The #1 New York Times bestselling author Iris Johansen and the Edgar Award-winning author Roy Johansen are back with a new a new novel in The Naked Eye featuring Kendra Michaels-hired gun for both the CIA and FBI.
How can you catch a killer when everyone thinks he's dead?
Kendra Michaels was instrumental in bringing serial killer Eric Colby to justice. And yet, despite his apparent execution at San Quentin, Kendra is convinced that Colby is still alive. The problem is that she can't prove it. Even her razor-sharp powers of observation-developed to an amazing capacity during the twenty years she spent blind and now in constant demand by law enforcement agencies-have gotten her nowhere.
But then a reporter who very publicly humiliated Kendra is murdered. Visiting the crime scene in search of anything that might link the brutal homicide to Colby, Kendra instead finds evidence that points to her. Finally Colby's master plan becomes clear to her: he is framing Kendra for murder.
Suspicions mount and Kendra is thrust into deadly pursuit to clear her name and catch the killer no one believes exists anymore. A killer who is always nearby, watching, waiting to make his next move, even as everyone believes him to be dead. A killer whose trail of destruction is invisible to the naked eye, despite the carnage he leaves in his wake. It will take everything Kendra has to find and stop Colby--and save her own life one more time.
About the Author
Iris Johansen is the New York Times bestselling author of Chasing the Night, Blood Game, Eve, and Eight Days to Live, among others. She began writing after her children left home for college, and first achieved success in the early 1980s writing category romances. In 1991, she began writing suspense historical romance novels, and in 1996 she turned to crime fiction, with which she has had great success. She lives near Atlanta, Georgia.
Roy Johansen is an Edgar Award--winning author and the son of Iris Johansen. He has written many well-received mysteries, including Deadly Visions, Beyond Belief, and The Answer Man.
Read an Excerpt
The Naked Eye
By Iris Johansen, Roy Johansen
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2015 Johansen Publishing LLLP
All rights reserved.
SHE WAS FLOATING. FLOATING IN a pool of blood.
No, now it had become a river of blood.
What in the hell ...?
This was a dream. The same horrible nightmare that had haunted her for months. Why hadn't she realized it before?
Because the terror was real, and she was always afraid the nightmare was real, too. Colby was a demon. Couldn't a demon make a nightmare come true?
She was back at the gully in Coachella Valley, the place where she had beaten him. Yet here he was, night after night. He crouched on a rock at the gully's end, waiting for the blood river to carry her to him.
Colby laughed and raised his two large knives. "Here we are. Just me and you, Kendra. The way it was meant to be."
He swung his blades at her.
Darkness. Darkness. Dark —
* * *
GOT ONE FOR YOU.
Kendra Michaels jerked wide-awake at the jangle she'd programmed to signal the text messages on her phone.
She threw her legs over the edge of the bed and studied the message header. It was from Martin Stokes, a San Diego Police Department homicide detective. He'd included an address and a few details.
She took a few minutes to steady her breathing, trying to gain control. She was still trembling from her nightmare, and her face was covered with sweat. She'd be okay in a minute. Every night the nightmare came, and every night she survived it.
Just as I survived you, Colby.
I won't let you drag me back to that time, and someday I'll fight off this damn nightmare.
But here in her hands, a real-life nightmare beckoned. She didn't have to go, of course; a glance at the crime-scene photos and a reading of the case file would probably tell her everything she needed to know.
Who in the hell was she kidding? She knew she was going.
No matter how horrific the scene was, it couldn't compare with the beast still taunting her in her dreams.
A quick shower and she'd be out of here. She reached for her jeans and headed for the bathroom.
She stopped short as she glanced in the vanity mirror. She reached up and touched one of the dark circles beneath her eyes.
Those nightmares again. There was no strength in that face at this moment. She appeared delicate, breakable.
She was not breakable. She was the one who had broken Colby that night in the gully four years ago.
