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Authors: Gregg Olsen

Closer Than Blood

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Highest Praise for
Gregg Olsen
Victim Six
“A rapid-fire page-turner.”
—The Seattle Times
“Olsen knows how to write a terrifying story.”
—
The Daily Vanguard

Victim Six
is a bloody thriller with a nonstop, page-turning pace.”
—
The Oregonian
“Olsen is a master of writing about crime—both real and imagined.”
—
Kitsap Sun
“Thrilling suspense.”
—Peninsula Gateway
“Well written and exciting from start to finish, with a slick final twist ... a super serial-killer thriller.”
—The Mystery Gazette
“Gregg Olsen is as good as any writer of serial-killer thrillers writing now—this includes James Patterson's Alex Cross, Jeffery Deaver's Lincoln Rhymes, and Thomas Harris's Hannibal Lecter. . . .
Victim Six
hooks the reader ... finely written and edge-of-seat suspense from start to finish ... fast-paced . . . a super serial-killer thriller.”
—The News Guard
Heart of Ice
“Gregg Olsen will scare you—and you'll love every moment of it.”
—Lee Child
“Olsen deftly juggles multiple plot lines.”
—Publishers Weekly
“Fiercely entertaining, fascinating ... Olsen offers a unique background view into the very real world of crime ... and that makes his novels ring true and accurate.”
—Dark Scribe
A Cold Dark Place
“A great thriller that grabs you by the throat and takes you into the dark, scary places of the heart and soul.”
—Kay Hooper
“You'll sleep with the lights on after reading Gregg Olsen's dark, atmospheric, page-turning suspense ... if you can sleep at all.”
—Allison Brennan
“A stunning thriller—a brutally dark story with a compelling, intricate plot.”
—Alex Kava
“This stunning thriller is the love child of Thomas Harris and Laura Lippman, with all the thrills and the sheer glued-to-the-page artistry of both.”
—Ken Bruen
“Olsen keeps the tension taut and pages turning.”
—Publishers Weekly
A Wicked Snow
“Real narrative drive, a great setup, a gruesome crime, fine characters.”
—Lee Child
“A taut thriller.”
—Seattle Post-Intelligencer
“Wickedly clever! A finely crafted, genuinely twisted tale of one mother's capacity for murder and one daughter's search for the truth.”
—Lisa Gardner
“An irresistible page-turner.”
—Kevin O'Brien
“Complex mystery, crackling authenticity ... will keep fans of crime fiction hooked.”
—Publishers Weekly
“Vivid, powerful, action-packed . . . a terrific, tense thriller that grips the reader.”
—Midwest Book Review
“Tight plotting, nerve-wracking suspense, and a wonderful climax make this debut a winner.”
—
Crimespree
magazine

