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Cold Justice Series Box Set Books 4-6 (EBOOK)

Cold Justice Series Box Set Books 4-6 (EBOOK)

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If you love “powerful suspense and sizzling romance”, don’t miss Toni Anderson’s best-selling, award-winning Cold Justice Series (Books 4-6).

Cold Fear (Book 4). 2016 Daphne Du Maurier Award For Excellence In Mystery/Romantic Suspense finalist and Bookseller’s Best Award finalist.

FBI profiler Lincoln Frazer is determined new crimes won’t delay the execution of a convicted serial killer. Then Frazer falls for secretive Dr. Izzy Campbell – while the killer watches their every move.

Cold in the Shadows (Book 5). 2016 Booksellers’ Best Awards Finalist in Romantic Suspense.

CIA Officer Patrick Killion searches for a ruthless assassin and targets the wrong woman, immediately putting her in jeopardy. Earnest frog biologist Audrey Lockhart is attacked by the local drug cartel, and Killion steps in to save her. Now they’re the ones being hunted – by a cold-blooded killer who wants them both dead.

Cold Hearted (Book 6).

Hunting for a killer who doesn’t play by the rules.

A double homicide casts doubt on the recent conviction of a star quarterback for a series of rapes. An FBI agent is sent to assess the new murders and the work of a dedicated police detective. But when the two begin to fall for one another, the cunning killer strikes again, proving no one is safe.

