She could not take it anymore. The distorted figure looked at her from every angle, from every corner. She felt her throat constrict.
She had to do something.
She slammed her body up against the walls, spinning around in ecstasy, smashing the mirrors around her, feeling fresh cuts form on her skin and drops of blood begin to spill. The pain was cathartic.
She struck her head a third time. She could no longer stand up. She fell to the floor and her eyes closed. A sense of relief washed over her, a victorious smile spreading across her face. Now she was ready to open her eyes and enjoy the sweet darkness that encompassed her. No one would ridicule her anymore. No one could see her.

April 24, 1990

PROLOGUE

What a cliché. The most beautiful woman he had ever seen was, in fact, a real-life supermodel.
Even as a young photographer, Andy Swain was rarely dazzled by the models posing in front of his camera lens. He did not perceive himself to be one who could be blinded by appearances, but this time his eyes were uncontrollably drawn, like a magnet.
How the mighty have fallen.
Andy accepted a glass of bubbly from one of the myriad waiters shifting through the crowd. Everyone who was anyone in the fashion industry was here. He looked away but his eyes kept returning to her, again and again.
She really is something, he thought to himself. Her body was shaped like an hourglass and her facial features were striking, as if drawn by a painter. She had an enviable agelessness to her, ironically enhanced by the few tiny lines that her smile had rendered. Her eyes, a glistening deep blue, combined with her lustrous dark hair, provided a stunning contrast to her porcelain skin.
Andy had heard other photographers swear that she was, indeed, the most beautiful woman on earth. “Great legends require great exaggerations,” he would reply, wryly. Now, however, a few steps away from the global icon that was Gloria McIntyre, he realized how wrong he had been.
I’m lucky I don’t have my hat. Otherwise I’d be forced to eat it.
She looked bored, as if she’d rather be someplace else. She wasn’t speaking with anyone. Andy moved closer, emboldened by what he knew he had to say to her.
Eventually he approached her, but found himself suddenly lost for words.
“You are just . . .” Andy let his voice linger. That was not how he wanted to make his first move. He didn’t want to gush over her like one of those guys. He never thought he would. He wasn’t the kind of man who had trouble finding the right words around beautiful women.
Well, there’s a first time for everything.
“. . . I mean, you are a very impressive woman indeed. I wanted to–“
“Thanks,” Gloria nonchalantly interrupted him. She had heard proclamations such as this many times before.
At first she didn’t notice the young man standing in front of her, but when she glanced at him again, she could hardly take her eyes off of him. He was so handsome. His golden locks drooped over his olive green eyes, and his smile was absolutely captivating.
Maybe it’s worth it to let him finish talking.
Gloria took a second look. If he was invited to this party, it must mean he was from the industry, she figured. But then she would have known him already.
So who is he? she wondered. Gloria liked to know exactly with what, or with whom, she was dealing.
 “Gloria,” she introduced herself curtly, although she knew it wasn’t necessary.
“Andy Swain,” he said, offering his hand.
His hand hung in the air. When Gloria saw he didn’t intend to back down, she extended her hand to meet his.
“Your name sounds familiar.”
“That would be my father, Andrew Swain, Sr. He founded A&A Swain, the legal firm.”
So he was a lawyer, specializing in tedious small talk no doubt. And, yet, there was something about him, something appealing. She looked into his eyes.
“A&A? Are you working for your father then?”
Andy shook his head. “No, those are our initials, my father’s and mine. He wanted me to become a lawyer, to join the firm and continue his legacy. But I chose to become a photographer. And still, the name remains. Perhaps he hopes I’ll change my mind but . . .” Andy shrugged and grinned.
“You gave up being a high-priced lawyer for this?” she asked, looking around.
“Not exactly,” he admitted with a self-deprecating smile. “Artistic photography is my real passion,” he surprised her. Andy preferred to omit the fact that in order to afford his art practice, he needed to shoot models for a living.
