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Authors: Leslie Parrish

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Table of Contents

Title Page

Copyright Page

Dedication

Acknowledgements

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Epilogue
Teaser chapter

“A romantic suspense genius.”

—Reader to Reader Reviews

PRAISE FOR THE NOVELS OF LESLIE

PARRISH

Cold Touch

“Fresh, exciting, truly thril ing romantic suspense . . . the Extrasensory Agents

series delivers outstanding paranormal intrigue from a sharp, creative new

voice in the genre.”

—Lara Adrian,
New York Times
bestsel ing author of the Midnight Breed

series

Cold Sight

“Wel -written, guaranteed to keep readers on the edge of their seat. Fil ed with

many plot twists, readers are going to have a tough time putting this one

down!”

—Fresh Fiction

“This story is action-packed and the romance is just right. Ms. Parrish has

written a story that wil hold your attention from the first page and keep it until

the last word is read. Her characters seem so real that they wil draw you into

the story.”

—Night Owl Romance

“This is an entertaining paranormal whodunit starring an intrepid reporter and

a man with telemetric extrasensory psychometric abilities.”

—Genre Go Round Reviews

“Dark, emotional y compel ing romantic suspense with a light paranormal

element. I opened this book and didn’t close it again until the last page had

been read.”

—Book Binge

“Parrish blends her suspense and paranormal elements wel , and I found this

dark thril er immensely addictive . . . romantic suspense with an edge to it.”

—Al About Romance

“The only cold thing about this witty, steamy, and total y engrossing novel is the

high-powered air conditioner you’l need to sit under while reading it . . . a

nonstop ride.”

—Romance Novel News

Black at Heart

“Dark, edgy, fantastic romantic suspense that readers and reviewers al over

the Web are buzzing about.”

—Al About Romance

“The emotional layers in this book, the descriptions, the plotting, the

characterizations are rich and satisfying.”

—Armchair Reader

Pitch Black

“Parrish’s Black CATs novels are taut, exciting, sweet, dark, and hot, al at the

same time.”

—Errant Dreams Reviews

“The ultimate edge-of-your-seat thril er.”

—Romance Junkies

“Parrish creates a heart-stomping story that takes you to the edge of your

seat.”

—The Romance Readers Connection

Fade to Black

“Compel ing hold-your-breath romantic suspense with one of the most

chil ingly evil vil ains I’ve ever read.”


New York Times
bestsel ing author JoAnn Ross

“Al in al ,
Fade to Black
is fabulous.”

—Mrs. Giggles

“A trifecta of good romantic suspense: good characters, good romance, and

good suspense.”

—Al About Romance

“Dark suspense, sexy heroes, fiendish vil ains, and fantastic writing.”

—Roxanne St. Claire, award-winning author of
Edge of Sight

ALSO BY LESLIE PARRISH

EXTRASENSORY AGENTS

Cold Sight

THE BLACK CATS NOVELS

Fade to Black

Pitch Black

Black at Heart

Please visit http://www.Demonoid.me for more books from our generous members.

Baileyd

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First published by Signet Eclipse, an imprint of New American Library, a division of Penguin Group

(USA) Inc.

First Printing, July 2011

Copyright © Leslie Kel y, 2011

Excerpt from
Cold Sight
copyright © Leslie Kelly, 2010

All rights reserved

ISBN : 978-1-101-51643-0

SIGNET ECLIPSE and logo are trademarks of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be

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PUBLISHER’S NOTE

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the

author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or

dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or

third-party Web sites or their content.

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http://us.penguingroup.com

To Caitlin—thanks for your invaluable help in keeping me on track with

these books. Oh, and thanks for being such a wonderful daughter, too!

And to my editor, Laura Cifelli—thank you so much for challenging me to

expand my writing into the world of the paranormal. I’ve loved working on

this series and would never have attempted it without your encouragement

and support.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Sincere thanks to Julie, Janel e and Karen, who, as always, were there to help

me untangle my big bal of plot at a moment’s notice. And to Bruce, who was

always standing by as my sounding board.

