On the crowded streets of San Francisco, a serial killer watches and waits. Known only as “Simon Says,” he lures his next victim while the FBI grasps for answers. Desperate, they turn to Adrienne Jeffries. Adrienne has an uncanny talent for getting inside the city’s most dangerous minds. But first she’ll have to get past FBI agent Conner Perigo. Skeptical of Adrienne’s abilities, Conner begrudgingly enlists her help…unprepared for the powerful attraction that could jeopardize their focus. With little time, and everything to lose, they must work to find Simon’s next victim—before he does.
Originally published in 2014
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About the Author
Janie lives with her husband and four children in Germany, in support of her husband's U.S. Department of Defense job. Janie enjoys traveling, long-distance running, movies of all kinds, and coffee. Lots and lots of coffee.
For more: www.janiecrouch.com
Read an Excerpt
FBI agent Conner Perigo knew throwing the file in his hand across the room would be childish and ultimately accomplish nothing except making a mess, but he was still tempted. Ten months.
Ten months they had been on the trail of this psychopath. Ten months of being two steps behind and watching, helpless, as another woman was murdered. It wasn't in Conner's job description to attend the funerals of women he had never known. That hadn't stopped him from attending one last week. Or three weeks before that. Or a month and a half before that.
Each time he saw one of these women buried, it renewed Conner's determination to catch this bastard.
Five women dead in ten months. Most within a fifty-mile radius of San Francisco, which, of course, had the city in a panic.
"I'm not picking that up, so don't even think about throwing it," Conner's partner and friend, Seth Harrington, said without looking up from his desk.
Conner looked at the file in his hand, then set it down. Maybe flying papers would make him feel better momentarily, but it wasn't worth the aftermath. He sighed. "This case, Seth. I swear I'm about to lose it over this case."
"I hear you, man. It's messed up."
It wasn't just the murders, although those were bad enough. Now the perp was taunting them.
Yesterday the San Francisco FBI field office had received another package. It was the same thing every time. The outside was a box addressed with an innocuous label-like a care package. Of course, innocent-looking or not, each had gone through the extensive FBI bomb scannings and toxic screenings. There was nothing dangerous in any of the packages.
Every delivery was box after box, wrapped in plain brown paper, nested inside each other like one of those Russian dolls. Every time, inside the smallest box, Conner and his team had found a lock of a woman's hair.
And every time, the dead body matching the hair had been found a few days later.
The packages also contained a handwritten note, in third person, with the killer referring to himself as Simon. As if this was all a game of Simon Says.
"Simon says, the FBI is too slow."
"Simon says, you should try harder."
"Simon says, uh-oh, there goes another one."
They had kept all info about the packages from the public, knowing it would cause more of a panic. But around the San Francisco field office, the killer was known as "Simon Says."
There was no doubt about it: this pervert was calling the shots. The game was consistent. The FBI received a package-with zero helpful forensic evidence-then ran around for the next couple of days trying to figure out where the woman was being held with only the city in the return address to go on.
They were always too late. A body would be found somewhere; usually local law enforcement would call it in, and the Bureau would rush to the address. The crime scene, just like the packages, would hold zero helpful forensic evidence.
And then the game would start all over again.
Conner and Seth worked in the FBI's ViCAP division-Violent Criminal Apprehension Program-a subdivision of the Bureau's Behavioral Analysis Unit. Their job was to help law enforcement agencies apprehend violent criminals through investigative analysis. They were the best of the best.
But this killer was always one step ahead of them.
"Perigo, Harrington, my office."
Upon hearing his division chief's words, Conner rubbed his eyes wearily then glanced over to find Harrington looking at him, shaking his head. A trip to Division Chief Logan Kelly's office was never good. The two partners grabbed their notebooks and headed down the hall. The chief took his chair behind his desk and motioned for them to have a seat in the chairs across from him.
"I have spent the entire morning fielding calls. The governor. The deputy director. Even a city councilman. Everybody wants to know the same thing. Where are we on the Simon Says investigation?"
Conner and Seth didn't answer. Chief Kelly knew full well where they were in this investigation: nowhere.
"It's getting a little tiresome explaining over and over that we've got absolutely nothing on this psycho, despite our best efforts."
Conner couldn't agree more, although he didn't say so out loud.
The chief continued, "After talking with the deputy director this morning, we've decided to pull in some independent contractors to help on the case."
Conner sat up a little straighter in his chair, as did Seth. "Independent contractors, sir? What type?" They had already brought in some outside help on the case- in particular, handwriting experts for the letters. What else could Chief Kelly have in mind?
"Actually we have just one specifically in mind. We want to bring in a nontraditional profiling expert."
Conner glanced at Seth to find him looking as confused as Conner felt. Why would the department bring in an outsider for profiling? Despite what popular media suggested, there was no actual profiler position at the FBI. All agents were trained in profiling. But just like in all other training-hand-to-hand combat, weapons, languages-an agent could excel at profiling.
Conner and Seth were decent profilers, although both had other specialties. Rarely did the Bureau bring in outsiders unless it was for something very specific. They didn't know enough about Simon Says to bring in someone specific.
And what the hell did Kelly mean by "nontraditional"?
Conner leaned forward. "You and the deputy director have someone specific in mind, sir?"
"Yes, Perigo, we do. Have you ever heard of a profiling expert named Adrienne Jeffries?"
"No." Conner looked over at Seth, who shook his head.
"Perhaps you've heard of the Bloodhound?"
Now Seth spoke up. "Well, yeah, everybody has heard of her. She worked for the Bureau, what? Fifteen, twenty years ago? Had some sort of superpower or something. Could sense and track evil-I don't know. Something like that."
