The young woman’s mouth is slightly parted, as if waiting to speak. Her body is frozen in ice and her blue eyes stare at the sky, perhaps wanting to look at the stars one last time… When the body of a woman is found in the frozen Neponset River, just where it meets the sea, Jessie Novak and her partner Detective Sam Dallas rush to the scene. When Jessie sees a flash of a familiar silk scarf, she’s shocked to realize the woman in the ice is Sheila Logan, who she worked closely with for years at Boston City Hospital. Jessie desperately wants to find out how this young and talented nurse ended up an innocent victim. But who would want to kill her? As she digs into Sheila’s past, Jessie realizes she was having an affair with a colleague and may even have been pregnant. Was her lover unwilling to be a father to her child? The pain of Sheila’s death threatens to tear open Jessie’s old wounds—Jessie’s own mother walked out on her when she was just a baby and never looked back. She can’t change her own past, but she’s determined to get justice for Sheila. When Jessie uncovers a cold case, another dedicated nurse strangled with a scarf and thrown into a river, Jessie sees a lethal pattern forming. Next, someone tries to steal Jessie’s bag at gunpoint, and she knows she’s being warned off the case. But with the killer in her sights, will she take the deadliest risk of her life? Can Jessie catch him, before he catches up to her? This utterly addictive novel will keep you up all night! Fans of Lisa Regan, Rachel Abbott and Tess Gerritsen will be totally hooked until the last heart-thumping page. What readers are saying about The Frozen Girl : “ Gripping… Compulsively readable with a white-knuckle ending. Roberta Gately has fast become one of my must-read authors.” Bookworm Down Under ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
“ Finished it the same day I started it, just couldn’t put it down at all… Can’t wait to read more of this series and see what happens next.” Spooky's Maze of Books ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
“ Loved this!… Sped through this book as I couldn’t wait to see how it would turn out!” Goodreads Reviewer ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
“ Boom—right out of the gate we have action. Twists, turns, mystery, intrigue. Loved it all.” Goodreads Reviewer “A fast-paced, thrilling read.” Goodreads Reviewer ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
“Jessie is a great character. I enjoyed this story a lot… Looking forward to see what happens next.” B for Book Review ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
“ A fast-paced read that kept me turning the pages.” Goodreads Reviewer ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
“ A great, quick book with twist and turns I never saw coming!” Goodreads Reviewer
Release date: May 18, 2021
Print pages: 350
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The Frozen Girl
“Well, I…” and then the hum of traffic and car horns in the background muted all other sound. Then silence, as though the caller had put his hand over the mouthpiece.
“Nine-one-one. What’s your emergency?” the dispatcher repeated, his voice a little irritable.
“Well, I’m not sure it’s an emergency. Not anymore, at least.”
“Sir, you can call your local station. This line is for emergencies only. Where are you? I’ll connect you to the district you’re in.”
“This is sort of an emergency. I think it is, anyway.”
This time the voice was a little warmer. “Sir, what is your emergency? Can you describe it to me?”
“There’s a body here,” the caller said slowly as if he wasn’t quite sure of what he was saying.
“A body? Is the person in distress? Have you checked for a pulse?”
“No, but I can tell that whoever it is, is dead. The ice is breaking up here along the Neponset River under the bridge. The body, what’s left of it, seems to have just floated up. But, it’s… well, it’s still under the surface of the water.”
“What’s your location?”
“I’m under the bridge, the Dorchester side.”
“Neponset River Bridge?”
“Yes, by the pylons.”
“I’m sending units now. Please don’t touch anything.”
“Can you tell me anything about the victim?”
“No, I can just barely tell that it’s a body. From the clothes and hair, maybe a woman, but I don’t know for sure.” He paused then. “I think I’m going to be sick.”
“You’ve done really well, sir. Help is on the way. Stay where you are. Okay?”
“Yes. I’ll stay.” His breath seemed to come in spurts as if he was running.
“Find somewhere to sit and put your head between your knees. What’s your name?”
“Patrick. Patrick O’Hara.”
“Okay, Patrick. Deep breaths. Are you sitting down now? A unit is almost there.”
“I can hear them. I feel a little better now,” he said, his words almost lost in the shriek of approaching sirens, and then the sound of voices and commotion.
There was a click, and silence once again.
“Help! We need help!” a desperate voice called from the ambulance bay, his shouts almost drowned out by an ear-splitting volley of sirens. Jessie turned and saw a young police officer, the front of his uniform splattered with blood, motioning wildly toward the entrance. She moved instinctively, grabbing a stretcher, as she sprinted toward him. “Page the trauma team,” she shouted over her shoulder. “And Dr. Merrick. Page him stat.”
