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Authors: Karen Rose

Tags: #Fiction, #Suspense

I'm Watching You

BOOK: I'm Watching You
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I'm Watching You
Karen Rose
Magna Large Print Books (2004)
Rating:
★★★★☆
Tags:
Fiction, Suspense
Fictionttt Suspensettt

From Publishers Weekly

A dark secret keeps Chicago assistant state's attorney Kristen Mayhew as tightly wound as the springy red curls she works to pin down. Meals at the nearby diner, sleepless nights renovating her empty house and days in court where the bad guy more often than not doesn't face justice make up her life—until she finds the bodies of three criminals she failed to convict in the trunk of her car. Each dead body comes accompanied by a sinister letter, the writer informing "Dearest Kristen" that justice has been done on her behalf. An unusual twist for a suspense novel, to be sure, but because the murderer preys on rapists, gang members and pedophiles, Rose'strademark tentacles of fear never fully extend (as they did in her earlier books, _Don't Tell
and
Have You Seen Her_). Instead, this book's greatest strength lies in the romance between Kristen and handsome detective Abe Reagan, who's still reeling from the death of his wife. Abundant side characters, including Abe's entire jovial clan, clutter the plot and diminish the story's tension, especially when minor players suddenly step forward to play major roles. But readers will appreciate Rose's sensitive portrayal of Kristen's hesitancy to trust and Abe's gentle perseverance in uncoiling the vibrant woman within.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

'As gripping as a cold hand on the back of one's neck...and tempered by lovable characters and a moving romance' -Publishers Weekly on Don't Tell 'Rose delivers the kind of high-wire suspense that keeps you riveted to the edge of your seat' -New York Times bestselling author Lisa Gardner

Karen Rose - I’m Watching You

Prologue

 

 

Chicago,

Monday, December 29,

7:00 p.m.

 

 

The sun had gone down. But then again, it tended to do that from time to time. He should get up and turn on a light. But he liked the darkness. Liked the way it was quiet and still. The way it could hide a man. Inside and out. He was such a man. Hidden. Inside and out. All by himself.

He sat at his kitchen table, staring at the shiny new bullets he’d made. All by himself.

Moonlight cut through the curtains at the window, illuminating one side of the shiny stack. He picked up one of the bullets, held it up to the light, turned it side to side, round and round. Imagined the damage it would do.

His lips curved. Oh, yes. The damage
he
would do.

He squinted in the darkness, held the bullet up to the shaft of moonlight. Studied the mark his handcrafted mold had pressed into the bullet’s base, the two letters intertwined. It was his father’s mark, and his father’s before him. The symbol meant family.

Family
. Carefully setting the bullet on the table, his fingers ran down the chain around his neck, feeling for the small medallion that was all that was left of his family. Of Leah.

The medallion had been hers, once a charm on her bracelet that had jingled with her every movement. Engraved with the letters in which she’d once based her faith.

He traced them, one by one. WWJD.

Indeed. What
would
Jesus do?

His breath caught, then released. Probably not what he was about to do.

Blindly he reached to his left, his fingers closing around the edge of the picture frame. He closed his eyes, unable to look at the face behind the glass, then opened them quickly, the more recent picture in his mind too agonizing to bear. He never believed his heart could break yet again, but every time he gazed into her eyes, frozen forever on film, he realized he’d been wrong. A heart could break again and again and again.

And a mind could replay pictures hideous enough to drive a man insane. Again and again and again.

With his left hand he measured the weight of her picture in its cheap silver frame against the flimsy weight of the medallion he held in his right.

Was he insane? Did it matter if he was?

He vividly remembered the sight of the coroner pulling back the sheet that covered her. The coroner had decided the sight was too gruesome to be done in person, so the identification had been done by closed-circuit video. He vividly remembered the look on the face of the sheriff’s deputy as her body was revealed. It was pity. It was revulsion.

He couldn’t say he blamed him. It wasn’t every day that a small-town sheriff’s office discovered the remains of a woman intent on ending her life. And ended it she had. No pills or slit wrists. No veiled cries for help from his Leah. No. She’d ended it with determination.

She’d ended it with the business end of a .38 against her temple.

His lips curved humorlessly. She’d ended it like a man. So like a man he’d stood, nodded. But the voice from his throat was that of a stranger. „Yes, that’s her. That’s Leah.“

The coroner had nodded once, acknowledging he’d heard. Then the sheet went back up, and she was gone.

Yes, a heart could break again and again and again.

Gently he set the frame back on the table and picked up the bullet, one thumb stroking the pressed mark that had belonged to his father, the other the mark that had been Leah’s. WWJD. So what
would
Jesus do?

He still didn’t know. But he
did
know what He
wouldn’t
do.

He wouldn’t have allowed a twice-convicted rapist to roam the streets preying on innocent women. He wouldn’t have allowed the monster to rape again. He wouldn’t have allowed his victim to become so wretchedly depressed that she saw taking her own life as her only escape. He certainly wouldn’t have allowed that rapist to escape justice a third time.

He’d prayed for wisdom, searched the Scripture.
Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord
, he’d read. God would have the final justice.

He swallowed hard, feeling Leah stare at him from the picture frame.

He’d just help God grant His final justice just a little bit sooner.

 

Chapter One

 

 

Chicago,

Wednesday, February 18,

2:00 p.m.

 

 

„You’ve got company, Kristen.“ Owen Madden pointed toward the window to the street where a man stood in a heavy winter coat, his head tilted in question.

Kristen Mayhew gave him a brief nod and he entered the diner where she’d escaped the enraged protests inside the courtroom and the barrage of questions from the press outside its doors. She stared into her soup as her boss, ExecutiveAssistantState’s Attorney John Alden sat on the stool beside her. „Coffee, please,“ he said and Owen got him a cup.

