Table of Contents
“I think there’s been a misunderstanding.”
Ryne delivered the understatement in a steady tone. “What our task force needs, what I requested from Commander Dixon, is another investigator. What we definitely do not need is a shrink.”
There was a flicker in Abbie’s calm gray eyes that might have been temper. “I have a doctorate in forensic psychology—”
“We need a
She ignored his interruption. “And since joining Raiker Forensics, I’ve been involved in nearly three dozen high-profile cases.”
At the moment diplomacy eluded him. “Do you realize what kind of case we’re working here? I’ve got a serial rapist on the loose. I need another experienced investigator, not someone who’ll shrink the skell’s mind once we get him.”
She never flinched. “You’ll have to catch him first, won’t you? And I can help with that. Of the cases I’ve worked, well over half involved serial rapists. I’m exactly what you need on this case, Detective Robel. You just don’t realize it yet.”
THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUP
Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA
Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada
(a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)
Penguin Books Ltd., 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
Penguin Group Ireland, 25 St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd.)
Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia
(a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty. Ltd.)
Penguin Books India Pvt. Ltd., 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi—110 017, India
Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, North Shore 0632, New Zealand
(a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd.)
Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty.) Ltd., 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196,
Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
A Berkley Sensation Book / published by arrangement with the author
Berkley Sensation mass-market edition / September 2009
Copyright © 2009 by Kim Bahnsen.
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form
without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in
violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.
For information, address: The Berkley Publishing Group,
a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.
eISBN : 978-1-101-14001-7
Berkley Sensation Books are published by The Berkley Publishing Group,
a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.
SENSATION and the “B” design are trademarks of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
To John, who pesters me, challenges me,
and never fails to make me laugh. I love you.
Special thanks to writing buddies Cindy Gerard and Roxanne Rustand, for having faith even when I didn’t, and sharing encouragement and wisdom when I needed it most.
Thanks also to my agent, Danielle Egan-Miller, for your unfailing enthusiasm and support.
Great appreciation and thanks to Wally Campbell, Laboratory Manager, GBI-DOFS, Coastal Regional Crime Lab, for your patience with my unending questions about the workings of the lab and toxicology; to Lieutenant Danny Agan, Atlanta Homicide Detective, Ret., and Sergeant Robert Gavin and Sergeant Mike Wilson, SCMPD, for your assistance with police procedural questions. All of you saved the day! Any errors in accuracy are mine alone, undoubtedly due to my not asking the right questions.
It was the cold that roused her. It seeped into her bones, crept along nerve endings already unbearably sensitized. Her eyelids fluttered as she battled unconsciousness, but it was tempting to sink back into that numbed cocoon once again. And perhaps she would have, if her sluggish brain hadn’t finally registered what her senses had been screaming at her.
She was in water.
Surrounded by it.
Submerged in it.
Panic shot through her. She tried to lurch to her feet. Her head slammed against the top of her prison with enough force that her body crumpled; stars burst behind her eyelids.
Immediately salt water filled her nostrils, stung her eyes, seared a path to her lungs. She coughed desperately, but found she couldn’t open her mouth. Weakly, she fought her way to her knees, the water lapping around her neck and shoulders, and waited for her mind to clear.
When it did, terror rushed in.
She’d been buried alive in water. Cold. Deep. Suffocating. The darkness was absolute. She moved her head experimentally, but couldn’t feel a blindfold. Tried to shriek, but could only manage a muffled moan.
She was bound. Gagged. The salt water set her knife wounds on fire. Tiny teeth and pinchers from unseen sea creatures feasted on her shredded flesh.
A scream ricocheted in her mind as she frantically threw herself against the walls of her prison. Metal screeched against metal and her cage pitched, immersing her more deeply into the water. Each ripple and ebb sent waves splashing into her nostrils, taunting her with its reach. A sob trapped in her chest, she rose to an awkward crouch and pressed her face against the top of her prison, hauling in several deep breaths of salt-scented air. Her exhausted muscles started cramping, but she didn’t dare move. Her only thought was of survival, and even that seemed more and more unlikely.
For Barbara Billings, the nightmare had just begun.
Summer gripped Savannah by the throat and strangled it with a slow vicious squeeze. Most faulted the heat and cursed the humidity, but Ryne knew the weather wasn’t totally to blame for the suffocating pall. Evil had settled over the city, a cloying, sweaty blanket, insidiously spreading its tentacles of misery like a silent cancer taking hold in an unsuspecting body.
But people weren’t going to remain unsuspecting for much longer. This latest victim was likely to change that, and then all hell was going to break loose.
Compared to Savannah, he figured hell had to be a dry heat.
The door to the conference room opened, and the task force members began filing in. Most held cups of steaming coffee that would only make the outdoor temperature seem more brutal. Ryne didn’t bother pointing that out. He was hardly in the position to lecture others about their addictions.
Their voices hadn’t yet subsided when he reached out to flip on the digital projector. “We’ve got another vic.”
A close-up picture was projected on the screen. There was a muttered “Jesus,” from one of the detectives. After spending the last two hours going through the photos, Ryne could appreciate the sentiment.
“Barbara Billings. Age thirty-four. Divorced. Lives alone. She was raped two days ago in her home when she got off work.” He switched to the next set of pictures, those detailing her injuries. “He was inside her house, but we don’t know yet if he’d been hiding there or if he gained access after she arrived. She got home at six, and said it was shortly after that he grabbed her. She’s hazy on details, but the assault lasted hours.”
“Where’d he dump her, the sewer?” Even McElroy sounded a little squeamish. And considering that his muscle-bound body housed an unusually tactless mouth, that was saying something.
Ryne clicked the computer mouse. The screen showed a photo of a pier, partially dismantled, with the glint of metal beneath it. “A cage had been wired to the moorings beneath this dock on St. Andrew’s Sound. That’s where he transported her to afterwards.”
“Looks like the kennel I put my Lab in,” observed Wayne Cantrell.
Ryne flicked him a glance. As usual, the detective was sitting slouched in his seat, arms folded across his chest, his features showing only the impassive stoicism of his Choctaw heritage. “It is a dog kennel,” Ryne affirmed. The next picture showed a close-up of it. “Sturdy enough to hold a one hundred thirty-pound woman. The medical exam shows she was injected twice. It’ll be at least a week before we get the tox report back, but from her description of the tingling in her lips, heightened sensation, and foggy memory, this sounds like our guy.”
Ryne heartily concurred with Cantrell’s quiet assessment. It also summed up what they had so far on the bastard responsible for the rapes.
The rest of the photos were shown in silence. When he got to the end of them, he crossed to the door and switched on the overhead lights. “Marine Patrol wasn’t able to get much information from her when they found her, so they processed the secondary scene. Her preliminary statement was taken at the hospital, before the case got tossed to us.”