CODE NAME: MAYHEM
This is the fifth and final book in the K19 Shadow Operations Team One Series.
Have you correctly guessed who the serial killer is?
Code Name: Emmett “Mayhem” Gable
Target: Grace “Hanadarko” Hunter
Mission: Protect the innocent from a vile serial killer.
I sit back, watch, take it all in, as I determine my next move. I’m quiet, stealthy, and always ready to act—making my enemies regret their every decision. It’s always the silent shy-type people need to worry about. And they worry about me. Come hell or high water, I’m going to take down this serial killer before it’s too late.
When K19 needs the best profiler in the business to come out of “retirement,” it takes every bit of my charisma to convince her to help. And now, there’s no holding back. She’s going to learn why they call me MAYHEM.
No way, not a chance. I’m officially in “retirement.” Not that I’m anywhere near old enough. I’m just done facing off against the dregs of humanity and looking filth right in the eye. Now, though, it’s time to trust the one man who makes it all worthwhile—the one who makes me lose control. He’s chaos and mayhem, and I cannot get enough. Can the two of us together find the courage to destroy the serial killer who’s hellbent on destroying us?
“Are you sure you want to go through with this?” I overheard Cowboy ask Winslow. While I knew I should alert them of my presence, I continued to eavesdrop.
“Of course I do. She could help.”
It had taken almost a month but with Decker Ashford’s assistance, I had finally located the profiler he believed would help us find the man the media now referred to as the Adirondack Killer. What K19 Shadow Ops believed his real “moniker” to be—Thanatos—was never uttered outside of the command center and even then, on a need-to-know basis only.
The skeletal remains of forty-three victims had been found on the bottom of the four lakes the aqueous and dive teams had searched thus far. Given there were over two-thousand more in the park, no one on investigation doubted we’d find more.
“She could also refuse,” Cowboy said. It wasn’t the first time Winslow had received the warning. I’d told her the same thing.
“Just because she won’t talk to Mayhem, doesn’t mean she won’t listen to me. At the very least, I have to try.” There was a pause, giving me time to walk away, but I didn’t. “What happened between them anyway?”
“I can’t tell you. All I know is Hanadarko, whose name is Grace Hunter, was a profiler on another serial killer case that Mayhem had also been assigned to. I have no idea what happened but once the case ended and the killer was apprehended, she quit. And by quit, rumor is she resigned from the FBI and has been living in seclusion ever since. Refusing to talk to anyone.”
“Maybe this isn’t such a good idea,” Winslow responded.
“What makes you say that now?”
“She could’ve quit because it affected her that badly. Maybe she was traumatized and it has nothing to do with Mayhem at all.” She was right, it could’ve been the reason she quit, but I knew it wasn’t.
“Could be, darlin’,” said Cowboy.
“Why wouldn’t she just admit it, though?” Winslow asked.
“Another question I can’t answer, but if you don’t want to go, you have to decide now. Steel just pulled into the driveway.”
“I don’t know. I feel like I should at least try to talk to her. Woman-to-woman. Or maybe victim-to-profiler would be a better way to put it.”
“I think that’s what Mayhem has in mind.”
Yes, that was exactly what I had in mind.
“I want to go.”
“Let’s do it, then.”
It was an almost six-hour drive from King-Alexander Ranch to Olmito, Texas where Decker assured me Grace was living. The town, whose name meant “Little Elm” in Spanish, had a population of a little over a thousand people and was less than fifteen minutes from the US-Mexico border.
“Are you sure this is the right place?” Steel asked when he pulled into the driveway of the address Decker gave us. “It doesn’t look like anybody’s lived here for years.”
I had to agree, at least what we could see from the road.
“Keep going.” I studied the photos I’d downloaded, and while all we could see now was terribly rundown, somewhere back in the overgrowth, there was a house.
“Stop here,” I said when we were still several yards from where the driveway ended.
“There’s someone inside,” said Cowboy, looking at the screen of the Doppler radar device he’d brought along. “Just one person, and whoever it is, is walking toward the front of the house.”
“Copy that.” I opened the passenger door and got out.
“Should I go with him?” I heard Winslow asked.
“Not yet. Give it a minute,” Cowboy told her.
I could feel Hanadarko’s presence even without seeing her.
“Grace? Are you in there?” I shouted.