“Ah, so that’s why you came to a fashion website promo party,” she teased. “Tell me, then, what do you see as art here?”
Gloria swept a graceful hand, indicating the grand space. The entire west wall was of glass and framed the Manhattan lights, some steady, some flickering, others in motion, all overlooking the Hudson River. But even that picturesque panorama failed to inject any excitement in the dull ambience of this party. It was the same party that spun over and over again, with the same framework, tasteless food, and meaningless, often spiteful conversations that never changed.
The only thing different was Andy.
He shrugged again and laughed. “I have to admit I pulled a lot of strings to get here.”
“No doubt the effort paid off,” a tiny smile crept to her lips, an odd phenomenon, as she rarely felt comfortable with strangers.
“It’s not so bad. I got to meet you, didn’t I?”
Gloria smiled distantly and looked away.
“I actually hoped for the chance to run into you,” he added.
“Me? Why?” she asked, turning her head toward the skyline.
He may be too eager, but he sure deserves some points for being bold.
“I wanted to make you a proposal.” She arched an eyebrow. “I meant a job offer.”
Gloria was completely surprised – perhaps even a little bit insulted – that he had only come to discuss business matters with her. She had read him all wrong.
Worshiping models just ain’t what it used to be.
“I’m sure you get dozens of offers every day,” Andy continued, “but I have a feeling you might be interested in this one.”
Interested in another of an endless series of photography sessions, one for a magazine cover or fashion company or makeup campaign? Hardly something special or intriguing. She rolled her eyes inwardly. Why did people always think their project was any different from anyone else’s, she wondered.
Where’s the art he was supposedly so passionate about?
Andy sensed he was losing her interest. He had to make her say yes.
He was talking but she wasn’t listening. Her eyes, along with her thoughts, so it seemed, had focused on a distant spot on the horizon. But then the word “art” caught her attention.
“. . . an artistic project designed to arouse worldly resonance.”
She shifted her gaze back to him.
And . . . she’s back! Andy smiled broadly, revealing a pair of perfect-looking dimples.
“I was hired to capture the true essence of beauty. Well, not beauty, but the idea of beauty, if you see what I mean. I’m talking about an artistic shoot, not just another campaign or commercial. And that takes a lot of work, starting with finding the ideal location, designing a magical background, and finding the perfect woman; because between you and me, there is no doubt that you are the fairer sex,” he smiled. “That’s why I need you. Now that I’ve seen and met you, I know that. If you don’t agree to do this with me, I’ll have to back out because I won’t settle for anything less than perfect; it would defeat the whole purpose. And as far as I’m concerned, there is no one more suitable for this project than you.”
It wasn’t just a line, Gloria thought, looking at him. He appeared earnest, the artist in him revealing a glimpse of itself.
“I would think you’d be better off choosing someone younger. After all, most people equate youth with beauty.” She cut right to the chase. She wanted to test his reaction.
“Superficial ones, yes. But that’s not what I’m looking for. I want a timelessness, as in real, seemingly eternal beauty,” Andy grinned. “Think of fine wine that reveals its quality over time; someone younger would lack that essential maturity.” He paused and looked into her eyes. “In any case, I haven’t seen any woman who’s got the drop on you, young or not. Therefore, I implore you to agree. Because I won’t do this without you.”
The flattery helped. There was something about him that won her over, for now.
“It does sound intriguing.”
He clasped his hands together. “Say you’ll do it!”
“Well, I don’t want to take the fall for ruining your project.” That rarely seen smile slipped out again.
The truth was less altruistic, Gloria admitted to herself. Andy’s offer enticed her competitive drive. She was well aware that, although still in demand, increasingly younger models were nipping at her heels, threatening to make people believe that she was yesterday’s news. If she was going to retain that precarious perch at the top of the modeling world, she needed something to set her apart. Being crowned and marketed as the Ideal of Beauty might just do the trick. Then, no one could top her.
