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Authors: Robert Gregory Browne

Tags: #Mystery, #reincarnation, #Suspense, #Paranormal, #Thriller

Kill Her Again (A Thriller)

BOOK: Kill Her Again (A Thriller)
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KILL HER AGAIN

Robert Gregory Browne

 

 

 

~

 

 

 

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

 

Copyright © 2009, 2012 by Robert Gregory Browne

 

No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission from the author.

 

All rights reserved.

 

This book was originally published by St. Martin's Press.

 

Published in the United States of America by Penname Press, a division of Braun Haus Media, June 7, 2012

 

Cover design by BHC

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For Mother,
who always played Chopin

 

 

PART ONE

 

Present Tense

 

 


 

T
HE LITTLE GIRL
was about to die.

She knew this instinctively, even though the man in the red baseball cap had never uttered so much as a word to her. It was as if she had crawled up inside his brain and could read his innermost thoughts.

Thoughts of darkness. And dead things.

Lots of dead things.

The little girl wasn’t a stranger to death herself. She’d seen it firsthand, at six years old, when Mr. Stinky got hit by a bus. A lot of the details were hazy now, but she remembered she was playing hopscotch with Suzie at the time, Mr. Stinky running circles around them on the driveway, barking like crazy.

Then, for some reason, he had decided to dart out into the street. Saw a cat or something. And the city bus that usually came down their block at nine o’clock every morning came late that day, showing up out of nowhere as if it had been waiting for Mr. Stinky to make his move.

The little girl had been waiting, too, waiting for Suzie to finish her turn, watching her friend skip from square to square, when she heard the roar of the bus and looked up to see its front bumper smack Mr. Stinky right in the head. It knocked him into the air like one of her old stuffed animals, his legs flopping as he did a kind of slow-motion somersault, then landed on the blacktop.

He didn’t move after that.

And the bus driver didn’t stop.

The little girl screamed and ran into the street, even though she knew her mother would yell at her. And there was Mr. Stinky, lying on the ground like a bag of broken toys, his glazed eyes staring up at her, as lifeless as the two black buttons on her favorite Sunday School dress.

There wasn’t any blood, but she knew he was gone, knew he was dead, and he would never come back to her no matter how much she begged him to as she cradled him in her arms and cried and cried.

That had been four years ago.

But she still missed Mr. Stinky and sometimes wished she could be with him again, to feel him press his head against her arm, or put his paw on her knee, whenever he wanted her to pet him.

Maybe she’d get that wish.

Maybe he was up there in heaven somewhere, waiting for her.

Lying in the backseat of the car, her wrists and ankles bound, her mouth taped shut, the little girl stared up at that greasy red baseball cap and wondered where the man was taking her.

The road bumped beneath them, tree shadows flickering across the ceiling, and from what little she could see of the darkening sky, she thought they were headed into a forest of some kind. Not like the forest she’d camped in with her mom and dad, with the sun and a lake and fishing poles, but a dark and scary Hansel and Gretel kind of place, where kids like her are cooked and eaten.

The little girl’s stomach burned something awful, like that night not long ago when she ate too much lemon meringue pie. She wanted to throw up, wanted to release it all over the backseat, because she knew, without a doubt, that her time was almost up. The end was near.

That, just like Mr. Stinky, it was
her
turn to—

 


HEY, MCBRIDE
, you awake?”

Anna McBride blinked, then turned from the passenger window to look at her new partner. Ted Royer. He seemed to be speaking to her from the far end of a long, dark corridor.

She blinked again and shook her head slightly, trying to clear her mind, a deep sense of dread bubbling in the pit of her stomach as the corridor finally widened, then disappeared altogether.

The darkness, however, didn’t. It was a little past one a.m.

“Is that yes or no?” Royer asked.

“Yes,” Anna said, clearing her throat. “I was thinking, is all. Daydreaming.”

But that wasn’t exactly the truth. The truth was much deeper than a simple daydream. And certainly more frightening.

Special Agent Anna McBride was losing her mind.

“Let’s get something straight right up front,” Royer said. He was seated behind the wheel of their bureau transport, a black Ford Explorer. He drove with the casual self-assurance of a career brick agent, a man who had spent many years in the field. “If we’re gonna be working together—and from all appearances it looks like we are—then I’m gonna need you to stay alert and keep focused. You think you can manage that?”

