Dear Diary,I am a star. I’ve finally found the yellow brick road to fame. I could teach anyone. As long as they are willing to die for it.
A bomb goes off in Buffalo, N.Y.
That same day FBI agent, Daryll Peltier, receives the first of many correspondences from a serial killer calling themselves, Sam-I-Am.
The gruesome torture and murders of the killer’s victims are filmed and broadcast on live television. Creating a puzzling masterpiece of blood and torture which the FBI can’t unravel.
Daryll and her partner, Frank Zepano, began a hunt for the killer across the continental United States and into the Caribbean.
The hunt involves cryptic messages, a strange and powerful cult, an unstoppable nano virus, the International Space Station, a trailer park psychic, a tabloid newspaper journalist, a computer hacker, the Oscars…and a body count of one victim per state.
- 1 To Be Read list
I am a star. I’ve finally found the yellow brick road to fame. I could teach anyone. As long as they are willing to die for it.
The old man was having a tough time navigating himself from patch to patch of bare sidewalk, wherever salt had melted through the ice and snow. Whenever he found himself back on a sheath of ice, he kept his eyes forward along the ground for the next brown sidewalk oasis. His cane reached out for it and waited for his shuffling feet to catch up. Younger people anyone under eighty gave him a wide berth, seeing the concentration in his face lowered to the ground, not wanting to interrupt his perilous walk and cause him to slip to the ground. As they passed, a whiff of caramel and Rub-A535 stayed with them, a thick odor trail coming from the man. His thick tartan scarf was bunched up under his chin, warding off the cold front that gripped the city of Buffalo. He was deathly afraid of the Lake Erie wind that blew down the narrow street, forming a perfect wind tunnel which slammed against his body. Often he had to bring his crawling walk to a stop in order to bolster himself against the push, withstand it, and then wait until it subsided for him to continue. Too many pitfalls in a simple trip to the dry cleaners.
He made it to the advertisement-plastered door, his cane rattling against the glass as he pushed against the ‘Pull’ sign. He tried again, and then looked at the door, hoping it would explain why it refused to open. A woman in her mid-twenties exited with a handful of plastic-wrapped clothes dangling over one leopard-patterned glove and held the door open for him. He smiled his bright blue eyes at her, softly gripped the brim of his fedora with three fingers and said a sweet ‘Thank you very much. Very kind of you.”
The woman beamed at him, thinking of her grandfather as the word ‘adorable’ played across her mind. Firmly gripping his elbow, she helped the old man as he struggled up the single step into the dry cleaners. She made sure he was all the way in before delicately closing the door behind him.
The man slapped his cane down on the counter, unfastened the first two buttons of his overcoat and slapped his hat down hard, hoping it would call a clerk to the front counter. A black leather gloved hand dug into a pocket and pulled out a dry cleaning ticket. He looked at it to make sure it was the ticket. It was hard to feel something as thin as paper with fur-lined gloves on. He slipped it onto the counter beside his hat and waited for the clerk. Glancing at the large wall clock hanging just a few inches from the ceiling, he hoped he wouldn’t have to wait all day. He was a busy man.
“How are you today, sir?” asked the clerk., appearing from hanging dry cleaning on a revolving rack.
“HOW ARE YOU TODAY?” the clerk piped up.
“Oh yeah,” the man said as he poked a finger into each ear to turn up his hearing aids. “There we go. Not too shabby myself. I’ve got some cleaning to pick up.”
“Yes, sir. I’ll get it right away.”
The clerk took the ticket, read the number on it and disappeared into a forest of plastic-wrapped clothes hanging off the snaking bars that filled the entire backroom of the store.
The man reached into his other pocket and looked at his withdrawing hand to make sure another piece of paper was coming out with his glove-numbed grasp. A single eight-and-a-half by eleven sheet came out, which the man held tightly as he looked up to the sign he saw last week when he first came to drop off his dry cleaning. A fax machine’s services were advertised, a dollar a page. The man wasn’t sure if that was a fair price or not; he wasn’t versed in the competitive finances of this modern, technological era which he had managed to age into. But he needed to fax something and this was the only place he knew where a fax machine existed. He didn’t know what one looked like, but he was sure the clerk would guide him through it.
