A gripping thriller by Kate Kessler (author of the Audrey Harte novels), in which an FBI agent becomes entwined in a missing persons case that directly connects to a horrific event from her past.
Eighteen years ago, FBI Agent Rachel Ward's mirror twin, Hannah, was taken by the Gemini killer, a serial killer who delights in sending photos of his victims to their twins. Rachel assumes her sister has been dead for years, but she's never stopped hunting the monster who took her. Now, another twin has been taken, and when the case reopens, Rachel is assigned as an agent. But her relentless hunt for the killer may drive her to her breaking point.
Release date: October 23, 2018
Print pages: 352
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Listen to a sample
Better wake up, Ray Ray. You know what day it is.”
Some days, like people, were assholes. For Agent Rachel Ward, the eighteenth of May was the biggest asshole of them all. She didn’t need that familiar phantom voice in her head to remind her.
She stretched in bed, wishing she’d had just a little more to drink the night before so she didn’t remember it so clearly, but glad, from a hangover perspective, that she’d stopped when she had. Spending the day worshiping the porcelain god would be an even bigger mistake than the one lying next to her.
Rachel turned her head. Dason Patrick—Trick to his friends—certainly qualified as a big mistake, but he was currently her favorite. Having sex with coworkers was not a good idea, but the FBI kept her busy enough that there was little time for socializing, so it was either the devil she knew or trolling for strangers. Strangers often required flirting, and she didn’t have the patience for that.
She didn’t have patience for much of anything.
Trick opened his eyes and smiled. His mother was Korean, his father Irish. It made for incredible offspring. “You’re feeding me before you kick me out,” he informed her as he scrubbed a hand over his face.
“Pizza?” she offered. He’d shown up at her door the night before with a large pie heaped with her favorite toppings. Maika, another coworker of theirs, had arrived shortly thereafter with what seemed to be a water tower of rum. She ought to resent the two of them for rallying around her, but she couldn’t. They had cheered Rachel’s younger sister, Naomi, as well, but today there’d be no consoling either of them. Today there’d be only regret and sadness, the same as there had been for almost two decades.
Trick watched her, his smile fading. He knew what day it was. He wisely—kindly—didn’t acknowledge it by asking how she was. “I’ll cook. You grab a shower.”
She didn’t want him to be there when she checked the mailbox, because she wouldn’t be able to hide her reaction when she saw that familiar envelope. It was her private pain, but she couldn’t make herself tell him to go. She lay there, silent as he swung back the blankets and slipped out of her bed. She was able to ogle his lean, naked body for all of fifteen seconds before he partially covered it with the jeans he’d tossed on the floor the night before. They hung low on his hips, the cut of his obliques on brazen display. He didn’t even seem to notice, just fastened his belt and padded barefoot to the kitchen.
Rachel lay back against the pillows, her hand sliding over the warmth his body had left behind on the sheets. This thing with Trick was becoming more frequent. More comfortable. It couldn’t go on. It was too convenient.
But they knew each other, had the same job. He understood that her life was busy and sometimes dangerous. She didn’t have to pretend with him, or watch what she said. They could talk about the tough cases, be honest about their shitty days. It was nice.
And last night she had needed him. Not just anyone, but him. She’d needed his dependable strength, his silence. She could trust him enough to be vulnerable with him.
Which was why she was going to have to end it. Just not that morning. Not when she might be able to persuade him into one more go-around before she really did kick him out. They had yet to invent a better way of avoiding reality than sex.
She got out of bed, grabbed her robe, and headed for the bathroom. Her left hand tingled as though it had been partially asleep. She must have slept on it again. She gave it a shake and wrapped her hair in an elastic on top of her head as she went. Five minutes under the cool spray woke her up, cleared the fog from her brain, and rinsed the cotton from her mouth. She shaved her legs and under her arms and then turned off the water. She toweled off, moisturized, and slipped into her robe. After breakfast, she’d spritz her hair with some dry shampoo and put on a little makeup to make herself presentable for work. Normally, she took the day off, but they were still looking for Sydney Cole, who’d gone missing three days ago, and she couldn’t bring herself to take the time—not when she believed Gemini had taken the teenager.
