About the Book
Title: The Defenseless
Author: Carolyn Arnold
Genre: Mystery / Suspense
The first victim was poisoned. Three others are still missing. One more turns up dead. But there is one connection that ties them all together.
This case has FBI Agent Brandon Fisher and the team in Colorado to stop a serial killer targeting men who beat charges of animal abuse over twenty years ago. With the method of murder changing to match what his victims had allegedly inflicted on the defenseless, the team questions who is on the side of justice--them or the murderer. After all, their unsub is seeking retribution on behalf of the victims who have no voice.
While facing this moral dilemma, Brandon’s loyalty to the bureau is also tested. But Brandon is up for the challenge--anything to get his mind off his pending divorce and the upcoming holiday. Being thousands of miles from home, the forbidden relationship between him and Paige becomes more tempting, but is he willing to risk all that he’s worked for?
CAROLYN ARNOLD is the bestselling author of the Madison Knight series, the Brandon Fisher series, and the McKinley Mysteries. Her love for writing dates back to her teen years, but her passion was reignited in 2006 when a fellow employee said "tell me a story." Since then Carolyn has never looked back.
Her writing has since been compared to New York Times Bestsellers such as JD Robb, Mary Higgins Clark, Sue Grafton, Michael Connelly, Tess Gerritsen, and more.
Carolyn was born in 1976 in a rural town of Ontario, Canada, and she currently lives with her husband and two beagles in a city near Toronto.
For more information on the author visit https://carolynarnold.net/
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December 15th, 6 a.m.
The plane touched down at Denver International Airport just after six in the morning. I was happy to have the tumultuous flight over with, and thought it should have been canceled, but apparently those responsible for that sort of thing had cleared take-off.
Flying typically didn’t bother me, but high winds and various temperature pockets had buffeted the plane, rocking it almost like a ship at sea, only we were thirty thousand feet in the air. Land never looked so good.
Zachery slapped me on the back and had me lurching forward from the momentum. “We made it, Pending.”
Months into my probationary period but still not clear of it—something I was reminded of all the time by his beloved nickname.
Jack brushed past, leading the three of us through the airport, no doubt driven by the undying urge for a cigarette. Paige hung back, and when I turned, she pushed a rogue strand of hair from her eyes and dipped to the left as she shifted the position of her suitcase strap on her right shoulder.
We were called to Colorado because some old-timer detective by the name of Mack McClellan was certain the area had a serial killer. He believed it strongly enough we were convinced as well.
The label serial killer no longer fazed me, and it only took a few horrid cases to rub off its shock value.
Regular people, who didn’t have to hunt down murderers, lived life as if they were merely characters fabricated for entertainment purposes. The dark truth was, conservatively, there were an estimated thirty-five to fifty serial killers in the United States at any given time.
The local FBI office was to provide us with transportation, but it was the local detective who insisted on meeting us at the airport and bringing us up to speed.
Stepping out of the warm cocoon of the airport into the brisk winter air of Denver stole my breath. It had me wanting to retreat back inside for the warm, blowing vents.
For recreational purposes, Denver would be an ideal location to spend the Christmas season, with its mountain slopes and deep snow. Even facing the search for a killer, I’d rather be here, miles away from home, than facing the emptiness of the house on Christmas day.
This would be the first year without Deb. The only thing that could make it better was reconciliation, but we were beyond that point. Truth be told, I wasn’t even sure if I’d take her back. The divorce was already filed, and knowing my penchant for attracting negative events, it would be official in time for the holiday. It didn’t matter though. I had found a way to move forward in my life—at least I told myself that. Maybe I was burying my feelings, but I preferred to think I healed faster than most.
“Hey, there they are.”
A man pushed off the hood of a Crown Vic, the cup in his hand steaming in the cold air. At full height, he was all of five eight. His hair was sparse, and reminded me of a Chia Pet just starting to grow, but what he did have was a dark blond. He wore a thigh-length wool parka, zipped up shy of his collar by about six inches. It revealed a white collared shirt and a blue tie with white dots. I wondered if he dressed this way all the time or only when the FBI was in town.
He put his cup on the car roof and came toward us with another man who wore a fur-lined leather jacket paired with blue jeans, which appeared stiff due to the mountain air.
It had me wondering which scenario was more uncomfortable, frozen stiff jeans, or breezy dress pants. I experienced the latter and questioned the wardrobe I had brought, wondering if I’d be warm enough.
Curse winter and all that’s white.
“Gentleman, I’m Mack McClellan.” The man in the parka extended his hand, first to Jack. He must have sensed his authority despite the lit cigarette.
Jack took a quick inhale and blew a stream of white pollution out the side of his mouth as he shook the man’s hand. “Supervisory Special Agent Jack Harper, and this is my team.” Jack left us to introduce ourselves.
McClellan’s gaze settled on me, and I surmised what he was thinking—I was the young guy on the team, the inexperienced one he’d have to watch.
He gestured to the man with him. “This is Detective Ronnie Hogan. He’s also with Denver PD. We’re not partners, but he’s of the same mind. There’s a serial at play here.”
Hogan bobbed his head forward as a greeting, but made no effort to extend a hand. His eyes were brown and hard to read. He had etched crease lines in his brow, but he also had smile lines, so there was some promise there. Not that we witnessed the expression.
McClellan grinned with a warmth that touched his eyes, giving me the impression he was used to Hogan’s aloofness. “Glad to see you made it all right. It’s quite the weather we’re having these days. How was your flight?”
