Authors: Carolyn Arnold
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 © 2014 Carolyn Arnold
All rights reserved. Except as permitted by U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database, or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the author.
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“The graves lay silent. The graves lay untouched. The graves lay silent. The graves lay untouched.”
He tapped his hand against his thigh as he repeated the chant. He had done everything right. He had made sure not to leave anything behind and had chosen only those who deserved to suffer and die.
Prince William County, Virginia
He had promised her a time she’d never forget. It was why she sacrificed comfort and drove in her stuffy BMW into the countryside. The weather had such nerve to reach record heat waves in September. It scorched as if it were the middle of summer.
She glimpsed in the rearview mirror, angling it to better see her reflection.
“A woman has been reported missing…”
Those few words from the radio made it through to her ears. That was top news? Surely, there was a murder, or a stock market drop to report.
“…it’s suspected that she may be the victim of foul play. Police are urging women of the Washington, DC area to be careful.”
A song came on, one she didn’t care for, and she commanded the radio off.
She had never been where he had directed her to go, but she was excited to see this Wooded Retreat. Normally, they’d meet up at her house or the Marriott, but he had wanted today to be special—personal.
She had long given up on feeling guilty about her marriage. Her husband was too busy with his prestigious law firm in central Washington. Really, it was his work that killed their marriage—his love for revenue his priority.
Her focus returned to the road and where she was headed. She wasn’t used to the country with all its color. She was accustomed to the shades of gray that were intrinsic of life in the city. Maybe there was something to be said for the simple things. She lowered the window and breathed deeply, ready to give the rustic experience a chance.
The air was fresh, despite the humidity, carrying with it the smell of greenery—but there was something else. She inhaled deeper, coughed, and raised the window back up. Damn, blasted cows that polluted nature with their stench.
Why would he think she’d be in the mood once she got there?
The thought barely formed, and she had the answer. He was a fabulous lover. Thinking of his hands gracing her skin sent shivers through her and made her lower abdomen quiver.
She turned left when she noticed the rundown diner he had mentioned to her.
The gravel crunched beneath her tires as she went from the highway’s asphalt to an unpaved surface. The strip was narrow, barely wide enough to accommodate two cars if one came in the opposite direction. She studied the edge, anticipating the need to do just that. The soft shoulder appeared unforgiving as if it would suck in her car given a chance.
She found it hard to believe this stretch would continue that long. Her eyes went to the woods, being cautious, watching for any deer or other animal that may decide to become a hood ornament. She checked her side mirror. All the dust being kicked up would wreak havoc on the wax job.
So much for showing up looking perfect.
She glanced in the mirror again and touched her fingertips to her forehead. She couldn’t let him see her like this.
Driving with one hand, she reached into her designer handbag on the passenger seat and pulled out her compact. She lifted the loaded brush and the air conditioning vent cascaded powder through the air. She blew to keep it from landing on her cream-colored pantsuit and began application. The scent of the powder made her sneeze.
As she reached for control of the wheel, the case dumped on the floor, going straight through her legs, barely missing her pants.
She slammed on the brakes. The mailbox he had told her to watch for, once a bright red, had worn from time. She almost missed the turn.
She couldn’t see the house from the road, but her heart beat rapidly now, anticipating what awaited her.
September, Tuesday morning
A couple months had passed, but I was still getting used to sleeping alone. Most mornings I would roll on my left side, open my eyes, and expect Deb to be lying there. Every time I did this, it met with the same result. I was alone.
The mornings were hard to take. At night my mind was usually preoccupied with the day’s events, a current case, or the complicated relationship that existed between Paige and me. We had just closed a case a few days ago, and it was easier to let go of that than the continuing innuendos that remained, as fissures, beneath the surface of our relationship. I loved her, in a way, but not on the level she required. She acted as if everything was fine, but I knew—I sensed—it wasn’t.
I rolled over and faced the clock. Five a.m.
I returned to my back and stared at the ceiling. It was hard adapting to the early mornings, but these days I usually beat the alarm. Even on days off, my body would wake me.
came on, and, at the same time, my cell vibrated on the nightstand. I rolled over again and sat up. It wasn’t like I would be getting more sleep anyhow.
“Rise and shine, Kid.”
I rubbed a hand across my brow. Even though I had earned being called by name from Supervisory Special Agent Jack Harper, periodically old habits would resurface and, with it, the nicknames. “What’s up?”
“What’s up? Am I some friend now? I’m your boss.”
“I’ll save professional for office hours.” I said the sardonic statement with a grin I’m sure he didn’t miss. In this career, there was no such thing as set hours.
“Come in straight to the meeting room today. We’ve got a new case.”
“What’s that noise in the background? Have you been partying all night?”
I hit the button and turned it off. “It’s ACDC, classic rock.”
“Well, it’s not music. Music is—”
“I know—The Rat Pack, Natalie Cole, Michael Bubl
“Don’t knock it, Kid, and there’s nothing wrong with Michael.”
Yeah, I suppose, if you’re good with the crooner music in the first place.
“See you soon,” I said.
“Don’t be late.”
I rolled my eyes, wishing the expression weren’t lost on the walls of my bedroom, yet thankful he couldn’t witness it, or I might be searching for a new job.
I rose from the bed and flicked on the stereo, turning up Nickelback’s
Burn it to the Ground
until the glass in this old house rattled. I loved this song, and loud was the way I preferred it.
I had an hour to make it to the office. I wrapped my hands and wrists with tape, and then started beating on the heavy bag I had installed in the bedroom. Deb never would have let it happen, but I didn’t have her to worry about anymore.
