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Authors: Andrea Kane

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BOOK: The Stranger You Know
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“That’s a question we might or might not be able to answer.” Patrick took a deep swallow of coffee, continuing to share his thoughts with Casey in a calm, straightforward manner. “I know you want to go back and solve it all—catch the killer, assign names to all his victims and provide closure for all the families involved. Maybe we can make that happen. I don’t know. What I do know is that the best way to increase our odds is to fulfill our obligation.”

Follow the case that’s been handed to us. Find Jan Olson’s body.

“That’s how it was with me, remember? Start with the present, step back into the past. This process is going to take you down some dark alleys. You’re going to lose a lot of sleep and relive some painful memories. But you need this. Otherwise, you would have squashed the case the minute I brought it to the team. You knew it was too close to home, that you probably should refer it out. But you didn’t. You’re the president of Forensic Instincts. You made the call for us to take on the case—and you made it without missing a beat.”

“You’re right,” Casey conceded. “I couldn’t have lived with myself if I didn’t see this through. For many reasons. Daniel Olson is dying. And if his theory is correct, if his daughter really did suffer the same fate as Holly, then she was raped, killed and dumped...somewhere. No father should have to die with those kinds of unanswered questions, and without his daughter’s body being found. Plus, if the offender really was the same bastard who did that to Holly, then I have twice the motivation to solve this.”

“Agreed.” Patrick reached over and scooped up Casey’s notes. “So let’s review your interview with Daniel Olson. Then we’ll go over all the newspaper articles you compiled. I got a glimpse of them. You dug up everything, not only about Jan’s disappearance, but about the disappearances of all young women who lived in Manhattan during a five-year time span.”

“I’m going to give the whole pile of them to Ryan and have him set up a database. But I know it’s a stretch. Most of those young women probably just packed up and moved.”

“Well, it’s up to us to figure that out. So let’s go. If anything rings a bell or recalls a memory that in any way relates to Holly, we’ll zero in on it. Go with your gut. No one has better instincts than you do.”

Casey smiled. “You’d make a great life coach.”

“Not really. I’ve just been where you are. It took me thirty-two years to get my answers. Maybe we can come up with yours in half that time. Let’s figure out what happened to Jan Olson. And let’s find her.”

Chapter Two

 

Glen Fisher lay on his cot in the cell of Auburn State Correctional Facility, a maximum security prison in upstate New York.

He folded his hands behind his head and stared up at the concrete ceiling. First, six weeks in Downstate Correctional Facility undergoing all those ridiculous evaluations and test. And now? Seven months, two weeks and four days in here. More than half a year of his life shot to hell. Thanks to that firecrotch.

One day blended into the next. A meal. His job in the mail room. Another meal. Exercise. Mail again. Back to his cell. A gloomy little six-by-eight hole with a sink, a toilet, a cot, a shelf and bars that separated him from a dark hall equipped with a centrally controlled tear gas system.

Mundane. Boring. A waste of his life.

His lawyer had been a wimp. He should’ve driven home the coercion plea and gotten him off. Instead, the judge had thrown out the defendant’s plea, the evidence had been ruled admissible and here he was, facing a life sentence.

His lawyer was long gone. Good riddance. Representing himself was the smartest thing he could do. He continually found new loopholes. He’d filed another appeal last week. Eventually, maybe those idiots on the parole board would listen to him. All they kept reiterating over and over like some stupid litany was the list of rapes and homicides he’d been convicted of. They couldn’t see that he’d done the world a favor.

Considering law enforcement’s one-dimensional stupidity, he should have kept his fucking mouth shut when he’d been cornered. Even if that Neanderthal from Forensic Instincts had started the ball rolling by practically killing him in the alley. Uncharacteristically, Glen had been caught off guard.

Never again.

They’d found the bodies just where he said they’d be. And the jury—not one of whom had an ounce of brains—had labeled him scum. They’d focused only on the words
rape
and
murder.
Couldn’t see past them. Couldn’t know what he knew about those whores. Who they were. What they were. What they did to their victims.

The entire system was useless. It was up to him to bypass it and finish what he’d started.

He pulled out his drawing tablet and crayons and began another detailed sketch. It slowly came alive. Even the outline excited him. Especially when he made sweeping crimson strokes across the page.

