New York Times bestselling author Laura Griffin chills with her newest novel of suspense and romance in the award-winning Tracers series, when a woman police detective in a small Texas town discovers that the only thing more terrifying than a killer you don’t know . . . is the one you do.
Motive, opportunity, and no alibi—it seems close to a slam-dunk. But while rookie detective Allison Doyle’s department has ID’d a suspect in a young woman’s vicious murder, she is uneasy. Then legendary FBI profiler Mark Wolfe shows up with a startling theory: if he’s right, the real murderer is an elusive psychopath just days away from another kill.
Using Allison’s contacts at the Delphi Center crime lab, Wolfe is finally in striking distance of the monster he’s pursued for ten years. Except that as they work together, Wolfe finds the ambitious, stubborn woman a tempting distraction. And with this brutal predator, every thread of evidence can make the difference between being the hunter . . . and the prey.
"The pace is wickedly fast and the story is tight and compelling."
"With a taut storyline, believable characters and a strong grasp of current forensic practice, Griffin sucks readers right into this drama and doesn’t let go. Don’t plan on turning the lights out until you’ve turned the last page."
—RT Book Reviews (Top Pick)
"Mesmerizing… another fantastic roller coaster ride."
—Night Owl Reviews (Top Pick!)
"Fascinating and compelling... kept me guessing until the very end."
"TWISTED is a masterpiece of romantic suspense."
Detective Allison Doyle knew better than to expect the whole night off. But she was an optimist at heart--and she was hungry--so she pulled into the parking lot of Sal’s Quick Stop savoring the idea of a hot Meat Lover’s Supreme.
Everyone in the department had been working round the clock. Allison’s reward was going to be a junk-food dinner and a mindless night in front of the tube. She pulled open the freezer and selected a sausage and double-pepperoni pizza with extra-thick crust. She made a quick detour through the dry goods section and approached the register.
The store owner’s gaze darted to her. His tense expression morphed into relief.
Allison’s skin prickled. Her attention snapped to the customer at the counter with his back to her. Greasy brown hair, oversize leather jacket, shoulders hunched up around his ears. His body moved back and forth with the agitated tic of a tweeker.
The flash of awareness was accompanied by a kick of dread as she realized both her hands were full.
Always keep your gun hand free. Allison knew that. She’d had it drilled into her by every firearms instructor she’d ever met, and yet here she stood with an armed assailant, encumbered by a frozen pizza and a bag of kitten chow, her service weapon tucked neatly beneath her jacket. Panic threatened, but she tamped it down as she scrambled for a plan. If she dropped her groceries, she’d startle him--
The man whirled around, and she cursed her hesitation. She looked at his black pistol and widened her eyes in fake surprise.
“Step back!” He jabbed the gun at her with a shaking hand, then spun to Sal.
Allison scanned her surroundings. No other customers, thank God. Two cars in front, including hers. No getaway driver in the other vehicle, but the headlights glowed, hinting at a running engine. Why hadn’t she noticed it? She was 0-for-3 here, and she blamed a marathon work week that had now culminated in a string of potentially deadly mistakes.
The situation worsened as another car turned into the lot. It pulled up to a gas pump, and she hoped they were paying outside.
The perp spun toward her again with another panicked look. White male, five-ten, one-forty. Dilated pupils. The tremor in his gun hand extended to his whole body, and he was clearly jacked up. Bad news for everyone. So was the fact that he’d made no effort to disguise himself and seemed oblivious to the security camera mounted behind the cash register. Even from ten feet away, Allison could smell the desperation on him.
“I said back!”
She stepped back obediently and tried to look meek.
He turned to the register. “The money!”
Sal reached for the cash drawer. It slid open with a ping, and Allison watched the store owner, noting all the details she’d missed at first glance. He didn’t just look tense, he looked frightened. But it was a fierce frightened, like a cornered animal. Sweat beaded at his temples as his angry gaze flashed to the man aiming the gun at him.
Allison eased forward. Sal glanced at her, and his defiant look had her pulse racing. She knew exactly what he thought of this two-bit meth fiend trying to rip off his business, and she hoped he wasn’t rash enough to do anything stupid before she got this under control.
Allison slid a glance at the gunman. His attention bounced nervously between Sal and her, and she prayed he wouldn’t notice the bulge beneath her blazer. She needed to get her hands free.
Sal took out another stack of bills, and his glare implored her to do something. The perp caught the look and thrust his gun at her.
“You! Over there!” He waved the pistol at the soft drink station.
Damn it, she needed to get closer, not farther away. Her best chance was to disarm him at close range.
She took a baby step back.
“I said now!” A burst of spittle accompanied the command.