There was an edge of impatience to his voice. Anna knew that this new partnership had not been his choice, that it was merely the luck of the draw that had thrown them together. And she was pretty sure Royer considered it
bad
luck.

But she didn’t care about that right now. She had more pressing things to think about than an unstable work relationship.

Like an unstable mind.

As much as she wanted to believe that she’d fallen asleep for a moment, had let the hum of the engine lull her into the Land of Nod, she knew she’d been wide awake, and that what she’d just experienced had not been a dream at all. Not this time.

The question was, what exactly was it?

“Yo, McBride. Am I getting through to you?”

Anna nodded. “Message loud and clear.”

Royer gave her a sideways glance. “You’re not gonna be one of those, are you?”

“One of what?”

“Smart-asses.” He returned his gaze to the road, which seemed to stretch out forever into the desert darkness, all prairie brush and cactus. The view was as foreign to Anna as a lunar landscape. “I’ll tell you right now, I’ve had my fill of smart-ass partners, always trying to be clever, but usually at the expense of good investigative work. Too busy listening to their own bullshit to notice anything else.”

Anna was tempted to tell him she thought this might be a case of the kettle and the pot, but stopped just short of letting the words fly. Instead she said, “You don’t have to worry about me. No bullshit. And I’ll stay focused.”

This was an outright lie, of course. Staying focused was not her strong suit these days.

“I’m not gonna kid you,” Royer said. “The truth is, none of us really want you here.”

“I’m beginning to see that.”

Another sideways glance. “There you go with the smartass shit again. I’m surprised they didn’t ship you straight to South Dakota. Who’d you have to blow to get this assignment, anyway?”

Anna bit her tongue. Anything she said right now would only egg Royer on and all she wanted to do was shut him the hell up. The Glock 9 on her hip was calling out to her, but she resisted the urge to put a bullet in his brain. A feeling she’d been fighting since the moment she met him.

She had arrived in Victorville two days ago, less than a week after the doctors had proclaimed her fit for duty, and a little over a month after the blowup in South San Francisco.

She didn’t like thinking about that night, had known the moment it exploded in their faces that she would be the designated scapegoat, as she should be. It was all her fault.

But thinking about it had not turned out to be the problem. Ever since she’d jolted awake to a dark hospital room, a nasty set of stitches on the side of her face to remind her of the mistake she’d made, the majority of her mind’s real estate had been occupied by only one thing:

The vision. The dream. Nightmares so vivid they had her waking up in a cold sweat every night. Fleeting thoughts and images that all but disappeared the moment she opened her eyes.

A little girl in trouble.

A little girl who was about to die.

“Here’s the drill,” Royer said. “We get to Ludlow, you stand there and keep your mouth shut. These jurisdictional disputes can get a little tricky, so I’ll do all the talking.”

“I thought they invited us in?”

“They did, but the request came from the County Undersheriff himself, so it’s unlikely the rank and file are gonna be too thrilled about a coupla feds sticking their noses in the pond.”

“I’ve seen my share of pissed-off locals. I think I can handle myself.”

“Yeah,” Royer said, wagging his finger at her scar, which, despite several sessions with CoverGirl, had proven impossible to hide. “I can see that.”

This silenced her. It was her turn to shoot
him
a glance, but his concentration was centered on the road ahead and he didn’t seem to notice.

Or did he?

Was he baiting her? Hoping she’d give him an excuse to send her packing?

The Victorville Resident Agency—one of the bureau’s L.A. satellite stations—wasn’t any paradise, but Royer was right: She
should
be in South Dakota. She’d only managed to stay in California because Daddy dear had connections in the Justice Department.

But it was doubtful even South Dakota wanted her.

Nobody did.

“I’ll keep my mouth shut,” she said, surrendering to Royer’s contempt, knowing she’d have to swallow a lot of pride to make this partnership work. She’d spent a lifetime ramping toward a career that had unraveled in just a few short minutes, so she wasn’t about to squander what was likely her one and only second chance, no matter how much it pained her.

Besides, pride was the least of her concerns at the moment. The visions had obviously begun to escalate. They were coming during her waking hours now. And despite what the doctors had told the Victorville Agent in Charge, she knew she wasn’t even remotely fit for duty yet.

BOOK: Kill Her Again (A Thriller)
13.36Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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