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Nowhere to Hide (previously published as Wanting You)
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Did Former Child Star Really Fall?
Hollywood Tattletale Reporter J. Federer
November 14, 2018
LOS ANGELES—Although actor Steve Baker's death was ruled an accident, questions remain about this summer's tragedy.
Baker's body was found in June at the base of a cliff directly below the home of actor-turned-director Reece Winchester. Though the reclusive star was questioned, police say he was not suspected of any crime and called Baker's death an accident. But some Hollywood insiders aren't convinced. Whispers of suicide, or even worse, still surround the case.
Baker, who starred in the sitcom Dear Family, was once a household name. Part of a teen supercouple, his career took a nosedive after his girlfriend, actress Rachel Winchester—sister to the famed director—fell to her death from a hotel balcony eighteen years ago. Although ruled an accident, no one really knows whether Rachel actually had committed suicide.
Six years ago, the actor's father, superstar agent Harry Baker, was brutally murdered in his home. The case remains unsolved to this day.
Did the series of tragedies prove too much for Steve Baker? Enough for him to follow his long-lost love and take his own life?
Or is something darker at work?
Some wonder if his fall was part of a revenge plot by the Winchesters—a family known for carrying grudges, especially against those involved in the sad life and death of Rachel Winchester.
With one Winchester brother living in the house where the incident occurred, another a former Army Ranger and professional bodyguard, and a third a renowned detective within the LAPD, who knows how deep the conspiracy might go…or what else the powerful but secretive Winchester brothers might be concealing?
Anyone interested in the many infamous murders that had occurred in Los Angeles knew the Cecil Hotel was worth a visit. More than one violent killer had called the building home, and brutal crimes had been committed within its walls. The place showed up on the city's murder tours and had even landed its own TV series on a cable network, even though it was now known by a different name.
For Evie Fleming, however, going to the Cecil wasn't about morbid curiosity. She made her living—a very good one—writing in-depth explorations about notorious crimes. As far as she was concerned, there was no better place to begin her research on the city's most brutal killers.
Right now, though, she wondered if that visit might have been a big mistake.
Because a man was following her down Seventh Street.
"Hell," she whispered as she heard his hard footsteps behind her.
She walked even faster toward the parking garage where she'd left her rental car. The neighborhood was still, silent. When she'd arrived this afternoon, it had been crowded with busy Monday workers from surrounding office buildings. There were few shops, though, and the restaurants catered to the area's daytime employees, who'd left long ago.
She should have left earlier too. But her conversation with a talkative old maintenance man at the hotel had been fascinating, and she'd spent hours in his small office. Hours during which the night had grown late, the air had grown cold, and the street had grown menacing.
Knowing she was now within a block of the garage didn't offer much relief. The narrow entrance ramp was tucked in between two tiny stores. Even from here she could see they were dark and shuttered with security gates.
She'd parked on the third level. The elevator was in the back. The front stairs were completely enclosed—a vertical tunnel of privacy for anyone with crime in mind. None of this looked promising.
Maybe there's a twenty-four-hour cashier at the exit gate.
Or maybe it was entirely electronic.
There's probably a security guard.
But there might not be.
Damn it. By walking into it that garage she might be trapping herself with no way to get out.
The heavy footsteps on the sidewalk were getting louder. Although it didn't sound like he was running, he certainly wasn't strolling.
Maybe he was totally innocent, on an errand or meeting a friend. But she didn't think so. A creepy-crawly sensation danced up her spine, the one every woman felt when something told her she was being followed by danger. Her job—the constant immersion in the world of violent crime—made her more suspicious than most. She knew awful things could happen to anyone. At any time.
Should've Uber'd it.
Yes, she should have. But it hadn't seemed necessary. The LAPD headquarters building was only six or seven blocks from the Cecil. She'd walked to the station that afternoon, hitting the hotel on her way back. The neighborhood had seemed a little run-down but was still a busy, commercial one. She just hadn't seen the nighttime potential.
"Okay, what are you going to do?" she whispered.
Did she go into the garage and call herself a paranoid fool when the stranger kept walking up the street? Did she turn around and confront him, knowing some guys would back off if they knew they'd been looked at and could be identified?
