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Blake Pierce

If She Knew. A Kate Wise Mystery—Book 1

Blake Pierce

Blake Pierce is author of the bestselling RILEY PAGE mystery series, which includes thirteen books (and counting). Blake Pierce is also the author of the MACKENZIE WHITE mystery series, comprising nine books (and counting); of the AVERY BLACK mystery series, comprising six books; of the KERI LOCKE mystery series, comprising five books; of the MAKING OF RILEY PAIGE mystery series, comprising two books (and counting); of the KATE WISE mystery series, comprising two books (and counting); of the CHLOE FINE psychological suspense mystery, comprising two books (and counting); and of the JESSE HUNT psychological suspense thriller series, comprising two books (and counting).

An avid reader and lifelong fan of the mystery and thriller genres, Blake loves to hear from you, so please feel free to visit www.blakepierceauthor.com to learn more and stay in touch.

Copyright © 2018 by Blake Pierce. All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior permission of the author. This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return it and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organizations, places, events, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictionally. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. Jacket image Copyright Elena Belskaya, used under license from Shutterstock.com.

BOOKS BY BLAKE PIERCEA JESSIE HUNT PSYCHOLOGICAL SUSPENSE SERIES

THE PERFECT WIFE (Book #1)

THE PERFECT BLOCK (Book #2)

THE PERFECT HOUSE (Book #3)

CHLOE FINE PSYCHOLOGICAL SUSPENSE SERIES

NEXT DOOR (Book #1)

A NEIGHBOR’S LIE (Book #2)

KATE WISE MYSTERY SERIES

IF SHE KNEW (Book #1)

IF SHE SAW (Book #2)

IF SHE RAN (Book #3)

THE MAKING OF RILEY PAIGE SERIES

WATCHING (Book #1)

WAITING (Book #2)

LURING (Book #3)

RILEY PAIGE MYSTERY SERIES

ONCE GONE (Book #1)

ONCE TAKEN (Book #2)

ONCE CRAVED (Book #3)

ONCE LURED (Book #4)

ONCE HUNTED (Book #5)

ONCE PINED (Book #6)

ONCE FORSAKEN (Book #7)

ONCE COLD (Book #8)

ONCE STALKED (Book #9)

ONCE LOST (Book #10)

ONCE BURIED (Book #11)

ONCE BOUND (Book #12)

ONCE TRAPPED (Book #13)

ONCE DORMANT (book #14)

MACKENZIE WHITE MYSTERY SERIES

BEFORE HE KILLS (Book #1)

BEFORE HE SEES (Book #2)

BEFORE HE COVETS (Book #3)

BEFORE HE TAKES (Book #4)

BEFORE HE NEEDS (Book #5)

BEFORE HE FEELS (Book #6)

BEFORE HE SINS (Book #7)

BEFORE HE HUNTS (Book #8)

BEFORE HE PREYS (Book #9)

BEFORE HE LONGS (Book #10)

AVERY BLACK MYSTERY SERIES

CAUSE TO KILL (Book #1)

CAUSE TO RUN (Book #2)

CAUSE TO HIDE (Book #3)

CAUSE TO FEAR (Book #4)

CAUSE TO SAVE (Book #5)

CAUSE TO DREAD (Book #6)

KERI LOCKE MYSTERY SERIES

A TRACE OF DEATH (Book #1)

A TRACE OF MUDER (Book #2)

A TRACE OF VICE (Book #3)

A TRACE OF CRIME (Book #4)

A TRACE OF HOPE (Book #5)

PROLOGUE

He saw no one watching him as he crept down the quiet suburban street at night. It was one in the morning and it was the kind of neighborhood where people went to bed at respectable times, a rowdy weeknight consisting of one too many glasses of wine while watching The Bachelor.

It was the kind of place he despised.

They paid property association dues, they scooped up their dogs’ shit into little plastic bags as to not offend their neighbors, and their kids surely played sports not just in high school leagues but in private county leagues. The world was their oyster. They felt safe. Sure, they locked their doors and set their alarms, but ultimately, they felt safe.