She abandoned the gurney and raced through the sliding doors, not sure if there’d be one injured or several. She only knew she had to act fast. Someone’s life was in the balance. Four patrol cars, the glare of their headlights and flashing blue strobes almost blinding her, were parked helter-skelter, the officers surrounding the back door of one car. Jessie hesitated and blinked away the glare.
“Over here,” one of them shouted, and Jessie ran to his side and reached in. A young policeman lay on the back seat, his blue shirt pulled open, his T-shirt splashed with blood, his hand over a wound on his upper chest. His eyes were filled with panic. “I’ve been shot,” he said as though he couldn’t quite believe it himself. “Help me.” He gasped for breath.
“I will,” she said calmly. “We’ll take care of you.” She turned and shouted for a stretcher. In minutes, the stretcher was there, and the policemen loaded the young man onto it as more sirens and noise filled the air. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see a crowd of blue uniforms spilling into the bay, nervous shouts creating an impossible din. Jessie ran alongside the stretcher and into the trauma hallway, pointing the way to Trauma One.
She stopped quickly to shout into the intercom for the trauma team, and to advise the policemen to wait outside. As the door slammed shut behind her, she pulled on gloves and turned to her patient, her stethoscope moving quickly as she listened for his lung sounds. Just as she began to cut away his clothes, the door burst open. “Heard the sirens as I was leaving. What do we have?” Tim Merrick asked.
“Gunshot to the chest, short of breath, absent breath sounds in his right upper lobe, a hemothorax, maybe. Just having a quick look to see if there’s anything else, and to get his vital signs.” As she spoke, another nurse, a medical assistant, and two resident physicians filled the room, each silently and expertly performing their assigned roles—starting IVs, calling for blood, hooking the man to a monitor—the hum of activity giving Jessie a chance to whisper to her patient. “I’m Jessie,” she said. “We’re going to get a few things done before we take you to the OR.” His eyes still wide with fright, he nodded as she threw a sheet over him, and Tim probed his wound. “What’s your name?” she asked, gripping his hand.
“Danny,” he said, so softly she had to lean in to hear. “Danny Coyle.”
“Well, Danny,” she said, “you’re in the best place to be if something like this happens to you. You’re going to be alright. Do you have any medical problems or allergies we should know about?”
He shook his head. “I’m healthy. It was just a routine traffic stop, and instead of pulling out his license, he pulled a gun and shot me.” His voice cracked as he spoke. “Will someone call my wife? I don’t want her to hear this on the news.”
“Yes,” she said. “I promise.” With barely a glance, she slid an intravenous catheter into his vein, withdrawing blood into color-coded tubes before connecting a bag of IV fluid. Satisfied that the line was good, she placed a second line before setting up the chest tube and drainage system.
“Blood pressure’s one hundred palp, pulse of one fifteen,” a voice shouted. “I’ll check a hemoglobin and get this sample to the blood bank,” another called. The team worked seamlessly. An X-ray technician slid a large metal cassette under the patient. “Everyone out,” he said, and the team slipped into the alcove as the technician took the X-ray.
“Urine looks good,” one surgical resident said as the other announced Danny’s hemoglobin was eight, low but not yet critical.
“Blood coming,” Jessie shouted, just as Tim Merrick slid the X-ray onto the wall-mounted reader. He studied the film. “Some blood right here,” he announced, pointing to a dense white shadow on the film, “and a collapsed lung as well. At least there’s no mediastinal shift—no imminent danger, but no time to waste. We’ll get a chest tube in and get him upstairs. Can someone call the OR, and see if they’re ready?”
Jessie barely had time to explain the chest tube to her patient before Tim had performed the procedure. Jessie slipped her hand into Danny’s. “It’s okay. Squeeze. This will be over with quickly.” He looked utterly terrified.
Tim pulled off his gloves and turned to him. “That bullet went right through your lung, and this chest tube will drain the blood and reinflate the lung. You’ll be breathing easier soon. We’re going to take you to the OR to have a look and see if there’s any other damage. Any questions?”
Tim was as brusque as ever. Danny shook his head, beads of sweat streaking along his forehead. “Just… just tell my wife I’m okay and that I love her.” Jessie nodded and gripped his hand. “You can tell her yourself soon, but I’ll make sure she gets your message.”
“OR ready?” Tim called.
The medical assistant was already dialing before he’d finished speaking. “They’re ready,” she answered. The team piled equipment onto the stretcher as the second nurse hooked Danny up to portable monitors for the quick trip to the OR. When Jessie pulled open the trauma room door, a sea of blue stood silently, eyes wide, mouths agape. And as the stretcher moved through the crowd to the elevator, there were countless hushed words:
“We’re with you, Danny.”