Identified. Another possibility flared in her mind.
Without missing a stride, she reached into her purse and pulled out her phone. Tapping the screen and thumbing for the camera app, she was prepared to swing around and take the guy's picture and text it to a friend. Just in case.
The footsteps pounded harder. The guy was getting closer. Maybe he'd seen the flash of light from the camera. Or maybe he'd realized they'd reached the darkest center of the street.
"Damn it," she muttered as she fumbled with the phone. Not even wanting to stop long enough to turn around, she lifted the camera high. She snapped what might have been a picture of her own shoulder, or the street in the opposite direction, and forwarded it in response to the last text message she'd received. Although she knew she should take another—one that she was sure actually showed the guy—her tension had quadrupled. Her heart thudded, her pulse roared, and her brain ordered her to move. Now. Go now.
Sensing she didn't have time to do anything else, she obeyed her inner voice and took off toward the next intersection. Broadway. It was seventy yards maybe. She just hoped she got there safely to give it her regards.
She ran. No, she flew, her long legs eating the sidewalk, her feet steady in her thick-heeled leather boots.
Although she'd anticipated it, the attack still shocked her. A hard form slammed into her, a powerful arm encircling her waist. Her phone flew from her hand as a strong hand yanked a fistful of hair and jerked her head back against a strong, alcohol-reeking body.
Of course she screamed.
He let go of her hair, slamming his thick hand over her mouth. Even as she twisted and struggled, he began to drag her toward a narrow service alley between two tall office buildings.
Evie wasn't stupid, and she wasn't helpless. She couldn't let him get her back there, away from any potential passersby. Obediently getting into the car, going into the back alley, or into the strange building was a common mistake victims made when confronted by an attacker. They might think it was safer to go along, but it wasn't. Because once an attacker got you out of sight and sound of anyone else, the battle was already lost.
She fought with all her strength, elbows hitting his gut, eliciting a grunt. Her nails clawed the hand over her mouth. Swinging her leg back, she caught his shin with the heel of her boot.
He winced but tightened his grip around her middle. His other hand went to her throat and began to squeeze. "Stop struggling, bitch."
As if. So far he hadn't produced a weapon. That was fortunate. She just had to get away from him, or at least turn around to give herself a real fighting chance. Anything to prevent him from getting her in that alley. And to get his strong, powerful fingers off her neck.
Suddenly, she remembered a trick from a self-defense class she'd taken.
Evie picked up her feet.
Surprised at having to bear her entire weight, the attacker dropped her onto the ground. She rolled away quickly, knowing he would lunge after her and that he wouldn't be caught off guard again. Leaping to her feet, she swung around, preparing to jab her nails into his eyes, a fist into his throat, a knee into his crotch.
But he wasn't there. Rather than the attacker charging at her, something had come at him. A dark shape, powerful and broad, slammed into the other man, sending him flying.
Her ridiculous first thought was that Batman was real. Her second was that she was going to start carrying pepper spray. Her third was sheer, utter relief.
The attacker landed on the hard corner of a cement step and howled in pain.
"Police. Don't move," a deep voice growled.
A tall man moved toward the thug and pushed him onto his stomach. A gleam of moonlight on metal and a clanking sound told her he was putting handcuffs on her attacker.
"This is police brutality! I think you broke my arm."
"You're lucky it wasn't your neck. You think I don't know what you had in store for this woman?"
The words being thrown right out there made Evie shiver. So far, she'd held herself together. She suspected only the adrenaline roaring through her kept her from a more emotional reaction.
She might have been able to fight the guy off. But she might not have. And if she hadn't, she would probably, right now, be in that alley being robbed, beaten…maybe worse. Jesus.
Don't think about it. Just don't.
Once the handcuffs were in place, her savior looked up at her. His face was washed in shadow, only the dark eyes gleaming. "Are you all right, Miss…?"
"Fleming. Evie Fleming. And yes, I'm okay. Thanks to you."
She would have aches, pains, and bruises tomorrow from her fall. But all of those things were better than what she might have endured had the big cop with the intense eyes not come onto the scene.
