Authors: Debra Webb
Tags: #Fiction, #Thrillers, #Suspense, #General, #Southern Crime, #Police Procedural, #Faces of Evil Series, #Sibling Murderers, #Starting Over, #Reunited Lovers, #Southern Thriller, #Obsessed Serial Killer
Table of Contents
FACES OF EVIL
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.
Copyright © 2013 Debra Webb, Pink House Press
All rights reserved. In accordance with the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, the scanning, uploading, and electronic sharing of any part of this book without the permission of the publisher is unlawful piracy and theft of the author’s intellectual property. Thank you for your support of the author’s rights.
PINK HOUSE PRESS
First Edition November 2013
I must acknowledge my amazing editor. She keeps me straight and gives generously of her time. She is truly priceless. Thank you, Marijane, for all you do.
Thanks to Linda in Reno, Nevada, for her pointers and for loving the series even when I give Jess a classy suit and high heels to go with her badge and gun—which she keeps in her bag rather than in a holster.
This book is dedicated to a very nice man whose loving brother volunteered him to play a wicked part in this novel. Enjoy, Rick. You’re a killer character.
“The age of our fathers, which was worse than that of our ancestors,
produced us, who are about to raise a progeny
more vicious than ourselves.”
Monday, August 23, 1:00 a.m.
“Do you know who I am?”
His guest moved her head side to side in swift, frantic little shakes. Her dark eyes were round with fear and every desperate breath echoed that same fear in the quiet room.
Satisfaction made him smile. She was unaware of his name or his reputation, yet she instinctively understood that her life as she knew it was at an end.
Rory Stinnett was going to die.
How fortunate she was to be the first chosen to join him in this final round of the game. Before the last ounce of life drained from her, she would know the name Eric Spears intimately. And he would know every sweet, luscious part of her, inside and out.
This one was truly beautiful. Long, silky hair as black as the deepest part of the night. He traced the length of her throat with his eyes. She shivered as if he’d stroked his fingers there. Her extraordinarily sculpted body lay naked before him. The restraints at her wrists, waist, and ankles, chaffed her smooth, tanned skin.
His gaze lingered on her breasts, nipples erect from the low temperature in the room or from the terror coursing through her veins, either way they begged for attention. Anticipation stirred inside him. Not yet, it wasn’t time to play. Her role in the game was immensely important, far more so than she could possibly comprehend.
“You will know me in time.” His promise prompted another delicious shiver of her exquisite body.
“But not until the perfect moment,” he explained. “Not until the others are here.”
His body tightened with excitement as the image of the guest of honor for the upcoming coup de grâce filled his mind.
Once Jess was here, the final game would begin.
He could hardly wait.
UT Medical Center, Knoxville, Tennessee, 3:00 p.m.
Deputy Chief Jess Harris waited in the austere private room for the patient to decide she was ready to continue. The uncomfortable plastic chair squeaked each time Jess shifted. She crossed her legs to stop her knee from bouncing with impatience and frustration. Didn’t help. Her worst nightmare was coming true and she couldn’t just sit here and pretend she wasn’t worried.
Eric Spears, the sociopathic serial killer who haunted her every waking hour, had taken his first victim. Equal measures of fury and fear erupted inside her all over again. She struggled to hold back the emotions welling up in her throat. Breaking down at this point wouldn’t help anyone, least of all the woman he’d chosen to use in his sadistic scheme.
As soon as Jess received word from the Bureau that two of the three missing women had been found, she and Chief of Police Dan Burnett were on their way. With no nonstop flights out of Birmingham, Alabama, they’d had to endure a plane change in Atlanta. Every wasted minute had cranked Jess’s tension a little higher. By the time they arrived in Knoxville the Bureau and local law enforcement had already finished their interviews, and Jess had felt ready to snap with mounting tension.
Unless the two survivors of this perverted reality game could provide some additional insight into where Spears had held them, or why he hadn’t freed the third victim, or what he intended next, they had nothing. Nothing at all.
Spears had made his choice from the three women abducted from Alabama ten days ago and he’d vanished with her. Not one shred of evidence had been left behind. None they had discovered at any rate.
Nausea roiled in Jess’s belly. She had to find a way to stop him.
Since her interview with Claudia Brown, the first of the two rescued victims, hadn’t provided any additional information, Jess’s only remaining hope was that Melaney Lands, the woman lying in the hospital bed a few feet away, would remember something useful. Jess shifted again in the uncomfortable chair. So far, she hadn’t said anything at all.
Melaney, born and raised in Mobile and a nursing student at the University of South Alabama, adjusted her bendable straw with a shaky hand. She took a long draw of water from the plastic cup.
Enough time passed to have Jess’s already strained nerves frayed completely. Melaney placed the cup on the tray-table extended across her lap. She clasped her hands on the white sheet tucked against the faded blue hospital gown she wore, but still she didn’t speak. Jess wondered if she understood how very lucky she was to have survived a close encounter with Spears, the Player, a vicious serial killer who loved torturing his victims before ending their lives.
Of the thirty some odd cases of abducted women attributed to him by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, there had never been a survivor.