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Cold Fear by Toni Anderson

Chapter One

Helena Cromwell allowed herself to be dragged toward the top of the tallest dune that edged the northern tip of Crane Island.
“Where are we going?” she demanded.
“You’ll see. Come on, scaredy cat.” Jesse Tyson, high school quarterback and her crush of the last six months, had to shout to be heard over the noise of the storm.
“It’s too dark to see anything.” That was a lie. It was pitch black, but her eyes had adjusted to the night and the full moon provided short blasts of silvery light that lit up the world whenever the clouds parted for more than a few seconds.
A shadow moved in the periphery of her vision, and she whipped her head around, jerking to a stop.
“Did you see something?” she yelled.
Jesse tried to pull her forward, but she dug in her heels. Was someone out there? A shiver tip-tapped down her spine. She peered hard into the night, but when the moon reappeared there was only blowing sand and violently lashing grass.
“There’s no one there. Come on, Helena,” Jesse insisted.
Of course there was no one there. It must have been a trick of the light, or the storm making her nerves dance like Mexican jumping beans. She let Jesse drag her another few steps. No one else would be crazy enough to be out here in this weather, especially on New Year’s Eve—she rolled her eyes. This was a stupid idea, and if her dad found out she was here, or that she’d lied about being at Kit’s tonight, he’d kill her.
“Where’s your sense of adventure?” Jesse taunted.
“Same place yours is gonna be if our parents find out where we are and what we’re doing,” she grumbled.
“We haven’t done anything, yet.” Jesse’s dark eyes glistened in the darkness.
Her heart gave a little flutter, and she swallowed hard. Oh, my. And that was why she was out on the dunes even though she knew better.
The fact they’d both been drinking alcohol wouldn’t go over well, either. Not that her dad was ever going to find out. He’d ground her for a year, and it wasn’t just because she’d lied about where she was going, or was out with a boy. No one was supposed to be on the dunes at Parson’s Point. Her dad worked for Land Management at the Department of Natural Resources and took this kind of trespassing very
seriously. The area was part of a stabilization experiment
they were conducting to try and protect the Outer Banks from further erosion.
She knew the spiel by heart. If he found out it wouldn’t matter that she was his daughter, in fact, that would make the punishment worse.
The hand that pulled her along was confident and strong, not allowing her to balk or change her mind. She started to slip backward in the loose sand, but Jesse grasped her tighter and hauled her with him. She couldn’t help but be impressed by all those gorgeous muscles.
Together they staggered over the top of the beach ridge and slid down the other side, sand flying in every direction. She squealed with fright when they stumbled to their knees in the valley between dunes. Then she started giggling hysterically.
“Idiot.” She shoved his arm.
Jesse took both her hands in his, and she could feel him staring at her in the darkness. For a moment she thought he was going to kiss her but instead he flashed her a grin—the one that had all the girls in high school swooning— and pulled her to her feet. They climbed up the next, shorter dune and landed near the top, lying side-by-side in the sand. Something dug into her thigh, and she shifted away from it, closer to Jesse.
The wind howled, and she shivered.
“You cold?”
It was now officially January and blowing a frickin’ gale. “A little.”
Jesse shrugged out of his down jacket and wrapped it around her shoulders.
“What about you?” she asked, even though she was grateful for the body heat still trapped inside the fabric.
“I’m fine.” Wide shoulders brushed hers as he shrugged. Eighteen years old and a star athlete, he wore a red plaid shirt over a bright white t-shirt and jeans. “I dragged you out here. I don’t want you to die of exposure before I even steal a kiss.”
Helena shot him a sideways look. Over the last few months she’d caught him staring at her a few times, but he’d been dating someone from the mainland. The girl had finally broken it off with him on social media—be-otch—and just before Christmas, he’d asked Helena to go with him to the New Year’s Eve party his friend was hosting. She’d been both thrilled and nervous the entire Christmas break. Now she was here. Squeezed up tight against him and him talking about kisses. Her cheeks bloomed with heat, and she wanted to fan herself, but didn’t dare lest he think
she was a total dork.
She was a total dork.
Jesse reached out in front of them and parted the sharp blades of grass that blocked their view, revealing an endless swath of beach, and miles and miles of crashing waves.
God, it was beautiful. And so was he.
The ocean merged with the sky in a black abyss. The occasional flash of a lighthouse beacon cut through the otherwise impenetrable gloom. Jesse wrapped his right arm across her back, his hand hooking her waist and pulling her closer. Helena’s mouth went as dry as the sand she lay in. Attraction mixed with the two tequila shots she’d downed at the party before he’d dragged her out here. Her nerves sizzled. All she could think of was his hand on her waist, his hard body pressed snug against hers.
Would he try to kiss her? Would she let him? How far would she let him go? She squeezed her thighs together, a little shocked that she was even thinking about making out with Jesse Tyson.
She’d never had a boyfriend, unless you counted holding hands in third grade. She wasn’t one of the “popular” girls in school. Jesse made her nervous because she liked him and didn’t want to look like an idiot for going out with the best looking guy in school.
Why had he asked her out? Was it a dare? She wasn’t that pretty. Her best friend Kit was way prettier than she was, and smarter. Did Jesse think she was easy? Is that why he’d brought her out here? She frowned.
She pushed the uncertainty away. Kit kept telling her she
was beautiful and to relax and enjoy herself, to have a little faith. Maybe she should actually listen to her friend for a change.
Helena’s breath caught as a twenty-foot wave smashed onto the beach, and made the gulls cry out stridently as they fled to safety. Storms made her nervous. She’d grown up with them, but feared the sea was going to wash away her house and drown them all in their sleep. That’s what
happened when your dad spouted environmental doom and gloom at every mealtime.
They’d been lucky this time. The storm had skirted the Carolinas and was headed toward Maine and Newfoundland. There was another one on the horizon, but it was that time of year. Jesse’s warm hand slipped a little lower on her waist and found the place where her t-shirt met her jeans. His fingers played beneath her waistband as if looking for bare skin.