The clerk came back with a single hanger of clothes. A black suit jacket, black pants, and thin black tie. The clerk assumed the man had a special occasion coming up, maybe his grandson or granddaughter’s wedding. Or perhaps, the clerk thought morbidly, his own funeral.
The old man took another scrap of paper from another pocket and slipped it on the counter. “I saw last week you have one of those fax machines here. I need to send something to my daughter. She says I have to have a special phone number to give you.”
The clerk hung the clothes on a hook and looked at the scrap of paper with the fax number on it.
“We just got it fixed last week. It’s a dollar a page.”
“Yep, okay, I saw your sign there,” he said, gesturing upward with his eyes. “I’ve only got one page, so you won’t become a millionaire off me, young fella.”
The clerk smiled. “What would you like to fax?”
The old man suddenly remembered the folded page in his hand and laid it on the counter.
“Now you won’t look at what I wrote will you?” the old man quipped with the clerk. “It took me a long time to write it . . . with these fingers of mine everything takes a long time. It’s kinda personal and probably a little embarrassing.”
“I promise I won’t even take a peek,” the clerk said.
He went over to the fax machine and stuck the page face down into the entry tray.
“Oh, I saw you you peeked!” the old man teased.
The clerk winked, typed in the number, and then pressed ‘Send’. The old man curiously watched the machine drag the sheet down, and then watched it reemerge from the bottom.
“No, I don’t want a copy made of it,” the old man protested.
“No, no, sir. You see, the paper goes in, I dialed the fax number, it reads what’s on the page and sends that information through the telephone lines to where the phone number tells it to go. The only copy that’s made comes out in your daughter’s fax machine. And you get to keep the original.” The clerk neatly re-folded the paper without looking at it and handed it back.
The old man tucked the sheet inside his jacket with his eyes still staring at the machine, fascinated.
“Will you be receiving anything back from your daughter, sir?”
The old man had a confused look on his face. The clerk explained that the procedure also worked in reverse.
“Oh no, no she won’t be sending anything back. That’s one amazing do-hicky. If I weren’t so damn old, I’d read up on what’s going on in science these days. Hell, I’ve just got used to having one of those DVDs, but I’m hearing even they aren’t any good anymore.”
The clerk laughed. “Is that everything? All done?”
“That’s all she wrote,” the old man said, taking out his wallet. “What’s the tab with the cleaning and that fancy paper-shredder over there?”
The clerk tapped a few keys on the register and told the man the price.
“Sounds fair,” the man said as he took a twenty out of his wallet. “You do quite the business here I bet?”
“Not too bad in the spring and winter, when people’s clothes get the most dirty. Summer’s our down time.”
“Oh yeah, I guess that makes sense. Nippy out there today.” The man took his change, put on his hat, tightened the scarf around his neck, buttoned his coat to his neck and took his cane. “I’ve got one more stop into the hardware store and that’s it for me I retire!”
The clerk took the man’s cleaning off the hook and held onto it as he walked around the counter and held the door open for the man.
“You have yourself a good day now, young man. Don’t take any wooden nickels.”
“Thank you, sir,” the clerk said with a smile. “You too.”
“Never taken one yet, so I don’t plan to now.”
The clerk helped the old man through the door and down the step to the sidewalk. They said their goodbyes as the old man headed down the sidewalk and the door closed behind him.
After only a few steps down the sidewalk, the old man saw a man run up to him wearing a blue Kevlar vest with “SWAT” stenciled across in yellow. He carried an M16 rifle with one arm, barrel pointed up, and wore a helmet that shielded his entire head and down the back of his neck.
“Sir, you have to get out of here now!” the armed man said, his voice muted and hollow behind the plexiglass face shield. “We’re evacuating the area. Please move to the other side of the street.”