Colby had been her first case as an FBI consultant, and she had been so horrified at the brutality of his kills that she had become obsessed with catching him. The cat-and-mouse search had culminated with her almost dying in that gully and Colby's going to the hospital with a fractured skull. He had found that defeat intolerable. His ego couldn't bear the thought that she had triumphed and sent him to prison. She had become the focus of his hatred and obsession, and he had let her know; he had been a dark shadow behind her all those years he had spent on death row.
You're out there waiting, aren't you, Colby?
I can feel it.
So wait, you bastard. And when you get bored, come after me.
I'm waiting for you, too.
And I'm not standing still.
She turned and jumped into the shower.
* * *
"I DIDN'T THINK YOU WERE going to show." Detective Stokes lifted the police tape for Kendra to duck under and join him in the driveway of the one-story craftsman home. Four squad cars were parked on the street, flashers pounding the house with out-of-sync strobes of red and blue light. The scene was crawling with uniformed officers, detectives, and forensics experts.
Kendra shrugged. "What else would I have to do at three-thirty in the morning?"
"I could think of lots of things. Especially since you don't have to be here."
What did he know? She felt the familiar chill. "I do have to be here."
She'd tried to suppress the shudder, but Stokes's narrowed stare told her the effort was unsuccessful. "Sure, but you should be thanking Detective Kael. He's the one who beat it into my brain that I should contact you if I encountered any killings of a serial or ritualistic nature. He thinks you're the real deal."
Did that mean Stokes did not? She gazed at him appraisingly. Thirtysomething, receding brown hair, pleasant enough features. No sign of belligerence or cynicism. "Kael is a good man."
"He's a rotten softball player, but other than that ..." He motioned for her to follow him up the driveway. "But I trust him most of the time. I was actually glad when I had an excuse to call you on this case." He grimaced. "I'm very curious. But you know I've heard so many incredible things about you that it's hard to separate the truth from the bullshit."
She half smiled. "Bank on the bullshit."
"I don't think so. Tell me, were you really blind for the first twenty years of your life?"
"Yep. I'd never seen a thing in my life."
"That's amazing. Kael says you got your sight from some kind of stem-cell surgery."
She nodded. "In England. They did a lot of the early work in corneal-regeneration techniques."
"I've always heard that blind people developed their other senses to compensate. And that's how you pick up on stuff most other people don't."
She wished he'd just drop it. Patience. At least, he was pleasant enough, and she might need him to notify her again if he ran across one of the target murders. "I guess so. But I don't think my senses of hearing, smell, taste, or touch are better than anyone else's. I just had to use them to make my way in the world."
"Yeah. And afterward you used your eyes, too." He smiled. "You don't remember me, but I was at the Van Buren crime scene a few years ago. It wasn't my case, but I was curious as hell about you. So I just stayed in the background and watched."
"Really? I hope you were entertained."
"Did I say the wrong thing? I didn't mean — I was impressed. You cracked that case by reading the lips of a suspect when he was talking on the phone to his wife. It was amazing ... and surprising. It made me want to go out and learn it myself."
"Did you do it?"
"No, it was like a lot of things in my life. It just somehow slipped away as time passed." He paused. "But I think I should let you know, Kael isn't the only one who thinks you're the real deal. I do, too, Dr. Michaels."
He was sincere. Sincerity deserved politeness as well as patience. "Thank you. I appreciate your calling me. I hope you'll think of me again when something like this comes up."
"You can bet on it." They had reached the front door. "Let's hold up here for a second." Stokes held up his hand as he looked inside the open front door. "The photographer's doing his thing."
Stokes crossed his arms in front of him. "I think this is going to be one of those cases when you'll have to concentrate on being pretty sharp about things you see."
"Whatever." She was feeling the tension start. She didn't like standing out here waiting. "I never take things for granted. Things I see aren't just details to me. They're gifts. They're part of the world that was closed off to me for so long. I guess I just want to take in everything."
"I'm afraid you'll get more than you bargained for in there." He shook his head. "It's not a pretty scene."
