Some choices are easy, like fudge ripple or butter pecan, some choices aren’t. Can you guess which one this was?
Detective Kate Stevens shook her head as she pressed her fingers against the bridge of her nose, not that it’d do much good. The headache had already taken root. Nothing but time or drugs would touch it now. And somehow downing half a bottle of Motrin while working a murder didn’t seem like a viable solution. She glanced at the paper again, rereading the words scribbled across the christ white sheet, knowing she’d officially seen it all.
A rumble of thunder sounded off to the east, the promise of rain heavy in the late night air. A nearby streetlight buzzed as it flickered, casting weird shadows against the brick building before settling again. She turned up her collar against a blast of cold, damp air, tucking her hands in her pocket. Seems winter hadn’t quite blown itself out, yet, despite the recent trend of warmer weather.
Footsteps scuffed the pavement behind her as a man moved into her peripheral view. She didn’t need to turn to know who it was. Special Agent Kurt Baxter headed the violent crimes unit for the Seattle branch, and seemed to be the Bureau’s prime choice in interagency ventures. Not that she had a clue why he was here. As far as she was concerned, this was just a routine killing in an alley of one of the poorer districts the city had to offer. Her gaze strayed to the paper lying beside the victim’s bloody body, the words glaring at her. Perhaps routine wasn’t quite the correct term.
Kurt cleared his throat as he crouched beside the corpse, using a pen to twist the paper slightly. He cocked his head to the side, glancing at her as he gained his feet. “Just what this city needs, a killer with a twisted sense of humor.”
Kate crossed her arms over her chest. “I’ll admit. I found the note…odd.”
He chuckled. “Odd? It’s creepy as hell, though I think we both know the answer to his question. The way the throat’s been slit, the arcs of blood against the wall…thinking it wasn’t a hard choice for the bastard.”
“I don’t know…all that defensive bruising. The guy fought hard. Could suggest reluctance on the part of our perp.”
“Or the killer’s not as strong as he thought he was.”
Kate snorted, waving at the guy spread out across the black asphalt. “The victim’s easily two twenty and those muscles aren’t fake. Thinking there aren’t many people who’d even consider taking him on. Lord knows, I wouldn’t want to have met him in a dark alley.”
“At least, not to fight.”
“Seriously, Kurt? The guy’s not even cold, yet.”
“But he was pretty. Thinking guys like him would want that noticed, even under these circumstances.” He winked at her. “Especially by a sexier than hell cop.”
“That’s detective to you, G-man.”
Kurt grinned, the simple gesture making her chest tighten. Damn, but the man was handsome. Shaggy brown hair, the perfect amount of scruff, and those eyes—so fucking blue it made her stomach flipflop. She’d had an unfortunate crush on the guy since they’d worked an assignment together six months ago, and bumping into him every few weeks on any potential crossover cases only made the fire in the pit of her gut burn hotter.
She drew in a much-needed breath, turning to fully face him. “So, there something about this case I’m unaware of? A reason I’m going to have to play nice with the Bureau?”
Kurt placed his hand over his heart, the wind tousling his hair around his face. “And here I thought you liked playing nice with me. That hurts, Kate.”
She did her best to ignore the way his words curled over her flesh, making her skin bead as if he’d actually touched her. Damn, she shouldn’t react to him like this. Especially when he’d never indicated he considered her to be anything more than a colleague. And a casual one, at that.
She glanced at the body again. “Is this where you tell me there’s a slew of other bodies just like this one scattered across the country? All with cryptic messages that make your skin crawl? Which makes this whole mess some jurisdictional bullshit? Because honestly, if that note is anything indication on what direction this case is going to take, I might be inclined to just hand it over to you.”
His expression sobered, the lines of his face becoming slightly harsher. He scanned the alleyway, motioning her to join him in a relatively unoccupied area off to their left. Kate followed after him, unsure whether it was curiosity or the inklings of fear making her stomach tighten. Or maybe it was just him. He stopped when he reached a dumpster, looking up and down the narrow road again before focusing on her. Those crystal blue eyes of his made her breath hitch, the intensity of his expression bordering on lethal.
