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First pages

Chapter 1

For most people, the start of a New Year brought with it a New Year’s Resolution. Homicide Detective Shane Rogers never believed in them. But he did hope for a fresh start after two years filled with illness and death.

The decision to go back to work on New Year’s Day seemed like the perfect way to ease into a new beginning, except Shane had forgotten one crucial detail: murderers didn’t take the day off.

He stepped from his vehicle and ran a hand through his unruly thick black hair that was a little longer than normal. His son told him he was just too old and nowhere near cool enough to pull off the look. Scratching the back of his neck, he decided to keep the longer hair. He was starting his life over. Might as well have a new look.

He glided his fingers across the Glock securely clipped to his belt. A sudden rush of heat pounded in the center of his chest. The crisp night air burned his lungs.

He moved past a small crowd that had gathered behind a police barricade manned by some of the city’s finest. He flashed his badge, holding it tighter than usual, keeping his hand steady.

“Sign in,” the uniformed officer said.

Shane did as instructed, knowing it was procedure for every crime scene and anyone who dared cross the line would have to file a report. Snow floated gently to ground, adding to the eight inches that had collected in the last couple of days. The weatherman said it wasn’t going to ease up, but get worse, which wouldn’t help with the crime scene; the fresh flakes would cover potentially important evidence.

Bright red and yellow lights flashed across the sky as a half dozen police cars, an ambulance, the medical examiner’s car, and two fire trucks lined the road. The side street was on the outskirts of the city just west of the Genesee River. A couple local news crews had set up their cameras on the far side of the street, all hoping to be the first to break the news. Thus far, all they’d been told was that a body had been found. Nothing about the victim being a fourteen-year-old girl. Nothing about the fact that Congressman Cleary was the father of the deceased.

Shane looked at the names on the list. His partner, Will Jones, had signed in, along with two other uniformed officers, Doctor Eric Green, who was the local medical examiner, and his assistant, as well as the police department’s forensics team.

“Were you the first responder?” Shane asked the officer as he forced himself to focus on the crime scene.

“No. He’s at the front door. I arrived five minutes after and taped off the area.”

“Thanks,” Shane said.

The cracked wooden steps dipped under his weight as he made his way up the porch and into the house. The building was ice-cold and he had left his driving gloves in the car. He clasped his hands together, rubbing vigorously, and then stuffed them into his pockets.

Wires dangled from the ceiling and popped out of the wall sockets. Graffiti and a few pornographic images covered the walls. “You the first responder?” he asked a uniformed officer standing by the doorway.

He nodded. “As soon as I saw the body, I called homicide.”

“Notice anything I should know about now?” Shane asked.

“I was more concerned with making sure the crime scene was secure and dealing with the adolescents who called it in,” the officer said. “Body’s upstairs. Last room on the right.”

Shane kept his steps slow and methodical. The sounds around him were no longer distinct, merely muffled noises that echoed in the recesses of his mind. White noise, they called it. It helped him stay sharp. His mind churned over everything he knew about this case so far.

Which wasn’t much.

He took the stairs one at a time, trying to get a feel for the place. Every homicide crime scene had a texture to it. Even though the body was found upstairs, all rooms could contain a clue that led them in the right direction. He looked at every detail as he made his way to the back bedroom, noting the trash and needles left behind from crack users. This house had seen its fair share of crimes before this murder.

His partner stepped into the hallway. “Shane,” Jones said. “Over here.”

Shane was the only guy he knew on the force who was called by his first name, but only because of a clerical error where it was noted his first name was Roger and his last name Shane. By the time he’d had it corrected, he was already known as just ‘Shane’.

Jones wore the typical black pleated slacks, white shirt, and dark sport coat that every detective kept in his closet. “Are you ready for this?” Jones questioned.

Shane nodded, although he wasn’t entirely confident. “What do we have, exactly?” A surge of urgency raged through him like a wave crashing against the sand. His heart beat so fast his hands shook. Just nerves. A normal reaction to being away from homicide for nearly a year. As soon as he got into the swing of the investigation, it would be like riding a bike.

