"My cousin Ashlie was reported missing on the same day that I was told about the most brutal murder our small region had ever witnessed."
And so begins the afternoon that would change Doctor Andie Ross's life forever.
Married to her career as a forensic pathologist, Andie is still struggling to find balance between home life and work when she learns about the killer with a penchant for crucifixion and eye harvesting. The victims appear to be young runaways, and the pressure on Andie to get answers is intense; and not just professionally, when she realizes that her marriage is falling apart.
As the body count starts to rise, Andie teams up with her detective husband in a race to find her cousin -- and to stop the killer before he gets his next target: Her.
Read an excerpt here:
"My cousin Ashlie was reported missing on the same day that I was told about the most brutal murder our small region had ever witnessed.
I was sitting in my home office e-mailing my mother when the phone started ringing. I picked up the cordless phone, pushing hair out of my eyes. “Ross residence, Andie speaking.”
“Have you seen Ashlie?” It was my aunt Sarah; panic stricken. Her words jumbled together, confusing me.
“What?” I sat down at my desk, picked up a pencil, and started bouncing the eraser off a stack of papers. “Sarah take a breath, slow down. What’s happened?”
“It’s Ashlie!” She was on the verge of tears. “She’s gone!”
I rubbed the stiffness in the back of my neck and sighed, several rude thoughts sprang to mind. “Alright. Okay.” I hastily organized my thoughts. “I’m going to make some calls. I’ll get back to you as soon as
possible.” Already walking to the stairs, I hung up and dialed my husband James’s cell phone. He was a detective in a small town police force, and this called for his assistance.
"Hi Andie,” his partner, Lacey MacIntyre answered. “He’s just coming out of a meeting. Hang on a minute.”
Lacey was the only female detective in the Major Crimes Unit, or MCU, at James’s work. She was thirty-three and intimidating in her beauty. They had worked together for several years, mostly dealing with
sexual deviants and homicides where the victim had been violated in the most despicable of ways.
“Hello?” I could hear shouts in the background, the scraping of chairs, a door slamming.
“James, are you busy? We’re having a slight family crisis and I need you to come home and help me with something.”
He blew out air, his way of letting me know he was unhappy with the intrusion. “Alright. But Andie, I don’t have much time so it’ll have to be quick. Give me about ten minutes.”
Our town was an infant wedged between two walls of city. No matter where you were, everything was accessible. Even walking, it didn’t take long to get from one side to the other. The police station was across the train tracks, closer to the lake. It was early afternoon and traffic was minimal. I doubted he would even be ten minutes.
I put the phone back on the charger downstairs and got ready to head out. I was wearing blue jeans and a black tank top. My hair was pulled back into a loose ponytail and strands were falling out of the tie. I pulled on sandals, grabbed my purse and keys, set the alarm, and locked the door behind me.
Minutes later, James was honking before he had even brought the car to a stop alongside the curb. He looked tired and disheveled.
“What’s happening?” He asked, impatient, as I got into the vehicle.
The air conditioning was on full blast and I enjoyed the cool air as it blew onto my skin. It was a humid day in the first week of August. In less than five minutes outside and my hair had already started curling damply
at the nape of my neck.
“Ashlie ran away.” Did anyone believe in greetings anymore?
“Damn it!” He banged his fist on the steering wheel.
I watched him as he maneuvered on the road. He was angry and felt inclined to take it out on the car, driving too fast before slamming on the brakes, causing them to squeal on the hot asphalt. Despite the work that
he did and the things that he saw, James was usually pleasant and exercised remarkable self control. The man behind the wheel seemed to be a stranger in my husband’s skin.
I waited for him to calm down before saying anything else. When that didn’t happen, I finally cracked. “What?”
We were five minutes from home, on the highway that cut through the middle of most of the surrounding towns and cities. James whipped into the parking lot of a strip mall, stopping behind a delivery truck that was unloading at the back of a fast food joint. He stared out at the trees marking the end of the lot. I gave him a moment, listening to the traffic fighting to be heard over the sound of the air conditioner.
Finally he took a deep breath. “Some sick animal nailed a girl to a cross last night.”
“What?” Normally I could converse like the educated woman that I was. That day, however, it seemed like I hadn’t ingested nearly enough coffee, as there appeared to be a huge gap between my brain and my
spine. For the life of me I couldn’t follow along with important conversations.
“Some guy literally nailed a girl to a cross, Andie. You know, Bible style. Straight out of the New Testament kind of nailed to a cross. ME says cause of death is likely asphyxiation, but he won’t know until he looks.
“Asphyxiation due to crucifixion? That’s repulsive.” Repulsive was such an inadequate word, I thought, chewing my lip. “Where?”"
....Unclean is now available in the Kindle Store.