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Mary Stone - Last Resort (Emma Last FBI Mystery Series Book 9)

A Taste of… Last Resort

Chapter One

Newly minted FBI Agent Valerie Lundgren silently willed the intersection light to change in her favor. Her fingers drummed the steering wheel, and she couldn’t help but look at the ring finger on her left hand.

Currently, that digit was bare. But in the space of the next couple hours, she anticipated that changing.

Though he won’t ever get the chance to pop the damn question if this stinking light doesn’t change.

She had one stop to make on the way home—the liquor store that served as the cornerstone of the tiny commercial center.

After years of hard work, everything—personally and professionally—seemed to be paying off at once.

She had a lot to celebrate.

Only forty-five days into her employment with the FBI’s Cybersecurity Division, Valerie had already uncovered and helped dismantle two major fraud and phishing operations. The perpetrators had been sentenced over a week ago, and just this morning, she’d been awarded recognition as the principal investigator on both cases.

And Will, her longtime boyfriend, was planning to transform into her fiancé tonight.

That’s two wins in one day. What better way to celebrate than with a bottle of bubbly?

The light changed, finally, and Valerie accelerated across the intersection, flinching as the car behind her whipped around on the left and sped onward to the freeway.

“Somebody wants to get home. Drive safe, buddy, and we’ll all get there too. Ya jerk.”

She pulled into the liquor store parking lot and aimed for the perpendicular parking spaces by the entrance. Only one other car sat in the lot—a gray Toyota minivan parked in the first space by the door.

A car that had followed Valerie into the lot headed over to the noodle house to park beside a white sedan. Valerie’d eaten there a few times, but Will’s cooking kept her from grabbing takeout too often.

That man knows his way around every pot and pan in the kitchen.

Thinking of Will and wanting nothing more than to be home with him, she snagged a spot next to the van. Easy in, easy out.

Grabbing her shoulder bag with her laptop from the passenger seat, Valerie got out. She double-clicked her key fob to lock the doors and got the confirming chirp from her Hyundai Elantra. Holding her bag against her chest, she stepped through the space between the vehicles, past the van’s front bumper, and into the store.

Rows and racks of bottles awaited her inside. The clerk, a young man with a head of scraggly blond hair, waved from behind the bulletproof partition that closed in the cash register area.

Lingering in the aisle between the blanc de blancs and rosé, Valerie wondered if a red wine would be a better choice. Will had said he was going to cook prime rib tonight. She swiveled back and forth until she landed on a bottle of Merlot that promised to pair well.

Then she also grabbed the blanc de blancs—for dessert.

At the counter, the clerk checked her driver’s license, and Valerie endured his excessive scrutiny as he looked from her face to the card she held out. It was all she could do not to snatch it from him. She had places to be.

“I’m older than I look, I promise. Do you need to see another form of ID?” Without waiting for an answer, Valerie flipped open her other wallet, the one that held her federal ID and badge.

The clerk’s eyes went wide, and he flicked his gaze from the ID to her face and back again. “Yeah, okay. You’re good.”

She paid and headed for the door with her purchases in a brown paper bag, the annoying clerk forgotten. All she could think about was being home with Will and his cooking and the expectation that her ring finger wouldn’t be bare in the morning.

Valerie stepped into the late evening air, happy to hear the rush of cars moving beyond the parking lot as traffic spilled effortlessly from the intersection onto the waiting on-ramp. Soon she would be on that ramp and headed to Will. She held the paper bag filled with her celebratory bottles close to her chest.

The last rays of the sun were below the horizon and the night was cooling off. Yellowish parking lot lights did little more than create tiny, dim pools, and in her hurry to get the bubbly and leave, she hadn’t thought to park beneath one of them, like she usually did. Even though there was traffic nearby, the parking lot felt like a dark island among the city lights.

She paused after stepping out of the store, her quick gait slowing. If anyone asked her why, she wouldn’t be able to articulate the reasons behind her decision to slow down. Something in the air felt different.

Isolated. Exposed.

A crunch of gravel nearby startled her, and she scanned the lot.

Check your environment.

The parking lot was still empty except for her car and the minivan, which she assumed belonged to the clerk inside. It had been there when she pulled up.

But the crunch of gravel had sounded like a footstep.

Headlights streaked past the lot entrance, heading toward the freeway on-ramp. Each passing car stirred up bits of trash that settled against the meridian strip, only to be picked up again by the next car.

