A killer is using labyrinthine storm drains to dispose of his victims, who are found handcuffed and drowned, washed out of the rain-filled drainage lines like garbage. The crimes compel FBI Agent Tess McCallum to crack the case, but they're touching a nerve in Personal Security Consultant Abby... read more
Michael Prescott begins his Tess McCallum and Abby Sinclair Trilogy with a winner! Some may have already been introduced to one or both of the characters, in other titles. While their methods, legal restraints, and moral constructs may be different; their motives, goals, and resentment of... read more (warning: may contain spoilers)
Michael Prescott begins his Tess McCallum and Abby Sinclair Trilogy with a winner! Some may have already been introduced to one or both of the characters, in other titles. While their methods, legal restraints, and moral constructs may be different; their motives, goals, and resentment of bureaucracy, are quite similar.
Agent McCallum is restricted by a sworn duty and an arguably, stronger moral compass; while Abby Sinclair is guided by a duty to her clients and an "end justifies the means" attitude. In addition, Abby does not appear to be a person guided by religious teachings; instead, motivated by her own sense of right vs. wrong. She appears to have no remorse for any societal injustice, perpetrated against "evil."
Similarly, Tess suffers from internal conflicts of right vs. wrong. However, in contrast to Abby, the internal conflict is not simply one of moral sublimation; instead, it is a conflict between indoctrinated religious beliefs and her cultivated constitutional code.
Even with these similar, yet divergent views, the two make a good duo. They are kind of like oil and vinegar; mixed together in a big salad of other, less impressive characters. If the salad contained one but not the other - it just wouldn't taste right.
In "Dangerous Games," Tess McCallum, Special Agent in Charge (SAC) of the Denver Field Office, is called back to Los Angeles to "assist" the FBI. There have been a recent series of kidnap for ransom cases, all ending in death. The unknown subject (unsub) was abducting women and demanding ransom be paid by the city. The unsub would handcuff his victims in the underground labyrinth of the storm sewer system, and then provide the victims location, once the ransom was paid. Unfortunately, this was always done, just before forecasted rain storms; rescue teams had been unable to make it to any victim, in time.
The media is successfully prompting plenty of, bad, public opinion, regarding the FBI's ineptness. The media and public are faulting the City of Los Angeles and the FBI, in their delays of ransom payment and failure in catching, the "Rain Man."
Washington wants results and has decided, due to her success during her role in the "Mobius" case; to temporarily assign Agent Tess McCallum to the "Rainman" taskforce.
In a prior Los Angeles case, McCallum, single-handedly put an end to a Serial Killer, "Mobius," saving thousands from becoming victims of a deadly nerve agent, V6. These accomplishments, not only raised Tess' status within the agency, it made her a "Hollywood Hero."
Once arriving in Los Angeles, Tess soon discovered that she had more than one thing to be "unhappy" about. The first, was that she would be working under one of her least favorite people, Richard "The Nose" Michaelson, Assistant Director in Charge (ADIC) of the Los Angeles Field Office. The second, was that she would not be taking an active role in the investigation; she was merely there as a public relations token.
Upon discovering the true motive behind her temporary assignment, and minutes before a pre-arranged press conference; Tess refused to be used as a media relations ploy. Michaelson was outraged with Tess' insubordination, and she was ostracized by most of the entire Los Angeles office. As punishment, Michaelson assigned Tess with the menial task of sorting through hundreds of phone tips; although frustrating, this assignment provided Agent McCallum with the exclusive lead, in tracking down the "Rainman."
The information from the caller's tip, leads Tess to a victim of a stalker, who thinks the same person is the "rainman." The stalker, William Kolb, has already served his time and been released; he is a former police officer. As a police officer, he pulled over Madeleine Grant , and then began stalking and threatening her. He would send anonymous emails, harassing her, and describing in detail, how he planned to abduct her. The method described, fits the Modus Operandi (MO) of the "Rain Man," and Grant is certain that the language, tone, and feel are all too familiar.
Agent McCallum soon has her first meeting with Abby Sinclair, the "Stalker of the Stalkers." Abby holds a M.S. in Psychology and is a private investigator, specializing in threat assessment. Madeleine was/is one of her clients. At first, Agent McCallum is completely put-off by Abby Sinclair. She feels that people like Abby are merely vigilantes, and has no tolerance for such activity. Although, Tess is a federal agent, bound by federal statutes, codes and regulations, and professional standards; she ironically dismisses a lot of these in pursuance of her own agenda. She is not a typical FBI bureaucrat. Due to this stark irony, and some insightful self-evaluation, Tess decides to give Abby a chance. Soon, the two become allies, in their fight against evil.
Throughout the story, we are provided with imaginative writing, which includes a look at life from the "Rain Man's" perspective. This includes insightful descriptions of psychopathy and grandiosity. The "Rain Man" is truly a disturbed individual with no regard for any other human. He is convinced of his superiority over every man and follows a strict social dogma of "the survival of the fittest."
The "Rain Man," now identified as William Johnson, has an unidentified accomplice, whose identity is kept secret until the end. However, the reader knows that this individual does have inside knowledge of the investigation and is able to provide information about Tess McCallum's actions and knowledge; additionally, he reveals that Madeline Grant is somehow involved with McCallum's ongoing investigatory theory.
Grant's involvement prompts Johnson to question the true identity and motive of Abby Sinclair. He is convinced that she is some type of agent or investigator, due to her appearance during the Madeleine Grant affair and return appearance, now. He does a little of his own investigating, and discovers that Abby's apartment is unused. Certain that he is being played, he plans a dinner date with Abby, as a ruse to make her, his next victim.
