The victim was bludgeoned, stripped, and left for dead. Shanna Wagner deserves justice—and there’s no better cop than Lieutenant Jake Carrington to find her killer. The brutality of the crime reminds Jake of his sister’s murder seventeen years ago, and the remorseless man responsible, now up for parole.
Then another woman is killed—and Jake goes dangerously close to the edge. He’ll have to face his personal demons and focus his formidable skills if he hopes to stop a vicious murderer from striking again—and hold on to his career, and his life . . .
ALL THE DEADLY LIES
A Jake Carrington Thriller
Previously published as If I Fail
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
"Sergeant, in my office, please." Captain Shamus McGuire stood at attention in his doorway, all six-feet-four inches of him. His steel-gray hair cut to military precision focused one's attention on his matching gray eyes.
Homicide Sergeant Jake Carrington of the Wilkesbury Police Department looked across his joined desk to his partner, and lifelong friend Louie Romanelli and shrugged. Louie threw him a questioning look as he adjusted his tie and started to rise from his chair.
"Just Jake, Louie," the captain said as he turned into his office.
Jake picked up their latest case file to update the captain and walked in to join McGuire.
"Take a seat, Jake." The captain pointed to one of the two institutional-gray ones in front of his desk. He took off his glasses and massaged his forehead.
Though Jake preferred to stand, he took the less beat-up seat on the right. The room was a monument to the man, all spit and polish. Sparse furnishing with a few awards and medals hung on the walls. Paperwork in precise piles, a picture of his family, the standard computer and phone were all he had on his desk. McGuire's appearance and stance spoke of his military background and warned his cops he took no crap from them. It wasn't like him to stall but that's exactly what he was doing at the moment. McGuire turned his smoky eyes on him. Jake went on alert. Something was up, something big.
"Captain?" Instincts had Jake bracing for what came next.
"Spaulding's coming up for parole again. And this time he's requesting a DNA test before he comes before the board." Jake's stomach curdled. McGuire continued, "He's also requesting the DNA samples from your sister's crime scene be tested against his sample."
"What bullshit, Shamus."
Jake jumped up, roamed the office. His mouth went dry. Deep down he was afraid the old samples somehow wouldn't match and would set Eva's killer free. This new development would split his attention. What could Spaulding gain from this maneuver? To catch a killer, you had to get inside his head. Did Spaulding assume the system would release him if he got a new trial?
He looked out the window and studied the downtown area as he ran every scenario through his mind. This was his town, though imperfect as it was. He and Eva had been born here of immigrant parents. Its one hundred thousand residents depended on him and those who had come before him to protect it.
Outside of his tour of military duty overseas he didn't venture far from it, a good city, though down on its luck since all the manufacturing jobs went overseas. Wilkesbury recently had the distinguished honor to be named one of the top five saddest rust belt cities. And it's the one that was farthest south of the belt. In its glory days, nothing could touch Wilkesbury. Most of the crime in the city came from the twenty percent of theWilkesburians living under the national poverty level. The city had its mix of people, businesses, homeless, shoppers, and kids. More kids claimed the downtown area since UConn had put a branch right across the street from the station. Today some of the kids wore shorts to celebrate the hot weather. Last week it was in the forties. Today the temperatures hit the seventies. New England, you gotta love it, he thought.
Clearing his mind, he focused on The Palace Marquee. Next month Johnny Mathis would be here for two days. He thought it a monument to the citizens of Wilkesbury when private citizens and businesses raised the money to save the Palace. It had been closed for eighteen years. The last performer had been Tony Bennett in 1987. Bennett had opened the newly restored theater in 2004 and it was still going strong. Jake loved the old theater. It brought back good memories from his childhood. The grand old theater done in the tradition of the Met was a step back in time. Since it had been refurbished it drew some big-name performers and plays. It's about time we got something decent in the downtown area, he thought. Murders were down in recent years but overall crime continued. Eva's death was the reason he became a cop instead of going on to play pro ball after college.
Turning from the window, he walked back to stand in front of Shamus's desk. "I'm sorry, I didn't hear the last part," Jake said.
"The sperm gathered at the time of the autopsy was preserved, and with new technology he has the right to ask for the testing."
"When will it happen? I want to be there through the whole process from collection to testing to make sure there aren't any switchups." What a way to start a Monday.
"It hasn't been granted yet. His lawyer is working on the request," McGuire stated.
"When will it happen?" Jake rubbed his temples where a headache was forming.
"The board acts in their own time. I'd say toward the end of the month. I'm behind you, as is the entire department, Jake, to make sure Eva gets justice."
Jake paced the room. Seventeen years and it seemed like yesterday. "When they took him out after the trial, Spaulding whispered to me he'd done it and enjoyed every moment of it," Jake said. It was a moment in time he would never forget.
