Detective Alan Beach discovers a tenuous connection between the apparent suicide of a prominent scientist and the assassination of a US Congressman. The suspense builds as he struggles to uncover the truth and a team of mercenaries tries to permanently silence him but a mysterious figure intervenes. Beach and his deadly new protector discover a dangerous conspiracy which runs far deeper than they imagined. In this must read thriller, the race is on to stop one of the most powerful business moguls in America from assuming the role of puppet-master over the entire nation.
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I grew up on the thriller masters like: Clive Cussler, Tom Clancy, Campbell Armstrong, etc. and wanted to emulate their skills and talents. For many years, I’ve wanted write truly entertaining thrillers, but I’d always let the everyday demands of life stand in my way. When I finally left my career as a sales and marketing executive in the pharmaceutical industry, I decided to put fingers to keyboard, and THE KILLING CODE is the result. I’ve since published the sequel, THE KILLING CHASE, and have just started work on THE KILLING COHORT – the third book in the Beach & Riley series. I love hearing from readers, and seeing reviews from complete strangers.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
I combined elements of myself, my family members, and my friends, to come up with the traits and abilities I wanted in my characters.
Dr. Helen Benson stood quietly but impatiently in the modern chic elevator, waiting to reach her floor in the luxurious Eleanor building. She had been at an international psychotropic pharmaceutical seminar in Washington for the past two days and was excited to reunite with her husband, Jim, and her two daughters, Bethany and Crystal. Busy imagining the adoring faces of her darling little girls and the embrace of her loving husband as she opened the door and they came rushing to greet her, she hadn’t paid much attention to the strange-looking little man with piercing eyes standing behind her. Now though, she could feel those eyes on her, and her mind wandered to thoughts of him. He was in the elevator before she entered so she’d assumed he must have come from one of the parking levels below the ground floor but she couldn’t remember having seen him in the building before.
Helen and her family had been living in ‘The Eleanor’ since they bought their comfortable, modern four-bedroom condominium eighteen months earlier; and despite the grand size of the building, and the fact that it contained ninety six apartments, she was familiar with many of the occupants. It wouldn’t be unusual for a guest to be riding unaccompanied in the elevator, since the modern security system enabled occupants to allow entry to visitors via a camera-phone, but she couldn’t help feeling slightly uneasy at his presence. Despite her tickling intuition, Helen admonished herself for being mildly paranoid and tried to put it out of her mind.
As the floor numbers flowed past on the LED display beside the elevator doors, the anticipation of seeing her family was renewed. She longed for details of the last two days. She wanted to ask Bethany about her new school and talk to Crystal about her friends in kindergarten. Essentially, she just wanted her much needed dose of family time after all those endless dry hours of lectures, display booths, and scientific chatter that had consumed her time at the convention center in D.C.
Just as the display passed through floor ten and Helen was deep in thoughts of her family, she felt a slight prick in the skin at the back of her neck, near the base of her skull. Before her mind could properly process what had happened, the small, sharp-featured man’s hand darted out toward the twelfth-floor button and the elevator came to a smooth stop as Helen rubbed her neck with a puzzled look on her face. The man exited the car and, as the doors began to close, Helen wondered if the mild pinch in her neck had come from him. With his hands deep in the pockets of his overcoat, he turned and glared straight into her eyes.
“Good night, Dr. Benson, sleep well.” he said, in what felt to Helen like a menacing tone. Then he turned and paced briskly down the hall as the elevator doors met and he was lost from her view.
“What on earth was that?” Helen wondered aloud.
The pain was not intense, and had quickly subsided to nothing more than a tingle but she felt confused by her thoughts on the origin of the pain and her interpretation of the man’s intent. Could it really have been something he’d done to her or was it just an insect bite or perhaps a phantom pain from a pinched nerve? Her medical training and experience had taught her over many years that the human body and mind were capable of playing all sorts of tricks, so perhaps this was one. There was no reason to suspect that a man in her safe, up-market residential building, particularly one who knew her by name, would do anything to hurt her, so she wondered why suspicion had been her initial reaction? Her better nature was telling her that she must have imagined his “menacing” tone. He had an accent, so maybe he wasn’t a native English speaker and his slightly inappropriate intonation was purely unintentional.
“There must be a logical explanation for the whole scenario.” she thought. “Too much time away from home has got you imagining things, Helen!” Her brow furrowed. “Then again, why did he wait to select his floor until the elevator had almost reached it instead of when he first entered?”
She decided to push all such thoughts out and get on with the much more pleasant business of coming home to her family. As the elevator drew to a halt on the fourteenth floor, she waited for the doors to open and walked purposefully toward the door of her family’s condominium.
The familiar brass numbers, 1404, entered her field of vision, and she pulled excitedly at the keys in her bag. In one quick movement, she reached for the lock and inserted her key. As the bolt slid open with a familiar clunk, she pushed the heavy security door and breezed through the opening. As if on cue, her girls looked up simultaneously from their coloring books and with squeals of delight, ran toward their mother in flurry of excitement and giggles.
