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"You'd better go easy on that breakfast buffet, Hunter. I need you in Pender County at Ivanhoe. I'm told it's a gruesome scene on Black River. Prepare yourself," said Kent Poletti, my supervisor. He'd spotted me slugging down my morning coffee and juice at the Grand Marquis Hotel breakfast buffet.
He tugged my arm, leading me away from the crowded 2008 North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation Conference meeting room. Poletti's voice sounded ragged, his face looked tired and stressed, and I couldn't help but notice he had started to gray since I last saw him. "Law enforcement has been told to rope off and wait for you and the coroner. And aren't you from that area anyway?"
"I once lived near that river, but sir..."
"No 'buts', Hunter. I need you. We're critically short-handed--half the force is passing some infernal virus back and forth to each other, and we're up to our collective asses in new cases."
"I lived in Atkinson just a few miles from the river as a child. But, sir, I'm supposed to be on leave right now." An uncharacteristic whine entered my voice.
"Forget leave. I'm assigning you to this case, Logan. I don't have a choice." He'd moved from my last name to first name. I don't stand a damn chance. His steel blue eyes held me like shackles while he spat out directions to the Corbett house, which sat just above the river in the tiny community of Ivanhoe. In the boonies, at least four hours away. I knew the house. I'd always liked that house, nestled in the bend of the river at Beatty's Bridge.
And forget leave?
This didn't sound like a case that could be solved in a hurry. I'd arranged to take a few days off so I could go hometo Genesis Beach and make plans for my wedding. I'd come to Charlotte today, begrudgingly, and my vacation evaporated after one fricking day off! I hadn't even chosen my wedding gown.
Chase Railey, the love of my life, still worked in Asheville winding up a case before he came on board with the SBI. We'd planned to marry within the next six months, and hoped we could work on cases together as we had when we first met, thrown together by a serial killer in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
But now the wedding plans would have to wait. I mumbled obscenities, put the glass of juice on the table, and poured my coffee into a large Styrofoam cup that I could take with me.