Use code DAD23 for 20% off + Free shipping on $45+ Shop Now!
By Candice Fox
Formats and Prices
- Trade Paperback $15.99 $20.99 CAD
- ebook $9.99 $12.99 CAD
- Audiobook Download (Unabridged)
- Mass Market $9.99 $12.99 CAD
This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around August 7, 2018. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.
Also available from:
SHE WAS PERFECT. And so rarely the perfect ones came, fluttering out of the darkness like moths into golden light. Swift and uncatchable.
He had wandered the third floor of the car park for a couple of hours now, risking it all for his ideal victim. A number of young women had crossed the little grassy field below where he stood as classes at the university ended and new ones began. He watched them toting shoulder bags and the occasional paper coffee cup, blinking in the warm daylight. Then the place was deserted again, and he waited.
It was bright out, leaving a dark shadow in the corner of the parking lot, to the right of the fire stairs. He'd watched a potential girl enter the stairwell, his heart thumping, but she was only halfway up the concrete steps toward him before he realized she wasn't right. She had a friend on the phone. Cackling laughter. No. He'd know her when he saw her. Big doe eyes. Frightened, down-turned mouth. Thin wrists he could squeeze and twist.
The desire to flee picked at him. It was risky, hanging around too long. The university campus was on high alert after the police had found his previous works. Marissa. Elle. Rosetta. His brunette beauties mangled, ruined. Tragedies laid out on the sand. As news of the Georges River Killer spread, girls across campus had started dyeing and cutting their hair, walking in groups at night, having the security guards take them to their cars. It wasn't about the hair for him—although he hadn't failed to notice their striking resemblance to his first, many years ago. No, his university girls had simply been the right kind of innocent. Content, confident. He looked for the forthright stride, the high chin, the captive excitement of rosebuds just before they bloom.
He told himself to be patient. The plan had gone so well so far. His finale was worth the risk. A few more minutes. He wandered into the stairwell as he heard footsteps.
Then he saw her, her hand on the rail, gripping, pulling as she ascended. A slice of her soft cream brow and high cheekbone as she turned the corner.
Oh, there she was. His perfect girl.
SHE EMERGED FROM the stairwell door and he swept an arm around her throat, yanked her backwards. The sickening rush of chemicals through his veins threatened to knock him off balance. She didn't make a sound at first. The breath left her instantly. Her bag fell. Then the clap of his palm over her mouth, her heels dragging as he turned and pulled her toward his vehicle.
"No!" a muffled wail. "Stop! Stop! Stop!"
She bucked, twisted, tried to sink out of his arms. He was ready for the movement, knew the victim's dance by heart. He sank with her, gripped tighter, pulled her body hard against his. Never letting her think for a moment that she had a hope of escape. Hope was a dangerous thing.
He had no idea where it came from. She was totally under his control. But hope had infected her, as tangible in her body as an electric pulse. Without warning she stiffened, let go of his hands and swung her fists over her own head at his face.
A fumbling blow. The shock of it. He let her go. She hit the ground and the scream erupted out of her, rapturous, like a song. He punched her in the stomach, tried to gather her up. This wasn't the plan!
She twisted and scrambled against a car. He swiped at her. Missed.
She was up and running. And as she ran, she almost knocked over another girl standing there watching, mouth hanging open, phone in hand.
"Run!" his victim screamed at the girl, already disappearing into the fire stairs. "Run!"
He righted himself. The new girl was too shocked, appalled by what she'd witnessed, to take a step back out of range. Big brown eyes, dark skin, the slowly opening and closing mouth of a woman feeling paralyzing terror wash over her.
She wasn't his perfect girl, but she was a delightful surprise.
He seized her wrist.
SHE FIRST BECAME aware of the television in the corner, its robotic noises, bleeping and zooming and piercing jingles, the crash and tumble of advertisements. Caitlyn shifted her face against the mattress. She was sweating badly, or bleeding, she couldn't tell. She tried to speak and found her lips were sealed by tape. Panic shot through her. A spike of pain that reached from the heel of her bare foot to the crown of her skull. She turned, struggled against the tape on her wrists. Her nose was broken.