Bethany, the elder, was first to reach her destination; half running and half jumping into her mother’s arms. Helen hugged her tightly and began smothering her with kisses as Crystal followed closely on her sister’s heels, colliding lovingly into her mother’s side and melting into a warm three-way embrace. Helen gripped Bethany with her left arm as her right hand dropped to the middle of Crystal’s back and she bent to kiss her younger daughter.
“How are my angels?” Helen gushed. “Have you been good girls for Daddy while I was away?”
“More like little monkeys!” Jim Benson interjected playfully. “I’m only kidding girls. They’ve been very helpful and well behaved; even made me breakfast one day… and once was more than enough!” he teased. “How was the conference, honey?”
“Oh, I don’t think you really want to know about the conference.”
“Nope, you got that right! I’m just glad you’re home safe.”
Jim’s eyes were locked on those of his wife as he strode toward his tightly huddled family. He and Helen had been married for over ten years, and their love for each other had grown only deeper and more respectful during that time. They had been in college together when they met, and though they courted for a year and a half before Jim proposed and they waited a further two years before they married, they had always known their futures would be inextricably entwined.
Jim was a successful nanotech engineer at a private company with connections to M.I.T. when Helen became pregnant with Bethany, and with her career in psychiatric pharmaceuticals taking off, they mutually agreed that he would be a stay-at-home dad. Jim was overjoyed with the decision as it would enable him to spend as much time as possible with the children while allowing him to focus more on his own design research than he could while he was in a formal job.
Jim reached his wife and two daughters, and the grand hug was complete. They held their embrace for a moment, only letting go to look into each other’s eyes. As the excitement subsided, Jim asked his wife, “Are you hungry, honey, or did you eat on the plane?”
“Eat on the plane – really? I wanted to make it home alive, thank you!”
“Oh come on, honey, it can’t be all that bad, can it?”
“It can and it was! One bite was all I could bear. I’m starving, and I need a shower.”
“OK, I’ve got the makings of a nice chef’s salad waiting for you, so go and get comfortable while I put it together.”
Helen started toward their bedroom but found that she had developed a limp from the excess weight that was daughter number two. She had attached herself to her mother’s left leg like a limpet and showed no signs of letting go.
“Come on now, Crystal, let Mommy put her things away and have a shower, then I’ll be back out to see you soon.”
Crystal’s grip released, and she pouted dramatically as Helen towed her wheeled case behind her down the hall. Once in the bedroom, she decided that unpacking could wait and headed straight into the en suite bathroom for a well deserved shower. As the warm water pulsed on her head and neck, she felt a wave of relief and relaxation from being safely at home with her family. She loved her cutting-edge work in psychiatric pharmaceuticals and neurohormones at Blue Sky Biotech but she had always tried to maintain as much balance in her life as possible, so any conferences that went for longer than a day were an annoyance.
Helen finished her shower, dried herself and sat on the edge of the bed in her bathrobe. She suddenly felt overwhelmingly tired and, despite her hunger and knowing that Jim was busily preparing a delicious meal for her, she felt strongly compelled to lie down.
“I’ll just have a ten minute lie-down…” she thought as she moved up the bed to lay her head on her pillow. “…and by the time Jim’s got the salad ready, I’ll be fine.”
Despite her best intentions, Helen fell into a deep sleep and within a few minutes, Jim came in to check on her. He knew she was even more exhausted than he had expected, so he decided to leave her to sleep. He went back into the dining room, took Helen’s salad to the fridge then cautioned the girls not to disturb their mother while she rested.
Helen woke with a start just over an hour after she’d drifted off and anxiously peered at the bedside clock.
“Damn!” she admonished herself. “The girls will be asleep already, and Jim’s salad will be wilted.”
She was disappointed that she’d fallen asleep before spending as much time with her family as they all needed. She secured the knot in her bathrobe, turned the doorknob and went to apologize to her husband; but entering the hallway, she noticed that everything was quiet – too quiet for this time of night. White noise emanated from the television in the living room down the hall, coming from a station that must have finished broadcasting for the night… but that didn’t make sense, since it was still early in the evening.
Helen stepped slowly and deliberately so as not to disturb the girls in their rooms as she made her way in the darkness to the living room to talk to Jim. She could see the snow on the television screen and began to wonder if she had misread the clock on her bedside table. Standing at the back of the main sofa where Jim would often stretch out to watch TV, she thought he must have dozed off since there was nothing on this particular channel and he hadn’t bothered to change it. She leaned forward and gently put her left hand on Jim’s right shoulder; partly to wake him and partly to hold her weight as she reached with her free hand for the remote to turn off the TV. Strangely there was no response from Jim, so before she turned off the TV, which would have extinguished the only light in the room, she gave him a little shake. When he still didn’t respond, she reached higher to stroke his hair and felt a strange, warm wetness covering his head. Helen stood to look at her hand, and a sudden wave of adrenalin swept through her body. Her hand began to shake uncontrollably as she realized it was coated in thick, dark blood. She felt a scream welling up inside her but her throat clamped shut and refused to allow it to come forth. She leaned over to shake Jim hard as her logical mind tried to fight the fear, shock, and disbelief. Her constricted voice box squeezed out his name as she shook him but still he didn’t respond. Her mind was darting from thought to thought, unable to focus. After long desperate seconds searching in vain for a pulse at Jim’s carotid artery, she realized he was gone and reeled back in horror. Despite her intellect, she could not gather her thoughts to process the situation. Disbelief was giving way to shock and confusion as she turned to face the dining room, where a terrible new vision lay before her.