A smug smile twisted his lips. Funny thing about life. It had a way of evening out.

He might have lost his freedom.

But Casey Woods was about to lose a whole lot more.

Columbia University
John Jay Hall

 

Cramming for exams sucked ass.

Nick Anderson opened his dorm room door, gazing sympathetically at the regular crowd—a half dozen of his bleary-eyed dorm mates. They all traipsed in and stuffed five-dollar bills into his empty beer stein to chip in for the pizza that was about to be delivered. The head count had been taken at around ten o’clock. Now it was almost midnight. They’d studied enough. Their brains were fried. It was time to stuff their faces, drink some beer and unwind.

“Did you get pepperoni?” Donna Altwood asked. She’d just come out of the shower. She was wearing damp sweats, with a wet mane of long blond hair hanging down her back. She looked scrubbed clean, stressed and cranky. Then again, she was premed, and studied more hours than there were in a day.

“Yup,” Nick assured her. “One deluxe, one half pepperoni, half sausage and one plain. You can tip me later.”

“Nice,” Charlie Green muttered. “The sausage and the pepperoni will give me heartburn. That’ll keep me awake. And if I’m awake, I’ll study.” He set down the case of Miller Lite he’d brought, since it was his turn to contribute the beer.

“No, you won’t,” Dominick Peretti said. “You’ll get wasted and sleep through your classes.” He grinned. Dom didn’t have a mean bone in his body. He was just Dom—direct, comfortable in his own skin. So no one was offended by his comments.

“Getting wasted sounds good.” Amy Sheehan wasn’t smiling. Then again, she didn’t need to. She was one of those girls every other girl wanted to look like—great body, long, thick black hair, huge blue eyes. Worse, she wasn’t even arrogant about it. That made it really hard to hate her. “My brain’s not taking in anything tonight. It’s done. So I might as well be, too, right?”

Kenny Bishop didn’t say anything. He rarely did. He didn’t hang out with this crowd, except to eat pizza and drink beer. He didn’t really hang out with anyone. He was a loner. Brilliant. Weird. And in his own world. Maybe he was high half the time. No one knew. Or asked. He just sat on the floor, his head against the bed frame, his curly hair a dark mop. His dark eyes were hooded but somehow intense as he watched the rest of the group talk and complain. Whatever he was thinking, he kept it to himself. But he didn’t bother anyone, and he always paid promptly, so no one objected to him being there.

“My bio professor is a tool,” Nick complained. “The only one he makes sense to is him.”

“Serves you right,” Donna retorted. “You satisfied your science requirements two semesters ago. Who the hell takes advanced bio when they don’t have to?”

“Spoken like a dedicated future doctor,” Dom said, rising to get himself a beer.

Donna raised her brows. “I
have
to take those courses,” she reminded Dom. “Nick’s a history major. He doesn’t have to suffer.”

“True.”

“Have you ever studied ancient Greece?” Nick asked. “Trust me, that’s suffering.”

A knock interrupted the conversation. “Ah, finally. Provisions.” Nick headed over and opened the door. “Hey, Robbie.” He greeted the solid guy in the striped Pizza King T-shirt who was standing on the threshold with three steaming boxes. “You got here just in time. We were either going to starve or eat one another.”

“That’s pretty harsh.” Robbie grinned. “I’m glad I got here before any of that happened.” He looked a little like the Cheshire cat, stripes and all. Only he couldn’t perform magic, so he was paying his way through grad school by working late-night pizza delivery shifts.

“Hi, guys,” he said, glancing into the room and waving.

They all waved back. They liked Robbie, and they knew the feeling was mutual. And why not? They called three times a week to order pizza or hot sandwiches, and they always gave him a good tip. Nice frequency, nice amount of cash. And with the price of grad school credits skyrocketing, every little bit helped.

Robbie passed the boxes to Nick, along with a white bag. “Almost closing time means leftover garlic bread,” he explained. “I figured you’d want it.”

“Want it?” Dom piped up. “Pass it this way. I’ll make it disappear before we even settle up.”

Robbie chuckled. “Now why did I know you’d be the first voice I heard?”

“Because you know me. Garlic bread and I are like this.” Dom held up two crossed fingers.

