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"I won't talk to anyone else — only you. Another child, another sweet girl will die. You can stop it, Kitt. Don't you want to stop it?"
Five years ago, three young victims were found dead, posed like little angels. There were no witnesses. Strangely clean scenes. The Sleeping Angel Killer called his despicable acts "the perfect crimes."
The case immobilized the close-knit community of Rockford, Illinois, and nearly destroyed homicide detective Kitt Lundgren's career — and her life. During the investigation, Kitt tragically lost her own child to illness. She was overwhelmed by the death of her daughter, and the final blow was the crushing realization that she let the killer get away.
Now the Sleeping Angel Killer is back.
Familiar with every nuance of the cold-case file, Kitt knows there's something different about this new rash of killings — a tiny variation that opens terrifying new possibilities. Is the Sleeping Angel Killer really back, or is a copycat killer re-creating the original "perfect crimes"?
But Kitt has no authority in this investigation. Young, ambitious detective Mary Catherine Riggio is heading up the Sleeping Angel Killer case. M.C. knows that Kitt wants back in and she's smart enough to realize that Kitt's obsession with the case has given the detective an insight that M.C. lacks. But M.C., intent on proving herself, fears Kitt will blow the investigation — again.
Then Kitt starts receiving disturbing phone calls. It's him — the Sleeping Angel Killer — and he makes Kitt an unthinkable offer: help in finding his copycat. Forced to rely on each other, Kitt and M.C. must decide whether to place their trust in a murderer...or risk becoming victims of a fiend who has taken the art of the perfect murder to horrific new heights.
"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.
Bestselling author Erica Spindler stakes her claim as one of today's best thriller writers with this chilling story that explores our deepest fears and the power of one woman to triumph over her demons.
Erica Spindler's bestselling novels include Killer Takes All, See Jane Die, In Silence, Dead Run, Bone Cold, All Fall Down and Cause for Alarm. She lives in the New Orleans area with her husband, an advertising executive, and their two sons.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Tuesday, March 5, 2001
The girl's hair looked silky. He longed to feel it against his fingers and cursed the latex gloves, the necessity that he wear them. The strands were the color of corn silk. Unusual in a child of ten. Too often, as the years passed, the blond darkened until settling on a murky, dishwater color that only bleach could resuscitate.
He cocked his head, pleased with his choice. She was even more beautiful than the last girl. More perfect.
He bent closer, stroked her hair. Her blue eyes gazed lifelessly up at him. Breathing deeply, he let her sweet, little-girl scent fill his head.
Mustn't leave anything for them.
The Other One insisted on perfection. Always pushing him. Demanding more. And more.
Always watching. Every time he looked over his shoulder, the Other One was there.
He felt himself frown and worked to smooth the telltale emotion from his face.
My pretty baby. Most beautiful creation.
The woman detective, Kitt Lundgren, had coined the name Sleeping Angel Killer. The media had jumped on it.
The name pleased him.
But not the Other One. Nothing, it seemed, pleased him. Quickly, he finished arranging the scene. Her hair. The nightgown he had chosen just for her, with its pink satin bows. Everything had to be just so.
And now for the finishing touch. He took the tube of pale pink lip gloss from his pocket. Using the wand, he applied a coat of the gloss to the girl's lips. Carefully, smoothing, making certain the color was even.
That done, he smiled at his handiwork. Good night, my little angel. Sleep tight.
Tuesday, March 5, 2001 8:25 a.m.
Violent Crimes Bureau detective Kitt Lundgren stood in the doorway to the child's bedroom, a queasy sensation in the pit of her stomach. Another girl was dead. Murdered in her own bed while her parents slept just down the hall.
Every parent's worst nightmare.
But for these parents, this family, a nightmarish reality.
The sounds of a scene being processed swirled around her. The click of a camera shutter, a detective on his cell phone, a muttered expletive, conversations.
Familiar sounds. Ones she had become accustomed to along with losing her squeamishness years ago.
But this was a child, the second victim in six weeks. Another ten-year-old girl.
The same age as her Sadie.
At the thought of her daughter, her chest tightened. Kitt fought the sensation, fought to keep focused on this child. On nailing the monster who had killed her.
He'd left the first scene eerily clean. Now they had another chance. Maybe this time the bastard had screwed up.
Kitt entered the bedroom. She moved her gaze over it, taking in the girlish interior. Walls painted a delicate blush pink. White provincial furniture, a canopy bed. Ruffled white eyelet curtains that matched the canopy. A shelf of American Girl dolls. She recognized Felicity; Sadie owned the same one.
In fact, the room was a near replica of Sadie's. Move the bed from the right side of the room to the left, add a desk in the corner and change the paint color from pink to peach.
Focus, Kitt.This isn't about Sadie. Do the job.
She glanced to her right. Her partner, Brian Spillare, had already arrived. He stood with Detective Scott Snowe, one of the Identification Bureau detectives. There were nine detectives and a supervisor in the ID Bureau. Unlike most big, urban PDs, crime scene techs in the Rockford Police Department were sworn officers, highly trained in all areas of evidence collection. ID processed the scene for fingerprints and trace evidence, collected blood and analyzed blood splatter and spray, retrieved bullets and casings, and ran ballistic checks. They had also been known to collect insects and larvae from corpses, whose life cycles aided in the determination of time of death. In addition, the ID guys were responsible for diagramming and photographing every scene and attending every autopsy, which they also photographed.