„How did you know I was here?“ she asked, very quietly.

„Lois told me that this is where you come for lunch.“

And breakfast and dinner, too, Kristen thought. If it didn’t come in a microwavable carton, it came from Owen’s. John’s secretary knew her habits well.

„The local station interrupted programming for the verdict and reaction,“ John said. „But you held your own with the press. Even that Richardson woman.“

Kristen bit the inside of her cheek, anger roiling at the memory of the platinum blond’s microphone in her face. She’d so wanted to shove that microphone up Zoe Richardson’s… „She wanted to know if there would be ‘repercussions’ in your office because of this loss.“

„You know this is not a performance issue. You’ve got the best conviction record in the office.“ John shivered. „Damn, I’m cold. You want to tell me what happened in there?“

Kristen pulled the pins from the twist that held her hair in severe check, a raging headache the price of curl control. There was enough compressed energy in her bobby pins to fuel downtown Chicago for a year. Her hair sprang free and she knew she was now Little Orphan Annie. With eyes. And no dog named Sandy. And certainly no Daddy Warbucks watching over her. Kristen was on her own.

She massaged her head wearily. „They hung. Eleven guilties, one innocent. Juror three. Bought lock, stock, barrel, and soul by the money of
wealthy industrialist, Jacob Conti
.“ She singsonged the last, the press’s description of Angelo Conti’s father. The man she knew had corrupted the system and denied a grieving family justice.

John’s eyes darkened abruptly and his jaw tightened. „You’re sure?“

She remembered the way the man who sat in chair number three wouldn’t meet her eyes when the jury filed back in after four days of deliberations. How the other jury members looked at him with such contempt. „Sure I’m sure. He’s got a young family, lots of bills. He’s a prime target for a man like Jacob Conti. We all knew Conti was prepared to do anything to get his son off. Can I prove Juror Three took money from Conti in exchange for a hung jury?“ She shook her head. „No, I can’t.“

John’s fist clenched on the countertop. „So we’ve basically got nothing.“

Kristen shrugged. Exhaustion was beginning to set in. One too many sleepless nights before the culmination of a critical trial. And she knew she wouldn’t sleep tonight either. She knew that as soon as she laid her head on her pillow she’d hear the tortured cries of Paula Garcia’s young husband as the jury disbanded and Jacob Conti’s son walked away a free man. At least until they could try him again. „I’ll get started tracking Juror Three’s spending habits. Sooner or later he’ll spend the money to pay off his bills. It’s just a matter of time.“

„And in the meantime?“

„I’ll start a new trial. Angelo Conti will go back to Northwestern and resume his drinking and Thomas Garcia will go back to his empty apartment and stare at an empty crib.“

John sighed. „You did your best, Kristen. Sometimes that’s all we can do. If only…“

„If only he’d wrapped his Mercedes around a tree and not Paula Garcia,“ Kristen said bitterly. „If only he hadn’t been so drunk that pulling Paula Garcia from her wrecked car and beating her to death with a tire iron to keep her quiet seemed like a good idea.“ She was shaking now, a combination of exhaustion and grief for the woman and the unborn child that had died with her. „If only Jacob Conti was more concerned about teaching his son responsibility than keeping him out of prison.“

„If only Jacob Conti had taught his son responsibility
before
giving him the keys to a hundred-thousand-dollar sports car. Kristen, go home. You look like shit.“

Her laugh was wobbly. „You sure know how to charm a girl.“

He didn’t smile back. „I’m serious. You look like you’re about to drop right off your feet. I need you back here tomorrow ready to go again.“

She glanced up, her mouth bent in a wry grimace. „You sweet-talker, you.“

He did smile at that, briefly. Then he was sober once again. „I want Conti, Kristen. He’s corrupted the system, tainted the jury pool. I want him to pay.“

Kristen forced her body to slide off the stool, forced her legs to hold her up, fighting gravity and exhaustion. She met John’s eyes with grim determination. „No more than I do.“

 

Wednesday, February 18,

6:45 p.m.

 

 

Abe Reagan walked through the maze of detectives’ desks, well aware of the curious stares that followed him as he searched for Lieutenant Marc Spinnelli. His new CO.

He heard the conversation inside when he was three feet from Spinnelli’s cracked-open door. „Why him?“ a female voice demanded. „Why not Wellinski or Murphy? Dammit, Marc, I want a partner I can
trust
, not some new guy nobody knows about.“

Abe waited for Spinnelli’s response. He had no doubt the woman was his new partner and based on her recent loss, he couldn’t say he blamed Mia Mitchell for her attitude.

„You don’t want a new partner at all, Mia,“ came the level answer, and Abe figured that was true enough. „But you’re going to have a partner,“ Spinnelli continued, „and since last I looked I was your superior officer, I get to pick who that partner is.“

„I never said that.“ He shrugged. „Take a self-defense class.“

„I have.“ The elevator dinged and both of them jerked their eyes to the wall, waiting to see which set of doors would open first. The doors on the left slid open and the man waved his hand dramatically, gesturing her in first.

She assessed him with a shrewdness born of thousands of hours of associating with known felons who’d committed every unspeakable crime. This man was no danger, she could see that now. Still, Kristen Mayhew was a prudent woman. „I’ll wait for the next one.“

His blue eyes flashed. His square jaw clenched and a muscle twitched in his cheek. She’d offended him. Too damn bad. „I don’t hurt innocent women,“ he said tightly, holding the elevator doors back when they began to close. His powerful body settled slightly and she got the sudden impression he was as weary as she. „Come on, lady, I don’t want to hold this elevator all damn night, and I won’t leave you here all alone.“

BOOK: I'm Watching You
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