PRAISE FOR CUTS LIKE A KNIFE Readers can’t help enjoying this new voice. PUBLISHERS WEEKLYAn intense, eerie, funny, and suspenseful thriller with a very subtlefaith thread that enriches rather than suffocates the story. Gilroy’sdebut is a surefire winner. USA TODAY HEA BlogI loved this book! Mark Gilroy is an author to watch. Highlyrecommended. C. J. Darlington, GOOD READSThe first Conner mystery is an engaging tale. Readers will enjoy kick-butt Kristen as she tries to balance her loving family life with herdeadly occupation. THE MYSTERY GAZETTEGilroy’s writing feels effortless. I enjoyed every minute of this intenseroller-coaster ride. POPCORN READSIn this debut, Gilroy introduces a witty, endearing cast of characters.The suspense is taut and moves forward at a steady pace to keep thereader firmly involved in the ultimate outcome of the story. ROMANCE TIMES BOOK REVIEWSA unique and engaging read, surprisingly humorous for a fast-pacedthriller that includes a brash female detective and a vicious serialkiller. Mark’s dry wit is fabulous, easing the tension. RELZ REVIEWZ
PART ONEBetrayal can only happen if you love. John LeCarre
Unable to take in the wound, shattered bone, and blood, she bent overand vomited. She then backed away, closed his bedroom door behindher, and left his apartment quickly. Bypassing the bank of elevators,she took the stairs, all twenty-five flights, two steps at a time, andexited the back service entrance. She half stumbled, half jogged twoblocks to a public parking garage. Tears streamed down her face as shedrove from the area.
" !The Marines have a saying that seems quite apt right now: Hurry upand wait. Patience is not my strong suit. It was ninety-eight degrees in the shade all day here in DC. The sunhas set, so the temperature has dropped. Can’t be more than ninety-five now. I feel like I’m cooking in the ultra-high molecular-weightpolyethylene jacket I’m wearing. It’s state-of-the-art bullet-resistantmaterial—ten times stronger than steel. But that word resistant is stillbugging me. Why can’t the gear be bullet proof? Drops of sweat bead and then fall in rivulets down my foreheadover and around my goggles, some seeping through the rubber ringthat fits snugly to my face. When special agent Austin Reynolds of theFBI invited me to participate in an FBI training program designed tohelp local law enforcement respond to terrorist activities, this wasn’tthe type of assignment I expected. Sure, I’m way ahead of my rehabschedule from a knee injury I suffered on a murder case I helped bustthis past summer. I had a torn ACL and MCL repaired just six weeksago. The three weeks I’ve spent running the rolling hills of the FBItraining grounds in Quantico, Virginia, every morning have beennothing but wonderful for my recovery—along with daily therapyincluding electric muscle stimulation, ultrasound treatments, andaggressive stretching and joint manipulation. And glorious massages.Still, I hope I’m ready for this. We’ve been poised for the strike for forty-five minutes now. A ter-rorist cell has been operating within thirty minutes of our nation’scapital. The FBI, in its infinite wisdom, has progressed cautiously "
!"#$"#%&()*on this one, letting the group move freely for more than a year in thehopes that members of Allah’s Fatwa would make a mistake in theconfidence they had not been detected. It wasn’t cell chatter inter-cepted by the supercomputers at NEA that made FBI Deputy Direc-tor Willingham issue the order for immediate and terminal action. Itwas the lack of chatter. Change might be good for personal growthand corporate survival, but when it’s a homicidal cadre of mad dogs,change should always make you nervous. Don’t use the phrase mad dogs, Kristen, unless you want to get chewedout again. Another bit of data came in from Virgil (real name OperationVigilance), a computer program developed for Homeland Securitythat gathers and collates information from federal, state, and locallaw enforcement agencies. Word from Virgil strongly suggested somebad guys—possibly and probably radical Islamists—had gotten someweapons-grade uranium into the US through the Port of Charleston.Maybe one and one doesn’t equal two in this case, but who wants torisk that? Not Willingham. He’s a smart guy. I listen to the transmitter and it sounds like things are a littlebehind schedule. Four agents have worked themselves to within a fewyards of the five-foot chain-link fence in front of the two-thousand-square-foot house with all the blinds pulled and overgrown shrubsnearly enveloping the entire exterior. They popped a manhole coverabove the sewer pipe they traversed from a couple streets away. Fourmore agents are within a few feet of the fence at the rear of the house,having come through the neighbor’s backyard. They are the holdup.It’s assumed there are tripwires around the perimeter to sound thealarm of an imminent attack. #