There were nights after the trial he dreamed up ways of killing Spaulding, making him suffer as much, if not more, than Eva had. Even today, when his moral code screamed there was no justification for taking a life, he understood deep down in his soul that, if given the chance, he'd remove George Spaulding from the face of this Earth and not look back. Captain McGuire's voice floated back into his head. Jake felt shame standing in front of Shamus with thoughts of murder in his head. If he did kill, what would separate him from the ones he hunted every day of his life?
"As a cop, you and I both understand the evidence is what convicts, along with a smart prosecutor. Spaulding's lawyer has petitioned the court. Even if the DNA isn't a match, it wouldn't get him an immediate release. There was other evidence putting him at the crime scene. And there was an eyewitness who saw him push Eva into his car. All it will get him is a new trial. If I remember this right, all of the evidence pointed to him. Have faith, Jake."
"Faith? Is that what I should tell Eva? Oh wait. I can't. Because she's dead!"
The captain ignored his outburst. "If he goes to trial I promise we'll reopen the case and work it along with our current files. But, you can't touch the file when we do."
"No, it's not. If we want the chain of evidence to remain pure you can't touch it. I'll respect and appoint whoever you want to work it," McGuire said.
"It can't be him either." McGuire held up his hands before Jake could interrupt him. "He's too close to you."
"What's not to say any of the men in my department aren't too close to me?"
"Whoever you pick will have a state trooper working with him."
"You don't trust your own men?" Aggrieved, Jake threw up his hands.
"Do you want answers?"
"Shamus, I already got my answer. I've no doubt Spaulding is guilty," Jake said.
"Then this is the best way to handle it. When we catch the killer, it will ensure a conviction," Shamus said.
Jake pushed a hand through his hair. The air thinned, cutting off his next breath. "I need to get out of here."
He rushed from McGuire's office. At his desk Jake grabbed his car keys and ignored Louie's questions. He didn't trust himself to speak. The pit of his stomach burned. What if the DNA didn't match Spaulding's? Damn, he wanted to punch something. No, not something. He wanted to punch out Spaulding.
I swear if they release him — I'll — I'll kill him.
"Jake, wait up." Louie Romanelli followed him out of the bullpen.
"Not now." Jake kept walking.
Louie caught up to him and grabbed his arm as he would a suspect and twirled him around. If he wanted to, Jake could've decked him. They were evenly matched in height and weight. Instead, he stood rigid. "Talk to me," Louie said.
"Give me a couple of hours to pull myself together. We'll meet at my house later if you can. In the meantime, work the Wagner case. I'd hate not to give the Wagners the answers they need." He didn't bother to mention the case was similar to Eva's that, he too needed the closure.
"Tell me what's wrong. Did McGuire fire you?" Louie's olive complexion whitened as he asked the question. His dark eyes searched Jake's face for an answer.
Leave it to Louie. For the first time in over a half hour, he laughed. "No, I'm not fired. Spaulding's up for parole again and has requested new testing."
He stared down his friend as Louie processed the information. If it wasn't for Louie and his family during the weeks and months that followed Eva's death, he wouldn't be standing here today.
How different we are, Jake thought. Louie, married for seventeen years to his grade-school sweetheart, now had three kids. He, on the other hand, liked being single. Side by side, though they matched each other in height, his skin tone paled next to Louie's dark Italian coloring.
"Go back to work. I'll talk to you later."
Jake walked away with his head down and his mind spinning out in every direction. No matter what Shamus said, he owed it to Eva to find the answers.
It's my fault she died.
Louie checked the time. It was gonna be a tall order keeping Jake focused if Spaulding was released. McGuire beckoned him from his doorway as Louie reached for the Wagner file.
"Stay with Jake, he needs a friend right now."
"Cap, I'm meeting him at his house in a couple of hours. You want to fill me in?"
"Spaulding will come in front of the board sometime in late summer or early fall. The test results could make it sooner. It will depend on the lab's current and backlog caseloads," McGuire said.
"I got that from Jake. What aren't you telling me?" Louie asked.
"Spaulding's sure the results will clear him. He wants a new trial, an acquittal, this way he won't ever be tried again for the crime."
"It doesn't mean he'll get it." Louie ran a hand through his hair as he outlined the possibilities of Spaulding being set free.
"No, it doesn't. But a lot of prisoners have gone free with no DNA match, no matter what the other evidence against them was. Lawyers are now holding court in the press."
"If the case is reopened, who are you going to appoint to the case?" "I'm not jumping the gun, but if it comes to it, Burke and Kraus."
This time of day the bullpen came alive with activity. Criminals locked to chairs complained of their innocence or wrestled to free themselves. Some spit or let loose other bodily functions as revenge for getting caught. Victims cried, reliving their horror as they gave their accounts of events. Nervous witnesses sat waiting their turns to speak. In the midst of all the activities, Louie tried to concentrate on the Wagner file, but kept coming back to Jake and that horrible time in their lives.