Thanks also to Googlemaps for giving me the amazing ability to walk the

streets my characters walked.

Though this story is set in the real—and lovely—city of Savannah, I have

taken some liberties with its history, politics, topography and geography for

the purposes of this story. Thanks for understanding.

Prologue
Twelve years ago

“He’s gonna kil you.”

The boy’s voice shook with both sadness and fear. And with those four

whispered words, Olivia Wainwright’s faint hope of survival disappeared.

The boy, Jack, was he a victim, too? She wasn’t sure. She only knew that

during the three terrifying days she’d been tied up in this hot, miserable barn,

his sharp, angular face was the only one she’d seen. She’d caught brief

glimpses of him in the shadows when he shuffled in to bring her water or

sometimes a handful of stale nuts that she suspected he wasn’t supposed to

share. Once, he’d even come close enough to loosen the ropes on her wrists

and ankles a little, so at least she had some circulation again.

But he hadn’t let her go. No matter how much she’d begged.

He was a couple of years younger than her, twelve or thirteen, maybe.

Skinny, pale, with sunken cheeks and deep-set eyes. While he was free to go

in and out, she suspected he was a victim, too—of abuse, at the very least.

The kid looked beaten down, his spirit crushed, al memories of happiness

long gone.

Olivia began to shake, long shudders making her bound legs quiver and her

stomach heave. She’d eaten almost nothing for days, yet thought she’d be

sick.

This wasn’t supposed to happen. She’d tried so hard to be strong, to think

positively. Her parents loved her, and they had a lot of money. Of course they’d

pay the ransom. She’d told herself it would al be okay. But it wouldn’t be okay.

Not ever again.

“When?” she final y asked, dread making the word hard to push from her

mouth.

“Once he makes sure they paid the ransom money.”

“If they’re paying the money, why is he going to kil me?” she asked, the

words sounding so strange in her ears. God, she was fifteen years old; the

very idea that she would be asking questions about her own murder had never

once crossed her mind.

Four days ago she’d been a slightly spoiled, happy teenager looking

forward to getting her driver’s license and wondering how much begging it

would take to get her overindulgent parents to buy her a Jeep.

Now she was wondering how many minutes she had left on this earth. She

could hear a clock ticking away in her mind, each tick marking one less

second of her life.

“He don’t want any witnesses.” Jack leaned back against the old plank-

“He don’t want any witnesses.” Jack leaned back against the old plank-

board wal and slid down it, like he couldn’t hold himself up anymore. He sat

hunched on the backs of his bent legs, watching her. A shaft of moonlight

bursting through a broken slat high up in the barn wal shone a spotlight on his

bony face. Tear tracks had cleared a path through the grime on his bruised

cheeks, and his lips—swol en, bloodied—quivered. “He’s afraid you can

identify him.”

“I can’t! I never even saw his face.”

That was true. She’d never gotten a glimpse of the man who’d grabbed her

from her own bedroom. Liv had awakened from a sound sleep to find a pil ow

slapped over her face, a hateful male voice hissing at her not to scream or

he’d shoot her and her sister, whose room was right next door. Their parents’

room was on the other side of the huge house, and Liv didn’t doubt that the

man would be able to make good on his threat before anyone could get to

them.

A minute later, any chance of screaming had been taken from her. He’d hit

her hard enough to knock her out. By the time she’d awakened, she was

already inside this old abandoned barn. Jack was the only living soul she’d

seen or heard since.

“I’m sorry.”

“Let me go,” she urged.

He shook his head, repeating, “I’m sorry.”

“Please, Jack. You can’t let this happen.”

“There’s nothin’ I can do.”

“Just untie me and give me a chance to run away.”

“He’l find you,” he said. “Then he’l kil us both.” His voice was low, his tone

sounding almost robotic. Like he’d heard the threat so many times it had

become ingrained in his head.

“When did he take you?” she asked, suddenly certain this boy was a

captive as wel .

“Take me?” Jack stared at her, his brown eyes flat and lifeless. “Whaddya

mean?”

