Elizabeth Caldwell is a hardworking, hardnosed homicide detective with a penchant for working alone - and a broken heart from the recent breakup with her ex-fiancé, Brandon Price. With her life in shambles, her apartment gone and now loving back home with her parents, Liz takes solace in her work. There is pride I what she does, and horror. When a new case hits her desk it has all the gut wrenching earmarks of a serial killer in the making and with the clock ticking, Liz knows she has no time to lose.
As the body count rises, Liz follows clues and interviews those closest to the victims, trying to find a suspicious face in the crowd. Yet when the suspect pool narrows, the face she finds is not the face she expect... Brandon Price, her very own ex-fiancé. The evidence is overwhelming, yet there is no way that Brandon could be the killer... Could he?
It was a brightly lit street, though the hour was late, but even so, anyone would assume that it was safe. That's how she felt, coming home from her best friend's last get together before she went back to college. It was their ritual ever since senior year when one by one they all got their acceptance letters, getting together for drinks and gossip until the wee hours of the morning. She'd walked this way so many times throughout her life that it was second nature, and the last thing on her mind was her surroundings. She had a distinct buzz and she hoped that by walking it off, she wouldn't be a zombie tomorrow for brunch with her family. In fact, she barely heard the snapping of twigs behind her until she felt a pair of strong hands grab her wrists from behind.
In her shock, she didn't put up much of a fight, but her assailant took no chances. Striking her once in the back of her head, she didn't so much as utter a sound. All that could be heard was the sound of her limp body being dragged down the street and into a small silver car.
"Wh-where am I?" She mumbled, the strange sensation of moving while lying down not registering in her mind right away. "In your worst nightmare," the voice replied flatly, and without a shadow of a doubt, she knew that it was true.
"Liz!" Her mother shouted, breaking into her daydream. So preoccupied with her thoughts, she'd forgotten about her breakfast, which was slowly growing cold as the minutes ticked by.
"Sorry, mom," she apologized hastily, stabbing at her scrambled eggs. "Just a little tired, is all."
"Have some more coffee before you go," she said charitably, pouring her a cup. "Here."
"You don't have to do that." Liz sighed. "You do know that this is temporary, right?" "I wouldn't have it any other way," her mother retorted obstinately. "But for hue meantime. It's nice having you around. Your father thinks so, too." At this, Liz laughed. Her father was the epitome of a stone wall: strong and silent. "Don't make fun of him," she admonished.
"Whatever you say, mom. My caseload is ridiculous right now, so don't mind me if I'm distant."
"Oh, that's right. Your promotion."
"Uh huh. Too bad it came right on the heels of getting dumped by my fiancé."
"Forget it," her mother said firmly. "Get going, you'll be late."
Heeding her mother's words, she dumped her dishes in the sink and grabbed her travel mug, still hot with the fresh coffee. In all honesty, she was insanely grateful for the opportunity to live at home again after her breakup; her parents were being a lot more supportive than she could have imagined, giving her space and time to herself and not even charging her rent. Walking outside to her car, she sighed sharply, remembering her old apartment, which was now stripped and on the market. She'd secretly checked the listing every other day and so far, no takers. It made her slightly happier, if only for a few minutes; Liz figured that if she couldn't enjoy her home, nobody else could, either.
Arriving at the police station where she worked as a detective, she felt herself relax. Work had become her escape from the stress of everyday life, as ironic as it were.
"Caldwell," one tall blond rookie officer greeted.
"Hey, Stewart. How's it going?" she smiled before reaching her desk. Setting down her coffee, her eyes immediately fell on the pile of folders in her inbox and she inwardly groaned. Picking the first one up, she read the file; it was a relatively new case. A young college age girl had been found dead a few blocks away from her home, her body mutilated and dismembered. Flipping through the crime scene photos, Liz saw that the girl, Elyse Harding, hadn't been killed anywhere near where they found her body. Her body had clearly been dragged over concrete, wood, and mud before she was dumped near her home. The photos were gruesome, but Liz had a stomach of steel after five years on the force, so this was nothing to her. At least I wasn't there to see this in person, she thought sadly, looking at the various cuts and bruises.
