Three men are viciously assaulting Philadelphia's prostitutes, and it's up to veteran detective Jocelyn Rush to stop them. She catches two, but they won't betray their partner, the most dangerous of all, and the attacks continue, striking closer to home. Jocelyn's only real clue comes when a monster from her past resurfaces--now she must race to connect the demons of her past with the villain of her present--before the sadistic attacker sets his sights on her.
After saving her three-year-old daughter from a car-jacking, off-duty police detective Jocelyn Rush ends up in the ER. The last person she expects to run into is Anita Grant, former prostitute and an old acquaintance from Jocelyn’s days on patrol. In spite of her obvious injuries—mutilated hands and feet—Anita refuses to talk about what happened. Reluctantly, Jocelyn backs off, and Anita's case goes to Philadelphia’s Special Victims Unit.
Before long, Jocelyn is pulled into the SVU’s investigation. Anita is finally ready to talk, but only to Jocelyn. Her story is harrowing, even to a seasoned veteran like Jocelyn. Working with SVU, Jocelyn’s investigation unearths a series of similar crimes going back four years. Three men are preying on local prostitutes, viciously assaulting and mutilating them.
The police apprehend two of the suspects, but the third eludes capture. As the hunt for the most sadistic of the three intensifies, and his crimes escalate, Jocelyn and her colleagues have precious few leads. Then a monster from Jocelyn’s past resurfaces. She doesn’t want to be reminded of the terrible secret that destroyed her family nearly twenty years earlier, but the man offers her a lead that could crack Anita’s case.
To solve it, Jocelyn must connect her past with her present—before a sadistic attacker sets his sights on her.
Lisa Regan is a crime fiction author. Her first novel, Finding Claire Fletcher won Best Heroine in the eFestival of Words Best of the Independent eBook Awards 2013. It was runner-up for Best Novel. It was also a Digital Book Today Best of 2013 ebook selection. In December 2013, Finding Claire Fletcher and her second novel, Aberration were #1 Amazon bestsellers in the Kidnapping and Serial Killers categories, respectively.
Lisa is a member of Sisters In Crime. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in English and Master of Education Degree from Bloomsburg University. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband and daughter.
The Wawa was crowded as usual. It was the only Wawa in their neighborhood, and the only minimarket worth its salt. For years it had been across the street with a parking lot so small, it defied explanation. Someone very intelligent had come up with the idea of moving it to a much more spacious lot, the site of a long defunct car dealership. The result was better parking and a larger Wawa but even more customers.
Jocelyn guided Olivia over to the frozen drink machine and let her pull the frozen strawberry cup out of the freezer. Jocelyn peeled back the lid.
“Look, Mommy. It’s the same color as Lulu!” Olivia said, rocking up onto the balls of her feet and pointing to the pink concoction inside the cup.
“It sure is,” Jocelyn agreed. She put the cup into the blending machine and pushed the blend button. As the cup ascended into the machine, she chose a lid and threaded a straw through it. The machine made a grinding, whirring sound. Jocelyn smiled at Olivia and arched a brow. “Does that mean Lulu is a strawberry bear?”
Olivia grinned. “She’s not a strawberry bear, Mommy. She’s just a bear.”
“I don’t know. I think I should taste her and see.”
Olivia giggled convulsively as Jocelyn bent and pretended to bite Lulu’s leg. Her giggles rose to high-pitched squeals. Jocelyn looked around to see if they had drawn stares from the other customers.
That’s when she saw him.
He stood across the aisle, at the coffee kiosk. His face was still swollen and bruised. When he smiled at her, she could see the metal bracing in his mouth holding his jaw in place.
What the hell was he doing in her neighborhood? In her Wawa?
She didn’t notice how hard her heart was thundering until she felt Olivia’s little hand tugging hers. “Mommy, Mommy, it’s done. Can I put the lid on?”
Instinctively, Jocelyn scooped Olivia up without taking her eyes from Henry. He took a step toward them.
“Don’t,” Jocelyn said. The edge in her voice froze him. He looked momentarily confused.
Once again, Jocelyn wished she had her gun. She’d have to start carrying an off-duty weapon.
People passed between them, oblivious.
“You’re in violation of a restraining order,” Jocelyn said.
Henry laughed, his gnarled smile framing his wire-gritted teeth. “Like I give a shit.”
Jocelyn glanced around. Surely, he wouldn’t try anything in a crowded minimarket.
“Just a minute, honey.”
Jocelyn panned the store again, hoping to see a uniformed officer. The Wawa was directly across from the 5th District. Didn’t any of them need coffee or snacks?
She swallowed hard over the lump in her throat. She reached for the milkshake and handed it to Olivia. Then she reached for the lid. Olivia took it from her and fit it onto the top of the cup.
“What do you want?” she asked Richards.
Henry reached inside his jacket. Jocelyn’s voice turned sharp and loud like the report of a gun. “Don’t,” she said again, this time drawing the attention of several people around them. She turned her body so that as little of Olivia was exposed to him as possible. Again, Henry froze, nervousness slackening the sneer on his face. He looked around at the faces now gaping at him.
Jocelyn lowered her voice and narrowed her eyes. Even though she didn’t want to be near him, she stepped closer. “Unless you want me to break your face again, you’ll take your hand out of your pocket and get out of here.”
Slowly, he removed his hand. He put both hands up, trying to smile again. The seam where Jocelyn had split his lip cracked. A small bead of blood formed.
Olivia grew heavy in Jocelyn’s arms. She shifted her hold, jostling Olivia. The strawberry milkshake toppled to the floor, landing with a splat. A Wawa clerk who’d been watching the exchange between Jocelyn and Henry rushed over. Olivia wailed, fat teardrops rolling down her face. “I’m sorry, Mommy!”
“It’s okay, honey,” Jocelyn soothed. “We’ll clean it up and get another one.”
The clerk smiled at Olivia. “Don’t worry, sweetie. That’s what we have mops for. Why don’t you get yourself another one? No charge.”
Jocelyn mumbled a thank you to the woman, trying to force a smile. When she looked back at Henry, he was gone.
The clerk already had the milkshake machine awhir as another worker came out to clean up the milkshake. Jocelyn’s gaze swiveled around the minimarket, but she didn’t see Henry. The clerk gave her a napkin, and she dabbed Olivia’s cheeks.
“I’m sorry about this,” Jocelyn told the clerk. “I’ll pay for both.”
The woman smiled, her eyes warm and sympathetic. “Oh sweetie, don’t you worry about it.” She held out a crudely folded origami crane. “Is this yours?”
“Yes,” Jocelyn said. It wasn’t hers, of course. But it was meant for her. Her hand trembled as she took it.
Come back 7/25 for our review.