Three murders occur within the span of twenty-four hours, but Detective Madison Knight is adamant they’re not looking for a serial killer. But can she prove it?
Book 6 in the series.
Looks aren’t the only things that can be deceiving…
When a sixty-eight-year-old woman is found dead outside the hospital in a wheelchair with an anti-abortion sign strapped to its back, Detective Madison Knight expects it to be an open-and-shut case. On the surface, there are no signs of foul play, but the deeper she digs, the more convoluted the homicide becomes. And when two more bodies appear, including those of a girl just barely old enough to drink and a homeless man, the direct links between the three murders are anything but simple.
Without a consistent MO, Madison doesn’t buy that a serial killer is on the loose, despite the conviction with which her ex-fiancé and fellow detective try to convince their superior. But Madison already has enough to juggle without having to defend her reputation. Debilitating flashbacks of being held hostage by the Russian Mafia mere months before haunt her on an almost daily basis, and the promises she made to herself while in captivity are becoming more and more difficult to keep. Learning to trust is hard enough without constant reminders of what destruction—fatal or otherwise—trusting the wrong person can cause.
Now, as both personal and professional friction within the department mounts, she and her partner, Terry, must figure out what motivation could span generations to cause someone to murder these people. But catching this killer is like grasping at straws, and grabbing the wrong one could mean losing not only her pride but also her boyfriend, her credibility, and her faith in humanity…
APPARENTLY NOT EVEN A DEAD body could stop traffic.
Madison scanned the three-lane, westbound stream of cars. All of the drivers had somewhere to be. Even now, only a few braked to gawk at the investigation on the side of the road.
Squad cars with flashing lights cordoned off the right lane, and the officers were diverting traffic over. This was the busiest intersection in Stiles. With a population of about half a million, seventy-five thousand people passed through this section every hour. Shopping plazas with franchise restaurants and grocery stores occupied two of the four corners; the other two had health care buildings, including one of the city’s three hospitals, the largest of which was on the northeast side of the intersection.
Peace Liberty Hospital sat on acres of land with chain-link fencing running its perimeter. It was outside that fence that the deceased had been found.
Cole Richards, the medical examiner, was working over the body as Crime Scene Unit investigators Cynthia Baxter and Mark Andrews were busy taking pictures and collecting anything that might be evidence.
Cynthia headed up the crime lab. She was also Madison’s closest friend. Her strong genetics gave her the sexy librarian look, and she had wielded that power expertly over men until she got involved with Detective Lou Stanford of the Stiles PD. Now she was engaged. Three months had passed since the announcement, and Madison still hardly believed it some days.
Mark was the only man on the forensics team and the youngest of its four members. Both elements served to make him the target of blame and teasing. All in good fun, of course, even if he might not think so at times. He had long, dark hair that he tied back into a ponytail at the nape of his neck. His hairstyle and other mannerisms had most of his colleagues curious about his sexual preference. To date, it remained an enigma.
Madison lowered her sunglasses and took in the scene. It was midday and mid-July, and the sun was beating down with nondiscriminatory heat.
The deceased was an elderly woman, her identity unknown and age estimated to be in her late sixties or early seventies. She had a short cut of gray hair and wore a T-shirt and a skirt. She sat in a wheelchair on the side of the road, her head dipped to her chest at an unnatural angle. That position alone would disclose to anyone paying enough attention that she was dead.
It was a sad state when people were too preoccupied with their busy lives to notice an elderly woman on the side of the road like that. As it was, people would have passed in good quantity before the jogger who had found her had come along.
His name was Erik Marsh, and he was sitting in the back of a squad car providing his statement to the officers who had arrived first on scene. She and Terry would talk to him shortly. The people who found a body were always the first suspects.
The woman’s chair was on the grass beside the sidewalk, placing her closer to the fence than the road. Based on her thin arms and frail frame, she would have needed help to get there. A wooden board strapped to the back of the chair read, PUT AN END TO ABORTION.
“Protesters in this area are not uncommon, but what makes an older lady come out and sit in the hot sun with a sign strapped to her?” She asked the rhetorical question of her partner, ruminating on what brought the woman to this point.
Her partner, Terry Grant, was three years younger than she was and her total opposite. He loved running, and his hair was always perfect—rarely were one of his blond hairs out of place. Madison, on the other hand, hated mornings, so she stuck with a wake-up-and-wear-it cut. While she had a hard time making commitments, Terry was married to his sweetheart of just over five years. Annabelle was pregnant with their first child and due any day.
Madison continued. “Not to mention, why would she get involved in such an issue? Her child-birthing days are behind her.”
“She could have faced this issue earlier in life, or maybe a family member had? She could have been trying to keep things the way they used to be.”
“When was abortion legalized?”
“In most states, 1973. That would make her somewhere in her late twenties, early thirties, if she faced the issue herself.” Terry pulled his phone out and poised a finger over the screen. Despite Madison’s desire that he take notes on a lined pad, like other cops, he was adamant about embracing technology. His hardheaded determination was paying off, though, as his texting speed was improving.
“There’s no way she came alone. Someone must’ve brought her here. But was she dead when they dropped her off, or did she die sitting in this heat? My grandmother always wore a hat on a hot day.” She paced a few steps and brainstormed aloud. “I don’t think this woman chose to come here.”
“Good deduction,” Cole Richards stated matter-of-factly.
It was the only way Richards talked to her these days. Madison’s friendship with him used to be one based upon mutual respect, but things had changed when she questioned his ruling on a prior case. From there, she had dug into his personal past. If she could go back and change things she would.
Richards continued. “Her forearms show bruising to indicate she was in a struggle, but the cause of death still needs to be determined.”
Madison’s gaze fell to the woman’s wrists, marred in hues of purple. Heat surged through her, the fire of adrenaline blending with rage.
Richards’s dark skin pinched around his eyes as he squinted in the bright sun. “Based on the coloring of the contusions, they happened around the time of death.”
“And when was that?”
“I estimate time of death between twelve and eighteen hours ago. Her body is in full rigor.”
“You can’t narrow it down any more than that?” Madison asked.
Richards shook his head. “Liver temp will be off given the heat. I’ll know more once I get her back to the morgue and conduct a full autopsy.”
“When will that be?”
He shrugged. “I’ll let you know.”
Madison nodded. “So you don’t think she died here?” She hoped his answer would instill some faith in humanity. Surely if she’d been here for that length of time, someone would have seen her before Marsh.
“Again, I’ll let you know.”
“What about lividity? Doesn’t it tell you anything?” Terry asked.
Lividity was the settlement, or pooling, of blood in the body after death. If it showed in the woman’s buttocks and the backs of her thighs, she would have died in a sitting position. But that would’ve only told them she’d died in her chair, not her actual location.
“I’ll let you know once I conduct the autopsy. As for where she died, I will leave that up to you to determine.” Richards signaled for his assistant, Milo, to come with the stretcher and body bag. Sadness always soured Madison’s gut when the black plastic came out, ready to wrap the dead in its dark cocoon.
This book has it all, murder and romance! The author does a great job with the female lead, Detective Madison Knight. She is a really in-depth character who loves her job and the fight for the victim. Troy is the perfect man for her, SWAT and hawt! The author does a wonderful job of making you work for the clues and to solve the puzzle of who committed the murders. Loved it!!!