“What’s going on?” the old man asked, confused.
He looked around him, only realizing when he raised his eyes that the streets were in chaos. People were being corralled out of door fronts, down the street and around corners, disappearing from view. For a brief instant, the old man thought of Nazi Germany. The voices of police, SWAT soldiers and FBI agents echoed between the buildings on either side of the narrow street, yelling for people to drop what they were doing and begin running. Children were lifted off their feet into the arms of parents, who in turn glanced between the police forces and the street, wondering why they were being made to run. Those who lost their footing on the ice, almost to be trampled by the mob, were picked up by a SWAT member and set back on their feet.
Police cars, fire trucks, unmarked federal cars and SWAT vans were parked haphazardly along the streets that formed the intersection. Yellow tape had been strung across every road far away from the panic; police cruisers and officers posted to keep the curious at bay.
The SWAT officer who met the old man pointed across the road to his teammate and told the old man to walk toward him as fast as he was able. The man instinctively checked both directions before starting out, and then looked at his feet as he plotted a route over the snow. He shuffled as quickly as his weak muscles could drive him, the plastic covering his suit flapping in the wind, his body leaning forward to compensate for the pull. His eyes flashed between the SWAT man on the other side and the ground, keeping to the bare salted asphalt or islands of hard snow.
Panic overcame him. The SWAT officer on the other side had vanished, taking care of another man who had slipped to the ground. He could feel every arthritic joint in his body seize up and drag him to a standstill. Sweat broke out across the brim of his forehead and absorbed into the hatband. He had made it to the halfway point of the road, the yellow median line covered by thick snow. Letting the hanger hook slip from his fingers, his clean suit dropped, allowing him to push on without the wind tugging him back. He saw an African-American woman in an overcoat similar to his rushing to him. An exhausted smile formed on his lips.
She saw how frail he was and decided to shoulder most of the burden. His arm went over the back of her neck as she grabbed around his waist, practically lifting him off the ground as she rushed him ahead. He was as light as skin and bones. His cane dropped as he tightened his frail grip around her wrist at his waist, hoping he wouldn’t make her stumble. When they got to the opposite curb, she told him to keep moving, to aim for the paramedic ahead, he would get him to safety. The man raised his eyes and concentrated.
The woman went back for his cane and rushed back to him but he was gone. No longer a priority, being safe. The flow of bodies rushed passed her line of sight, and she assumed the man had been pulled along with them. She would have to return his cane to him when it was all over. Back to those still in danger this time a child who had been separated from his parents, sitting on the road, wailing.
The SWAT officer whom the old man left behind was inside the dry cleaners, telling the clerk he had to get the hell out of the building and move his ass to the other side of the street. Confusion and terror seized the clerk logic was lost.
“I can’t leave here, my boss will kill me. Who’s going to watch the store?”
“Get your fucking ass out of here!” the SWAT officer yelled. He grabbed a handful of the clerk’s shirt and wrenched him over the counter. Like a lifeless puppet in the powerful officer’s hands, the clerk’s head hit against the body armor of the officer, and the clerk went unconscious.
The SWAT officer didn’t know his own strength. He swore a shattering curse in the tiny store.
Transferring his grip to the back of the unconscious man’s shirt, he heaved the body off the ground. With the M16 held tight in his other arm, he side-kicked open the door, smashing the glass. He pushed through with his hip, the clerk’s feet scraping toe-trails into the snow.
Another SWAT agent was farther down the block. He was ushering out a baker and his wife and the young women who had just been in the dry cleaners. The young woman put herself between the couple, linking her arms in theirs, and the three turned the immediate corner before they were stopped.
“Not that way!” the SWAT officer yelled.
The trio froze and looked at the officer. Where were they supposed to run? They following the gloved officer’s pointing finger to across the road. He wasn’t explaining anything, which only increased the panic. They just had to get away from this side of the street. They turned and started off. The officer looked up the sidewalk to his partner who seemed to be carrying out a dead body. He motioned with hand signals, a thumb’s-up to give the all clear to individual stores, then pointing upwards and shrugging his shoulders to ask if the apartments above were clear. The officer carrying the body motioned back that he didn’t know.
