Draping a tie around his neck, and buttoning his shirt, Special Agent Chase Morgan limped toward his front door. He was going to kill the idiot leaning on his doorbell. He smoothed his still damp hair before yanking the door open. “What?!”
“Do you remember Bailey O’Neill?”
Chase frowned at the dark-haired, perfectly pressed man looming in his doorway. He’d been expecting a different greeting from his partner Sebastian Black. It was, after all, his first day back on the job. He’d undergone six weeks of recovery and rehab after the Bates shooting, and had hoped for a “Hasn’t been the same without you” or at the very least, “Good to have you back”. Instead, he hadn’t even gotten a “Good Morning”.
After ringing his buzzer forty-five minutes earlier than they’d agreed, the younger agent now seemed intent on wearing a groove in the newly-installed hardwood floor of Chase’s apartment. He paced the foyer like a caged panther, asking about Bailey O’Neill. Chase shrugged. He should have known better than to expect a warm fuzzy from Black.
“Do you want a cup of tea? I’m brewing a pot. Chamomile, supposed to be calming.”
Sebastian shook his head.” Do you remember him?”
“Sure. He was the guy you were dueling with to be first in your class atQuantico, right?” He stepped in front of the mirror in the middle of the foyer, intentionally interrupting the other man’s path of motion.
Ignoring the reminder of the rivalry, and changing direction, Sebastian nodded. “He called me.”
“I thought he wasn’t with the Bureau.” Lining himself up with the mirror that hung in the foyer, he tied his tie with a practiced hand. He had to pull the knot a little tighter than usual. Nothing fit quite right. Lying in a hospital bed he’d dropped a lot of weight, much of it muscle-tone, right after he’d been shot. He’d gained some back in the past couple of weeks, but the remains of his ordeal were still visible in his reflection. Lines were deeper, skin was paler, and he looked like a worn-down version of himself. Still, having finally recovered his appetite, he’d have to start hitting the gym more often. Otherwise, as his sister had teased mercilessly, instead of building muscle, he’d end up looking like Pillsbury Dough Boy he’d been as a teenager, because he did love to eat. Reaching into the top drawer of the table beneath the mirror, he pulled out a smooth black rock the size of a marshmallow. He tested its familiar weight before slipping it into the pocket of his pants.
“He went home to become a deputy in some Pennsylvaniatown because of family commitments.” The last two words were practically spat, as though he found the concept of sacrificing a career for a relationship morally offensive; which was why, at 31, the tall, good-looking junior agent was steadfastly single after a brief marriage.
Holstering his service weapon for the first time in six weeks, Chase felt a pang of sympathy for his protégé. Sebastian seemed destined to spend his life alone, which was a shame because he really wasn’t a bad guy, just a tad too driven.
“He thinks he’s got a Baby Doll.”
Bitter, acidic bile rose in Chase’s throat. His body went cold, and he almost puked on the spot. The Baby Doll Strangler who had killed Ashley, Kimberly, Robin, Amanda and who knows how many other innocent little girls up and down the East Coast over the years was Chase’s obsession. He was his greatest failure. The idea that he’d struck again sickened him. “He’s sure?”
“Can’t be. Might be a copycat. He sent pictures to my phone. Girl’s the right age, dressed in the pajamas, hair and make-up done by a pro. The body’s positioned like all the others but the dump is wrong.” He handed Chase his cell phone as he spoke.
Chase scrolled through the photographs. She looked like all the others. He could see why O’Neill was concerned. Giving the phone back, Chase slipped his hand into his pocket, wrapping his fingers around the small, smooth rock he always carried. There were cases that haunted every agent. The Baby Doll Strangler was his own private nightmare, his and Sebastian’s. Twice now they’d come close to capturing the sick bastard, but both times he’d gotten away. It had been over eighteen months since the last of the perfectly primped bodies of teenage girls had piled up, and Chase had been hoping it meant they killer had been run over by a truck or something. No such luck, if this panned out.
“As far as O’Neill can tell, she was left in front of a random house.”
“That’s different.” Usually the victims were left in places that were significant: in front of the parent’s home, at their school, curled up in the middle of the dance floor at the studio where they took ballet. “O’Neill’s asking for our help?”
“What’s your gut say?”
Chase raised his eyebrows. “Since when do you put stock in my gut? How many times had his partner made it abundantly clear that he believed in order, rules and science, definitely not feelings?
Ignoring the challenge, Sebastian tapped his foot impatiently. “Should we go or not?”
“I like O’Neill. Good head on his shoulders, good instincts. A pretty healthy ego to ask for help from the guy who’s a former competitor.”
“So we go?”
“It would be rude not, considering he issued the invitation.”
“Okay, I’ll let him know we’re on our way.”
“But not before I’ve had my tea.” Leaving his partner in the foyer, Chase did his best to stroll to his kitchen without limping.
Would you read a book featuring these two?