How had this happened? Her. On a date with the high school quarterback?
“What do you think?” He had to shout to be heard over the howling gale and the fierce roar of the ocean. Hardly romantic, but his laughter was so infectious it took a moment to realize he was talking about the storm, not being with him.
“It’s terrifying,” she admitted with a grin. “But,” she watched another wave pile-drive the shore. “It’s also thrilling—
exhilarating. There’s an energy to it...”
“I know, right?” The arm tightened on her waist. “It’s as if there’s electricity sparking through the air. The sea is so rough you know if it caught you you’d never get out alive.”
“And that excites you?” Maybe the guy was nuts. Maybe that’s why he asked her out.
“The power of it.” He looked at her then. Leaned closer so their lips were only an inch apart. “You know what really excites me?”
She raised an unimpressed brow that he probably couldn’t
see in the dark. If he gave her a cheesy line she was out of here.
“Kite boarding.” His warm breath brushed against her lips—then he kissed her.
The wind wailed spookily above them, but she didn’t notice the weather anymore. Her heart banged her ribs like a hollow drum. Jesse turned her so they were facing one another and took her face gently between his hands. Then he kissed her again, not overly confident, but his lips
were firm, warm, not wet or sloppy, feeling their way over her mouth, searching for something.
He tasted very slightly of beer, but also of mint. Curious, tempted, she opened up to him and he took the kiss deeper. Then his tongue touched hers and she jumped.
“Sorry.” She grinned as she pulled back.
A weird huffing noise had her turning. She let out a strangled gasp as a dark figure loomed behind them. Terror squeezed her heart so hard, pain spasmed along her arm.
“What the hell?” Jesse yelled.
Before her frozen limbs could react, the figure lifted something over his head and brought it down with ferocious force. It made a horrific sound as it connected with Jesse’s head.
“Jesse!” she screamed. She grabbed him by the shirt, but he lay there, heavy and limp. She tried to shove at the attacker’s legs, but he was so much bigger than she was. Run! She scrambled down the dune, trying to scream for aid, but the man swung the object he held sideways, like an
axe, and the flat end of it caught her on the side of the head.
A scream rent the air and she realized, almost surreally, that she was the one screaming. Agony exploded through her brain as she flew to the ground, landing facedown. She heard more strikes—oh God, the man was hitting Jesse over and over, even though he just lay there not moving.
She struggled to her feet and faced their attacker. “Leave him alone!”
The figure turned and looked toward her. Oh, hell. Ignoring the splitting pain and disorientation that made her brain feel disconnected from her feet, she took off running, back the way they’d come. She was lithe and nimble. People underestimated her because she was small, but she was fast. The sand shifted and made progress difficult as she clawed her way up the dune, and it suddenly seemed fifty feet tall. She pounded her feet against the slope, clutching at the sharp grass that sliced her fingers. Then a hand manacled her ankle and she fell flat on her face as she was dragged backwards down the incline. She tried to cry out, but sand got in her eyes and mouth. She was suffocating, spluttering, trying to force away particles from her nose, and just breathe.
Blackness whirled in her brain as the need for oxygen eliminated every other concern. The attacker flipped her on her back, and she lay there hacking and choking. By the time she finally cleared the grit out of her eyes and mouth, the man had dragged Jesse down the bank, too, and was rifling through his pockets. Was this a robbery? Was Jesse breathing? Or was he pretending to be unconscious so he could take this animal by surprise and save them both?
She tried to climb to her feet and froze when the assailant turned back toward her. He stood, easily over six feet. She couldn’t see his face, but his silhouette looked vaguely familiar. It was dark and he wore a hat pulled low. He dropped to his knees beside her. Put one gloved hand on
her throat and squeezed. She grabbed his forearm and fought for breath. His grip tightened. After a few moments of panicked flailing she froze and he eased off the pressure.
A message.
She swallowed uneasily. Nodded.
His other hand went to her belt, and he undid the buckle and jerked open the front of her jeans. Terror made her heart beat faster than she’d ever imagined possible. She lay there in the frigid sand, the storm raging overhead, Jesse lying unconscious, bleeding, maybe even dead, just a few feet away. Her limbs shook. She knew what was going to happen even though her mind screamed ‘no’. Her teeth chattered as the man dragged tight denim down her legs. She wanted to struggle, wanted to fight, but instead she lay absolutely frozen as he lifted her hips to remove her
clothes. She didn’t put up a fight. If she didn’t fight, if she lay here, maybe he’d do what he was going to do and then let her go. Because she was a coward. She was weak and scared.
The freezing cold sand hit her bare bottom and thighs,
abrading her skin. She’d never been so exposed in her entire life. Never felt so helpless. This is what her parents had been warning her about her entire life—don’t go off alone...but she hadn’t been alone. Her eyes drifted to where Jesse lay bleeding.
Please don’t die.
Finally the cold began to make her feel numb and she welcomed it. Large fingers touched her. Pressing. Probing. Doing whatever they wanted as he made little grunting noises that made her throat muscles gag.
The moon came out and she found herself staring up into a face she knew. Her mouth opened in surprise, but his fingers encircled her throat and squeezed until all sound stopped coming out. She started to slip into unconsciousness.
“What do you see?” he asked, releasing the bruising pressure.
Horror and revulsion filled her until she blocked it all out. She couldn’t think about what was happening. About Jesse. About this man. Or the fact he was touching her like this. She wanted to live through it. She wanted to survive.
He kept asking what she could see, but her mind floated away. Her fingers inched through the sand and found Jesse’s leg. He was still warm, but she didn’t think he was alive. Tears filled her eyes, and she made herself think of running on the beach hand-in-hand with the boy she’d
been secretly in love with for months. She dreamed about them sneaking innocent kisses and worrying about what their parents might say.
Her vision began to gray and tunnel as the monster peered right into her eyes as if looking for her very soul. All those years being warned about not talking to strangers, about being careful, about being safe...and all along they’d had a monster in their midst.

