Authors: Tami Hoag
Also by Tami Hoag
The 9th Girl
Down the Darkest Road
Secrets to the Grave
Deeper Than the Dead
The Alibi Man
Prior Bad Acts
Kill the Messenger
Dust to Dust
Ashes to Ashes
A Thin Dark Line
Guilty as Sin
The 1st Victim
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LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING-IN-PUBLICATION DATA
Cold cold heart / Tami Hoag.âFirst edition.
pages ; cm
1. Missing personsâInvestigationâFiction. 2. Cold cases (Criminal investigation)âFiction. 3. Post-traumatic stress disorderâFiction. I. Title.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
She should have
been dead. After everything he had put her through, she should have died hours before. There had been many moments during the ordeal when she wished she would die, when she wished he would just end the unimaginable suffering he was inflicting on her.
He had done things to her she could never have imagined, would never have wanted to know one human being could be capable of doing to another. He had abused her physically, sexually, and psychologically. He had abducted her, beaten her, tortured her, raped her. Hour after hour after hour.
She didn't really know how much time had passed. Hours? Days? A week? The concept of time had ceased to have any meaning.
She had tried to resist physically, but she had learned resistance was rewarded only with pain. The pain had surpassed anything in her most terrible nightmares. It had surpassed adjectives and gone into a realm of blinding white light and high-pitched sound. Eventually, she had ceased to fight and had found that in seemingly giving up her life, she was able to keep her life.
Where there is life, there is hope.
She couldn't remember where she had heard that. Somewhere, long ago. Childhood.
At one point during the attack she had called for her mother, for her father. She had been overwhelmed with the kind of pure fear and helplessness that stripped away maturity and logic and self-control, reducing her to a screaming mass of raw emotion. Now she couldn't remember ever being a child. She couldn't remember having parents. She could remember only the sharp pain of a knife carving into her flesh, the explosion of pain as a hammer struck her.
She had tried to resist the overwhelming desire to break down mentally, to give herself over and drown in the depths of hopelessness. It would have been so much easier to just let go. But he hadn't killed her. Yet. And she wouldn't do the job for him. She continued to choose life.
Where there is life, there is hope.
The words floated through her fractured mind like a ribbon of smoke as she lay on the floor of the van.
Her tormentor was driving. She lay directly behind his seat. He was happily singing along with the radio, as if he didn't have a care in the world, as if there wasn't a beaten, bloody, half-dead woman in the back of his van.
She was more alive than he knew. In giving up fighting, she had reserved strength. In giving up fighting, she had stopped him short of rendering her completely incapacitated. She could still move, though there was something wrong with her coordination and every effort set off nauseating explosions of pain. Her head was pounding. It felt like her brain might burst out of her skullâor maybe it already had.
She faded in and out of consciousness, but she could still form thoughts. Many were incomplete or incoherent, but then she would muster as much will and focus as she could, and something would make sense for a second or two.
The cold floor beneath her was numbing some of the pain that wracked her body. The blanket he had thrown over her to hide her offered a cocoon, a place to be invisible. Her wrists were only loosely
bound together in front of her with a long, wide red ribbon. He had positioned her with her elbows bent, her hands tucked beneath her chin as if in prayer.
Prayer. She had prayed and prayed and prayed, but no one had come to save her.
He had all the power, all the control. He had killed before, many times, and gotten away with it. He believed he was invincible. He believed he was a genius. He believed he was an artist.
He said she was to be his masterpiece.
She didn't know what that meant. She didn't want to find out.
The van hit a pothole in the road, jarring and rocking. She wanted to brace herself, to lessen the movement of her broken body, but the ribbon tied around her wrists prevented her. She strained against it for a few seconds, then stopped trying. The effort made her nauseous. As she rode the wave of the nausea, nonsensical words and images tumbled through her battered brain like the colored glass pieces in a kaleidoscope. As her consciousness dimmed, the glass shards of thought settled in a heap in her mind. The seductive voice of death whispered to her. She could just let go. She could go before she found out what he had in store. It would be so much easier.
The tension started to seep out of her body. Her hands relaxedÂ .Â .Â . and she felt the satin ribbon loosen around her wrists.Â .Â .Â . She put her concentration to the task of working a hand free.
Where there is life, there is hope. Where there is life, there is hopeÂ .Â .Â .
“You're gonna be a star, Dana,” he called back to her. “That's what you always wanted, right? Network news. Your face on televisions all across America? You'll have that now, thanks to me. It won't be the way you imagined it, but you're gonna be famous.”
He cursed as the van hit another deep pothole. Dana's body bounced painfully on the van's floor. The pain rolled through her like a violent wave. She turned to her left side, curling into the fetal position, and tried not to cry out, not to make a sound, not to call attention to herself.
Next to her, the collection of tools he had brought along bounced and rattled in their open tote. Not considering her any threat to him at all in her semiconscious, beaten, broken state, he hadn't bothered to put the tote out of reach. His ego allowed him to disregard her. She was little more than an inanimate object to him now. Her purpose was as a prop to prove his point: that he was smarter than any of the many law enforcement officers who were looking for him.
They had offended him, crediting him with a murder that was sloppy; a careless crime, supposedly his ninth victim. He would show them his true ninth victim. He would present her to them as a work of art, tied up with a bright red ribbon.
He was a serial killer. The police and the media called him Doc Holiday. These were facts Dana had known before he had abducted her. She didn't fully grasp any of the details now. The story had been boiled down to this: He was a predator and she was prey. And if she couldn't pull herself together and make one valiant effort, she would soon be dead.
She had to do something.
She had to summon as much will and life as she had left. She had to form a coherent thought and be able to hang on to it for just a moment. She had to fight through the pain to find the physical strength to execute that thought.
It all seemed so hard. But she wanted to live. The fire of life had burned down to an ember inside her, but she wouldn't let it go out without a fight.
Her brain ached at the effort to form and hold the thought.
Her body protested and resisted the signals to move.
Under the blanket, her right hand trembled uncontrollably as she reached toward the tote.
In the front seat, he was still talking out loud. He was a genius. He was an artist. She would be his masterpiece. The media wanted to credit him with a victim who looked like a zombie? He would give them a zombie.
Dana pulled her legs up toward her chest and shifted her weight, turning onto her knees.
Where there is life, there is hope.
Her head swam; her thoughts tumbled. She had to fight so hard to stay in the moment.
She would have only one chance.
He laughed at his own joke. He glanced in the rearview mirror as if to see if she had heard him.
His smile died as his eyes met the eyes of his zombie.
With all the strength she had left in her body, Dana swung her arm and buried the screwdriver to the hilt in his temple.
Then everything went black, and she was falling and falling and falling into a darkness that swallowed her whole.