Dark Water by Tricia Tyler
by Tricia Tyler
Psychic Evangeline Broussard is certain nothing will ever induce her to work with law enforcement again –– until a serial killer starts using her small bayou town as his own personal hunting ground. The powdered sugar on her beignet though is being forced to work with Special Agent pain-in-the-ass, Nick Garrison, whose cynicism toward her psychic ability is matched only by his hotter-than-a-Louisiana-summer sex appeal.
Nick's opinion of so-called psychics is carved in stone, as well as on his heart, which puts his best friend's little cousin squarely off limits, regardless of how much the sassy, Cajun, spitfire turns him on. But when her supposed sixth sense, and a leak in the local police department, put her in the crosshairs of the killer, she's the only one who can save them all.
“Aborder! This time the bastards cut her eyes out.” Remy Boudreaux ran a hand through his dark brown hair, his face appearing to age even as the moments ticked by.
Nick Garrison had been in the backwoods bayou town of Barfleur less than twenty-four hours. He didn’t know the detective. Didn’t know the full details of the case he was unofficially here to assist with. And he sure as hell didn’t understand the local Cajun curse words. But he knew that one and looking at the body of the young woman carefully laid out, hands clasped together over her chest as though in prayer, the detective had just spewed the exact word whipping through his own head.
“Fuck!” was right.
If not for the gaping bloody sockets where the woman’s eyes had been, she might’ve been sleeping peacefully. Her red hair had been carefully arranged in a streaming halo around her head, and the crisp white dress with lace at the collar and cuffs looked far too pristine for the horror of what had happened here. She’d been dressed and posed postmortem. The sharp contrast of the untouched body compared to the carnage of her face sent dread coiling and striking at the pit of his stomach. This wasn’t an ordinary kill. Lying among the grass, surrounded by a framework of small purple flowers growing haphazardly along the banks of the bayou, was the work of a psychopath. Nick’s gut clenched; the killer hadn’t started here, and he sure as hell wouldn’t stop here.
Three women missing in the last three months, two found dead and mutilated. The first, her hands missing, and now this one with her eyes cut out. Nick didn’t need his FBI experience to tell him the small town of Barfleur, Louisiana, was dealing with a serial killer.
The two words that struck fear into every law enforcement officer across the country.
Nick assumed the man kneeling beside the body was the coroner. The pinched expression behind his horn-rimmed glasses could mean one of two things: one, he was good at his job and in full concentration mode or two, a much better bet considering the size of the town, he hadn’t ever come across anything like this before. But at least he used care and followed procedure while bagging the victim’s hands. Maybe luck would be on their side and they would find DNA beneath her nails. Doubtful, but you never knew.
“You got anythin’ for me yet?” Remy asked, impatience attached to each word.
The coroner looked up, giving him a squinty-eyed stare. “I see you haven’t developed anymore patience since the last time we worked together. You’re going to have to give me more than an hour. I wasn’t here when the last victim was found. I’m playing catch up.”
“Well, how long before you think you’ll have somethin’?”
“This would go a hell of a lot faster if you’d step back and let me get on with my job.”
Nick cocked a brow as tension mounted between the two men. Were they always like this, or was it a side effect of the nightmare that had struck their small community?
When his army buddy Luc Boudreaux called asking for a favor, the timing couldn’t have been better. He’d been going bat-shit crazy. His patience with medical leave had been shot to hell after the first couple of weeks. Even if he hadn’t owed his best friend for saving his ass in Afghanistan, he would’ve come. Luc couldn’t get leave right now, and after everything they’d been through together over there, they’d always have each other’s backs, and that included looking out for family.
He figured he’d be helping with an investigation, but this wasn’t your average murder, and the little brother Luc mentioned wasn’t so little. Remy stood taller than Nick by at least an inch, and that was saying something considering he was six-three himself.
“Be careful, but quick.” Remy directed the officers scattered around the clearing. “I want this wrapped up before any more evidence is compromised.”
As the investigator in charge, Remy seemed to know what he was about and was doing a good job of securing the scene.
“The bastard was smart leaving her out here,” Nick said. “Exposed to the elements like this, you’ll be lucky to find anything.”
Contrary to the popular forensic shows dominating the airwaves, not all crimes could be wrapped up in twentyfour hours. As far as Nick was concerned, the public’s fascination did nothing more than add pressure to a job already complicated enough by giving criminals knowledge they wouldn’t have otherwise.
Decaying vegetation pooled with stagnant water, making the air heavy and hard to breathe. The girl had been missing for a couple weeks, but she hadn’t been dead long. Given the exposure, the window of death would be wider.
“If this is the third missing woman, and the second one’s been found dead, it begs the question, where the hell’s the first one?” Nick directed the question at Remy, who luckily had been more appreciative than annoyed with his brother’s interference.