“I’ve never seen anything quite like this,” Jones said, running his fingers across his chin. “The bastard literally carved out her eyes.”

Shane inched his way into the room and immediately fixated on the lifeless body sprawled out on the cold bare floor, eight small candles around her body. One near the top of the head. One at the feet. And three on each side of the body. It appeared only the one by her head had been lit.

Despite the nausea, his mind snapped into focus. He eased closer, slipping the latex gloves Jones had handed him onto his hands.

The girl’s eyelids sank into the holes where her eyeballs had once been. A person’s eyes could be the gateway into their soul, letting the world see them for who they really were. Even in death, the eyes seemed to hold on to the person’s last thought, or visual, or sound. This victim had none of that.

Small teardrops had been drawn on the girl’s cheeks. The mouth had been covered with duct tape. Shane noted it was from the tail end of the tape, as the cardboard had been flipped up on the right side of the victim’s mouth.

The young girl’s hands were tied above her head with a thin rope. Her skin had turned purple from livor mortis, her hands blue and her arms lined with dark bruises. Shane concentrated on the knot. Just your regular double knot. Nothing special.

“Let me through!” a male voice shouted. “I’ll have your badge.”

Shane glanced between his partner and the door as a two police officers tried to restrain Congressman Cleary as he tried to push his way into the room. Jones and two of the forensics team blocked the view of the body.

“You can’t go in there, sir,” the uniformed officer said. “You’re contaminating the crime scene.”

Shane took five quick steps toward the door. “Congressman,” he said in a level voice. “I’m going to need you to step outside.”

“I need to know if that’s my daughter!” Cleary’s eyes were bloodshot. His breath reeked of alcohol, yet it still took two cops to hold him back. “Let me in, Detective.”

Shane could understand the man’s need, but this wasn’t the time or place. Not when forensics was still dealing with her naked, bound corpse. Even if the initial investigation of the crime scene had been completed and the body covered, it still wouldn’t be the right place for a father to view his child, making it the last memory etched in the man’s head, haunting him for the rest of his life.

“Let us do our jobs,” Shane said. “Your presence puts everything we do under fire when we catch who did this and go for a conviction. As former D.A., I think you can understand the implications of you being here.”

Cleary’s nostrils flared as his chest puffed in and out.

“We’ll get someone to take you home,” Shane said. “Go be with your family.”

“I can drive myself.”

Shane shook his head, but then said to one of the officers, “Make sure he gets home.”

“I’m calling Captain Morrell. He’ll let me stay. Be part of the investigation.” Cleary squinted, pursing his lips in a tight line.

“You do that,” Shane said. “Outside. If my captain calls and clears it with me, I’ll let you in. All right?”

Cleary quickly turned and stomped off down the hallway, the two officers following swiftly behind.

Shane turned his attention to the victim once again. He swallowed as he let his gaze lower to the rest of the body. The killer had stripped her of her clothes, leaving them piled neatly on the floor near the door. The lower parts of her body were dark purple-black, a condition called lividity, and normal in the decaying process. It was impossible not to think about his son, Kevin. It had only been six months since his son lay in a hospital bed, just days from death before a heart miraculously had become available, giving his son a second chance at life.

“Cleary being in this house has already put our investigation at risk,” Jones said, standing next to Shane.

“If his name isn’t on the log book, it’s going to be worse,” Shane said.

The girl’s ankles were crossed and bound, again with a run of the mill thin rope and loose knot, but it appeared some of skin had been rubbed raw.

Bending to one knee, Shane studied the lines and circles on the victim’s discolored skin. The markings looked as if they had been made from a marker of some sort.

“Any reason to think it’s someone other than Congressman Cleary’s daughter, Emily?” Jones asked.

“She looks identical to the picture they gave us and…” Shane forced out a few short breaths. “The clothes and jacket match the description Mrs. Clearly left to the letter, right down to the brand of the parka. She’s the only missing child in the area.”

Jones stood there, hands on hips, blinking his eyes rapidly. During most investigations, he’d remain stoic and philosophical. He didn’t have children. Probably never would. That was because his younger sister had half a dozen, one of whom had been killed in a mass shooting at a mall a few years back.

