Authors: Debra Webb
Tags: #Suspense, #Contemporary, #Romance, #Police Procedural, #missing, #Faces of Evil Series, #Reunited Lovers, #body farm, #southern mystery, #multi-generational killers, #family secret, #abandoned child, #Obsessed Serial Killer, #hidden identity, #Thriller, #serial killer followers
FACES OF EVIL
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.
Copyright © 2014 Debra Webb, Pink House Press
Edited by Marijane Diodati
Cover Design by Kendel Flaum
All rights reserved. In accordance with the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, the scanning, uploading, and electronic sharing of any part of this book without the permission of the publisher is unlawful piracy and theft of the author’s intellectual property. Thank you for your support of the author’s rights.
PINK HOUSE PRESS
First Edition March 2014
Table of Contents
For the vile person will speak villainy, and his heart will work iniquity…
Sixth Avenue Flower & Gifts
Monday, August 30, 10:30 a.m.
Ellen Gentry was mad as hell. She had worked at this floral shop for five years and not once had she called in sick. If her name was on the schedule, she was here—unless, of course, she was in the hospital or the morgue.
Apparently, she was the only employee with proper work ethics. Too bad her paycheck didn’t reflect her dedication. She’d had to run around like a chicken with its head chopped off to fill this morning’s orders all by herself. Nearly every one had been for an anniversary—not that she was complaining about that part. Anniversary arrangements were good for business and almost always included generous tips. Husbands, even the not so nice ones, typically went all out for that special celebration. A big old bouquet of flowers could get a guy out of hot water faster than almost anything.
Ellen placed the final arrangement in the walk-in cooler and breathed a sigh of relief. “Done.”
It wasn’t brain surgery, but her work gave her a sense of accomplishment. Speaking of surgery, she wouldn’t mind snagging a doctor. There were plenty of them in Birmingham. She smoothed a hand over her hair and straightened her apron. These black slacks and white blouse were her favorites. They fit exactly right. She’d added a nice little red scarf as an accent. Looking her best wasn’t just something she did for work. It never hurt to showcase her assets especially since all those husbands would be coming in to pick up their orders. Married guys were always telling their single friends about hot chicks they ran into. She looked pretty good even if she was about to turn thirty. There was still time to land a husband.
“Before all the good ones are gone,” she grumbled.
Or maybe they already are
Time for a break—if she could find her drink. A quick survey of the counter and she spotted her Coke Zero right where she’d left it behind the cash register.
As she guzzled what she fondly called her coffee in a can, a frown scrunched up her brow. Why was that child still standing on the sidewalk outside the shop? The traffic was lighter now that the morning commute was over, but there were still plenty of cars whizzing along Sixth Avenue.
Ellen tossed the empty can into the trash and wandered to the door. The little blond haired girl had been standing in that same spot for going on an hour. Where in the world were her parents?
Some people were so stupid they didn’t deserve to be parents. Ellen pushed through the door and the bell jingled overhead. The hot, humid air enveloped her instantly. It was going to be another scorcher. A few steps outside the door and she was already sweating.
The little girl didn’t turn around. She stared out at the street as if she were lost. Was someone supposed to pick her up? Had a parent dropped her off and then driven away? How crazy was that?
“Hey there.” Ellen crouched down, putting herself at eye level with the little girl who couldn’t possibly be older than four. “What’s your name, sweetie?”
The child turned to Ellen and then drew back in fear. Her little face was red from crying. “Don’t be afraid,” Ellen said gently. “Where’s your momma?”
The child just stared at her without saying a word. A piece of plain white paper had been folded and fastened to her pink dress with a big safety pin. Ellen reached for the note. Surprisingly, the child held still as she removed it.
This was totally spooky. Ellen’s heart beat faster as she unfolded the paper. The words there were formed with letters cut out from the newspaper and pasted together. “What in God’s name?” She read the lone statement again.
Take me to Deputy Chief Jess Harris
Birmingham Police Department, 11:15 a.m.
Deputy Chief Jess Harris stared at the photos lying on her desk. Rory Stinnett and Monica Atmore. The two women had never met and had nothing in common other than being tall and gorgeous with dark hair—until now. Now, they shared something ugly and deadly. They were both hostages of the vile serial killer known as the Player.
Jess closed her eyes for a long moment. Eric Spears, the Player, had not contacted her since texting Monica’s photo on Saturday.
We’re waiting for you
The Joint Task Force investigating the case had nothing except what Spears had given them. It was as if he didn’t really exist… except he did. Dozens of people, primarily women, were dead by his hand. Spears had touched Jess. He had stood toe to toe with Dan and stabbed him, leaving him for dead.
Shuddering, Jess forced away the memories. Spears was determined to murder innocent people and to destroy all that Jess cared about until he acquired what he wanted:
At this point, she might have gladly given him what he wanted to stop him, but fate had taken that choice from her. She was pregnant with Dan’s child. Protecting herself was the only way to protect this child.