Chapter Two

Izzy Campbell threw the ball for her flat-coat retriever and watched it bounce along the hard-packed sand as he raced to catch it. The tide was out. The gusting wind caught the ball and propelled it even faster along the mile long stretch of beach. Barney gave chase at full speed, tongue out, legs straining, breath streaming behind him like smoke. He caught the ball mid-bounce, then without missing a beat, turned and brought it right back to where she stood, silvery
strings of drool wrapping around his muzzle.
“Lovely,” she said with a grin.
He dropped the thing at her feet and crouched back, ready to play again.
She kicked the ball this time and he was off, thrilled to be outside, uncaring of the ferocious wind or damp spray that whipped off the wild sea. She watched him catch the ball and then lie down in the surf to cool off. As sad as it might be, Barney was her best friend in the world. Who needed a man when they had a dog?
Izzy yawned widely. Meeting a man was the least of her worries. She had a seventeen-year-old to get through high school and into college. As a former captain in the Army she’d learned to take life one Herculean task at a time, while trying to anticipate any of the things that could
possibly go wrong. Having a man in her life would complicate an already complicated situation. Not everyone found true love or the perfect happily-ever-after.
That thought had her turning to look at the undulating dunes at the top of the shore. A wave of regret stole over her. Memories from long ago flashed through her mind like a lightning storm, reminding her of a heartbreaking night of torment and terror. She’d experienced many more since then, too many to dwell on, but this was different. This had been the defining moment of her life, and the only person who’d known about it was dead.
Why did she feel compelled to come back to this strip of coast, time and time again? Punishment? Self-flagellation? Her mouth tightened. Maybe. Or were these islands really home?
They didn’t feel like it. She felt like an outsider here. An interloper. A goddamned dingbatter.
What she’d done all those years ago was unforgivable, but at the time she hadn’t felt as if she’d had a choice. Age had brought a little wisdom, but her mistakes weren’t something she could put right with an apology or a twelve-step program. She’d messed up, and she didn’t know how to make it right with out ruining more lives, her own included. She turned away. It was ancient history. No one would ever know.
The wind whipped her hair past her cheeks, blinding her for a moment. She faced the sea and gathered the strands together in a long twist, stuffing it back under her hat. She pulled the hat down tight, ignoring the short, sharp tug on her scalp.
Last night while she’d been working, a big Nor’easter had brushed its fingers against the flanks of the Outer Banks but thankfully hadn’t delivered a flat-out punch. Another storm was brewing in the Atlantic and promised even more fun, depending on which direction it decided to take.
Storms and hurricanes were a constant danger to these barrier islands. Locals only worried when they had to and, frankly, right now, she was too tired. She’d been up all night, working the graveyard shift at the local hospital. Once Barney had a good walk she’d crash for a few hours
before heading back to the hospital for a split shift that evening. She was covering for a few colleagues who’d gone to visit family over the holidays. She hoped her sister remembered not to make too much noise when she got home from Helena’s house later, but she wouldn’t put money on it.
She whistled to her wet, sandy dog and headed toward the boardwalk that led through the cordoned-off dune system. Up on the road, a Department of Natural Resources vehicle had pulled up behind a burgundy sedan that had been parked there when she arrived earlier. God help the poor soul when Duncan Cromwell got hold of them. The guy was fanatical in his protection of those dunes. Her SUV was another hundred yards south, near the lighthouse. Barney
arrived at her side, complete with rancid ball, and she clipped his leash to his collar and strode along the path.
Barney started to whine a few seconds before she heard the sirens.
“It’s okay, boy.” She rubbed his neck and opened the trunk of her SUV, letting the dog hop in before she turned to see what was going on. An ambulance screeched to a stop behind the DNR rig.
As tired as she was, she couldn’t ignore the potential that someone might need her help. She got into her car and drove up to the other vehicles. Parking behind the ambulance, leaving plenty of room for a stretcher.
