Authors: Lorena Wood
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book may be reproduced, stored or introduced into a retrieval system,
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mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without express written
permission of the author of this book.
As Whitney entered the small
cave, the vibrations hit her like a wave. Grabbing the uneven wall for support,
she pushed away the unessential memories of the policemen and crime techs that
had crowded the scene just days before. The voices outside began to fade as she
narrowed in on the lingering exchange she was searching for. Her body grew
rigid with fear and pain. The rock held the energy so well.
A small boy was pleading, “No,
please. I’m sorry. Whatever made you mad, I’m sorry.” The boy was curled
against the back wall of the cave. His face was covered with dirt and tear
streaks. “Maybe my Mama can fix it for you. She’s good at fixing things.
Please,” the small voice begged. She heard his scream as the knife connected
with his flesh.
Nick rubbed his neck and tried
to clear his mind. Too many questions were racing around inside his head for
such an early hour. He drained the rest of his coffee while squealing his way
around the exit ramp. The anger and exhaustion were pooling together to create
an aggressively nasty mood. As a detective in Phoenix, it was a mood that
worked well for him.
Although he was long past the
rookie days when he could still be surprised by brutality, this case had his
nerves frayed and patience thin. Four children had been abducted in the last
month and two had turned up dead. He didn’t like to think about what had
happened to them before they died. The coroner said they had both been tortured
before having their throats slit. Now a fifth was missing and they had
absolutely nothing to go on. Well, there were the five hundred or more phone
calls that came in weekly. The media, busy competing for the most sensational
story, was creating more panic and false alarms than the Phoenix PD could
handle. He knew people were eager to help, but it slowed down the process of
actually finding the killer.
The entire valley was anxious
to find this guy and stop the terror. Parents were afraid to let their children
out of their sight. Many of the families in Phoenix had become accustomed to
the fear of drive by shootings and gang activities. They had learned how to
dress, what places to avoid, and all the things that lowered the risks. Even
the youngest kids in elementary school knew what colors belonged to what gangs,
and what streets were safe. So far, no one knew anything that would protect the
kids against this new threat.
All five that had disappeared so far had been boys. They were
between six and twelve years old. They came from different areas of the valley
and different walks of life. There was no common thread. They all seemed to be
good kids, if that counted.
When Nick finally pulled into
the station, he could see that the air conditioning was still out of action.
The windows in the station were wide open. It was May, and in the valley that
meant 100 degrees or more. Today they were predicting 108 or higher. Just like
every other year, every air conditioner that wasn’t ready for the triple digit
temperatures decided to quit on the same day. It was almost impossible to get
someone in to repair it. It had only been one day, but you would think a
building full of overheated men and women carrying weapons would become a
At least everyone in the
station would be finding an excuse to get outside and into the sanctuary of his
or her air conditioned cars. He wouldn’t have to deal with all the jokes bound
to come his way about the meeting scheduled first thing this morning. Once the
guys on the squad found a sore point, it would be weeks before they left him
alone. They all knew he wasn’t happy about the new consultant on the case. He
was hoping, with everyone out of the building, they’d forget about the whole
They had become so desperate
that the captain had called in the FBI. Today they would meet the SAC, or
Special Agent in Charge, and his special “psychic” friend. The last time he had
to work with a psychic the guys had ribbed him for weeks. They knew how he
hated getting forced to work with them. He’d given it a chance in the past, but
what resulted had been a farce. They were all attention seeking charlatans as
far as he was concerned. He didn’t have time for this. Those kids didn’t have
time for this. Since he was the one in charge of this case he had no choice. If
he didn’t play nice, there was no way the SAC would send any new information
He walked into the bright conference
room and realized he was getting a really bad headache. He saw Teddy watching
him and gave him a nod. Teddy had been his partner for the last four years. His
name was Ted, short for Theodore, and he looked like a great big teddy bear. Teddy
was six foot three and on top of two hundred pounds of muscle he had another
forty or more of cushion. That’s what Teddy called it when he was wolfing down
another donut. “Have to keep lots of cushion on these bones,” he would say.
Nick sometimes felt small next
to him. He was almost six foot but had none of the “cushion”. Not that he was
skinny. He was solid and built from years of working out and being active. He
felt lucky to have Teddy backing him up when they were in tough territory. Teddy
may have seemed soft and fluffy at times, but he could be very intimidating out
on the streets.
The florescent lights were
flickering, the room was hot, and the meeting was getting a late start. Nick
realized his neck was tense and his shoulders were just about up to his ears. He
tried to relax and drop his shoulders like the chiropractor had taught him. No
wonder he had a headache. There was probably very little blood making it to his
brain with his muscles this tight.
“Hey Nick. You look like you’re
squinting. Got a hangover?” Teddy looked relaxed and chipper as always.