She just wanted to get to it, dammit. Kendra glanced at the driveway next door, where another detective was talking to a distraught-looking bald man in sweatpants and a Padres T-shirt.
"That's the husband?"
"Yeah. He fell asleep watching TV upstairs in bed. A little before two, he came downstairs and found his wife's body in the kitchen. It's a mess."
"He has no clue who could have done this?"
"No. His wife was an elementary-school teacher, no enemies that he knows of."
"Maybe he has the enemies. What does he do?"
"Residential mortgage manager at a bank." Stokes glanced back inside. "All clear."
Kendra followed him through a small living room, carpeted with a thick burnt-orange rug that probably wasn't even in style when laid fifteen years before. She scanned the room. Photographs, vacation souvenirs, and two watercolor prints probably purchased from a cruise-ship auction.
Through a doorway on the far wall, she heard at least half a dozen pairs of footsteps. No, she self-corrected, more like eight.
Stokes motioned her through the doorway. Kendra walked through and nodded her greeting at the seven men and one woman working the crime scene. She recognized most of them from other recent investigations. They'd become much more at ease with her now that they knew she wasn't interested in grabbing credit from them.
That's never what this was about.
Two forensics men were crouched in front of the open refrigerator. Upon seeing Kendra, they stood and moved away to reveal what had brought them all there: Thirty-five-year-old Marissa Kohler, lying in a pool of her own blood.
Kendra had seen many murder victims over the years, many at much more gruesome scenes than this one, but it still hit her like a kick in the stomach. She hoped she'd never become too callous to not feel that horror. This woman had probably just gone through the motions on her last day on Earth, with nary an idea that it would all soon come to a horrific end.
Time to see if he did this. The monster.
Kendra crouched next to the corpse, trying to avoid the splatter trails on the tile floor. Dressed in sleeper shorts and a long T-shirt, the victim was lying in front of the open refrigerator as if attacked while getting a midnight snack. Her hands were near her face, suggesting a defensive position even after falling. A pair of round spectacles rested on the floor about five feet away. Obviously, the victim's glasses, confirmed by the distinctive mark on her nose that matched the spectacles' arched bridge.
Stokes pointed toward the open back door, which was splintered as if kicked open with a fierce kick. "Point of entry over there. No curtains on the back windows, so the killer could have spotted her in here."
"Maybe." Kendra leaned over and examined the victim's wounds. The woman's throat had been opened in five horizontal gashes, plus over a dozen punctures to the torso.
Who did this to you, Marissa? Could it really have been ... him?
Show me. Give me something. Anything ...
Her eyes flicked from Marissa's face to the back door.
Kendra stood up and brushed herself off. "Thank you all. I'm sorry for disturbing you." She turned and walked out of the room.
Stokes ran after her. "Wait. That's it?"
He grabbed her arm. "You didn't find out anything?"
"Yes, I found out what I needed to know."
He gazed at her in frustration. "Well, are you gonna let me in on it?"
"Of course." But she might not have notified him until the next day. She just wanted to get out of here right now. She stopped in the living room and looked back through the doorway. "This isn't the work of a serial killer. Certainly not the one I'm looking for."
"Then whose work is it?"
Stokes lowered his voice. "What?"
"That scene in the kitchen was staged. Check upstairs. She was killed there."
"How do you figure that?"
"The smell of blood is wafting down that staircase. Sickly sweet and more than a bit metallic. Plus a useless attempt to cover it up with a half a can of Lysol Powder Fresh."
He sniffed the air. "I smell the Lysol ..."
"I'm sure you smell the blood, too. You just don't realize it. Send your forensics team up there with Luminol. The victim also has faint rug burns on the back of her heels. She was dragged down the stairs, posed, and maybe even stabbed a few more times postmortem. It looks like there are punctures without much bleeding."
"And the door?"
"He knew enough to go outside and kick it in to give the appearance of forced entry. But he obviously didn't go any farther outside than the patio. The ground in the yard is a muddy mess, but there are no footprints out there."
