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The fourth installment in the Kirkus Reviews, National Indie Excellence Awards and Publishers Weekly award-winning series by USA Today Best-selling Author, J. J. Cagney:
The first victim rolls out of a rain barrel.
Soon, Cici Gurule dreams of other women’s attacks, thanks to visions from her dead twin. The victims’ watery graves torment Cici, feeding her growing fear of water.
The killer targets Cici’s congregants and friends, taunting her and her lover, Detective Sam Chastain. Sam partners with the SFPD to investigate the widening web of assault, death, and pain… all while Cici struggles with the choices she made in Chaco Canyon.
When the killer lures a teen girl from her family, Cici and Sam’s desperation to identify him becomes critical. But the clues, from the disappearance of Sam’s ex-lover, to a cat with a chilling message for Cici, are leading them further from the truth, rather than toward saving the kidnapped girl.
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Read the first chapter here!
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“So, the water in the barrel contained the normal algae and bacteria buildup you’d expect, along with quite a bit of the same antihistamine Benson told you was in Mrs. Urlich’s bloodstream.”
“Benadryl,” Sam said.
“Correct. That’s what the UV—ultraviolet—spectrophotometry proves. I ran the particulate against shavings from a new Benadryl tablet. It’s a definitive match.”
Lainey’s research matched up with Cici’s vision. “Makes sense.”
“I removed some of the residue from the stuffed animal. Then, I looked at the chemical composition of the particles. It’s the same. Based on the analyses I used, I’m confident that the substance is Benadryl. From the water sample, we pulled trace amounts of saliva. I want to run some more detailed tests that pull the liquid from the minerals.”
“But you think the saliva is Patti’s?”
“Yes. I ran the test twice,” Lainey said, her voice holding a patient tone of someone used to being questioned.
“I’m not questioning your work. I’m just trying to make sense of the details. And, hey, I really appreciate you getting this to me tonight.”
Lainey waited for a moment, no doubt unsure how to reply. Finally, she said, “I thought you should know the substance clumped in one area of the stuffed animal. I mean it diffused when the material became wet. But the mass was localized.”
“What does that mean?” Sam asked.
“My best guess is many pills were involved and the woman spat them out.”
“While fighting off her attacker,” Sam muttered. Impressive. But her ability to fight hadn’t saved Patti Urlich, and that caused Sam’s blood to freeze in his veins.
“Nothing. I was talking to myself. And the device?”
“That took a bit more time because it’s outside my area of expertise. But, I spoke with one of our mechanical technicians, and he confirmed the small device you handed over was definitely a video camera. It’s Bluetooth, so it can connect to a device to view the images.”
“Can it record?” Sam asked.
“The camera sees what it sees. There is a transmitter, so the device it transmits to—I don’t know. I’d need to ask the tech who looked at it.”
“I can do that,” Sam said.
“Sure,” Lainey’s tone warmed again. She really did love what she did. “We pulled a partial fingerprint, but I haven’t found a match in the database.”
“I’ll keep looking, and I’ll email you the findings.”
“Okay,” Sam said. “And thanks.”
“You bet,” she said. She paused again. “Mr…I mean Detective Chastain?”
“For what it’s worth, I heard part of your discussion with Dr. Benson. I hope you catch this guy. And soon.”
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J. Cagney is the mystery/thriller pen name of USA Today bestselling author Alexa Padgett. Her debut mystery, A Pilgrimage of Death, was named to Kirkus Reviews’ 100 Best Books of 2018, 2019 National Indie Excellence Awards winner, and Goodreads Best Mysteries of the 2010s.
Cagney holds a bachelor’s in international marketing and spent part of her twenties as the marketing director for an elite sports management firm. And, yes, she did her requisite stint with a dotcom back in the early 2000s, first as a marketing coordinator and then as a content manager. She’s penned work for a variety of websites and magazines, and she worked as a literary agent for Irene Webb Literary.
She lives in northern New Mexico with her husband, children, about a million fish, and their Great Pyrenees, Ash.
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