Don't Cry

Don't Cry

3.9 106
by Beverly Barton
     
 

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Nowhere To Run

The crime scenes are horrifying: the victims arranged with deliberate care, posed to appear alive despite their agonized last moments and the shocking nature of their deaths.

No Place To Hide

Chattanooga grief counselor Audrey Sherrod moonlights for the local police. It's clear to her, and to Special Agent J.D.See more details below

Overview

Nowhere To Run

The crime scenes are horrifying: the victims arranged with deliberate care, posed to appear alive despite their agonized last moments and the shocking nature of their deaths.

No Place To Hide

Chattanooga grief counselor Audrey Sherrod moonlights for the local police. It's clear to her, and to Special Agent J.D. Cass, that the murders are the work of a deranged serial killer. At first, the only link is the victims' similar physical appearance. But then another connection emerges, tying them to a long-ago series of horrifying crimes Audrey hoped would never resurface--crimes that hit all too close to home.

No Time To Cry

Each grisly new discovery proves the past has not been forgotten, and the worst is yet to come. Audrey went looking for the truth and she's about to find it. . .and it will be more twisted and more terrifying than she ever imagined. . .

Praise for the novels of Beverly Barton

"Masterful!" –Linda Howard, New York Times bestselling author on Cold Hearted

"A powerful story that kept me up very late--with all the lights on." --Kay Hooper, New York Times bestselling author on As Good as Dead

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Barton (Dead by Midnight) delivers a solid mix of romance and terror in her latest thriller. When the bodies of kidnapped women are discovered with long-dead babies in their arms, J.D. Cass of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation gets called in. Therapist Audrey Sherrod, a counselor for families of the victims, has dark secrets in her own family's past. The two despise each other at first, but are slowly brought together when Audrey befriends J.D.'s rebellious teenage daughter, Zoe. Barton paces the romance nicely, intertwining it with the mystery and an ever-growing list of suspects. Occasional sloppy prose hurts the flow of the book, but readers willing to overlook this will enjoy the action sequences and the leads' antagonistic attraction as well as the assorted twists in the murder case. (Sept.)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781420119961
Publisher:
Kensington
Publication date:
09/01/2010
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
480
Sales rank:
155,474
File size:
1 MB

Read an Excerpt

Don't Cry


By Beverly Barton

ZEBRA BOOKS

Copyright © 2010 Beverly Beaver
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4201-1034-0


Chapter One

J.D. Cass listened to his breakfast date's end of the telephone conversation and knew it was bad news. In his profession, bad news was the norm, as it was in Holly's, so he wasn't surprised. When a guy was dating an assistant district attorney, even in an on-again/off-again relationship, he became accustomed to their dates being interrupted by business. Of course, it worked both ways. How many times had one of Holly's meticulously planned romantic evenings ended abruptly when he'd gotten an urgent call?

They hadn't managed to get together for the past three weeks, and J.D. was way past horny. So, yeah, his invitation for them to share an early breakfast today was his selfish way of wooing her back into his bed, and the sooner the better. Since he and Holly were both early risers, a 6:30 A.M. breakfast date had seemed the perfect chance to see each other and the least likely time that their professional lives would intrude. So much for great ideas.

"My God!" Holly Johnston's big blue eyes widened and her full lips parted in a silent gasp. "Who found her? Hmm ... When? Is the press already there?"

Curious about the identity of the person who had been found and eager to hear the details, J.D. frowned when his own cell phone rang. He checked caller ID and grunted.

He hit the On button. "Cass here. What's up?"

"They found Jill Scott." His boss, Special Agent in Charge Phil Hayes, had a deep baritone voice made even rougher and throatier from a lifetime of smoking.

"Alive?"

"No."

"Where?"

"How close are you to Lookout Valley?"

"Why?" J.D. got a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach.

"Because we're fixing to get dragged into this mess, so I want you to head on over to the crime scene pronto."

"Shit! Why is the TBI getting involved?"

"Because the DA wants us to be on standby. It turns out that there is a second missing woman. Debra Gregory, the mayor's wife's cousin, disappeared sometime late last night."

