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Authors: Mariah Stewart

Cry Mercy

BOOK: Cry Mercy
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o words had yet been exchanged between the two women. It wasn't until after Chloe was sleeping snugly in the guest bedroom, the old gray tom curled up contentedly beside her, that Steffie handed her old friend a glass of wine and said, “Okay, spill.”

“I brought in a hooker late last night for solicitation.”

“And that would be news because …?”

“She offered to trade some information with me in exchange for not booking her.”

“By the look on your face, I'd say she had something big to trade.” Steffie tucked her legs under her on the sofa.

“She told me that Anthony Navarro knows that the child I adopted four years ago is his daughter, and he's coming after her.” Her friend nodded slowly. “I'd say that was big.”

“You think she knows what she's talking about?”

“You think there's any chance she could have made that up and, just coincidentally, got the facts right?”

“Okay, so we pick him up—”

“First, you have to find him. Stef, you've been after him for years, and you haven't come close.”

“So we look a little harder while we wait for him to show.”

“He won't be coming himself. He won't have to. He's offered twenty-five thousand dollars to the person who brings him his daughter.”


Mercy Street

Last Breath
Last Words
Last Look

Final Truth
Dark Truth
Hard Truth
Cold Truth

Dead End
Dead Even
Dead Certain
Dead Wrong

Until Dark
The President's Daughter

To the doggie divas—
JB, Mama Jean, Mary
and South Philly Phil


Thanks as always to the ever-fabulous team at Ballantine Books—Linda Marrow, Kate Collins, Kelli Fillingim, Sarina Evan, Scott Shannon, Libby McGuire, and Kim Hovey (hopefully, I didn't leave anyone out), and to my agent, Lorretta Barrett, and her staff—Nick Mullendore and Jennifer Didik.

Huge appreciation to FBI Special Agent Pam Stratton, and to Special Agent Jack Martinelli, who met with us on the firing range and taught me how to always get my man (and I have the target to prove it!).

The Nora Roberts Foundation received a donation from Debra Newhouse via her purchase of a raffle ticket that turned out to be a winner, and bought her the right to have a character named after her in this book. Thanks to the ladies at ADWOFF—especially Phyllis Lannik—for running this fund-raiser that supports literacy and so many other good causes.

August 2008

is chest heaving from exertion, he dumped his burden unceremoniously on the ground, leaned against the nearest tree, and gulped in air, trying to catch his breath. Who would have believed a 110-pound girl could be so unwieldy, so hard to control? Well, if he was ever going to do something like this again—and he knew he would—he was going to have to get in shape. No question about it—first thing Monday morning, he was going to join a gym.

He looked at the heap that lay at his feet. Damn, but she'd been a pretty thing. He knelt down and touched her hair, running his fingers through the long brown strands and holding them up in the sunlight where shades of red and gold glinted and gleamed in his hand. Beautiful, really.

He sat next to her and studied her face. Her eyes had been warm and brown and her smile eager when they'd first met. They'd talked and laughed, compared notes, noticed how much they had in common. The brown eyes, the love of sushi, the ocean. They'd
both collected shells as children, both had played tennis, and neither ever missed an episode of
South Park
. Uncanny, she'd declared, that we're so much alike.

He'd offered to meet her at the train station and she accepted without a second thought. They'd chatted and gone to lunch and she got into his car without hesitation. When he stopped along the lonely back road and told her he wanted to show her something, she never questioned his motives. Even when he struck her that first time, she seemed not to comprehend what was happening. It wasn't until he had her on the ground, and the beast had taken over, that he'd seen the terror in her eyes. The beast had been like a living thing, and for a moment, it was him against it. The beast, of course, won.

Her fear had bled from every pore in her body and the smell of it had ignited him like nothing he'd ever experienced. She cried and pleaded and begged. No words had ever sounded sweeter to his ears.

God, he'd had no idea that it would be like this.

He'd never imagined that anything could feel so good. That sex could be so exhilarating, that such power could flow through his hands to ignite his entire body.

He'd never known how completely he could connect with another human being.

Before lifting her and continuing on his way, he gently smoothed her hair from her face. There was still a long way to go. He wanted to find the perfect place for her. She deserved a special place to rest in the peace she now enjoyed, the peace he'd brought to her. She should have sunlight and wildflowers in return
for the wonders he'd discovered through her. After all, she had been his first.

He smiled, remembering every delicious moment, and reveled in the knowledge that she would not be his last.


obert Magellan stood on the front steps of his Tudor-style mansion and looked over the crowd gathered on the paved circular drive that was wide enough to accommodate three vehicles.

“I want to be able to park three cars across,” he'd told the contractor, and that's exactly what he got.

Today there were people, not cars, lining the driveway.

“Are you sure this is a good idea?” Robert's personal assistant and right hand, Susanna Jones, asked from just inside the front door.

“It's a great idea,” he assured her.

“You've always avoided the press,” she reminded him.

“Yes, but this time I have something important to say.”