“You’ll be alright. I called your wife. Leo’s bringing her in.”
“Boston strong, Danny. Don’t let us down.”
Each whispered word of encouragement was accompanied by a pat on Danny’s shoulder or a quick grip of his hands. Danny’s eyes filled with tears, but he quickly blinked them away, feigning a strength he likely didn’t really feel. “Get out of here,” he said. “Go to Foley’s and have one for me.” They laughed in unison, the collective angst that had filled the narrow hallway replaced by a hopeful optimism. And then there were hoots and slaps on the back as the stretcher passed through the doorway, silence returning again to the small space once Danny was out of sight.
“Will he really be alright?” one of them asked.
Jessie drew in a deep breath. If there was one question she always dreaded, this was it. She could never be certain who might survive their injuries. Sometimes, the ones with injuries that seemed almost insignificant were the ones who bled out in the OR as soon as their chest was opened up. But hope was everything, especially for these guys. “I…” But before she could continue, she saw a familiar face.
“Hey, Jessie,” Detective Sam Dallas said, the silver flecks in his eyes sparkling. “I’m glad you’re on tonight. Can you tell us anything?” He ran a hand through his thick chestnut hair speckled with thin streaks of gray.
The knot in her neck eased, and she flashed him a quick smile of recognition. “Hey, Sam. Well, you know he has a gunshot wound to the chest—his lung was punctured, and he’s lost blood, but you saw him—he was awake and alert and worried about his wife.”
She shook her head. The group grew quiet, and she turned to them. “I promise, we’ll let you know as soon as we hear anything.” Sam moved closer and gripped her hand tightly, the warmth of him seeping into Jessie’s skin.
“Thanks, Jessie,” he said softly. “I’m glad you’re here. I hate to ask, but how long do you think?”
“Tim Merrick just brought him to the OR, so at least a couple of hours, maybe less.”
“You’ll be gone by then, right?”
She paused. Her shift had just ended and she was dead tired. Tomorrow, she was due to rotate back to the Medical Examiner’s office and Homicide. She was still new to this position and she didn’t want to be late. Dr. Dawson—Roger, he preferred to be called—had stuck his neck out to hire her and she wouldn’t disappoint him. “I’ll stay a while,” she said. “I’ll give them some time in the OR and then I’ll check in. Okay?”
“You’re the best,” Sam said as he turned to the crowd of men and women in blue. “I don’t know how many of you know Jessie Novak, but she isn’t just an ER nurse, she’s recently come on board to work with us in Homicide as a forensic nurse. She will be our medical liaison, between us, the Medical Examiner and the victim. Remember her name. She’s one of us now.” He squeezed her shoulder.
A swath of crimson spread across her cheeks. She and Sam had been through a lot these last months, from almost-lovers to adversaries, and now back to… what, exactly? She wasn’t sure, but the sparkle in his eyes attracted her once again. She heaved a sigh. It was probably best that they both move on. Become co-workers only, and look for love somewhere else. “If you guys take a seat in the waiting area, I’ll keep you posted.”
“His wife’s here,” one of the officers said. “Can I bring her in? Will you speak with her?”
Jessie nodded, her fatigue all but forgotten. “She can wait in the family room. Follow me.” She led the group to the small, sparsely furnished room which held a threadbare couch, two sagging chairs and a scratched-up old table, evidence of the countless families who’d sat there waiting for news. It was a place that most ER staff avoided, preferring to send in social workers who were better equipped to deliver bad news. As a result, the physical space was neglected. The floor was sticky with old soda, the walls dingy, and a sharp stench of perspiration and fear hung low in the room. Jessie reminded herself to ask about getting it cleaned and updated—a fresh coat of paint and new chairs at the very least.
But Mrs. Coyle never seemed to notice as she was guided to the room, a policeman on each side ready to support her if she should need it. But she stood tall, leaning on neither of the men. She was young, Jessie saw, probably no older than she was at twenty-seven. Her eyes were wide with fright, her blonde hair tousled from sleep, her skin the whitest shade of pale.
“I’m Nicole, Danny’s wife,” she said, her lips quivering as she spoke. “Is he okay?” A tear streaked along her cheek and she hurriedly wiped it away, before folding her arms as if to protect herself from bad news.
“He just went to the OR. He was awake and worried about you.” Jessie locked her gaze onto Nicole’s bloodshot eyes. “He asked me to tell you he’s okay and that he loves you.”
