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What should have been a routine investigation for FBI profiler Evelyn Baine turns ominous when she's kidnapped by a dangerous cult of survivalists. As her worst nightmares become a reality, she begins to question what she's seeing. Because the longer she's inside their compound, the more she realizes this group is not what it seems to be. As the FBI's Hostage Rescue Team closes in, Evelyn suspects she's stumbled onto an emerging terrorist threat and a cult leader who has a score to settle with the FBI. If Hostage Rescue breaches the compound, Evelyn's dead for sure. If they don't, the cult may unleash a surprise attack that could leave the whole country shattered.
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ELIZABETH HEITER likes her suspense to feature strong heroines, chilling villains, psychological twists, and a little romance. Her research has taken her into the minds of serial killers, through murder investigations, and onto the FBI Academy's shooting range. Elizabeth graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in English Literature. She's a member of International Thriller Writers and Romance Writers of America. Visit Elizabeth at elizabethheiter.com.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Lee Cartwright wanted to kill her.
Evelyn Baine didn't need to be a profiler with the FBI's elite Behavioral Analysis Unit BAU to know it. All she needed to do was stare into Cartwright's angry, narrowed eyes and look at the snarl quivering on his lips, the thrust of his jaw as he leaned toward her across the table.
The bare bulb flickered overhead, deep in the bowels of the Montana State Prison. The distant chorus of prisoners' voices reached her ears, but it was just the two of them in the tiny, dingy interview room. Just her and the convicted bomber. They were separated only by a flimsy table and a pair of standard-issue handcuffs. Those were bolted to the table, but looked as if they'd barely closed around Cartwright's meaty wrists.
His eyes skimmed over her once more and she knew exactly what he saw a perfect victim.
She gave him steady eye contact, refusing to react as he flexed his hands. He seemed to be testing the strength of those cuffs. The fact that Cartwright wanted to kill her was one of the reasons she'd been chosen for this interview.
Lee Cartwright had been convicted of bombing two black churches and one mosque. Two people had died, and dozens more were injured. It was his way of sowing fear; like a lot of bombers, he wasn't just targeting a specific group, but also seeking notoriety. He'd wanted people to fear him, the man who'd been dubbed the "Nail Bomber" because of the materials he used.
He was antifederalist and anti-anyone-who-wasn't-white. Sending her a biracial federal agent was her boss's way of telling Cartwright that he didn't call all the shots. The idea was to piss him off enough to get him to brag. He'd told prison officials that he had a copycat, and the FBI wanted to find out if it was true.
The other reason the head of BAU, Dan Moore, had sent her was that she was on his shit list.
Interviewing felons, even felons who claimed a copycat was contacting them, wasn't usually a BAU job. But the file had crossed Dan Moore's desk and apparently it looked like yet another suitable punishment for her refusal to follow orders three months ago.
She'd never been his favorite person; she was too young, too female and too poor a team player. He'd always treated her like the newbie who needed babysitting, but lately, it had gotten much worse. Lately, she felt as if she wasn't even on the team anymore.
Worse, she wasn't sure she wanted to be. And that was something she'd never questioned, not since the time she was twelve years old and her best friend, Cassie, had gone missing.
"I have nothing to say to you," Cartwright muttered for the third time in the half hour they'd been having this little staring contest.
"You told two guards you had a copycat, Lee. You said you wanted to talk to someone about it. I'm here. Talk to me," Evelyn pressed, trying to sound earnest.
The truth was, she felt discouraged. She'd already asked the warden about Cartwright's incoming mail and his visitors. Since the only person who visited him was his mom, and his mail had never been flagged as suspicious, she was pretty sure his request was more about attention than a real threat.
But someone had been setting off explosions in the Montana wilderness about an hour away. There was no indication these had anything to do with Cartwright he used a distinct method for creating his bombs, as telling as a signature, that local law enforcement hadn't found this time.
The current explosions were a nuisance, but they'd happened far from anyone. And the reality was, this area had several groups with fringe militia ties, and explosions like the ones in the wilderness had happened before. Cartwright's claim of a copycat was unlikely.
Still, he'd been convicted of hate crimes and murder. If there was even a tiny chance he was telling the truth, someone had to check it out.
That someone shouldn't have been her. There was no reason to fly her across the country when there were perfectly capable agents here, and the case didn't need a profiler at all.
And she was tired of the bullshit assignments when there were plenty of real cases she could be profiling.
Maybe, if she could ever get back to those legitimate cases, she could figure out whether she still belonged. Maybe it would tell her if, after finally unraveling what had happened to her best friend when she was twelve, she had any drive left for profiling.
Cartwright did nothing but snarl back at her, the muscles flexing in his prison-pumped arms.