Just like something out of a crime TV show, he sat the handcuffed creep on a cement step and read him his rights. Pointing an index finger in the guy's face, he said, "You move for anything other than to breathe, and you'll regret it."
The would-be mugger—oh God, rapist?—groaned. But he didn't move.
Pulling a radio off his belt, the police officer called in the crime. After he'd made the call, requesting assistance, he refocused his attention on Evie. "Are you sure you're not hurt? Do you want me to have them send an ambulance?"
"No, really, I'm fine," she said, meaning it. Everything—from her noticing she was being followed, to the jerk being put in handcuffs—had taken no more than five minutes. She might be a bit banged up because of her own maneuvers, but really, the only thing she felt was gratitude.
Now that her heart was settling back into a normal rhythm, the rush of danger easing out of her with every exhalation, she noticed more about the cop. First, that he was probably about six feet tall but gave the impression of being taller because of his overall bigness. Although he was still cloaked by night, she saw that his body appeared powerful—broad in the shoulder and in the chest, definitely no donut belly. He was in perfect shape. Good thing, since her attacker was probably a bit taller. But the guy wouldn't have stood a chance against someone this strong.
"You'll have to wait to talk to the local responders from Central. They should be here within a couple of minutes."
"You're not from there?" That surprised her. She'd figured she'd been correct in her initial assumption that this neighborhood would be well patrolled, given the location of headquarters up on Second.
"No, it was just dumb luck. I was dropping off some paperwork. Saw this jackoff start to follow you when I was waiting at the intersection and decided to cruise by and see what was going on."
"Thank goodness for me you did."
He shifted a little, probably uncomfortable with the praise, as many heroic types were. And she'd already pegged him as one.
As he moved, so, apparently, did some clouds overhead. Because a shimmer of moonlight emerged and cast light on him. God in heaven.
He had that kind of strong, angular face, all sculpted bones and jutting jaw, that made women take a second look. She catalogued the sexy close-cut beard, the thick, nearly black hair, and the swoop of equally black brows over dark, deep-set eyes. The chin was hard, the jaw defined, the nose strong but not overlarge, the mouth…oh, Jesus, the man had mouth. A slow, involuntary shiver rolled up her body, but it was nothing like the shudders of desperation she'd been experiencing just minutes ago in this very spot.
"You're cold." He didn't wait for a reply, instead coming closer and whipping off a soft, worn leather jacket. He put it over her shoulders.
Funny, now that he was standing so close, cold was the last way she'd describe herself. The man put off more fire than a jet engine.
There was something else. He looked familiar.
Evie couldn't identify him, and she was almost certain they hadn't met in person. But she'd seen him somewhere. Maybe when researching one of her books—he was a cop, after all, in a city that had had more than its fair share of serial killer cases. She would figure it out eventually, of that she had no doubt. The man was simply too spectacular to be entirely forgotten.
"I'm fine, really," she said. "I think my senses are just a little heightened after what happened." That had to be why she was reacting so strongly to everything—the moonlight, his mouth, his broad, powerful body, and his heat.
"Completely understandable." He frowned. "You know, this isn't a great area to walk alone at night."
"I figured that out. It looked okay when I arrived this afternoon. I didn't realize how it would be once the businesses closed."
"Common mistake all over LA."
"First lesson learned."
"You're new here?"
She nodded. "As of yesterday."
He barked a laugh. "Welcome to the City of Angels, Evie Fleming."
"If he's a part of the welcoming committee, I prefer to skip the muffins and the glad-to-have-you-in-the-neighborhood basket." She managed a tiny smile. "I don't think I can handle any more of that kind of hospitality."
"Sorry about that. It's not a bad place. Like any big city, you just have to be aware of your surroundings."
"Understood. Honestly, I hadn't planned to be out this late—I lost track of time visiting the Cecil."
Evie heard a tone, an unmistakably judgy one. "What?"
"Nothing," he said. He glanced over at the mugger to make sure he still wasn't moving, but still addressed her. "You're a horror fan, huh?"
"No, actually, I'm a murder fan."
He jerked his head back. "Excuse me?"
