The killer is terrified that everyone they meet will somehow know what happened, will know their shame. And so, they pave the nation’s seminars with the corpses of physicians, believing only the deaths of their tormentors will finally set them free of their debilitating fear of humiliation.
Detective Masson and Tara finally find themselves alone together for a long deserved vacation in sunny Miami. During their first night, they cross paths with a physician attending a seminar in their hotel who feared she was being stalked. Her fear weighs on their minds and tarnishes their efforts to enjoy their vacation. Immediately upon returning home to Chicago, Masson receives a call from FBI Agent Wright. A physician was found dead in their hotel room. Masson and Tara befriended feared it was the physician they had met. Upon the insistence of Agent Wright, Masson and Tara attempt to solve the vicious crime. But as the case unfolds, they are called in on several other murders in various states that seem to be related. As they begin to realize they’re hunting a serial killer, they quickly find themselves in a race against time to find the murderer before they kill again.
First Chapter Excerpt
Masson was happy to be back in Chicago next to Tara. Having her by his side made him the happiest man on earth. It felt like they had been apart for months when it had only been a couple of weeks. As soon as he walked through the door of their new condo, Tara ran and jumped into his arms wrapping her legs around his waist. With tears streaming down her cheeks, she buried her face in his shoulder.
“Hey there, I guess you missed me a little.” Masson laughed as he held her just as tight against his body.
“Missed you isn’t the word for it.” Tara began kissing him all over his face and neck.
Masson carried Tara over to the sofa and sat down with her on his lap. “I hope the next case goes better than this one. I never wanted to see you get hurt. Tara, I love you so much and I really think we should take some time off and just relax for a couple of weeks. What do you think? Do you have any place you would like to go?”
“It doesn’t matter to me where we go or we could just stay here as long as we’re together.”
“Well, I think we should get out of the city for a while and just have some fun. You have been through so much being in the hospital and helping to take down a killer.”
“You know, I haven’t looked over the condo yet. Everyone has said it was beautiful, but without you here with me, well, I just didn’t feel like it was my home yet. Imagine five hundred square feet, four bedrooms, four full baths and I’ve only seen the bedroom, kitchen, and here in the living room.”
“Well, don’t you think it’s time to see the whole place? After all, I know you probably want to change some of the furniture and maybe the paint colors, now don’t you?”
He took her by the hand and they started aninspection of their home. They started at one end, the master bedroom. This four-bedroom suite offers five thousand square feet with panoramic views from the spacious terrace, which is furnished and overlooked the park. It was at the top of the world to Tara. It was ideal for entertaining; there’s a media room, plus a dining table for ten with an adjoining kitchen with a serving island and marble countertops. With four bathrooms, three full marble in all bathrooms with bathtubs and oversized glass-enclosed showers, there was also a guest powder room.
The master bedroom includes an expansive walk-in closet and an en suite bathroom with sleek glass tiles, exotic stones and marble, an oversized shower and a deep-soaking tub. The best part was a twelve-by-twelve panic room equipped with Wi-Fi and telephone. It was so camouflaged you would never know it was there.
“I don’t know, we’ll look at it together and then decided. Oh, before I forget, Masson, the guy from the gun store called and my background came in. He said I could pick up my gun anytime I wanted. I wanted to wait until you were here so you could go with me.”
“You know, honey, this place is like a resort. Just one thing I want to know, who is going to clean this place?”
“I guess we’ll have to hire a maid at some point in time. What about the guy from the gun store, can we just put it off for a few days?”
“Okay, if that’s what you want. Let’s finish the tour of our new place, your new place. Maybe we can discuss plans on taking a vacation as we take in the place. Now, tell me, where would you like to go?”
Masson was holding her hand as they walked through the condo and seeing all the beautiful furnishing. The color scheme of each room matched the furniture down to the carpet on the floor. The furniture was high-end and very expensive. Tara had made one heck of a deal.
“I had one of the agents deposit the check in the bank for us. I really didn’t want to go out after the garden incident, and they were happy to do it for me. Can we get rid of them now that you’re home?”
“I’ve already taken care of it. Agent Wright pulled them off as soon as he knew my plane had landed. We’re on our own for now.”
“I hope Randy was a big help to you. You know he’s superb on the computers. After meeting him, you wouldn’t think he was an FBI agent. He just didn’t seem the type, did he?”
“At first, I would have agreed with you, but he really came through once he started following my lead. Randy did an excellent job and with his contacts back at the FBI Agency, we were able to get a lot of the information we needed to make the arrest. You’re the one who actually broke the case. Being able to see there was a code used to communicate with Mrs. Davis was pure genius and even Randy said so. Tara, lets’ move off that case and tell me where do you want to go or do I have to pick?”
“I know, let’s spread out a map of the United States and I’ll close my eyes and pick a place, will that work?” Tara seemed excited for a split second.
“Okay, do you have a map of the United States?”
“Why, of course I do.” She started to get up from Masson’s lap, and he pulled her back down.
