Hunting Eve (An Eve Duncan Novel)

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9781594136993: Hunting Eve (An Eve Duncan Novel)
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A second installment in a new Eve Duncan story arc trilogy finds the stakes raised higher as the forensic sculptor battles her captor and discovers brutally dangerous truths about why she has been targeted.

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About the Author:

IRIS JOHANSEN is the New York Times bestselling author of Sleep No More, What Doesn't Kill You, Bonnie, Quinn, Eve, Chasing the Night, Eight Days to Live, Blood Game, Deadlock, Dark Summer, Pandora's Daughter, Quicksand, Killer Dreams, On the Run, Countdown, Firestorm, Fatal Tide, Dead Aim, No One to Trust, and more. And with her son, Roy Johansen, she has coauthored Close Your Eyes, Shadow Zone, Storm Cycle, and Silent Thunder.

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CHAPTER
1
 

Rio Grande Forest
Colorado
IT WAS DOANE’S MOUNTAIN.
He was the hunter, she was the prey.
Was he still behind her?
Eve tore through the underbrush at the side of the trail, lost her balance, fell, then struggled to her feet again.
She mustn’t give in to this weakness. She seemed to have been running through this wilderness forever. No, it couldn’t have been as long as it appeared to her. It had been late afternoon when she had broken free of Doane and the house where he had been keeping her, and darkness was only now falling.
But why was Jim Doane still behind her, dammit? He was no young man, and she should have been able to lose him long before this. As a painful stitch stabbed her side, she paused and drew a deep breath, listening.
A crashing in the brush behind her!
She started running again.
“I hear you, bitch.” Doane’s breathing was harsh, labored. “Come back to me. If you do, I may not kill you … yet. But you’re making me angry and I may lose control. I don’t want to do that. It would spoil everything for Kevin.”
Kevin, Doane’s son, whose reconstructed skull Eve had hurled off this mountain, less than an hour ago, to distract Doane. Doane’s obsession with his dead son was deepening with every passing moment. Did Doane actually think she’d trust him? Kevin had been a serial killer, a monster without a hint of conscience, and his father, Doane, had been his enabler, the one who had made it possible for him to kill all those helpless children who had crossed Kevin’s path. While Eve had been Doane’s prisoner after he had kidnapped her, she had begun to wonder whether it was father or son who had been the true monster.
Perhaps it was both. There had been moments when she’d had the eerie feeling while working on his forensic sculpture that Kevin was trying to break through the bonds of hell and death and merge with his father.
Crazy. Imagination.
Or truth.
It was hard to tell the difference in this nightmare into which she had been drawn.
“You shouldn’t have thrown his skull off into that ravine. Did you think I’d go after it and let you escape?”
It was exactly what she had hoped. That damn skull was everything to Doane, and she’d gambled that he’d go down the side of the mountain to try to retrieve it.
She’d been wrong.
She felt the twinge in her side become actual pain. How long could she keep running?
Stop whining. She’d run as long as she had to run. She was far younger than Doane. She was strong, and she was frightened. Panic was a great spur.
And did she have Bonnie helping her?
For a little while she had thought that her daughter’s spirit had been there beside her, putting speed and wings to every step. It had been a comforting thought …
But now there only seemed to be Doane and her in this deadly race. No loving presence that might warm and save her.
It’s okay, Bonnie. I know you tried. There’s nothing he can do to me that will matter in the end.
The stitch in her side was easing.
She was running faster.
She should have known Bonnie would not let her falter, she thought ruefully. Not if Eve showed even a faint hint that she would not do her best to keep herself alive.
I wasn’t going to opt out, Bonnie. I wouldn’t do that to Joe and Jane. I was just trying to be an understanding mother. I know you can’t do everything. Well, I don’t really know what a ghost can or can’t do, but you seem to have some limits. I’ll keep going.
As long as she could. Her heart was beating so hard that it hurt. She felt sick to her stomach.
She could hear Doane cursing behind her.
Farther behind than he had been before. Was he faltering?
Yes.
He was shouting at her, each word broken and harsh. “Don’t think you’re going—to get away. These are my mountains. Kevin and I spent months out here when he was a boy. He particularly liked to kill the deer. How do you think he qualified to be in the Special Forces? I taught him to be a hunter.”
And had he taught him to hunt down those little girls and kill them?
“Do you hear me? I’m going back to the house and get my equipment and my gun. I’ll hunt you down like Kevin and I did the deer. I just hope that hypothermia doesn’t get you before I do. It gets cold in these mountains at night.”
She knew it was true, but it was hard to believe when her entire body was hot and perspiring from exertion.
“I can hear every move you make in that brush. Do you know how easy you’re going to be to stalk?”
She was pulling more away from him with every second. Close him out. She was winning.