!"!#$%&#!() “Move it,” I hear Reynolds say, firm, calm, confident like always.Unlike me, these FBI people are smooth. Willingham and Reynolds are running the show from a mobilecommand center a mile away. Although “mobile command center”sounds too sophisticated—no matter how proud Reynolds is of it.Looks like a Winnebago to me. And it’s parked at Wal-Mart, notNordstrom. But I’ll bet they have air-conditioning. We are cooking in here. My patience is nearly shot. I feel claustrophobic. My outfit itcheslike crazy. I’m sitting with three other agents in what looks like aconverted UPS van about a block away from the house. UPS mayhave fast service, but their trucks don’t have a thousand-horse-powerengine and a front bumper with a six-foot-wide cast-iron wedge thatcan open the side of a house as easily as a body builder hammering ascrew driver through the side of a soup can. As far as I can tell, no oneelse is sweating and fidgeting like me. Patience, Kristen. My cell phone vibrates in four seemingly endless burrs for a fifthstraight time. I can’t remember all the specifics of our pre-eventinstructions (it’s the FBI that calls these little assaults “events,” notme), but I’m pretty sure we were supposed to leave our Nokias athome. I must have tucked mine in one of the pockets of the Batman-like utility belt that is the final accessory of my chic black-on-blackensemble. I can’t actually see anyone else’s eyes, but I think my team-mates are giving me dirty looks. I feel a new stream of sweat trace down my back. The inside of mygoggles are fogging up. I’m not regular FBI so I didn’t get the custom-made outfit and gear the others did. My eyes are watering and I’m $
!"#$"#%&()*desperate to wipe the beads of sweat on my eyebrows. A maddeningitch is growing in intensity. My phone starts a sixth round of low rumbling. I absolutely knowbetter but I can’t take it anymore. I snap open the belt pocket andbring the phone to my ear, pushing my goggles and hood back, all inone movement. “Mom,” I hiss in a low whisper that probably isn’t nearly as quietas I want it to be. Hope they didn’t hear that a block away. “When Idon’t pick up, it means I’m busy. Stop hitting Redial over and over.” “Kristen, there’s no reason for you to talk to me that way,” mymother says with her hurt tone, a regular part of her communica-tion repertoire with me. “I just wanted to make sure your flight planshadn’t changed so we can pick you up at Midway on time.” “Mom, same as I told you last night, I’ll be there Thursday nightat eight—and I’ve told you ten times I’m flying into O’Hare, notMidway.” “See, it’s good I called.” “Mom, I absolutely can’t talk right now. This is a bad time.” “Honey, it never seems to be a good time for you to talk to yourmom!” I look at the three sets of buglike eyes that are now staring mydirection. Oh, the stories Don Squires, my partner in the ChicagoPolice Department, could tell them right now. I wonder if it matterswhether they write me up, since the CPD has only loaned me to theFBI. “Mom, I’ll call tomorrow. I’ve got to go. Now.” “You are going to church every Sunday while you’re there, aren’tyou?” I’m exasperated. “Mom, I already told you—” %
!"!#$%&#!() A voice barks, “Now! Up position!” as the engine fires into a roarand we are thrown sideways on the uncomfortable benches we’vebeen perched on for what seems like hours. As the turbo-charged vanpowers from zero to at least fifty in about five seconds, I drop myphone and nearly fall completely backward. I hear it bounce againstthe metal door at the back of the van. I think I can actually hear mymom calling my name above the roar of the engine. All of us are now standing and have belted ourselves into secureside straps that loop over one shoulder and halfway around the chestso we can enter the theater of conflict from a standing position andwithout a broken ankle. I can still barely keep my balance as wecarom forward, drift to the right, and then veer hard to the left. Thedriver—seems apt that he looks a little like Jeff Gordon—pushes thevan up on two wheels in the final turn to storm the fortress while Ifrantically try to get my goggles situated on my face. The right win-dow is covering my left eye. I can’t twist them into position, so I yankmy hood off and get the strap over and behind my ponytail. I barelyhave the goggles centered over my eyes and the hood up when I feelthe first shudder of our assault vehicle slicing through the metal chainthat serves as a gate. We go through like a hot knife through warmbutter. I’m ready, my Sig Sauer SP 2022 automatic in hand, when the big-ger impact occurs and we cave in the garage door. Jeff Gordon slamson the brakes. There must have been a vehicle parked in there to helphim stop, because all four of us swing forward in the vertical straps,our legs reaching nearly waist level with the final impact. My head isfilled with the sound of twisting metal. We were told to expect thisand we got it. It’s still disorienting. Our squad leader is first out and unleashes a violent sidekick to the &