She’d probably heard a car’s tire grinding over something in the road. Still, Valerie knew better than to assume safety. The cadre of trainers at Quantico had drilled that into everyone’s heads.

Since she’d only been an FBI agent for forty-five days, she was still honing her skills, but they were becoming more automatic.

Valerie scanned down the way toward the storefronts trailing from the liquor store to the other end of the parking lot. The car that had followed her into the lot and headed to the noodle house was gone. There were no new vehicles.

Whatever illumination came from the liquor store itself was dimmed by all the advertisements and displays crowding the windows.

When she reached her car, she checked the minivan beside her. The front seats were empty, but she couldn’t see through the tinted windows in the back.

As she’d done on her way in, Valerie slid around the front bumper of the minivan and into the space between it and her sedan.

Shifting the wine and champagne to her left arm, she tucked her right hand into her jacket, around the handle of her service weapon, ready to draw as she stepped slowly to her driver’s side door and checked the back seat.

Empty. Okay, so there’s nobody waiting for me in there.

“Girl, catching bad guys has made you paranoid.”

The sound of her own voice broke the spell of isolation she’d been feeling. Relaxing a bit, Valerie let go of her gun and reached into her shoulder bag for her key fob. She thumbed the button and opened the door.

Stepping in and settling into the driver’s seat, Valerie looked at her left hand again.

I can already see the band around my finger. With a simple stone, modest and understated, just like Will.

Leaning over, she set the wine and her shoulder bag on the floor of the passenger seat. She turned back, then leaned out to grab her door and pull it closed, but froze with her hand on the door. The dashboard light showed the right rear door was also open. A weight settling into the back seat and the rear door snapping shut were the only precursors of warning.

An arm snaked from the back seat, around her throat, pulling her flush against the headrest. Her back arched as she fought the pressure on her larynx. Reactively, she tried to hook one hand around her assailant’s arm to yank it free while reaching for her gun with the other. She couldn’t twist to reach it though.

A sharp point pierced the skin of her neck.

A needle.

Panicked, she grabbed at his arms, trying to pry them apart, to get the needle away from her neck. But her assailant yanked back harder, choking her, and drove the point into her skin.

“Stop! Stop, you’re—”

“Let’s not and say we didn’t, eh, Valerie?”

He knew her name. She tried to take a breath, tried to calm herself down, but lack of oxygen from his grip made her dizzy.

“The syringe is filled with a chemical of my own making, and I have no problem injecting it straight into your neck. I don’t think you want me to do that. Now, very slowly, because I saw you go for your Glock, take out the service weapon and toss it onto the floor by your bag. Do it.

Not knowing what was in the syringe was more terrifying than knowing for certain. It could be anything. Bleach. Lye. Some kind of drug.

Even though her body trembled—she couldn’t seem to stop—Valerie didn’t want this man, whoever he was, to know she was scared.

For a moment, she contemplated how fast she would have to move to draw her gun and fire. But no mental scenario resulted in her getting off a shot before he injected her. Plus, his other arm remained tightly wrapped around her throat, choking her.

One wrong move, and she was dead.

Gold and white spots appearing in her vision wavered as she struggled to breathe, and it became harder to maintain her grip on his arm.

You have to get back to Will.

The thought of Will helped calm Valerie a little. Picturing his smile, she tried to use that to refocus. She needed to take advantage of any opening this asshole gave her. For Will.

He tugged back again, closing her airway. Valerie’s lungs began to burn.

“Clock is ticking, Val. You have about a minute left, maybe, but my patience is already at its end. I guess this is goodbye.”

The needle at her throat moved, tugging at her skin, and for a second, Valerie feared he was pushing on the plunger. She dropped her hands into her lap, and the pressure eased up. He even released his hold on her throat enough so that she could take a breath.

“Good move. Now…gun on the floor.”

She did as he commanded, using only one hand, and dropped it to the floor between her feet.

“Well done. You get to live a little longer, maybe even to see Will again.”

Feeling her airway open up, Valerie swallowed. But even though this man had managed to sneak up on her, drive a needle into her throat, choke her, and disarm her, his actions were nowhere near as terrifying as the fact he knew Will’s name.

How does he know about us?

But the pressure he’d put on her neck made her words come out in a wheezy croak. “How do you know about Will?”

He tightened his arm around her throat again. “Now close the driver’s door. Slowly, left hand only. Right hand goes on the wheel. Got it?”

