Devin Dushane’s feet pounded out a steady rhythm on the steamy pavement of the jogging trail. The humidity reminded her of her time in
Thailand, not late spring in . She could feel beads of sweat sliding
down her neck, soaking into the edge of her white tank top where one of her
tattoos barely peaked out between her shoulder blades. She glanced to her left
and saw the amber sun sinking into the river. This was the forty-seventh time
she had run this five-mile course around the city of Richmond in the last
month. Sometimes in the baking heat of the setting sun, sometimes in the cooler
morning mists that floated off the river, and many times she ran it both in the
morning and the evening. Virginia
She should be exhausted, but instead, adrenaline flowed through her veins and crackled around her like electricity. This would be the night. She knew it as surely as she knew every curve in this trail. Her father had always said her grandmother Bennett had passed on “the sight” to Devin, the gift of knowing when evil was lurking. She was more inclined to believe it was a keen awareness of her surroundings and elevated sense of details, two skills that had helped her excel as a police detective. It also helped that she was as tenacious as pit bull, which is how she ended up on this sting operation in the first place. She grinned a little to herself as her earpiece crackled.
“Well, your form is definitely improving, Twister.” Her partner, Greg, had nicknamed her “Twister” because, “You either get caught up in Devin’s energy or flattened by it like an Oklahoma Twister.”
A perfect example of that energy was Devin’s first encounter with her hand-to-hand combat instructor at the police academy. The drill sergeant flunky had planned to put her in her place when he called her up to demonstrate a technique. Instead she put him flat on his back, ten feet across the mat. The story was legendary among cadets, one Greg loved to tell.
“Thanks, Greg. You know my running form is my biggest concern out here tonight,” she murmured under her breath.
To any onlookers she would look like a typical jogger talking to herself as she ran. It was impossible to tell that the ear buds to her mp3 player were actually tying her in to the communication center of the surveillance team. Nor would they know that her sporty sunglasses and the fancy emblem on the back of her running tank were actually equipped with small cameras that were also transmitting to the surveillance team. Undercover officers were scattered around the park, keeping pace with Devin as she moved up the trail.
This operation had been her idea, and as much as her commander had disliked the plan, he knew it was their only shot right now of catching what the press had dubbed “The James River Killer.” So far four women had been brutally raped and stabbed to death just feet off the jogging trail that wound around
Richmond and the James River. The fifth victim had barely survived and had
been able to give them some details about how the attack took place. That’s
when Devin had come up with the plan to offer the James River Killer exactly
what he was looking for: a pretty, young female runner with a predictable
schedule who always ran solo. Bait, so to speak.
At twenty-nine, with her tan, athletic physique and mass of mahogany hair, she fit the bill perfectly. It was their hope that the killer was stalking her this very moment, and that when he made his move out of the shadows, the team would swoop in for the grab, containing the situation with minimal collateral damage.
They had no idea how very right and very wrong they were about to be.
Devin sensed his presence a half a second before the James River Killer stepped out of the dense thicket onto the trail behind her. As she whirled around, Greg was screaming in her earpiece.
“Devin, behind you, to the right. Turn around. Turn Around!”
Just as the fifth victim, Kaitlin Alvarez, had described him, the James River Killer was dressed in black from head to toe, cloaked in black fatigues, boots, a ski mask and gloves, so it was impossible to identify race or distinguishing marks. But Devin could tell he was six feet tall and at least 200 pounds—and he knew how to handle the seven-inch blade he was wielding.
She had to occupy him for thirty seconds, tops, before the rest of the team would surround them. She was ready as she faced off with him. He didn’t hesitate as he drove the knife towards her throat, but she thrust her arm into the inside of his elbow, knocking his blow high so it grazed her shoulder. In the heat of the moment, she didn’t even feel the pain of the cut that should have seared her flesh, and instead landed a punch in his windpipe, followed by a rapid combo of a knee to the groin and then a smashing elbow to the nose. He stumbled back, but only a half a step before he dove forward, sinking the blade into the left side of Devin’s abdomen.
If she hadn’t been a fighter trained in the streets, she might have fallen, but she was fueled by a vengeance that would have to be answered for. When the killer moved to plunge the blade into her stomach a second time, Devin caught his arm and flipped it around, snapping the bones in his wrist, making him drop the knife. She twisted his arm behind, flipping him on to his back and slamming him to the ground, much like she had the academy instructor.
Officers poured into the area around them, weapons drawn. Devin stumbled back, feeling her injuries for the first time. Like the strike of a snake, the JR killer flicked a semiautomatic from under his jacket and rolled to his knees. It was so fast that by the time Devin had screamed out, “Gun!” he’d already sliced a round of bullets into the crowd. Greg and two others went down, and a young mother with a jogging stroller just down the path stood in harm’s way. The raining gunfire kept the officers pinned down, and with no open shots that would not further endanger the civilians in the park.
Devin was unarmed and bleeding heavily, but she had the advantage of being behind the killer. Without thinking, she leapt forward into a spin, attempting a move she had seen only in the underground fights of
had no prayer of performing it correctly, but if luck was with her, she could
do it well enough to incapacitate the attacker. She was more than lucky. Devin
landed the kick precisely at the base of the killer’s skull. In the roar of the
mayhem surrounding her, the sickening snap of his neck still seemed as loud as
a gunshot. The James River Killer slumped to the ground, motionless. He would
do no more harm. Thailand
Devin shot forward to where Greg had fallen and began yanking off his vest. Of course the bullets had struck in the few vulnerable places the body armor didn’t cover, and Greg was gasping for breath as Devin began applying pressure to his wounds.