“I’d need to know more,” she warned. “And we’d need to discuss all the details with my business manager before I commit.”
“Great!” he called, as if it were a done deal, a big smile stretching across his face. “May I have your business card?”

                                                                                    * * *

Gloria sat with Arthur Cohen and her lawyer on one end of the table, while Andy and his lawyer occupied the other end. They were meeting to discuss the details of the contract.
Arthur Cohen was Gloria’s personal manager. She did not have an agent; she didn’t like them. Gloria was not one of those models who snapped up every offer available, and she was determined to participate in every decision affecting her professional route. She was easily as much a successful businesswoman as a successful model. Gloria always got what she wanted. Five minutes with her shattered the stereotype that where beauty existed, brains failed to follow.
Gloria glanced at Arthur’s profile as he chatted with her lawyer. He really had changed her life. And although she no longer needed him to guide her through meetings like this, she was grateful to have him by her side.
She had been seventeen when their paths first crossed. In desperation, she had taken a job waitressing at a coffee shop. Her third day on the job and she hated it already. But she couldn’t afford to quit, not with her mother seriously ill and unable to work anymore. They had to move thousands of miles away from Gloria’s hometown in order to provide her mother with the best medical treatment. The bills had been stacking up and there were no kind neighbors or friendly, familiar faces to rely on in times of need. Gloria just had to keep this job. It put food on the table and kept the electricity on in their tiny apartment at least.
Arthur had walked in that day, a change for him because his usual coffee spot had closed for renovations. He had taken a long look at the young waitress who served him and sensed that she was destined for great things. Was it fate, Gloria wondered? Regardless, she was still grateful that he had chosen her coffee shop over the others scattered along the block. The sun was shining on that warm spring day and Arthur had decided, uncharacteristically, to linger over his coffee at an outside table rather than getting it to go, as most Manhattanites did. The sun had indeed been shining down on her that day. Her life changed one-hundred-eighty-degrees as a result.
You’ve come a long way, baby. She bit her lip to keep from smiling.
Although modeling and the fashion industry were not Arthur’s line of business, he had connections which he didn’t hesitate to exploit on Gloria’s behalf. Two of the top people in the industry were friends from his college days back when, as idealists, they all dreamed about changing the world and winning a Nobel Prize. That idealism hadn’t lasted in the face of money’s allure. Arthur urged his friends to meet her and wouldn’t take no for an answer. Eventually, they gave in.
There had been no regrets.
Gloria broke into the modeling world and became a hot commodity in the industry overnight. Everyone wanted her. As far as the other models were concerned, ones that had been on the rise until she had come along, they hadn’t stood a chance.
Gloria was grateful that she’d only been seventeen when Arthur “discovered” her. Nowhere was it truer than in modeling that time was the enemy, and timing was of the essence. Had she arrived on the scene on the heels of another model’s big break, her career might have stalled. She might appear to be in control of her career to those looking in from the outside, but she knew very well that the industry was the one pulling all the strings. Only the handful of powerful people controlling this business had a real say in who would get to be Miss Congeniality, and not the public, even if they wanted to believe otherwise.
Gloria tilted her head slightly and pulled herself from her insightful memories back to the decorated meeting room. It wasn’t time for reminiscing. She leaned over and listened.
After all of their business affairs had been settled, they moved on to discuss the details of the photo shoot. Andy had chosen to shoot in a magnificent forest in the southern peninsula of New Zealand, one he had discovered during his travels. He explained that the contrast between the wild scenery and Gloria, who looked like a delicate china doll, would create a breathtaking sight that would be absolutely mesmerizing. “In other words, perfect,” he concluded with a grin.
Gloria felt excited to commence this new adventure. Unlike what she was used to, the crew would be pretty small. Besides Andy, Gloria, and Arthur, it would include a make-up artist, who was also the hair designer, an assistant photographer, and a general assistant whose job was to take care of all the logistics. It wasn’t extravagant, but it was a solid plan. It seemed as though Andy had really thought this through. There was just one last thing to take care of.
