Authors: Janet Taylor-Perry
Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #Suspense
All people, places, and events in the following story are
fictitious. Any resemblance to any entity, living or dead, is
For Patricia, Julia, Jordan, Neely, Meghan, Alex, Kaitlyn,
Trevor, Abby, Tyler, Julianna, Courtney, Gavin, Wesley, Zach,
Cole, Brentyn, Brandon, Alicia, Lilah, Makayla, and Vicki, my
fifth-grade gifted students who brought me excitement
2009. You so filled my heart that I know I am far from
A great many thanks to the readers of
have clamored for the second book. If you got a first edition,
hold on to it! The name of the town was misspelled Eau
Bouease should have been Eau Boueuse. The second edition
has it done correctly and it will be correct for all additional
books. So, a special thanks goes to my friend and fellow
author, Joss Landry (
), for speaking fluent French
and catching that.
I owe much appreciation to my family for putting up with
me when my eyes are glued to a computer screen and my
fingers are stuck on a keyboard.
I give kudos to my two beta readers this go round
d'Plume, author of
Into the Mind of God
, a work in progress
and Rebecca Vaughn, author of
The Beast of Caer Baddan
also a work in progress.
I can never thank my editor/mentor/friend, Lottie Brent
Boggan enough. Her wonderful historical fiction saga,
, should be available this summer.
Two groups must get a shout-out. Red Dog Writers (Lottie,
Judy, Peggy, Lydia), thank you for all the encouragement and
support; and to my TheNextBigWriter.com buds (for this
particular piece—Ann Everett, Patti Anne Hauge, Rebecca
Vaughn, Maggie Banks, aka Ceridwen on site) thanks for
keeping me honest and on my toes.
Once again, great appreciation and recognition go to
Christopher Chambers for another awesome cover design.
Interested in his work? Contact him at
Marked for Life
A Hard-knock Life
A Long Good-bye
Without a Trace
A New Life
Test of a Lifetime
Love Is More than Sex
Making Things Right
About the Author
Thebaby wearing only a diaper, wailed with force. His
gaunt-faced mother—so thin she appeared little more than a
wraith—looked upon him with empty hazel eyes shadowed by
deep circles. Long stringy brown hair framed a face bereft of
feeling. She wore a black t-shirt with a skull on it and ragged
jeans. Body swaying, her hand rested on the bassinet. All she
wanted was some peace and quiet, but her son would not stop
Wearing a plain white t-shirt and baggy jeans, a tall, thin
man with greasy black hair pulled back in a ponytail
approached the baby and turned to the woman. "Did you
change his diaper or maybe feed him?" he growled through
"I don't remember. I'm so tired. I just want him to shut up,"
she replied in a raspy voice before staggering to a worn sofa.
The man grunted in disgust, walked away, and came back a
minute later with a bottle. He picked up the child and cooed,
"Hush, little man. Mom is having a bad day." The man cradled
the infant in his arms, fed him, burped him, changed his diaper,
and laid him back in the bassinet. Caressing the boy's fuzzy,
dark hair, he talked to him as if he understood. "Okay, now, I
need to take care of Mom."
Casting a glance over his shoulder, he reached into a small
chest and retrieved a spoon, a rubber tourniquet, a lighter, a
syringe, and a packet of brownish powder. He placed a small
amount of powder in the spoon and held the lighter under the
spoon until the powder melted. He drew the liquid into the
syringe. Tying the tourniquet just above the woman's elbow, he
spatted her arm, causing a vein to bulge. The man plunged the
needle into the woman's arm and injected the liquid into her
vein. She leaned her head back on the ragged couch and
seemed to float into another world as she relaxed completely.
A smile flickered across the man's face when he checked
once more on the baby who slept, sucking a thumb. He brushed
a kiss on the child's forehead and whispered, "They should
make a wanted poster with you on it. It should read, 'Wanted
for stealing hearts.' You've stolen mine, so I know I'm not
completely heartless. No, you're enough to make me want to
get clean, but it's so hard." The man glanced back at the
woman, deep lines etching his brow above dark eyes. "Mom's
not heartless either. One day, you'll see. Still, I need to leave
her to save myself, but I'm afraid to leave you. I love you, little
man. Sleep now. And know this, if I do leave, I promise to come
back for you."
The man repeated the procedure with the powder, spoon,
lighter, and syringe and injected himself. He sat beside the
woman and let himself go to another plane of existence as the
heroin coursed through his veins.
Ray barked orders as he arrived. "Officer Marceau! Keep
those damned reporters away from the scene! Tase them if you
Ray ground his teeth in annoyance.
