LGBT Romantic Suspense/60,000 Words
Agent McKenzie is nobody’s ‘yes’ boy and has the letters of reprimand to prove it. He smells the stink of political maneuvering in this case and he can see the handwriting on the wall. Hell, the words are three feet high and written in crayon. Someone in his own agency wants a target on Liam Mercier’s back but McKenzie would be damned if he’d put one there. The damaged man currently in his custody needs his protection, not manipulation. That’s why he’d agreed to use a safe house that was off the grid. Throwing away his rarely used FBI procedure book had nothing to do with the protective urges he felt around Liam. Nope, not a damn thing to do with heavy doses of desire, or spikes of lust. He was just doing his job, after all, he has a killer to catch and a victim to keep alive. Protecting his best bet of taking that sick bastard down was his civic duty.
Forced to face the nightmares of his past or lose his pension, Liam Mercier did the only thing he could do. He walked back into his personal hell. The man assigned to protect him is everything Liam wanted and needed—four years ago. Leaving the small island of sanity he’d been existing on could cost him everything. But being hunted by a genius, sadistic killer without the protection of the sexy, intense, agent was a guaranteed death sentence. Fate had dictated Liam’s course four years ago. The only thing he questioned was when his killer going to finish his work.
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Agent Steele McKenzie stood outside the interview room door and took a deep calming breath. The initial sensory overload of this crime scene required a deliberate pause. Splattered arcs of blood contrasted obscenely with the stark white walls. A spray of crimson-brown blood coagulated and dried in shallow pools on the cheap table. He’d been doing the job long enough to be jaded. But this one? The gore alone would probably garner national attention and undoubtedly a heavy dose of pressure from his superiors at the Bureau. This case was so much more than a bloodbath.
A demand from one of the crush of hospital administration types kept behind the crime scene tape drew his attention. The self-important officials didn’t stand a chance at getting past the uniformed patrolmen, although a few thought they were important enough to try. Didn’t they know they’d made themselves persons of interest by virtue of their presence? Probably not. Fucking trolls.
His attention returned to his victim. Mutilated and eviscerated, what was left of the dead body was loaded into a body bag—hopefully, one that was leak-proof. The coroner continued his work in the confined interview space. Steele watched him place the last scooped-up pieces of the remains into the body bag before he closed it. Stench from the victim’s sliced bowels assaulted Steele’s nose. After five years as the lead investigator for the FBI’s Serial Killer Task Force, he knew what to do. He pulled air through his mouth, almost negating the wretched smell of the blood, bile, and dissected bowels. Almost.
The forensic element of Steele’s team worked in concert with the coroner, collecting and photographing evidence, sorting and lifting prints. His investigators scattered throughout the facility. Two took statements. A third ran the hospital personnel’s schedule to ground. Steele slipped a pair of clean crime scene booties over his shoes and entered the room, careful to avoid any contact with trace or blood evidence. His focus centered on the victim, and in particular, the time the killer had taken to gut him.
Steele mentally cataloged every detail as he moved in a methodic, concentric search of the small room. The barbaric son of a bitch. Just when you think you’ve seen it all you get… Fuck, you get a monster like Stuart Miller.
“Chief, got an update,” Masterson called to him from the door.
“Give me a minute.” Steele did the heel and toe dance to navigate the gore and exit the crime scene without disturbing any evidence.
Masterson was one of his investigators, and the man had a gift. People told Sam things they wouldn’t tell another soul. Personally, Steele believed his slow southern accent and good looks somehow charmed interviewees, both male and female. The soft drawl made people think he wasn’t an intelligent, laser-focused investigator. The ability to get people to open up, coupled with the fact that Masterson had great investigative instincts and a rock-solid work ethic, won him a spot on Steele’s team.
“All right. Go ahead.” Steele deposited his used booties and latex gloves into a crime scene hazmat bag. “We’ve finished with the orderly’s statement, nothing helpful. We’ll confirm they were doing what they said they were, but it appears they’re just typical drones doing the job. I did find out the subject was on a course of antidepressants plus a regimen of antipsychotics. The staff noticed no difference in him today. Brought him down for his mandatory psychiatric appointment. Bastard’s routine hadn’t altered in over a year. The nurses and orderlies said over the two-and-a-half to three years he’s been here, the man mellowed. He became so sedate on his meds that the administration decided he no longer needed restraints. I’ve got the list of the drugs the man was taking and will submit them to the lab. Chief, he has a seven hour lead on us. They did an internal search of the facility when they found the doc dead. Of course, that was before they called us in. That sick son of a bitch is dust in the wind.”