Gloria picked up her pen. “Where do I sign?”

CHAPTER 1

CHAPTER 2

“Oh goody! I’m glad you woke up,” a jubilant, feminine voice echoed in the background.
Julie did not know where she was or what was happening to her. Her eyes were blindfolded and her arms and legs were tightly chained to a chair. She could feel the blood draining from her joints, a sensation of excruciating pain. She ran a dry tongue over her parched lips, wondering how long she had been immured by her agony, and for how much longer would she have to suffer until she was rescued. If she would ever be rescued.
Half of the time Julie was unconscious and did not realize what was happening to her; and when she was conscious, the pain overwhelmed her so much that she felt like she would pass out any minute. She had cried and begged, but it just didn’t stop.
She was trapped like a helpless animal, dreading her huntress.
“What’s going on here?!” Julie yelled with every last bit of strength left in her. “How long have I been here? Why are you doing this to me?” she screamed in tears.
“You don’t have to yell,” the same female voice answered. “No one is going to hear you anyway. You’ve been here for two days, and no one has come to save you. But don’t you worry, it will all be over soon.”
Julie couldn''t see the malicious smile on the woman’s face when she said that.
Julie did not understand how she had gotten into this situation in the first place. The past week had seemed to be one of the best in her life. It had started with her coming back from the bachelorette party of the first one of her friends to get married. They had partied in Atlantic City, and Julie had even won two hundred dollars. Of course the very next day she had spent it all on a gorgeous dress that she had been wanting to buy for a long time. And then her mother had begun prying for present ideas for her upcoming birthday, which only further improved her mood.
Winter was in progress, but the frosty atmosphere had suddenly transformed into pleasant weather, and Julie felt like this had happened just for her. The highlight of the week had been when she met an important magazine editor who had told her that she had a really unique look and that she should give her a call if she were interested in modeling for the magazine. She had given Julie her business card. Julie had exclaimed in excitement that her lifelong dream was to be a model, and the editor, Kelly Danes was her name, had nodded and smiled. She’d only asked Julie not to tell anyone yet, because she did not want to be bothered by other girls craving the same incredible opportunity; it would be better if she told everyone only after everything was officially settled.
Julie had called Kelly the very next day, and they had agreed to meet at the editor’s townhouse on the Upper East Side. Kelly had brought up the possibility of Julie having her portfolio photos taken, implying that she should dress up. Julie’s enthusiasm grew with a burst of happiness when she thought about the new dress she had just bought, which would be perfect for the occasion. She really hoped she could impress Kelly.
That night, Julie had hailed for a cab rather than take the subway, like she usually did. She could not afford to be late to such an important meeting and ruin the great first impression she’d obviously left on Kelly. She had preferred not to take a chance and miss her train, or somehow not be able find her way from the subway station to Kelly’s home. Anyway, she figured, although it got a bit warmer, the nights were significantly cooler; and she wasn’t intending to show up on Kelly’s doorstep with a frozen handshake while sniffing her nose. She wanted to look her absolute best.
The taxi had stopped in front of an impressive row of townhomes. Julie had made sure she was at the right address before paying the driver. The moment she had shut the car door behind her, she felt her heart pounding. By the time she had gotten to the door, it was racing. She had forced herself to take a deep breath and then pressed the doorbell. Kelly had answered the door right away and welcomed her in. She had explained that the studio was located in the basement floor and gestured with her hand toward a heavy looking door. Julie had automatically headed inside while Kelly locked the main door and then followed her downstairs.
The last thing Julie could remember was a violent blow to her head and her body plummeting down the stairs. She was still sprawled on the floor when she felt the texture of rough fabric, like a used kitchen towel, covering her face and a weird smell that quickly filled her nose. Then everything had turned black, just as it was doing once again, as Julie reluctantly gave in to the pain and slipped out of consciousness, yet another time . . .