“Stay, boy.” She got out and clambered through the thin wire fence, following the route the EMTs had taken. Dread skated along her nerves when she realized exactly where she was heading. Too bad, Izzy. Her muscles burned as she climbed the steep foredune, but she didn’t slow down. When she got to the top, the scene below made her flinch. Bile hit her throat but she swallowed it. Slipping her way down the bank, she shouted, “What’s the situation?”
Duncan Cromwell had draped his coat over his daughter, Helena, who lay unmoving in the sand at his side. He was attempting mouth-to-mouth.
Izzy pushed him out of the way and probed the girl’s neck for a pulse. Helena’s skin felt like ice. Her eyes were cloudy, her body slightly stiff, but no sign of lividity. Izzy took a clean tissue from her pocket and brushed it across Helena’s cornea. The girl didn’t blink. No corneal reflex. Izzy placed her hands over Helena’s eyes and held them there for long seconds. When she removed them Helena’s pupils showed no reaction to the light.
“Do something!” Cromwell grabbed her upper arm so hard she winced. She twisted out of his grip.
“She’s gone, Duncan.” Cold fear raced through her mind as she looked at the dead girl. Her sister had been staying with the Cromwells last night. Frantically, she scanned the surrounding area. “Where’s Kit?”
“I was going to ask you the same question,” Duncan said grimly. “Help me do CPR.”
Izzy forced away the tears that wanted to form and found her professional armor. “Helena’s gone, Duncan. There’s nothing you can do.”
“No.” He brushed her away and started once again to try to resuscitate his daughter. She met the gaze of the EMT who she recognized from the hospital, and silent communication passed between them. The guy had lost it and who could blame him. She moved to assess the other victim on the ground, a young man she recognized as Jesse Tyson, the police chief’s son. Blood matted his scalp, and his nose looked like it had been smashed. Unlike Helena, he was fully clothed. Beneath the trickles of blood, his skin was the blinding white of alabaster. She touched his neck but couldn’t find a pulse. His skin was soft, no sign of rigor. She frowned and pulled back his eyelids. His pupils were clear and responsive. She checked his airway, ripped open his shirt and palpated his chest. No penetrating injuries or bruising. Without proper equipment it was difficult to check for pneumothorax and haemothorax, but she did what she could. She undid his jeans and pressed her fingers into his groin, searching for a femoral pulse. All the time, she watched his chest for any sign that he was breathing.
Did it move? Or was that the wind tugging his shirt?
It was so cold out here, even she was shivering. Then his chest did move, just a fraction, evenly on both sides, she was certain of it. And the faintest pulse of blood stirred against her fingertips. She signaled the EMTs to bring over a stretcher. “He’s alive. Make sure his spine is stabilized before you move him. Cover him with all the blankets you’ve got in the rig.” Her brain buzzed as she recalled procedure and treatments for severe hypothermia. “Move him very gently because you can induce cardiac dysrhythmia if you jar him—go the long way around the dune.” She checked for fractures, but with this level of hypothermia the most important thing was getting the patient to the hospital as quickly and smoothly as possible. She dialed the ER. It was a fifteen-minute drive to the hospital. “You need to prepare for a patient with low GCS, apparent head injuries, and severe hypothermia.” They’d treat with warm mattresses, hot air blankets, heated IV fluids—but they had to take things slowly in a highly controlled environment. “He’ll need a full CT scan and general blood work. Call Chief Tyson to meet us at the hospital.” She hung up.
“What about Helena?” Duncan called out angrily from his knees.
Izzy stared at the guy. Tremors shook his body as he tried to rein in everything he was feeling. His eyes were frantic, skin pulled tight over his features as desperation drove him. Who could blame him?
His daughter was her sister’s best friend. Responsibility weighed as heavy as a block of cement around her shoulders. What if she was wrong? What if Helena
could be saved? She’d heard of miracles happening before, especially when severe hypothermia was involved. People
weren’t dead until they were warm and dead.
“Let’s take her, too.” She put her hand on his arm. “But, Duncan, don’t get your hopes up.”
“Hope is all I’ve got left.” He flung off her touch and snarled before he ran to fetch another stretcher.
She took out her phone and dialed her sister, each unanswered ring feeding her fear like wind stoking a wildfire. The joints in her fingers ached from her tight grip on the phone. Her jaw felt as if someone had wired the bones together.