A Wicked Snow
's plot—about a CSI investigator who's repressed a horrific crime from her childhood until it comes back to haunt her—moves at a satisfyingly fast clip.”
—The Seattle Times
ALSO BY GREGG OLSEN
Victim Six
Heart of Ice
A Cold Dark Place
A Wicked Snow
A Twisted Faith
The Deep Dark
If Loving You Is Wrong
Abandoned Prayers
Bitter Almonds
Mockingbird (Cruel Deception)
Starvation Heights
Confessions of an American Black Widow
GREGG OLSEN
Closer than Blood
PINNACLE BOOKS
Kensington Publishing Corp.
www.kensingtonbooks.com
All copyrighted material within is Attributor Protected.
Table of Contents
Praise
ALSO BY GREGG OLSEN
Title Page
Dedication
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
PROLOGUE
CHAPTER ONE
CHAPTER TWO
CHAPTER THREE
CHAPTER FOUR
CHAPTER FIVE
CHAPTER SIX
CHAPTER SEVEN
CHAPTER EIGHT
CHAPTER NINE
CHAPTER TEN
CHAPTER ELEVEN
CHAPTER TWELVE
CHAPTER THIRTEEN
CHAPTER FOURTEEN
CHAPTER FIFTEEN
CHAPTER SIXTEEN
CHAPTER SEVENTEEN
CHAPTER EIGHTEEN
CHAPTER NINETEEN
CHAPTER TWENTY
CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE
CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO
CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE
CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR
CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE
CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX
CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN
CHAPTER TWENTY-EIGHT
CHAPTER TWENTY-NINE
CHAPTER THIRTY
CHAPTER THIRTY-ONE
CHAPTER THIRTY-TWO
CHAPTER THIRTY-THREE
CHAPTER THIRTY-FOUR
CHAPTER THIRTY-FIVE
CHAPTER THIRTY-SIX
CHAPTER THIRTY-SEVEN
CHAPTER THIRTY-EIGHT
CHAPTER THIRTY-NINE
CHAPTER FORTY
CHAPTER FORTY-ONE
CHAPTER FORTY-TWO
CHAPTER FORTY-THREE
CHAPTER FORTY-FOUR
CHAPTER FORTY-FIVE
CHAPTER FORTY-SIX
CHAPTER FORTY-SEVEN
CHAPTER FORTY-EIGHT
CHAPTER FORTY-NINE
CHAPTER FIFTY
CHAPTER FIFTY-ONE
CHAPTER FIFTY-TWO
CHAPTER FIFTY-THREE
EPILOGUE
COMING FROM PINNACLE IN 2012
Copyright Page
For Jessica Rose Wolfe
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
The author wishes to thank the following for their help with
Closer Than Blood
: Annette Anderson, Tina Marie Brewer, Charles Turner, Bunny Kuhlman, and Debra Gelbach.
And special thanks go to Michaela Hamilton, who came up with a wonderful solution at the eleventh hour, proving once again why she is my forever editor.
And finally (really), to Jane Dettinger, who knows that seeing double is sometimes a very, very good thing.
PROLOGUE
Kitsap County, Washington
Fifteen years ago
If Kitsap County's road engineers had wanted to seek careers as Disney Imagineers, they might have served up Banner Road as proof positive that their designs could deliver the requisite thrill. The ups and downs of the Bactrian-camel-on-'roids roadway were only matched by its highs and lows. The stomach-in-throat feeling that came with motion and speed was delivered there every day without fail.
Truth be told, the roller-coaster effect owed more to the topography of that stretch of the south county, which chases up and down the hills as it careens along a nine-mile path just east of Colvos Passage from Sedgwick Road to the Olalla Bay Bridge. At about its midpoint, near the intersection with Fragaria Road, was a spot locals had long dubbed the Banner Jump. The Jump was a patch of asphalt that eggs on the lead-footed, as it literally
begs
those who traverse it to fly. A quick descent down the hill is followed by a slight rise, and then another drop. Even at the posted speed of 40 miles per hour, a driver and passengers can feel that tickle in the tummy that makes some people queasy and little kids cry for more. For as long as there have been teenagers with something to prove or fathers yearning to give their kids what they've wanted, there has been the invitation to push the pedal to the floor. Those with a '70s TV or film reference flash on the opening moments of
Starsky and Hutch
or possibly the famed chase sequence of
The French Connection
.
Kids called it “going airborne.”
The Banner Jump was a buzz that required no alcohol to deliver the goods. No amusement park fee. Just a not-so-lazy drive past modest homes, equestrian estates with sprawling pastures, and mobiles, to and from Port Orchard. In rural places like South Kitsap County, cheap excitement was frequently the order of the day.
The thrill could be as short-lived as a spark.
A decade and a half ago, it was also quite deadly.
Mikey Walsh no longer cared what time it was. What
day
it was.
Where he was.
It was a week before Thanksgiving, and Mikey had little to be thankful for. He'd been tweaking for a week. Or maybe it was just three days. He'd never be able to swear to it. Not in court. Not anywhere. Crystal meth had been the solution to a problem of his own creation and he knew it. Certainly, it wasn't his fault that he hurt his back at a construction job site for a new Taco Bell in Bremerton, a half hour to the north. But the fact that he'd tested positive for drugs
was
. He'd violated his employment contract—and that meant he had no insurance, no compensation. Mikey sat in his double-wide mobile home on a twisty gravel road in South Kitsap and started to contemplate just how it was that he'd be able to get himself out of the debt that threatened to take over his life. As far as he could tell, he had two choices.
Cooking methamphetamine or turning his life over to God.
Mikey thought about it long and hard, and in a moment of weakness and despair, he did what any addict would do. He didn't choose God.
Crank, as most in his crowd called it, was like anything illicit. At first a thrill, then a curse. It kept him going when he wanted nothing more than to stop. Mikey was never a handsome figure, but bit by bit meth took every ounce of his youth. His hair thinned. His teeth yellowed. His eyes became languid pools of emptiness. When he wandered the aisles of the all-night Albertsons off Mile Hill Road in Port Orchard, everyone knew he was a tweaker. His empty stare, his bamboo limbs, and the fact that all he ever purchased was beer, chips, salsa, and wings were the giveaways that checkers make casual note of in the ceaselessly boring hours of a late shift.