In the rearview mirror, she saw a mask of some type across the attacker’s face. It was dark outside, and the interior car light overhead mostly created shadows. His arm was too tight on her throat for her to do more than choke out a reply. “Okay. If you’ll just—”

“Shut the door.” His arm tightened on her throat again, cutting off her oxygen. Again. Her lungs felt like they’d explode this time. She hadn’t pulled in a full breath in minutes.

But he hadn’t pushed the needle in deeper. “Put your right hand on the wheel. Now. Then shut the door, and you’ll get to breathe.”

Just do what he says. If you’re alive, you can negotiate with him.

Every instinct in her screamed to fight back, but he held the needle in her throat, ready to inject whatever it contained into her system. She cautiously lifted her right hand and gripped the wheel.

Her left hand shook as she reached for the door and pulled it closed.

She let it settle into the frame, but didn’t fully latch it, hoping she might be able to scream for help.

“Nice try, Val.” The needle stayed where it was. “If you open your mouth, I’ll inject you with enough of this to shred your veins while you squirm and scream for mercy. Nod slowly if you understand.”

She lowered her chin and lifted it again in a smooth motion, never taking her eyes from his shadowy form in her rearview mirror. Her expression she kept carefully blank. Beneath the surface, however, she was ready to kill him if she got the chance.

“Good girl.” He loosened his arm on her throat. “You’re going to put your cybersecurity skills to use for me. If you refuse, Will dies. I’ll make you watch, and then you’ll join him. Now close that door all the way. We have something to discuss, and I don’t want to be interrupted.”

Heart pounding, Valerie considered what she knew of this man. Compliance, for the moment, was probably her best option. Grappling him and wrenching his hand off the syringe might work, but that would require her hands be free.

She’d already made the mistake of giving in to her fear once. If she was going to get out of this, she’d need to be smarter.

Quantico trained you better, Valerie. You know how to get out of situations like this.

She opened her door again, just enough to pull it closed with a slam.

Maybe that’ll get someone’s attention. If not, I’ll just have to wait for him to give me an opening.

“The door’s closed. You said you wanted to discuss something.”

“Indeed, I do. Get your laptop out. Slowly.”

“How will my laptop help?”

He flexed his left arm, tightening the grip and choking her again. He held on long enough that she almost blacked out. When he released her enough to take in a breath, she felt his mouth hovering beside her ear. She glanced in the rearview mirror again. He kept his face turned away so that all she could make out was part of his profile.

Square jaw. Thick head of hair maybe but sticking out from under a watch cap pulled down low.

“Val, I know you’re trying to size me up, gauge how much of a chance you have of surviving this. I’m going to be honest with you. I just need you to do one thing, and this will all be over. Now, are you ready to talk, or are you still thinking you might fight your way free?”

“I’m ready to talk.”

“Good. I’ve been watching you and your Fed buddies for a while now. You’ve been quite the rising star, netting those scammers last month.”

“How do—”

He pulled harder against her neck. “The FBI, in its infinite arrogance, announces when an agent does something particularly well. Like taking down a phishing ring.”

The pieces clicked into place. Her department had released an article on her work. That was how he’d found her name. Then it would’ve been a matter of doing some simple computer research. As a member of Cyber, she knew how fragile personal data could be exposed.

“Or taking down two of the biggest gangs in the D.C. area.”

Valerie had heard about that incident too. The whole country had. Watching the footage and knowing how those agents had handled the situation, Valerie admired the VCU team. After her own success at the phishing scam, Valerie had debated whether she should approach SSA Jacinda Hollingsworth and offer her services on future cases.

“I had nothing to do with the Drivers and Powders situation.”

“Maybe not, but I did. And those VCU assholes in your organization made a lot of trouble for me, disrupting my operations in a big way. I don’t take kindly to that.”

“Ah, you’re involved with criminal operations. And the VCU stopped you. Sounds like they did their jobs.”

The man scoffed, and she felt the needle jiggle in her neck.

“I’m guessing you were involved with drugs?” Valerie couldn’t quite believe her own boldness. Calling out a criminal for his crimes was a risky maneuver. But she needed to get back to Will. “Do you have something to do with that crystal clear stuff?”

He ignored her efforts. “Be a good girl and move the seat back as far as it’ll go. Give yourself some room to work.”

“What kind of work do I need to do?”

“Okay. I guess I have to play hardball.”

His arm left her throat, and she thought that meant she had to get her laptop. She reached over, carefully, for his one hand was still holding the syringe in her neck. As she leaned forward for her computer bag, something sharp prodded at her back.