The fun never stopped for those guys.
After recovering the evidence, they shipped it to the state crime lab, located just down the street from the Public Safety Building, or PSB, as they called the structure that housed not only the Rockford PD, but the sheriff's department, city jail and the coroner's office as well.
The deputy chief of detectives had sent the entire ID Bureau to the scene. Kitt wasn't surprised. Two dead children in six weeks was a very big deal in this family-first industrial town that averaged only fifteen murders in an entire calendar year — none of those typically blond, blue-eyed girls safely tucked into their beds.
Kitt caught her partner's eye and pointed toward the bed. He held up a finger, indicating she wait. She did; he concluded his conversation with the other detective and crossed to her.
"This guy is really starting to piss me off," he said.
Brian was a big guy. One of those easygoing, teddy-bear types. In his case, a teddy bear with freckles and red hair. His cuddly good looks masked a damn impressive temper. If a bad guy crossed Brian, he invariably wished he hadn't.
She would love for Brian to get his hands on this bastard. "You been here long?" she asked. "Maybe fifteen minutes." He glanced toward the victim, then back at her. "You think he'll go for three?"
"I hope to hell not,"she said."He certainly won't if we catch his ass." He nodded, then touched her arm, leaned toward her. "How's Sadie?"
Dying. Her daughter,her only child. Kitt's throat closed as emotion swamped her. Five years ago, Sadie had been diagnosed with acute lymphatic leukemia. She had rallied so many times in the past, from chemo and radiation treatments, from the bone marrow transplant that hadn't been successful, but Kitt sensed she had given up. That she simply didn't have the reserves to hold on much longer.
Kitt couldn't speak and shook her head. Brian squeezed her arm, understanding."How about you?" he asked."You hanging in there?"
More like hanging on,by her fingernails. "Yeah," she managed to say, the catch in her voice giving her away. "As best I can."
To his credit, Brian didn't call her on it. He, more than anyone other than her husband, Joe, knew what she was going through.
Brian gave her arm another gentle squeeze, then released it. They crossed to the victim. Kitt pushed all expectations of what she would see from her mind.Yes, it appeared the same unknown subject, or UNSUB, had killed both these children, but she needed to come to this scene, this murder, fresh. A good investigator always let the scene and its evidence tell the story. The minute a detective started doing the talking instead of the listening, objectivity — and credibility — went out the window.
The first look at the dead girl hit her hard.
Like the last one, she'd been pretty. Blond. Blue-eyed. Save for the gruesome indications of death — lividity, petechiae (blood vessels broken in the eyes and lips) and the advancing rigor mortis — she appeared to be sleeping.
A sleeping angel.
Just like the last one.
Her blond hair fanned out around her head on the pillow, like a halo. Obviously, the killer had brushed and arranged it. Kitt leaned closer. The killer had applied lip color to her mouth, a sheer pink gloss.
"Looks like she was suffocated,"Brian offered."Just like the last one." The absence of outward signs of violence and the petechiae supported suffocation, and Kitt nodded. "Which means the killer applied the lip gloss postmortem." She glanced at her partner. "What about the gown?"
"Same as the last. Mother says it's not hers."
Kitt frowned. It was a beautiful gown, white with ruffles and tiny pink satin bows. "And her father?"
"Nothing new. Neither of them touched the body. Mother came in to wake the girl up for school, took one look at her and screamed. Father came running. Called 911."
She would have found the fact they hadn't touched their child weird, but with all the press about the previous murder, the mother would have only needed one look to know her daughter had been a victim of the same monster.
"We have to check them out," he said.
Kitt nodded. Overwhelmingly, fewer children were murdered by strangers than by their own family, a statistic that seemed impossible to most but was a grim reality for cops.
However, this time they both knew the chances of this being a domestic incident were slim. They had a serial child killer on their hands.
"Like last time, it appears he came in through the window," Brian said.
Kitt glanced at her partner. "It was unlocked?"
"Must have been. Glass is intact, no marks on the casing. Snowe says they're going to take the entire window."
"Footprints on the other side?" Kitt asked, though since it hadn't rained in a week, the earth below the window would be rock hard.
"Nope. Screen was cut, nice and neat."
She brought a hand to the back of her neck."What does it mean, Brian? What's he telling us?"
"That he's a sick prick who deserves to be skinned alive?"
"Besides that? Why the lip gloss? The fancy nightgowns? Why the little girls?"
From the other room came a sudden, rending wail of grief. The sound struck Kitt way too close to home and she shuddered.
How would she go on without Sadie?
Brian looked at her, face tight with anger. "I have daughters. I could go to bed one night and the next morning find —" He flexed his fingers. "We need to nail this bastard."
"We will," Kitt muttered fiercely. "If it's the last thing I ever do, I'm bringing this son of a bitch down."
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