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Contents

About the Book

About the Author

Also by Terri Persons

Title Page

Dedication

Acknowledgments

Prologue

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

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

Chapter 37

Chapter 38

Chapter 39

Chapter 40

Chapter 41

Chapter 42

Chapter 43

Chapter 44

Copyright

About the Book

A string of troubled, young women committing suicide haunts the Twin Cities. But FBI Agent Bernadette Saint Clare has a hunch that these women didn’t die by their own hand but were killed by a fetishistic serial killer.

It’s a big leap to take and Bernadette’s going to need some serious evidence to back it up. There is the English professor who teaches a course on Suicide in Literature who has got uncomfortably close to one of the victims. And then there is the uncooperative psychiatrist who treated two of the dead girls. Both of them know more than they are saying. Saint Clare is going to have to unlock their secrets in the most unique thriller you’re bound to read all year.

About the Author

Terri Persons was a journalist and freelance magazine writer for twenty-five years before becoming a novelist. She lives in the Midwest with her husband and two teenage sons. When she isn’t writing books, she enjoys fishing, trap-shooting, hiking, camping, boating and playing with her dogs. Her reading tastes run the gamut, but she would have to count John Sandford, Michael Connelly and Anne Rice as among her favourite authors.

Also by Terri Persons

Blind Spot

This book is dedicated to

my brother, Joseph,

his wife, Rita,

and their children,

Anthony, Robert, and Christina.

They have always been there for me and mine

with their love, faith, and sense of family.

Acknowledgments

My devoted husband, David, and our wonderful sons, Ryan and Patrick, keep me buoyant in this journey with their love and trust. I’m a blessed woman.

I continue to be awed by the excellent work of my agent, Esther Newberg, and my editor, Phyllis Grann.

I’m thankful for my supportive pals in the First Friday Club, a collection of cranky journalists and ex-journalists who meet once a month to gossip over soup and sandwiches. Where should we go for lunch next, guys?

To my buddy John Camp: Thank you for the ongoing advice and friendship.

Prologue

THE HOUSE WAS filled with the warm aromas of chili powder and fried ground beef, the only leftovers from taco night. In the white kitchen a boy sat at the table with his hands folded atop the white linen as if immersed in a postmeal prayer. He was dressed in a parochial school uniform: light blue oxford shirt, navy necktie, navy slacks, thick-soled black shoes. Without being given any instructions, he’d already wiped down the stovetop, cleared the table, scraped the plates, and loaded the dishwasher. The racket of the rinse cycle rumbled under the counter, but it was the noise overhead that made his eyes cloud with terror. The tub was running. In any other home, the musical drum of water hitting the porcelain would mean it was bath time. In this house the sound was a dirge.

Though his body was immobile with fear, his mind was convulsing with questions and answers: What did I do? I didn’t do shit … Mid-quarter grades are coming out. Did I get a B in anything? No fucking way … Did the nuns bug Dad at the office over some bullshit, something I did during lunch or gym or mass? No. I’d know. School would have hauled me into the office before calling him … Did Mom find something in my room? Hell no. Nothing there to find … What is it, then? What did I do?

The rinse cycle lurched to a halt, leaving the running tub to a solo performance. He stared up at the ceiling and tried to kid himself: Maybe Mom is taking one of her bubble baths. That must be it. All the worry for nothing. The harsh voice of reality broke through: Not this early. She’d miss her hospital show.

Am I the one in trouble?

The yells rolling down the stairs from the second floor answered his question.

His father’s booming voice: “Care to explain this?”

A teenager’s rebellious response: “Weren’t you listening? It’s not mine!”

“Then whose is it? How did you end up with it?”

His mother, using a sweet singsong tone that was more frightening than his dad’s loudest barks: “Answer your father. Tell the truth. We’ll find out if you’re lying. We always find out.”

“It’s not mine,” the teen repeated.

The sugar voice again: “Come on now. How stupid do you think your parents are? It was in your backpack.”

“I don’t know how it got there. I swear to God. One of the kids at school must have put it in there.”

“Who put it there?” bellowed his father. “When? How? Why would they?”

A litany of excuses: “None of them like me … Maybe they didn’t want to get caught with it … They could have done it as a joke, while I was riding the bus … I don’t know. I just know it’s not mine.”

“Fuck,” the boy breathed to the ceiling. The reasons for his sibling’s unworthiness scrolled through his head: Can’t even come up with a decent lie. Dummy deserves it. Always causing trouble. Always picking a fight with them.

The tub faucet overhead squeaked to a stop, and all thought fled his mind in a panic.

Heavy footsteps took the stairs down slowly and purposefully. The boy lowered his eyes as his father stepped into the kitchen. He was tall, lean, and square-shouldered. Though his eyes were cool, his face retained the flush from the upstairs shouting match. His close-cropped hair echoed the military-like trim of his son’s cut. He was still dressed for work, his only concession to being home was a slight loosening of his tie. Taking in the cleared table and countertop, he smiled. “Good job.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“Taco night’s always fun, isn’t it?”

“It is, sir.”

“I need you to come upstairs now. You’ve got one more chore, and then you can hit the books. If you get done early, you can catch the second half of the Vikings.”

     

 

2011 - 2015

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