This story does not
need to break before I can tell Robert's family what's
happened. How do I tell my own wife? She and Robert were
once friends. And I hate reporters. Pains in the ass.
At the crime scene, Ray met Brian Baker and his partner,
Ray's sister-in-law, Christine Gautier. Ray missed the days
when he had worked side-by-side with Chris. Their first case
together had introduced him to his wife, Larkin. Memories of
those days flooded over him now as he thought about the male
homicide victim in front of him. He said the name with its
French pronunciation in an inaudible murmur. "
LaFontaine." Remembering Robert brought unwanted mist to
Ray's sapphire-blue eyes.
During his life, Robert had been both Ray's best friend and
arch rival. Looking at his lifeless body from behind the crime
scene tape now, Ray tried to remember why there had been so
much animosity between them.
Yes, it was about a woman, one
of many Robert chased. Mia Godchaux, my fiancée turned to
Robert when I got shot. Later, Robert tried to conquer Larkin,
but the love between us endured.
"My wife is no pushover," he
I can't think about this now. I need to focus on the
task at hand. God! Robert—murdered.
At this moment, Ray wondered how he was going to tell
, Deanna, her husband was dead in the company
of a woman twenty years younger than he was and that both of
their hearts had been removed. How was
Police Chief Raiford
going to tell America that a philandering United
States Senator and his presumed lover had been brutally
murdered in the man's hometown of Eau Boueuse, Louisiana?
Ray surveyed the area where Robert's body had been
found. It wasn't a road. It was little more than a dirt path
overgrown with weeds near the old train trestle and only about
two miles from his brother's fenced-in home. An almost
primeval forest grew around it, and Spanish moss draped from
the limbs of the ancient oaks and cypress trees in ankle-deep
water to the side. Under normal circumstances, the water
would have been much deeper. No tree frogs sang in the
dryness. Except for the occasional bay of the hunting dogs with
a man in orange garb, the tone was unnervingly quiet, voices
barely above a whisper.
This made the perfect spot for making out. We used this
place as teenagers. Robert and I came here on a double date
He chuckled under his breath at the memory of trying to
scare the girls into getting closer. "Rob, you were always a
Ray ducked under the yellow tape and arrived at Robert's
expensive Mercedes. For the first time since his initial murder
investigation when he was twenty-two, Ray left the scene and
went into the woods to throw up. The bitter, metallic smell of
blood assaulted him and the brutality sickened him. The fact
that Robert had once been a friend touched a nerve long-buried
for the pain of it.
Ray felt a gentle hand on his shoulder as Chris came to his
side. Only two inches shorter than Ray's six feet, she did not
have to reach up to touch him. With genuine concern she
asked, "Ray, are you okay? You don't have to be here, you
know, but Brian thought you would want to be."
"Yeah, but the mayor won't be happy with you. How many
times has he told you to make a choice?"
"Lots, but I can't be a bureaucrat this time, even if I lose the
salary. It's only money, and I was happier as a detective
anyway. I'm good at it."
"Yeah, you are. You don't like pushing papers. Why did
you ever take the job as chief?"
"Larkin. It gives her peace of mind to think I'm safer as the
"I suppose it might. So, are you ready to handle this now?"
"Yeah. It's just that the brutality is so
did this knew his victims. This was
"Or just psychotic," Chris argued.
Ray took a deep breath and shook his head. "No. I know. I
once hated Robert enough to have done it myself. But that was
a lifetime ago. I can't imagine who hated him this much now."
"Maybe a former lover," suggested Chris.
"Maybe," agreed Ray.
"He has a reputation."
"'The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft
interred with their bones.'"
"Waxing poetic and quoting Shakespeare?" Chris asked,
setting her mouth in a wry grin.
No but it's an appropriate quote for my old friend.
shook his head."Let's get back. I'm okay now. Who's the girl?"
He thrust his hands into his pockets as they walked toward the
"One of his clerks, Dinah Horn, twenty-two, a poly-sci
major at LSU. She worked out of his office here three days a
week and took classes two days a week at the satellite branch
where Larkin teaches. She would've been graduating in May."
"Dinah, won't you blow your horn?" Ray said, a sneer on
"Ray! The man's dead. Stop being so sarcastic."
"That doesn't negate what I see in that car."
She puffed out a breath. "No, it doesn't," admitted Chris.