“That’s a knife. I have it right behind your kidney. If you want to die bleeding out while burning up from the inside when I flood your bloodstream with that crystal clear stuff, by all means, keep being a stupid bitch and thinking you can negotiate your way out of this.”

The pressure of the knife against her back let up. Valerie heard him digging in a pocket, which meant he’d let go of the knife, but the needle wiggled in her neck with every move she made. Before she could jerk away from the needle, he stuck a phone into her field of vision over her left shoulder.

“Get with the program, Val, or Will dies. See?”

She slid her gaze to the side, taking in the smudged phone screen. But she was able to read the message.

Bitch isn’t cooperating. Kill him. Make it messy.

Valerie felt like she might vomit all over that phone screen. If he was working with the gangs, then he definitely had lackeys.

The thought that someone could be watching Will or even threatening him at this very moment created knots of anxiety behind her solar plexus.

His thumb hovered over the send button. “Nice and slow now. Move the seat back.”

The phone vanished from her view.

Gingerly, with a surge of terror for Will’s safety coursing through her, Valerie reached down and pressed the controls to move the seat backward, the knife pressing just behind her kidney again, forcing her to strain against the seat belt so it wouldn’t puncture her skin.

“Take out your laptop. I want the home addresses of the Bureau’s Violent Crime Unit agents.”

Fucking hell.

She froze with her right hand on her shoulder bag. She could grab the laptop, or she could grab her key fob and hit the panic button.

As she debated her next move, the sharp prod of the knife vanished from her back and was at the left side of her throat in a flash. And still, the needle’s pressure on the right reminded her how close she was to an agonizing death.

“Valerie, honey,” his growl came closer to her ear, “I’m waiting.”

The knife pressed in, and a warm wetness saturated the cotton of her collar, along with a sting that spoke of a deeper threat.

She gritted her teeth. There was no way she could give up the VCU members. Exposing them would make her a traitor.

“Does Will deserve to be carved apart, his limbs left scattered over his students’ papers, just because you wanted to show loyalty to agents who don’t even know your name?”

Oh, god, he knows Will’s a teacher. Shit, shit, shit.

“You’re evil.” Valerie choked on the word. She’d thought she understood criminals, how they thought, what their processes were. In her time at Cyber, she’d seen people save horrid photographs of their crimes, steal social security from their grandmothers, and launder millions. This guy was different.

Her fingers clutched her laptop. She could see her key fob at the bottom of her bag, but the thought of Will being butchered…

She made her decision.

“Just stop. I’ll do it, okay? Just stop.”

They’ll be okay. They’re FBI. They’re one of the best teams in the country. And this guy’s already got my address, so he’ll get theirs somehow, even if I don’t help him. Plus, I’ll warn them. Soon as I get away, I’ll warn them.

She drew her computer from its case and brought it onto her lap.

“Good girl. Let’s get started, then. And no sending messages for help or any warnings. I’ll see you do it, and you and Will won’t survive it. I’m going to take the syringe out now, so you can work fast, but the knife stays where it is. If you make one move for that gun, you’ll be spraying arterial blood across your dashboard.” His voice turned sickly sweet and mocking. “We ‘crystal clear,’ Val?”

She gave another gentle nod, just as she’d done when he first attacked. The pressure from the syringe remained until she had her computer booted up. Then he drew the needle out.

Valerie ignored the impulse to wipe at the blood trailing down the other side of her neck into her collar, and she typed as fast as she ever had. Her laptop gave her a direct line into the FBI’s database of personnel, and finding the files for the agents on the VCU squad was the work of only a few minutes.

Supervisory Special Agent Jacinda Hollingsworth.

Special Agent Leo Ambrose.

Special Agent Emma Last.

Special Agent Vance Jessup.

Special Agent Mia Logan.

Special Agent Denae Monroe.

When the man behind her passed her a USB drive, she took it without comment.

A strange numbness overtook her. It was like she watched her own actions from a distance.

“I’m watching you save every one of those files on this drive, Valerie. Don’t even think of disappointing me.”

“What are you going to do with these files?”

Her whisper hung in the air, but he only twitched the knife down to the USB in answer. She took it out and passed it back to him. The quiet hiss of a zipper told her he’d tucked it away.

“You’ll let me go now? Please. It would cost me my job if I told anyone what I gave you. I won’t speak of this to—”

The prick of a needle entered her neck on the right again, and the words died in her throat.

Warmth spread from the pinprick, burning her skin, a fiery heat like nothing she’d ever experienced.