Remy shook his head. “I don’ know. If she was taken same as the other two, don’ make sense the killer would be keepin’ her alive. I hate to say it, but if I had to guess, I’d say wild animals or a gator got to her before she could be found.” He frowned, kneeling next to the coroner.
Stepping closer, Nick cataloged every detail. Something dark caught his attention, a shadow barely peeking out from under the lace collar of her dress. “What’s that on her neck? Strangulation marks?” Damn, being here as an observer sucked.
Remy reached out, edging the lace aside. His brows pulled into a frown. “There’s a couple marks here that looks like they might have been caused by someone choking her. But look at this.”
He pulled the lace further down, revealing a bruise about an inch-wide running around the front and disappearing behind her hair. It wasn’t fingerprints, but there were other ways of being strangled.
“What? You doing my job for me now, Remy?” The coroner peered over his glasses at the man next to him.
“Naw. Don’ get your panties in a bunch. I’m just making an observation. I have no problem leavin’ the dead bodies to you.” He gave a cocky grin. “I prefer my women with warm blood coursing through their veins, if you know what I mean.”
To anyone outside law enforcement, Remy would have appeared insensitive, but in their line of work, they were sometimes forced to combat the darkness with off-color jokes to stay sane in the face of such brutality.
“Nick, this is Graham Davis, our local coroner, and that quiet shadow standing behind the Doc is Bill Hamilton. He’s a doctor from over in Breaux Bridge that came down to sub for Graham while he took some personal time. Thought you were headin’ back home now that the Doc’s back at it. You decide to stick around after all?”
The pencil-slim man standing behind the coroner seemed to melt into the surroundings. Plain and nondescript, Nick would bet the young doctor had spent most of his life being overlooked.
Bill shrugged a spindly shoulder beneath the yellow and black checkboard shirt he wore. “Don’t know. Promised Graham I’d stick around for a while just in case he needed some help with all this.”
“Huh…” Remy grunted. “Well, okay then. This is FBI Agent Nick Garrison. He’s here to lend a hand. Unofficially, of course.” Remy stood and wiped his hands against his pants. “How soon do you think you’ll have time of death?” “There’s that patience again.” He removed the gloves from his hands with a snap. “I can tell you this: she’s been out here longer than a day for sure. Rigor’s come and gone. There’s no way I’ll be able to get an exact time. But I’ll do my best to narrow it down for you. Might have something for you by tonight, maybe tomorrow. But this is my first day back, and what with patients to see as well, Bill had his work cut out for him. There’s a pretty big pile up.” He stood up, squaring his shoulders.
“I don’ know what work you’ve got waitin’, but there’s no way it’s more important than catching the bastard who’s doin’ this.”
“Fine. I’ll let you know when I’ve got something. What about that first woman? You think there’s a chance she’s still alive?”
The grooves deepened on either side of Remy’s mouth.
Nick had investigated his share of serial killers since joining the bureau, but none of them had been in his back yard, targeting the people closest to him.
“You want the truth? No, after seein’ this, I doubt she’s alive.” Remy paused, taking the time to search out and shoot a hard stare at every man who’d arrived to collect and catalogue any evidence, before his expression turned fierce. “Nevertheless, we will continue to search for her as though she is. Understood?”
They nodded, their expressions mirroring Remy’s determination.
Remy stared at the sky as though he were searching for answers before turning and meeting Nick’s gaze. They might not like the turn the story had taken, but it would sure as hell help to have everyone on the same page.
“While I have everyone’s attention, I’d like to introduce you to Special Agent Nick Garrison.” Remy held a hand up when a rise of disgruntled murmuring and shuffling circled the clearing. “He’s not here to take over but to lend a hand as a favor to Luc. The brass at the Bureau don’ know anything about it.”
Nick stepped forward, knowing even as he did that some if not all would resent him. It wouldn’t be the first time, and it sure as hell wouldn’t be the last. But two women were dead. They could suck it up. “After seeing what this Unsub is capable of, I’d want every resource available to stop this son of a bitch. That’s why I’m here.” Public relations had never been his strong suit, but he would make an attempt for Luc and Remy’s sake.
“I want you to treat him like a member of the team. Show him the southern hospitality we’re known for. Are we clear?” Remy’s voice brooked no argument.
A round of “Yes sirs” begrudgingly followed.
Taking the statement as an invitation, Nick continued. “Nothing you’ve seen here today, or the details of the other woman found, should be released to the press. I’ve no doubt they’ll catch wind of some of this. But the longer it takes and the fewer details they know, the better.”
“You heard the man. Let’s not give this killer any more room on the front page than he’s already got. I’ll be talkin’’ to the chief about forming a task force. But until then, let’s keep our efforts focused on finding Shana Cantrell. If we’re lucky, she just might still be alive.”
Visit Tricia Tyler's web page
Follow Tricia on Twitter