“S’up?” Kit answered groggily.
The iron fist on Izzy’s throat released, and she sucked in a proper breath. “Oh my God. Are you okay?”
“Yeah. Why?” Kit sounded tired, grumpy, but not upset. She obviously had no idea about Helena.
“Where are you?” she asked.
“Home. I changed my mind and came back here last night. Why?”
She hadn’t checked her sister’s room when she picked up Barney earlier, but hadn’t seen her car. She’d assumed Kit was still out. “I wanted to make sure you were okay.” She couldn’t tell Kit about Helena over the phone. “Look, I have something to tell you. You need to get dressed. I’ll pick you up in ten minutes.”
“What? Why?” The grogginess was replaced with wariness.
Izzy couldn’t face an argument. “Just do it. I love you.” She hung up. She was going to ground her sister until she was eighteen, and possibly for the rest of her life just to keep her safe. Duncan came back over the ridge and began slipping down the banks of his beloved dunes. She shielded her eyes against the spraying sand as he raced toward her. Together they very gently moved Helena onto the stretcher but Izzy didn’t hold out much hope for the girl. Her heart wanted to break but she compartmentalized the feeling so she could do her job. They worked their way slowly around the biggest hill. Even though Helena was tiny, Izzy struggled to hold up her end of the stretcher.
“We need to call the cops,” she shouted over the blustery wind. Her stomach churned at the thought of what they might find, but Helena’s death needed to be investigated. Her attacker had to be found.
“I already called them,” said Cromwell.
She nodded, and wished she didn’t want to run and hide. She was a coward. She’d always been a damn coward. The coat covering Helena slipped and Izzy saw the girl’s naked body. There was blood on her thighs and any thoughts Izzy had about her own problems were obliterated. Then her eyes latched onto a piece of jewelry on Helena’s slender wrist. The fine hairs on her arms rose as gooseflesh prickled her skin. “I didn’t know Helena wore a medical alert bracelet.”
“It isn’t hers.” Duncan’s voice was low and guttural. “She was wearing it when I found her.”
Dazed, Izzy marched onward as fast as she could. It couldn’t be the same bracelet. It couldn’t. But deep inside, Izzy knew it was. Even though it was impossible, someone knew her secret. A killer knew her secret.
Lincoln Frazer sat at his desk reading yet another request for assistance, this one regarding a series of rapes occurring in Portland, Oregon. He scanned the details and emailed Darsh Singh to take a look at the case file in time for next Monday’s team meeting. It was January 1, but as head of BAU-4, which investigated crimes against adults, there was no time to take a break. A week ago, he’d helped exonerate an innocent man convicted of treason, but between high-level vigilante groups, presidential requests, international terrorism, assassins, agency spies, and
miscarriages of justice, he was behind on the day job.
Christmas had been a blur. He hadn’t seen his condo in days. He showered and ate at the academy, grateful for the peace and quiet of an almost empty building. With the turn of the New Year he hoped life would return to normal, and he could go back to his nice orderly world tracking down serial offenders.
His landline rang. “Frazer.”
“How’d I know you’d be in the office?” Agent Mallory Rooney’s voice held a touch of sarcasm.
“It’s that razor-sharp intelligence of yours.” That and the fact Alex Parker had probably tracked his cell phone. “No wonder I plucked you from obscurity to work for me.”
“Sure, boss, you plucked me from obscurity.” The eye roll that accompanied her droll statement came through loud and clear. He grinned because she couldn’t see him.
“Did Parker finish running those background checks on Madeleine Florentine?” Frazer asked before she could
speak. The Governor of California was President Hague’s first choice as replacement VP, and the man was growing impatient for answers.
“Yep, he finished last night. Florentine checks out”—Thank, God—“But that’s not why I’m calling. Look,” she continued, cutting him off as he opened his mouth to ask why it had taken them this long to contact him. “I got a phone call from an old friend of mine, Agent Lucas Randall out of Charlotte. He was in charge of the Meacher case?” Frazer checked personnel files online as she spoke. He remembered the guy. “He’s been called in on a case along the Outer
Banks. Wanted me to go down there to help him out.”
Frazer searched the Internet for news stories coming out of that region. “A single victim homicide?” He had a stack of unsolved cases on his desk more than a foot high, not to mention trying to help a certain spook surreptitiously track down the assassin who’d murdered the Vice President last month. All of which required a few more skills than investigating a small-town homicide. “The locals can handle it.” He winced at the callousness of his tone. That’s what