When she finally regained awareness, God only knew after how long, she was awakened to a complete darkness that enfolded her eyes. She felt the ropes brush against her skin as she tried to move her hands. She was strapped to a chair, hazy and suffering terrible pain.
“What the hell is going on here?” Julie asked. “Kelly, is that you?” she called in helplessness.
“Patience, my dear,” said Kelly’s calm voice. “Soon it will all be as clear as day.”
After several long minutes, Julie sensed how the coarse ropes binding her to the chair were being loosened, but she couldn’t move. She was paralyzed with fear. She experienced a horrible, salty taste in her mouth. Had she been drugged? Julie moved her tongue over the corner of her cheek in an attempt to wipe out that poisonous flavor. Her eyes were still blindfolded, but she did not have enough strength to uncover them: she felt defenseless.
Kelly gripped her brutally and knocked her to the ground.
Julie felt every last bit of her bruised, naked flesh being dragged across the cold, rough floor and then tossed aside like a piece of meat.
“Oh Julie, you are so pretty!” Kelly cheered. “Let me just put on your new dress and some make-up, and then you can see for yourself that you are indeed . . . well . . . breathtaking!”
“What’s going on here?” Julie asked again. She tried to scream, but her voice was already too hoarse from crying and yelling.
“Don’t worry, sweetie, save your energy for later. You see, I just had to make a few minor adjustments before I could let you be photographed for my magazine. You probably understand that not just anyone can show up and instantly become a model. The secret all the breathtaking models keep is that the path to beauty is tied up with pain. A lot of pain.”
Julie felt her bare body being stuffed into a tight dress that pressed against her wounds, and then she was seated back on the chair. Cruel hands pulled her up mercilessly, without any consideration for the amount of pain she felt, so that she would sit up straight. Then the blindfold was removed from her eyes.
The entire room was lit, but it took a few minutes for her eyes to get used to the brightness before she could see clearly. Then she saw that all of the walls in the room were actually mirrors. She saw a woman with platinum shaded hair and carefully painted dark red lips, Kelly, standing proudly next to a woman sitting on a chair. She did not recognize the woman, but she was wearing her clothes. Julie stared at the eyes of the woman looking back at her and then she suddenly realized.
It was her.
She was overtaken by pure terror. No, it’s not possible! Julie told herself and then stared again at her reflection. She shuddered when she saw herself in the mirror. Maybe this was all just a bad dream. This couldn’t have happened to her. No, it had to be one of those horrible nightmares and she was going to wake up any minute now in her warm, comfortable bed, laughing at herself for having such a gruesome imagination.
But the nightmare didn’t stop, and she was already awake.
“What the hell did you do to me?” Julie screamed, as the tears began pouring down her cheeks, burning her wounded skin.
“Look at you, all dressed up in your new dress. Julie, don’t you think you look beautiful?”
Julie’s entire body was peeling. Some of the wounds had begun to heal a little, but the ones on her face were still raw and painful. Her long chestnut hair, which she had been growing diligently ever since she was a child, had been chopped off and ripped out until her scalp was exposed, and the blood trickled down into her eyes, blending with her tears. It trailed through where her eyebrows once had been and were now torn out completely. Her nose seemed broken and twisted, covered with gore, and she had trouble breathing. Her mouth felt so parched and dry, yearning for some water, but all she could taste was that salty mix of blood and tears. She battled with herself not to throw up. It was an excruciating vision.
 “What did you do to me?” Julie sobbed, staining her new dress with red tears. “Why did you do this to me?”
“It doesn’t feel nice to be ugly, does it?” Kelly asked venomously. “When you’re beautiful, you think you are above all, truly worth more than everybody else. Parading around like a queen no one can refuse. Oh, what vanity it takes to want to be a model! You trust your beauty to make life easier in an instant, without learning or working, without struggling for a livelihood, without doing anything but smiling and being perfect.” Kelly’s eyes narrowed at Julie.