"Caldwell, glad I caught you." Startled, Liz turned to face her boss, Sterling. "That's not the first one we've had like that. they're holding off on calling him a serial killer, though." She nodded, understanding that the media liked to wait on the fear mongering until it was absolutely necessary.
"Right. But I -"
"I want you to make that case top priority. I gave a few of your others to Stewart and Anders. The rest are runaways, and you know how that goes. We'll just have to play the waiting game with those."
"Oh. Okay." She turned to the police report and was shocked to see that the victim's parents lived only a few blocks away from her own mother and father.
"Get a move on, Caldwell. This girl's parents have been calling every hour on the hour. They want answers. we better give them something."
Ignoring the chief's crass manner, she shoved the folder into her old and slightly battered briefcase and got ready to leave. Heading back to her neighborhood, she was glad for the solitude. After having been riding solo for the past eighteen months, Liz learned to appreciate working alone.
"Two twenty. two twenty two. two twenty four, here we go," she muttered to herself, parking and adjusting her sleeve nervously as she approached the front door. In all her years and all the grisly scenes she'd encountered, facing survivors was the most difficult part. Knocking on the door, Liz half hoped that nobody would answer, but when she heard a dog run around and bark, she knew that she was out of luck that day.
"Marshall, hush!" a woman yelled just before the door opened. "Oh. Hello. You must be from the police station?"
"Yes, ma'am. Are you Mrs. Harding?"
"I am. Um, we reported Elyse missing the other day and then. and then." her voice cracked and her chin shook as she tried to hold back her tears. "Oh, God."
"I'm so sorry, Mrs. Harding. C-can we sit down?"
Ushering the older woman into the house, Liz closed the door behind them and allowed Mrs. Harding to direct her to her small but bright kitchen. Awkwardly sitting down, Liz forced herself to stay on the task at hand.
"I know this is hard," she began, hating the way the words sounded so clichéd and meaningless. "But we really need to. find justice for your daughter. I - I have a few questions to ask you, if that's all right. I understand if you feel that it's too soon but we want to strike while the iron is hot." Liz spoke softly, feeling sorry for Elyse's mother.
"N-no. We need to do this now. I've been calling your station like crazy because I want to do this. It's just. it's also very fresh, you know?"
"I know. Mrs. Harding, who were your daughter's friends? Did she have anyone who would want to hurt her? A jealous boyfriend.?"
"The same friends she'd had since she was a kid. She went away to college, you see. Her father and I don't really know any of her friends at school. she might be dating? I - we don't know. I know, it sounds horrible," she sobbed. "It looks like I don't even take an interest in my own daughter's life."
"No, it doesn't. She was growing up," Liz said soothingly. "She was learning to be on her own and she wanted to do her own thing. That's normal." Pausing to look around the kitchen, she saw a picture of two identical young men. "Are they her brothers?"
"Yes. Jerry and Timothy. Oh, God, my boys. Tim will be heartbroken. He's in the military, and Jerry's been trying to get in touch with him while we."
"Right. We'll need to speak to them as well as your husband. Um, I could come back to see them or I'll leave my card and they can come down to the station." Mrs. Harding nodded sadly. "Who are your daughter's friends? I'll need their names and addresses. And, really, anything that you can give me would help, Mrs. Harding."
Getting to her feet shakily, she grabbed a pen and paper from the junk drawer and began to scribble furiously.
"Can I have a look around? Nine out of ten times the killer is someone that the victim knew, so she might have some information on them without even realizing it. Does she have a computer?"
"Yes. Yes, she does. It's all upstairs in her room; she was getting ready to go back to school so her things were almost all packed." She set down the paper, now full of names, addresses, and phone numbers, then excused herself to the other room. "It's the first door on the left," she called over her shoulder. Out of respect, Liz waited for Mrs. Harding to accompany her, but she disappeared down the hall and out of sight.
Feeling out of sorts, she made her way to the second floor, an eerie silence surrounding her. It was as if the sadness had permeated the very...