“And then we’ll go get Kevin and take him to that butcher who murdered him. I’ll let Zander see how it feels when I kill you in front of him. There’s no greater agony than a father feels at the death of a child.”
More madness. Lee Zander, the hired assassin Doane was sure had murdered his son, was not her father. How could he be? Eve’s father had disappeared long before she was born, and her mother was never even sure of his identity. This particular insanity Doane had thrown at her when he’d been enraged after she had tossed Kevin’s reconstruction off the cliff to distract him. He had thought it would hurt her in some way to know she was a killer’s daughter and that she was to pay for Doane’s son’s death. It was just one more sign that Doane’s cold-blooded, calculated pursuit and abduction of her was completely bizarre and totally without reason.
Forget that nonsense. She was not the child of a murderer who was probably more deadly and ruthless than Doane. It was all part of Doane’s wild hallucinations. She just had to concentrate on getting out of these mountains or contacting someone to help her.
“Do you know how many people get lost in these mountains?” Doane’s shout sounded still farther away. “Some don’t survive the bitter cold and the animals and the mudslides. You might be glad to come back to me after a night or two.”
Not bloody likely.
“Do you think your Joe Quinn or Jane MacGuire will be able to locate you out here? You could be out here a week, and no one would catch sight of you. You’d have had a better chance staying at the house. I’m the only one who knows you’re here and how to find you. And I will find you, Eve.”
Keep running. He might be trying to fool her into thinking he’d temporarily stopped the hunt. Don’t trust his words.
It was pitch-dark now. She couldn’t see anything but the shrubs directly in front of her. This was too dangerous. She’d be lucky if she didn’t tumble off the mountain.
She stopped and tried to hear something besides the pounding of her heart.
No sound.
Doane?
She stood there, listening. No rustle of brush. No harsh sound of his breathing in the stillness.
Safe?
Good God, no. There was no way she was safe, but maybe she’d have a brief respite from the fear that had been with her since she’d been taken from everything she knew that was safe and good.
Joe, Jane, the cottage on the lake where they’d lived so many years.
She could still hear nothing but the flap of an occasional bird’s wings and the wilderness night sounds. But they weren’t the same sounds as the ones she heard in the forest on the lake. This was wild country.
Keep moving. Put distance between herself and the place where she’d last seen Doane. Providing that she didn’t move in circles. She knew a little about the basics of surviving in a forest, but she wasn’t an ex-SEAL like Joe. He could survive anywhere with no problem. Her profession of forensic sculpting kept her indoors most of the time, and even as a child, she had been a city girl.
So there were a few obstacles against her. She wouldn’t overcome them by self-pity or remembering how good Joe was at this kind of thing.
Or remembering Joe at all. The look of him, the way he’d tilt his head and stare quizzically at her with those tea-colored eyes, the feel of him. There were moments when you could afford to remember the ones you loved, but this was not one of them. The thought of Joe made her painfully conscious of the loneliness of being here without him. Perhaps that was what Doane had intended by mentioning him before he’d left. He’d meant to make her more aware of her isolation. Salt in the wound. Joe Quinn, her lover, and Jane, their adopted daughter, the two people she loved most in the world. Eve would never have wanted to have them here and in danger but it was the—
A sound in the bushes up ahead!
A large animal. A bear. A deer?
Or Doane? He might have circled around and gotten in front of her.
Damn, she had no weapon.
Freeze. Don’t move. The threat might dissolve and go away.
Darkness all around her.
She tried to breathe lightly so that she wouldn’t be heard.
Please, go away.
Doane wouldn’t go away. She just had to hope it was another beast looking for prey.
She was not prey, she thought with sudden fierceness. She would get out of this. She would find a weapon.
To hell with Doane and this mountain he thought belonged to him.
It’s not your mountain any longer, you bastard. I’m going to make it my own.
University of Southern California
Los Angeles
IDIOTS!
Kendra Michaels pushed open the heavy main door of Alexander Hall and stalked down the tree-lined pathway that would take her to the parking lot.
Idiots. Narrow-minded fools.
“Dr. Michaels.” The voice came from behind her.
She didn’t turn around.
“Dr. Michaels, please!”
She didn’t have to look back to know it was Steve Whitty, one of the conference organizers. Kendra hated these things, and her experience here, at the American Psychological Association’s Conference on Autism Causes and Treatment, reminded her why.
She finally stopped. He wasn’t going to be discouraged.
Whitty ran around to face her. “You were brilliant.”
She pointed back toward the auditorium. “Try telling them that.”
“You got a lot of people thinking in there.”
“… Thinking I’m some kind of fraud. Were you even listening to the Q&A?”