A damp concrete room. A bare mattress, a blanket bunched at the end. Rusty beer kegs and wooden crates, a pile of trash in the corner waist high. Mop heads and buckets and a milk crate full of bottles, a vacuum cleaner covered in an inch of dust. Caitlyn reeled, tried to get her bearings, scrabbled against the wall. Her ankles were bound. The terror was so loud in her brain that for a moment it blocked out all sound from the television. She saw him standing before the screen, turned away from her, his hands hanging by his sides.
The university. The car park. She'd been on the phone to her mother in California, fending off her ridiculous warnings about the killer on campus. It had been bright. Sunny. Afternoon. Then, in a snap, a different picture altogether, the curtain sailing closed and sailing open again on a horror-movie scene. The girl fighting with the hooded figure between the cars, rushing past her, a blur of heat. Run! Run! Caitlyn hadn't run. Hadn't done anything. And then he'd been right in front of her, impossibly fast, his fist swinging down toward her face.
Every story she'd ever heard of abduction and death and rape rushed through her mind, a whole catalogue of atrocities collected since she was a child and her teacher first taught them about Stranger Danger. True crime novels she'd browsed in airports. Macabre, late-night episodes of SVU, young girls being dragged out of sex dungeons, recounting atrocities, shivering in the witness stand. Now you are one of them, Caitlyn thought. Now your nightmare begins.
The man in front of the television was angry. His broad shoulders were high. She watched, wild-eyed, as he gripped the back of his shaven skull, ran a hand down his neck and back again, scratched hard. Caitlyn looked at the television screen just beyond him, the police leading a cuffed, black-haired man toward a waiting paddy wagon.
"…the arrest of Samuel Jacob Blue over the murders of three young women abducted from the area surrounding the University of Sydney campus. Police say Blue was apprehended in…"
"This wasn't the plan," the man with the shaved head murmured. He turned and glanced at Caitlyn where she sat huddled against the wall. He seemed to be assessing, his mind churning with decisions. "Fuck. Fuck!"
The rage rippled through him. She saw it creep up his arms until his neck tightened, the thick jugular standing out against sweat-sheened skin.
He turned and watched the screen and gripped his head again. "It wasn't finished yet!" Caitlyn watched as he knelt, almost shakily, before the screen. His fingers twitched, inches away from the glass, as Samuel Jacob Blue appeared, glancing fearfully at the crowd as the paddy wagon doors closed on him.
"I need you," her captor said, his eyes locked on Blue. "I need you, Sam."
Four months later…
FOUR MONTHS. ONE hundred and twenty-seven days, to be exact. That's how long my brother had been in prison for a crime he did not commit. I stood on the steps of the courthouse, ignoring my partner, trying to decide if my math was correct. It was. As I waited, staring down at my ridiculous high heels, listening to the shouts of the crowd nearby, another day of Sam's life was being lost. I drew hard on my cigarette, clutched the stupid pink handbag into my side. The passing seconds were agony. Waiting for the court to open once again on the circus that was the Georges River Killer case. Another day I would fail to bring him home.
I am a Sex Crimes detective with the Sydney police. I used to think I was pretty good at my job. Versatile. Adaptable. I had a keen sense for bad men, and I wasn't afraid of bending the rules to make them admit what they were. A cracked tooth here, a broken finger there. I made men tremble in their seats. Harriet Blue: Terror at Five-Foot Two. While I was the natural enemy of the caged rape suspect, I could also be soft and gentle enough to coax a tiny, bruised child into revealing what his or her abuser had done, when no amount of coddling and bargaining by trained psychologists had struck pay dirt.
But, four months earlier, my own colleagues had left the police station where I worked on their way to make the biggest arrest of their careers—a man they believed was a vicious serial killer who had tortured and murdered three university students. No amount of intuition, or skill, or training had prepared me for the fact that that man was my own flesh and blood.
Sam's case was all the nation was talking about. The newspapers were calling him Australia's worst serial killer, and that was no small claim—every article compared him with the fiends who'd taken up the mantle before him. Ivan Milat, the Backpacker Murderer. Arnold Sodeman, the Schoolgirl Strangler. Eric Edgar Cooke, the Night Caller. Now came Samuel Jacob Blue, the Georges River Killer, responsible for the prolonged, brutal deaths of three beautiful, young students.
