Leslie Tentler - Investigation
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When the Investigation Becomes Personal
by Leslie Tentler
It’s true that FBI agents are especially committed to their jobs. They have to be. And while many do still make time for a family and personal life, others can become married to their careers, forsaking all others to serve and protect. In EDGE OF MIDNIGHT, this is especially true of special agent Eric Macfarlane, who works for the FBI’s high-pressure Violent Crimes Unit.
It’s the VCU that’s called in by local law enforcement on the grimmest cases – serial murders, in particular.
Eric knows this danger better than most, as an especially elusive serial killer took someone important to him, then vanished into thin air. Three years later, he still unofficially hunts the killer known as “The Collector.” It’s become an obsession, as well as a seemingly hopeless pursuit until a female turns up several states away, drugged, her memory wiped...a likely near-victim of the same psychopath.
And Eric? He isn’t your typical FBI agent. In fact, his considerable connections within the U.S. Department of Justice allow him to be placed on the case despite his very deep, personal involvement. He believes he’ll do anything to find and stop The Collector. But the one thing he doesn’t count on is how hard his protective instincts kick in when he comes face to face with the killer’s lone survivor.
In the excerpt below, you’ll meet Eric, who has just arrived in town to pick up on a trail that went dead three years ago...
What about you? Do you read serial killer, someone-in-peril type stories?
ABOUT EDGE OF MIDNIGHT
The collection isn't complete without her...
The writer becomes the story when crime reporter Mia Hale is discovered on a Jacksonville beach – bloodied and disoriented, but alive. She remembers nothing, but her wounds bear the signature of a sadistic serial killer. After years lying dormant, The Collector has resumed his grim hobby: abducting women and taking gruesome souvenirs before dumping their bodies. But none of his victims has ever escaped – and he wants Mia back, more than he ever wanted any of the others.
FBI agent Eric Macfarlane has pursued The Collector for a long time. The case runs deep in his veins, bordering on obsession...and Mia holds the key. She’ll risk everything to recover her memory and bring the madman to justice, and Eric swears to protect this fierce, fragile survivor. But The Collector will not be denied. In his mind, he knows just how their story ends.
FBI special agent Eric Macfarlane faced the cluster of oak trees, his suit coat discarded on warm, pale sand. His eyes were closed, the strong ocean breeze ruffling his light brown hair, and the sun’s heat was like a brand on his back through his blue dress shirt. Seagulls cawed in the air overhead.
He tried to imagine what it felt like to crash on an isolated beach road, in a strange car and with lost hours that couldn’t be accounted for.
Eric had gone through the Atlantic Beach Police incident report multiple times – in his office yesterday at the FBI’s Violent Crimes Unit in Washington, D.C., then again on the plane bound for the Jacksonville International Airport early that morning.
Despite the warmth of the Florida climate, even now the similarities contained in the document made a chill crawl beneath his skin.
If it was him, if he had finally resurfaced...
The thought caused his emotions to skitter like stones skipped on water.
He turned to see Florida Bureau agent Cameron Vartran walking toward him, looking as out of place in suit pants, tie and a dress shirt on the beach as Eric did himself.
“I thought I might find you here,” Cameron said as he approached. Dark-haired, grinning, he shook Eric’s hand warmly, then gave him a congenial back slap that denoted familiarity between the two men.
“Your investigative skills are that good?” Eric asked.
“That and the field office told me you’d checked in and asked about the crash site.” Eric and Cameron had known one another for years. They had gone through training together at the FBI academy in Quantico, then been partnered as agents for a time before Cameron had transferred back to his native Florida and Eric had joined the VCU.
“How’s Lanie?” Eric asked.
He raised his eyebrows. “Really? Congratulations.”
“She can’t wait to see you. It’s been way too long.” Standing with his dress shoes planted in sand, Cameron wedged his hands on his hips just above his holstered gun. As he looked at Eric, his expression faded into seriousness. “When the match came up in ViCAP, I felt like you’d want to know.”
Eric nodded, peering off briefly into the distance. “So how did this end up with the Florida Bureau?”
“Some of the local beach communities have their own police forces, but they’re small and not equipped for major crimes. So the report was passed to the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office as a possible tie-in to two other missing females in the metro area over the past two weeks. The JSO called us in for assistance. I called you.”
“Have either of the two other women shown up?”
Cameron shook his head. “Alive or otherwise. It’s suspected Ms. Hale was the intended third victim, but somehow managed to escape her abductor.”
“In a stolen vehicle and without any memory of her ordeal.”