"Check him for saliva and her for semen. The good
Senator's car is parked out here in the middle of nowhere. The
windows are down, and the key is still in the ignition. He was
obviously still charismatic enough to convince that poor young
girl to drive out here with him to give him a blow job. Whoever
did this must have walked up to the passenger-side window,
shot her in the back of the head"—He formed a gun shape with
his index finger and thumb—"and then shot him in the temple
before he could get out the door. He cut their hearts out after he
shot them, hers from the back as she lay face down in the
jackass's crotch and his from the front. The incisions look clean
and precise—someone with medical experience? I bet the M.E.
will confirm my theory." Ray rubbed his forehead, feeling a
"The grass is flat beside both doors, so the culprit had to
have stood there. It looks as if the blood could have dripped
onto someone's shoes. There's a good pool of it on the driver's
side. Try to get some footprints. And, of course, dust for
"You don't have to tell us,
." Chris cut him a dirty
look. "Already on it."
Brian Baker approached his boss and his partner. Although
it was November, Brian perspired on his forehead and slick
top. He pulled out a handkerchief and mopped sweat, pointing
toward the side of the little dirt path with his other hand. "It
appears there was a motorcycle over there. But the tire prints
aren't very deep. I'm not sure how good a cast of them we'll
get. It's been so unusually dry that the dust just fluffed away.
Ray, I heard you say 'he.' Are you sure it was a man?"
Lifting both hands, he replied, "No, but when in doubt, use
the masculine pronoun. Just ask my wife. She's the English
"Did you tell her who was dead?"
"Not yet, Brian," Ray answered. "I'll tell her after I see his
family, but before the news. What does the guy with the 'coon
"Not much. He found them and called it in but didn't hear
any gunshots or see anybody." He put the kerchief back in his
pocket. "The M.E. says they've been dead about three hours
and stated a scenario much like you described."
Ray shook his head. "I guess Robert thought he'd get his
jollies and get back home before anybody missed him. He
never changed, even with a good woman like Deanna LeCoeur
for a wife and two sweet kids. Didn't he care anything for those
people?" Ray sighed. "And I have to tell her."
Chris asked, "Are you driving to Baton Rouge tonight?"
"I have to. I'm the boss, remember?"
"Then you should tell Larkin who it is before you leave.
The press might break the story before you get back."
"I'll call her and keep her and the kids away from the
media. Lord, Chris! I didn't think losing"—He jabbed an index
finger toward the body—"
would make me feel this bad."
"You're not heartless, Ray. You were close once."
Chris's phone rang. "Detective Gautier…Hold a sec." She
stepped away for a few minutes. When she got back, she said,
"Ray, get ready for the FBI to be all up our asses. I have
Colbert from the station on the line. Apparently, this is the
fourth incident. Okay, Colbert, repeat so I can relay to the boss.
'Judge Salus in Le Place was discovered dead without a heart
two months ago.'" She nodded. "'Beverly Vaughn, a DHS
representative in Metairie was found two weeks later, no heart;
and a couple in Kenner, the Byrds, suffered the same fate a
week after that.'" She clicked her phone shut.
"Jesus, Mary and Joseph!" Ray said. He grimaced as if in
the feds would be involved," Baker said.
"I know, but damn it to Hell! Why couldn't this asshole
have died in Baton Rouge?"
"Don't know, Ray," Chris consoled. "We have very little
crime here, but when we do have something, we make national
news. We haven't had a case this bizarre since Latrice
Descartes and her coven sacrificing virgins to summon a
demon." She looked around to be sure no one but Brian was
nearby. "When we first arrived, the air here was frosty just like
when we dealt with Latrice. The temp has gone up twenty
degrees. Something evil this way comes, Ray."
Baker nodded, but mopped his brow again, this time with
"Well, shit." Ray ran fingers through still mostly-black
hair. "I'd just as soon not have a press conference, but I have no
choice. You two get everything you can. I'm going to Baton
Rouge now. Leave it to LaFontaine to mess up my thirteenth
anniversary. It's just his style."
Ray turned to leave just as lightning flashed across the
western sky. "Brian, get those casts quickly. The drought might
be over soon."
Baker glanced at the sky. The sliver of a moon that had
shown an hour earlier had been obscured by fast moving
clouds. "This is not the night for the drought to end. I pray the
rain holds off a few more hours." The hoot of a nearby owl
added to the melancholy atmosphere and jarred Baker back to
reality. "I'm on it, boss," he assured. "I'll spur the crime scene
team to move faster."
Ray climbed back into his vintage silver Thunderbird, one
of several old cars he spent time restoring, and got on the
interstate before he called home. He dreaded the nearly threehour drive.