“Do you still miss your little Bonnie?”
This one sentence, spoken by a madman in an anonymous phone call, is all it takes to drag Eve Duncan right back to that horrifying day years ago when her only daughter vanished without a trace. Since that day, her life has become an obsession to find Bonnie’s remains and put the pain of her death to rest. However, one man wants nothing more than to prevent that from happening. He is every woman’s waking nightmare: a brilliant, ruthless killer whose hunting ground stretches from coast to coast. But taunting Eve Duncan might be his first and last mistake. . . .
For Eve is armed with more than just her talent as a forensic sculptor and her fierce protective nature. She brings with her former Navy SEAL Joe Quinn, an Atlanta detective who will do whatever it takes to bring Eve some kind of peace, even if he has to lie to her to do it.
Eve’s only salvation may be through the mysterious skills of another woman whose chilling talent leaves her as tormented as Eve - and as driven to bring this monster to justice. But when lives are in danger, every step could be a trap, and every inch of solid ground seems to be shifting under their feet. And this killer wants nothing more than to lure Eve further and further into his swamp of madness. . . .
About the Author
IRIS JOHANSEN is the New York Times bestselling author of Blood Game, Deadlock, Dark Summer, Silent Thunder (with Roy Johansen), Pandora’s Daughter, Quicksand, Killer Dreams, On the Run, Countdown, Firestorm, Fatal Tide, Dead Aim, No One to Trust and more. She lives near Atlanta, Georgia.
Read an Excerpt
By Iris Johansen
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2008 Johansen Publishing LLP.
All rights reserved.
SOMEONE WAS WATCHING HIM.
Henry Kistle's hand tightened on the curtain as he looked down, careful to stay hidden from view. There, in the shadow of the elm a short distance down the street, was a tall, thin man. He was talking on a cell phone. Who was he talking to? Who had managed to track him down this time?
Don't be nervous, he told himself. It didn't matter if one of them had found him. He had occasionally been found before and managed to survive. It was only a matter of removing the immediate threat and then running. But he saw to it that those bastards who made him run were always punished for it when he was safe again.
And the immediate threat was standing down there waiting for him to make a mistake. A surge of anger tore through him. It wasn't fair. He had a right to live and take whatever pleasure he could find in this crap yard of a world.
Who was it? A father, a brother, a cop? Which one?
It didn't matter. He'd find out. But he had to be ready to go. Grab a few clothes. Pack his guns, his precious memory box, and have everything in the car.
He turned away from the window.
Damn him. He didn't want to have to run now. He hadn't had his fill yet of this small, sleepy town. Cities were safer, but pitting his wits against these yokels was exciting. They felt so safe that he could walk into their lives and take whatever he pleased.
Oh, well, there would be another time.
Another child ...
Yes, another child ...
"HE WENT INTO THE HOUSE AT seven this evening and hasn't come out," Jedroth said into his cell phone. "The lights are still on. It's only eight-forty. They went out at eleven last night."
"And you're sure he didn't leave the place all night, Sheriff?" Joe Quinn asked.
"I may not be a big-city cop, but I know my business," Jedroth said sourly. "I wouldn't let a scumbag like that out of my sight."
"And surveillance during the day?"
"I have a deputy keeping an eye on him. But we can't keep spending the taxpayers' money without evidence. One more night and that's it."
"I don't have evidence. I just located Kistle late yesterday. I need more time."
"Look, I didn't set up this surveillance without checking you out. I have an idea why you're so hot to get your hands on this bastard. I'm going along with you because Kistle may be a threat to my town. But I've got to have more than your say-so."
"I understand. I'll be up there by eight tomorrow morning to take over. If you need to contact me again, don't use this number. The cell phone number I gave you will reach me."
"Get here as quick as you can." The sheriff paused. "But we're not going to quibble about a few hours. Kistle isn't going anywhere. I have a few questions to ask him. We had a little boy go missing three weeks ago. Bobby Joe's tennis shoes and shirt were found on the bank of the river and he was presumed drowned."