!"#$"#%&()*entry door. I wince to myself when the door doesn’t budge. That hadto have hurt. Probably reinforced metal. He’s unfazed and quicklyreaches into a belt pocket to pull out three MCBs—Micro Concus-sion Bombs—that he slaps on the door surrounding the handle. Allfour of us are out of the truck, crouched with faces to the wall andhands over ears as he wheels from the doorway and positions himselfnext to me. I think all three MCBs explode at once as I hear front andback doors blown inward at the same time our side door implodes. Irace after my team through the jagged, smoking entrance, my headon a swivel, weapon up and ready to fire. The architectural drawing of the house indicated a split-levelhome, with the main level including an enclosed kitchen featuringa shuttered picture window looking into a small dining room andswinging doors leading into the living room. All three attack teamswill be entering on this floor. Three tiny bedrooms and one bathroomare up a half staircase on the opposite side of the house. A den or recroom, probably the laundry room, and another full or half bath areunderneath the bedrooms a half flight below our entry point. Theteam coming through the front door is responsible for the upstairs.The team coming through the back door is responsible for the halfbasement. We are responsible for kitchen, dining room, and liv-ing room. My job is to slam through the swinging doors, do a halftumble, and come up firing at anything that doesn’t have its handsstraight up in the air with a white flag waving. I am then to wait foraudio instructions so that I don’t get shot by or shoot a team member. As I emerge through the smoke, ready to turn left and into the liv-ing room, I half trip as my foot hits the heel of my team leader, whomI’m following closely. I hear special agent Ted Cane shout an obscen-ity as he falls against the service island in the kitchen. I hit the side (
!"!#$%&#!()of a cabinet fairly hard with my right shoulder and feel a mild shot ofpain course upward, but I instantly regain my balance. I pause andthink about checking on Cane, but remember protocol—he’s not myproblem—and smash through the swinging doors. I almost feel the sound in every fiber of my body as a thunderousroar explodes from behind me. Someone was waiting. I don’t knowhow he missed me; he had me at point-blank range. I improvise on the fly, extending my tumble into a full dive andfront roll. As I somersault upward to a crouch, I push myself to theside into a half roll to bring my Sig back into firing position. Even asI execute a beautiful sequence of moves, I hear a voice screaming inmy brain. A terrified voice. My voice. Even if I can’t articulate it inreal time, my peripheral vision has already seen I have just one targetto put down. My target, however, is in an upright firing position andhas a large-bore double-barrel shotgun pressed to his shoulder, one eyegleaming down the length of metal. One barrel spent—but one fullyloaded. Even as the voice continues to scream for me to move faster,I know my target isn’t going to miss with his second shot, no matterwhat I do. As I torque into a crouch, my head cranes as far to the side as itwill go as I pray for one shot. Just one shot. My target looks relaxed andin charge. Our eyes lock. My arm is swinging forward in the slowestslow motion I have ever experienced in my life. In that nanosecond Ifeel like I have time to recite Marc Antony’s complete speech to theplebeians at Caesar’s funeral and maybe a clever limerick about a post-man named Chuck that I wrote my first year in middle school. I seemy target’s eyes narrow and then a streak of blue flame blaze from theend of the barrel, and almost simultaneously I am knocked backwardwith a violent jolt.
!"#$"#%&()* I look upward, knowing that even with the best polyethylene fab-ric money can buy—it really is bullet resistant, not bullet proof—Iam going to bleed to death. I should have told Mom I love her. )