Allison took several steps back, looking deep into those desperate eyes. It was the desperation that concerned her. He wasn’t thinking logically. He was capable of anything. Those wild eyes told her he’d shoot her as soon as look at her, and the knowledge made her chest squeeze. She’d thought about being shot in the line of duty, but she’d never envisioned having her life ended by some tweeker with rotten teeth.
He turned and grabbed at the bills with his free hand as Sal stacked them on the counter.
A flutter of movement in the convex mirror near the ceiling caught her eye. She tried not to call attention to it. Meth Man turned around again, and she glanced up to see someone slipping from the corridor at the back of the store into the aisle closest to the door, which led straight to the register. Tall and dark-haired, the man wore a charcoal suit and looked remarkably like the defense attorney Allison had gone to war with in court just last week. But it wasn’t the attorney. This man was leaner and broad-shouldered and made a lot less noise.
“That’s it? That’s all you got?” Meth Man snatched up the pile of twenties and waved them at Sal. “I want all of it!”
Sal grumbled a response as Allison cut a glance to her left. The businessman hunched low now behind a beer display. His gaze locked with hers, and his hard expression commanded her to stay put. Commanded, as in he was used to giving orders.
Just her luck. Don’t try to be a hero, she tried to tell him with her eyes, but his focus was on the confrontation now.
“Hand it over!” The perp was bobbing up and down on the balls of his feet--shrill and angry, but distracted.
Now was her chance.
She flung the pizza away like a Frisbee. In the next instant of confusion, she whipped out her gun and lunged for the man’s weapon.
His pistol tracked her. She registered the black barrel pointed at her face as a shoe came up and the gun cart-wheeled out of the perp’s hand.
Allison thrust a heel into the side of his knee. He howled and crumpled to the floor. The man who’d kicked the gun away shoved Allison aside and flipped the robber onto his stomach. A Glock appeared from nowhere, and he jabbed it against the perp’s neck.
Allison’s mouth fell open. The man turned and gave her a blistering look.
“Who the hell are you?” she demanded.
“You plan to arrest this guy?”
Her shock lasted maybe a second, and then she sprang into action, jerking a pair of handcuffs from her belt and elbowing the suit out of the way. “I got it,” she said, taking control of the prisoner by dropping onto a knee on his back.
The robber squirmed and spewed obscenities as she yanked his wrists back and slapped on the cuffs. Allison’s back felt damp. She took a steadying breath and tried to regain composure as she conducted the pat down.
“You’re under arrest,” she said, with much more bravado than she felt at the moment. Her lips were dry, her hands clammy. She glanced up at Sal, who was on the phone with the 911 dispatcher. “Tell them to send a cage car.”
“You got any other weapons on you?” she asked the perp. “Knives, needles, drug paraphernalia?”
He didn’t answer and she checked his pockets. When she was satisfied, she started to climb off him.
He exploded in a blur of movement. Pain stung her cheek as she caught an elbow, and she had to sit on his butt to make him stop thrashing. The man in the suit pressed a shiny black wingtip between the prisoner’s shoulders as Allison struggled with his legs. At eye level was a shelf of fishing supplies, and she grabbed a roll of twine. She ripped open the package with her teeth and lashed the binding around his ankles. The prisoner cursed and squirmed for a while, but finally the fight went out of him.
She tied the final knot. He was trussed like a turkey now, and she knew she was going to catch all kinds of S & M jokes from the guys at work.
Allison glanced up at the man now leaning against the checkout counter. His palms rested casually on the Formica, and the Glock had disappeared back beneath his suit jacket. He hadn’t even broken a sweat.
He lifted a brow at her. “Not bad, Officer.”
Okay, he was definitely a cop. DEA? Immigration? FBI? And suddenly it hit her. She knew exactly who he was and why he was here.
The corner of his mouth curved up, and she felt a surge of annoyance.
“You have a permit to carry a concealed handgun?” she asked, although she knew the answer.
He sighed and reached into his jacket. He pulled out a leather folio and flipped it open.
“Special Agent Mark Wolfe, FBI.”
Copyright © 2012 Laura Griffin
In addition to the usual suspects, I owe a special thanks to two people who helped inspire this story.
Kathy Bennett provided information and personal anecdotes about what it’s like to be a woman with a badge in a male-dominated field. Her stories helped shape the character of Allison Doyle.
As for FBI profiler Mark Wolfe, I owe his inspiration in part to a book by Gavin de Becker--one of the nation’s leading experts on predicting violence. If you haven’t read de Becker’s book THE GIFT OF FEAR, please run to your nearest book store and pick up a copy. His insights about how predators target and manipulate their victims inspired several scenes in my novel. It is amazing how people--especially women--often ignore survival instincts in favor of being polite or agreeable. THE GIFT OF FEAR is a fascinating look at predatory strategies and a must-read for women.