"No body recovery?"
"Not yet. It's a fast-moving river and there are branches on the bottom carried down from flooding up north. It would be easy for a swimmer to get trapped."
"It could happen."
"That's what I thought until you called me yesterday and asked me to order surveillance on Kistle. I hate child molesters. We know how to treat them in my town."
"I'm sure you do. Call me if he makes a move."
"If he makes a move on any of the kids in this town, he won't make another one." Jedroth hung up his cell phone, his gaze on the lights beaming from the second floor of the house across the street. The glow of a TV set was flickering against the wall now. What kind of programs did sick sons of bitches like Kistle watch? Old classic movies of Shirley Temple? Or maybe Cold Case Files or CSI to keep himself from making mistakes. When Jedroth was working in Chicago when he was a younger man, he'd run across a killer who'd studied all of those kinds of shows for that very reason.
And the system had let him learn and go free. Jedroth had seen it happen time after time. It wouldn't happen in his town. That's why he'd come back to Bloomburg after ten years. He could make a difference here.
Quinn was an Atlanta detective and dealt with red tape every day, but Jedroth had an idea that he'd understood and condoned his attitude toward Kistle. He'd gotten the impression Joe Quinn would slice through red tape with the force of a machete.
Machete. Hell, yes, that's what he'd like to use on that prick in that upstairs bedroom. Cut off his dick and then slice him to pieces.
Make your move, you slimeball. Give me a chance to bury you.
"YOU'RE LEAVING?" JANE MacGuire stood in the doorway of Joe's bedroom, watching him throw clothes into a suitcase. "Hey, I just got here yesterday. Is it something I said?"
"I have business in Illinois." He smiled over his shoulder at her. "With any luck I should be back in a few days. Don't act as if either you or Eve will miss me. The two of you will be too busy catching up. She hasn't seen you in four months."
"We'll miss you." Jane frowned. "What business?"
"I have to interview a suspect." He changed the subject. "Will you drive me to the airport? I have to leave right away and I want Eve to have the Jeep."
"You're leaving without telling Eve good-bye?"
"She's at her mother's apartment for the day. It will be okay. I'll call her when I get to Bloomburg."
"Bullshit. What's happening, Joe?"
He should have known Jane wouldn't be deceived. His adopted daughter had grown up on the streets and she was very shrewd. Jane had been with them since she was ten years old and could read both him and Eve like the proverbial book. She'd recently graduated from college and was making a name for herself in the art world. Yet that artistic streak was balanced by toughness. "Okay, it will be easier if I don't have to talk to her. I don't want her asking questions."
"Why not?" She stiffened. "You've found Kistle?" "I think so. I've found a Henry Kistle. I tracked him to Bloomburg, Illinois."
"He's the man who might have killed Bonnie?" she whispered.
"So Eve's been told. Montalvo's investigators unearthed three possible suspects. Kistle is one of them and the only one we were able to trace." He fastened his duffel bag. "It could all be a bunch of crap. I don't want Eve's hopes raised until I investigate Kistle."
"I don't think she thought it was crap. She trusted Montalvo."
"That she did," he said curtly. "He played her like a song."
"No one plays Eve," Jane said. "You should know that, Joe." She studied his expression. "What the hell happened down in Colombia?"
"Eve told you when she got back."
"She told me she was on a forensic sculpting job for Montalvo and that you were shot and almost killed." She paused. "She didn't tell me you hated his guts. Even though he was once a weapons dealer, she doesn't feel that way."
"We have an entirely different take on Montalvo." He started toward the door. "And we agree to disagree."
"You don't generally disagree on many things."
"Then this is the exception that proves the rule. Are you taking me to the airport?"
"Of course I am." She stood aside so that he couldpass. "I need some more answers before you get on that plane."
"You won't get them."
