his dick was cut off.”
Berg lifted the sheet a little higher and looked
down to the ragged, gaping wound where the man’s penis should have been. “Ouch.
Removed pre or post mortem?”
“The ME agrees it was done before he died, judging
by the surrounding tissue trauma.” Jay said, looking vaguely ill. “Anyway, ME
says there’s a lot more undeveloped bruising under those ugly tats, as well
other injuries, so cause of death is still to be determined. We’ll know more
tomorrow.”
“Okay, all this is kinda interesting in a gross
way, but I’m hearing nothing from you about why you think he’s responsible for
my girls,” Berg said, impatient.

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“Because we found a lovely hair belonging to
Melissa Shipper on him.”
 
About Vanessa Skye
 
Vanessa Skye has always had a love of words and spent
her school years writing poetry, speeches and fictional essays.
After completing a Bachelor of Arts in Print Journalism
and studying Psychology at Charles Sturt University, Vanessa got a job at Rural
Press—Australia’s largest publisher of regional and agricultural news and
information—where she worked as a journalist in the Central West of NSW for
four years.
Thousands of stories later, Vanessa decided to move back
to Sydney and try her hand at public relations while studying a Master of Arts
in Communication.
Skip forward a few years and Vanessa once again found
herself joyfully studying various psychology subjects while managing a Sydney
public relations firm. Enthralled with examining the motivations behind
people’s actions, Vanessa realized what she really wanted to do in life was
combine her love of words with her fascination for human behavior.
So Vanessa quit public relations to begin the
significantly more impoverished life of a professional writer.
Inspired by a recurring dream, Vanessa wrote her crime
fiction debut,
The Enemy Inside, which
challenges the concept of justice, asks if the need for vengeance sometimes
justifies murder, and explores whether you can ever heal from childhood abuse.
The second book in this Edge of Darkness series,
Broken, soon
followed. The third and final book in this series, Bloodlines, will be released on January 15, 2015.
Vanessa’s first paranormal romance book, Koven, will be released in May 2015, as
will an erotic thriller, Evidence.
In her spare time, Vanessa wrote a short story, The
Piece,
which was published in February 2012 by Dark Prints Press as a part
of the
One That Got Away dark fiction anthology.
Vanessa now works as a full time writer, lives in Sydney’s
northern beaches and tries to immerse herself in salt water at least once a
day.

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You can find out more at www.vanessa-skye.com
 

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