Seeing the way he gaped, she hesitated. Not many people understood her chosen profession. Her parents certainly didn't. They'd been happy having her work the local beat on a small Virginia paper, in a small Virginia town, reporting on bake sales and teen vandalism. They hated that she now immersed herself in violent crime, and especially hated that she sometimes interacted with violent killers. If they knew what she intended to do during this research stint in LA, they would lose their minds. Which was why she hadn't told them.
Lightning doesn't strike twice.
She couldn't possibly be repeating history by stumbling across a nearly invisible trail left by a serial killer. One nobody else in the world even realized existed. How could one person, a simple crime writer, come across two cases like that in her lifetime? No, it just wasn't possible.
And yet. Yeah. And yet.
She had questions, she saw connections, and while she was here in Southern California working on her contracted book, why couldn't she do just a little bit of snooping into this other matter?
Twelve women, their murders spread out over the last fifteen years, the crimes unsolved. Different jurisdictions played hell with investigations here in the sprawling Los Angeles area, and the crimes didn't leap out as being connected.
Maybe they aren't.
Maybe not. But maybe they were.
The cop who'd saved her stepped closer. "You sure you're okay, murder fan?"
Realizing she'd gone deep into her brain, she nodded quickly, and the arrival of a patrol car saved her from having to explain. The two police officers inside got out and hailed her rescuer, one calling him Detective Winchester. A crime scene investigator showed up ninety seconds later.
While the detective explained what had happened, Evie took a moment to look around on the sidewalk and found her phone. The screen was cracked, but the phone was still on, and she could see some of what was displayed.
Right away she noticed she had more than twenty text messages.
"Crap," she muttered, and she opened them, seeing a long string of "What's going on?" type questions from Candace Oakley, her agent and good friend.
Going back through the stream, she soon realized why. Candace had been the last person she had texted this evening as she left the hotel…and was the one who received the weird picture Evie had taken a short time later.
"Not bad," she murmured when she saw her own efforts hadn't been entirely in vain. She'd caught a digital image of her attacker looming out of the darkness, his face not clear, but possibly recognizable. She supposed there was some comfort knowing she might have helped solve her own murder if she'd had her throat slit in that back alley.
Enough, Evie, she thought, even while wondering what it would be like to have a normal job that didn't have her seeing psychopaths, sociopaths, and sheer monsters around every corner.
Then again, she had known psychopaths, sociopaths and monsters, and the guy who'd just attacked her could be one of them. Job or no job.
"The officers are going to take him in and book him. The crime scene guy wants to talk to you and will probably want to take some scrapings from under your fingernails. Judging by the marks on his hands, you scratched the guy, right?"
She nodded. "Can we can do it here rather than going in to the station?"
He hesitated, then slowly nodded. "I can probably arrange that, if you don't mind somebody looking you over right here on the street."
"Honestly, I'd prefer that than being paraded through a police station right now."
"It's usually done in a hospital. But since he didn't get any further than a grab, and you say you're fine, I've already convinced him that's not necessary."
That was a relief.
"But you will have to go in tomorrow."
"I have an appointment at Headquarters in the morning anyway."
The LAPD captain she'd met with today had been very gruff. He didn't know who she was or what she did and had resisted when she'd asked for specific old case files and reports. She was supposed to go back in the morning and hoped that with some pressure from her agent and publisher, she'd get the all-clear.
"Give me a second to send this message and then the guy can scrape away."
His brow went up and his mouth tightened. Figuring he thought she was some flighty social media type who was posting about her near-miss, Evie swung the phone around so he could see the image.
He leaned close, staring at the picture on the cracked screen. "Is that…"
"Yes," she said. "When I realized he was following me, I snapped a picture and sent it to a friend."
This time when his brow went up, he managed a small, lopsided smile. Good Lord, the man had a nice smile to go along with his oh-so-nice face.
"Very good thinking."
"Thanks. But the friend I texted it to is in panic/meltdown mode."
"Let her know you're okay, and then you can answer some questions. You're also going to have to turn over that phone."
She had a digital image of the man just before he attacked her. More solid evidence that would be used to put him away, she had no doubt.