"I can but try." She grinned. "I've been out of the loop too long because I've been closeted finishing those paintings for the last show. I should never have accepted Eve's story at face value. I had a hunch that there was something brewing ..."
"Only in your imagination." He moved toward the front door. "Eve and I are just plodding along doing the same old things."
"Plodding? No way." She followed him out on the porch. "You're streaking out of here to go after Kistle before Eve can get into gear. She's not going to like it, Joe. She felt terrible that you were wounded because you came after her to Colombia. Bonnie was her daughter, not yours. She believes it's her job to find Bonnie's body and her killer. She won't be closed out."
"Watch me," he said. "She's not going to go after Kistle until I find out whether we have the right man. Montalvo could have pulled a name out of a hat, for all I know."
Jane gave a low whistle. "My, my, we are bitter, aren't we?"
He gave her a cool glance over his shoulder. "I don't know about you, but, yes, I'm bitter as hell. Let's get to the airport."
ONLY TOBY RAN TO MEET Eve Duncan when she drove up to the cottage. The house was dark and only the Jeep was in the driveway. Jane's rental car was gone. Joe could be working late, but where was Jane?
She patted the dog's head absently as she got out of the car. "Did Jane leave you, boy?" She moved up the steps and opened the screen door. "Have you been fed?"
Toby gave a mournful woof.
"I don't know if I believe you. You like food too much." She turned on the lights. "And you lie a lot." She headed for the kitchen. "But we'll start off with a snack until I call Jane." She filled Toby's bowl half full of dry food and set it down. She dialed Jane's cell but only got voice mail. Well, maybe she was at a movie or something. She had grown up here in Atlanta and had old friends with whom she kept in touch. "Okay, you win, Toby." She poured the rest of the food into his now-empty bowl. "Now be good while I get some work in on Carrie's reconstruction." She moved across the room to the skull on the easel in the studio area. She had been chomping at the bit to get back to Carrie all afternoon. She was nearing the end and she was always intense when she got close to the point when an identity revealed itself beneath her fingers. But she didn't spend enough time with her mother these days and during their last phone conversation she had seemed needy.
She took off the drape covering Carrie's skull and tossed it on the table. Another few days and, hopefully, Carrie would no longer be her name. Eve always gave her reconstructions names because it seemed more respectful and it helped her to draw closer to them. This child had been close to ten years old when she had been murdered and buried near a freeway in southern Kentucky. The local police had no missing children of that age in their files, but if she could put a face to that skull, then she might be able to bring Carrie home.
So many children victimized by the beasts that prowled the earth remained lost from everyone who had loved them.
Don't think about it. She could only do what God had given her the talent to do. Sometimes identifying the children helped the police to find their murderers; sometimes the killers were never caught. But at least she could give these children a chance for proper burial and their parents the opportunity to come to some kind of closure. Eve had never had that closure when her own seven-year-old daughter had been kidnapped and presumed murdered several years ago. She knew the pain those parents were feeling.
"Come on, Carrie," she murmured as her fingers began to mold the clay. She had spent days before this carefully measuring the tissue depths and then marking them. Then she'd taken strips of plasticene, applied them between the markers, and then built them up to the tissue depth points. After that it was an excruciatingly fine balance between concentratingon the scientific elements of depth and contouring until she was ready to let instinct take over. She was almost there. "Let's see what we can do before Jane gets back. I'll have to stop then. You're very important to me, but if I've learned anything over the years of working with you and the other children, it's that you have to cherish every single moment of life with the ones you love ..."
THE KNIFE SANK DEEP IN THE man's back.
Kistle twisted the knife as he drew it out. He hoped the bastard was still alive enough to feel it.
The man wore a sheriff's uniform. He was a cop. That meant that there might be others nearby. He'd have to move quickly. He rolled the body into the bushes and searched his pockets. A notebook, ID that identified him as Sheriff James Jedroth, a cell phone, a couple pictures of a woman and a teenage kid. He grabbed the cell phone and headed for his car. He checked the last number. Not local. So he hadn't been checking in with his wife when Kistle had noticed him on the phone. Who had tipped off the police he was here? Who had forced him to run?