Throat drying, and terror racing through her chest, even as an odd, comforting sensation began to envelope her, Valerie let one hand drift to her neck, to where the needle had just left her skin.

Fighting against the effects of the drug, she shot her left hand for the door handle, but his knife came down, slashing it open from her thumb to her wrist. Her hand fell to her side, slack. Blood welled up and poured down her fingers just as an intense sensation overwhelmed her.

She’d expected pain, terrifying agony, like something tight and stabbing in her guts or throat. Instead, she met with euphoria.

In a million ways, the euphoria was worse.

She gasped, shutting her eyes and pressing her head back into the seat, deep and heavy. Never had she felt this powerful or this strong. She’d kill this man in a moment. Just as soon as she finished enjoying this feeling, she’d rip his limbs apart. Drop his head into one seat and leave his body in the other.

Her lungs burned, her heart pounding with a strength she felt was suddenly overtaking her, controlling her. Every muscle contracted, ready to burst. She pressed her feet into the floorboard, gasping for air and whining like a frightened dog.

Her whimpers grew louder, more desperate, but she couldn’t stop herself from trying to release the pain with a wheezing whine, and the man in the back laughed. She raised a hand and pressed it hard into her neck, trembling, as the temperature in her body increased with each beat of her heart.

A shiver ran through her—or was it the car that was shivering around her? Violent but warm? And then the weight of anxiety fell in on her.

Something’s coming. Something worse than him. I’m going to die. There are monsters everywhere, and they’re going to kill us, and we’re going to die. We’re all going to die. My body’s going to explode and be taken away by monsters.

Valerie knew her brain was spiraling, but all she could do was stare at the liquor store’s glowing window displays. Lottery numbers strobed in her vision, taunting her with promises of fortunes she would never enjoy.

And through it all, the man chuckled, deep in his throat like a predator that had just killed its prey.

Terror built in Valerie, feeding off her nerves as her heart pounded faster.

“Chest. Hurts.” The gasped words didn’t sound like words at all, so she tried again.

The man laughed and patted her arm. “You’re a government puppet, Valerie. But you did good for me, didn’t you? And now you get to die, just like you deserve.”

She pressed her hands to her chest, pulling at her shirt, wishing she could relieve the pressure, but it only built tighter. She couldn’t breathe. Not even a little, not anymore.

And then the monsters closed in.

Chapter Two

Eyes. Eyes through the trees.

A mist, seeping through stands of evergreens, surrounded Emma, but she could only watch the eyes appear and vanish.

Then the silhouettes of two women drifted out of the mist. Maybe they were made of the mist itself. One woman stared at Emma, her eyes an icy blue. A chill, like a cold wind, surrounded Emma, but she moved toward the woman. The mossy grass squelched beneath her feet.

But another woman’s misty arm reached through and held Emma’s arm, pulling her to a stop. This woman had brown eyes that seemed to smile.

And all around them, a wolf howled and howled.

Panting, FBI Special Agent Emma Last jerked awake and pressed one hand to her chest, staring into the dark of her bedroom. She jerked the covers of her comforter away, freeing her legs to swing over the side of the bed. Weak light from the street filtered through the blinds as the first tendrils of sunrise approached. When she’d caught her breath, Emma pushed herself to sitting and reached out to silence her alarm.

She rubbed her eyes and blinked them clear of sleep’s grip. But she barely saw the room around her.

Even though Emma didn’t know who those two women were, she recognized them. They were in a photograph with her mother, but she didn’t know how the three were connected.

Emma glanced at the framed picture of her mother she kept on the nightstand. A cold sweat wet her tank top as she thought of the dream. If she’d set her alarm to go off a bit later, maybe she’d have stayed in it and learned something more.

Or maybe you’d have gotten lost in those woods of the Other forever, Emma girl.

The thought stilled her, and she shoved it away by rising from her bed. Without bothering to dress, she made a fast circuit of the apartment. She checked every door and window—all locked, even the tiny one in the bathroom that a child couldn’t have fit through—before breathing deeply.

The dream now forgotten, Emma refocused around the very real and present threats that had come in against her team. Their last case saw the dissolution of D.C.’s two largest gangs and more violence than Emma had witnessed in a long time. The team had also been forced to accept that their work lives and personal lives could end up being more closely linked than any of them had previously imagined.

Denae Monroe’s youngest brother—an active member of the Drivers gang who was being hunted by a member of the rival Powders gang—had been central to their case.

Just when we thought that whole mess was behind us, some maniac called Jacinda to threaten us all.