happened when reports of unbelievable depravity crossed your desk every single day.
Rooney ignored him. “Two teens making out on the beach last night were subject to a vicious assault. Both were left for dead, but one miraculously survived. But that’s not why Randall called me.”
Frazer’s spine tingled, and he knew he wasn’t going to like whatever she said next.
“The female victim was wearing a medical alert bracelet.”
“And?” Tension coiled inside him.
“It wasn’t hers.” He heard the murmur of voices, probably Alex Parker telling Mallory to get off the phone and take a break on a federal holiday. “It belonged to a woman called Beverley Sandal.”
“Why do I recognize that name?” He typed it into the Internet. “Damn.”
“Yeah. Exactly.”
His brain catalogued some of the factors in play. “Ferris Denker is due to be executed this month.”
“I know.”
“It could be a copycat trying to get him a last minute reprieve.”
“I know.”
“This was Hanrahan’s first big case—did you know that?” He squeezed his eyes shut. Of course she did. Rooney was as big a workaholic as he was. Goddammit. The conviction was solid. Denker had been transporting the body of a young woman he’d killed when the cops pulled him over on a traffic violation. He’d confessed to a series of murders, though some of the bodies had never been recovered. The conviction was good, but the last thing he or Rooney or
Parker needed was investigators digging into his former boss’s cases. “I need you to get down there ASAP—”
“I can’t.”
His spine stiffened. Something was wrong.
Another voice came on the line. “What she failed to mention was she’s in the hospital.” Alex Parker had taken the phone from Rooney. “She, hmm...” He cleared his throat. “Mal had some minor bleeding last night, and the docs want to keep her in and run more tests. Maybe put her on bed rest for a couple of weeks. You’re going to have to do this without us.”
Fear jackknifed through Frazer. Rooney was in the first trimester of her pregnancy with the couple’s baby. Frazer was usually more cautious with his affection, but his friendship with the rookie agent and damaged assassin had begun under extraordinary circumstances. The connection was strong as tungsten steel, the only thing that would break it was death—a real possibility if anyone discovered their secrets. “Is she all right?” he asked carefully.
“She will be.”
Mallory Rooney was the best of them. If anyone could keep her safe it would be Alex Parker, but not even Parker could control a medical emergency. Frazer knew the thoughts going through the man’s head. Guilt. Fear, that this was somehow his fault. Desperation and panic that he
couldn’t fix it no matter how badly he wanted to.
Frazer understood because he was feeling them, too. He let out a long breath. “Tell her to take all the time she needs.”
“I already did,” Parker said tightly.
“Yeah, but tell her I said so. She listens to me.” He shut down his desktop computer. “I want her fit and healthy for work, even if she has to spend the next nine months in bed. I have some personal leave she can use.” And there’d be other agents who’d do the same for a colleague going through a tough time. The FBI was a family. They took care of their own.
Frazer put his arm through his jacket sleeve, closed his laptop, and put it in its case. The thought of Rooney and Parker losing the baby put a rock in his throat and reminded him why it was always best to keep his distance. Too late now. “You should name him after me, you know, considering the circumstances.” Circumstances that traced back to a remote woods in the heart of West Virginia and facing down another serial killer.
“Mal wants to name him after my grandfather if he’s a boy and after my mother if she’s a girl.” The controlled tension in Parker’s voice told him the guy was terrified.
Frazer felt that lump in his throat grow bigger. Shit. “Keep her safe, Alex. I’ll take care of the situation in North Carolina.”
“Call me if you need anything. I can work the case from here.” Amongst other things, Parker was an expert in cyber security and could run traces in his sleep.
“I intend to.”
“Happy New Year, Linc.”
“Not yet it isn’t.”
“No shit.” Parker sounded pissed off.
“This is my fault, you know. For wishing things would get back to normal.”
“You were hankering after serial killers?”
“Yeah. I must be as aberrant as they are.”
“Nah,” Parker drawled. “You’re way crazier than those fuckers.”
A reluctant smile tugged Frazer’s lips. “Take care of her for us, Alex.” Then he hung up and strode out of his office.