“Any sign of sexual assault?” Shane reached into his coat pocket and fingered his cell phone. The need to hear his son’s voice was too strong to ignore.

Doctor Eric Green, the M.E., glanced up. “I won’t speculate.”

“Was there a ransom note?” Shane asked Jones. “Any indication on why someone would want to hurt the Congressman or his family? Has the Congressman been threatened lately?”

“Not that we know of.”

“Smells like bleach,” Shane said. “I don’t see any blood. You’d think cutting out the eyes, there’d be a lot of blood.”

“Crime scene techs will check for blood with Luminol,” Jones said.

Shane stepped to the other side of the body. “It makes sense the scene would be clean since the killer took the time to fold the clothes, indicating he cared.”

“Look at her hair, too,” Jones said.

It looked soft and smooth. Recently styled. Shane bet there wasn’t a single tangle in her long golden locks. “What do you make of the drawings on her body?”

“Message of some kind, maybe,” Jones said. “Took pictures on my phone. Want to run it through some databases by morning. See if it gives us a lead. I’ve asked a few people what they think the design could be and I’ve gotten different answers.”

“Looks sort of like a butterfly if you stand over the body.” There was a long single line down the center of her chest. It reminded Shane of his son’s scar. “But looking at it sideways, it looks like a mirror image.”

Jones stepped to the other side. “I go for the butterfly based on the patterns and drawings inside what would be the wings.”

“Me too,” Shane said. “Hey, Doc, do we know anything about how the eyes were removed?”

“A sharp object.” Green glanced up with an arched brow. “I’ll let you know when I know more.”

Shane ditched his gloves, stuffing them into a plastic bag, and then pulled out his notebook. He ran his fingers over the leather cover before flipping it open, a habit he developed on his first day as a police officer. He tapped his pen against the paper before scribbling the word eyes. He also made notes of his first impression of the crime scene, noting the layout and position of the body. He tried to recreate the images the killer had drawn on the body, hoping it would trigger something, but so far, nothing. He shoved the pad back into his pocket. He’d compare them with the written reports later.

Jones stared at the body, hands in his pockets, head tilted. “Why the eyes?”

It was a rhetorical question, but Shane answered anyway. “Could represent how the killer thinks the victim viewed him. Some say the eyes are the gateway to a person’s soul.”

“What about a black market?” Jones asked. “Remember that case where the funeral homes were removing bones and replacing them with PVC piping?”

“I do,” Shane said. “They were selling the bone marrow on the black market.”

“They could also be a trophy,” Jones said. “Remember that one guy in Buffalo who took fingernails? That was weird.”

“Weird is being polite. One more question, Doc,” Shane said. “Was she alive when the killer took the eyes?”

“Not going to speculate on that either,” Green said. “I’ll let you know when I know.” It was his standard response, no matter the question.

Shane swallowed the bile that smacked the back of his throat. He prayed the young girl didn’t suffer too much. No murder was ever easy, but a child? There were no words. He stepped away from the girl and scanned the room. He checked his notes to see if what he saw differed from his first impressions, but so far the only thing that stood out was a distinct smell of bleach, antiseptic, and vanilla, which he assumed was from the candles. “Kids found her, right?” Shane asked.

“Yep,” Jones said. “All minors. Came here with some beer to party. They’re in the patrol cars, waiting for parents. They were pretty shaken up, but still can’t rule them out.”

“That’s rough,” Shane said. “But we’ve seen teenagers do some pretty insane things. Any drugs?”

“No,” Jones said. “First responder indicated that his gut says they found her here. Not going to be an easy memory to erase.”

“You don’t un-see something like this.” Shane watched the forensics team snap a few more pictures. With each flash of light, he mentally stored his own version of the scene in his brain. He moved around the room, trying to get a feel from every possible angle.

“What have the kids said so far, if anything?” Shane asked.

“They told the officer they came to party. Had a thirty-pack. Fifteen were already finished, so well into their little party since there were only four of them.”