The night everything changed for Mikey, he landed behind the wheel of his 1979 Chevy Silverado with a shudder and a thud. It was almost midnight when he found himself headed down Banner Road toward his mobile in South Kitsap. The roadway was shiny and he considered the possibility of frost. It was only for a moment. Meth impairs its users with a sense of invincibility, bravado, as it sends a steady flow of energy and false signals of well-being into a shell-shocked system. Mikey had been out on a drug run late that night, delivering, selling, and sampling his wares as he went from customer to customer swapping Baggies of drugs for crumpled twenties. He wasn't tired. Hell, he
never
got tired.
Down the long hill from the intersection at Willock Road, Mikey reached over and turned the knob to the defroster to clear the condensation off the pickup's cracked windshield. The combination of his watery eyes and the low skirting fog made it hard to see. His gaze returned to the road and he shook his head.
It couldn't be.
A girl was waving frantically from the center of the road just at the Banner Jump.
Jesus! You dumb shit! I'm going to kill you!
His eyes riveted to the figure in the roadway, Mikey slammed on the brakes.
Get. Out. Of. My. Way!
The Silverado's nearly bald tires laid a smelly patch of rubber and slid toward the shoulder. Gravel spit out from under its tires, and in that instant Mikey thought that he was going to meet his Maker. Not in the way that he'd imagined lately. Not in the flash of an explosion in the toolshed where he converted the raw materials—the very flammable raw household materials—that turned a toxic brew of chemicals into money. Making meth was part chemistry class flunkout and part short-order cook. Mikey had assumed that if he died young, it would be in a blaze of glory.
A literal blaze.
As he skidded to avoid the girl in the road, Mikey did what he hadn't done in a long time. He said a silent prayer.
The sound of branches scraped the side of his cab. The sparkle of broken glass glittered in the wet road like a busted snow globe. All came at him in the strangeness of slow motion. All came at him in the instant that he would later say was the beginning of a turning point.
The girl in the center of the road rushed at him. She was pulling at the handle of his door and he sat still and scared.
“We need help. Our friend's hurt. My sister might be hurt, too.”
She was a teenager. Pretty. Scared.
Very scared
. Her words pelted him between big gulps of air. Mikey thought he detected the odor of beer, but he wasn't sure if he'd smelled himself or the remnants of a can of Bud that had ricocheted from the drink caddy on the floorboard to the passenger seat. Reflexively, he reached down and tucked the beer under the seat. His priorities were warped by trouble, which followed him like a shadow. Trouble had been his soul mate. Personal disaster, his closest companion.
Mikey didn't need another dose. He didn't need a DUI.
The girl pulled open the driver's-side door and lunged at him. She was blond with ice blue eyes. Everything about her was stunning—the kind of girl who got noticed in a crowd. The kind of girl he might have asked out on a date if he hadn't ruined his life. A splash of blood trickled down from her temple, but otherwise she looked fine.
Scared, but oh-so-fine.
Mikey pulled back, but the seat belt held him in her grasp.
“What are you doing?”
“We need help! You have to help us.”
The young man pushed himself from behind the pickup's steering wheel. He swung his legs to the ground.
His vision was fuzzy and he wiped his eyes with his palms as the girl dragged him to a silver '92 Taurus on its side. Steam or smoke poured from the car's crunched engine block. It was an instance in which there was no color. Shades of gray, black, silver. The girl's black shirt was wet and he looked closer at it.
Was it water? Blood?
More steam erupted from the stomped-beer-can Taurus.
“This is gonna blow!” he said. “We got to get out of here.”
“Not without my sister, we're not,” the girl said.
“Hey, I don't care about your sister. I care about being blown to bits.”
“We need an ambulance. The sheriff!”
Mikey loathed the concept of wanting the sheriff in any proximity whatsoever. He had been arrested twice before and, despite the numbing haze of his addiction, he did not want to join the “Third Time's the Charm” club of tweakers and drunks.
He pulled back, but the panicked girl grabbed his wrist.
“Over here,” she said. It was nothing short of a command. “Hurry! What's the matter with you?”
He looked over and rubbed his eyes as the second girl, hunched over a body, looked up. He shook his head. The second girl locked her eyes on his. He rubbed his eyes. Even in the dim glow of a broken headlight, it was apparent that she was a dead ringer for the first girl.
Was he seeing double?
“Get moving! You have to help!”
What he saw next, he'd never forget. And never speak about.
Who would believe a tweaker like him?
One of the twins leaned closer to another figure on the roadside, a teenage boy.
“Help,” he said. “Help me, please.”
Fifteen years later, Detective Kendall Stark looked at the e-mail that she'd printed out on the Kitsap County Sheriff's Department laser printer. It was brief, puzzling, and, the detective had to admit to herself, a little concerning.
THE TRUTH SHALL SET YOU FREE.
It was e-mailed to the Class of '95 reunion website.
“That e-mail you forwarded was interesting,” she said, when she got Adam Canfield on the phone. Adam's various responsibilities with the reunion committee included managing the website.
“You mean the truth one from the Bible?”
“Yes. Any idea who sent it?”
“Nope. It came from a Kinko's copy center. Some loser from our class must work there.”
“All right. See you at the next meeting.”
She hung up and put the e-mail away. She wondered which one of their classmates had sent it and, more important, just what
truth
the writer had in mind.
Kendall had no idea that she was on the edge of a whirlpool, about to be sucked in.

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