Singh sits in her cubicle and looks around the empty FBI office. It is early, some time before business hours.
So she turns away from her Bureau computer and removes her personal laptop from a drawer. She boots up and logs in. Using an alias, on an encrypted connection, she enters the Darknet and logs on to a forum titled “Rape Cara Lindstrom.”
It is the hateful brainchild of Riverside County Sheriff’s Detective Gilbert Ortiz.
Singh has been following Ortiz online for some weeks now. At first on a legal warrant, when he was a suspect for the rapes of more than a dozen teenage girls. Roarke had closed the case. But Singh has continued to track Ortiz, unofficially. And illegally.
Because of this forum.
It is a place where men who choose to do so can share their most despicable fantasies.
Singh has lived all her life with the knowledge that a random group of men can turn into a monstrous, ravening beast, with no thought, no morality, no consciousness. That any moment she herself could be seized, brutalized, left for dead or worse than dead.
So many relatives, friends, colleagues have been broken by the vile thing that slithers through the streets of her home country. The thing that terrorizes women, holds them in Its grasp. The thing she has always known is here in this country, too, but at least somewhat deeper in the shadows.
But It has free rein in these forums.
She knows Ortiz’s aliases. She knows his habits. When he tends to access the secret forums. The order that he checks in on all of the forums he does haunt.
She has created her own identities and posted by copying the grotesque, almost invariably ungrammatical writing style of the forums’ inhabitants. With her aliases, she has gained access to secret subforums on the Darknet.
There are extreme porn videos and forums with titles like “Top Ten Ways to Get Away with Rape.”
Here also is where professional trolls recruit like-minded men to attack women who dare to post their opinions online. Scientists, actresses, journalists, politicians, game designers—anyone female is vulnerable to trolling. Online trolling has been rising in an alarming wave. Singh has seen hundreds of female celebrities and ordinary women deluged with rape threats—not only against themselves, but against their children, their mothers, their sisters. A target is posted in the forums and a harassment campaign is begun. A coordinated attempt to silence female voices.
These trolls have only been emboldened by the ascension of the ultimate troll, a sexual predator now determining national policy.
Singh left her own country in part to be free of the pervasive underlying belief that rape is normal, part of a woman’s fate. In India the attitude is that the victim asks for it and the male is nowhere in sight of blame.
She does not see these forums or postings as innocent. From attitude comes action.
So she is collecting files on the posters. Trawling for crimes. She is hopeful that the task force that Roarke is spearheading will give her a platform to go after these monsters in some way.
In the meantime, she watches.
She searches all the forums she knows Ortiz frequents. She only skims the threads. Reading closely is unbearable.
But Ortiz has not posted today. And it is not long before she has to sign off in revulsion.
She puts the computer away, sits back in her chair. She feels agitation prickling under her skin, and takes a moment to close her eyes.
She lets her workplace cubicle slip away and focuses on her breathing, identifying the sensations in her body.
They are too familiar.
Her temperature is elevated, her face flaming. She is burning up, shaking from this toxic overflow of misogyny and racism and hatred.
Not just in the forums, but in the news, everywhere.
She feels often that she is losing her grip on anything rational. And as so often happens, in this moment she has literally stopped breathing.
She makes herself inhale deeply, exhale slowly.
Then she centers, visualizes the sun, the rays warming and surrounding her, and silently recites a prayer, the ritual of light.
Light before me.
Light behind me.
Light at my left.
Light at my right.
Light above me.
Light below me.
Light around me.
Light to all.
Light to the Universe.
She sits in the visualization. And it helps, of course it helps. But her prayers do less and less to calm her.
She spends her days in a haze of anxiety. By night her dreams are ominous: of a dark force settling over the country. Paroxysms of malice. The constant sense of being hunted.
Nowhere to run. No place that is safe.
And a terrible, inescapable reality.
There is no end in sight.
You can read more about Antara in Hunger Moon, the fifth book in the “Huntress/FBI” thriller series.
Revenge has no limits.
Special Agent Matthew Roarke has abandoned his rogue search for serial killer Cara Lindstrom. He’s returned to the FBI to head a task force with one mission: to rid society of its worst predators. But as the skeletal symbols of Santa Muerte, “Lady Death,” mysteriously appear at universities nationwide, threatening death to rapists, Roarke’s team is pressured to investigate. When a frat boy goes missing in Santa Barbara, Roarke realizes a bloodbath is coming—desperate teenagers are about to mete out personal, cold-blooded justice.
Hiding from the law, avenging angel Cara Lindstrom is on her own ruthless quest. She plans to stay as far away from Roarke as possible—until an old enemy comes after both her and the FBI, forcing her back into Roarke’s orbit. This time, the huntress has become the hunted . . .
Also, the series really should be read in order, starting with Huntress Moon, which is free to Amazon Prime readers. And all four books in the series are currently on sale on Kindle for 1.99 US, 99p UK, and 1.49 AU.
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About the author
Alexandra Sokoloff is the Thriller Award-winning, Bram Stoker and Anthony Award-nominated author of twelve bestselling supernatural and crime thrillers. The New York Times has called her “a daughter of Mary Shelley” and her books “Some of the most original and freshly unnerving work in the genre.” As a screenwriter she has sold original suspense and horror scripts and written novel adaptations for numerous Hollywood studios (Sony, Fox, Disney, Miramax), for producers such as Michael Bay, David Heyman, Laura Ziskin and Neal Moritz. She is also the author of the internationally acclaimed Screenwriting Tricks for Authors workbooks, based on her workshops and blog. Her Thriller Award-nominated Huntress Moon series follows a haunted FBI agent on the hunt for a female serial killer, smashing genre clichés and combatting the rise of violence against women on the page and screen. The series is in active development for television with Sokoloff as writer/producer. Visit Alexandra at AlexandraSokoloff.com.
All comments are welcomed.