Normally she didn’t use nicknames for unsubs—it was frowned upon by most at the Bureau, but sometimes one caught on. She used the moniker because it gave focus to her rage and her hate. Her frustration and pain. She needed to call him something.
She was getting close to catching the son of a bitch, she could feel it.
Her bedroom was on the main floor, giving both her and Naomi privacy. They shared the brownstone that had been their grandparents’ house in New Haven. It was convenient for Rachel for work, and for Naomi because of its proximity to Yale, where she both studied and worked.
The smell of bacon and coffee wafted toward her as she entered the kitchen. Naomi drifted down a few seconds later. She didn’t seem surprised to find Trick in their kitchen—another reason to end things, Rachel supposed. Or a reason to keep going.
Naomi and Rachel shared their mother’s red hair, but Rachel had their father’s gray eyes, while Naomi’s were bluer. Rachel was also several inches taller, at about five-eleven in her bare feet. Trick was still a few inches taller than that, which made her appreciate him that much more.
“Morning, you two,” Naomi said with a smug smile. The brat didn’t look the least bit hungover either.
Trick flashed her that killer smile. “Good morning, Sunshine. Breakfast?”
“Please.” Then she turned to Rachel.
Rachel smiled a little sadly as her sister came in for a hug, and gave her a hard squeeze. And then, close to her ear so Trick wouldn’t hear, “Check the mail, will you?”
Naomi’s eyes widened. “Really?” Like she couldn’t believe she’d ask. Not because it was such a secret, but because Rachel was always the one to check.
She nodded. “Please.”
They didn’t get mail delivery that early in the morning, but every year since that fateful day there’d been an envelope left for her sometime during the night before. They’d been more frequent in the early years, sometimes coming every month. Now it was only on the anniversary, and sometimes special occasions. Her parents had installed security cameras after the first delivery, but somehow the photos still got there. Once, they’d actually found one of the homeless people hired to deliver it, but he couldn’t remember who had paid him to drop off the “gift.” That’s what the bastard called it on the notes he left.
Rachel went back into the kitchen, admiring Trick’s naked back as she entered the room. He was all tanned skin with muscles rippling just below the surface. “Need help?”
“You can start on toast,” he suggested. He never used to trust her to do even that, despite the fact that she was a decent cook, and proficient with a toaster. She glanced over her shoulder as Naomi walked in. Her younger sister shook her head. Rachel frowned. Nothing? That couldn’t be right.
“Just a sec. I need to check something.”
Both of them looked at her as she practically bolted from the room, but neither said a word. She opened the front door and stuck her head out—the neighbors didn’t need to see her in her robe. It was a beautiful spring morning and she barely noticed, or cared. The mailbox was bolted to the side of the house. She lifted the lid and stuck her hand inside, groping around for what she was sure her sister had missed.
Her heart gave a bewildered and hard thump. What did it mean? She’d gotten an envelope on this date for the past seventeen years, without fail. She craned her neck, checking the porch, the steps, even the front lawn. Nothing.
Her fingers shook as she closed and locked the door. She turned, pressed her back against the heavy wood.
Eighteen years ago, Rachel’s sister Hannah had gone into New York on a school trip and never returned. Police in both New York and Connecticut looked for her. Then the FBI showed up, because when they learned that Hannah was one half of a set of identical twins, they realized what had happened: Hannah had been taken by the serial killer they referred to as “Gemini” because he had a thing for twins.
The “good news,” they said, was that Hannah was probably still alive, because Gemini liked to keep his victims for a while—as if that was a comfort. What they didn’t tell them—not until they had to—was that Gemini also liked to send “presents” to his victim’s twin. Rachel had already begun to think her sister was lost forever when that first envelope arrived just a few days later. She’d been horrified to open it and see a photo of Hannah, sitting on a bed in a tank top and panties.