That was about to change.

He walked up a particular lawn. Surely she would be home now. Her husband was away on business in Dallas. He knew which window was her bedroom window. And he also knew that the security alarm at the back of the house was faulty when it rained.

He shifted and felt the reassurance of the knife, tucked away in the small of his back, between the elastic of his boxer shorts and his jeans. He stuck to the side of the house, opening the bottle of water he carried, and when he came to the back of the house, he stopped. There was the glowing green light of the small security box. He knew that if he tried to damage it, the alarm would go off. He knew if he tried to open a door or pry it open, the alarm would go off.

But he also knew it messed up in the rain. It was something about the moisture, even though this type of system was supposed to be one hundred percent waterproof. With this in mind, he raised his bottle of water and doused it.

He watched as the little green light flickered, grew weak.

With a smile, he walked into the small strip of backyard. He made his way up the stairs of the screened in back porch. Using the knife to pry the screen door open was easy; it made very little noise in the quiet of the night.

He crossed to the wicker chair in the corner, lifted the cushion, and found the key underneath. He picked it up in his gloved hand, went to the back door, slid the key in, turned the lock, and stepped inside.

A small lamp was on in the thin hallway that ran out of the kitchen. He followed this hall to a stairway, and he began to climb.

Anxiety swirled in his guts. He was getting excited—not in a sexual way but in the way he used to get excited when he rode a roller coaster, the anticipation thrilling him as he ascended, clacking up the biggest hill on the tracks.

He gripped the knife, still in his hand from having pried open the screen door. At the top of the stairs he took a moment to appreciate the thrill of it. He breathed in the cleanliness of the upper-class suburban home and it made him a little sick. It was too familiar, too detached.

He hated it.

Gripping the knife, he walked to the bedroom at the end of the hall. There she was, lying in the bed.

She was sleeping on her side, her knees slightly bent. She was wearing a T-shirt and a pair of running shorts, nothing too impressive being that her husband was gone.

He walked to the bed and watched her sleep for a while. He wondered about the nature of life. How fragile it was.

He then raised the knife and brought it down almost casually, as if he were simply painting or swatting a fly.

She screamed, but only for a moment—before he brought the knife down again.

And again.

CHAPTER ONE

Of the many life lessons her first full year of retirement had taught Kate Wise, the most important was this: without a solid plan, retirement could get boring very fast.

She’d heard stories of women who had retired and picked up different interests. Some opened up little Etsy shops online. Some dabbled in painting and crochet. Others tried their hand at writing a novel. Kate thought these were all fine ways to pass the time, but none of them appealed to her.

For someone who had spent more than thirty years of her life with a gun strapped to her side, finding ways to be happily preoccupied was difficult. Knitting was not going to replace the thrill of an on-foot pursuit of a killer. Gardening was not going to recreate the adrenaline high of storming into a residence, never knowing what waited on the other side of the door.

Because nothing she tried seemed to even come close to touching the joy she had felt as an FBI agent, she had stopped searching after a couple of months. The only thing that even came close were her trips to the gun range, which she made twice a week. She would have made more if she didn’t fear that the younger members at the range might start to think of her as nothing more than a retired agent who was trying to recapture a moment in time when she had been great.

It was a reasonable fear. After all, she supposed that’s exactly what she was doing.

It was a Tuesday, just after two in the afternoon, when this fact struck her like a bullet between the eyes. She had just come back from the range and was setting her M1911 pistol back in her bedside drawer when her heart seemed to break out of nowhere.

Thirty-one years. She’d spent thirty-one years with the bureau. She’d been a part of more than one hundred raids and had worked as part of a special enforcement unit for high-profile cases on twenty-six occasions. She’d been known for her speed, her quick and often razor-sharp thinking, and her overall don’t-give-a-damn attitude.

She’d also been known for her looks, something that still bothered her a bit even at the age of fifty-five. When she’d become an agent at the age of twenty-three, it had not taken her long to get crude nicknames like Legs and Barbie—names that would likely get men fired these days but which, back when she had been younger, had sadly been commonplace for female agents.