Stark realization hit her like a baseball bat. Her beautiful daughters were at the dining table sobbing quietly, their eyes brimming with fear. Bethany was on a chair beside her little sister, who was held tightly on the lap of a madman. Helen immediately recognized the face of Bryan Adler, and she knew with fatal realization, the tragedy that had befallen her family and the fate that awaited her.
Bryan Adler had been Helen’s patient while she was working at a West Virginia government facility, which housed some of the country’s most dangerous criminally insane inmates. Bryan wasn’t the average psychopath; he was an utter monster, bred and created by the purest of evil and the worst case she had ever seen. Her sadness for his victims was enough to shake her faith, yet she also pitied him for his own suffering, and that pity had been unsettling.
For many hours before her first session with him, Helen had pored over Bryan’s file, examining his family history, home life, eventual foster care, and other relevant details, before finally moving on to his crimes. They were shocking, horrific events that had brought enormous notoriety to his case throughout the country. He had been dubbed “The Orphan Maker” by the press; a glibly inadequate nickname that Helen found repulsive in its diminution of the monster’s ghastly acts.
She knew Bryan Adler’s motives and desires, and she knew the outcome that awaited her was inevitable but she could not understand how he could have escaped from the maximum security mental facility where he had been held all these years or how he had found her home and gained access. He had been on long-term injected sedation plus a cocktail of anti-psychotic drugs for his entire incarceration. How was he able to overcome not only the effects of the drugs but the security measures of possibly the most secure psychiatric institution in the country?
But the answer to that question would not help her now anyway. Bryan ordered Helen to sit in the empty chair opposite, and she complied. She was all too familiar with his modus operandi. As he held the girls close to him, his signature drone began. Bethany had been gagged and her hands were bound in front of her since she was older and possibly capable of running from him. Crystal had the look of shock with which Helen was so familiar, from observing child victims of psychological trauma.
Had they been forced to watch their father die? she wondered fearfully. Will they ever recover from this trauma?
Her thoughts were completely detached from her own personal peril. She was only concerned that Bryan would leave her babies unharmed as he had always done with the children in his previous crimes. She was certain this was an essential component of his psychosis, so she steeled herself to follow his instructions without hesitation, even though it meant her own death and a life without real parents for her daughters.
Helen knew Bryan could see the resignation in her eyes, just as she had always felt he could see her inner thoughts in their therapy sessions. He stood up now, slowly but purposefully, holding Crystal in his left arm, and came around to Helen’s chair. He handed her a sharp knife, then calmly returned to his seat.
“You know what must be done, Dr. Benson.”
“Please don’t hurt my babies.” was all Helen could muster.
She gazed lovingly into her daughters’ eyes for a moment before looking down at the soft skin of her left forearm. Tears clouded her vision.
“Mommy loves you my darlings. Take care of your little sister, Bethany.”
With that, Helen drew the knife diagonally across her forearm with the precision of a trained medical doctor and watched the blood come forth. It flowed faster than expected, and she knew it wouldn’t be long before she would go into shock. The coldness would come over her in a wave then she would become sleepy and weak, eventually lapsing into unconsciousness. Finally, death would come.
Helen looked up into the eyes of her children, who were now sobbing uncontrollably. She wanted so desperately to comfort them and shield them from this violence and pain but she was already feeling the waves of shock come over her body. Blood was quickly pooling now on the carpet beneath her chair. As she became more and more drowsy, her daughters and Bryan Adler began strangely to fade from view. Yet she could still see the room. As she looked on in confusion, it became evident that there would soon be only vacant chairs, and she couldn’t understand what her eyes were telling her. Helen tried to lunge toward the rapidly disappearing image of her girls but she and her chair toppled to the floor. She made a final frantic search for her children but her field of vision began darkening into an ever shrinking circle. She vaguely sensed strong hands tugging at her body, then a powerful pressure on her injured arm. She even imagined she could hear the panicked voice of her husband but how could that be? Jim was dead.
The blood loss was too great now, and she was beginning to drift into unconsciousness. But with a final effort she managed to clearly whisper the name “Bryan Adler.” As she drifted away into the darkness, she thought she could see her husband’s face come into focus above her, frantic and fearful, as he begged her not to die.
Craig Hurren spent many years as a sales and marketing manager and executive in the pharmaceutical and healthcare industries. He also has a background in commercial television and news production, and was a SCUBA instructor. A long held passion for thrillers has driven him to aspire to the ranks of his favorite authors, such as: Campbell Armstrong, Clive Cussler, Vince Flynn, Michael Crichton, and others. His writing style is clear, concise, and briskly paced. His use of clever plot twists, gritty imagery and crisp action sequences, reflect his interest in the thriller masters, and his knowledge of medical technology makes his stories relevant and realistic.
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