So you’d like to know what my typical day is like? There’s my work with ATLAS, a covert government organization, in which I do the occasional forensic art: identification sketch from a skull, sketch of a murder suspect, maybe even lending a hand in an investigation. Unfortunately I can’t go into details, because ATLAS takes that whole national security stuff seriously. What I can discuss are the more mundane cases I work as an FBI agent when I’m not teaching forensic art at the FBI Academy in Quantico: money laundering, white collar crimes, that sort of thing. For instance, that bank robber I helped to arrest last week after I sat down with the teller and sketched the suspect from her description. Not the brightest crook, since he had a cobra tattooed on his neck and didn’t bother covering it up during the robbery. His landlord saw my sketch on the news and called our tip line, saying it looked a lot like one of his less-than-stellar tenants, Thomas “Snake” Collins, who recently paid his overdue rent in cash that happened to be damp with some sort of red dye.

Mind you, we get a lot of tips, most of them bad, but considering we never mentioned the bank’s red dye pack in the details we released to the media, this tip moved to the top of our priority list. We drove out to Snake’s house, parked down the street with a view of his front door, then notified the local police that we were in the area. Since Snake’s criminal history was rather extensive, my partner, Tony Carillo, thought we should come up with a more creative method of making contact. “I’ve got a couple packets on voter registration,” he said. “How about we go up to his door and pretend to be doing our civic duty?”

I studied an old booking photo of Snake, thinking he wasn’t the open-the-door-and-politely-listen-to-our-pretend-spiel-on-politics type. He was more the open-the-door-and-shove-a-gun-in-our-face kind of guy. “I vote we skip the ruse, and—”

“Hold on. Someone’s coming out the side gate.”

I looked up, saw a reed-thin white male in blue jeans strolling across the lawn to the motorcycle parked in the driveway. He was digging in his jeans pocket, probably for the keys. Unfortunately he wore a long blue and black plaid Pendleton shirt, which covered his waistband and any obvious signs of a weapon he might be hiding. What it didn’t cover was the telltale cobra tattooed on the side of his neck. I picked up the radio, keying it. “Suspect’s about to leave on a motorcycle. We’re making contact.”

“Ten-four,” the police dispatcher said. Then to the responding police backup, she asked, “Five-eight, copy?”

“Five-eight copies. ETA about two blocks away.”

“FBI copies,” I radioed. “We’re approaching now.”

Carillo shifted to Drive, hit the switch to activate the emergency lights, then pulled out. He stopped at the edge of the driveway. The suspect looked up, his eyes going wide. We threw our doors open, jumped out, drew our guns.

“FBI!” I called.

Snake’s gaze flicked from me to Carillo. And then he ran.

He feinted left toward Carillo, then darted past me at the last second. I holstered my gun and chased after him. The patrol car rounded the corner, tires screeching as it skidded to a stop.

Snake faltered when he saw the black-and-white. He tried to cut across the neighbor’s yard, jumping over a low hedge. He stumbled but recovered. I caught up to him, grabbed at his flannel shirt. He twisted, swung his fist at me. The officer jumped on him from the other side and down we all went.

The moment Snake started struggling, Carillo walked up, put his foot on Snake’s back. “Try not to move. It’ll just piss me off.”

Snake’s face was pressed into the grass, the tattooed cobra hood on his neck seeming to widen with each pulse of his carotid. “I didn’t do anything.”

I reached for his hand, pulled it down into a wrist lock, then cuffed him. “How about evading?”

“Evading?” he said. “You two race up and pull guns on me? How am I supposed to know you’re cops?”

“Besides that I told you? If the badges on our belts weren’t a clue, maybe the flashing red light on the car?”

“You don’t look like no cops.”

Carillo laughed. “As many times as you’ve been arrested? You try and use that excuse for running, they’re gonna add five years to your sentence for being stupid.”

“Yeah, well, I didn’t do nothing.”

I double-locked the cuffs. “Then how’d your fingers turn red?” I asked, noticing his stained digits as I pulled him to his feet, then walked him to the patrol car. “Dyeing Easter eggs in December?”

“I like to get an early start.”

“Right,” Carillo said. “Hope you didn’t hide them yet, ‘cause they’re gonna stink by the time you get out of prison.”

I buckled him in, closed the door, then watched as the officer drove our suspect to the jail.

After that, Carillo and I returned to the office for the not so exciting part that always followed. Hours and hours of paperwork.

And that pretty much covers a typical day in my life.

Let me know if you have any questions—about the cases I can talk about. I’m always glad to answer!

You can read more about Syndey in The Dark Hour, the fourth book in the “Sydney Fitzpatrick” mystery series. The first book in the series is Face of a Killer.

** Robin is giving away one (1) copy of “THE DARK HOUR”. Contest open to US residents only and ends November 30. Leave a comment to be included in the giveaway. Book will be shipped directly from the author. **

Meet the author
Robin Burcell worked as a police officer, detective, hostage negotiator, and forensic artist. The Dark Hour is her latest international thriller about an FBI forensic artist. The Black List will debut in January 2013. Visit her at, Twitter, and Facebook.

Books are available at retail and online booksellers.

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