With each impact, I let it go—the stress, the anger, the frustration, the lack of control. The physical movement drained the negative and infused me with the positive.
Adrenaline pumped through me, and I embraced it, as I roundhouse kicked the bag. It swung on its chains. I reset the bag and had at it again.
The song changed to the next on the playlist—Poison’s
Nothing But a Good Time
Damn. Now this was music.
I uppercut and jabbed at the bag mercilessly, going at it as if sucking its life force.
Thirty minutes later, sweating profusely, I headed for the shower. There was no better way to start the day. In a matter of minutes, I’d be facing the next monster to cross paths with the FBI.
I smiled as I entered the meeting room just on time. How could one get any more punctual than that?
“You’re late, Fisher.” Jack was sitting at the table with the rest of the team.
“It’s Pending boss. He probably forgot to set the alarm.” Zachery lifted a steaming take-out cup to his mouth, cutting his smirk short. Whenever he could poke at my probationary period with the nickname, he would.
“He even got a wake-up call,” Jack mumbled.
“Brandon,” Paige said. Her red hair hung in loose curls, serving as a soft frame for her face, but her eyes were cool.
I took all of them in, not sure how they did it. They were there, not just on time, but early. They were all alert, despite the caffeine they clung to as if their lives depended on it.
“Sit. We don’t have all day.” Jack patted his shirt pocket where he kept his cigarettes. He had probably already smoked a few since waking up.
“Hey.” Nadia came up behind me and tapped me on the back as she walked by.
“Hey.” I took a seat.
The screen was filled with faces of various women. On the left side, was their smiling before photos. On the right, was the aftermath—their remains, part flesh, part bones.
Nadia clicked the remote she held, and the screen filled with a picture of one woman. She was beautiful, with long dark hair and brown eyes. Nothing in particular stood out about her.
“Her name is Amy Rogers. Her husband is Kirk Rogers.”
I knew what Jack was thinking—money bought results. We were in the Behavioral Analysis Unit to stop serial crime, not for a single abduction. Why weren’t the police handling this case?
“He owns the communications company Trinity,” I said.
Nadia acknowledged me with a bob of her head. “That would be correct Brandon, but the man has lawyers, and he paid people to do some snooping around. They found out that a bunch of women have gone missing in the area over the past decade. He also has a tight friendship with the chief of police down in Washington. He had him call us in.”
“So, we’re looking for Amy Rogers? No real concern over the other missing women?” I knew I was being cynical, but the power of a buck, the control and sway it held, sickened me at the best of times.
“We’re investigating this case because this is the one we’ve been assigned.” Jack intensified the reprimand with a hardened facial expression.
“I’m not saying anything contrary to that. It’s just—”
“I know what you’re saying Brandon. We have a chance to find Amy Rogers before it is too late. To accomplish that, a good place to start is investigating the older cases,” Paige said.
I let what she said go. I didn’t need another parental surrogate on the team. I already had a father figure in Jack. I addressed Nadia. “Who were these women you had on the screen when I came in?”
“Their naked bodies were found in ditches along I-95 between Lorton and a little west of Dumfries.”
“No jewelry or anything?” Zachery asked.
“I-95 is a major highway, but it’s not a huge stretch. What—twenty minutes,” Paige offered. “It’s likely someone from the area.”
“How many women and how long ago do these bodies date back to?” Zachery asked Nadia.
“The oldest dates back to nineteen seventy. Her name was Melanie Chase. She was discovered along I-95 near Woodbridge by the Levine family who was on a road trip. The youngest, age three, had to go to the washroom. There were no rest stops for a distance so the father pulled over for the kid to go, and they got more than a number one.”
Woodbridge? That is where I live. “How was she killed?”
“The ME ruled the cause of death as being
“Fluid in the lungs.” Everyone gave me the once-over as if to say,
yes, that would be pulmonary edema.
“What about the other victims?”
“Another died of a severe stroke, while yet another of a brain hemorrhage. These three old cases, the thirty missing women from Prince William County—”
Nadia nodded. “Yeah, that has our interest too, and that’s thirty missing women in the last six years. Seems Amy Rogers wasn’t the only target.”
Zachery quickly compiled the math. “On average, that’s one woman every two months.”
“Holy crap.” The words left my lips without thought, and everyone’s attention was on me again. “What more do we know?”
“These three women were married, as is Amy Rogers. None of these women had children either. All were reported by their husbands. All of them were taken from Washington or PW County. It’s too coincidental to ignore.”
“I agree,” Paige said.
Nadia turned to the screen, magnifying on their wrists and ankles. “The three women that were found all had these same markings. It appears the killer had bound them all with linked chain.”
“I see there are different nationalities among the victimology.” Zachery bobbed his head toward the screen.
“Yes, the only similarities are what I mentioned—married, no kids. Among the law enforcement community, by the time the third victim was found, he had earned the moniker The Silent Killer.”
“And here, I thought that was cancer,” I said implicating Jack’s smokes.
Nadia continued as if I hadn’t said anything. “Based on forensic evidence, these women were aware they were going to die but couldn’t do anything about it.” Nadia’s face paled and she swallowed heavily.
“Ketamine?” Zachery lifted his cup but didn’t press it to his lips.
“Actually, there wasn’t any trace of that in their systems.”
“Possibly something herbal then that would inhibit their ability to move and then leave the system quickly.”
“If they figured one person was responsible for the death of these three women, why not call in the FBI?” I asked.
“They did, but the case was never taken on. The killer went silent, no pun intended, and there didn’t seem to be any threat.”
“We’re thinking this guy’s back and could have Amy Rogers?”