“He kidnapped you, too, didn’t he?”

“Dunno.” Jack slowly shook his head. “I’ve been with him forever.”

“Is he your father?” she persisted.

Jack didn’t respond, though whether it was because he didn’t know or

didn’t want to say, she couldn’t be sure.

“Do you have a mother?”

“Don’t remember.”

“Look, whoever he is, you have to get away from him.
We
have to get away.”

She tried to scoot closer, though her legs—numb from being bound—didn’t

want to cooperate. She managed no more than a few inches before fal ing

onto her side, remnants of dry, dirty old hay scratching her cheek. “Come with

me. Untie me and we’l both run.”

If she
could
run on her barely functional legs.

She thrust that worry away. If it meant saving her life, hel , she’d crawl.

“I can’t,” he replied, looking down at her from a few feet away. His hand

rose, like he wanted to reach out and touch her, to help her sit up. Then he

dropped it back onto his lap, as if he was used to having his hand slapped if

he ever dared to raise it.

“Yes, you can! My parents wil help you. They’l be so grateful.”

“I can’t.”

Again that robotic voice. Like the kid was brainwashed. If he’d been a

prisoner for so long he didn’t remember any other life, she supposed he

probably was.

He reached into the pocket of his tattered jeans, pul ing out two smal pil s.

“Here,” he said. “I swiped ’em from the floor in his room. He musta dropped

’em. I think they’l make you sleep, so maybe it won’t hurt.”

A sob rose from deep inside her, catching in the middle of her throat,

choking and desperate. “How wil he do it?”

The boy sniffled. “I dunno.”

“Not a knife,” she cried, panic rising fast. “Oh, please God, don’t let him cut

me.”

She hated knives. In every horror movie she’d ever seen, it was the gleam

of light shining on the sharp, silvery edge of a blade that made her throw her

hands over her eyes or just turn off the TV.

“He don’t use a knife, not usual y,” Jack said.

His consoling reply didn’t distract her from the implication: She wouldn’t be

the first person to die at her kidnapper’s hands. He’d kil ed before. And this

boy had witnessed those kil ings.

“Don’t let this happen, Jack, please.” Tears poured out of her eyes as she

twisted and struggled against the ropes. “Don’t let him hurt me.”

“Take the pil s,” he said, his tears streaming as hard as hers. “Just take ’em.


“You should have brought the whole bottle,” she said, hearing her own

bitterness and desperation.

“If I could get to a whole bottle, I woulda swal owed’em myself a long time

ago.”

That haunted voice suddenly sounded so adult, so broken. The voice of

someone who’d considered suicide every day of his young life. What horrors

must he have endured to embrace the thought of death so easily?

It was his sheer hopelessness that made her realize she
hadn’t
given up

hope. She was terrified out of her mind and didn’t want to die, didn’t want to

feel the pain of death—
oh, God, not a knife
—but she wasn’t ready to give up,

either. No matter what she’d said, if he had a bottle of pil s in his hand, she

didn’t think she would swal ow them, not even now with death bearing down on

her like a car heading for a cliff.

She wanted to live.

“Where you at, boy?” a voice bel owed from outside.

Jack leapt to his feet, his sadness disappearing as utter terror swept over

him. That terror jumped from his body into hers, and Olivia struggled harder

against the ropes. Like an animal caught in a trap, she could almost smel her

own extermination barreling toward her.

She tried to keep her head. Tried to think.

If her captor didn’t know the boy had warned her, maybe he’d let his guard

down. Maybe she could get him to untie her, maybe she could run. . . .

Or maybe she real y was about to die.

“Please,” she whispered, knowing Jack wanted to help her. But his fear won

out; he didn’t even seem to hear her plea. He had already begun to climb over

the side wal of the stal , fal ing into the next one with a muffled grunt.

No sooner had he gone than the barn door flew open with a crash. Heavy

footsteps approached, ominous and violent like the powerful thudding of her

heart.