She’d had bruises on her thighs. That’s what Rachel remembered most clearly. Those, and the breakdown her mother had when she saw the photo. She tried to hide them after that—sometimes she succeeded. The only person with whom she shared them was Agent Crouse at the FBI. Lauren Crouse, who was now her boss.
She opened her eyes. Naomi stood there, at the far end of the foyer, her pale face stricken.
Rachel shook her head. They couldn’t talk about it now.
Trick was at the toaster when she reentered the kitchen. He glanced over his shoulder at her. “What’s wrong?”
She shook her head. “Nothing.”
He regarded her a little while longer with his shrewd dark gaze. “Okay.” He wasn’t stupid. He knew what day it was. He knew the case, but he didn’t push.
Rachel didn’t release her breath until he turned back to the toaster, which was supposed to have been her job. She swallowed. What was that feeling in the pit of her stomach? Despair? Relief? Whatever it was, it didn’t stop the damn thing from growling. And it wasn’t going to help, so she ignored it and pushed Trick out of the way. “I’ll take care of this. You concentrate on the eggs.”
He glanced at her—she could feel it—but she hid behind her hair. When the toast popped, she grabbed it and started scraping butter across it like her life hung in the balance.
What did it mean that she hadn’t gotten an envelope? Was he done with her? God, she’d just left Naomi standing there, wondering what it meant. Maybe there would be something in the box later. All these years that annual delivery had been a knife to her heart, but she’d also begun to look forward to it, in a macabre kind of way. The fact that it was not there made the ground feel unsteady beneath her feet.
“Do you want me to go?” Trick asked, his voice low, for her ears only. He was so respectful and considerate, she used to wonder if it was an act. It wasn’t.
She forced a smile—that wasn’t too hard to do with him. “Who will feed me if you leave?”
His lips curved. God, he really was gorgeous. “I’m sure you’d find someone.”
It was meant as a joke, she knew that, but there was an edge to his words. She really was going to have to end this thing between them. Or at least put a little distance there. Using each other to scratch an itch wasn’t doing it for him anymore. He wanted more, and she was inexplicably terrified to give it to him. Still, she couldn’t bring herself to be a decent person and cut him loose.
“I’ve been without her for as long as I was with her,” she blurted. “It’s been so long that sometimes I actually forget, and then May eighteenth comes around.”
“There are some wounds time can’t heal,” he said. “It just makes them deeper.”
His words struck her, resonating behind her ribs. She couldn’t even make her mouth open to agree.
Trick’s phone rang. He turned the burner off before grabbing it out of his jeans pocket. “Patrick.” Rachel watched as his lean face registered surprise. His gaze locked with hers. “I’ll get her. We’ll be right there.” He disconnected. “Get dressed.”
Rachel’s heart rate kicked it up a notch. “What is it?”
“They found Sydney Cole. She’s alive.”
Rachel ran to the bedroom.
They pulled into one of the parking lots at the Westport train station a half hour later, after a very fast trip on I-95 with lights flashing. Emergency vehicles had come and gone, the victim having been taken to the hospital, but police were still on the scene, as were evidence-gathering teams.
When Hannah disappeared, similar teams practically gutted their house. Never mind that Hannah hadn’t been taken from there, they still tore the place apart looking for evidence. Her mother had lost her shit. Rachel had just watched them, silently, guiltily, hoping they’d find something. Anything.
They found nothing.
It was just past eight, and commuter traffic was dying down a bit, but the lot was busy and fairly full. Police had cordoned off a large section to keep travelers from corrupting the immediate scene—and to minimize the chances of nosy onlookers, or reporters getting a good look.
Rachel remembered what it was like to be a cop and in the thick of a crime scene—that sense of determination, wanting to put the puzzle together and catch the bad guys. Since joining the Bureau she sometimes felt more like an observer than an active crime solver. The Connecticut police were the ones working this crime; they were just…backup. That’s how it felt. Obviously, the FBI had been instrumental in the apprehension of many of the country’s serial killers, but at that moment it felt like they were late to the party.
