Chapter 1

Present day
I lie on top of my bed fully clothed and breathe deeply. I’m hopeful rather than optimistic, hopeful that something I see may help save her.

‘Her’ is a Montana girl called Tabitha, the only file in my in-box and the last case I’ll be profiling in my current job at the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit in Quantico. Tabitha disappeared on her way home from school in Helena and it’s the second disappearance in the area, with the first happening six months ago. The case details swirl in my mind – the locations; the crime-scene photos; the police reports; and the photos of both girls, happy and smiling for their school portraits.

I take another deep breath and let it out slowly. Like the first girl, Tabitha’s eleven years old, an age that many predators like because girls are on the brink of adolescence, showing the first signs of physical development. I shudder at the thought of what he, whoever he is, would be doing to her now – if she’s even still alive. They never found the first girl.

I clear my mind of its daily noise, hoping something will come to me. The past four months I’ve been in training. Just like I exercise my muscles, I’ve learnt to exercise whatever part of my brain it is that lets me tune into other people’s lives – and deaths. The images come to me in either dreams, or as waking visions. But they’re not just images – they’re all the emotions of the situation too. Sometimes the vision or dream is played out like a movie and I’m watching the events unfold, but often I’m in the killer’s or the victim’s shoes. I’ve come a long way since I realized I had this gift, accepting and learning to control it more. But ultimately, inducing visions is still a bit of a crapshoot. And if I do see something, it may be unrelated, or just a replay of what we know…but sometimes it gives us something meaningful.

It’s still hard to distance myself from the emotions, but I’m getting a little better at that too – sort of. I hate experiencing a violent crime from the victim’s perspective because I feel their fear and their pain. But having a vision from the killer’s perspective is even more disturbing because I feel their excitement – I’m happy to be murdering my prey, to be inflicting unspeakable pain. I’m the predator and I enjoy it, just like he does. After a vision from the killer’s point of view, it can take me a long time to orientate myself back into the real world and to release the repulsion I feel towards the perp. I feel violated too, but unlike victims whose bodies are violated, in this case it’s my mind that’s been violated by the murderer’s.

The discovery of my ability has been a rocky road. I had my first premonition at eight, but was so distressed by it that my subconscious repressed the memory, and my gift. It wasn’t until nearly a year ago that my latent abilities resurfaced with the DC Slasher case when a serial killer got close. But after the case my sixth sense dived underground again, until I was out in the field, watching a body being uncovered. The vic was on his back, his arms tucked underneath him, and a bright red love heart had been drawn on his chest with body paint. But suddenly I wasn’t looking at a dead body, I was having sex with the victim and he was very much alive. For a few seconds, I was the killer. Over the next few weeks the visions kept coming – they were back with a vengeance. With the help of Darren, whose aunt had been a professional psychic, I realized that being at the scene, instead of viewing crime-scene photos months or years later like I normally do, gave me a connection to the case. And even though I have some control over my gift now, my ‘remote’ episodes still don’t seem to be as strong or detailed as when I’m at a crime scene in the field.

Finally, the dizziness that usually accompanies my visions engulfs me. I see flashes from the Montana case, flashes of things that aren’t in any police report or crime-scene photo. At first the images are about Tabitha’s life – she’s blowing out candles at a birthday party, she’s playing at school, she’s giving her mum and dad a kiss goodnight – but then the visions become more sinister. A car with tinted windows. The passenger window glides down. Tabitha moves closer to the car. Then she’s in a dark room. I don’t know if the scene’s from the past or present – I can never tell. She may be cowering in the room now, or she may already be dead.

I concentrate on the dark room, zeroing in on what I know will be important details. A single window is boarded up, I think from the outside. I can make out the silhouettes of a bed and a toilet, but there’s nothing else to help me in the room. No wallpaper or anything else on the walls, no other furniture…nothing. So I shift my attention to the house. What’s it like? Where is it? I’m rewarded with a flash of the house’s exterior. This image only pops into my head for a second. When nothing else follows, I break my concentration on getting a vision and think back to the scene. Using my memory, I recreate the image, getting a fix on things. A small log cabin, surrounded by woods. Out the front is a dark grey car. I can’t make out the license plate. I jot it all down on a notebook beside my bed before returning to my relaxation techniques.

Another ten minutes go by, but nothing else comes. I open my eyes and sit on the edge of the bed, still a little dizzy and now also feeling drained. I would have liked to have got more, but then again I’d always like more. If I’d been at the place where Tabitha went missing, maybe the vision would have been move vivid, more accurate or more detailed. Then we’d have a better chance of finding Tabitha, of saving her. And that’s why I had to ask for the transfer. I need to be in the field again, where I can do the most good with this gift of mine.

I look around my half-packed bedroom. Another week and I’ll be in Los Angeles, working out of the Bureau’s LA Field Office. It took a couple of months for the right position to come up, but the LA profiling job was a perfect fit. And the West Coast means warmer weather and living slightly closer to my family in Australia.

Maybe in a few years I won’t need to be out in the field any more, maybe then I will have learnt enough about my abilities to get the same vivid sensations simply by looking at photos. Then I might come back and work for the Behavioral Analysis Unit again. I’d like that.