A hush came over the group. A silent flood of tears spilled from Nicole’s eyes, and Jessie felt a sudden burst of longing, and even envy, for everything this woman had: that special bond with a man who loved her and this family of police officers who surrounded her. But if she lost her husband, those things would feel very far away.
“Have a seat.” Jessie swallowed the lump in her throat and passed her a box of tissues. “We can get you some coffee.”
Nicole nodded, but continued to stand. “Please,” she said softly, “tell me if he’ll be okay. Please. I need to know everything. Where was he shot?”
Jessie hesitated. A chest wound often carried the worst prognosis, but Danny had looked good even though the bullet had pierced his lung. “In the chest…” she began.
Nicole gasped and covered her mouth with her hand. One of the officers reached to steady her, but she pulled away. “I’m sorry,” she said, her voice cracking. “Please, go on.”
Jessie explained his chest injury as Nicole dabbed at her eyes with the tissue and sank onto the couch, her head down, a sob escaping her lips.
Jessie knelt in front of her and took her hand. “Listen to me,” she said. “It sounds worse than it is. Believe me. The surgeons had to take him to the OR to check for other injuries, but the lung wound may be all there is, and though a chest tube draining blood sounds frightening, it’s a pretty common treatment and works well. Don’t overthink this. Danny’s in good hands.” She glanced at the officers hovering over Nicole. “It looks as though you are, too. I’m going to give Dr. Merrick and his residents enough time in the OR, and then I’ll take a run up there and see how he’s doing. Okay?”
Nicole sniffled and nodded. “What’s your name?”
“I’m Jessie. Jessie Novak.”
“She’s a forensic nurse, a detective,” Sam added. “You can trust her.”
Jessie swiveled and shot him an appreciative glance before standing and smoothing the front of her scrubs. “Dunkin’s in the lobby is open. Maybe someone can get coffee.”
“I’ll go,” a voice in the crowd said.
“The mayor and commissioner are on their way in,” another said. “We’ll need coffee.” A smattering of nervous laughter erupted, and Nicole smiled. “Thank you, Jessie.”
“I’m going to leave, but I’ll be back as soon as I have news. I promise.” She slipped through the crowd and back into the hallway, leaning against the wall to gather her composure. This had always been the hardest part of her ER job—reassuring family that things would be okay even when she knew that sometimes they wouldn’t be. The best that she could offer was the gift of time—allowing loved ones time to adjust, to absorb the possibilities, to hope, or to pray—whatever worked. She’d always known a cop’s job was dangerous, but to face death during a traffic stop… She couldn’t even imagine facing that degree of danger every single day.
Jessie rubbed away the chill in her arms, took a deep breath and headed back through the hallway to restock the trauma room. She ran right into Kate Wagner, the travel nurse, one of those countrywide assignment nurses who worked wherever they were needed and, as an added bonus, traveled and saw parts of the country they’d likely never visit. Kate had been hired to help cover Jessie’s hours. She was standing by Sheila Logan’s office, her hand on the doorknob.
“You’re still here?” Jessie asked.
Kate looked up, surprised. “I…” She paused. “I think I’m lost.”
“Can I help?” Jessie asked, moving closer. Though Kate had only been here just over a week or so, she was taking longer than expected to catch on to the job. She’d explained it away, saying she was a recent grad and new to the ER. Donna had been confused. She’d thought the agency was sending a seasoned nurse, but by the time they’d discovered that Kate needed a longer orientation than usual, it was too late to send her back. They’d decided to make the most of it, and simply learn to work with her inexperience and bring her up to par. That seemed the best option for her and for the ER.
With her shoulder-length, honey-colored hair, Kate was one of those average-looking women who might have passed unnoticed but for her eyes—an unusual shade of blue with traces of violet. When she smiled, the soft sweep of her lids framed her eyes perfectly, the lilac specks glinting just so in the light. “Just finishing my charts. I won’t be paid if they’re not all signed off.” She rolled her eyes dramatically as if to emphasize her frustration. “I thought maybe I could find a quiet place to sit and finish up.”
Jessie shook her head. “That office was our old manager’s. It’s not being used right now. But it will probably be assigned to Donna. Best to just use the nurses’ lounge.”
“Okay,” she answered, shoving her hands in her pockets and moving slowly away.
Jessie felt a wave of sympathy for this nurse who was new to Boston, new to the hospital, new to her whole situation here. “How are you managing with everything else? I know that winter is the worst time to come to Boston.”
Kate offered a half-smile in reply. “I don’t really have much time to do anything else. There’s so much to learn.”