Evelyn held in a sigh and leaned forward. "Who's been contacting you, Lee?"
"I'm not telling you shit."
Frustration built up. He should've seen her exactly the kind of person he'd love to target at one of his bomb sites and wanted to brag about the copycat. They hadn't expected him to hand over a name, but they had expected him to taunt her with whatever he might know. Assuming the threat was real, which seemed more and more unlikely.
This complete refusal to talk was surprising.
"What's your copycat planning to target? If he's really copying you, he doesn't seem to be doing a good job." She tried to appeal to his vanity and his need to prove himself at the same time.
Cartwright scowled at her. "Forget about it."
"Did you teach someone how to make a bomb?" she asked, leaning back in her chair. She tried another route. "It's not like you used the most sophisticated method we've ever seen."
"Yeah?" he barked. "Have you tried it? Packed in all those nails ?" He cut himself off and smirked at her. "My method was just fine."
"But not so complicated that you'd need to teach someone else to do it, right? I mean, they could just figure it out on their own?" It probably wasn't true. Cartwright had used easily accessible materials to create his bombs, but they'd been sophisticated in the detonation. The FBI hadn't seen anything quite like them before or since.
"Whatever," he said. "I didn't ask for you. I got nothing to tell you."
"Why? Because there is no copycat?"
"Believe what you want."
"I believe you're wasting my time," she snapped, bracing her hands on the table and leaning forward again so she could glare at him.
In that instant, he lunged toward her, shooting out of his chair and driving his elbow at her face.
She leaped back, cursing herself for not properly gauging the distance he could move while tethered to the table. But she wasn't fast enough and his elbow clipped her cheek. It sent her flying backward.
She slammed against her chair, then tripped over it, falling onto the ground, her head slamming the concrete floor.
Behind her, she heard the guard wrestling with the locked door. Cartwright's grating laugh sent fury racing through her veins.
She should've expected it. Cartwright had nothing left to lose. Thanks to a lenient judge, he'd avoided the death penalty, but he was never leaving this place.
She got to her feet before the guard had the door open, and resisted the urge to react. Instead, she righted her chair and sat back down as though everything was fine, waving the guard off. "Does it bother you that this is the worst you can do? Is that why you're making up claims of a copycat?"
His face flushed an angry red and a vein in the center of his forehead popped up. "Get out."
"If you're not making it up," she challenged, ignoring the way her cheek throbbed, "then prove it."
"I didn't make any damn claim to the Zionist " He cut himself off again, blew out a noisy breath.
But she knew what he was going to say. Zionist Occupational Government. It was what a lot of fervent antigovernment groups called the federal government. She tried not to roll her eyes.
"I have nothing to say to you," Cartwright finally finished.
She stared at him a minute longer, but a year and a half as a profiler or behavioral analyst as they were officially called told her she didn't have anything to gain here. Her six years before that as a regular special agent told her she needed to find a real case.
"Nice talking to you, Cartwright," she said, the sarcastic response so different from the way she would've handled an interview like that three months ago.
Cartwright just sat there, jaw and arm muscles flexing in unison, and Evelyn stood and motioned for the guard.
The keys jangled in the lock again for so long Evelyn was glad Cartwright had only winged her with his elbow. Eventually the door opened and the guard beckoned her forward.
She moved to his far side, practically sliding along the wall as he led her down the hallway, past a row of cells. They were in the supermax portion of the prison, filled with lifers, which made them especially dangerous. But the inmates were a lot less likely to lodge spit or other bodily fluids at a guard they had to deal with every day than a visiting federal agent.
Luckily for her, the guard was six feet tall and as broad as a small car, making her five-foot-two, one-hundred-and-ten-pound frame virtually invisible. Still, the catcalls and obscene comments trailed behind her. leaving an imaginary layer of filth under her loosely tailored suit.
"You get anything good from Cartwright?" the guard asked, sounding completely uninterested in the answer as they reached the front of the prison.
He was slow getting her weapon out of the locked box where she'd had to leave it when she entered, and Evelyn shifted her weight impatiently. Less than two hours in this building and already she felt desperate to breathe fresh air.
How must Cartwright, who'd been locked up for three years of a life sentence, feel? Was that why he'd claimed he had a copycat? To waste the government's time and amuse himself? With someone like him, it was entirely possible.
Evelyn hooked her holster back onto her belt and tugged her jacket down over it. "Thanks. Nothing useful from Cartwright."
She checked her watch. A few hours to grab a late dinner, pack up and catch her flight. She'd follow up with the warden when she was back in Virginia.
As soon as she stepped outside, Evelyn drew in a lungful of fresh, clean air, shivering in her wool suit. It was twenty degrees colder in Montana than in Virginia, and a light dusting of snow covered her rental car. The sun had begun to sink while she was inside, and the parking lot looked eerie in the semidarkness.