. Detective Lori Wells of Birmingham PD had met the monster and lived to tell, but then he hadn’t abducted her. One of his reckless minions, Matthew Reed, had taken her. That was the last mistake Reed would ever make and, in all likelihood, the only reason Lori was still alive.
It seemed impossible that Lori’s abduction had been scarcely more than a month ago.
The air stalled in Jess’s lungs as her heart flailed like a fish swept onto the bank and then deserted by the tide. Everything about her life had changed and gotten far more complicated in those few short weeks.
God Almighty, what was she going to do?
She adjusted her glasses as well as her attention. Right now, she couldn’t think about the other troubles stewing in her private life. There just wasn’t time to linger and she couldn’t afford the distraction.
“The man was smoking outside the Wash-n-Go where I do my laundry.”
Startled by the sound of the woman’s voice, despite having been on the edge of her seat in anticipation, Jess snapped to attention.
Melaney drew in a shuddering breath. “He was white, tall, kinda young—maybe twenty-five.” She shrugged and then winced. During the final hours of the horror that had overtaken her life, her hands and feet had been tied behind her back with one end of the rope around her neck. She was sore as hell with plenty of bruises and abrasions.
“He had on jeans and a t-shirt,” Melaney continued. “There was a logo but it was faded. I didn’t look at him long enough to make it out.”
Jess jotted a couple of notes on her pad. “According to the statements you gave earlier, this man didn’t say anything to you as you exited the laundromat.”
Melaney shook her head. “He didn’t. When I glanced at him, he did one of those nods. You know, the one people do instead of saying hello or what’s up?”
“Did you nod back?” Melaney hadn’t mentioned a response, not even a gesture, in her statements to the other investigators. Hopefully, as the realization that she was truly safe now sank in and she relaxed, more details of the past ten days would surface.
Another negligible shrug prompted a second wince of pain. “If I did, I don’t remember doing it. I think I just looked away.”
For several more seconds she didn’t speak. She was remembering. The horror of that night danced across her face as easy to read as the breaking news scroll on a cable channel.
“I put my laundry bag in the backseat and closed the door, that’s when I noticed the tire was flat.” She clamped her lips together and still they trembled.
“You drive a 1971 Toyota Corolla?” Jess knew the answer, but she needed to nudge Melaney past the shame she’d snagged on. For the rest of her life, she would question her every move from that night. Had she done this or that things might have turned out differently.
What Melaney Lands didn’t grasp was that she had been chosen. Her hair color was the one he preferred. She had the right figure. She fit the profile of the women the Player selected. Nothing she did or didn’t do would have made a difference.
“The flat tire was on the…?” Jess held her pencil poised to take down the answer. It was the mundane that most often prodded forth the notable.
“The driver’s side. Rear tire. I said shit or something like that. When I looked up, he was standing right beside me. I jumped, and he apologized for scaring me. He offered to help. There wasn’t anybody else around so I said okay.” Tears slipped down her cheeks. “I did what anybody else would have done… I didn’t—”
“If you had said no,” Jess stopped her, “he would have taken a different approach, but the end result would’ve been the same.” She held her gaze a moment more before moving on. “He fixed your tire and then what happened?”
“Damned thing wouldn’t start.” She knotted her fingers in the sheet, her eyes bright with the fresh tears brimming there. “It was running fine… before. I guess I must’ve been so upset I didn’t lock the doors when I got in the car. Another stupid mistake. Then suddenly he was in the passenger seat next to me.” Her lips trembled. “He used a hypodermic needle to inject a drug into my shoulder.” She drew her right shoulder into her body. “When I woke up I was in a cage. There were two others… we were all in cages.”
The ketamine, Spears’s drug of choice, worked fast. There would have been little time or strength for a struggle. The story from both women was basically the same except for the setting. Claudia Brown, a graduate student at A&M College, lived in Somerville. She was taken by a different man from the alley behind her apartment. Her cat hadn’t come in for dinner. At bedtime, Claudia had gone outside to look for the missing pet that, as it turned out, was alive and well ten-blocks away.
The woman Spears had kept, Rory Stinnett, was from Orange Beach. She was a student at the same university as Melaney, but the two hadn’t known each other until they ended up in those cages in a white room with glaring fluorescent lights. They had described the cages as being made of heavy gauge metal wire, similar to the ones used to crate large dogs. The cages allowed the women to see one another and to communicate.
Some memory Jess couldn’t quite grasp nudged her. Something to do with cages.
“Once you were in the cage,” Jess asked, moving on, “you never saw anyone other than the masked man?” According to their statements, a man wearing a ski mask had checked on them daily.
Melaney shook her head, corroborating the answer Claudia had given. After viewing catalogs of mug shots, including photos of Spears, both women had confirmed what everyone else suspected: Spears was not one of the abductors and he wasn’t the masked man. There was a strong possibility that he hadn’t been anywhere near these women.
His presence was irrelevant, in Jess’s opinion. This was his doing whether he was at the scene of the crime or not.
He had started a new game, and Jess was way behind the curve.