Through the worn slats, she could see Jack lying in the next stal ,

motionless, watching her. She pleaded with her eyes, but he didn’t respond in

any way. It seemed as though the real boy had retreated somewhere deep

inside a safe place in his mind, and only the shel of a human being remained.

Her kidnapper reached the entrance to the stal . Stil lying on her side, Olivia

first saw his ugly, thick-soled boots. She slowly looked up, noted faded jeans

pul ed tight over thick, squat legs, but before she could tilt her head back to

see the rest, something heavy and scratchy—a horse blanket, she suspected

—landed on her face, obscuring her vision.

Confusion made her whimper and her heart, already racing, tripped in her

chest. She trembled with fear, yes. But there was something more.

Hope.

He didn’t want her to see him. Which meant he might have changed his

mind. Maybe he knew she couldn’t identify him, and he was going to let her

go.

“Up you go, girl,” he said, grabbing her by her hair and yanking her to her

feet, holding the smal blanket in place. He pressed in behind her, and she

almost gagged. The cloth over her head wasn’t thick enough to block the

sweaty reek of his body or his sour breath—the same smel s she’d forever

associate with being startled awake in the night.

Forever?
Please, God, let there be more than just tonight.

“Looks like your Mama and Daddy ain’t sick’a you yet. They’re paying over

a lot of money to get you back.”

“You’re going to let me go?” she managed to whisper, hope blossoming.

“Sure I am, sugar,” he said with a hoarse, ugly laugh.

Olivia forced herself to ignore that mean laugh and al owed relief and

happiness to flood through her. She breathed deeply, then mumbled, “Thank

God. Oh, thank you, God.”

Ignoring her, he kicked at her bare feet so she’d start moving. She stumbled

on numb legs, and he had to support her as they trudged out of the stal —her

shuffling because of the rope. His grip on her hair and a thick arm around her

waist kept her upright as they walked outside into the hot Georgia night.

At least, she thought she was stil in Georgia. It smel ed like home, anyway.

Not even the musky odor of the fabric and her attacker’s stench could block

the scent of the night air, damp and thick and ripe like the woods outside of

Savannah after the rain.

Maybe she was stil in Savannah. Close to her own house, close to her

family. Minutes away from her father’s strong arms and her mother’s loving

kiss.

Despite everything—her fears, the boy’s claims—she was going to see

them again.

Suddenly, he stopped. “Where you been at?”

A furtive movement came from nearby. Jack had apparently scurried out of

his hiding place. “Watchin’ the road.”

Suddenly, Olivia was overwhelmed with anger at the boy, fury that he’d

scared her, even more that he hadn’t helped her escape. Over the past few

days, there had been any number of times when he could have released her,

but he hadn’t done it.

Then, remembering the blank, dazed expression, the robotic voice, she

forced the anger away. He was a little kid who’d been in this monster’s grip for

a whole lot longer than three days. She couldn’t imagine what he had endured.

Once she got home, she was going to do what she could for him. Help him get

free, find out who his people were. She had to; otherwise that blank, haunted

stare and bruised face would torment her for the rest of her life.

“Good. I’m gonna need your help in a li’l while. Once I take care of this, I

want you to get some plastic and rol her up good and tight to bury her. You

know what to do.”

And just like that, her fantasy popped. He wasn’t hauling her outside to let

her go. Jack had been right al along. Olivia shuddered, her weak legs giving

out beneath her as the world began to spin and the faces of her parents and

little sister flashed in her mind.

“Get me my hunting knife.”

Her every muscle went rigid with terror. A scream rose in her throat and

burst from her mouth. He clapped a hand over it, shoving the fabric between

her split lips. “Shut up, girl, or it’l go worse for ya.” Then, to the boy, he

snapped, “Wel ? Get goin’!”

“Knife’s broke,” Jack mumbled. “I was usin’ it to tighten up the hinges on the

barn door, and the blade snapped.”

Her kidnapper moved suddenly, the hand releasing her mouth. A sudden

thwack said he’d backhanded the boy. Jack didn’t cry out, didn’t stagger

away, as far as she could hear.

“What am I supposed to do now?” the man snapped.

