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Authors: Kate Watterson

Fractured

BOOK: Fractured
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Table of Contents

About the Author

Copyright Page

 

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For Carolyn Seale Muggenburg. You are a very special person in my life. Thank you for being a wonderful mother and taking the leap without a net.

 

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

I am always grateful for the terrific editorial insight I receive from Kristin Sevick and the wonderful support from my agent, Barbara Poelle. A nod also to my husband, who has evolved into a fabulous assistant (I wanted to say flunky, but for the sake of marital bliss, decided against it). Thanks for all you do to give me time to write.

 

Prologue

The killer woke in a pool of sticky blood.

It was a gradual process. First, fluttering eyelids and awareness of the unfamiliar surroundings, then rolling over with a shiver. Piercing light shone from above, clothes stuck like glue, and the oddest sensation, as if the panic that should be there just wasn't filtering through.

Was this dying? If it was, there wasn't any pain, though reports on the process were unreliable. No one beckoned and there was no heavenly music.

Drifting. The place was cold. The sickly sweet smell of decay was like another entity, hovering on the perimeter.

Where am I anyway?

Maybe it was hell.

It could be. There were some questions better left unasked
.

 

Chapter 1

January in the north was bitter cold.

Homicide Detective Ellie MacIntosh stepped off the plane from Florida and walked with a queue of other passengers up a generic ramp and reminded herself that while she loved her mother, it was okay to be glad she was back in Wisconsin.

There was a four-below wind chill outside on the snow-dusted tarmac according to the announcement during their arrival. That was fine with her. She'd just spent ten days in paradise, and apparently, she didn't appreciate sunshine and white beaches as much as the frozen tundra of her natural environment.

To each his own.

It wasn't until she'd managed to grab her bag off the carousel and was rolling it through the airport toward the shuttle that would take her to long-term parking that she noticed all the people on their phones and remembered hers was still off.

Not that it was a big deal. She'd connected through Atlanta and checked it during the layover just two and a half hours ago.

Sixteen missed messages.

She stopped walking and stared at the display. Four of them were from Chief Metzger, her boss. People streamed by, talking and laughing, as she rapidly checked the other numbers and decided in what hierarchy to answer the flood.

At the end of it all, she called her partner first.

“Where the hell are you?” he asked instead of offering an actual greeting. Since that was typical of Jason Santiago's style, she didn't even blink.

“My trip was nice, thank you for asking,” she replied. “Mind telling me what's up? I'm still at the airport right now.” The wheels of her bag clattered across the floor and a speaker somewhere announced the arrival of another flight, making it almost impossible to hear.

“We have a second murder a lot like the one that happened a month ago. Male victim, multiple stab wounds, vicious lacerations to the face in particular.”

“Our case?”

“Metzger says yes, since it looks so similar and we still have the first one open. Happy birthday.”

“You pick out the nicest gifts. My birthday, for the record, is in June.” A blast of cold air hit her as the automatic doors swooshed open, the breeze laced with a drift of snow and a hint of jet fuel. The sky was the color of burnished steel.

“I'm still at the crime scene. I'll text you the address.”

He hung up at that point without saying anything else, and that didn't surprise her either. In resignation she slipped her phone back into her pocket, thought longingly of the glass of Merlot she'd planned on having in front of a warm fire, and boarded the shuttle. Hopefully Santiago would take the time to call Metzger and tell the chief of the Milwaukee Police Department she was on her way, but her partner was about as predictable as a pop-up thunderstorm. How he managed to be even semi-likable was a mystery, but there was no doubt he was an excellent cop.

In their first big case together, he'd saved her life. The second big case, she'd saved his, or he might right now be resting on the bottom of Lake Michigan. They were even, at least in her mind, in the deadly peril department, but it did prove they worked fairly well together.

Her car turned over very slowly after sitting in frigid temps for ten days, but at least it finally stirred to life. While it warmed up she made a call, watching the crystals on the windshield dissolve, her breath gradually no longer sending puffs into the air.

Bryce answered on the third ring. “Hi. Your plane must have been on time. How was the flight?”