“Why’d they come upstairs?”

“First responder said two of them wanted privacy.”

“Teenage drunk sex.” Shane took a few moments to walk the perimeter of the room, searching for another way in or out. “Only one candle lit. Maybe the kids interrupted the killer after he’d killed the girl, but before he could finish lighting the candles. If that’s the case, where did he go?” Shane stopped at the doorway, looking for a place a person could hide. There were two other bedrooms with closets, and a small bathroom. “What about footprints in the snow? Any patterns indicating someone jumped out of one of these windows?” Shane noted that in the front room anyone could have climbed out a window, onto the porch roof, and jumped from there.

“Footprints all over the place,” Jones said. “But with this constant snowfall, hard to figure out who’s who and where they went.”

“So either the killer hid in another room until the kids ran and called us, or...” Shane let his words trail off. “Where did the kids go before we got here?”

“Down to the 7Eleven, just two blocks away.” Jones stepped aside, letting the medics roll in the gurney. “The 7Eleven attendant said they came in screaming and crying and he could barely understand them.”

Shane was still trying to absorb the surroundings as the medical examiner wrapped a body bag around the young girl.

Shane’s phone buzzed. He looked at the screen. “It’s the captain.”

“You’ve always been his favorite,” Jones chided.

“Hello?” Shane put it on speaker.

“Heard you had a visitor,” Captain Terrence Morrell said. He and Shane had butted heads a few times, but not where it mattered.

“I’m hoping when I step outside he’s long gone.”

“He is,” Morrell said. “I’m heading to his house now, but he’s pretty pissed off.”

“I would be, too, if I thought my kid had been murdered,” Shane said.

“I get it,” Morrell said. “But would you have called the Feds in as a personal favor before the body had even been IDd?”

“Fucking great.” Jones rolled his eyes. “Special Agent what’s-his-name?”

“No,” Morrell barked. “He called the D.C. office and now we’re getting two agents from Violent Crimes Unit, even if the vic isn’t his daughter.”

“Why?” Shane didn’t like the sound of that. He had less of a problem working with the Feds than Jones did, but no wanted a team of Feds from D.C. “There’s no reason to ask the FBI for their help.”

“He’s a powerful Congressman, with sights on the presidency, who already compromised the crime scene. We might need the FBI to placate Cleary, and help clean up any mess he might make.”

“They’re just going to get in our way,” Shane said.

“Deal with it,” Morrell said. “I want you both at the morgue right after you wrap things up at the crime scene. Cleary is demanding to view the body tonight.”

“Wonderful,” Shane muttered as he tapped the red button on his phone to end the call. “Let’s go talk to the kids before we leave.”

* * * * *

Shane pulled into the parking area for the morgue at Strong Memorial Hospital. “Hey, Siri, call Kevin Rogers.”

He closed his eyes, trying to forget his last visit to the morgue just a little over a year ago.

“Hey, Dad,” Kevin’s voice boomed over the speaker of his cell phone. “What’s going on?”

“I’m going to be later than I expected,” he said. “Just wanted to say goodnight.”

“I’ll wait up.”

“No, you won’t,” Shane said. “You need your rest.”

“Whatever.”

Shane tapped his chest. The disappointment in his son’s voice was undeniable. “We’ll have a big breakfast in the morning.”

“Grandma is making that French toast bake thing, so we can just pop it into the oven in the morning.”

“My favorite,” Shane said as Jones pulled into the spot next to him. “Got to go, little man.”

“I’m not little anymore,” Kevin said. “I don’t want to be called that anymore.”

Shane shook his head. So many things had changed. “Love you.” He tapped his phone and stepped from his vehicle, pulling his coat tight as the wind howled.

Captain Morrell met Shane and Jones at the door to the back hallway of the hospital, where the morgue was located. A flash of his wife’s body, badly mangled, her face partially smashed in, sent a shiver across his spine as his muscles contracted, shooting pain messages to his brain. He pushed the memory from his mind.

“Cleary and his wife already IDd the body. It’s Emily.” Morrell was in his early fifties. Completely grey. About five-ten. A little on the heavy side, but physically fit. Tonight, he looked as though he had aged ten years.