Since they were ten, he and Jake had been as close as brothers. In fact, he was closer to Jake than to his own brother. Their lives had become a nightmare when Eva had been killed. Nothing he'd done had helped Jake deal with the tragedy. The only thing he had been able to do was be there for him. The helpless feeling overwhelmed him again. One event had changed many lives. What was he going to say to Jake?
Maybe I should ask Sophia to come with me? Nah, Jake would feel like we're ganging up on him.
Louie picked up the Wagner file. A thick one with no answers, little evidence, and statements on how wonderful and perfect Shanna was. If they didn't catch a break soon, Shanna Wagner's case would go into the unsolved file. A shadow fell over his desk as he studied the file. Looking up, Louie bit back a curse. Not her again. The petite brunette with the sloe eyes stood with hand on hip, waiting on him to look up at her. Chloe Wagner, the bane of Jake's existence, Louie thought.
Thank God Jake didn't have to deal with her in his current state of mind. Louie looked around the bullpen as the noise level lowered to a hum. There's no one nosier than a cop. Chloe's frequent visits had become louder and more accusing since Jake had dropped her. Louie wondered if the woman had ever cared about her sister. Oh well, deal with it.
"How can I help you, Ms. Wagner?"
"I need answers. My parents need answers. When are we going to get them?"
"Your sister's case is being worked every day. But we need new evidence, something to lead us in a new direction. Everything we've investigated has led to dead ends."
"My family's torn apart. My mother checks up on me several times a day to make sure I'm okay. My father walks around in a fog, like he's lost. I'm positive they're heading toward a divorce. You say you can't do anything else? That's a load of crap. You expect your answer will make me go away? Well, it won't. I'll go over your head, Detective," she shouted. The other detectives in the bullpen came to attention and went on alert. Action or gossip, it didn't matter to the detectives as long as it got their adrenaline going.
"Take a seat, Ms. Wagner." Louie pointed to the single torn-up chair on the side of his desk.
Chloe Wagner didn't resemble her sister in looks, personality, or activities. Her five-foot-two-inch frame carried one hundred five pounds. Her almond-shaped eyes, along with her hair, were brown, offsetting a round face and full lips, and all of it wrapped in a bossy, possessive nature. Louie could see her appeal until she opened her mouth. Her personality would be a turnoff for any man, but a man like Jake, with commitment phobia — it had sent him running. He'd dumped her within a month, but for some reason, this one wouldn't let go. It would have been amusing if she wasn't hounding the entire department. Louie understood deep down that Chloe could ruin Jake's career. He never should've dated her while the investigation was going on, but Jake had ignored the rules. The decision seemed to be coming back to bite Jake on the ass ever since. Though they cleared her, Chloe was still a suspect.
Louie repeated himself. Maybe this time it would get through. "Ms. Wagner, we explained it all last week. We're working the file. Shanna is not forgotten." He picked up the file and held it out with Shanna's name facing Chloe. "We haven't given up."
"It's been over two months since she was found."
"We'll be interviewing everyone again. In the heat of the moment people sometimes forget the details. Once they calm down they remember more." He scribbled a number on his pad. A number he and Jake had given her every time she showed up there. "Here's the number to the station's switchboard if you have any further questions."
Chloe was a dog with a bone. "If I don't get answers soon, I'll be going over your heads!" she shouted. She didn't take the paper from his hand but lowered her voice. "Where's Jake?"
"He's out on another case. What else can I do for you?"
"Why's he not returning my phone calls?"
Her anger directed at Jake belonged to the killer. "I have no idea. You'll need to discuss it with him."
He stood, dismissing her as he started to walk her toward the door. "I would if he'd answer his freakin' phone," Chloe said in a huff.
"I don't get involved in his personal life, Ms. Wagner. I'll tell him you stopped by."
Before he headed home, Jake walked around the downtown area hoping the distraction would clear his head. The weather for April suited him. It was said, if you didn't like the weather in New England, you only had to wait five minutes for it to change. And that was no folktale, he thought. The sixty-degree temperatures were a gift this time of year. Last week there was frost, this week heat. A mild breeze ruffled his auburn hair, the promise of summer in the air. I was looking forward to summer and the outdoor activities until McGuire dropped his damn bomb. He passed the new modern courthouse on Meadow Street. Smokers puffed away outside the building. The courthouse stood out against the nineteen-thirties architecture of the other municipal buildings lining the street. The size of the city suited him. One hundred thousand-plus residents made it a city, but kept the small-town attitudes and feelings alive.
His lanky stride ate up the sidewalk as he headed down Grand Street toward the federal building, which housed the main post office and other federal divisions. Son of a gun, it isn't my day. As he walked past city hall, Wilkesbury's idiot mayor, along with his entourage, stepped in front of him.
Excerpted from "All the Deadly Lies"
Copyright © 2018 Marian Lanouette.
Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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