“We want you to succeed, Kate. If you need anything, and I can help, I will,” Jessie said, hoping she hadn’t offered what she couldn’t really deliver. She had enough on her plate these days; she was just trying to be kind, an effort that usually backfired on her. She changed the subject quickly. “Have you gotten out at all to see the city and meet people? You can’t be all work.”
Kate just shrugged.
This is downright painful, Jessie thought. Kate was reluctant, as always, to offer information about herself. She was quiet, keeping mostly to herself, and when asked where she was from, or if she had family, her answers were vague. She kept conversation superficial, revealing little.
But the truth was, Jessie wasn’t forthcoming about her own life either. She’d always been a bit of a loner, keeping her own history to herself—she could count on one hand the number of people who knew that her mother had simply up and left when she was a baby. Jessie had been so ashamed that her mother had abandoned her that instead she’d created a story that her mother had died. That always elicited a decent amount of sympathy, and then—silence. People didn’t want to dredge up old hurts. Jessie had hit on gold with that little lie, but, true to character, she was quick to judge everyone else. Maybe it was time to offer a little sympathy of her own.
Jessie began walking back toward the trauma room, hoping to move Kate along. “Do you feel as though you’ll be able to master everything here?” Jessie scrunched her forehead, her concern evident, or so she hoped.
The sparkle left Kate’s eyes, her features unremarkable once again. She puckered her lips and sighed. “I don’t know, but I’m still trying. Your computer system has me baffled. It takes me longer than it should, which is why I’m here late every day, and why I thought maybe working in there,” she said, nodding over her shoulder toward Sheila Logan’s office, “might help me to finish up.”
“You’ll get used to it. Every hospital’s EMR, electronic medical record, is different. Did you use EPIC, the one we use, in Wisconsin?”
Kate’s brow furrowed. “What?”
“Our EMR, did you use it, or one like it?”
“Oh that, no,” she said slowly, her eyes almost glazing over. “My hospital used a different one.”
“Do you want some help? I’m sticking around for a bit.”
“No. I have to figure this stuff out for myself, but thanks for asking. I may take you up on it, just… not yet.”
Jessie sighed. She wished Kate would be more assertive about needing help with their computer system, and everything else. “Talk to Donna about taking the EPIC class again. You have to be able to navigate through it, but once you get the hang of it, it’s easy.”
“Thanks, Jessie. Maybe I will. Are you back tomorrow?”
“No. I’ll be rotating to the ME’s office.”
Her eyes grew wide. “I’d love to follow you around, see what you actually do and how you solve crimes. It sounds fascinating. Real-life CSI.” She sounded more excited about that than about learning how to do her own job.
Jessie forced a smile. “I’m still feeling my way around there. I have a lot to learn, and there’s still some pushback from some of the detectives. They seem to think I’ll slow them down, but I’m gonna stick it out. They’ll come around. I hope. So, in that way, I’m working things through the same as you are. Just trying to learn everything and fit in.”
Kate smiled, her eyes bringing her features to life once again, her nose crinkling, her lips parting to reveal perfectly straight white teeth. Once you really looked at her, she was pretty—not beautiful, but she had that ordinary, pleasing face that seemed to announce a kindness that people wanted to settle into. She was sweet, and everyone liked her. Including Jessie.
“One of these nights,” Jessie said, “I’ll bring you to Foley’s. It’s a great place to meet people—well, police and reporters, and the usual nurses and emergency medical technicians—EMTs.”
“I’d like that. Have a good night.” Kate turned and headed down the hall.
Jessie lingered in the hallway. She could tell that Kate was one of those quiet ones who’d never come out to Foley’s; she’d find an excuse to avoid it. And that was okay, too. Jessie might have done the same in a new place. They were probably more alike than she cared to admit.
Jessie looked at her watch. Danny Coyle had been in the OR for almost an hour. There was bound to be some news. She sought out Elena, the night nurse in charge. “I’m just going to the OR to see if I can learn anything about the policeman who was shot, and then I’m going to head home. Are you all set?”
“I am. I just restocked the trauma room and paged housekeeping. Go home and get some sleep.”
“I will,” Jessie called as she took the stairs to the second floor and swiped her way into the recovery room to see if there’d been any news. One patient, surrounded by tubes, wires, IV pumps and the steady whoosh of a ventilator, lay in the farthest cubicle. A nurse was by his side, adjusting medication pumps and monitors. “Hey,” Jessie said to a nurse sitting at the desk. “I’m from the ER. Just checking on the policeman who was shot. His wife’s downstairs with us. Any word?”
“Yeah. The OR just called. He’s on his w. . .
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