“I wish I could say eat it all, there’ll be more pizza for us,” Donna said. “But you’re a bottomless pit. You’ll swallow all the garlic bread and half a pizza before I can finish my first slice.” She sighed. “It sucks that guys can eat like that and never gain a pound.”

“It also sucks that we chip in as much cash as they do, and eat a fraction of the amount,” Amy noted.

“True. I vote that we revisit the contribution breakdown,” Donna said.

“Forget it. I’m broke.” Nick placed the pizza boxes on his desk and tossed the bag of garlic bread to Dom. “Save some for the rest of us. And don’t expect us to wait. We’re eating all these pizzas, including your share, if you don’t hurry up.”

There was a tentative knock on the open door, and Josh Lochman poked his head around the corner. He was the star linebacker for the Columbia Lions and was built like a young Arnold Schwarzenegger, but with a thick head of dark hair and equally dark eyes. Josh wasn’t a frequent participant in these late-night pizza breaks, but he did drop by once in a while. And he never came empty-handed.

“Hey, guys,” he greeted them. He held up an extrawide pizza box, simultaneously clapping Robbie on the shoulder. “These calzones were delivered by the man himself a few minutes ago. Four extralarge. After a two-hour workout, I could eat them all myself. But I won’t. Am I welcome?”

“By all means.” Nick beckoned him in. “Join the party. Anyone bearing food is welcome.”

While Josh settled on the floor, Nick picked up the contributions container. He already knew how much the bill was; the cheery voice at the other end of the phone had told him when he ordered. He counted out the cash, then added twenty percent for Robbie.

“Here you go, my friend.” He handed it to him. “Although I could tell you a dozen things more worthwhile to spend it on than school.”

Robbie took the cash gratefully. He stuffed the bills in his money pouch and the rest in his pocket. “I’m sure you could. But I’m hell-bent on that degree.” He waved. “Thanks, guys. You have a good night.”

That wasn’t an issue. The minute the door shut, they attacked the pizzas, calzones and garlic bread as if they hadn’t eaten in days.

“Hey,” Amy complained. “Give Donna and me a head start next time. We can’t chew as fast as you male animals.”

“No chance.” Dom grinned. “Be happy I shared the garlic bread. I could have eaten the whole thing.”

Charlie glanced up, swallowing his mouthful of sausage pie. “Where’s Kendra?” he asked. “She said she’d be coming by on her way back from the library.”

Donna shrugged. “You know Kendra. She probably got involved in a philosophy book and lost track of time. But we’ll save her some pizza, right, guys?”

The guys exchanged reluctant glances. “We’ll give her fifteen more minutes. Then all bets are off,” Dom decided for them.

“Fine.” Donna rolled her eyes. “It’s touching how far you’re willing to go for a friend.”

Ten minutes later, Kendra opened the door and hurried in. She looked the way she always looked—rumpled and rushed. Her curly auburn hair was tousled, and her eyes were glazed from too much reading. She yanked off her coat, tossed it somewhere and grabbed the closest pizza box.

“What’s left—one slice or two?” she asked dryly.

“We fought for you,” Donna told her. “So there might be some hope of leftovers. What kept you—Plato?”

Kendra shook her head. “In this case, no. I was actually in the parking lot. Some sedan blocked in Robbie’s pizza delivery truck and he was having trouble getting out. I couldn’t see the driver because the windows were tinted. But whoever it was, he or she was in no hurry to move, and didn’t catch on until Robbie tapped on the window. The sketchbag only shifted over enough for Robbie to inch his way out and then went back to whatever he was doing.”

“Probably texting someone,” Amy said in disgust. “I feel sorry for delivery people. Same with maintenance workers. People treat them like they’re invisible. The hired help. It sucks.”

Kendra nodded. “I was half tempted to go over and rip the driver a new one. But Robbie waved me away, like it was no big deal. He’s too sweet for his own good. Anyway, he just drove off and probably chalked it up to another crappy aspect of the job.”

“Probably.”

They dropped the subject and returned to the important issue at hand—eating.

But outside, the dark sedan continued to sit there, motor running, the driver intently staring at their window.

BOOK: The Stranger You Know
8.72Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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