Conner barely refrained from rolling his eyes. Superpowers? Seriously? Didn't they have more important things to do than talk about FBI urban legends from decades ago?
"Adrienne Jeffries last worked for us eight years ago." Chief Kelly pushed a thin file across his desk toward Conner and Seth. "She was hands down the most gifted profiler any of us had ever seen. We want to bring her back in to help with the case."
Conner shrugged, grabbing the file and giving it to his partner without even looking at it. "No offense, Chief, but we have more important things to do than chase down a woman who has been out of the game for a decade."
Seth backed him up. "Yeah, Chief. If she's such a great profiler and can do everything the legend says, why isn't she still on the Bureau's payroll?"
"Ms. Jeffries cut ties with the FBI eight years ago after working with us for two years. During her tenure she was directly accredited with providing critical leads for thirty-seven criminal apprehensions. All over the country. Every team she worked with listed Jeffries as their number one asset and direct link to the arrests."
Seth whistled through his teeth. Conner had to agree. Thirty-seven cases solved in two years was unheard of. It also begged the question: With that success rate, why had she only worked for the FBI for such a short time?
"Why did she quit?" Conner asked.
The older man glanced away for a moment then looked back at Conner. "She decided working with the FBI was not what she wanted to do."
Conner reached over to grab the file Seth was handing to him. He opened it and took a brief glance. There was no picture of Adrienne Jeffries, and half the file was blacked out with thick black lines-making reading the information behind the lines impossible.
Someone very high in the FBI did not want much known about the Bloodhound. Conner couldn't help but be suspicious about so many black marks through a file. Somebody wasn't telling the whole story.
"So for eight years nobody has brought the Bloodhound back in to assist in cases?" Seth asked. "It's been so long, I think everyone just assumed she was dead or too old or not even real to begin with."
"No, she's alive, definitely not too old and very real. We've contacted her a few times over the years, to see if she would resume her contract work, but have been met with a resounding no as her answer." Chief Kelly's eyes were cold.
"Why?" Conner looked down at the blacked-out file again. Something was not right in this situation. Not that Conner believed in any of the hocus-pocus junk that surrounded the Bloodhound's reputation. In Conner's opinion cases were solved by hard work and sometimes a little bit of luck, not by superpowers.
"She says she's not interested in renewing her working agreement with the FBI."
Both Conner and Seth caught the slight hesitation in the chief's statement, but neither said anything.
"Ms. Jeffries has been more interested in maintaining her horse ranch near Lodi."
She was much closer than Conner anticipated. Lodi was only about two hours east of San Francisco. Quite a few vineyards out there and farms, too. And a whole lot of empty space. Definitely a good place for a horse ranch.
"What makes you think she'll be interested in helping us now, if she hasn't been willing to help before?" Conner asked. Obviously the woman was pretty cold, if she was as good as they said she was, but refused to help. Another reason not to waste time on her in Conner's opinion.
"Her circumstances have changed in the past year."
"Does she need money?" Seth asked. Being broke caused many a change of heart.
"No. She hired a convicted felon as her ranch manager almost a year ago."
Conner leaned back in his chair, confused. "Are they doing something illegal?"
"No, nothing like that," the chief said. "Her ranch manager, Rick Vincent, was convicted in the mid-1970s for breaking and entering. Did three years, was released. Everything was fine. But he missed his last parole hearing for whatever reason. Warrant's been out for him since '79."
Conner frowned. "Sorry, Chief, but I don't understand what this has to do with anything. If Vincent hasn't been arrested since that incident in the '70s, never had any run-ins with the law at all since then, it doesn't seem like he would pose much threat to Ms. Jeffries now."
The chief tilted his head. "No, we're not worried about him being a threat to her. Reports indicate they are actually pretty friendly with each other."
Conner frowned over at Seth. Reports indicate? What was going on here?
Seth shrugged, obviously as confused as Conner.
"Reports, sir?" Conner asked. "Has she been under surveillance?"
"Not surveillance, exactly. Just attempts on our part, from time to time, to get her to return and provide profiling assistance." The chief looked down at his desk and began reorganizing papers, obviously not wanting to provide too much information about the reports or meetings with Ms. Jeffries.
It was damn strange, if anyone asked Conner. He waited for the chief to get to the point he was so long in coming to.
Chief Kelly finally looked up from his desk. "I want you to go out to Adrienne Jeffries's horse ranch and ask for her help with the case. And if she says no, then I want you to use the arrest of Rick Vincent as a threat to get her cooperation."
It was all Conner could do to keep from jumping out of his chair. He heard Seth make some sort of incredulous sound next to him. "What? Chief, that's pretty much blackmail."
The chief's eyes narrowed. "No, Perigo. It's doing your job. She has a criminal on her property, and you need to bring him in."
"A nonviolent criminal with a B&E rap from more than thirty years ago. No law enforcement agency would waste the gas out to Lodi to pick up Vincent!" Seth exclaimed. He didn't like this any more than Conner.
"Rick Vincent is not the primary objective here, obviously. Adrienne Jeffries's cooperation is."
"Chief " Conner's cajoling tone was cut off before he could get a second word out.
"Perigo, I get it. You don't like the tactics. Fine, they're not my favorite, either. But how many more women are you willing to let die, when we have a known tool at our disposal? A tool proven to get results?"
Conner sat in silence. He didn't agree with Chief Kelly's orders. Hell, he didn't even believe Adrienne Jeffries could possibly be as useful as everyone said. But regardless, if it meant catching Simon Says and saving even one woman's life, he was willing to try.
"All right, Chief. We'll go see her tomorrow morning."