“That sucks,” Jones muttered.

“We need to tread very carefully on this one,” Morrell said. “Cleary is a well-liked man; not just in the political arena, but locally as well. People are going to want answers and fast.”

“Does the press know yet?” Shane asked, taking in a few slow, shallow breaths as they made their way down the long corridor to the waiting room where he could see the Clearys sitting on something that barely passed as a sofa.

“Not yet,” Morrell said. “Cleary’s wife says she knows you.”

“Alice,” Shane said. “We went to the same high school. Couple of years older.”

“Then I guess you know Kara Martin as well.”

Shane felt his heart swell as he sucked in a harsh breath before letting it out slowly. “What does she have to do with this?” It had a long time since he’d heard that name.

“She’s one of the Feds coming in tomorrow. Local connection. His wife mentioned she recognized the name.”

“Yeah, I know her. Knew her. Haven’t talked to her in years,” Shane said, pushing any memory he had of the woman who broke his heart out of his head. “Anything we need to know before we talk to Cleary and his wife?”

“He’s still drunk, so don’t push too hard. He can get real mean when under the influence, but get what you can,” Morrell said. “I’ve been here as a friend, trying to remain impartial. I want you to do your jobs, and that means no special treatment, but it also means to remember Cleary holds a government job…” Morrell paused. “… more importantly, they’ve just lost a child.”

Shane blinked a few times, picturing his son in his hospital bed. Dry, cracked lips. Body so weak and frail he couldn’t lift a small cup to his mouth. Death had only been days away and had he not gotten his new heart, his son would not have survived but a few more days. Still, nearly losing a child wasn’t even remotely close to the actual devastation of having a child murdered. “We understand,” he said.

The congressman sat on a short sofa that Shane knew from his own experience to be hard as a rock. Mrs. Cleary leaned into her husband, one arm tightly wrapped around her body. She clutched at his free hand. She looked up as Shane and Jones sat across from them. Her eyes glazed over with emptiness and shock. “These are two of my best detectives,” Morrell said, making the rest of the introductions before saying his goodbyes, leaving Shane and Jones alone with the grieving couple.

The congressman’s hands noticeably trembled. His bloodshot eyes were moist.

“We’re sorry for your loss,” Shane’s voice cracked, and he cleared his throat. “Most of this is a formality, but you understand procedure. The clock is ticking and we have to examine every possibility.”

Alice cupped her face and moaned.

Mr. Cleary banged a hand on the coffee table. “I want whoever did this to pay,” he said, his voice sharp, his tone and inflection indicating anger more than anything else. “Ask your questions and then go find whoever did this to my girl.”

“Mrs. Cleary…” Shane started.

She held her husband’s hand. Her shoulders shook as she let out a few more sobs of grief.

“I’m so very sorry to have to do this,” Shane said as he pulled out his leather pad, running his fingers over it. “We need all the information we can get so we can find your daughter’s killer.”

“Then get on with it,” Congressman Cleary barked.

Shane wasn’t surprised by the congressman’s attitude. Everyone dealt with grief differently. He was, however, surprised by Cleary’s wrath while holding his wife, who obviously needed his comfort, not his rage. “You said your daughter had gone into the village?”

“She’d been outside building snowmen with her little sister, who got cold and came in and said Emily went over to her best friend’s house,” Mrs. Cleary said, her voice barely audible.

“Did Emily often go off on her own?” Jones asked.

“She’s fourteen. She babysits the neighbors. It’s not like she can’t go places by herself. She’s a responsible kid.” Mrs. Cleary wiped her eyes.

“Did she often go places without asking?” Shane questioned.

“She’d made the plans the night before,” Mrs. Cleary said. “I was surprised she hadn’t come in to get her cell phone before she left.”

“Why didn’t she have it with her when she was playing with her little sister?” Shane asked.

“This is her third one in a year and I wouldn’t let her take it to romp around in the snow with her little sister for fear she’d lose it, or break it.”