Jack cleared his throat. For a second, she thought he had worked up the

courage to beg for her freedom, that he would try, however futilely, to stand up

for her.

Instead, in that same brainwashed voice, he made another suggestion. And

her last hope died.

“Why don’t you drown her?”

Chapter 1
Present day

Pul ing into the gravel parking lot of a burned-out honky-tonk on Ogeechee

Road, Detective Gabe Cooper eyed his watch, then the temperature gauge

on the dash of his unmarked sedan. Six twenty-five a.m., eighty-two degrees.

Humidity about eighty percent.

It was gonna be a hel of a day. Or a day in hel . With any summer in

Savannah, there wasn’t much difference, and this August heat wave had

already been one for the record books. Not just for the high temps but also for

the crime rate. Because with heat came anger; with anger, violence. And,

more than anybody on the Savannah-Chatham Metro PD would like to admit,

that violence ended in death. Which was why he was here, outside what had

once been Fast Eddie’s Bar and was now one giant hunk of burnt.

Kil ing the engine, Gabe pushed his dark sunglasses firmly over his eyes,

then glanced out the window at a car that had just pul ed in beside him. His

partner, Ty Wal ace, had gotten the cal on his way in to the central precinct,

too, and had detoured to meet him on the scene.

Theirs weren’t the only vehicles present. The fire department had reportedly

gotten the cal at around three a.m., and it had taken crews from two stations

to beat the flames into submission. Now, the smoldering ruins of a once

troublesome hangout were ringed by a handful of trucks, a squad car, a fire

chief vehicle, and a crime scene van that said forensics was already on the

job. From up the block, an early-bird crew from one of the local news stations

ogled everything, hungry for a story to lead off the seven a.m. broadcast.

Fortunately, the few sad, ramshackle houses nearby remained quiet, either

abandoned, or their occupants were sound asleep, tired out after the middle-

of-thenight fire excitement. The only close neighbors likely to be attracted to

the action now would be watching from the afterlife: The North Laurel Grove

Cemetery cast its shadow of eerie-genteel Southern death over the entire

area from directly across the street.

From what he’d heard on dispatch, the initial cal had sounded like just

another random fire, possibly an arson case. The kind where some roughneck

got mad about being cut off, then flicked a match on a tank of propane and

roared away into the night. Then they’d found the body.

Too early to say who it was, how they’d died, or who’d lit the match. But

things had definitely gotten a lot stickier.

Stepping out of the car, he braced himself against an assault of pure heat

against his air-conditioned skin. A sheen of sweat immediately broke out on

his brow. The scorched air was sharp in his nose, the smoky embers leaving a

his brow. The scorched air was sharp in his nose, the smoky embers leaving a

haze that rose to meet the one fal ing from the humid sky. But even that didn’t

quite cover up the smel of old paper and damp cel ar that seemed to

permeate the state in August.

The keening screech of a mil ion cicadas deafened him for a moment.

Oblivious to man’s drama, the insects drowned out the chatter of the on-site

responders and the rumble of a city waking up to another steamy morning.

Summertime in Georgia. You had to love it ’cause you’d just go crazy hating

it. Never having lived anywhere else—he’d been raised on a farm less than a

hundred miles from here and had gone to community col ege, and then the

state university, SSU, right here in Savannah—he didn’t know how he’d react

if a summer day didn’t include sweat and haze and hot air in his lungs. And

bugs . . . Lord knows, you couldn’t forget the bugs.

“Beats some Northern city with ten feet of snow in the winter,” he reminded

himself. Besides, while Savannah might have cockroaches as big as his

hand, he wouldn’t trade them for dog-sized rats in someplace like New York.

Eyeing the smoke stil rising from the charred, blackened remains, he found

himself hoping this was an openand-shut kind of case—arson as revenge,

owner caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. He didn’t know if his

boiling brain was ready for much more than that this early, especial y with no

coffee.

“Hey there, partner,” said Ty, who’d hopped out of his car with his typical

jaunty air. His freshly shaved head gleamed, and his light-colored suit was

crisp and fresh. As usual, the guy looked like he’d stepped off the cover of

GQ
.