For four months, I'd been determined to do everything right to help my brother go free. He was innocent. I was sure of it. The man who abducted, raped, tortured and strangled the three women I saw every night on the news was not the man who'd once been a boy snuggled beside me in the temporary beds at the offices of the Department of Children's Services. He was not that terrified boy, whispering to me in the dark, wondering which foster home we were going to be shipped to next. He was not the teenager who'd defended me at various high schools when the kids came to pick on the shabby interlopers. The one who made me birthday cards when our new families forgot. Whoever he was, he did not have my brother's soulful kindness. His never-ending generosity.
On the footpath nearby, the usual gathering of gawkers and court ghouls waited for the doors to open. One caught my eye and spat on the ground, spoke loudly to his friend in the queue.
"She knew what he was up to," he said. "How could she not?"
"Don't listen, Harry." My partner, Detective Edward Whittacker, tried to take my arm and turn me away from the crowd. "You'll only make yourself madder."
"I'm not mad," I lied, shrugging him off. "I'm cool. I'm calm. Today's going to be the day. We'll find it today. The key."
I'd been talking about the "key' to my brother's case since his arrest. The thing that freed him. A piece of false testimony. A surprise witness. Something, anything. I'd been looking into Sam's case, and I hadn't found the key that proved he wasn't the killer. But I had high hopes. Hell, my hopes got so high sometimes I had fantasies of the killer himself walking into the courtroom and confessing. Giving up was far from my mind.
I spotted my brother's prosecutor, the enormous, broad-shouldered Liam Woolfmyer, strolling toward us with a colleague beside him. Whitt had my arm again, his other hand fumbling at his necktie.
"Don't say a word," he growled.
"You keep pawing at me and it'll be more than words you have to worry about."
"I'm warning you, Harry." Whitt glared over the top of his glasses at me. The gentle, fastidious detective had been mortified to hear me sneer a stream of obscenities at Woolfmyer the first morning of my brother's hearings.
Sometimes there's a wild Harriet in me, a woman I can't control. She rears her ugly head without warning. The comment from the queue already had her twitching. But then I stole a glance at Woolfmyer, and the worst of all things happened. He locked eyes with me, smiled, and leaned over in mock confidence to his companion.
"Samuel Blue won't last a single night in Long Bay prison," Woolfmyer said. "He's far too pretty. Someone will make him their bitch."
The bad Harriet in me swelled, like white-hot steam, blinding and painful behind my eyes. As Woolfmyer passed I was already taking steps to catch up with him. I barely heard Whitt's call.
The few meters between Woolfmyer and me closed in an instant. I was behind him. My hand reaching up, completely beyond my control.
I tapped him on the shoulder. Woolfmyer stopped and turned.
I punched him as hard as I could in the temple.
I'VE ALWAYS BEEN a fighter. It's necessary, when you have a childhood like mine, to know how to defend yourself physically. I was a scrappy, dirty fighter before my police chief taught me how to box. He made the mistake of honing the self-taught craft of a brutal, remorseless combatant. Size means nothing when you know what you're doing. I swung up and to the left with a hard, balled right fist and smashed the prosecutor with all the force in my arm, shoulder and hip.
The only sound was the dull thump of his body on the pavement, the whisper of his settling robes, a big bird brought down out of the sky by a rifle blast.
My regret was instant. I looked around. Woolfmyer's friend staggering back. Whitt nearby, his hand still out, reaching, desperate. The crowd, a huddle of journalists. Horror and guilt rushed up through my body. Cameras flashed.
I felt a bizarre impulse to reach down and help the unconscious lawyer to his feet. To brush him off, slap him on the back, pretend it was all going to be OK.
But everything was far from OK. The police officer who had been guarding the front doors of the courthouse began to march toward me, taking his cuffs from his belt.
I STOOD IN the entrance to the holding cell and stared at the women there. They were like lazy, uninterested cats lounging on the steel benches. One girl was lying on her belly on the floor, a magazine spread out before her. There were more magazines in a stack on one of the benches, trashy celebrity rags. An adult slumber party in a concrete bedroom. A gaggle of arrested shoplifters, prostitutes, drug runners. I went to the nearest bench and sat down, put my face in my hands as the steel door slammed shut.