Jack took another drag on his cigarette. “Over now.”
His retort killed the expression on the detective’s face. “A man who is all business, I see. So, the dead body. You know the name and details.”
Another pull on the cigarette, and Jack flicked the glowing butt to the ground and extinguished it with the twist of a shoe.
“We know what the file says, but we like to go over everything in person.” Paige smiled at the detectives, no doubt trying to compensate for Jack’s crass behavior.
“Well, let us fill you in on the way to where the body was found. My, it’s mighty cold out here.” He rubbed his hands together and grabbed his cup before going around to the driver’s side. “For everyone to be more comfortable, two of you can come with me, and the other two can go with Hogan.”
McClellan seemed like an open book—what you saw was what you got. With Hogan, there was something about him, whether it was his skepticism or what, I wasn’t sure. A quality that should repel actually made me want to get to know him.
“I’ll go with Hogan.” Paige and I spoke at the same time.
Our eyes connected. In the past this symmetry in thought would have elicited a smile from both of us. These days our relationship was more complicated.
Paige stepped back and sought Jack’s direction. “I’ll go with whomever you want me to.”
“It’s fine. You guys go with Hogan. We’ll all catch up at the crime scene.”
She went past me and held out her hand to Hogan. “I don’t think we’ve been properly introduced.”
Hogan stared at her extended hand and, eventually, conceded to a handshake. The greeting was over quick.
As he was getting into the driver’s seat, I whispered in Paige’s ear. “He’s not really the touchy-feely kind, is he?”
I received a glare in response.
“Things must be slow for you guys if you’re willing to come all the way here for this case.” Hogan kept his eyes on the road, his voice level as he spoke. He made a quick pass of a slower-moving vehicle.
My fingers gripped the armrest on the door, indenting the foam beneath it. “You’re not buying that it’s a serial at work?”
A small snort, which could have been construed as a laugh. “I’m not saying anything. McClellan can be a convincing man. I agree the situations surrounding these men are similar. Whether that means anything more, I haven’t fully decided.”
He touched the brakes, and the back end of the car lost traction and swayed to the right. No one else seemed to notice or care.
“How long have you been with Denver PD?” Paige asked.
It warranted a quick, sideways glance from Hogan. “Is this where you try to get to know me better?”
Paige’s jaw tightened. “If you don’t like people, why are you a cop?”
I settled in to the seat, happy that I wasn’t on the receiving end for a change. Part of me wished to be elsewhere, the other part wondered who would come out the victor.
“Who says I don’t like people? I like people. I just don’t like feds.”
“And what have we done to you?”
Hogan kept his eyes straight ahead. “McClellan feels the latest victim was left there for us to find. Like this guy wants to get caught.”
“So that’s how you get by in life? You shut people down who try to get close.”
“You want to get close to me, sweetheart, we’ll do it after hours, but now’s the job.”
Air rushed from Paige’s mouth, skimming over teeth and making a whooshing sound on the exhale. She knotted her arms and kicked her back into the seat as she did so.
Hogan didn’t give any indication he was affected by her response. He took a street on the right, made a quick left, parked, and cut the engine. “We’re here.”
“I’m glad you told us,” Paige mumbled and got out of the car.
We had beat the other detective and the rest of our team, but as we made our way toward the dumpster, the department-issued sedan pulled in, crunching snow beneath the wheels.
When we were all standing around the dumpster at the back of Lynn’s Bakery, McClellan pointed to the right of the bin.
“The body was found right there. He was covered in snow, with only the tip of his boots showing. The waste removal company found him when they came to empty the bin. At first they thought someone was too lazy to pick up the trash and dispose of it properly. They stepped out to lift it and got more than they expected.”
His hands shook every time, but someone had to clean up the city. The government certainly wasn’t going to do anything about it. Those who were elected put on a show for glamor and fame with no real purpose. They slept in their million-dollar homes and shut out the ugliness of the world around them. For appearance’s sake, they went to their charity benefits while being too lazy to deal with the issues. The promises made to those who’d voted them into office in the first place were forgotten. It was a disgusting irony that defined politics. The very men who swore to deal with issues, to rectify injustices, sat on the sidelines, more incompetent than most.
This is why he was left to take the power into his own hands and make a difference to society. He brought justice for the Defenseless by condemning their Offender.
It was this reasoning that added justification for his actions. Everyone had a purpose. His was to speak for the victims who have no voice. He was their Advocate.
Placing Simpson’s body on display was a message to the world to let them know crimes against the Defenseless would not be tolerated, and that those who inflicted abuse upon them would be held accountable.
This Offender, his latest captive, would take patience, but that was one thing he had developed over the years. A tempering of knowing when best to strike, and whom.
The Advocate watched his captive through a camera he had placed in the man’s cell. The Offender was extended the same courtesies he had provided his canine companion—a dank corner with an empty food dish and a shitty water bowl. To complete the retribution he put a tight choker around his neck and attached it to a short chain.
For hours, the man had protested his captivity, but now his cries for help had lost conviction. What was once a high-pitched fervor had dulled to a mumbled whisper. Despair and hopelessness were taking over.
The thought made the Advocate smile. He was making a difference. He offered no mercy for these men. The Offenders deserved what was coming their way, and if he was the one destined to exact the punishment, he would see it through. Exacting revenge and punishment on these mongrels had become his driving purpose in life. It was what he was meant to do.