The baker and his wife and the young woman were half way across the road and moving fast. A patch of ice that was only lightly covered with snow took the baker’s wife down. But her fall brought down the other two.
Before they had a chance to get back on their feet, their bodies broke apart into pieces, followed by a thick fog of blood.
The scream of the crowd still living couldn’t be heard beneath the retort of the blast. Those who were not knocked down by the shockwave dropped themselves to the ground and covered their heads or hid behind firetrucks and ambulances. Those who had been rushed along the street, but who had not quite made it to safety around a corner of the opposing block, were slammed back against store walls, their heads split open before the debris of the exploded block punctured or bore through their dead bodies. Some were thrown through glass storefronts, legs dangling outside over torn windowpanes or heaved against the back walls of stores, sprawled across fast-food restaurant order counters, or further into bubbling fryers.
All the windows on the opposite side of the street imploded. The snow and ice that crusted the surface of the road and sidewalks immediately evaporated into water vapor. Parked cars and vans were flicked up off the road and slammed back down on their roofs. Electrical wires snapped and curled. A handful of firemen, police officers and pedestrians who were saved the brunt of the blast by the firetruck were electrocuted when a live end landed on the truck’s ladder. The dead could not feel the fireball’s heat eat their hair and rash their faces a permanent red; they couldn’t perceive a brick and wood and glass hailstorm fall on them. They could only soak the street with their blood.
Distant now from the center of violence, tucked away in an alley far from where the rest of the street’s population sought shelter, stood the old man. He could hear the sirens of speeding backup police and fire crews, and the screams that came after the calm. His heart pounded and his breath labored out of his lungs. The inner band of his hat was wet with perspiration, but he didn’t take the hat off to cool his head in the winter air. He popped out his hearing aids and broke them under his heel. In his sprint, one of his contact lenses had come loose and was sticking out from his lower eyelid. Pinching the fingers of one glove, he slid his hand free. A hypodermic syringe was taped to the inside of his wrist. He peeled it off and dropped it into his pocket. The skin of his hand was smooth with youth. Peeling the contact lens free, he balanced it cupped on the tip of his finger. One eye was blue, the other green.
A light snow began to fall.COLLAPSE
I received this book from Necro Publications/Bedlam Press as an ARC. This was a complete book series from Rob Bliss called, “Necro Psycho Series.” This is a remarkable book for any crime/mystery/cop thriller book lover. Rob Bliss, the author, really knows how to spin a crime story.
The story opens on an elderly man walking through the streets of New York. He’s going about his daily business, as fast as his old body will allow him; with ice and snow too boot. As he finishes up his morning chores, he crosses a street, and a bomb goes off.
Agents, police entities, paramedics, injured and the dead are spilled out amongst the wreckage, blood and damage after the bomb. As the investigations begin, Agent Daryll Peltier receives her first message from a twisted, horrific serial killer. As the novel plays out, more correspondences cross Daryll’s desk. Victims are mutilated, tortured, and eventually killed.
Although the book was well written and entertaining, it was long and wordy as well. Even in the author’s description, “Daryll and her partner, Frank Zepano, began a hunt for the killer across the continental United States and into the Caribbean. The hunt involves cryptic messages, a strange and powerful cult, an unstoppable nano virus, the International Space Station, a trailer park psychic, a tabloid newspaper journalist, a computer hacker, the Oscars…and a body count of one victim per state” you can see that there is an over abundance of plot lines and information taking place. I think a huge portion of the story could be cut out to make it a more precise, attention grabbing novel. It could easily be cut down.
The only other aspect of the novel I didn’t enjoy was the gory, bloody descriptions. The gore factor was a bit over the top and I found myself skipping pages just to get through the novel(s).
All in all, this is a thrill pleasing crime novel for any enthusiast of this genre’.