“We’d like to take that into evidence. See who she’s been talking to. If there’s anything out of the ordinary on the device.” Shane continued to study the parents. Mrs. Cleary looked as though she might pass out at any moment. Her face was pale, eyes swollen from crying. But it was the emptiness in her gaze that took Shane’s breath away.

Congressman Cleary had been the District Attorney when Shane first started as a beat cop and then later as a detective. Cleary was known for making deals to clear his desk and keep one of the best records in the state. Even if he had a case he knew he could win, he’d always push for a plea. Shane and Jones had one of their first cases reduced to a plea bargain. Cleary had said that some of the collection of evidence was iffy, so he’d given the asshole a deal he just couldn’t refuse. The man who sat before Shane today was a far cry from the D.A. Shane remembered.

“We’ve looked at her phone. No strange numbers. No inappropriate messages,” Cleary said. “I don’t like what you’re insinuating.”

“I didn’t mean to offend,” Shane said. “We’d still like it. She could have been targeted and her phone could help us. We’d also like to go through her room. Would you be willing to sign off on letting us remove anything that could help us?”

Cleary nodded.

“What led you to call the police?” Jones asked.

“I called her friend’s house about twenty minutes after her sister came in. She wasn’t there, but her friend was. I called a few other friends. Nothing. I waited an hour before I called my husband, who called the police.” Mrs. Cleary lowered her head again and began to sob. Congressman Cleary tightened his grip around his wife, tears welling in his eyes.

“Have you noticed anyone hanging around lately?” Jones asked. “Anyone in the neighborhood that doesn’t belong here? Anything suspicious at all?”

Mrs. Cleary shook her head. “It’s a safe neighbor…” her sobs overtook her words.

“We’re very close with our neighbors,” Cleary said, his voice tight with emotion. “We organized a search party and looked around the neighborhood and all of Emily’s favorite places until we got the news a body had been found.”

“We’re sorry to have to ask you this, Congressman Cleary,” Jones said, “but can you tell us where you were this morning?”

Cleary let out a long breath. “I left the house around eight. Got a cup of coffee and a pastry at the Wegmans on East Avenue. You can check my credit card records. I got to my office downtown no later than nine. My assistant met me there around the same time. I was there until my wife called. She called my cell since the office was technically closed.”

“Thanks,” Shane said. “We’ll need your assistant’s name.”

“Heather Underman,” Cleary said between gritted teeth.

Shane wrote the name in his notebook. “Can you think of anyone who has it in for you? Wants revenge? Anything at all.”

“I’m sure I made a few enemies from my days as D.A.,” Cleary said. “I can get you a list of all the violent cases I closed. Will take a bit.”

“We can get those records,” Jones said. “Anything else you think is relevant?”

Cleary shook his head.

“If you think of anything.” Shane handed the congressman his card, “give us a call directly. We appreciate you taking the time to talk with us.”

“Just find the bastard.” Cleary gripped his wife.

“Truly sorry for your loss.” Shane stood and followed Jones through the long hallway to the front door without shaking the couple’s hands. Once outside, his own body began to tremble. He shook out his hands.

“What do you think?” Jones asked.

“I think I need to get home. I need to see my son. Clear my head and regroup.”

“I understand,” Jones said.

“Kevin has a doctor’s appointment in the morning.”

“I’ll cover, no worries.”

“Thanks.”

“What are partners for,” Jones said.

Shane got in his car and headed for home. The need to be near his own son was so overwhelming it caused a crushing pain in his chest.

* * *

Shane didn’t bother to check to see if he’d closed the door behind him as he bolted into his house. He knew it was well after ten, and Kevin was most likely sound asleep, but he had to see him, even if it was to merely watch his chest rise and fall with each peaceful breath he took.

“Shane,” his mother said.

“Give me a minute.” He raced through the kitchen, across the carpet runner in the living room and up the stairs, taking them two at a time, only slowing when he was at the top and about three feet from Kevin’s bedroom. The door was cracked open just enough for him to stick his head in.

Kevin lay on his side, curled up, hiding under his blanket. A circular light shone from under the thin covers.

Shane cleared his throat.

