Chapter One

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Thirty-nine-year-old Bill Mendholson was sitting at his desk when the call came in. The late-fall storm that had been lingering just off the coast of Massachusetts, heading toward Comfort Cove, had made landfall. Because of the cliffs buffering the fishing town and tourist mecca, the moods of the mighty Atlantic didn't usually pose a huge threat.

This time, people were already dead.

And of the six detectives in the fifty-officer-strong Comfort Cove police department, Bill was the only one in the office that Tuesday morning.

Detective Ramsey Miller, the closest thing he had to a partner, was out interviewing a family in Boston whose toddler had been missing for more than a decade. Miller needed a DNA sample to compare against a database created from items found in a newly arrested pedophile's home. Miller was obsessed with finding every single victim, bringing the families justice. And with ruling out victims, as well.

Grabbing his coat, Bill bypassed the elevator, pushing through the door to the stairwell and trotted five floors down. Storms weren't under their jurisdiction. Investigating dead bodies was. Crafty bad guys used natural disasters to cover up knocking off people they wanted gone. They robbed and pilfered, too, but those crimes would be handled by the street cops.

The air was eerily still and thick as he stepped out into the unseasonably warm October weather, not at all indicative of damaging winds traveling at hurricane speed with eighty-mile-an-hour gusts. But the near-darkness at ten o'clock on a Tuesday morning brought with it a sense of ominous foreboding. The humidity fogged his glasses and he wiped them as he walked.

Were the winds on their way? Or were they going to stick to the coast and give midtown a miss?

Pushing speed-dial buttons on his phone he reached his younger brother, Sean, and then older sister, Doris, making certain that they and their families were aware of the storm and taking cover. His parents lived in the house he'd grown up in on the Boston-facing side of town and were both working on computers in the basement office, engaged in online fundraising for their various charities.

Finished with the first three speed-dial recipients in less than two minutes, Bill quickly called the person he was most worried about. Mary Anderson's office was close by—not in any more danger than the rest of them, but while she was fourth on his speed dial, she was first on his mind.

Mary—the woman whose kiss could take the edge off any bad day.

He was listening to her personal voice mail by the time he made it to his unmarked dark sedan, parked behind the Comfort Cove police department. In the car, he tried her office number. He was transferred to the receptionist at the non-profit social work agency where Mary, a case manager in family services, spent most of her life.

"She's out visiting a new family, Detective Mendholson."

She couldn't give him any more information. Not who. Or why. He knew the ropes.

"She's not down by the docks, is she?"

He'd started his car. Put it in gear.

"The family is not eligible for flood protection, sir," the young woman told him. Which meant they lived down by the water. Her professionalism gave way to fear as she added, "Several of us told her not to go, but there was a baby involved and..."

"Call me as soon as you hear from her," Bill said as the girl's voice trailed off. "I'll be on my cell."

Dropping the phone on the seat beside him, Bill turned on his lights and his siren and sped out into the storm.

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