A face to die for, p.1
A Face to Die For, p.1Part #6 of Forensic Instincts series by Andrea Kane
ALSO BY ANDREA KANE
FORENSIC INSTINCTS NOVELS:
THE GIRL WHO DISAPPEARED TWICE
THE LINE BETWEEN HERE AND GONE
THE STRANGER YOU KNOW
THE SILENCE THAT SPEAKS
THE MURDER THAT NEVER WAS
OTHER SUSPENSE THRILLERS:
RUN FOR YOUR LIFE
NO WAY OUT
SCENT OF DANGER
I’LL BE WATCHING YOU
WRONG PLACE, WRONG TIME
DRAWN IN BLOOD
A FACE TO DIE FOR
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
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Printed in USA
Kane, Andrea, author.
A face to die for / Andrea Kane.
pages cm -- (A Forensic Instincts novel)
1. Doppelgängers--Fiction. 2. Mafia--United States-Fiction. 3. Murder--Investigation--Fiction. 4. Thrillers (Fiction) 5. Detective and mystery fiction.
I. Title. II. Series: Kane, Andrea. Forensic Instincts novel.
To L.P., with heartfelt gratitude
Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, New York
Anthony slid behind the wheel of his Ford Taurus and started it up, cranking up the heat the instant the engine turned over. It was frig-gin’ freezing outside. Even in the five minutes it had taken him to walk the babysitter to her front door, the temperature outside felt like it had dropped ten degrees, and his car was an icebox.
Shivering, he zipped his parka up as far as it would go and gripped the steering wheel, maneuvering the car away from the curb. He’d finally shared an evening out with his wife. It should have eased the knot in his gut. After all, it had been the first time that he and Carla had left their infants with a sitter since the babies had been born a month ago. And Judy was the perfect babysitter—a good girl from a good family, one who studied rather than doing drugs and screwing horny guys.
Still, dinner had been strained.
Anthony had only picked at his manicotti, his favorite dish at Raimo’s. His mind was far away, and acid kept building up in his stomach.
Carla couldn’t stop worrying and talking about the babies. She’d checked her watch a dozen times, intermittently giving Anthony puzzled looks and asking if he was okay.
Each time she asked, he’d assure her that he was fine, just exhausted from work and midnight feedings.
As if to contradict his words, some new waiter had dropped a tray of dishes on the floor, and Anthony had nearly jumped out of his skin at the crash.
Carla rose, asking him to order her another drink and to get one for himself to calm his nerves. Giving in to her new-mother concerns, she went to the pay phone in the back to call Judy for an update. So far, so good, Judy had reported. But that didn’t totally erase Carla’s fretting. She tried her best to be bright and chatty, but the truth was that, as this point, she was ready to go. She’d fiddled with her napkin and sipped at her drink, making small talk and glancing at the door.
Getting the hell out of there had worked for Anthony. He was more than ready to be home with his family and not out in the open. He’d use his fatigue as an excuse. He had to continue keeping the inevitable from Carla, until he had no choice but to tell her. He’d soften the blow as best he could. But the important thing was that his family would be protected at all costs.
Now, the heat in his car roared to life, warming his body but doing nothing to extinguish his inner chill. He knew the rules. No transgression went unpunished.
Why the hell had he been so preoccupied with new fatherhood that he’d forgotten to make his collections from the designated list of construction foremen these past two weeks? That in itself was a huge black mark against him—one he’d be punished for. But the outcome of his stupidity opened the door to a far more lethal punishment. Someone else had been sent to handle his route, and his money. They would have collected and turned over twice the amount he’d been handing over. And that meant he’d better be able to explain the discrepancy—assuming he’d even be asked before he was killed.
Please God, let him have that chance. He was just on the verge of buying that gas station he’d been single-mindedly building his bank account for, just about to provide for his family’s future.
And now this.
With shaking hands, Anthony switched on the radio, gritting his teeth as Madonna’s voice blasted off the windows, followed by Michael Jackson’s. He turned the dial until finally the soothing tones of Frank Sinatra’s voice filled the car. Sinatra. Perfect. The Chairman of the Board’s crooning was just the right medicine to ease his clawing anxiety.
He reached his street and turned down the line of small brick row houses, all identical in their flat lines, gated fronts, and tiny gardens. There was a certain comfort and peace about the sameness of it all; it made it feel like a neighborhood.