I guessed a lot of women who ended up in a cell at the Parramatta Police headquarters thought what I was thinking in that moment. That their lives were over. That they'd had some fuck-ups in their lifetime, sure, but this was a whole new level of idiocy. Holding cells are where mistakes are offered up for evaluation. This is it. This is where all a person's chickens come home to roost.
Detective Inspector Nigel Spader was at the door to the holding cell now as I sat cracking my aching knuckles. He leaned on the wall and looked through the bars at me, folding his hairy ginger arms.
"Harriet," he said. "What a mess you've got yourself in."
Spader had spearheaded the case against my brother. During the active investigation, I'd fought hard for entry onto the Georges River Task Force team, annoyed and confused as to why I was being kept away from what was possibly the nation's most important case. I had the skills. I had the enthusiasm. I'd had no idea that I was being shut out because the main suspect was Sam. I'd always hated Nigel anyway, had got into a few fistfights with him in the past.
"What's the word?" I asked.
"Mr. Woolfmyer's going to be fine. He's got a mild concussion."
"Is he going to go for an assault charge?"
"Of course he is," Nigel snorted. "You knocked him out cold."
"Woolfmyer, the lawyer?" the girl on the ground broke in. "You punched a lawyer?"
I turned toward Nigel and tried to signal that my conversation with him wasn't for public consumption. But the other women in the holding cell were watching me with interest now.
"If they're going to lock me up, I want my notes on Sam's case," I said. "They're in my handbag. I'll still be able to work on his defense."
"Harry." Nigel shifted closer to the bars. "Your brother is a killer. You're going to have to move past the denial phase and wake up to what's happening here. I know you and I have had our differences. But we didn't lock him up to spite you. We locked him up because he murdered three girls."
I grabbed a handful of the magazines from the stack beside me and hurled them at the bars. Nigel flinched. The girls in the cell around me cheered. I was shocked by the noise, brought suddenly out of my fury. I realized my jaw was clenched so tight that my teeth were clicking as they ground together.
"I reckon you forced that confession out of him," I told Nigel, giving my fellow inmates a warning look. "There was a lot of pressure to catch the killer."
Nigel shook his head. "Harry, you and Sam are violent people. I've experienced your family's violence personally." He touched his brow, an old scar I'd given him about the seventh or eighth time he'd parked in my designated spot.
The girl on the floor had shifted closer to me, her grin spread wide.
"Wait a minute," she chirped up. "You mean, you punched this guy, too?" she said, flicking her chin at my colleague.
"I did," I said. I looked at Nigel. "And he cried like a baby."
I WAS TEACHING the women in the cell how to land a left hook without fracturing their wrists when I noticed Pops standing at the door, waiting for the guard to unlock it.
My chief. My friend. My boxing trainer, a man who'd also seen the hair-trigger aggression that thrived in the very marrow of my bones. Pops said nothing as we walked down the sterile hall toward the offices. I tottered on my ridiculous heels. Eventually I stopped, reached down and pulled them off. We were standing between the row of holding cells and the doors to the bullpen where my colleagues worked, a corridor between two worlds. My brother existed in the world we'd just walked through, the criminal world. My own life, until then, had been ahead of us, in the swirling blue universe of police and their struggle against evildoers. Here I was, balancing on the tightrope connecting the two.
"I had a private chat with Judge Steiner," Pops said. "We went ahead and held the assault hearing in your absence."
"What?" I said. Suddenly, I could hardly find words, which was unusual for me.
"Woolfmyer agreed not to push forward with an assault conviction, but he applied for an AVO, and Steiner granted it."
Still no words came.
Pops raised his bushy eyebrows. "Yeah. You're banned from the trial. You're banned from the entire courthouse, in fact. You're not allowed to come within five hundred meters of Prosecutor Woolfmyer. Which means anywhere he regularly goes is off limits to you. The prison where your brother is, for example. Sam's lawyer's office."
"This is…" I was shivering with rage.
"This is perfectly reasonable." Pops shrugged, angry. "Judge Steiner could have recorded the conviction and granted Woolfmyer the apprehended violence order. But he didn't. Because I convinced him you were going to get your arse out of town."