“Wait a couple of minutes. I’m not through telling you hello yet.”
“Okay, Masson, I missed you so much. Agent Wright is like a father to me, but he could be like an old mother hen too. Every time I wanted to do something in the hospital, he’d call the nurse and asked if it was all right. And the two agents he sent to stand guard at the door were just as bad. I did like the fact they were there, but don’t tell him.”
“Tara, he thinks of you like you are his daughter. He was really upset when I told him what happened, and he was on a plane to rush to your side.”
Tara gave Masson a little squeeze and stood up to moved over to the bookshelf to retrieve the map. She had only been in the new condo for about three or four days, but everything was complete put away. There wasn’t much to put away since her old place had been destroyed, so all she had was some clothes and her books to put away. Lucky for them, the place came completely furnished right down to the dishes. One complete wall in the den was completely covered with ever type of book you could think of. She only had one small box of books and there was just enough space for her to add hers to the collection. The den was so elegant in deep-pile dark green carpet. The bookshelves were from floor to ceiling in dark walnut. In the middle of the room there was desk in walnut with a glass top. The matching chair was overstuffed and so comfortable you could fall asleep in it.
With the condo being completely furnished and her real estate agent helping the movers unpack the few boxes Tara did have. The movers moved her things in and had completely unpacked them for her except her personal clothing, which they left for her to do. They set up everything and took all the boxes and trash with them. She didn’t have any problem with the way the furniture was arranged, for everything was perfect in the den, dining room and living room.
Tara wanted to move the bedroom around but decided to wait until Masson returned to get his input. There were glass sliders opening to a balcony. The morning sun would shine in the sliders every morning. The entry to the bedroom was double French doors that led into a warm and very inviting room done in a light beige colors and silk drapes. The bed being an oversize king and there was a small sitting area with two large walk-in closets. It was like a five-star hotel. Tara had to keep pinching herself to make sure she wasn’t dreaming.
Tara came back into the room and Masson took the map from her hand and spread it out on the floor. He took off his tie and tied it around Tara’s eyes. He led her over to the map and helped her down to the floor.
“Okay, now take your hand and make big circles. When you’re ready take your index finger and place it on the map, once you put your finger down don’t move it either.”
Carefully, she took her hand and circled the map several times. Then she took her finger and pushed it into the map. Unknown to Tara, Masson was moving the map as she circled it so when she put her finger down it would land on Miami, Florida. Tara, taking her other hand, removed the tie from her eyes to see exactly what she had pointed to. She hoped it wasn’t in the middle of the ocean. Masson was chuckling at Tara for she acted like a school girl on a first date.
“Okay, pack your bags and be sure to pack your swimsuit; it looks like we’re going to Florida.”
“Masson, what if I had put us in the middle of the Gulf?”
“Don’t be silly, if you put us in the middle of the ocean we’d find an island to go to, but it looks like we’re going to Florida where the weather is warm.I’ll call the airport and get us on the next flight out. We’ll leave in the morning tomorrow, okay?”
“Sure, the sooner the better, you know being cooped up in the hospital and then here in the condo I felt like a prisoner. I couldn’t go anywhere, call anyone, and I felt funny even ordering a pizza for delivery.”
Masson took Tara in his arms and held her close. “Tara, I’m so sorry you felt that way. Keeping you safe was the only thing on everyone’s mind.”
“I know, Masson, and I know I should be grateful. But on one hand, I felt like a prisoner and on the other hand I was scared to go out. I guess I just have cabin fever.”
“Well, we’re going to do something about that. A week or two in the sun by the ocean with blue skies and with the surf and sand, that’ll fix you right up. The nights will be filled with a full moon and me.”
“Are you going to call Agent Wright about our trip?”
“Do you want me too?”
“Well, if we go off without telling him where we’re going he might get upset. I really don’t want to bother him. He has been so good to you and me. He’s so much a part of our lives.”
“I guess we should call him and tell him we’re taking a couple of weeks off. He was going to head back to Washington D.C. tomorrow with a couple of white feathers in his cap.”
“Do you think he’ll be mad with us for taking a couple of weeks off?” Tara’s eyes started to fill with tears.
“Tara, we’re not his employees. We’re his consultants and work when we want to and take off when we want to, understand?”
“No buts. I have a contact in Miami, and he has a condo right on the beach. I’ll call him and see if we can use his place. He’s usually in California this time of the year at his company, so I don’t see it being a problem.”
"Okay, but I think we should tell Agent Wright that we are planning to take off for a couple of weeks. I'm going to pack."
"Listen, let's go out for dinner tonight. What's your favorite restaurant?”
“I don’t know. I’ll have to think about it, and I’ll get back to you.”
"Listen, I’ve got to go out for a little bit, so when I get back we'll go to dinner. How about that little Italian place, okay?"
"Yes, but where are you going?" Tara looked at him with a very inquisitive look on her face.