At this point in the story, Tess' and Abby's relationship is not one of mutual trust and agreement. Tess has discovered that Johnson, although guilty of stalking Grant, and sending the computer messages; had been victim to other planted evidence. The evidence against Kolb was discovered after an "accidental" fire began in his apartment, and an anonymous phone call reported it. Firefighters found incriminating evidence, including handcuffs, duct tape, etc... in plain sight. This prompted an investigation by the LAPD, his computer had copies of the emails sent to Grant, and a plea bargain was reached. However, the District Attorney, knew that the door to Kolb's apartment, showed signs of a break-in. Additionally, a witness reported seeing a person matching Abby's description, going up to Kolb's floor with a full bag of unknown items, and returning soon after, with an empty bag. Due to the totality of the circumstances; it was obvious that Kolb was guilty of stalking. However, the evidence of a kidnapping conspiracy was most likely planted; in fact, it should have been shared with the defense as exculpatory evidence. Therefore, the District attorney pushed for a one year plea bargain, if Kolb pled guilty to the stalking charges. Otherwise, the prosecution bluffed that they would go forward with all the evidence, and Kolb may face a quite lengthy period of incarceration.
When Tess confronted Abby with this information, Abby admitted to planting the evidence. Her defense was: Kolb was an evil person who didn't deserve to be free. If proof of the kidnapping conspiracy wasn't there; she would simply plant it. He was a bad guy who deserved whatever he got. This was a major conflict between Tess and Abby. Tess was having a difficult time dealing with the issues of ethics and morality. Tess, while caught in a dichotomy of feelings towards Abby; she was focused on continuing her rogue investigation without getting caught by Michaelson. In order to do this, she had to break FBI protocol, by requesting a automobile tracking device from her Denver office. Again, she was perplexed with her own willingness to break the rules; yet, be so hard on others who did the same.
In fact, she is so fraught with internal conflict, and upset about a recent Denver case that resulted in the death of a small boy; one she felt was completely her fault, due to a decision to delay arrest - she visited a nearby Catholic church.
Unexpectedly, a Priest was inside the church and willing to hear her confessions. It had been such a long time, since she received the sacrament, she didn't even know how to begin. After spilling her heart out, the Priest provided an insightful reminder. In summary, he told Agent McCallum: You can only do your best; that is all that is expected. She cannot blame herself for the outcome of her choices; as long as her choices are made in pursuit of the best outcome; and the choices are based on the only information she has.
This higher level of awareness gives her second thoughts about her quick judgement of Abby Sinclair. She has thankfully, affixed a tracking device on Johnson's vehicle, and now must use it to save Abby. While Abby thinks she can handle anything Kolb tries; she is greatly mistaken. The moment she knows that he knows, is a moment to late. Not only does she lose grip of her purse with the hidden gun; she simultaneously is staring down the barrel of Kolb's own gun. If not for Tess' preparation, by planting the tracker, and quick thinking while Abby is fighting for her life, Abby would have certainly become the next victim of William Kolb.
Now, Tess' has the "Rain Man" in custody, and a victim named "Abby Hollister;" the apparent victim is able to give a statement that Kolb confessed to the prior "Rain Man" killings. However, Kolb is quick to speak-out about everything he knows about Tess', Abby's, and Grant's involvement. Now, Michaelson's suspicions about Tess holding back information, working a rogue investigation, and now the involvement of a Private Investigator in an FBI investigation, is even greater.
During Kolb's interview, his cellphone rings. Madeline Grant's recorded voice comes over the speaker; she has been taken and is the next of the "Rain Man's" victims. The message states that Grant can only be saved by releasing Kolb from custody. One life for the other. Instead, a deal is struck between Kolb and the District Attorney. If Kolb will lead the FBI to Grant's location, in time to save her, the death penalty will be taken off the table.
A team is assembled, to go down into the tunnels, with DPW employee, Ed Mason, in the lead; William Kolb is with the team, since only he can supposedly identify directional markings, hidden along the path. Agents McCallum, Larkin, and Crandall are the FBI team. Abby Sinclair, had left the FBI Field Office, before finding out about Grant's abduction. She is attempting to locate her, on her own, through other means. During which, she discovers that the accomplice is DPW worker, Ed Mason.
In the meantime, Tess and the agents with Ed Mason and William Johnson, are persuaded into taking off Kolb's handcuffs because he keeps slipping and falling on the sludge. Abby Sinclair keeps trying to reach Tess by cell; however cannot seem to get through. Finally, the call is connected; through the poor reception, Tess is able to make out one simple, terrifying phrase: "It's MASON!"
As Tess slowly processes this information and starts to reach for her gun, Mason strikes her face with the flashlight. She is able to return fire and kill Mason; however, Kolb is quick. He recovers Mason's gun and starts shooting at Crandall and Larkin. Tess turns off her flashlight, giving Kolb no visible target. After the shooting stops, she discovers Crandall is fine but that Larkin is hit. She requests SWAT backup and assistance for Larkin. She orders Crandall to help Larkin get towards an exit, while waiting for medical help. She continues on, to find Grant, before the water rises any higher.
Abby is able to find Grant before Tess, but even with the heroic actions of both; Grant succumbs to drowning. Before Tess and Abby become the next victims of the sewers, they scramble up an access ladder and escape onto street level.
Kolb "The Rain Man" is dead, Abby Hollister is presumed dead, and Larkin is going to survive. Michaelson, is unable to prove anything regarding his accusations of Tess' rogue involvement; in fact, he is forced to offer her a promotion.
Apparently, due to her continued success in Los Angeles, Washington wants Tess McCallum to be the Deputy Assistant Director of the Los Angeles field office; this would make McCallum, Michaelson's direct Subordinate. She respectfully declines, at the relief of "The Nose" Michaelson.
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