Playing with Fire
Author: Dirk Greyson
Genre: M/M, Contemporary, Romantic Suspense
Dr. Barty Halloran grew up with lessons instead of friends and toys, and as a result, became a gifted psychologist… with only an academic understanding of people and emotions.
When Jim’s pursuit of a serial killer goes nowhere, he turns to Dr. Halloran for help, and Barty thinks he can get inside the shooter’s mind. In many ways, they’re two sides of the same coin, which both scares and intrigues him. Together, Jim and Barty make progress on the case—until the stakes shoot higher when the killer turns his attention toward Barty.
To protect Barty, Jim offers to let Barty stay with him, where he discovers the doctor has a heart to go along with his brilliant mind after all. But as they close in on their suspect, the killer becomes desperate, and he’ll do anything to elude capture—even threaten those closest to Jim.
Barnes and Noble
“Do I know you?” the almost beanpole man inside asked, staring at Marilyn a little blankly.
“I’m Marilyn Grove. We spoke on the phone.” She smiled, but he didn’t.
“Yes.” The man turned to the clock on his desk and then back, his gaze landing on Jim, who swallowed. His blue eyes were the color of ice and held a slight chill.
“I’m Jim Crawford, a detective with the New Cynwood Police Department, and I’m working a case that could use some of your expertise.”
“Dr. Bartholomew Halloran. You can call me Barty.” He motioned to the chair.
“I’ll leave you to talk,” Marilyn said, and somehow Jim felt as though he were being thrown to the wolves. She turned and left, her footsteps echoing down the hallway.
Barty closed the door and sat at his desk, looking at him. “Well?” He blinked a few times behind his black-rimmed glasses. “You need my help,” he said, sounding confused.
“Yes. You might have heard about the shootings we’ve had.”
“Of course. I’ve been fascinated by them.”
Jim wondered at the words chosen. “How so?”
“Of course there are many things I don’t know, but the perpetrator seems like he’d make an interesting case study for my research.” Barty sat still, watching him, and Jim wondered if he was trying to get into his head somehow. It was a little creepy the way Barty seemed to look deeply into his eyes, but showed nearly nothing in his.
“We have few clues as to who this person is, and with four deaths now, I thought we needed more insight. Someone who can help us get into the mind of the killer to figure out how he thinks and maybe find a way to catch him before he kills again.”
Barty nodded. “You are correct in assuming your killer is male. Men kill from a distance and are detached. Women usually kill more close up and it’s personal… crimes of passion and so on.” He turned back to the desk, and Jim thought he was checking his clock again. “I have an appointment shortly that I can’t miss.”
Jim didn’t want to pressure the guy, but he was becoming agitated. “Do you understand how important this is? People have died, and more will die unless we can stop him.”
“I’m aware of that, and I can try to help you.” Barty turned slightly and checked his computer. “I have appointments for the next few hours that are too late to reschedule.” He made a humming noise in his throat. “I can start tomorrow morning if that’s okay with you. I think this could be very fascinating and really advance my work.”
“It could also save lives,” Jim said. Barty was certainly as strange as Marilyn hinted at.
“I understand that’s important—of course it is.” Barty sounded as though the words were something he’d learned rather than truly felt. “Sometimes in my line of work, we have to look at deeply emotional and frightening things in a very dispassionate way in order to arrive at conclusions and knowledge that helps us understand why people do the evil things they do to one another.”
Jim could understand that, and yet there was something about Barty that made him wonder if he was the guy Jim was looking for. “Do you really think you can help?”
“I believe so.”
Confidence Jim understood, and it eased some of his growing doubts.
“I’m very good at what I do—one of the best, I believe—and I’m sure I can help you.”
“How can you be so sure?”
“I don’t have all the facts, but from what I’ve read, I’d say you’ve come to the conclusion that the killer is choosing victims at random, is remote, and is trying to send some sort of message, but you aren’t able to figure out what that message is. The thing is, he may not want you to understand the message because it isn’t intended for you, but for whoever or whatever the trigger is that started his rampage. And yes, there is a trigger of some sort, I’m sure of it.” Barty said all of this dispassionately. “I’m assuming that you’ve gone over all the physical evidence. What I’ll do is try to build a profile of the killer and see if I can figure out why he’s killing.”
“I’d appreciate that.” He had to admit that those were the same things he had been thinking.
“I’d also go on to say that your killer is smart and methodical, judging by the lack of evidence. It’s difficult and takes planning to not leave behind anything of yourself at a crime scene. But I get the feeling there’s more to it than that. I’d need to look deeper to be able to come up with a next move.”
“All right. Then I’ll see you tomorrow at the station.” Jim handed Barty one of his cards. “I’ll be there by seven.”
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