“I’ll spell it out in the blood of one of your agents.”

Emma no longer felt nauseated by the memory, but tension ate at her. The man had sounded serious.

Supervisory Special Agent Jacinda Hollingsworth laughed when they last talked about it, forcing humor into her voice when she said the man was too dramatic to be dangerous. But Emma had heard the edge, however subtle.
Jacinda often tried to keep

additional burdens and stresses off of the team. But there was no way to mitigate all the sometimes-terrifying aspects of their work. Emma had seen the anxiety around Jacinda’s eyes.

Their SSA was shook, just like Emma was. Nobody believed this guy was a joke, despite wishful thinking. At some point, probably soon, he would come for at least one of them.

I hope it’s me and not the others. I’ll take him down for all of us.

Hurrying through a shower, Emma let herself be spurred on by that promise. And by the faith her boyfriend Oren had in her. When he’d still lived, Oren had been a source of confidence Emma hadn’t known she needed. And now, in death, his ghost provided no less a measure of support.

If he believed she could use her talent as a gift to protect her team, she would do it. She glanced around her room after dressing, hoping, but no sign of him appeared. And she wouldn’t call him to her again so soon.

Not when he’d made it clear that coming to her wasn’t exactly safe.

Stop thinking about him, Emma girl. Get dressed and get the day going already.

She’d let herself sleep late, right through the possibility of yoga or a run, but had done it on purpose when she set her alarm last night. As on edge as she was, she needed the extra time to fall asleep and stay asleep.

In her kitchen, the coffee tasted bitter, but at least her Keurig had behaved. Across the island from her, the ghost of Mrs. Kellerly patted her white hair and prattled on about how handsome Oren was, but Emma barely heard her. Barely even shivered at the cold of the Other that had intruded with the ghost’s presence.

Eating her bagel, she let her mind circle back to the woods she’d seen in the dreams. She told herself they were of the Other, no reality she really knew, but they seemed familiar now. More so than before. Like seeing a person who you recognized from the past, even though you couldn’t place them.

But woods were woods. Didn’t they all pretty much look the same?

Perhaps Oren, who’d spent so much time hiking, could differentiate, but she certainly couldn’t.

If there was one thing she couldn’t claim to be, it was a tree expert.

“Do you know anything about trees, Mrs. Kellerly?” Emma half joked, but still watched the old woman for a response.

“Me?” The woman fluttered her hands around her poofy white hair some more. “I should think not. The forest is no place for a lady, Emma Last. I never understood why Oren would want to drag you out to march around the woods like a couple of children.”

Emma smiled, but the buzz of her phone stole away any further time for conversation. Jacinda’s name beckoned from the screen.Grabbing the device, Emma jumped to her feet, speaking even before she’d raised it to her lips. “Jacinda, what’s going on?”

“Our mystery caller made a move. He—”

“Is everyone okay?” Emma stood rigid beside her counter, crumbling the remains of her bagel in her fist. “Have you talked to everyone? Who—”

“Stop, Emma, everyone’s okay. Breathe!” Jacinda sighed through the line, taking a minute before she continued.

Emma lowered herself back onto the stool at her island. Though her mind kept cycling through the images of her team members around the briefing table where they’d all last been gathered, she told her body to relax.

“Everyone on our team is okay.”

Emma forced a breath from her lungs. “Okay. But you’re calling because he made a move?”

“He did. So MPD has a vehicle downstairs waiting to escort you in.”

Emma’s heart pounded faster. An escort from the police department? “What’s going—”

“Uh-uh, Emma. I’ll fill you in when you get into the office. I have other calls to make. For now, eyes up.”

Before Emma could respond, the SSA had hung up on her, and Emma was left staring at her silent phone.

“But everyone’s okay.” She dropped her phone and hurried off to get dressed. “Everyone’s okay.”

She didn’t allow herself to say the words banging at the corner of her mind, the words Jacinda had spoken.

“Everyone on our team is okay.”

That meant someone else wasn’t.

He’s checking his list, checking it twice. Which agent’s fate will be sealed tonight? 

Haunted by the whispers of the Other, a chilling real-world threat has Special Agent Emma Last and the Violent Crimes Unit on high alert. Their recent victory against D.C.’s gangs is overshadowed by a sinister promise of vengeance that materializes swiftly, claiming the life of a young FBI recruit.

“I’ll spell it out in the blood of one of your agents.”

This brutal act marks the beginning of a deadly game, drawing Emma and her team into a… Read More