They showed their credentials to the cop who approached. “Are you alright, man?” Trick asked.
The uni nodded. He looked young and pale in the bright sunlight as he gestured for them to follow him. “Young white female found stabbed in a car parked toward the back of the lot. A commuter who parked nearby noticed her in the vehicle, went to check on her, and called nine-one-one. She thought the kid was sleeping it off.”
“Does that happen a lot around here?” Rachel asked. “Drunken teenagers passing out in cars?”
The cop caught her sarcasm. “Occasionally. I think it was more wishful thinking on her part.”
Trick ducked under the police tape. Just ahead, in a row of cars, a group of cops looked on as CSU did their job. “The ID on Sydney Cole, is it good?”
“It is,” came another voice. A woman in a dark suit approached them with a no-nonsense gait. A little shorter than Rachel, she had shoulder-length brown hair, a sharp jaw, and dark eyes. It was Jordan Mancusi, a Connecticut State Police detective Rachel had partnered with before joining the Bureau. Rachel knew for a fact that under that well-cut blazer there was the body of an MMA fighter. She’d made the mistake of sparring with her in the past and had been bruised and sore for days.
“Her purse was with her.” Mancusi nodded at the uniform, who then walked away.
“I don’t have to tell you guys how surprised I was to find the girl alive,” the detective said as she led them toward a black Audi surrounded by cops. The doors were open, and the cream leather interior was covered in blood. “I thought for sure Gemini took her, but nothing about this points to him.”
No. Only one girl—that they knew of—had ever escaped becoming a Gemini victim. He didn’t let people go. And he didn’t make a mess like what was smeared all over the interior of the Audi.
Rachel jerked her chin toward the vehicle, which unsurprisingly cost more than her annual salary. “Who owns the car?”
Mancusi hesitated, then straightened her shoulders. Bracing herself? “Alex Carnegie.”
Sensation—like an ice pick under her ribs—jolted Rachel’s body. “You’re fucking kidding me,” she growled.
Alexander motherfucking Carnegie? The man who for the last three years had been at the top of Rachel’s Gemini suspect list? That Alex Carnegie?
Her former partner held up a hand. “Rachel, he reported it stolen.”
“When?” she demanded. “This morning?”
“Well, yes. He says the car was missing from the garage when he arrived at his house here this morning.”
“Quite a coincidence, don’t you think?” Rachel challenged. “A Gemini suspect’s car turning up with a Gemini victim in it?”
“There’s no conclusive evidence against Carnegie.”
She opened her mouth to fight, but quickly snapped her jaw shut. Both Mancusi and Trick thought she was irrationally obsessed with Carnegie—and they weren’t all that wrong. Going on about him wouldn’t convince them of his guilt, only of her own inability to look past him. The only way to show them the truth was to prove it.
Rachel cleared her throat. “CSU get anything off the car yet?”
“A bloody fingerprint on the passenger door, obviously a lot of blood in the car itself. They’re checking for hairs, fibers—the usual. If our guy left anything behind, they’ll find it.”
And if that guy was Carnegie, he could dismiss all the evidence because the car was his to begin with.
“Someone should talk to Mr. Carnegie,” she said.
Trick laughed. “Yeah, that won’t be you.”
The photographer had threatened her with a restraining order about a year ago, when she’d discovered that he’d done a photo shoot in Central Park around the time her sister went missing from the Met. That couldn’t be a coincidence. She didn’t care how many other people could have been in the park or museum that day. He fit the description witnesses gave of the man Grace O’Brien was seen with before her abduction.
She didn’t care that he had an alibi for the night Heather Montgomery disappeared. Alibis could be manufactured. He was a photographer; he had property in all three states where the killings took place. And he was creepy as hell, though she seemed to be the only one who saw it. Every time she looked at one of his photographs, it reminded her of the ones Gemini sent her. It was him, she knew it.
Hannah would have been naive enough to trust someone like him. She would have jumped at the opportunity to tell her absent twin that she missed out on hanging out with a fashion icon. She wouldn’t do it to be mean. She’d do it so she could share it with Rachel, and someone—Carnegie—had taken advantage of that.