Masson took her in his arms and held her tight against his chest. "Look, there is a couple of things I have to do. Agent Wright asked me to do a couple of things to finish up once I arrived here. I promised him I would. Like I said, I'll be back in a few so you go ahead and pack. When I get back, we'll go to dinner and we'll have the rest of the night to make up for the past couple of weeks."
"Aye, Aye, sir. I'll be waiting at the door."
Masson left the apartment and headed for the jewelry store he had passed on his way from the airport. He wanted tonight to be very special. Since he had made her his partner in the private investigation business, he also wanted to make her his life partner.
His cell phone began ringing. Masson looked at the face of his cell phone to see who was calling him. He had just left Tara so it couldn’t be her. It was Agent Wright, just who he didn't want to talk to right now.
"Hello, Agent Wright."
"Masson, I just wanted to make sure you arrived home all right. Tara, is she all right? I mean, I spoke to the agents who were staying with her and they said she was pretty shook up after the Mrs. Davis incident. I wanted to make sure she's all right."
"Yes, she's okay, better now that I'm home. I let the agents go for I'm home now and really didn't think there was any further danger. Everyone is locked up and all."
"Yeah, everything really came together nicely. Listen, Masson, we need to talk about a couple of things and I'm going to be in Chicago next week. Do you think we could get together?"
"No, Tara and I are going to take a trip. I think we both deserve to take a week or two off and relax. It has been nonstop for the past few months."
"Oh, yes, you two do deserve some time off. Where are you going?"
"Agent Wright, I'm not going to tell you because if you really need me, I'm only a cell phone away. But you're not going to call me, right?"
"Okay, I'll try and manage for a week or two without bothering you two."
"Thank you. What did you want to see me about?"
"Well, it'll wait until you come back. I'll change my plans and schedule my trip to Chicago after you two get back. You know, the leaves are starting to change in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Is that where you're going?"
"Agent Wright, I'm not going to tell you, so stop asking."
"All right, I'll let it go for now."
Masson hung up the phone as he walked into the jewelry store. He turned his attention to the clerk behind the counter. As he looked over the different settings in the rings his mind was spinning.
"Boy, I didn't realize they came in so many different settings! How are you supposed to make up your mind?"
"Well, let's start at the beginning. How much are you looking to spend?"
"I really hadn't thought about that."
"Okay, do you want a lot of diamonds or only a couple? We even can show you what we call a solitaire, which is only one diamond."
"All right, let's look at that and maybe a setting in the middle with small diamonds around it."
"Okay, now what color diamond?"
"What are you talking about what color? Don't they come in white?"
The clerk started to laugh. "Sir, they come in yellow, pink, chocolate and natural white."
"Okay, how about chocolate with white around it?"
"Now, what size do you want the middle diamond?"
"Good heavens, how many more questions? I just want a damn engagement ring."
"Let me show you a couple of settings and see if you like them."
The clerk put the tray up on the counter. There must have been six or seven rings on the velvet pad, and he was amazed at the beauty of each. He pulled a couple to the side and pushed the others to the back of the tray.
"I like these two." He picked each one up and turned it over and over in the light. "Boy, they both really sparkle, don't they?"
"Yes, they are magnificent stones."
"Okay, I like this one. What is the next step?"
"We need to know what size she wears."
"That's an easy one. Here is a ring she wears all the time on the left hand, the third finger." He gave her the ring, and she slid it on the size bar.
She then took the ring he had chosen and put it on the size bar. "Well, it seems you have picked out a winner. It's the exact size you were looking for. So, do you want me to hold on to it?"
"I'll take it with me. What is the damage?"
"You must really be a lucky person, this one is on sale. It was seventy-five hundred, but because it's on sale, it's only three thousand. Will that be credit card or check?"
"There isn't anything wrong with it, is there?"
He took his wallet out of his pocket and found his credit card."Here put it on my charge card."
The clerk took his card and the ring to box it and run his charge card. It only took a few minutes for her to come back. "Mr. Masson, I have to ask, how did you get her ring off if she wears it all the time, to bring it in?"
"It was lying on the dresser, and she was really busy. She only takes it off when she's doing her nails. We’re going on vacation, and she was going to do her nails. When she put it on the dresser I slipped it off and put it in my pocket. This is the only time she takes it off."
"Here you go, sir, good luck."
Masson slipped the small box into his pocket and started back to the apartment. He was wearing a smile from ear to ear. His cell began to ring. Without looking, he reached into his pocket to take it out to answer.
"Agent Wright here. I had a couple of things to go over with you, and I was so concerned about Tara I forgot to go over them. Do you have a couple of minutes to talk?"
"Sure, what can I do for you?"
"First of all, Eric, are you sure our girl is all right?"
"She's doing great; at least she appears to be doing all right. I thought she might still be upset, but she doesn't have any apparent residual effects from the experience."
"I told you she was a keeper. Tara is a tough girl, and I'm sure a great partner once she is trained a little more by you."
"Okay, Agent Wright, you have something up your sleeve, what is it?"