Kill Switch

by Gordon Bonnet

When high school teacher Chris Franzia comes home on the last day of school, he finds two FBI agents waiting for him. A string of seemingly unrelated murders has left them baffled, and they can find only one commonality. All five victims shared a college class with Chris thirty years earlier... and now he may be next.

Struggling with the sheer impossibility of the situation, Chris’s skepticism fades after a series of failed attempts on his life makes things deadly clear. Thus begins a harrowing cross-country race, forcing Chris to put together the pieces of his past while staying one step ahead of his mysterious assailants. Can he make the connection in time? And will the deadly picture of reconstructed memory be worth the price of knowing?

Excerpt:

Chris finished reading the email, and looked up.  The two FBI agents regarded him questioningly.

"Well?" Hargis said.  "Do you have any idea what this is about?"

Chris shook his head.  "I have no idea.  What possible reason could there be that we’re in danger?  We were in class together almost thirty years ago, and as far as I know, haven’t seen each other since."

"We were hoping you’d tell us.  You see, Mr. Cederstrom never responded to this email, because he was already dead."

Chris gaped at them.

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"He was struck by a car while riding his bicycle on May 26.  Killed instantly," Drolezki said.  "The driver was never caught."

"It was assumed to be a simple hit-and-run," Hargis said.  "It would have been a matter for local police if Cederstrom’s wife hadn’t found this email when she was taking care of his personal things after he died.  She informed the police, who tracked down Gavin McCormick, who worked as a pharmacist in Vancouver, Washington."

Chris felt a light sweat break out on his forehead.  "Worked?  As in past tense?"

Hargis nodded.  "McCormick didn’t show up at work on the morning of June 2.  His assistant was concerned, and called his house, and received no answer.  That afternoon, the assistant and another store employee, who were personal friends of McCormick’s, went over to his house, and found him dead."

"Murdered?" Chris said, his voice sounding thin in his own ears.

Hargis shook his head.  "No.  Apparent heart failure.  An autopsy showed nothing that allowed the authorities to claim foul play.  He seems to have simply died quietly in his sleep."

"Good lord," Chris said.

"At that point, we were called in, and started to try to track down the others mentioned in the email.  We got access to UW records for the Field Biology class that Cederstrom and McCormick had taken in 1983, and looked for the first names he mentioned.  They seemed to correspond to Lewis Corelli, Mary Michaels, Deirdre Ross, Elisa Howard, and you."

Chris nodded.  "Yes," he said.  "They were in the class."

"Three of them, Corelli, Michaels, and Ross, were still in the Pacific Northwest, and were fairly easy to track down.  We were worried about the women, because of names changing at marriage, but Ross never married and Michaels kept her maiden name."

"Well?" Chris said.  "Are they all right?"

Hargis for the first time looked ill at ease; everything else he had said had been delivered with a clinical lack of emotion.  "Corelli was an EPA lawyer, working in Seattle.  He had a stroke on June 11th while walking to work and was dead before the ambulance arrived.  Michaels was a jazz pianist in Eugene, Oregon.  She fell from a bridge on the 14th.  She apparently had a history of mental health problems, and her death was ruled a suicide, until our investigation tied her to the rest of you.  Deirdre Ross went missing on a hiking trip in the Olympics, probably on either the 15th or 16th.  Another hiker found her clothes on the morning of June 17th, dry and neatly folded, on a rock near the shore of Lake Quinault, as if she had gone in for a swim and never returned.  She is still missing and presumed drowned."

Chris stared at the two men.  "All within a month’s time?"

"Less," Hargis said.  "Cederstrom was the first, on May 26.  Ross disappeared before the 17th of June."

Chris swallowed, and looked down, staring at the magazine he’d been reading the previous night.

It had already happened.  I just didn’t know about it.  I was sitting there reading, and all five of them were dead.

COLLAPSE

About the Author

I write speculative fiction -- my stories center around changing one or two of the rules and seeing what happens.  What if myths were based on something real?  What if there was a place that kept track of every possible outcome for every decision made by every human on Earth?  What if there was a universal junkyard -- where all the lost things go, including lost people?

My novels take perfectly ordinary people and place them in completely extraordinary circumstances.  I not only ask, "What if...?", I ask, "What if it happened to you?"


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