Room 101

Room101 Cover 4
Cover art by Russell Smith

Thriller Novel coming in 2021 …

“You asked me once, what was in Room 101. I told you that you knew the answer already. Everyone knows it. The thing that is in Room 101 is the worst thing in the world.”
O’Brien in George Orwell’s novel 1984

Five first-year students meet at Stanford. They become a club of misfits, their own Skull and Bones Club, daring each other to carry out outrageous acts of revenge on their spoiled and rich fellow students. But things grow ugly and the crimes become more violent and sinister. Years later, successful and established, their ugly past comes back to haunt them when they discover a serial killer is among them.


Niki was the first to find the body.

They had just clambered over the rise, the dead leaves thick and wet, sticking to their feet like soggy corn flakes, the sky the color of faded gun-metal. She kept sniffing the air, cocking her head, sensing something was out-of-place. The two of them knew they were close. They looked at each other quickly. Then they both slid down the steep embankment in an awkward silence, finding themselves in a much darker place, the air in the gully heavy with the wet odor of decay. Niki felt her handler stiffen slightly, becoming more alert. He tugged on her leash lightly to caution her.

Niki had her head down instantly by a thick clump of Dogwood, her nose pressed into the mushy leaves and the copper smelling earth. She hesitated and then pressed her paw into a spongy mass, a place where the earth felt like it had been recently disturbed and then hastily recovered. She yelped, unable to help herself, the excitement too much to contain.

Sargent Babbitt had tightened his grip on the nylon strap that held Nikki’s collar as soon as he felt her hunch down. He was worried. Niki was new. And though she had performed superbly through training, younger dogs often got carried away. If this was the body they were looking for, buried under a soppy mass of decaying forest detritus, he didn’t want to be responsible for her damaging the evidence.

They had started the search long before dawn, a phalanx of police vehicles crowding Willowdale Parks’ turning circle, about a dozen street cops. The Feds were there shortly after, pushing their weight around, showing off their black nylon fibbie jackets and expensive Starbucks lattes. Babitt was certain there were more FBI agents in the park that morning than he had ever seen before in one place in his ten years of wrangling police dogs for the Washington police force. He guessed that’s what happens when you have a high-profile missing person case linked to a famous serial killer. All playing out in one of the cities wealthiest suburbs.

When Babitt moved around Niki to see what she was tracking, he was surprised to see what looked like a fat grub poking through the leaves. When he knelt down for a closer inspection, he realized he was looking at a child’s pinky finger, wrinkled and blue-white. The first thing that struck him, which would surprise him later when he described the scene, was how dirty and ragged the fingernail looked. Defensive wounds was how the forensics spooks would frame it. CSI terminology for victims who don’t go gently into the night. In other words, the kid hadn’t given up without a fight.

The missing boy they were searching for, in the treed area surrounding the residential green space, was Skylar Sawyer, age eight, his dad a rich businessman who created video games for Sony PlayStations and XBox360s; games this poor kid would never get to play again, if that was really him folded unceremoniously under the dogwood thicket and hurriedly covered with leaves.

He pulled Niki back then, praising her, stroking the side of her head, the both of them finding it hard to take their eyes off the tiny sad appendage with the bruised knuckle laying before them. Babitt pulled out his radio with his left hand and pressed the send button.

“Babitt here. 10-54. Repeat 10-54.” He waited for a response, wondering if being in the crotch of the ravine would limit reception.10-54 was code for body found. He made Niki sit, watched her pant in excitement, her tongue hanging over a row of teeth designed to tear flesh away from bones. Niki was a German Shepherd, born and bred a carnivore – unlike the person who had done this to poor Skylar Sawyer.  Born a human, but evolved into a something else entirely.

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