He didn't try the number until he was a few miles from town.
No answer. On the fifth ring the voice mail picked up.
Joe Quinn. Eve Duncan.
He went still as he made the connection.
He drew a deep breath. It had been a long time, but it was all coming back to him. An explosion of pleasure tore through him. He had to talk to her. He had to tell her how glad he was that she had come back into his life.
THE PHONE WAS RINGING AGAIN, Eve realized impatiently. It was the third time in fifteen minutes and she supposed she'd have to answer it. It couldn't be that important. Joe or Jane would have called her on her cell phone when she hadn't answered. They knew how absorbed she became when she was working.
She glanced down at the ID. Bloomburg, Illinois. Sheriff James Jedroth. It had to be another police department asking her to do a reconstruction. Since she'd become so blasted famous, those requests never stopped. But it was nearly ten at night and evidently Sheriff Jedroth didn't understand the concept of business hours. Well, Eve didn't either, so she might as well answer.
"Do you still miss your little Bonnie?"
Shock jolted through her. "I beg your pardon."
"She had curly red hair and on the last day you saw her, she was wearing a Bugs Bunny T-shirt."
"Is this some kind of sick joke, Sheriff Jedroth? I'm not amused."
"I'm amused. Amused and excited and full of anticipation. I haven't felt like this for years. I didn't realize I was getting stale and that the kill was losing its luster. Then I heard your name on your voice mail and suddenly I felt reborn."
"Kill." Her hand tightened on the phone. "Who is this? You're not a sheriff, are you?"
"I impersonated a sheriff once. It was in Fort Collins, Colorado. Children are taught to trust policemen."
"Who are you?" she repeated. "I don't know you. Why are you calling me?"
"Bonnie knew me. She knew me very well before the end."
Don't show him the wrenching pain his words are causing. "You son of a bitch. What are you trying to tell me?"
"You shouldn't have tried to track me down. Now I'll have to punish you. I never let myself be victimized without making sure that my pain is reciprocated." He chuckled. "Though this time I'm not feeling nearly so bitter. I've been following your search for Bonnie for years and it's lightened many a dull moment."
"I didn't try to track you down. I don't even know your name."
Kistle. The name of the man Montalvo had given her as one of the possible murderers of her daughter.
"Yes, you know me. You set that asshole, Jedroth, to watch me."
"Where are you?"
"It would be no use to tell you. I've just left town. I'll be hundreds of miles away from here before you can call and get someone to try to find me. I know about red tape."
"What ... do you know about Bonnie?"
"That she was seven years old and a beautiful child. Do you know how many pretty little girls I've killed since your Bonnie died? Though I always regard her as my inspiration. She was like a burning arrow lighting the darkness. I remember how —"
"Shut up." She couldn't take any more. "Don't talk about her."
"I'm done for the time being. I just wanted to touch base with you. I needed something to keep me up and zinging."
"That's what life's about. You have to keep on top of it, keep excited and moving. I got a little buzz earlier tonight but nothing like the one I'm feeling now. It's not as good as a kill, but maybe you could make the next kill extraordinary."
But he had hung up the phone.
She was shaking.
She had curly red hair and the last day you saw her, she was wearing a Bugs Bunny T-shirt.
Joe. She had to call Joe.
Her hand was shaking as she dialed his cellnumber. No answer. The voice mail picked up immediately. His phone had to be turned off.
She hung up. Dammit, she needed him. Where the hell was he?
Stop whining. He was a cop. There were all kinds of situations where he'd turn off his cell. Okay, she had to handle it alone. She'd reach Joe as soon as he was available.
Excerpted from Quicksand by Iris Johansen. Copyright © 2008 Johansen Publishing LLP.. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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