Would he ever feel that sense of comfort and peace again?
He pulled into his narrow driveway and spotted Carla standing at the front door with a broad smile, giving him a thumbs-up. That meant the infants had come through their first babysitting experience with flying colors.
He forced himself to smile back, but even as he did, his gaze swept the area around the house to see if he was alone. It appeared so. Quickly, he turned off the car and then made the frigid dash to his house.
He couldn’t shut and lock the door behind him fast enough.
The soothing warmth from the heating system enveloped him when he stepped inside. Comfort in yet another form. He was home. Carla and the babies were safe. And for the moment, so
With a wave of relief—however temporary—he let the tension in his body ease. He shrugged out of his jacket and hung it on the coatrack.
“You look happy,” he teased Carla. “What’s the final report?”
Carla’s eyes twinkled. “They were perfect. Judy said they’d only woken up once for their bottles and a diaper change. Now they’re sleeping like little angels.”
“Good.” Anthony looped an arm around his wife’s shoulders and led her toward the living room. “How about a nightcap before bed—to celebrate the success of our first night out?”
“That sounds wonderful.” Carla walked beside him, making a left into their comfortable living room.
They’d barely taken half a dozen steps when a tall masked man dressed in black rose from behind the large armchair, his .22 caliber pistol raised.
Anthony knew that voice only too well, and it elicited the chilling knowledge that there was no way out. No threats. Just death. “Welcome home.”
The man’s finger tightened around the trigger.
“No!” Carla screamed.
She threw herself in front of her husband just as the pistol fired.
The bullet pierced her skull, and with a shattering cry, she crumpled to the floor.
“Carla… no… Carla!” Anthony shouted. He dropped to his knees beside his wife’s lifeless body, grabbing her into his arms and openly weeping. “God forgive me. Oh, God forgive me.”
He looked up in dazed anguish, just as a second shot was fired.
The bullet struck Anthony between the eyes. His head jerked backward, and he fell over his wife, dead.
Upstairs, the babies started to cry.
The gunman shoved his pistol back in his waistband. He knew the mob code like he knew his own name. No women. No children. Omertà.
A woman lay dead before him, the taunting evidence of a fuckup.
He took the steps two at a time.
Tucked in their cribs, the babies were still crying as their parents’ killer entered the nursery and hovered over them.
Not even the nightlight could eradicate the darkness.
Casey Woods’ apartment, fourth floor Forensic Instincts brownstone
Tribeca, New York City
The sun had long since made its bright yellow ascent, and the city streets were filled with commuters making their way to work. On the sidewalks, people hurried along, some in business attire talking on their cell phones, and some in athletic gear, striding to the beat of the music they were listening to on their iPhones.
Downstairs, in the professional hub of the brownstone, Forensic Instincts was gearing up for another busy day.
One by one, the team arrived, punching the key code into the Hirsch pad that allowed them entry. Inside, they each went to their work space, gathered up the necessary materials, and headed to the first-floor meeting room—the small, cozy space reserved for first-time interviews and subsequent meetings that required putting their clients at ease.
FBI Supervisory Special Agent Kyle “Hutch” Hutchinson heard the lower-level activity loud and clear.
He shifted onto his side in Casey’s bed, wishing the workday would take a hiatus. But he also knew Casey would kill him if she were late to an appointment—any appointment, but most specifically a new-client interview.
“Sweetheart, it’s time to wake up,” he said.
His voice ruffled Casey’s mane of red hair, now tousled and spread out across the pillows.
She mumbled an unintelligible protest and snuggled back under the covers.
A corner of Hutch’s mouth lifted. “Come on, Case.” He gave her a gentle shake.
Casey swatted his hand away. He’d kept her awake half the night, and her muscles were feeling it. “Tired,” she murmured. “Need sleep.”
A sated chuckle. “I’m sure you do. But I have to get to the FBI field office, and you have a new client meeting in forty-five minutes.”
That did the trick.
Casey’s eyes snapped open and she practically leapt out of bed. “Dammit,” she said. “What happened to the alarm?”
Propping himself on one elbow, Hutch gave her his slow, sexy grin. “I might have accidentally turned it off.”
Casey picked up a pillow and tossed it at him. “Just because you have an internal clock like the atomic clock at NIST doesn’t mean we all do.”