Gabe, on the other hand, could maybe pose for
Field & Stream
on his very

best day. A suit-and-tie kinda guy he wasn’t, though, of course, he’d made the

tie concession since earning his shield three years ago.

“Lucky us—getting to work in the great outdoors this fine morning,” his

partner added. “One of the best parts of the job, isn’t it?”

“Cheery SOB,” Gabe muttered, knowing the man was trying to get a laugh

out of him.

“Broughtcha somethin’,” Ty said, lifting his hand to reveal a large, plastic cup

containing some beige Slurpeelike confection topped with whipped cream

and chocolate syrup that wouldn’t be consumed by any selfrespecting coffee

drinker.

He grimaced. “No, thank you.”

“That’s mine.” Ty placed the drink on the car roof and bent back inside.

When he stood, he held a foam cup, the steam rising out of the tiny sippy hole

at the top.

Ahh. Perfect. His partner might have peacock genes, but he did know Gabe

wel . Didn’t matter if the heat index was two below molten lava, he needed his

coffee hot and dark to start the day. “Thanks. You’re forgiven for sticking me

with the report on the liquor store holdup so you could go out with that tranny

you met at the racetrack.”

Always good-humored, Ty grinned. “She was al woman, partner. Just big

and fierce.”

Gabe knew that; he’d just been giving his partner shit. Ty was purely

straight. The younger man loved women, probably a little too much,

considering how many different ones seemed to drift in and out of his life.

Gabe had been warning him that one day he was either gonna get the Bobbitt

treatment, or else he’d fal crazy in love, for real, with a woman who wouldn’t let

him touch a hair on her head.

Watching him take a sip, Ty gave him a sly look and asked, “So, whaddya

say? Is it strong enough to float an anvil?”

Gabe chuckled. One thing he had to say for his young partner, he sure was

tenacious. Ty had picked up some book of Southern expressions and was

forever trying them out. He had moved here from Florida, which any Georgian

would tel you was about as much a part of the true Deep South as New York

City. Tired of losing the argument that south of the Mason-Dixon Line meant

Southern
—which it didn’t—the man was blasted determined to fit in like a

born-and-bred Georgian, one col oquialism at a time.

“Y’al just about got that ’un right,” Gabe said with a grin, letting his own

Deep South accent, which he usual y kept under control, slip out. “But

remember, it’s pronounced ‘tuh’ not ‘to.’”

The younger man saluted. “Got it.”

Leaving their cars, the two of them approached the scene and were

greeted by a sweating firefighter wearing about forty pounds of gear. The red-

faced man eyed Ty’s froufrou drink, and without a second’s hesitation his

partner wordlessly handed it over. “For you.”

Pain-in-the-ass clothes-and-women hound or not, Ty was one hel of a nice

guy. In the year that they’d been partnered up, Gabe had come not only to

respect him but also to like him more than just about anybody else he knew.

Of course, that didn’t stop him from giving the rookie detective shit just as

often as he felt like it.

“Thanks,” the firefighter said, sounding truly grateful. His soot-smeared hand

shook a little with visible exhaustion as he lifted the icy drink to his mouth and

gulped.

“So whadda we got?” Gabe asked after the exhausted firefighter had

sipped deeply.

“Remains were found hidden inside a wal . Looks like they’d been there a

long time.”

Taken by surprise, since he’d expected an arson victim who’d gotten

trapped by the flames or smoke mere hours ago, Gabe frowned. “How long?”

“Skeleton long,” the main replied with a shrug.

Meaning years. Talk about a cold case turned very hot.

“The body musta been wrapped up in plastic or something, which pretty

much melted under the flames. But there wasn’t much corpse left to melt from

what I could see. Just bones.”

“You found the remains yourself?” Ty asked, jotting a few notes in a smal

notebook.

“Uh-huh,” the firefighter said. Offering his name and badge number, he

added, “We were walking down the site, just to check for any hot spots. Didn’t

think there were any victims—the owner lives nearby and came in right away.