She reached up, palming his shoulder. “Hey, you okay? You look like you just saw a ghost or something.”
“I was better before I got here.”
“Thanks, Kurt. Way to boost my fragile ego.”
He chuckled, leaning in dangerously close. His breath feathered over her cheek, rustling the wisps of hair that had pulled free from her ponytail. “Sweetheart, you’re the only silver lining in this whole damn mess.”
Her face heated as his jaw brushed hers as he eased back, palming the brick behind her head. The position virtually trapped her between him and the building, his chest grazing hers as she took a deep breath. She schooled her features, well aware he could see the red tinge to her cheeks as it faded down the vee of her top. “Obviously, there’s something much deeper going on here than one creepy note and a dead body. So spill.”
Kurt tilted his head slightly, a hushed sigh sounding between them. “It’s complicated.”
“Everything with you is…complicated.”
He arched a brow. “I could say the same thing about you, but…” He raked his free hand through his hair. “For the record, this isn’t the first body. Or the first note. There’s just one catch.”
“There always is.” She moistened her lips, quirking her mouth into a hint of a smile. “And…”
“The truth is, this is the thirteenth victim in a string of killings, all of which have the same MO and the same type of cryptic note.”
“Thirteenth? Strange how I haven’t heard anything about it. Not so much as a bulletin over the wire. There a reason for that?”
“The murders began about sixty years ago. The killer seems to target fit, young males in their prime. There were six deaths then nothing for about forty years. Then suddenly there’s six more. An agent tied the two occurrences together, despite the first incidence being buried beneath a bunch of high security red tape, but he was killed during the investigation. The Bureau pretty much back-burnered the whole thing when the killings stopped as mysteriously as they’d begun. In fact, there hasn’t been another case…until now.”
“And you know all this how? I don’t see you as the cold case type.”
Kurt straightened, glancing at the body over his shoulder before staring down at her. “The agent that unearthed it all, who died twenty years ago, was my father…and I still have all his notes.”
“Shit.” She offered him an apologetic smile. “And sorry about your dad, though that explains a lot about you.”
“You’re, of course, referring to my dedication to the job.”
“I was going to use stubborn obsession, but…” Kate pursed her lips, releasing a weary breath. “Sixty years? You realize that would make the killer at least eighty years old. No way someone that age killed this guy, who could probably take on three attackers at once.” She arched a brow. “You thinking it’s some kind of pact? Continued by family members or friends or something?”
“From the notes my father has, he deduced it was the same killer both times.”
“No way. That would mean the guy was say twenty, then sixty. If the victims all resembled this guy in physique…that’s a stretch.”
“Yeah, puzzling as hell. But, there’s the body. And there’s the note.”
“So you are taking over the investigation.”
Kurt sighed, closing his eyes for a moment before meeting her gaze. “Unfortunately, the Bureau isn’t quite ready to pull out all the stops. Seems they’ve done the math and come to the same conclusion—”
“That the cases can’t be connected do to the length of time. The age of the perpetrator.”
He nodded. “They did give the go ahead to join the investigate if the detective in charge welcomed my help.”
Kate shook her head. “Something tells me I’m going to regret being on call tonight.” She offered him her hand. “Guess this makes us partners.”
He smiled. “Partners. I like the sound of that.”
“Yeah, well don’t get all warm and fuzzy just yet. I have a feeling neither of us is going to like where this leads.”
“My dad died trying to find justice. I’ll take this wherever it goes.”
“We can start with coffee and you’re buying. And I want to see those notes.” She pushed past him, heading for her car.
She looked at him over her shoulder.
He gave her a genuine smile. “Thanks.”
“For having enough faith in me to give me a chance.”
“Faith is easy. Answers…much harder.” She turned away again, cursing the butterfly feeling in her stomach. He was right about one thing. She was more than willing to take this wherever it headed. She just hoped it didn’t end like his father’s case had.
And that’s all I have. Please check out the other ladies and see if they used this as a line or a scenario.
Bronwyn Green | Jessica Jarman | Paige Prince
Jessica De La Rosa | Kayleigh Jones | Kellie St. James