“Did you get him?” Greg gasped out. “Tell me you got him.” His curly ash blonde hair and button-down shirt were quickly being soaked with blood. His round face and dimples had always made him appear boyish and too young to be a detective, but he suddenly looked much older than his thirty-four years.
“Yeah G-Man, we got him. He’s definitely down. No worries, ok?” Devin tried using her best sunny voice, but she was failing miserably.
“Devin? Promise me you’ll get me to Marcy so I can say good-bye.” He rarely called her by her given name; it was always Twister or Twist. “She’s at work at St. Mary’s.” He let out a choked laugh. “Hey, you can kill two birds with one stone.”
“You’re not funny, idiot. I’ll take you to St. Mary’s, but there are no good-byes involved. Understand?”
“Sometimes you can’t hold things together by sheer will.” With that, Greg’s grey eyes rolled back in his head, and he fell limp.
Instantly Devin began compressions, screaming at the nearest officer to get a bus. By the time the EMTs reached them, she’d gotten his pulse back, and he was just regaining consciousness as they were loading up.
“Devin, please,” he managed. “I have to see Marcy. Promise me.” His strangled words were just a whisper.
“Fine!” she snapped. “I’ll promise if it’ll shut you up. But just so you know, I expect you to be at work helping me write up the report on this.” She gave him the acidic glare she was famous for around the precinct, and he tried to smile, but couldn’t manage it.
Within a block of the hospital, Greg flat-lined. The EMT shocked his heart, and Devin began compressions again.
Protesting did the tech no good. “Detective, we’ve barely stopped your bleeding. You need to back down and let me work!”
“With all due respect, you need another set of hands, and bleeding or not, I’m all you’ve got.”
Her reputation preceded her, and the EMT stopped arguing to save time and instead used a mask to bag Greg, filling his lungs as they pulled up to the hospital. Devin rode the gurney in to the trauma unit, continuing with compressions the whole way, with the EMT running alongside. She glanced up to see Marcy’s pale face as they passed the desk. Someone must have called her down from the cardiac unit where she worked. With her petite frame and wide purple-blue eyes, she looked like a frightened child. Devin and Greg were covered in blood, and they arrived with a frantic flurry of activity. It was probably not an image that instilled confidence. Devin stayed where she was, trying to keep Greg’s heart beating until someone forcibly removed her and began carrying her into another room. She started to resist until she heard someone yell, “He’s back!”
They’d made it. She’d gotten him to Marcy liked she promised. Now the doctors were responsible for saving him. Devin didn’t want to admit to herself how unlikely that was. The doctors were saying things like “shredded left ventricle” and “pierced pulmonary artery.” She allowed for only a quick patch job of her wounds before she propelled herself back to Greg and Marcy. Stitches would have to wait.
Marcy had her forehead pressed against Greg’s; she was whispering to him and crying softly. She glanced up as Devin approached them. Devin half expected Marcy to be angry; it was well-known that many in the precinct thought Devin’s plan had been reckless and much too dangerous. In the end it had been the only choice they had with the current information, and the risks to the community had become too great to do nothing.
But Marcy wasn’t angry; she gave Devin a sad smile, her violet eyes full of despair. Being cautious of her friend’s injuries, Marcy gently wrapped one of her arms around Devin’s waist in a tender hug, still holding a hand to Greg’s face. She was so tiny she only came up to Devin’s shoulder.
“Thanks, Dev. Greg always said that if something happened to him on the job, you’d get him to me. Thank you for that.”
Devin couldn’t believe they were having such a peaceful conversation in the midst of the chaos around them. Greg looked up at her then, and as their eyes locked, she knew with that familiar tingling assurance that he was leaving them. Devin reached out to grip his hand—it was as if the two women wanted to anchor him here to earth with their touch, to keep him with them.
“Thanks, Twist, for getting me here. You really got him, right? You’re not just pacifying a dying man, are you? He’s gonna get what’s coming to him, right?” He looked desperate to know that his sacrifice would not be in vain, that they had subdued an evil in their city.
“Yes, G, we got him. And he already got what was coming to him. That SOB is rotting in hell as we speak.”
She squeezed his hand gently and then let him go so Marcy could have him completely in his final minutes. He studied her for just a moment and then nodded ever so slightly. His silver eyes flicked between the two women.
“You two take care of each other. Devin, Marcy is going to need your strength, and Marcy, Twist sucks at the emotional stuff, so don’t let her bottle this all up, ok?”
With that he stared into Marcy’s eyes as if trying to will her to feel all of his emotions. They’d been married one short year, but the intensity of their relationship surpassed an eternity of normal marriages. He breathed out a final “I love you,” and then he was gone.
The mayhem in the room reached a fevered pitch as a code blue was called, but as she slipped quietly out, Devin knew no medical miracle would save him. She was halfway down the hall when her commander, Captain Morris, stopped her.
“Dushane, what the hell are you doing? You look like something out of bad horror flick. Get in there and get stitched up!”
She heard most of what he said, but the adrenaline rush was over, the loss of blood was catching up with her, and grief was threatening to crush her. The last thing she heard before she hit the floor was a stream of curses from Captain Morris.