"Doesn't the mayor think his own police force can handle the investigation? This isn't our-"

"His Honor wants to use every resource available to him," Phil said. "And that includes us, buddy boy. The mayor called the DA and then Everett Harrelson called me personally fifteen minutes ago. Last night, the Chattanooga PD had two missing persons cases. This morning they have a murder case and a suspected kidnapping case. Since both women fit the same profile, there's a chance the same guy kidnapped Jill and Debra."

"When I show up at the crime scene, just how official am I?"

"You're unofficial for the time being. We'll ease into this gradually. Tell the investigators you're there in an advisory capacity. Assure them that the TBI isn't taking over their case."

"Yeah, sure. Like they're going to believe that."

After J.D. returned his phone to the belt holder, he looked across the table at Holly. She slid her phone into an outer pocket on her shoulder bag and shrugged.

"Bad news?" he asked.

She nodded. "What about you?"

"Yeah. That was Phil. They believe they've found Jill Scott, the woman who's been missing for the past two weeks."

Scott, a local middle school teacher, beloved by students and parents alike, had mysteriously disappeared two weeks earlier. Her parents, her fiancé, and her friends assured police that Jill would never leave without a word to anyone. They were convinced that she'd been abducted. Thanks to local media coverage, there probably wasn't a man, woman, or child in Hamilton County who didn't know the teacher's name.

"It seems our calls were about the same case," Holly told him. "Of course, I'm not actually involved with the case, not yet, but-"

"But your nephew was in Jill Scott's seventh-grade class and her murder is semipersonal for you, right?"

Holly nodded. "So, did the TBI get drafted to-?"

"Unofficially at this point," J.D. said. "But that status can change at any time." He offered Holly a life-sucks-sometimes frown. "I have to head over to the crime scene." He stood, pulled out his wallet, and laid down a couple of twenties to pay for their meal, plus a generous tip.

"Mind if I go with you?" she asked.

When he gave her an inquisitive stare, she said, "I'll stay out of the way. I know that I'm nothing more than a concerned citizen." She smiled. "Okay, a nosy concerned citizen."

"And I'm a TBI agent sticking my nose in where I may not be wanted and probably won't be welcomed."

* * *

Audrey Sherrod swallowed her tears. Although she would never apologize to anyone for her emotional involvement with her clients, she did her best not to let the empathy she experienced override her professionalism. Caring about people was a plus in her business. Allowing her personal feelings to affect a patient's treatment was unacceptable, so she walked an emotional tightrope, balancing the two sides of her personality.

Mary Nell Scott's daughter Jill had been missing for fifteen days. The Scott family was surviving on hopes and prayers. Mary Nell's husband had turned to their parish priest for solace and advice. Jill's sister, Mindy, relied on her best friends for comfort. Mary Nell had chosen to seek the help of a mental health therapist. She had chosen Audrey because several years ago, she had been one of Audrey's first clients. At that time, Mary Nell had been dealing with her husband's infidelity. After months of counseling, she had come to terms with what had happened and realized she wanted to save her marriage.

"I can't bear to hear Father Raymond's voice," Mary Nell had confessed when she had first arrived at Audrey's office today. "I know the man means well, but my faith isn't strong enough to simply leave everything in God's hands."

Mary Nell had been raised Presbyterian and converted to Catholicism when she had married Charles Scott. She had brought up both of their daughters in the Catholic faith, but she seldom attended mass and readily admitted that she had doubts about God's existence.

When the one-hour session ended, Mary Nell sat there calmly, with her head bowed and her folded hands resting in her lap. Audrey got up and retrieved a bottle of water from the mini-fridge in her office.

She truly understood the hell Mary Nell and her family were living in right now. Not knowing what had happened to a loved one was heartbreakingly unbearable. And yet they had to bear it. They had no other choice.

But that's not true. Mary Nell does have one other choice. A selfish, unthinkable choice.

Audrey pushed aside the memories from her own past about the choice her stepmother had made when she had found life unbearable. A choice that had destroyed a family already in crisis.

"I don't have another client until regular office hours at nine this morning, so if you'd like to stay longer, you may." Audrey handed Mary Nell the bottled water. She had come in early to see Mary Nell, who had left her a frantic phone message at five o'clock that morning.