As she hurried toward her car, her fingers seemed to drain of warmth as fast as her breath puffed clouds of white into the November air. She strode away from the fenced area around the prison, anxious for the heater in her rental and saw someone standing beside her car.
She could tell from twenty feet away that person was in law enforcement, probably FBI. It was the way she stood, angled to see any approaching threat, the way she held her hand near her hip, where her weapon would be holstered.
Evelyn glanced down at her watch again as she reached her car. The Montana State Prison wasn't exactly a short jaunt from the closest FBI office. Which meant this agent wanted something. Evelyn's stomach grumbled as she sensed her chance for dinner slipping away.
"Evelyn Baine?" the woman asked. She stuck out a hand and shook with the precision of a military officer and the force of someone used to working in a predominantly male profession. "I'm Jen Martinez. Salt Lake City office."
She flashed a set of FBI credentials and Evelyn squinted at them. "Good to meet you."
Jen frowned as she dropped Evelyn's hand. "What happened to your eye?"
Evelyn gingerly touched the tender spot high on her cheek where Cartwright had winged her. It was swelling underneath her eye. "An accident. What can I do for you?" She tried not to shiver outwardly as she crossed her arms over her chest to preserve whatever warmth she could.
Jen must have lived in the area long enough to be used to the cold, because she looked comfortable, even with her blazer unbuttoned. She was a few inches taller than Evelyn, with white-streaked blond hair pulled into a bun nearly as severe as the way Evelyn wore her own dark hair. She probably had fifteen years on Evelyn, and everything about her, from the laser-sharp gaze to the polyester-blend suit, screamed longtime law enforcement.
"When I heard BAU was sending a profiler to talk to Lee Cartwright, I had to come and get your input."
"You have some insight into Cartwright's copycat?"
Jen waved her hand dismissively. "No. But I do have another situation where I'd like a profiler's take."
Evelyn looked pointedly at her watch. "My flight takes off in a few hours." Actually, it was four, but that wasn't a lot of time to fully review a case and give case agents a profile of their perpetrator.
Not to mention the fact that she wasn't supposed to review a case at all until it was vetted at the BAU office and brought to her officially. Then again, maybe Jen had a case that would allow Evelyn to use her profiling abilities for a change. "Did you bring the file with you?"
"Not exactly," Jen hedged. "I was hoping we could take a ride."
Evelyn moved from one foot to the other, trying to generate more warmth. "Where?"
"Ever heard of the Butler Compound?"
Jen's lips tightened. "Figures. I've tried to get BAU to look more closely at it a couple of times, but I keep getting denied."
Probably for good reason but Evelyn didn't say that. The BAU office received hundreds of requests every single week, from federal, state and local law enforcement offices all over the country, plus the occasional international request. There was simply no way to take them all on. And many of them genuinely didn't require a profiler.
"If " Evelyn started.
"You're here." Jen cut her off, hands on her hips. "Just take a look, would you? There's something there. I know it, and I need help."
The desire to follow procedure, to do things by the book, rose up hard. Once upon a time, she'd been a stringent rule-follower. But the desire to contribute again as a real profiler to get out of limbo was stronger.
"Tell me what you want," Evelyn said. "And where's your partner?" As a profiler, Evelyn didn't have one, but that was rare. Like most law enforcement, the FBI liked to pair up their agents.
Relief rushed over Jen's face. "I'm between partners. Mine just transferred to another office. But I heard you were here, and I couldn't miss this chance." She suddenly seemed to notice Evelyn shivering. "Want to get out of the cold?"
Jen laughed and nodded at the battered SUV next to Evelyn's rental. She beeped open the doors and climbed inside, turning on the engine. "Hop in."
As Evelyn got into the passenger seat of what was obviously Jen's Bureau-issued vehicle, she flipped the heat up to high, then said, "Give me the basics."
"I can do better than that." Jen buckled up, gunning it out of the parking lot.
A bad feeling came over Evelyn the strong, sudden certainty that she was heading into something she shouldn't. It mingled with annoyance that Jen had tried to trick her, instead of just asking Evelyn to go somewhere.
"Where precisely are we going?" she demanded, buckling up even as she debated asking Jen to turn around.
"Butler Compound," Jen replied.
"How far is it?"
"About an hour," she answered, but from the way she said it, Evelyn could tell it was actually longer. "And then I'll drive you right back."
Evelyn frowned down at her watch. If she missed her plane, she'd be even higher on Dan's shit list. Which hardly seemed possible.
And if she was going to lea...
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Book Description Harlequin Audio and Blackstone Audio, 2015. Condition: New. book. Seller Inventory # M1504697863
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