Meet The Carver—Albuquerque’s most brutal serial killer. Only one person can end his carnage—Darcy McClain. That is, if he doesn’t kill her next. Since her parents’ deaths, former FBI Special Agent Darcy McClain has leaned on lifelong friend Randolph Colton, but now he has his own battle to fight. Severe cuts in the government’s defense budget have forced his company, Colton Aerospace, to downsize. On the verge of bankruptcy, Randolph learns Capitol Hill has awarded his firm a contract to manufacture a high-powered laser for the air force’s next generation of bombers. However, his euphoria dies when he discovers a crack cyberspook has penetrated the firewalls of Colton’s classified databases. If the Department of Defense discovers the security breach, they’ll yank the contract. Randolph calls in the one person who can catch the hacker: Darcy. Before the investigation even begins, Randolph is murdered, leaving Darcy to wonder if the killer and the hacker could be one and the same. While she stalks him through the electronic corridors of Colton’s restricted operating systems, The Carver, a man indelibly scarred by his horrific past, methodically continues to exact his revenge on the Colton family. He vows that no one will stand in his way, not even Darcy McClain. But the shocking secret that drives him to revenge is something only she can uncover.
Two of my favorite restaurants in Santa Fe are on Canyon Road, although I only mention one in Gadgets—Geronimo. And my favorite place to dine is on the portal facing Canyon Road. In 1753, a Spanish settler named Geronimo Lopez purchased a farm here, and by 1769 he had two houses on the property. In the late 1900s, a row of new rooms that faced the street were added. Today the Lopez house at 724 Canyon Road is home to Geronimo restaurant. My second favorite eatery on the art-studded street is The Compound restaurant.
During a road trip from Albuquerque to Santa Fe, New Mexico, I stumbled upon Madrid on the scenic Turquoise Trail (NM-14). At its peak, the coal mining town boasted more than 3,000 residents, but with the advent of natural gas, which became the popular fuel to heat homes, most of the residents moved away. When I drove into Madrid it looked like a ghost town, but slowly artists and craftsmen have drifted back into the town and Madrid has experienced a rebirth. Today this unique and picturesque small town is a haven for day trippers and tourists who stop to browse its shops, cafés, and lodge at its bed-and-breakfasts.
The Cloverdale Gallery in Gadgets is indeed a real gallery on Canyon Road in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and is still in operation today. My first visit to the charmed art district was during the winter. On that blistering cold night, the pristine snow seemed to dance with the warm, golden glow from the flickering candlelight of a thousand farolitos—a magical visual that is indelible in my memory.
In 1979, I attended my first balloon fiesta. The awe-inspiring event left an indelible impression, and I still remember shivering for hours in the chilly predawn before mass ascension. In 1984 and in 1991, I was a repeat visitor to this colorful festival of balloons. This fun-filled event also triggered some great scenarios for the storyline of a new Darcy McClain and Bullet thriller. While I rapped off over 850 shots, my mind ran the gamut of possibilities for the opening scene of Gadgets. This book excerpt combines my personal experiences during three fiestas, the only detail I changed being that I owned a new Nikon F3 and not a digital SLR.
Darcy McClain has discovered unbelievable atrocities hidden deep within the basement labs at Los Alamos, and she can’t escape . . . Former FBI Special Agent Darcy McClain and her sidekick Bullet, a giant schnauzer, are in Taos, New Mexico, when they stumble upon a flash drive in an arroyo on the property she’s inherited. The drive belongs to Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). Darcy pockets it and hikes to the adobe on her land. There, she finds a pregnant teenager, Rio, searching the house for the drive, since it’s a possible clue to the whereabouts of her missing fiancé Johnny, who works at LANL. Rio is frantic to locate him. In a strange coincidence, Darcy learns Rio is the daughter of a family friend, and bound by this bond, she agrees to help the woman find Johnny. What begins as a missing person’s case soon escalates into a dangerous game that places Darcy’s life at stake after she slips undercover and infiltrates the top-secret biotech labs at LANL, where shocking neuroscientific research soon comes to light.
El Mira subdivision is a real location in Taos. At the time I wrote Brainwash, the housing tract was in the infrastructure stage—roads were being bladed, power and telephone lines laid, and shared wells drilled. As with any construction site, there was a fair amount of debris, but for safety reasons the area was off-limits to the general public. Early in the morning, I used to duck under the chained entrance and walk Shotz, our first giant schnauzer, along the newly bladed streets, steering clear of construction waste. The silence, broken occasionally by the piercing cry of a lone hawk or the occasional vehicle speeding down the highway, was the perfect spot to gather my thoughts for the day, dictate dialogue for my next book, or to think through plot details. As I left, the day was warming and the clean, crisp air was touched by the pungent odor of disturbed sage or the terpene smell of pine.
I know from current research that Permalite was a trademarked name filed in 2004, but I wrote Brainwash in the early 1990s. The trademark was for Christmas lights and the current status of the filing states, “Abandoned.” I also made up the name Solar Gel for my Permalite batteries. As far as I know, no such products—Permalites or Sol Gel batteries—are real inventions, and a Google search of the words shows “No Results.”
I don’t recall how the word “Algonized” came about. I believe I stumbled upon it, or a similar word, while reading scores of tech data for book research. I Googled the word but it returned “No Results.” As for Zipgig, zip files plus gigabytes of storable data equals Zipgig. I do remember what inspired the idea of using a thumb drive as a key piece of evidence in the book. I was on a walk in an arroyo on our land in Taos when Shotz, my first giant schnauzer, sniffed out a floppy disk buried in a pile of trash. Why she zeroed in on it, I have no idea. But the incident stuck with me and I knew I would use the disk in one of my thrillers. And as technology changed, the floppy disk morphed into a USB drive.
My love for the San Francisco de Asis Mission Church dates back to 1976, when I first visited the village of Ranchos de Taos. Like most visitors, I parked in the dirt lot off the main highway and approached the mud structure from behind. I arrived at a magical time of day, when the late afternoon sunlight dances off the massive beehive-shaped buttresses as they jut to a cloudless cobalt sky. The east-facing entrance has two bell towers topped with white crosses and an arched white entrance reminiscent of Moorish architecture. Every June, the annual enjarre (remudding) takes place to protect the church from weather damage. The mud is procured from an area south of town known as Tierra Blanca, which means “white earth.” It is in this locale, near the location referred to as the Stakeout, that the opening chapter of Brainwash is set.
Ann Gilroy’s character was a real person who went by the nickname Gil, and she was indeed a surveyor in Taos, New Mexico. She drove a primer-gray Suburban that resembled the one in Gadgets, and the description of her is pretty much dead on. She was a no-nonsense person, darn good at her job, and congenial. Like Darcy, I also own a five-year-old giant schnauzer rescue named Bullet (one of several I’ve owned). However, the real-life Gil did not own a giant and for that matter had no idea what breed my dog was until I told her. Sadly, Gil passed away years ago from cancer.
I first set foot in New Mexico in 1972 during a cross-country drive from Alabama to Eugene, Oregon, where I planned to attend the University of Oregon. From the moment I saw the Taos Plateau blanketed in a sea of winter white, and in the distance, Taos Mountain rising majestically to a turquoise sky, the landscape and the small-then quaint town, captured my heart. In the ensuing years I was a frequent visitor to Taos, and in 1997, I bought land in the very region I describe in the excerpt and built a small Pueblo-style home on the property.
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