"Are you sure? It's dark."
"The porch lights give at least fifteen feet of visibility. Trust me, no one approached the house from the yard. And I spotted a tiny shard of orange rubber on the splintered door frame."
He stared at her. "Orange rubber."
She nodded. "Surely you noticed the obnoxious orange rubber soles of the athletic shoes her husband is wearing?"
"Holy shit," Stokes whispered.
"I'm done," she said wearily. "Good night, Detective. I'm sure you'll have no trouble taking it from here."
Stokes didn't answer as he dashed out the door.
Kendra left the house and walked slowly down the driveway. She was in no hurry to get home. She was disappointed and tired, but there might be only nightmares when she got back to sleep.
She cast a glance back at Stokes as he approached the husband, who was still playing the part of the bereaved widower. The guy was an amateur; he'd undoubtedly left many more clues behind, and the cops would have their case against him sewn up in a matter of hours.
"Finished already?" A familiar voice called out mockingly to her from the street.
She let out an exasperated sigh. "Adam Lynch ... Seriously?"
"Hey, I don't like your tone. You're hurting my feelings here."
She turned back and saw Lynch leaning against her car. While everyone else on the scene was middle-of-the-night bedraggled, Lynch's every dark hair was in place. Probably just the way he rolled out of bed, the bastard. He wore jeans, a pullover sweater, loafers, and a sexy, high-wattage smile that seemed terribly out of place at a grim murder scene. But then, everything about Lynch was high wattage. He was a paid freelance operative who worked for any agency or nation who could afford his services. Those services were both deadly and innovative, as Kendra had found in the past year. But there had been times when she was grateful for both his skill and that cool intelligence when cases had thrown them together. And other times when she had only been wary of how Lynch managed to stir her emotions when she knew how dangerous that could be. It had become a complex relationship that bound them together, and she never knew from one minute to the next how she would feel toward Lynch.
"Feelings?" she said. "Why would I think you actually have feelings?"
"You got me there." He checked his watch. "By the way, you wrapped up this case in about two and a half minutes. That's a new record, isn't it?"
"I didn't come here to wrap up the case."
His smile faded. "I know that, Kendra. I hear you've been visiting a lot of murder scenes lately."
"Not because I enjoy it."
"I know that, too."
She let the silence hang between them. "He'll be back, Lynch. We both know it."
"It's been four months."
"Colby's methodical. He's had years to plan his next move. What's another few months to him?" She was speaking only the truth. Colby was very patient. He was a serial killer who had murdered at least twenty people in various terrible ways before he and Kendra had come together that night in the gully. He had taken his time with all his victims and made sure their deaths were agonizing. "He's driven. He has to kill. He just has to do it his way."
Lynch's gaze slid away from her. "You've got a point."
"You don't believe me, do you?"
"I didn't say that."
"You don't need to. It's obvious you don't believe Colby is really still alive."
"If you believe it, I believe it."
She slammed her palms onto her car hood. "That's one of the most patronizing things anyone has ever said to me. And believe me, when I was blind, I heard a lot of patronizing things."
His gaze shifted back to her. "I mean it, Kendra," he said quietly. "I do trust your judgment."
"Even if the California Department of Corrections doesn't."
"Colby was their prisoner, and it was their responsibility to put him to death. For them to admit that they might have botched it and let a convicted serial killer escape, well, that's asking a lot."
"The prison's attending physician and his wife were found dead less than forty-eight hours later. I can't believe they still think that was a coincidence."
"It appeared to be an accident. And even you couldn't find any evidence to prove otherwise."
Kendra nodded. "Colby and his partner were too smart to leave behind any evidence. The doctor administered a drug to slow Colby's heart and pronounced him dead in front of a roomful of witnesses, and a rented hearse drove him right out of the main gates of San Quentin State Prison."
Excerpted from The Naked Eye by Iris Johansen, Roy Johansen. Copyright © 2015 Johansen Publishing LLLP. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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