Jess had loved Dan Burnett since she was a teenager. No matter that they’d lived a thousand miles apart for two decades, she had never really stopped loving him. A weary smile tugged at her lips. He hadn’t stopped loving her either. Both had simply been too hardheaded to admit it. So here they were twenty years later, ready to give a life together a second chance. They might actually have a happily ever after if the monster at the top of the evil scale obsessed with Jess failed. Problem was, the only way to ensure he didn’t succeed was to find him.
The local police in more than one state, in addition to the Federal Bureau of Investigation as well as Interpol, were looking for him with no luck so far.
“CNN and Fox News picked up Coleman’s story,” Sergeant Chet Harper announced.
Jess blinked and pushed away the troubling thoughts about Spears. The members of her team were gathered at their desks. Since they hadn’t caught a case this morning, she’d asked all four to focus on going over everything that had happened related to Spears since Jess’s return to Birmingham six weeks ago. Not that she expected they would find anything new, but it never hurt to take another look.
Harper turned up the sound on the flat panel television that hung above their empty case board. The Special Problems Unit office was nothing more than one large room, but it served their needs for the time being. SPU was the newest unit in Birmingham’s Police Department, and Jess felt privileged to be in charge. Her team, though small, was the best.
The reporter droned on about the escalating events in Birmingham, Alabama. A clip of Gina Coleman’s expose on Eric Spears had Jess holding her breath. She’d seen the whole story on the local news last night. Gina, Birmingham’s most beloved and highest rated investigative journalist, had done a good job. No wonder she’d won all those awards. She’d informed Jess this morning that the feedback from the community was tremendous and mostly supportive of Jess’s situation. Since returning to her hometown, Jess had vacillated between the hero who’d come home to serve the city of Birmingham and the pariah determined to destroy it.
“I’m sure Mayor Pratt is loving this,” Jess grumbled. The man had been trying to find a way to be rid of her since Dan offered her the position of deputy chief of SPU. Trouble was Jefferson County’s Sheriff’s department had been in on the deal. Since SPU was funded by Sheriff Griggs and Jefferson County as well as by the city of Birmingham, Pratt didn’t have the final say.
Unfortunately, that left Dan in the middle to take the heat from the mayor and his allies. Jess couldn’t help wondering if Dan had experienced any second thoughts about offering her the job.
The memory of the two of them rushing from the early morning fire at his home just a few days ago had her lungs burning for air and her heart thundering with remembered panic. An image of the headstone with Dan’s name on it that Spears had delivered to Oak Hill Cemetery the day before the fire floated before her eyes next. Yet another piece of evidence indicative of his determination.
She could not allow Spears to destroy Dan.
When two celebrity detectives were brought on screen to dissect the situation, Jess had seen enough. She pushed out of her chair. “I need some air.”
Three of the four members of her team immediately stood in reaction to her announcement. Jess sighed. This was her life at the moment. She couldn’t even go to the ladies room without an escort.
Noticeably, the only person in the room who didn’t react was Lori Wells. Lori was struggling with guilt over Friday’s double suicide. Jess couldn’t make her see that no one could have anticipated what happened. At some point, they were going to talk again. Somehow, Jess intended to get it through Lori’s head that she hadn’t done anything wrong. So far, nothing anyone said had reached her.
Harper and Cook as well as the newest member of their team, Lieutenant Clint Hayes, all waited for Jess to make the next move. In the background, the onscreen detectives bandied about her name and that of her worst nightmare.
How in the hell did she end all this?
She held up her hands in surrender. “Never mind.” She turned to Harper. “Would you turn that off, please?”
“Yes, ma’am.” Harper tapped the remote.
Silence filled the room with the four of them standing there as if waiting for some announcement they all knew wouldn’t come. Lori sat hunched over her laptop not even looking up in the wake of the abrupt silence.
“We should…” Jess wasn’t sure what she intended to say next, but she needed to say something.
Her cell phone broke into its old-fashioned ringtone saving her the trouble of deciding on a course of action for the moment. She reached for the phone and smiled at Dan’s handsome face. Hearing his voice about now would be good. She accepted the call and turned to stare out the window behind her desk. “Hey.” Behind her, chairs rolled and squeaked as the men in the room reclaimed their seats.
“I’m at a floral shop a few blocks from the office, Jess. Harper should be getting a call with the exact location.”
As he said the words, Harper gave his usual greeting in answer to a call. Jess’s pulse kicked into a faster rhythm. “What’s going on?” She held her breath, waiting for news of another abduction or murder.
God, when would this end?
“There’s been a delivery.” Dan hesitated before going on, those brief seconds ratcheting up the tension threatening to explode inside her. “We can’t be sure Spears or one of his associates has anything to do with this, but—”
“I’ll be right there.” No need for him to say more. The tone of his voice warned it was a bad situation. Jess ended the call without saying goodbye. Her heart was already burgeoning in her throat.
Jess met Harper’s gaze, then she nodded. “Let’s go, Sergeant.” To the others, including Hayes who looked ready to tag along, “Keep going over the details, especially last week’s murders. If we missed anything related to Spears, I want to know.”
Jess squared her shoulders. Whatever waited for her at that floral shop, she would be damned if she’d allow Spears this much control over her actions or her feelings.