Kate had broken noses at the bureau because male agents would grab her ass. She had thrown one across a moving elevator when he’d whispered something obscene in her ear while behind her.

While the nicknames had stayed with her until well into her forties, the advances and leering looks had not. After word had gotten around, her male peers had learned to respect her and to look beyond her body—a body which, she knew with some degree of muted pride, had always been well-maintained and what most men would consider a ten.

But now at fifty-five she found herself missing even the nicknames. She had not thought retirement would be this hard. The gun range was fine, but it was just a whispering ghost of what her past had been. She had tried to shove the yearning for her past away by reading. She had decided she would read up on weapons in particular; she’d read countless books about the history of weapons use, how they were manufactured, the preference for certain weapons by military generals, and the like. It was why she now used an M1911, because of its rich history with being involved in a multitude of American wars, an early model of it being used as far back as World War I.

She’d tried her hand at reading fiction but could not get into it—though she did enjoy a lot of the cybercrime–related books. While she had revisited books she’d adored in her younger years, she could find nothing interesting in the lives of fake characters. And because she had not wanted to become the sad recently retired lady who spent all of her time at the local library, she’d ordered all of the books she’d read in the last year off of Amazon. She had more than one hundred of them stacked in boxes in her basement. She figured one day she’d build a few bookcases and turn the space into a proper study.

It wasn’t like she had much else to do.

Rocked by the idea that she had spent the last year of her life doing not much of anything, Kate Wise sat slowly down on her bed. She stayed there for several minutes without moving. She looked to the desk across the room and saw the photo albums there. There was only a single family picture there. In it, her late husband, Michael, had his arms around their daughter while Kate smiled at his side. A picture from the beach that was poorly taken but had always warmed her heart.

All of the other pictures in those albums, however, were from work: behind-the-scenes shots, pictures of inner-bureau birthday parties, her in her younger years swimming laps, at the gun range, running track, and so on.

She had lived the last year of her life the same way the small-town jock who never leaves his small town would. Always hanging around anyone who would pretend to listen about all of the touchdowns he’d scored thirty years ago playing high school football.

She was no better than that.

With a slight shudder, Kate got up and went to the photo albums on her desk. Slowly and almost methodically, she looked through all three of them. She saw pictures of her younger self, evolving through the years until every picture ever taken was on a phone. She saw herself and people she had known, people who had died right beside her on cases, and started to realize that while these moments had been instrumental in developing her, they had not defined her completely.

The articles she had clipped and saved in the back of the album further told the story. She was the featured story in all of them. SECOND-YEAR AGENT NABS KILLER ON THE LOOSE read one title; FEMALE AGENT LONE SURVIVOR IN SHOOTOUT THAT CLAIMED 11. And then the one that had really started spurring the legends on: AFTER 13 VICTIMS, MOONLIGHT KILLER FINALLY TAKEN DOWN BY AGENT KATE WISE.

By all reasonable health standards, she had at least twenty more years in her—forty if she could somehow manage to really buckle down and fight death away. Even if she averaged it out and said she had thirty years left, kicking the bucket at eighty-five…thirty years was a lot.

She could do a lot in thirty years, she supposed. For about ten of those years, she could maybe even have some very good years before old age really started to sneak in and start plucking away her good health.

The question, of course, was what she might find to do with those years.

And despite having a reputation as one of the sharpest agents to go through the bureau in the last decade, she had no idea where to start.

***

Aside from the gun range and her almost obsessive reading habits, Kate had also managed to make a weekly habit out of meeting with three other women for coffee. The four of them made fun of themselves, claiming they had formed the saddest club ever: four women early in retirement with no idea what to do with their newly freed up days.

The day following her revelation, Kate drove to their coffee house of choice. It was a little family-owned place where not only was the coffee better than the overpriced gruel at Starbucks, but the place wasn’t overrun with millennials and soccer moms. She walked inside and before she went to the counter to place her order, she saw their usual table in the back. Two of the three other women were already there, waving to her.

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