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«Fear No Evil», Allison Brennan

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Evil – #3

For the 151 sworn officers killed in the line of duty in 2006 and their families, especially Sacramento County Deputy Sheriff Jeffrey Mitchell (1968-2006).

 

PROLOGUE

Five Years Ago

THE SICK AND DEPRAVED HAD VOTED: death by stabbing.

“No.”

Kate Donovan’s whisper became a cry as she pocketed her cell phone, unable to respond to the text message her only remaining friend in the FBI had sent.

Unable and unwilling. She was so close, dammit! She knew it, sensed it, but no one believed her. Why should they? Less than two days ago, she’d led her people into a trap, and an agent-her lover Evan-ended up dead. Another agent-her partner Paige-kidnapped.

She had been tracking the webcam of Paige for twenty-four hours. The sick reality of what had already happened to her partner live on the Internet propelled her forward. She’d called in every favor, stolen expensive equipment from FBI headquarters, and hacked into private companies all in what she feared was a futile effort to save Paige’s life. Saving Paige had become her sole goal, so she wouldn’t think about Evan’s death.

She breathed heavily through her mouth as she ran even faster through the woods. An internal clock audibly ticked in her ear, pushing her forward. Fear crawled up her spine and slithered into her heart, constricting her chest until every breath hurt. She wasn’t going to make it.

An all-too-human scream echoed through the wooded canyon, then was abruptly cut short.

Kate tripped, caught herself, and was surprised to feel moisture on her face. She couldn’t be crying. She wiped her forehead and came away with blood. The gash on her head from the failed sting operation had needed stitches, but she’d had no time. No wonder it had started bleeding again.

Wiping her bloody hands on her jeans, Kate tied the bandanna tighter around her forehead and continued running, gun drawn.

The grand, two-story cabin stood in a clearing. She stared at the satellite dish on the roof and knew this was it. Her training and instincts had paid off: she had been right about where Trask had taken Paige. The dish opened onto the clear blue sky, enabling Paige Henshaw’s rape and murder to be bounced from satellite to server to satellite, broadcast live for all to see. Kate almost ran across the open field to storm the cabin, but that could possibly have gotten her killed.

Don’t be stupid, Donovan!

She circled the property, staying behind the tree line, ignoring her vibrating cell phone. The FBI knew where she was. If they had really been determined to save Paige, they would have listened to her, come with her instead of trying to arrest her for disobeying orders.

A black Suburban was parked next to the cabin. No other vehicles were in sight. Trask wasn’t stupid enough to be out here alone, without security. Even though he lost men the night before last when he’d ambushed her and Paige in the warehouse, he still had at least two other men in his employ.

Her skin tingled. Someone was watching. Swallowing, she looked around, keeping low. She thought she had bypassed all his security traps. Had she unknowingly triggered something? A camera, a microphone? What kind of technology did this monster have?

She crouched in the bushes, still as a hunter with prey in sight-yet she felt more like a deer in a rifle sight than a tough FBI agent.

Nothing. No sound from the cabin. No sound from the woods except the soft whish-whish of the breeze rustling the pine needles. Frogs. A bird.

Where was he?

Dammit, Trask! Where are you?

Sixty yards away, the cabin door slowly opened. He stood, framed in the doorway.

She didn’t know his real name, only knew him as “Trask,” the founder of Trask Enterprises, an online pornography company. Kate hadn’t known his race, his nationality, or his age. Now she studied him. He was Caucasian or light-skinned Hispanic, perhaps European from his high-chiseled cheekbones and strong chin, darker than Scandinavian, lighter than Mediterranean. Thirty? Older?

She might not know anything personal about him, but she’d never forget his face. She had stared into his icy blue eyes thirty-six hours ago as he aimed a gun at her head.

He stared at her hiding place, as frozen in time as she. Her mouth went dry, her hand itched to fire her gun. She swallowed and training won out. There was no way, even with her excellent marksmanship skills, that she could assuredly take him down with her service pistol at this distance.


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