“I’ll be paying a visit to Mr. Carnegie,” Mancusi informed them. Her expression softened when she looked at Rachel. “I’m not dismissing him, Rach. Not at all.”
Rachel hated when she used her first name. It made everything more personal. She nodded. “I know you’re not.”
“Should you even be working today?”
“Oh, shit,” Trick muttered. “I’m going to talk to the techs.”
Rachel’s nostrils flared as she watched him walking away, trying to find the right words. “Should I be home in bed? Or maybe on my shrink’s couch? Neither of those things is going to bring Hannah back.”
“Neither is crucifying Alex Carnegie—guilty or not.”
“Yeah, well, we can talk about all that shit when your sister gets taken by a serial killer.” She closed her eyes and sucked in a breath. “Does Carnegie have a connection with Sydney Cole?” Rachel asked.
“Not sure yet, but her mother was a model—she might know him. You’d think they wouldn’t have reported her missing if she was with a family friend.”
Rachel adjusted her sunglasses against the glare. “Unless there was something going on between them.”
Mancusi stared at her. “Seriously?”
She shrugged. “Teenage girl, older man, it’s an old story. Maybe she threatened to tell.” After Hannah’s disappearance she had gone through a bit of a wild period and had an affair with the father of a friend. Not one of her proudest moments, but the sex had been amazing. He hadn’t been pleased when she ended things.
Mancusi didn’t agree, but she didn’t argue either. “She was definitely attacked in the car, given the amount of blood splatter. So whatever the circumstances, the attacker was in there with her at some point.”
“Any sign of the knife?”
“Nope. We’re searching for it, but as you can see, there’s a lot of area to cover.”
Rachel nodded absently. Nothing about this felt like Gemini, yet she’d been certain Sydney had been taken by him. By Carnegie. She glanced around, looking for cameras. “Did you get security footage?”
“Working on it,” Mancusi informed her. “EMTs said that from the amount of blood, they guessed the girl had been here for about an hour, which means she would have been attacked between six and six thirty.”
“Is that a heavy travel time here?” Rachel asked. She normally took the train into the city from New Haven, and rarely during rush hour.
“Sure,” the detective replied. “It’s an hour commute to the city, and taxes aren’t too bad. Lots of people travel this route into New York every day—more than one hundred thousand, I’m told.”
They could kiss evidence good-bye, Rachel thought. With that kind of traffic the entire scene was already completely contaminated.
“So, our stabber could have come here to catch a train, but why bring her along?” Rachel wondered out loud.
“Yeah,” Mancusi agreed. “Maybe they figured Carnegie would report the car stolen. We’re checking with MTA regarding trains going to and from Grand Central in that block.”
Rachel doubted they’d come up with much. Like the detective had already stated, a lot of people made the trek from Connecticut to New York every morning. Though not normally splattered with blood.
But no one had reported seeing anything? A girl gets stabbed in a car and no one heard her scream?
“I don’t think she was stabbed here,” Rachel said, giving voice to her thoughts. “Unless Westport commuters see something but don’t say anything.”
Mancusi’s lips twisted at her misuse of the slogan posted all over MTA trains and most public places in the state.
“So he drove to the train station with a bleeding girl in the back seat, but not to his final destination.” Mancusi shrugged. “Less chance of getting pulled over, I suppose. Hard to explain that to highway patrol.”
“How is the girl?” Trick asked as he rejoined them. Rachel kicked herself for not having asked the question earlier. She was just so used to not finding the people she was looking for alive. Today of all days, she ought to have been focused on the miracle of Sydney Cole. Instead, she was numb. No, not numb. She was cold with rage.
“Not sure. She was in pretty rough shape. They’ve taken her to the hospital.”
“Parents been notified?” Rachel asked.
Mancusi shot her a wry gaze. “Not my first rodeo, Agent Ward.”
Duly chastised, Rachel offered a sh. . .
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