"No, no." Mary Nell shook her head. "I'm meeting Charlie at seven-thirty and some of our neighbors are going to help us put up new posters all over Hamilton County. We're offering a reward of twenty-five thousand to anyone ..." Pausing, her upper teeth biting down into her bottom lip, she closed her eyes as fresh tears trickled down her cheeks.

Suddenly Mary Nell's cell phone rang. When she struggled to open her purse, Audrey eased the leather clutch out of her trembling hands and retrieved the phone for her.

"Want me to answer it?" Audrey asked.

Mary Nell shook her head, and then reached out and took the phone.

"Hello," Mary Nell said. "What? Yes, I'm still with Audrey. Why? Oh, all right." She held out her phone. "It's my daughter, Mindy. She wants to speak to you."

Eying the phone in Mary Nell's outstretched hand, Audrey instinctively knew that whatever Mindy had to say would not be good news.

"Hello, Mindy, this is Audrey Sherrod."

"Dr. Sherrod, they've found her. They've found Jill. She's dead."

"Who contacted you with this information?"

"No one, not yet." Mindy whimpered softly. "It's already on the news, on the TV and the radio. They found a body. The newscasters are saying it's probably Jill, that the woman fits her description and she's wearing a gold cross. Jill always wore the gold cross Daddy gave her for her sixteenth birthday."

"Don't jump to conclusions."

"It's her. I know it is. Dad knows it is. I just didn't want Mom to be alone and see it on the news or hear about it on the radio. Dad and I are coming by there to pick up Mom. We're driving out to Lookout Valley where they found the body. They haven't moved her yet. She's still there. Oh, please, Dr. Sherrod, please come with us. Mom's going to need you. We all are."

"Yes, of course. I'll have my secretary cancel my morning appointments, just in case," Audrey said.

When she returned the cell phone to Mary Nell, her client looked at her pleadingly. "Don't lie to me. Tell me what Mindy said. It's Jill, isn't it? She's ... oh, God, she's dead, isn't she?"

Audrey dropped down on her haunches in front of Mary Nell and grasped the woman's clutched hands. Their gazes met and held.

"The police have found a body that fits Jill's general description," Audrey explained. "The information is on the TV and radio. Mindy didn't want you to hear it and assume the body is Jill's. She and Charlie are on their way here now. They want me to go with y'all to the crime scene. They want to make sure it isn't Jill."

Just one little white lie to ease Mary Nell into the situation and allow her a few final moments of hope.

When half an hour later, at approximately 7:45 A.M., J.D. and Holly arrived on the scene at 50 Birmingham Highway in the Lookout Valley area, they found semicontrolled bedlam. They had missed the initial frenzy, the first responders' attempt to secure the site, the wail of sirens, and the rush of emergency vehicles. The area around the Cracker Barrel restaurant buzzed with official personnel, the first of many yet to come. Before the end of the day, the scene would be investigated by as many as fifty law enforcement and civilian specialists. The police had roped off the crime scene and strategically placed officers to keep the foot traffic to a minimum. One way in and one way out. News crews, barely held at bay by the uniformed officers, kept cameras zeroed in on the cordoned-off area and reported live to their television audience.

J.D. gained immediate entrance to the sealed area as soon as he flashed his badge. When he glanced back at Holly, she smiled and nodded, letting him know she'd be fine on her own. He'd never doubted it for a minute. Holly was a modern, I-can-take-care-of-myself woman.

Careful not to disrupt the ongoing investigation, J.D. took in the crime scene with a subtle visual inspection. He recognized a lot of the personnel, including the Hamilton County ME, Dr. Peter Tipton, and a couple of members of his team, one taking photos and another talking to two CPD investigators. J.D. knew the guy he assumed was the lead detective. He and Sergeant Garth Hudson had worked a case involving a gang-related murder eleven months ago, shortly after J.D. had been transferred from Memphis to the TBI Chattanooga Field Office. Hudson was a decorated, twenty-five-year veteran of the CPD. A smart guy, a good cop, a little on the cocky side. J.D. didn't know the officer with Hudson, an attractive African American woman with a dark caramel complexion and petite, curvy body. As he approached them, she turned and glowered at him, her coffee brown eyes surveying him from head to toe.

