Mark shook his head. ‘Why would you think I’d forget that?’

‘Because of everything I just said to you. And because …’

‘Because what?’ said Mark.

Erica looked him in the eye. ‘Mark, are you seeing someone else?’

He stared at her. He took a deep breath. Then he threw his napkin onto the table. ‘I’m going to check on the kids.’

Ren and Cliff waited as Glenn Buddy held his hand over the phone to talk to a nurse.

He came back on the line. ‘The vic won’t be ready to talk any time soon.’

‘Were there any signs of forced entry at the house?’ said Cliff.

‘Yup,’ said Glenn. ‘He broke in the back door. She was alone; her parents were at the movies.’

‘And you think it’s the same guy …?’ said Cliff.

Even though it’s forced entry in the victim’s own home.

Ren glanced at Cliff, but he missed it.

‘Yes,’ said Glenn. ‘Similar build, frenzied, same unwashed smell, terrible breath, stab wounds in all the same places.’

Ren knew where those places were and it was horrific.

‘Anything left at the scene this time?’ said Cliff.

‘Nothing that hopped out,’ said Glenn. ‘Our Evidence Response Team’s going through it. And we’re still trying to round up kids from the Kennington party. It’s The Silent Order of the Teenage Freaks …’

‘What do you need from us?’ said Cliff. ‘Shoot.’

Mark Whaley rode the elevator to the third floor of The Merlin Lodge and Spa. He jogged down the dark hallway. He turned the key in the door of Room 304. The sitter — blonde, curvy, sixteen years old — was standing in front of him … naked.


The restaurant at The Merlin had emptied, apart from Erica Whaley. She sat scrolling through her cell phone, glancing up when her husband appeared in the restaurant doorway, then turning her eyes back to the screen. Mark sat down. His heart was pounding. Sweat dampened the hair at his temples.

For minutes, they sat in silence. Erica had put away her phone and was staring at the floor.

She spoke quietly. ‘I don’t want to be this couple,’ she said.

‘What couple?’ said Mark.

‘I don’t want to be two people staring across a table trying to find the person they fell in love with.’ Tears slid down her face.

For a long time, Mark Whaley said nothing. Then he reached out and squeezed her hand. Pulling her with him, he stood up and took her in his arms. ‘I’m so sorry,’ he said. ‘I … you’re right. I’ve been … I am so sorry. I love you more than I have ever loved anyone in my whole life. I am not seeing anyone else. I am so hurt that you asked. You are my world, Erica Whaley. And anything I have ever said or done that may have made you think otherwise is wrong. I can’t bear it. I can’t bear any of this.’

Erica pulled back. ‘Any of what?’ she said, squeezing his arms.

‘Just … conflict,’ he said. ‘Life.’

‘Life?’ said Erica. ‘Life is wonderful.’

He hugged her tight. ‘Life is wonderful,’ he said over her shoulder, out to the world.

‘How are the kids?’ said Erica.

‘Asleep,’ said Mark. ‘Let’s stay a while longer — the sitter was in the middle of watching something on the television. I’m sure she won’t mind.’

Ren Bryce pulled out the top drawer of her desk to get some gum. The list of new psychiatrists she had so enthusiastically printed out at five a.m. the previous month was folded there, as likely to be used as the throat lozenges, the broken watch, and the birthday candles. After all, she was fine.

Shit — Gary’s email.

Ren grabbed her mouse and went to her flagged emails. Gary Dettling had sent her one two weeks earlier that had a vague resonance.

She clicked on it.


I’ve set this up:

Monday, November 16, 1 p.m. Dr Leonard Lone.

Recommendation from a friend …

This Monday.

Ren sat back in her chair, and stared up at the ceiling.

I’m fucking fine, people.

Gary Dettling was the only one in the office who knew Ren was bipolar. Before he had hired her for Safe Streets, he had trained her as an undercover agent, and then became her case agent on one of the most well- known undercover assignments in the Bureau — it had proved Ren’s talents, and almost destroyed her. Not long afterwards, she had been diagnosed. The arrangement with Gary was that she always had to be under a psychiatrist’s care, but he allowed her to use an outside psychiatrist, because she had never clicked with an Agency one.

She read the reply she had sent him.

Thanks so much, Gary. I’ll be there.

In the meantime, please, someone, give me a plausible reason not to be.

Gary walked into the bullpen as Ren was closing his mail. He was hard to miss — tall, dark and athletic, he was the perfect front man for Safe Streets, and a boss that no-one could or would argue with.

‘Guys, this is SA Ben Rader,’ said Gary.

A short guy stepped forward from behind Gary and gave a small nod. He was five foot eight, with tanned skin and black hair. He had green, smiling eyes. He was dressed in black jeans, with a military shirt hanging open over a black t-shirt. He had a wide silver band on the middle finger of his right hand. He was shifting from one foot to the other, and had jammed his hands into his pockets. He looked about eighteen.

The Young and the Restless.

‘Ben is one of our finest UC graduates,’ said Gary.

‘Yup,’ said Ben. ‘Strictly deep cover in retirement homes …’

Ren laughed. He flashed a big smile her way.

‘I’m just passing through,’ said Ben. ‘I thought I’d catch up with Gary, say hi.’

‘Please, excuse me,’ said Ren, standing up, and moving around her desk. She pointed out the door. ‘I was on my way to the ladies room.’ She moved to walk past Ben and Gary.

‘This is SA Ren Bryce,’ said Gary.

Ren shook Ben’s hand. ‘Nice to meet you,’ she said.

Ben beamed. ‘You too,’ he said, keeping her hand in his grip.

Oh my God. Stop.

Ren glanced, panicked, toward Gary, but he had turned toward the hallway. Ren pulled Ben a little closer, and as she moved by his left ear, whispered. ‘I found your skull ring … it was in the shower tray.’ She slid her hand out of his. She walked to the ladies room.

Ben texted, All that soap …

She texted back:

Slippery …

He texted back:

When Wet …

Вы читаете Blood Loss
Добавить отзыв


Вы можете отметить интересные вам фрагменты текста, которые будут доступны по уникальной ссылке в адресной строке браузера.

Отметить Добавить цитату