From USA Today Bestselling Author, Casi McLean, comes a gripping techno-thriller, part of a multi-author series tied together by an interlocking cast of characters, all centered around the fantastic new promise of high technology and the endless possibilities for crime that technology offers, in a world where getting away with murder can be not only plausible, but easy…if you just know how.
Another gripping thriller from Casi McLean, Virtually Timeless casts a fascinating spin on crime suspense.
Read Chapter One
The first scream, masked by the splashing streams of Indian Lake Creek tumbling over rocky falls, sounded like an injured animal. A bobcat perhaps, calling her mate? Noah dismissed the squeal and continued his hike through the autumn-swept forest. The second scream spiked his pulse and his medical instinct snapped to alert. The eerie cry sent a chill down his spine, causing tiny hairs on the back of his neck to rise. Definitely human, and female, the shriek shattered the silence with piercing terror.
Darting through the woods toward her wails, he took care to stay on what paths he could, making as little noise approaching as possible. Whatever––or whoever––caused the victim’s cries might mean danger for Noah as well as the girl. Wild animals often attacked when injured. He challenged his memory to recall what potentially dangerous creatures inhabited the New England and Hudson Valley forests.
Slowing his pace as the creekbank came into view, he edged closer. Hearing the girl’s muffled anguish, he nixed the animal idea, envisioning instead a hand covering her mouth. Thrashing sounds against the ground told him she struggled to escape. Noah slid behind a mass of dense foliage then craned his neck to see around the trunk of a red oak tree.
A stocky man with dirty-blond hair flaring beneath a navy-blue baseball cap sat over the girl’s thighs. His back to Noah, the man leaned forward, causing his slate-gray sweatshirt to ride upward enough to reveal a gun stuffed into the waistband of his blue jeans. He angled his head then puffed a breathy whisper into her face.
With a sour expression pinching her nose and lips, the young woman jerked and twisted her face away from his.
“You’re a feisty little bitch. I’ll give you that.” The thug forced her wrists against the dirt then, placing a knee on her forearm, he grabbed a fistful of her T-shirt at the neck and yanked until the fabric ripped, exposing a bare breast.
“Stop. Let…go…of…me.” Kicking and squirming, she twisted her torso, lunging her body to force him off balance, but her waning strength couldn’t counter his weight. The man easily dominated her frail frame and laughed at her feeble attempts.
Believing the girl had little chance of survival if the guy pulled his gun, Noah had to act now. Any chance he had of helping her escape—of saving her life—had to occur now, while the thug was distracted. What could he do to stop the assault…maybe catch the assailant off guard? Adrenaline feeding his emotion, he aimed his gaze along the shoreline searching for something––anything he could use to overtake the man. Seeing nothing helpful, aside from a few rocks, he stiffened as a shot of adrenaline slithered around his spine, tightening the knot already coiled in his stomach. On impulse, he shoved aside branches, shooting through the brush onto the creekbank then dashed toward the skirmish.
When the girl caught a glimpse of him sprinting forward, her eyes went wide.
With reckless abandon, he dove onto the man’s back…snatched the gun then rolled on his side and snapped up on one knee. He pointed the firearm with a firm arm in a stance he’d only seen on television. Feeling like a character onNCIS, he shouted a command. “Get the hell off of her.” Hands locked on the gun with a death grip, he slowly stood.
Immediately, the man raised his hands in the air, straightened his back, then stepped to the side. “No need to get excited, buddy.”
Noah hitched the gun slightly to his right, indicating a clearing to which the man responded by taking several steps backward. God, what the hell should he do now? He’d never so much as held a gun before, let alone threatened a man’s life. The Hippocratic Oath he vowed shot through his spinning thoughts…First, do no harm.
Gun aimed at the attacker, he glanced at the girl and briefly assessed the extent of her injuries. A bloody lip…an oozing gash on the side of her left eye…and a few contusions on her shoulder and neck.
Drawing her elbows inside the ripped shirt, she shifted around the torn side to her back then slid her arms into the sleeves.
Hmm, smart. Noah turned his head to check on the man then returned his gaze to the woman. “Are you okay?”
She stood, quickly inspecting herself. “I think so.” After brushing the dirt from her clothes, she shifted her gaze back to Noah.
He cocked his head toward her attacker. “Do you know this guy?”
She shot a glance in the man’s direction then shook her head.
Noah dug into his pocket for his phone. After hiking this property off and on for the last twenty-four hours, he knew cell service was spotty. Clicking his smartphone open, he touched the screen, pressed 911, then held the device to his ear.
“No need to call the cops, man.” The culprit frowned and slightly lowered his hands as he took a step forward.
“Don’t even think of it.” Noah flicked the gun tip, motioning for the man to back off. When the phone call failed, he feigned a connection. He had no intention of letting a criminal know how vulnerable he was. “Yes. This is Doctor Noah Monaco. I’d like to report an…incident. I was walking my property and came across a fella attacking a young woman. I’m holding him at gunpoint…about a mile off route seven north of Sharon. 5720…toward the rear of the property by the Indian Lake Creek. Thank you.” He lifted his gaze to meet the thug. “You might as well have a seat. We have a few minutes before the police arrive.”
The man huffed. “I’m good. If you’d let me explain––”
“I’m not interested in your explanation. Save that for the police.” Taking sidelong glances toward the victim, he held the gun firmly aimed. Something about this woman intrigued him. Her jeans hung loose on her slight frame, and her T-shirt now draped off one shoulder, swallowed her. Tousled locks of long blonde hair caught glints of sunlight that almost sparkled when she moved. Her face, though pretty, was drawn and her blank expressions puzzled Noah. Did she not understand the situation? He softened his tone. “Your forehead and lip are bleeding.”
Again, she offered him a blank stare. Her hand shot to her head. Touching the gash, she winced then dropped her hand and stared at the blood on her palm.
“I’m a doctor. If it’s okay with you, I’ll take a look at your injury.” He watched her expression closely. The normal reaction he expected never surfaced. Perhaps the incident traumatized her more than she let on?
“Did you shoot me?” Taking a few steps backward, she glared at Noah.
“No. I would never…that man attacked you.” He pointed toward the clearing. “I heard your screams and came to your rescue. I can only imagine what that creep had in mind, but––” He stopped mid-sentence and observed her movements.
Keeping her eyes fixed on Noah, she turned her head, shot a quick glance then returned her stare. “What man?”
Snapping a gaze to his right, he followed the direction of his outstretched arm…his hand still clutching the gun aimed at the criminal. But the man had vanished. Damn. Noah was so distracted by the young woman’s wounds, he didn’t notice the man disappear into the forest. Should he follow him or tend to the woman? Even if he caught up to the thug, what would he do? Shoot him? No. To hell with the criminal. The girl needed Noah’s help. Dropping his arm, he returned his gaze to the woman just in time to see her disappear into the woods.
What the hell was going on? Concerned about her wounds, Noah took off after her. After stuffing his phone into his back-left pocket, he shoved the gun into the right then picked up speed. He could hear her footsteps crackling through the underbrush and saw an occasional flash of her blonde hair as she whipped back and forth between the trees. When she chose the mountain trail over the creek, he quietly cussed himself for letting up on his treadmill workouts. For such a frail-looking girl, her energy surprised him.
At the top of the trail, the pathway split. She veered left and he followed suit, sprinting where he could to catch up. Gaze fixed on her, Noah strode forward…until his feet met only air. The force behind his pace propelled him forward… rolling… spinning… colliding with everything in his path until his head hit the side of a tree. The sunshine dimmed to tiny pinholes of light…then faded into a black abyss.