Happy New Year.
Ferris Denker watched the cockroach idle its way across the floor. He planted one of his feet and the bug switched direction. He did it again and the roach tried to burrow under the rubber heel of his canvas shoe. Poor misunderstood creature. He picked it up and let it run over his hands. The creature’s legs felt sturdy but brittle, its feet grasping the whorls and ridges of his palm.
He turned his hand over and the bug fell to the floor, its thin carapace making a dull clicking noise as it hit. The bug popped back up, and they started their game over. Handel’s
Concerti Grossi Op. 6 played on his sound system—a pleasant change from the constant din of Christmas carols that had bounced around the Death Row facility over the last few weeks. He tried not to complain. The guys needed a little enjoyment in this sinkhole of despair.
Ferris.” A familiar voice hissed from the next cell. Billy Painter. The guy had raped and murdered a young woman and then done the same to her eighty-year-old grandmother.
How the jury had wept.
The kid had been here for the last five years and was on his
second appeal.
Ferris walked over to the door. The top half was made of steel bars. “What is it, Billy?”
“You heard from your lawyer yet?”
Billy would have seen if Ferris had received any news, but the fact he asked the question was grounds for his new appeal. Billy’s IQ and shoe size were almost exactly the same. The guy might have big feet, but he was still dumb as a rock.
“Nothing yet, Billy.” The warrant for his execution sat on his poor excuse for a desk. The warden had served it on Christmas Eve, which he’d thought was a nice touch for a closet sadist. Despite having had years to prepare, knowing he was scheduled to die on January 25 made his knees shake—not that he’d ever admit it. They’d transfer him to Columbia for the execution itself, but the last thing he wanted was to make that final hundred mile journey.
“I’m sorry, man.” Billy slouched, leaning on the bars. His expression was pained. “I thought you’d-a heard something by now.”
“Thanks, man.” Ferris twisted his lips. He had brought this day on himself. He’d confessed too much before his lawyer had turned up. Bragging like a child before he’d gotten a signed deal. The woman in the trunk wasn’t even cold when he’d been pulled over for a lousy broken taillight, which he could have talked his way out of if he hadn’t been high as a kite. No, the cops had caught him fair and square, and he’d sung like a fucking canary.
But he wasn’t planning on dying yet.
Living on Death Row was a miserable existence. Even those who deserved to die didn’t deserve to be tortured this way. He’d treated his victims better than the state treated inmates. Sure they begged and screamed for a few hours, but after that he’d put his victims out of their misery fast. He might have delivered cruel and unusual punishment, but it had been swift, unlike the justice system.
This was justice?
He looked around the unit. Vets suffering PTSD. Men who’d been little more than children when committing crimes. Goaded into it by bad influences and life circumstances. All of them victims in their own right. Men like Billy who barely knew right from wrong and didn’t stand a chance if you added drugs or alcohol into the mix. Death penalty laws were flawed in every which way—the cost, the fact it wasn’t a deterrent, the fact innocent men were still being exonerated from Death Rows across the country as old
evidence was reexamined.
It was a stupid system. And Ferris detested stupid.
He’d never claimed he was innocent, and he had no chance of pleading a low IQ because last time he’d tested he’d measured one-forty. But he didn’t want to die, and he didn’t want to spend the rest of his life in this miserable hellhole. “Pray for me, Billy.”
The younger man nodded furiously. “We had one miracle this year. I can pray for another.”
Ferris grinned. He’d always been faintly amused by the camaraderie of the men inside this unit and yet he felt it too. Ferris felt like he was accepted for who he truly was, not for whom people expected him to be.
That was a gift. He’d had it once before, and he was hoping the power of that relationship held true now.
One of the guards entered the cellblock, probably to take someone out for their hour of fresh air and exercise. Ferris sneered. From one cage to another, and yet every one of them looked forward to getting out of their damned cells. He took a step back and heard a crunch, looked down at the black and green smear of dead cockroach on the concrete floor. Dammit.
He bent over and used a tissue to wipe up the mess. Then he tipped the jar and pulled out another roach. The game was just starting.

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