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"That was a great read... We have thrilling actions... SEXUAL tension... great dialogues... a quick paced gripping mystery -- It is smooth and romantic and left me satisfied, beaming with happiness."

Lena Ribka from Gay Book Reviews
Special Agent Jason West is seconded from the FBI Art Crime Team to temporarily partner with disgraced, legendary “manhunter” Sam Kennedy when it appears that Kennedy’s most famous case, the capture and conviction of a serial killer known as The Huntsman, may actually have been a disastrous failure.
The Huntsman is still out there. The killing has begun again.

 

Summer heat shimmered off the blacktop.

In that shivery, humid light, the big, blond man casually leaning against the silver government-issue sedan—and checking his watch—looked a little like a mirage. No such luck. Senior Special Agent Sam Kennedy was not a trick of the light.

Kennedy looked up, spotted Jason, and grimaced. Maybe it was supposed to be a smile. Probably not, given Kennedy’s reputation.

“Special Agent West,” Kennedy said. His voice was deep, and he spoke with a suggestion of a drawl. “I thought maybe you stopped off to see if you could solve the Gardner Museum heist on your way over here.”

Funny guy, Kennedy. Special Agent in Charge Carl Manning had already warned Jason that Kennedy was not thrilled to be partnered again, let alone partnered with an agent seconded from the Art Crime Team. That’s what happened when you screwed up your last high-profile investigation to such an extent the governor of Wisconsin denounced you on the nightly news. An agent with less seniority would have been “on the beach” for the foreseeable future, but Kennedy was a legend in the Bureau. One of the great “manhunters.” His career would survive, but he was under a cloud, no question. His kind of success earned enemies—and not just from the usual suspects. A successful career wasn’t just about closing cases—and Kennedy didn’t strike Jason as the tactful type.

“Nice to meet you too,” Jason said, reaching the car. Kennedy did not offer his hand, so Jason shoved his own in his pocket. “Just to be clear, I’m supposed to be on vacation. In fact, I busted my ass to get here. I was in Boston about to catch a flight home to L.A.”

“Duly noted.” Kennedy turned away, going around to the driver’s side of the gleaming sedan. “You can throw your bag in the trunk.” He reached in and popped the trunk hood.

Jason opened the trunk and slung his brown leather carryall next to Kennedy’s black Tumi. That was some serious luggage. The luggage of someone who lived out of his suitcase. Primetime TV notwithstanding, it was rare for agents in the Behavioral Analysis Units to leave Quantico and travel around the country, but Kennedy was the exception that proved the rule.

“We need to hit the road. That girl’s been missing over eight hours already.” Kennedy threw that comment over his shoulder, before sliding in behind the wheel.

Jason started to answer but restrained himself. SAC Manning had clued him in to a few facts about his new—temporary—partner. And, ostensibly, this urgency to get to the crime scene out in rural Kingsfield was all part of what made Kennedy so good at his job—not to mention the reason they were meeting in a diner parking lot instead of the division office at One Center Plaza.

He slammed shut the trunk, walked around to the passenger side, and climbed in. The car was still cool with air-conditioning, so Kennedy hadn’t been waiting long.

Kennedy turned the key in the ignition. More cold air blasted out along with news radio. “So you know the area? Your family used to have a vacation home in Kingsfield?”

“That’s right.”

“How nice.” Kennedy’s tone was more like Why am I not surprised? He wore too much aftershave. The fragrance as aggressive as everything else about him. Top note sandalwood, bottom note obnoxious.

“I guess so.”

Kennedy threw him a sardonic look as they exited the parking lot. Or at least the twist of his mouth was sardonic. The dark Oakleys he wore concealed his eyes. He looked to be in his mid-forties. Not handsome, but he had the kind of face you didn’t forget easily. Although Jason was going to try his best the minute this case was over.

Jason said, “Clarify something for me. The Kingsfield Police Chief asked specifically for you because he thinks he might have a copycat killer on his hands?”

“It’s too soon to say, but yeah. That’s the concern, of course. No girl is going to go missing in Worcester County ever again that people aren’t going to fear it’s some kind of copycat crime.” Kennedy began to bring Jason up to date on the case.

It was a swift and concise summation, but then the facts were few. Rebecca Madigan, the teenage daughter of wealthy local residents, had disappeared Friday night while hosting a party for friends. Rebecca’s parents were out of town. The housekeeper had reported the girl missing. A search had been organized, but so far there was no sign of Rebecca.

“There could be a lot of reasons a teenage girl disappears,” Jason pointed out.

“Yep. But like I said, the folks of Worcester County have long memories.”

Yes. With good cause. Jason stared out the window at the slideshow of skyscrapers and historic buildings. Parks, playgrounds…ponds. The dazzle of bright sunlight on green water. The echo of a young girl’s laughter… He removed his sunglasses, passed a hand across his eyes, and replaced the shades.

Worcester was an old city with a modern attitude. It was only about twenty-four miles from Kingsfield, not much more than a forty-five-minute drive, but it could have been a different planet.

He said, “I remember the original case. You were behind the capture and conviction of Martin Pink.”

“I played a role.” Kennedy was displaying unexpected—and undue—modesty. There was no question the Kingsfield Killings had stopped thanks to Kennedy’s efforts, which was no doubt why the police chief had been so quick to call him in this time. It was a little surprising the Bureau hadn’t waited to see how things developed in the Madigan case, but maybe this was as much about putting Kennedy on ice as finding a missing girl. That was certainly the way it had sounded to Jason when SAC Manning had asked him to cancel his vacation.

“What kind of a party was it?” Jason asked.

“What do you mean?”

“It’s June. Was it a graduation party? Birthday party? Sweet sixteen? Secret baby shower?”

Kennedy’s laugh was without humor. “It was the kind of party you throw when your parents are out of town for the weekend.”

“Was everybody invited, or was it private?”

“We don’t have the details yet. You know everything I know.”

Yeah, probably not. Kennedy was old school, one of these lone-wolf types who no doubt preferred to “play his own hand” or whatever bullshit macho phrase his generation used to excuse not being a team player. It made for good TV, but in real-life law enforcement, not being a team player was how people got hurt.

Sometimes you got hurt even when everyone on the team had their eye on the ball. Jason’s shoulder twinged, and he rubbed it absently.