“Right. Her toxicology results just came back, confirming a combination of rohypnol and gamma hydroxy butyramine – the date rape drug and liquid Ecstasy – which explains the severe memory loss. The attending physician classified her as having complete anterograde amnesia.”
Eric thought of the victim’s wounds that had been detailed in the report – the second and third fingernails on her left hand excised, a section of her hair cut off, and the numeral that had been carved into her skin. It seemed too precise to be coincidental. He felt a spiraling disquiet. The Collector had been off the VCU’s radar for thirty-four months now, creating internal speculation that he was either dead or incarcerated somewhere on unrelated charges.
Eric had never been able to accept that.
“Damn, it’s hot.” Squinting against the light, Cameron removed the sunglasses clipped to his shirt pocket and slid them on. “Maybe we can grab a quick bite to eat and catch up before the briefing with the JSO detectives at one. There’s a great seafood place down the road from here. Only the locals know about it.”
They began walking across the sand, and Eric bent to retrieve his suit coat, slinging it over his shoulder. As Cameron talked, he gazed back toward the water. Although the beach here wasn’t as commercialized, he noticed there were still a few people strolling along the shore. The ocean appeared calm under an azure sky and farther out, the grayish outline of Naval ships floated on the horizon.
“So Mia Hale – she’s a reporter for the Jacksonville Courier?” Eric said as they came down the planked stairs that led back to the road. The information was still surprising.
Cameron nodded. “A crime reporter. She’d been covering the missing females – both assumed abductions since the women’s families are adamant they aren’t the type to just disappear. Ms. Hale’s last story ran on Monday morning, and she vanished that same night out of the newspaper’s parking garage. The beach police found her hiding here some eight hours later, stripped to her underwear and in pretty bad shape. My guess is that her articles got someone’s attention.”
“What about the vehicle? Any leads from it?”
“The Sheriff’s Office processed it. Forensics on the car is expected back this afternoon. Ms. Hale doesn’t recall how she got in possession of it or even what area she drove it from. The vehicle was reported stolen a couple of days earlier from an outlet shopping mall popular with tourists. The mall’s on the other side of the city.”
A few dozen feet away, a wide section of fencing that cordoned off the dunes was missing, its wooden stakes scattered like broken matchsticks between clumps of brown sea oats. It was all that was left of the crash scene. Eric studied the area.
“I’m going to want to talk to Ms. Hale.”
“She was released from the hospital yesterday. We can schedule some time with her.”
The government-issued vehicle the other agent drove was parked behind Eric’s rental sedan on the A1A’s sandy shoulder. Cameron provided directions to the nearby restaurant, then removed his sunglasses again. Concern was evident in his eyes. “The truth is, I wasn’t sure the VCU would want you involved, Eric, considering.”
He thought of Rebecca. Her image, her voice, had faded a little in his memory, the realization tightening his jaw. The last time Eric had seen Cameron and Lanie, they’d flown in for the funeral. That had been nearly three years ago.
“I pulled a few strings,” he admitted.
“I bet. And you came down here without a partner?”
“Resources are limited. I told them I’d be better off working with my old one down here.”
“The timing works. My partner tore his ACL. He’s out on leave.” Cameron appeared to choose his next words carefully. “If this really is the guy...are you going to be able to handle it?”
Eric specialized in serial murderers at the VCU. He was all too aware that unsubs had relocated in the past, had gone into hiding to evade capture. But ultimately, their innate desires drove them to hunt again.
“I want closure,” he said simply.
Cameron sighed as he gazed at a passing car on the highway. “I know you do.”
Text Copyright © 2012 by Leslie Tentler
Permission to reproduce text granted by Harlequin Books S.A.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Leslie Tentler worked in public relations as a writer and editor for nearly two decades before deciding to pursue her love of writing fiction. Her first manuscript won multiple Romance Writers of America chapter contest awards, including the prestigious Maggie Award of Excellence.
Leslie is a native of Kingsport, Tennessee. Growing up, she was an avid reader, first of Nancy Drew novels and then surreptitiously devouring her mother’s historical romances at probably too young an age. As she got older, her reading interests moved to dark, contemporary romantic thrillers, which she writes today.
Leslie is a member of Romance Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, The Authors Guild, and Mystery Writers of America. Her books include Midnight Caller, Midnight Fear and Edge of Midnight (all from MIRA Books). She lives in Atlanta with her husband, Robert, and their standard poodle, Tori.
Midnight Caller at Amazon
Midnight Fear at Amazon
Edge of Midnight at Amazon