"Who sicced the TBI on us?" Hudson growled the question as he glared at J.D. "The mayor, no doubt."

"I'm here strictly in an advisory capacity," J.D. assured him. "This is the CPD's case." J.D. smiled at the pretty lady with Hudson. "Introduce us."

Hudson grunted. "Officer Tamara Lovelady, my partner. Tam, meet TBI Special Agent J.D. Cass."

Tam nodded, her expression neutral.

"So, how about letting me take a look at Jill Scott," J.D. said, then added, "if it is Jill Scott."

"There's a good chance it is Ms. Scott's body, but no positive ID. Not yet." Hudson glanced at his partner. "Tam will go with you. Look all you want, but don't touch."

J.D. wanted to remind Hudson that he wasn't some rookie who needed instructions, but he kept quiet. For now, he wasn't assigned to this case, and any privileges Hudson afforded him were at his discretion. He had worked with police and sheriffs' departments throughout the state and understood how territorial local law enforcement could be. Trying not to step on any toes was just part of his job. A part he damn well hated. He wasn't known for his diplomatic abilities. He supposed that was one reason he was still a field agent. That and a hot temper he'd been trying to control all of his life.

The TBI's role was to assist local law enforcement in investigating major crimes, the operative word being "assist."

When Officer Lovelady motioned to J.D., he followed her past the swarm of investigators and onto the restaurant's wide porch.

Peter Tipton spotted J.D. and Tam heading his way. He paused in his examination of the body and moved aside to give J.D. a complete view of the corpse.

The victim-not yet positively identified as Jill Scott-sat upright in one of the numerous rocking chairs on the Cracker Barrel porch. Her eyes were shut and at first glance she seemed to be sleeping. Something swaddled in a delicate blue baby shawl lay nestled in her lap. J.D. strained to get a better look at the object.

He took a step closer, and then stopped.

"We thought at first it was a doll," Tam told J.D. "But it's not."

Good God almighty!

"It's real," J.D. said.

"Oh yeah, it's real all right," Tipton replied.

J.D. had seen some weird sights in his time, as well as several sickeningly gruesome scenes, but never anything like this.

"It's a first for me," Tipton said.

"Yeah, me, too. Any idea who ... what ... ?" J.D. found himself stammering, something he never did. But then he'd never seen a fresh corpse cradling the skeletal remains of a small child. He cleared his throat and asked, "Any idea how either of them died? The woman-?"

"Asphyxiation."

J.D. studied the dark-haired victim sitting so serenely in the wooden rocking chair. Traffic from the nearby interstate hummed over the din of voices, conversations blending with news coverage and bystanders' comments. Overhead the September sky was clear, the morning sun warm, the temperature somewhere in the high seventies. The beginning of a perfect pre-autumn day. But not so perfect for Jill Scott.

"Method of asphyxiation?" J.D. asked.

"Probably suffocation," Tipton replied. "There's no sign of strangulation."

"How long do you think she's been dead?"

Tipton glanced at the corpse. "She's in full rigor. Time of death-six to twelve hours ago. I'd guess eight to ten."

"You don't think she was killed here, do you?" J.D. asked.

"She was probably killed somewhere else sometime before midnight and then brought here while it was still dark so it would be less likely anyone would see what was happening."

"Yeah, not much chance anyone saw something."

"Whoever killed her staged this little scene," Tam Lovelady said. "He painted us a picture."

"Mother and child," J.D. surmised.

"He's a sick son of a bitch, whoever he is." Tam stared at the victim. "She looks so damn peaceful."

"He went to a great deal of trouble to dispose of her body in such a dramatic fashion." J.D. remembered a bizarre case in Memphis when he was a rookie agent where the killer had placed his victims by the river, sitting up in a camp chair and holding a fishing pole. Weirdest thing he'd ever seen. Until now. "He's telling us something. We just have to figure out what it is."

"He's telling us that he's fucking crazy," Garth said, his voice a low grumble, as he came up behind them.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Don't Cry by Beverly Barton Copyright © 2010 by Beverly Beaver. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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