“There were those who thought you might have had something important to say when you sold your stock in Magellan Express a few years back,” she said dryly.

“My ex-partner talked enough for both of us,” he recalled. “There wasn't much for me to add.”

And of course, he'd had little enough to say to the media when his wife and son went missing more than two years earlier. At the request of the police, he'd made the televised pleas for anyone with any knowledge of their whereabouts to call the numbers that flashed on the screen, but beyond that, he'd been silent. His reluctance to speak on camera about his family had led some to speculate that perhaps he'd had a hand in their disappearance, but no one who knew him took
seriously. Robert had always worn his heart on his sleeve, and even now, speaking publicly about Beth and Ian was acutely painful, something he'd rather not do.

“Mr. Magellan, if you're ready …” The young assistant to the head of the public relations firm Robert had hired to organize his press conference placed the microphone on the podium that had been brought in that morning.

“Let's do it.” Robert smiled and stepped up to the mike.

“Ladies and gentlemen, thanks for coming today on such short notice.”

As if anyone from the local newspapers or television stations would have missed the first press conference Robert Magellan had ever called. His gated property had hummed with a buzzing undercurrent for the past hour.

“What do you suppose he's up to? Think he's going to announce that he's starting up another business?” The whispers floated on a light late spring breeze.

“What do you think it is this time? Energy? Or do you think he's sticking with technology?”

“Whatever it is, I'm calling my broker and telling him to buy me some of whatever it is he's selling. Everything he's ever touched turned to gold.”

“Well, except for that business with his wife and kid …”

“Yeah, that was tough. Still haven't found either of them.”

“You think maybe that's what he's—”

“Shhhh. I want to hear what he's saying.”

“Recently, my cousin, Father Kevin Burch of Our Lady of Angels parish here in Conroy, reminded me of an oath we made to each other when we were kids.” Robert made eye contact with Trula Comfort, who, as his late grandmother's best friend, had been invited to come along for the ride when he made his fortune. Trula winked, knowing, he suspected, how he planned to introduce his latest venture.

“‘When I grow up, I'm going to make a lot of money,’ we promised ourselves and each other, ‘and I'm going to use it to help people who can't help themselves.’ Well, I grew up and did, in fact, make a lot of money, and Kevin has devoted his life to helping others. But until now, I haven't done a whole lot of good for too many people outside of my immediate circle.”

Robert paused momentarily. “Father Kevin recently reminded me of that, too.”

When the light laughter died down, Robert said, “As I'm sure you all know, more than two years ago, my wife, Beth, and our son, Ian, disappeared without a trace. Because I have unlimited resources, I was able to hire private investigators to search for them when
the police came up dry. The fact that our local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies were unsuccessful doesn't negate the diligence of their work, but the reality is that, eventually, as every lead turned into a dead end, they had to turn their attention to other cases.

“Not too long ago, Father Kevin enlisted my assistance in finding two Conroy teenagers who'd also gone missing. I know that some of you covered the story of the successful return of these kids to their families. And once again, Father Kevin took the opportunity to remind me of that oath we'd made long ago.”

Robert cleared his throat before continuing. “There are countless people whose loved ones have disappeared. There are thousands of parents who go to bed each night wondering where their missing children are, whether they're dead or alive. Over time, their cases go cold, the police are pulled in other directions, and the investigations often cease, leaving the families praying for a miracle. Well, I'm here today to announce the formation of what I like to think of as a catalyst for miracles, the Mercy Street Foundation. Funded by me, the foundation will employ the best talent available from all avenues of law enforcement, and put them to work to try to solve those unsolvable cases. Missing persons and homicides will be our focus.”

A reporter in the back row raised his hand, and without waiting for acknowledgment from Robert asked, “Are you talking about a private police force?”

“More like a private investigative firm,” Robert told him.

“When you say this is funded by you, what exactly does that mean?”

“It means that I will be paying the investigators, whatever staff I have to hire, whatever expenses we incur to get the job done.”

“How is this going to work?” someone asked.

“Suppose you have a sister who's been missing for a couple of months—maybe even a couple of years—and the police are no longer actively looking for her. The trail is cold. You'd go to our website and you'd fill out a form. We've streamlined the process as much as possible. Answer all the questions about the case, tell us why we should choose your case to work on. You'd apply pretty much the way you would for a scholarship. You fill out the paperwork, then you wait for a response,” Robert said. “To start, we'll choose one case each month to work on. It'll be up to the applicant to convince us to choose his or her request. Each one will be evaluated. The one we feel we're most able to help is the one we'll choose that month.”

“Who's ‘we’?” someone asked.

“Right now, the evaluation committee consists of my assistant, Susanna Jones; Mallory Russo, a former Conroy detective who was the first person I hired; and myself.” He nodded in the direction of an attractive blond woman who stood close to the podium. “Mallory will be pretty much calling the shots on how the investigations will proceed, and since she has nine years of experience in law enforcement, her
opinion will carry the most weight. She'll also be the bottom line on new hires. That's our committee.”

BOOK: Cry Mercy
3.85Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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