“But it’s not my fault that I am . . . was . . . beautiful,” Julie reasoned.
“Maybe so,” Kelly replied, “but you are the only one to blame for your pride. Don’t you remember that your lifelong dream was to be no less than a model? For this you deserve the punishment you were given.”
“But what about you?” Julie asked. “You’re beautiful, too. Why aren’t you punishing yourself?”
“Oh no, I’m not as beautiful as you are, well, were. In any case, I did not always look like this.” As she spoke, Kelly remembered those godawful days. “You see, because of women like you, I’ve suffered all my life. I was never pretty enough. Girls like you always made fun of me.” Deep in her heart she thought about one girl in particular, the one she had really wanted to see sitting on that chair. “I couldn’t use my looks to get where I have gotten now. I wasn’t arrogant enough to think that my beauty would open doors for me; rather, I relied on my devotion and talent and hard, very hard, work. And that is exactly your downfall,” Kelly proclaimed in a firm voice. “If you don’t understand yet,” she added, “your sin is not beauty, but pride. You are not being punished for the way you look but for the way you allow yourself to behave.” Kelly hurled the harsh words at her, leaving her speechless.
The last thing Julie saw was Kelly pointing a gun at her. She never heard her say, “It’s so hard to be beautiful, don’t ya think?”
                                                                              
                                                                                 * * *

The industrial garbage bag that concealed Julie’s body waited impassively in the dark room where she had found her death. Kelly was too smart to try to dispose of the evidence in broad daylight.
It was morning now and she was on her way to work, but her mind drifted to other places. She wondered when the cops were going to find the body this time. Kelly wanted those who had more beauty and vanity than actual brains to know that they''d better watch out.
Kelly decided to take a quick detour through the offices of Ford Models on West 57th street near Central
Park. As she drove past one of the most established modeling agencies in the city, she noticed a beautiful girl, about twenty years old, with golden locks and hazel eyes, gazing up at the building with an expression of amazement blended with hope. She pulled up next to her and rolled down the window.
“Hello, I’m the Editor in Chief of Inner Beauty magazine. We are currently looking for new models. Here’s my business card. Give me a call, I think you have a bright future ahead of you.”

The NYPD was baffled by the mysterious series of murdered beautiful women all over Manhattan. Among the many young women who had been found lifeless, there was no common ground other than their stunning appearances, which had been brutally deformed. Nobody knew who could be responsible for these horrendous killings. There were no clues leading to the killer’s identity.
Over the six years that Sharon had worked in the homicide squad of the Midtown South Precinct, she had faced dozens of different murder cases, but this was proving to be especially difficult. It was clear that they were dealing with a skilled criminal who did not leave any footprints behind. Sharon even wondered whether the killer had prior experience or perhaps connections to unsolved cases in other jurisdictions. She had contacted other squads and searched for similar cases in the police database, but no matches were found. It seemed as though the murderer had launched and groomed his ghastly career in New York City – and nowhere else.
Well, I guess even killers believe that The Big Apple is the place to be.
Working with police psychologists had enabled Sharon to assemble a vague profile of the killer. They were looking for a person who was very clever, a perfectionist, and probably behaved that way in his day-to-day life. As for the unsub’s gender, both options were considered, though the fact that over ninety percent of serial killers were men was heavily taken into account. One possibility that seemed plausible was that the killer was a man who had suffered abuse and humiliation by a female figure and that the distortion of the faces likely symbolized a grand victory and revenge for his past. However, there were no signs of sexual assault, which was usually associated with male criminals, especially in light of the victims’ striking beauty. But it could also relate to a sense of castration, Sharon reminded herself. Another profile, though less likely, suggested that the killer was a woman who was making amends with her own sense of inferiority by making other women, whom she deemed threatening, subordinate and uglier than her. Since statistically only a small percentage of serial killers were women, that lead did not seem very promising.