The light disappeared, but the body mass on the bed hadn’t moved.

“I know you’re awake,” Shane said as he stepped across the room, and then sat on the edge of the bed. The hall light illuminated the room. “I’m glad you like to read, buddy, but it’s past your bedtime. You need your rest.”

Kevin pulled back the covers. “It’s not that late,” he said with a scowl. “It’s not like I have anything to do tomorrow.”

“You’ve got a doctor’s appointment.”

“Oh.” Kevin tossed his book and flashlight onto the floor next to his bed. His dark hair stood up from the static created by the blanket. His brown eyes darted around the darkened room. “Well, it’s not like it’s a school night, since you won’t let me go back.”

Shane shook his head. “Not the time or place to get into this argument. We’ll discuss during sunshine hours.”

“No, we won’t. You’ll just tell me you don’t think I’m ready. I feel fine.”

Shane leaned over and planted a kiss on his son’s forehead. He placed the back of his hand on Kevin’s cheek, letting it rest there for a long moment.

Kevin batted his hand away. “I don’t have a fever.”

“That’s good.” It wasn’t too long ago he remembered worrying that every time his son fell asleep, he might not wake up. He’d given up on the idea that Kevin might ever play sports, much less be able to run around on the playground. Just a few months ago, Kevin couldn’t even climb the stairs without getting winded. Now, the doctors were telling him that life could not only be normal, but that Kevin could do almost anything. Be anything. Shane swallowed. Cleary’s daughter had every possibility snuffed out in a cruel twist that couldn’t even be described as Fate. Or God’s will. Just an act of senseless violence.

“I want to go back to school,” Kevin said, tears welling up in his eyes. “Even Dr. Nads said it was okay.”

“I’ll think about it.”

“That’s what you always say.” Kevin settled down in his bed and pulled the covers up to his chin. “Goodnight, Dad.”

Shane realized he’d just been dismissed, and knew it was best to just let it go for now. “I love you, buddy. Sleep well.”

“I love you back.”

Well, that was something. Shane slipped from Kevin’s bedroom and headed back downstairs to the kitchen, the ache in his heart only slightly pacified. The crime scene had left him with a queasy feeling deep in the pit of his stomach. That wasn’t anything new. Every murder did that to him, but this one affected him on a deeper level…and for so many reasons it was hard to pinpoint the cause of his unease. He chalked it up to having been on voluntary administrative duty for so long. That and knowing that Kara Martin was returning to Rochester.

“Where’s Kevin’s chart?” he asked his mom as he placed his cell phone and keys on the counter. “Was his temperature normal? Did he take his meds?”

“Relax.” His mom handed him an open blue folder with all of Kevin’s information. “It’s been six months since his surgery. He understands he has to be diligent.”

Shane studied the chart which indicated no changes, but he couldn’t relax. He had no idea how to ease up when it came to Kevin. It didn’t matter how well he’d been doing; his body could always reject the heart. “He’s ten and it would be easy for him to forget.”

“You make it impossible for anyone to forget.” She snagged the folder and tossed it to the kitchen counter.

 


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

Jen Talty is an award-winning author of Romantic Suspense and Contemporary Romance. Dark Water hit #10 in Barnes and Noble and her books have been in the top 50 on Amazon. Jen grew up in Rochester, New York. She recently retired from being a full-time hockey mom as her children hung up their skates. She and her husband still live in Rochester while her children travel globe.

Q. Where did the idea for this book come from?
A.
The idea for the Butterfly Murders came right out of my local headlines. A Funeral Home director was charged with stealing body parts and selling them. I thought, "what if someone was killing people for their transplanted organs?"
Q. What draws you to this genre?
A.
I love romantic suspense because it deals with two polar opposite concepts. The first one being the darker side of human nature. I'm fascinated by what drives a person over the edge. On the flip-side, I love a good romance and a happily-ever-after ending!
Q. Where can readers find out more about you?
A.
Please visit my website at http://jentalty.com. There, you can find out about my other novels, as well as find me social media, join my Facebook group, and contact me. I love to hear from my readers!

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