“Nope. Skipped the drinking and
went right to the headache. So how’d the blind date go? Was she head over heels
for your big teddy bear ass?”
“Not a chance. She was a little
scrawny thing that didn’t like my taste in restaurants.”
“Took her to Burger King?”
“No way. I went all out and
took her to Red Robin.”
“What a romantic.”
Nick turned as the captain and
another man walked into the room. He knew it was the SAC just by his demeanor
and choice in clothes. The tall, thin man in the dark suit and polished shoes
looked like he was very comfortable giving orders. Captain Edwards introduced
agent Roger Hollerman to everyone in the room.
Nick was still thinking about the
throbbing in his head when a woman walked in behind them. Nick’s attention
immediately came to alert as agent Hollerman introduced Whitney Bentley. She
was petite, probably five three at the most, with long dark hair, and huge
brown eyes that gave her an exotic look.
At first Nick thought that she
was another agent since she dressed in a business suit and looked completely
professional. Then agent Hollerman started discussing her “gifts”. She sat
quietly as he praised her abilities and stressed her importance to the
operation. Nick watched her as the agent spoke of energy, thought patterns and
individual talents. Since it was all theoretical, and completely ridiculous, he
didn’t waste his time absorbing the details. He did enjoy the fact that she was
pretty enough to provide a pleasant distraction while her boss discussed ESP or
whatever she did.
She didn’t look like any of the
psychics the force had used in the past. She looked very normal. The one thing
that did catch his attention was her eyes. They held a haunting look that made
her seem extremely sad or distant. Maybe she was just as bored as he was with
this charade. He admired her beautiful skin, long lashes, and athletic body. Just
looking at her in the form-fitting business suit he could tell that she had a
small waist and her breasts were nice and…
Suddenly she looked up at him
and her cheeks turned pink. Nick almost fell out of his chair. She acted like
she knew what he was thinking.
“No, that isn’t possible,” Nick
thought to himself
They were just supposed to pick up faint signals or
something. He had never had known a psychic that actually claimed to read
minds. That would be too hard to prove wrong. He should have listened better to
see what her “gifts” might involve.
Captain Edwards turned to Nick.
“Nick, since you’ve been spearheading the search for this guy, I’d like you to
bring Agent Hollerman up to date. I’m heading out for an update meeting with
the Mayor.” His eyes narrowed just enough for Nick to realize he was being told
to behave appropriately.
“Sure thing Cap.” He sat up
straight and thumbed through the files on the table. “Well, you’ve probably
read the files and know most of what we know. Five kids missing in less than
five weeks, all with the same M.O., all boys, in various areas of the valley. We’ve
only found two so far," he paused and looked around the table. "Do I
need to go into details about their condition when we found them?"
“No, we’ve seen the files
Detective Naylor.” The agent pointed toward his own pile of files on the table.
“Maybe you could let us know more about any leads you have at this time. Then
you can take Miss Bentley to the site of the last abduction and the last crime
scene where the body was recovered.”
“We’re still receiving calls every
day, and we’ve been following up on every one of them.” Nick’s mouth turned
down in exasperation. “So far nothing has turned up. The first boy was abducted
in Scottsdale, the second in Tempe, two more from inner city Phoenix, and the
last one lived way up in Northeast Mesa.
We’re concentrating on
information from the family and others in the Mesa area because that's the one
that happened most recently. We’re hoping he could still be…”
“Alive?” Whitney asked softly.
“Yes, that’s what we’re
hoping.” Nick said without looking up at her. Her voice was quiet and sad like
her eyes, but she didn’t flinch as they finished discussing the known details.
“Fine.” Agent Hollerman said as
he rose. “I’ll be working in the large conference room down the hall when I’m
not in the field. We have our team setup there. We’ll keep you informed of any
new leads we develop, and you can keep me updated in turn.
Turning to Whitney he spoke
quietly. “I’ll catch up with you at the first crime scene. Wait for me there
and don’t start without me. Sarah’s waiting for you outside.”
As he left the room Whitney
turned to face the two doubting detectives. “Here we go again,” was her first
thought. “Aren’t there any cops that can believe in more than guns and muscle?”
She saw Nick comparing notes
with Teddy while watching her out of the corner of his eyes. He was a handsome
man with a rugged, “take no crap” appearance. She preferred that over the
pretty boy look. Pretty boys usually spent too much time thinking about
themselves. Whitney found herself unable to keep her eyes off the dark haired
He moved with an air of
authority, but she knew he wasn’t comfortable with her in the room. He wore
casual clothes and kept his hair short. He looked like the typical macho
detective that had no room in his view of the world for her unexplained talents.
His eyes finally glanced up and
met hers, and Whitney felt a blush start on her cheeks. She glanced away and
rose to leave.