The Last Victim
When he sleeps, the hunt begins.
When a young hunting guide from a remote island in Alaska is found brutally murdered, his naked body is discovered in the Cascade Mountains outside Seattle—the shocking pinnacle to a grisly Totem of body parts. Nathan Applewhite is the fourteenth victim of a cunning serial killer who targets and stalks young men.
With the body count escalating, FBI profiler Ryker Townsend and his specialized team investigate the gruesome crime scene. They find no reason for Nate to have mysteriously vanished from his isolated home in Alaska before he ended up in the hands of a sadist, who has been taunting Ryker and his team in a sinister game of 'catch me if you can.'
But Townsend has a secret he won't share with anyone—not even his own team--that sets him on the trail of a ruthless psychopath, alone. The intuitive FBI profiler is plagued by recurring nightmares—seen through Nate's dead eyes—that slowly chips away at his mental stability. Is he burning out and losing his mind—becoming unfit for duty—or is the last victim reaching out to him from the grave?
Townsend sees horrific flashes of memory, imprinted on the retinas of a dead man, the last image Applewhite saw when he died. Ryker must piece together the fragments. Each nightmarish clue brings him closer to a killer who knows how to hide in plain sight and will see him coming, but when the dead man has the skills of a hunting guide, he has the perfect ally to track down a killer—the last victim.
Snoqualmie Pass—Cascade Mountains
I sidestepped down a steep embankment with my boots cutting into dirt and tufts of grass. Dressed in khaki tactical pants and a navy polo with my Glock 21 in a holster, I wore my uniform to crime scenes when I could. The stench of decomp had a nasty way of bonding to fabric. Since I didn't always know how bad it would be, I'd taken precautions and had a heavy duty plastic bag in my luggage to seal the smell until I could sterilize my gear. As the terrain leveled out, a dense canopy of Hemlock and Fir trees towered over me and blocked the steel gray of an overcast sky as a fine mist dappled my FBI windbreaker and cap.
"This is random...and remote."
Why here? The UNSUB picked an isolated spot for his body dump. That sent up a flare that our unknown subject had become bolder in stretching his boundaries.
No one on my team spoke as we trudged through the wet brush toward the crime scene. Like me, the others were steeling themselves for what they'd find. Every investigator had their thing—a way to mentally prepare for what they would see—for what they would bring home.
When the flash of a dull fleeting shadow crossed my path, looking like a wisp of black smoke hovering over the ground, I glanced up to catch the dark wings of a raven cutting through the trees and the computer part of my brain kicked in.
Raven. A Trickster god. Prevalent myth in the Pacific Northwest. Poe. Edgar Allan.
My mind acted like a hard drive of stored random facts, especially at stress times. Sometimes they hit me hard and I blurted them aloud. That made dating a challenge. I'd always been drawn to intelligent women, but once I let them into my world, crossing that line usually ended any relationship. I simply had no interest in hiding who I was.
At the sight of the raven, keywords pummeled my brain to trigger imagery and I flashed on pages in a book I'd read, but spotting the bird meant something else. Scavengers would've already hit the crime scene and done their damage. All things considered, I preferred thinking of mythology and Edgar Allan Poe. If I had more of an appreciation for the circle of life, I might've embraced the synergy of being nothing more than walking worm food.
"We caught a break this time," Special Agent Lucinda Crowley said as she walked alongside me. She was my number two and another profiler on my team. "The local field office dispatched agents to preserve the scene before the locals trampled over it."
"Yeah, good," I said.
I stopped and gazed toward the next rise. I didn't have to ask how far the crime scene was. A circle of ravens and crows had gathered. Their black winged bodies cut across the gray sky like an ominous Hitchcock montage. The eerie echo of their squawks and their frenzied aerial acrobatics told me all I needed to know.
My body tensed and I emptied my mind to brace for what I'd see as I hit the crest of the hill.
It never failed. When I looked down to the clearing below, standing shoulder to shoulder with my team, a familiar twist hit my gut. I stared at the grisly work of the Totem Killer and forced myself to look beyond the shocking horror. Every severed limb was someone not coming home—a brother, a husband, a boyfriend, a son. The violation clenched my belly, but I owed it to each of the victims not to turn away.
I would have to speak for them now.
"Dear, God," someone muttered.
A monolith of bloodied flesh stood fifteen feet high like a statue to be idolized. Dismembered legs, arms, and faces were tied to a tree to make a macabre tower. As exhausted as I was, my eyes tricked me into seeing severed limbs that twitched and slithered like entwined snakes under the circling cloud of ravens. When I blinked, the bodies stopped writhing and I let out the breath I'd been holding, but I'd gotten a taste for the dreams that would punish me later.
"We are your sons. We are your husbands. We are everywhere. And there will be more of your children dead tomorrow."
I couldn't take my eyes off the bodies as I recited the quote.
"Who said that?" Crowley asked.
I wanted to believe in God, but standing there, I couldn't. With what I see, I don't hear him anymore.
© Jordan Dane
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Praise for The Last Victim
"The Last Victim is one of the best FBI profiler stories I've read with flawed, relatable characters who remain strong in the face of danger. The Last Victim is the first in the Ryker Townsend series. Rating: 4.5 out of 5."
—Fiction Zeal Reviews
"Do yourself a favor and read this book! But be prepared to want to read it all in one sitting, and make sure you have tissues close at hand. The thing that had me dwelling on this book the most though, is that sometimes fiction can actually be closer to the truth than we may know! I gave this book 5***** stars and plan to see what else I can get to read now that I have discovered a new genre of books to me!"
"Ryker Townsend has complex layers and secrets. He is as creepy good as the killer is creepy bad. What a terrific character! The last half of this suspenseful book is tightly woven, the anxiety and apprehension increases with each page read. A solid 5 stars from me."
"The Last Victim (A Ryker Townsend Story) by Jordan Dane kept my kindle screen on fire whisking through the pages. This brutal suspense-filled thriller about a serial killer is five stars start to finish. Ryker Townsend's first person perspective & his fear of descent into madness as he battles his psychic gifts & the demons that gift brings is well delineated. The third person account of other characters that are members of his FBI team is also intriguing. There are layers of mystery, romance, angst & suspense woven throughout this fascinating book. This is the first time I've read Jordan Dane's work, but I will look forward to reading more. 5 Stars"
—Injoy's Blogs + Book Reviews
The Last Victim is the featured Book of the Moment Club selection for Venture Galleries: "This book is filled with a lot of emotional angst, and there even is a touch of romance. It is filled with gut wrenching sadness as Ryker knows the killer still has his latest victim holed up somewhere and it is a rush to find him before he is a statistic."
—Venture Galleries (read the full review)
"Chillingly delicious! Well thought out with many twists and turns and with believable and compelling characters. Ryker's ability to see into the minds of the victims makes him both vulnerable and fearsome as he attempts to catch the killer. Action packed and vivid and enjoyable read for fans of James Carol's Jefferson Winter series or Mason Cross' Carter Blake series."
—U.K.'s Crime Warp Book Review Blog (read the full review)