A young probationary constable was walking up the hall with my handbag, confiscated from me when I was arrested. I snatched the stupid pink bag off him and started rummaging through it for cigarettes.
"I told Steiner I'd find you a case. Send you off into the desert again for a couple of weeks so you can cool down."
"I'm not going back out there," I snapped. "I'm going to sit on the front steps of the courthouse. If I can't go inside, I'll still be there. I'm not leaving Sam."
"That's exactly what Judge Steiner said you'd do." Pops shook his head. "He wanted to lock you up instead. I said you're not going to be on the courthouse steps. You'll be out in the desert, out of trouble, just like you were after they picked Sam up."
"Nope," I said. "Not happening."
I couldn't find my cigarettes. My hands were shaking too badly.
"Blue," Pops called as I walked toward the door, following at my heels. "This is not up for discussion. You get out of here or he'll reverse his decision. And then you'll be no good to Sam at all. You want to try working on his defense from a jail cell? You'll be lucky if they give you paper and a pencil in there."
I stopped by the big glass doors.
There was a certain appeal to what he was saying. I could go back out into the Australian badlands, out among the tiny towns where people who didn't want to be recognized fled. I could run away from the horror of my brother's situation. Blessed denial.
"When does the order expire?"
I bit my lip. I wanted so badly to cry. But I was not a crier. I was not weak. I squeezed the door handle, trying to hold on to some semblance of control.
"You fucked up, Blue," Pops said. It was rare that he swore. I looked at his eyes. "You're a hothead. And I love that about you. It's half of what makes you a good cop. Your fearlessness. Your fire. But you need to get away from here before you do some real damage. This?" He flipped the frilly collar of my blouse. "This is not working. When you're not bashing prosecutors you're standing around pissed as hell and doing a bad job hiding it. The princess getup makes you look about as harmless as a hired assassin."
I exhaled. I wanted a hug. But I was not a hugger, either.
"It's only nine days," he said. "How bad could things go in that time?"
I LEANED MY head against the car window in the dark.
Beyond the glass, New South Wales desert rolled by, barren and hard. I was out here again. In exile for my own good, for the good of Sam's case.
I was six hours from Sydney, four of them by plane, two of them by car, on the straight edge of the western border of New South Wales. Red dirt country. We were headed to a tiny, dim star in a constellation of sparse towns, most notably White Cliffs to the south of us (population 103) and Tibooburra to the west of us (population 262). My driver, a plump and pretty blonde woman wearing a dusty police uniform and standard-issue baseball cap, shifted uncomfortably behind the wheel. She'd been jibber-jabbering since we left the airstrip, about the region, its history, seasonal precautions about snakes. I was so angry at myself, so distracted, I'd hardly been answering her. I sighed quietly. She was gearing up to take a run at me about why I was there. How could I possibly explain what I'd done? I could feel it—the curiosity.
"So the papers said…" She licked her lips, hesitated, as most people do. "They said that the lawyer made some derogatory remark toward you?"
"My brother," I answered. "He made a joke about my brother being raped in prison. I work in Sex Crimes. Rape jokes aren't funny."
"Struth! You're right, they're not. Plus, it's your brother," the cop sympathized. "I mean, it doesn't matter what he did. He's still—"
"He didn't do anything. He's innocent," I said.
I realized miserably that I didn't even know this officer's name. My mind was so tangled up in my personal life that I'd completely forgotten it as soon as she'd introduced herself. I reached down for the case file at my feet and pretended I was shifting it to the backseat so it wouldn't get damaged. I glanced at the name on the cover. Senior Sergeant Victoria Snale.
"I've got to say"—Snale's voice was irrepressibly cheerful—"it made an amazing picture for the front pages. You standing over the lawyer. Him all splayed out on the concrete. It must have really been some punch."
I felt microscopically uplifted. "It doesn't have to be hard if it's on target."
- "Patterson has mastered the art of writing page-turning bestsellers."—Chicago Sun-Times
- "A must-read author...a master of the craft."—Providence Sunday Journal
- "The page-turningest author in the game right now."—San Francisco Chronicle
- On Sale
- Aug 7, 2018
- Page Count
- 400 pages
- Grand Central Publishing