“Gun!” I heard Steel and Cowboy shout through the comms when the front door opened.
“Stand down,” I responded, but raised my hands as I took another step forward.
Grace came out the door looking down the barrel of the gun aimed at the dead center of my heart. “You have exactly ten seconds to get the fuck off my property, Emmett Gable. Don’t think I won’t kill you.”
The hurt I saw in her eyes today, was the same as the hurt I saw in them the day I broke her heart. So much worse than her heart, I’d broken her spirit. That was the part that ate me alive.
Not a day went by that I didn’t regret everything I said and did the last time I saw her. Nor did one pass without me thinking about Grace. Nor a night I didn’t dream of her.
“Get the hell off my property, Emmett.”
“Grace, please, lower the gun,” I said, knowing not to drop my hands until she did. I didn’t doubt given the slightest reason, she’d find great pleasure in shooting me.
“I’ll lower the gun when you get your fuckin’ ass back in that car and drive away.”
“There’s something I need to talk to you about first.”
“You lost the privilege of ever talkin’ to me again about anything. Now, git!”
“Go ahead and shoot me. Put me out of my misery.”
“Nope. Absolutely not. You do not get to feel sorry for yourself, Emmett. It’s my life you destroyed. Mine. Not yours.”
“Hi, I’m Winslow Cassidy,” I heard a voice say from far too close behind me. What in the bloody hell was Cowboy thinking allowing her to get out of the SUV?
“Who are you and what do you want?” Grace asked with the shotgun still pointed at me.
I glanced over my shoulder and saw Cowboy was standing next to Winslow.
“I was abducted by a serial killer, but I escaped. Over one hundred other women have either lost their lives or are in danger of losing them if we don’t stop this man from killing again.”
“That has nothin’ to do with me. Now, the lot of you are trespassin’. If you aren’t gone by the time I count to ten, I’ll start shooting.” She motioned to me. “Him first.”
“Grace, if you’ll agree to talk to Winslow and Garrison, I’ll leave.”
“You’ll leave without my agreein’ to a damned thing.”
“Ma’am, I’m Garrison Cassidy. Winslow here is my wife. I don’t know what Emmett did to you and quite frankly, it doesn’t surprise me one bit to hear you want him off your property. I’m pretty sure Winslow felt the same way about him when they first met. However, I am begging you to at least listen to my wife and me. I promise I’ll make him leave, if you’ll just agree to listen for a few minutes.”
If letting my mouth hang open wouldn’t have given Grace such an ideal target, I certainly would have. Did Cowboy really just say Winslow didn’t like me? I was stunned. Incredulous even.
“Where’re you from?”
“Just outside Buda.”
“You said your name is Cassidy?”
“Any relation to Micki Hunter Cassidy?”
“That’s my mama.”
“She’s my fourth cousin once removed.”
“You don’t say?”
While this was all terribly interesting, Grace’s gun was still pointed in my direction and she hadn’t taken her eyes off me.
“What does that make you two, then?” asked Winslow. “Fifth cousins?”
“Have you met Micki?” Cowboy asked Grace.
“Just once and it was a long time ago,” she responded.
“Ahem.” Had those with me forgotten why we were here?
“Shut your trap. I’m havin’ a conversation. You always were a rude SOB. No wonder Winslow doesn’t like you.”
I raised a brow. While Grace appeared to be enjoying this immensely, and perhaps Winslow and Cowboy were too, however, we were here prepared to beg for her help in finding a killer.
Grace shook her head. “Look at him. The mighty Mayhem doesn’t have a comeback. You mean there are actually women—in addition to me—who haven’t fallen for your charm? Color me shocked.”
I would remind her that she’d done the exact opposite not so long ago, however, she’d lowered the gun so it was pointed just below my mid-section. Quite honestly, I think I’d rather have her shoot my head off than my…other head.
“Come on in, y’all,” Grace said, raising her shotgun so it rested on her shoulder. “Not you,” she spat over her shoulder. “Them.”
I stood in place, watching two of the people I’d arrived with, follow her into a house in far better condition than the grounds surrounding it led us to expect.
Rather than return to the vehicle where Steel waited, I studied the place where the woman I admired with every fiber of my being, lived. I had been the one who’d extinguished her bright and brilliant light. I vowed to be the one who lit it once again.