She sent Candace a quick text that all was well, she was fine, and she would be in touch later. No way was Evie going to tell her that she had been attacked; the phone would ring a split second later, and she'd never get off the call. Candace had moved to California from New York when she married the owner of a talent agency two years ago. She was pretty jaded when it came to street crime. But even she would freak out if she found out somebody had tried to drag Evie into an alley.
After a couple of quick follow-up texts, she handed over the phone and allowed the crime scene analyst to do his job. While he studied her hands, her scrapes, and her clothing, she answered the questions posed by the responding cops. The detective who'd tackled the mugger—Winchester—filled in some blanks too. One thing she noticed: The other cops were deferential to him. Since he'd said he didn't work at their location, he must have a wide reputation.
As one officer put the suspect into the back of the patrol car, the other said, "Right place right time, huh, Cop Hollywood?"
Her incredibly sexy savior shot back, "Bite me, Bingham."
The other cop laughed. "You gonna make sure she gets safely to her car?"
Evie hadn't really thought about that—about being alone with this man again or about walking into that parking garage. She'd assumed she would be fine now. What were the chances she would run into two predators in one night?
Tell that to the Beachside Butcher's last victim, who escaped captivity from her abusive boyfriend and landed in the hands of a serial killer.
One bad thing about Evie's line of work—she was an expert on brutal murder, and she had a damn good memory. Random tidbits of horror often popped into her mind without warning. She only hoped she remembered who this Winchester guy was soon, because it was starting to drive her a little crazy.
"Where are you parked?" he asked.
She pointed to the garage.
"Come on, I'll walk you to your car," the dark-haired detective said. "Before you refuse, it's really no trouble, and I'd prefer to do it."
"I wasn't going to refuse, Detective Winchester." She didn't mention the Beachside Butcher. Some people were a little squicked out by her encyclopedic knowledge of murder. Given the way he'd reacted when she said she'd been at the Cecil, he could be one of them.
"Actually, yes, I usually am, despite what you might think given what happened tonight."
As they stepped off the curb into the street, he put a hand on her arm. The touch was supportive, as if he feared she might still be shaky from what had happened, and there was nothing terribly intimate about it. Still, even through the leather of his jacket, which she was still wearing, she felt the strength of his fingers and the warm cup of his palm against her elbow.
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to imply you were careless. You just didn't know."
"What?" he asked.
"I caught a tone."
"I don't recall throwing one," he said. She thought his mouth quirked a bit.
"You did before. When I mentioned the Cecil."
They reached the garage and entered through the access door next to the ramp. No one was inside the stairwell, but it was full nonetheless. Full of garbage, dust, broken glass, dampness, and shadows. Her heart pounded. Despite the capable man at her side, she wanted to swing around and go right back out.
"Look, no offense, but ever since the TV show came out about that place, it's been a magnet for lookie-loos and thrill seekers," he said as the door swung shut behind them. He either hadn't noticed her sudden fear, or he was trying to distract her with normal conversation. "Which one are you?"
They began to ascend the stairs, shoes tapping on concrete, him still holding her arm. She probably could have managed with just the handrail—gross and germy as it probably was—but something about that completely innocent, yet somehow intimate, touch made her decide not to shrug him off. Evie had never felt like the type who needed anyone's protection, so the desire to stay close to him caught her off guard. Maybe it was because of the quiet. Or the smell. The dirty, rust-colored stains on the cement drew her eye, and the pitted handrail scraped against her fingertips. Smutty graffiti competed with smeary stains to cover the walls.
- "A fast-paced, sexy romance that true crime fans and mystery-obsessed readers will love."—Library Journal
- "Kelly peels back the glitz and glamour of L.A. to reveal the city's dark side in this thrilling, twisty romance. Readers won't be disappointed."—Publishers Weekly
- "Kelly hits all the right notes here and balances the romance with suspense to very nice effect, making this a must read for readers who like a bit of danger with their love story. Recommended."—Library Journal
- "The romance between this pair was hot and exciting, but it was the ending that I really liked because it had me on the edge-of-my-seat." —Harlequin Junkie
- On Sale
- Aug 25, 2020
- Page Count
- 400 pages