“Naturally they’re going on the attack. You’re on the bleeding edge in this field. Uncharted territory. Your work could make a good many of those people’s life’s work obsolete.”
“That’s not what I’m trying to do.”
“Look at it from their point of view. You’re telling them that music can actually help cure autism.”
“It’s not a cure. It’s a treatment. And I never said it was the only treatment.”
“But you told them that your study had results far more impressive than anything they’ve done. Of course you’re going to ruffle some feathers. Which is exactly why I wanted you to be here.” Whitty placed his hand on her forearm. “And when those researchers get over being scared and pissed off, they’re going to examine your data and look at those hours of sessions you posted on the Web. They’re going to see what I saw. They’re going to see how this amazing young woman was able to draw patients out of their shells and help them join the human race.”
Kendra took a deep breath, angry that she had let those fools get under her skin. She always tried to tell herself that the work was its own reward, finding the right instrument, the right chord progression, the right anything that would engage the interest of her patients and help coax them into a world beyond themselves. But she needed more, dammit. She needed to know that she was able to open those educators’ eyes so that they would follow her.
She looked away from Whitty. “Look, part of me understands why they’re skeptical. Believe me, I know that the music-therapy field is populated with all kinds of nuts and woo-woo, and they give my profession a bad name. But I treat it like the science that it is. I got input from ten researchers in that room when I was designing the study, and I was tougher on myself than any of them were in their initial feedback.”
“They’re surprised at your results. Just give them a chance to digest it.”
“I’ve found a way to help those kids, Whitty. And that study is proof of it.”
“Kendra, there’s a significant variable that some people feel you haven’t addressed.”
She looked at him in disbelief. “Impossible. I considered every variable.”
“Not quite.” He smiled. “The variable I’m talking about … is you.”
“Me?” Then she realized what he meant and cursed under her breath. He could be right. She had been nervous about the presentation and several times had caught herself trying to impress the other attendees. It was completely unlike her. “Oh, you mean the dog and pony show? I knew they thought I was a little weird. I just kind of slipped into it. I didn’t mean—”
“Hell of a carnival act, but there’s already been some speculation that’s how you get your positive results. By being so perceptive and empathetic with your subjects, giving exactly what they need in terms of body language, tone, positive reinforcement, the whole package.”
Kendra’s eyes narrowed on him. “That’s what they’re saying? If they read the study, they’ll see I wasn’t the only therapist. My techniques got the same results from everyone.”
He smiled. “I know that because I’ve read the study. And they’ll know it soon enough. You just need to relax.”
“If I’d wanted to relax, I would never have come to this conference. I thought for once that I could make a difference.”
“Kendra, come back inside.” He placed his hand on her arm again. He was trying to soothe her, dammit. He wasn’t a bad guy, and the mistake had probably been her own, but it didn’t matter.
She wanted to deck him.
Her BlackBerry vibrated in her pocket. Thankful for the opportunity to pull away from Whitty, she stepped back, pulled out the phone, and answered it. “Hello.”
“Kendra? Joe Quinn. I need your help.”
“Quinn?” She didn’t like the tone in his voice. Grim. Ragged. She turned to Whitty and mouthed an apologetic “sorry.” He nodded and headed back toward the auditorium. “What’s wrong, Quinn?”
“You name it, everything. I need your help.”
“Dammit, I’m not a detective. And I’m busy as hell. You can’t pull me into—”
“You’re always busy. You’ll have to drop whatever it is.” He paused. “It’s Eve.”
“Eve?” Kendra’s hand tightened on the phone. “What’s happened? Talk to me.”
*   *   *
FORTY MINUTES LATER, Kendra was at her condo throwing clothes into a suitcase on her bed.
“You didn’t answer the door, so I used my key. What on earth are you doing?” Kendra Michaels’s mother was standing in the doorway of Kendra’s bedroom watching disapprovingly as Kendra threw clothes into the suitcase on the bed. “Besides packing with no regard to neatness or order. I taught you better than that, Kendra.”
“That was when I was blind, and you thought I had to be superefficient so that no one would feel sorry for me because I was handicapped.” She threw another pair of jeans and a sweater into the case. “After the stem-cell operation I discarded that guideline and embraced chaos.”
“In more than packing,” Deanna Michaels said dryly. “I was worried about you for a number of years after those doctors performed their miracle and made you see. I never thought that you’d sow quite so many wild oats.”
“That’s past history.” Kendra grinned. “Now I’m just a boring music-therapy teacher. I leave all the wild oats to you.” Her mother was a history professor at U.C. San Diego and was the most vibrant and young-minded woman Kendra had ever known. And the most caring. She had used that intelligence and forceful personality to raise a child blind from birth ...

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