“Mine worked for both of us. I woke you when you needed to get going. Just one more perk of sleeping with me.”
Casey’s lips were twitching as she headed toward the bathroom. “You gave me enough perks last night. But for God’s sake, Hutch, I’m the president of Forensic Instincts. We’re interviewing a potential client. I need to set an example. Besides, I’m never late.” She turned and gave him a warning look. “Don’t even think of following me into the shower.”
“I wouldn’t dare.” Hutch admired her nakedness until she’d disappeared from view. “But I will take a rain check,” he called after her. “In the meantime, Hero needs a walk.” Rising and pulling on his sweats and sneakers, Hutch made eye contact with the handsome red bloodhound who’d raised his head the minute he heard his name. “Come on, boy,” Hutch said, giving him a hand signal—a signal that the former FBI human scent evidence dog instantly obeyed. “We’ve got time for a short walk, a quick breakfast, and then it’s off to work for us both. You and Casey have to join the team downstairs, and I’ve got to shower and haul ass to Federal Plaza.”
With a sharp bark of understanding, Hero snapped into active mode. He followed Hutch out of the bedroom and the apartment, hurrying down the three flights of stairs to the front door.
“Ah. You spent the night,” Ryan McKay, the team’s techno-genius, called out. “That explains our fearless leader’s tardiness.”
“It’s eight twenty-two, your meeting’s at nine, and fuck off,” Hutch said good-naturedly. He clipped Hero’s leash onto his collar. “Hero needs to take care of business. See you in a few.”
Hutch rolled his eyes as he and Hero pounded the pavement. Ryan—who was the antithesis of every stereotype assigned to an IT-guy—was already preparing to needle Casey about this. Well, Casey would put him in his place in a New York minute. Poor Ryan still had trouble realizing that, no matter how tight a family they all were, Casey was Forensic Instincts’ leader.
Fifteen minutes later, Hutch and Hero returned to the upstairs apartment. Casey was already showered, dressed in a light blue silk blouse and white slacks, and munching on a protein bar as she scanned her notes.
“Hi,” she said, glancing up. “I’ve got to get downstairs. Can you feed Hero?”
Hutch nodded. “I’m willing to pay penance for turning off the alarm. I’ll make Hero’s food, shower while he’s eating, and then deliver him to the first-floor conference room.”
“Thanks. Just text me when you’re coming down. One of us will step out and get him.”
“Right. Client confidentiality. Got it.” Hutch walked over, tilted Casey’s chin up wit
“You’d better.” She smiled, turning and descending the steps. “Have a good day.”
“Yeah, you, too. Oh, and be ready to cut Ryan off at the knees. He’s in top form today.”
“Thanks for the warning.”
* * *
The FI team was gathered around the meeting room, sipping their coffee and chatting. The entire room was warm and inviting, from the soft cream walls to the clusters of buttery leather caramel tub chairs and matching sofas. The sideboard— with its JURA Professional coffee station and built-in fridge and wine cooler—was a rich cherry wood, as was its matching coffee table.
Casey walked in with a wave of her hand and headed for her usual tub chair, positioned directly across from the doorway, where she could watch the client from entry to departure and interpret his or her body language throughout the meeting.
“Good morning, Casey,” greeted a computerized voice that seemed to emanate from every part of the room. “I’ve programmed the appropriate video and audio configuration for your meeting. It’s available in the usual way.”
“Thank you, Yoda.” Even though Casey was still in awe of Ryan’s omniscient artificial intelligence system, she’d actively started thinking of it as a team member—one who was almost as human as the rest of them.
“Will there be anything else?” Yoda inquired as Casey put her folder and iPad Pro on the side table to the right of her chair. “Otherwise, I’ll be on standby.”
“Standby is fine, Yoda.” Casey went over to make herself a cup of coffee. “Hey, guys,” she said, returning to her chair. “We’ve got a few minutes to discuss the prospective client, and a few minutes to redistribute responsibilities, given our reduced staff.”
Casey was referring to the fact that her right-hand man, Marc Devereaux, former Navy SEAL and former FBI Behavioral Analysis Unit agent, was on his honeymoon. And Patrick Lynch, retired FBI special agent and security specialist was with his wife, Adele, at their daughter’s college graduation in Virginia.
A Face to Die For by Andrea Kane / Mystery & Detective / History & Fiction / Thrillers & Crime have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes