“Olivia, a café owner and cook, never regretted forsaking her dreams to finish raising her sisters after the death of their parents. Now grown, they’ve moved out of the house, leaving Olivia free to pick up where she left off – if she can find the courage to start over.
Mason is a Boston police detective, recuperating from a tragic incident that left his partner dead. All he wants is to heal and get back to the job of hunting the killer down. The last thing on his mind is romance.
Despite their mutual attraction, finding love wasn’t in either of their plans. But as their relationship heats up, events begin to happen that make Olivia realize she’s drawn a far more sinister kind of attention. Suddenly, she finds herself fighting not only for her dreams, but for her very life.”
Detective Mason Clark looked up from the file in his lap and watched the scenery pass by his window. Multi-family homes with peeling paint and sagging porches slumped alongside cracked sidewalks. Even the sky looked gray and dingy, as if it, too, suffered from the same socio-economic forces as the neighborhood it watched over.
Amidst the monochromatic backdrop, colored strands of lights were haphazardly draped in windows and interwoven between the slats in some of the fences. Mason turned to his partner of five years and grumbled, “It’s not even Halloween or Thanksgiving yet, and people already have their Christmas lights up. When did everybody start rushing through the holidays?”
Detective Ryan Miller shrugged and laughed at his best friend. “I don’t know, man. You’d think people would want to savor one holiday before rushing to the next. It’s not as if post-holiday winter holds some great prize. Late January and February are the worst, all the bad weather and none of the good stuff.”
He thought about that and nodded. “Speaking of which, you and Shauna getting along any better? She gonna let you see your kid for the holidays?”
Mason knew they’d been having some problems and had recently separated. He also knew Ryan was still hoping to work things out. He looked over at his friend, who now had a pained look on his face.
“Sort of, I get the day after Thanksgiving with her and will be stopping by for Christmas Eve. They’re heading over to Shauna’s parents’ house on Christmas Day.” Stopped at a traffic light, they stared out of the windshield as a wrinkled, drunk, old man stumbled past them on the crosswalk.
He chuckled, ruefully. “She told me she wants a MacBook.”
Ryan pulled the car to the curb. They paused a moment, taking in the details of the run-down, faded house sitting before them. At one point, Mason thought, it might have been blue, but the building had slowly become a faded gray over time. The color fled long ago, abandoning the inhabitants much like hope and prosperity had done before it.
Mason set the papers on the dash and removed his seatbelt. “So, this is where the bastard lives, huh? You want to take point on this, or should I?”
“I’ve got it. Something about this guy stinks. I think about scum like this stalking and hurting women and it makes me physically ill. All I can think is, what if someone like this got close to my Jenny? If he’s our guy, I’m hoping we can throw him away for good.”
“Alright, you get point, but don’t get overeager. Remember, we don’t have any solid evidence on him yet. They tried to get him for stalking over in Ohio, but couldn’t get anything to stick.”
Ryan sighed with exasperation. “It doesn’t help that stalking is so hard to prosecute. A woman practically has to be assaulted or kidnapped just to get any attention. By then, it’s usually too late.”
Mason agreed, “Well, hopefully, it’s not too late for this woman.”
They both swung out of the car and scanned their surroundings. The sun was just beginning to break through the clouds, but Mason could still see his breath coming out in little puffs. Gray patches of snow cowered in shadows, remnants of the last snowstorm.
Leading the way, Ryan walked up the steps in front of the door and rang the bell. “Mr. Mendez? Are you home? We need to ask you a few questions.”
Robert Mendez barely cracked the door open. He stood between it and the frame, his body blocking any view of the gloom behind him. He wasn’t very tall—only about 5’10” or so—but his shoulders were broad and it was obvious he kept himself in good shape. Mason noticed he was dressed completely in black: black cargo pants, combat boots and a black shirt buttoned all the way up to his neck.
“Officers,” Robert looked at the two men standing before him and scowled. “What do you want?”
In his most official tone, Ryan inquired, “Robert Mendez? We’re in the process of canvassing the area and have reason to believe you may know something about the disappearance of a young woman from this neighborhood. May we come in and ask you a few questions?”
Just then, they heard a thump, like something, or someone, falling and a soft, muffled cry from one of the back rooms. Mason watched Robert’s shoulders tense and his eyes give a quick flick before immediately smoothing his face back to an inscrutable expression.
“Sir, are you alone in the house? Who do you have back there with you?” Raising his voice, Ryan took a small step forward, lifting his hand to push the door further open…
Shock and surprise registered on Ryan’s face as his chest exploded in a sea of red. His expression seared itself into Mason’s memory just as a bullet slammed into his own body, slightly off-center since his partner shielded most of him.
The weight of the other detective stumbling back threw Mason off balance, sending both of them tumbling down the stoop. Mason struggled to see past the black spots beginning to form in his eyes and managed to whip his gun from its holster.
Desperately, he pulled the trigger, aiming towards the man now dashing out the front door towards them. The doorframe splintered as he took his only shot.
A second slug created a fiery trail of pain along his arm, grazing his shoulder. Gasping, he began to hear screams from across the street.
With adrenaline rushing through him, he attempted to get up, but his left arm didn’t seem to be working very well and he couldn’t get enough oxygen into his lungs. Each breath speared him with searing pain. For a moment, the entire world centered on his next inhalation.
With a feeling of detachment, almost as if he were watching a movie, Mason crumbled to the ground and lay there while the suspect bounded over him and Ryan, rushing towards his car. A woman with large, haunted eyes and a nest of stringy brown hair peered out from the shadows within the house.
Her mouth formed a hollow oval, reminding him of an Edward Munch painting. Her scream echoed throughout his soul, mirroring the one in his own head. As he succumbed to the blackness dragging him under, his last thought was of Ryan.