Said the bar had been closed for an hour and nobody shoulda been here.”

Gabe glanced around the parking lot and spied a dejected-looking older

man with long, graying hair. His loose shorts, T-shirt and flip-flops said he’d

dressed and gotten here in a hurry. “He the owner?”

“Yeah, that’s him, Fast Eddie himself. He’s been wailing’bout some cracker

who was hassling a waitress the other night.”

Gabe couldn’t prevent a tiny, reflexive stiffening of his spine at the casual,

derogatory slang. Pure product of his upbringing, he knew. He was long past

being bothered about the fact that he’d been labeled a cracker, a redneck, or

just a white-trash bastard as a kid, having grown up on a dirt-poor farm with

his racist asshole of a grandfather.

Huh. He couldn’t even imagine what the old man would say if he knew

Gabe’s new partner was a black man. If Gabe had actual y spoken to his only

living relative once in the past seven years, he might be tempted now to cal

him up, just to tel him that.

“Fast Eddie suspects the guy came back tonight and set the blaze for

revenge,” the firefighter added.

Maybe. But judging by what they’d heard so far, this “cracker” probably

hadn’t been the one who’d left a plastic-wrapped skeleton on-site, unless he

had a twisted sense of humor and a liking for dramatic cal ing cards. “Okay,

we’l talk to him, get a description of the guy.”

The firefighter finished the drink Ty had given him and mumbled, “Thanks,

man. I owe you one.”

“No problem.”

“Next one’s on me, I swear,” he said with a grin. But it quickly faded. “Hel of

a thing, finding something like that. Never seen anything like it. Who’d expect

to stumble over a bunch of old bones stuffed inside a wal ?”

The big man looked shaken. Working homicide, dealing with bodies had

become an unpleasant habit for Gabe, but this guy might never have seen

human remains before. Firefighters went into their field to save lives, while

cops like Gabe eventual y got used to the fact that they spent more time

helping victims after crimes were committed than before.

The old adage said an ounce of prevention was worth a pound of cure. But

in this day and age, with budgets stretched so thin that states were sending

IOUs instead of tax refunds, cops were badly outmanned and often

outequipped. Playing solve instead of prevent seemed to be the name of the

game everywhere, including Savannah.

“Where exactly did you find ’em?” Gabe asked.

“The masonry was stil intact in the corner of what was once a storage

room, but, fortunately, not the liquor storage room, or we might not’a found

anything at al . We got this wicked bitch under control right before she made

contact with about fifty cases of beer and dozens of bottles of Jack, Johnnie

and Wild Turkey.”

That would have been bad. Real bad. The dead over at Laurel Grove

Cemetery might have been rattled out of their graves if that room had gone

up.

“Looks like the body had been wedged up against the wal between two

studs, then closed in with drywal . Once the wal came down, the bones did,

too.”

“You’d think they’d have noticed the smel ,” Ty muttered.

Maybe. But in a bar fil ed with the smel of beer and sweaty bodies, maybe

a nasty odor coming from a packed storage room wouldn’t have stood out too

much.

Thanking the firefighter, Gabe nodded to a man who’d just exited the ruin

—Wright, one of the crime scene investigators. Good. In fact, he was probably

the best. Wright wasn’t a grandstander or a typical science geek. He was

friendly, though methodical and thorough, never missing a thing. Every cop in

homicide hoped he’d be the one they drew on a case.

“Mornin’, detectives,” he said, heading straight to his van and talking over

his shoulder. “I don’t have anything yet.”

“You’re losing your touch then; figured you’d have the vic’s name and

driver’s license number by now,” Ty said with a grin.

Wright, usual y good-natured, didn’t laugh in response. Instead, he shook

his head in disgust. “This poor kid was too young to have one.”

A kid.

“Damn,” Ty mumbled, rubbing a hand against his jaw.

Wright reached into the van and hauled out a sizable equipment case—he’d

apparently gotten here just ahead of them and hadn’t done much more than

walk into the building and take a look. “He’s been there a long time—years