He was one of the few who hadn't left her a message. “Fine. Listen, I know you were going to fix a special dinner, but I'm going to be late tonight. We have another murder that is apparently similar in some ways to the one Santiago and I worked last month. I'm heading straight to the scene.”

There was the briefest of silences, and then he said dryly, “And to think I lingered in the produce aisle for a good fifteen minutes trying to decide on which heirloom tomatoes to buy for the salad. Call me when you are actually on your way home, okay?”

“I will,” she promised, but didn't apologize. No one knew better than Bryce Grantham what her job entailed, especially as they'd met when she had investigated him in a serial murder case. “See you later.”

Quickly checking the text that had already beeped in, she programmed it into her GPS and twenty-five minutes later pulled up to a row of faded houses that sat like tired old men on a bench, most of them showing the slump of neglect. Not precisely tenements, Ellie thought, pulling on her gloves, but built in the thirties or forties probably, identical, with sagging front porches, and neglected fall leaves scattered over postage stamp-sized front yards. It was a bleak image, not helped by the growing dusk and the light dusting of snow.

The house was easy enough to spot because it was the only one with the crime scene van in front of it, not to mention the bevy of police cars. Jason Santiago, hatless—he had to be freezing—stood talking to one of the techs, his hands thrust into the pockets of his coat, his curly blond hair catching the occasional flakes of snow. He didn't even acknowledge her presence as she walked up until the tech nodded and said, “Detective.”

Her partner turned. “How come I always make it to a crime scene before you do?”

She shot back, “Because you don't have a life?”

“Ouch,” the tech said with a grin, his nose a bright red from the cold. “She just got you. I'd better get back at it. We're wrapping it up.”

Ellie stared at the house. She shivered and not just because of the frigid air. “This is a completely different kind of scene.”

Santiago followed her gaze, his expression neutral. “True enough if you're talking about the setting. This is hardly the elite faculty parking lot of the University of Wisconsin's Milwaukee campus. It could still be the killer we've failed to catch so far because it is so similar. The body is on the front porch and only the medical examiner can say, but it looks like it has been there for a few days. In these temps, there's no real way to tell about decomposition, plus people aren't really enjoying the great outdoors, but a neighbor walks her dog and it seemed interested in that porch the past few days. Finally she went and took a look.”

They walked up the cracked sidewalk together. It was almost too cold to snow, but not quite, since little white wisps floated by like tiny ghosts. Ellie asked, “We have a name?”

“Nope. No wallet, no other ID to pin down our victim. I think you'll see why using a picture isn't going to help identify him much.”

There was a partial bloody footprint on the second-to-top step and she stopped to study it, and then glanced at the sad facade. The footprint was too compromised to tell much, but hopefully forensics would come through. “I can't imagine the person who lived here was also a college professor.”

“Me either. The neighbor that called the body in said she wasn't sure just what he did. He just moved in a few weeks ago and she didn't even know the house had been rented. She's a bit older and all shaken up. Can't blame her. I'm no piker when it comes to dead bodies, and this is pretty gruesome. Just fair warning from me to you.”

So much for what hadn't been all that much of a relaxing day anyway. She disliked flying and had been looking forward to a quiet evening. The emotional drain of the past week had left her hollow, like a fall leaf buffeted by a cold winter breeze. This really was
not
what she needed at the moment.

The screen door to the porch creaked on rusted hinges as Santiago opened it for her. “After you.”

As much as she hated ever admitting he was right about anything, this time her often abrasive partner was absolutely correct. First of all, Ellie had never seen this much blood at any crime scene. The victim wasn't just white because of the temperature outside. The body was sprawled in a wide congealed pool of it, his coat and jeans were soaked, and his hair matted in a dark coating. The splatter was all over the front door and the wooden wall of the house.

Definitely the crime scene. Whatever had happened, it had been violent and occurred right on this spot.

First clue.

She was immobile for a full minute as she took it in, and to his credit, Santiago said nothing. His wisecracks often got on her nerves, but then again, she now understood it was his way of dealing with a very stressful job. That he was quiet now, spoke volumes.

BOOK: Fractured
12.79Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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