In any case, thus far there had been no evidence found which could confirm or refute any speculations, so they remained completely theoretical – not good when you’re trying to solve a murder case. Sharon sighed inwardly: she was in desperate need of a lead.
The autopsy reports consistently showed that the injuries sustained on the bodies had been made during the forty-eight hours prior to their deaths, and that the joint damage indicated that they had been forcibly tied. Residual Chloroform and GHB, also known as a date rape drug, had been found in the victims’ systems, though Sharon knew there was no evidence for sexual assault. It appeared that the killer wanted to make sure his victims couldn’t fight back, which pointed out to a plausible physical disadvantage.
But how did they end up in this situation in the first place? Did the killer jump at them from behind? Or perhaps he slipped the drug into their drinks? So that could mean they met him willingly, and if so, then why? Different speculations came to Sharon’s mind in an attempt to answer these questions. But she knew that there was no point trying to take a stab at all of these vague conjectures. She should be focused on actual facts. Only the problem was there weren’t any. Time was breathing down her neck, and she definitely felt it.
Suddenly she heard the voice of her boss, Midtown South Precinct Captain, Rob Jackie.
“Davis, into my office, now.” His icy voice dominated the room, imposing utter silence. A few officers, mostly Probies, glanced up in fear but then realized it wasn’t their names being called.
Sharon crossed the hall in a speed that could have rivaled a marathoner, while gathering her long champagne blonde hair into a round bun at the top of her head. She stepped into the Captain’s office and closed the door behind her.
“Is there something new?” she asked, pushing strands of golden hair away from her ocean green eyes.
“That’s exactly what I intended to ask you, Davis, as the detective who is supposed to be in charge of this case,” he answered rigidly.
Supposed to be in charge? It looked like her situation was getting worse by the minute.
He ignored her questioning expression. “It’s been two months since the last murder. I would expect you to have found something by now. Anything,” he sighed. “Do you have any leads?”
“Well . . .” Sharon tried to stall a little as she wondered what she could say that would distract her commander from the fact that she had no news for him. “We’ve put together two predominant profiles of the killer, and now I’m using them to find proof that confirms one of the descriptions. I’m planning on going through the files again; perhaps there’s something we missed.”
“We already did that,” Rob grumbled. “Goddammit, Davis, we need to show some kind of progress, and you’re not delivering. Do you want us to wait until it’s too late and we have another body on our hands? You don’t understand the kind of pressure I’m under. You know this is one of the most covered events in the last two and half years, which means if we don’t solve it soon our asses will be on the line. I can’t continue covering for you anymore.” He stopped and took a deep breath. “If you think you can’t handle it . . .”
“Rob, we both know I can. And you know nobody else could have gotten further with the slim evidence we have,” she answered with confidence, though she didn’t feel it. In the last year alone, four bodies had been found, and it was clear that the killer was gaining more confidence and experience. Each time a new body was discovered, Sharon felt the depth of her failure.
But she was never a quitter.
“Listen, I know it’s a lot of drudge, but we need to go back in order to get to the bottom of this. There is no doubt that we are dealing with a professional; therefore, if there are any mistakes, they will be found in the first murder. We need to go back to square one. That’s the only way to track this nutjob. We already know the guy’s methods and his motives. All we need is one little mistake, and I am going to find it. I’ll do whatever it takes. And that’s a promise, Captain.”
Sharon felt entranced by her brave speech. She had won Rob over and had managed to calm him yet again. She already saw the beginning of a smile forming on his lips and was waiting to hear his usual, “Okay, Davis, counting on you, God knows why. Get moving.”
But she did not hear those words. Rob’s cell phone rang. He answered but did not say a single word throughout the duration of the call. Sharon noticed that the vein next to his forehead was beginning to stick out – a very bad sign. When he hung up, he said only one thing.
“We have another body.”

CHAPTER 3