About the Book
In the enigmatic town of Blackberry Cove, numerous suspects emerge. As Gregg delves deeper into the shadows, he realizes that the people holding his daughter are convinced the missing man has been brutally killed, despite no body or crime scene. As time passes, the kidnappers grow more impatient and send him a grisly warning. One misstep could cost Gregg his daughter's life.
Gregg's quest for justice becomes a race against the clock to save his daughter. Will he be able to decode the clues in time to rescue her, or will he be consumed by the darkness that threatens to engulf them both?
At first glance, she was no one.
Her face in the photograph was so disfigured, Gregg could imagine any woman's features in its place, even his daughter's. Found in the basement of a vacant house, she'd been tied up and fired at with a nail gun, repeatedly. Her clothes were pierced, her skin impaled, until finally one nail hit her windpipe and brought the torture to an abrupt end.
The depth of the wounds—quite shallow—meant the killer fired from at least a few feet away. They wouldn't have meant to hit her throat intentionally. Their aim would have been too remarkable.
Rachel Milgram slid another photograph across Gregg's desk. This time not of the dead woman, but of a rugged man. A bead of rainwater trickled from Rachel's loose and parted hair, dampening the picture. Boston's rain was frequent and heavy, and the faulty heating in Gregg's office ensured clients were always soaking his furniture and dripping on his floor.
"This man—Liam Watts—disappeared on the night she was murdered," Rachel said. "We believe he was murdered as well, but his body was never found."
Gregg studied the file. "The town's in Vermont?"
"Yes, Blackberry Cove."
Rachel adjusted her silk scarf and tucked the ends into her trench coat, which she then unbuttoned. Beneath, she sported a black sweater. She wasn't law enforcement. Another private citizen was hiring Gregg's services. The only strange thing was, his PI services usually involved cheating husbands or workers' comp scams, not murder investigations.
Gregg tapped the pictures of the dead woman. "Tell me about her."
"Mayor's wife—Clementine Stannard. Originally from New Jersey. Met the mayor when they studied in Montpelier. Got married shortly after. Loved by everyone, according to the reports."
"What exactly do you want from me?"
Rachel reached into her pocket and revealed a sheet of folded paper which she uncrumpled and placed on the desk. She slid it closer, but Gregg didn't have to read it. He'd recognize that article anywhere.
Next to the column of texts were two pictures. The first was of him dressed in his suit, standing next to his old partner, Jim. The second picture showed a smiling twelve-year-old girl named Emilie Jones.
The article reported the story of how young Emilie had been missing for nearly twenty-eight hours. She disappeared after her dad dropped her off at school. The teachers said she never showed up for class, and none of the other students remembered seeing her.
The BPD questioned Emilie's uncle, establishing he had been molesting the girl for years. They'd focused all their attention on him, believing he killed her after deciding she was old enough to talk about the abuse.
Gregg, however, as the article retold, explored a different theory. Thinking the uncle's wife knew more than she was letting on, he went back to interview her. He believed that not only did the aunt know about the abuse, but she also blamed Emilie for taking away her husband. He found the twelve-year-old girl in the trunk of the aunt's car, gagged and beaten. Barely breathing. A couple more hours, the paramedics said, and she'd have had no chance.
"So, what?" Gregg asked. "I got lucky nearly a decade ago, and now you think I'm Batman?"
"It must have been a great feeling," Rachel said, "to find that girl alive."
"After the birth of my daughter, it was the happiest moment of my life."
"You didn't find her by luck. You have a unique perspective on things, Mr. Hunter."
"Miss Milgram." Gregg glanced at his watch. "The job?"
"I want that unique perspective on the missing man in Blackberry Cove."
Gregg stood. "Sorry, Miss Milgram. I don't leave Boston. Send me copies of the case files if you want an assessment."
Rachel remained seated. "Since the woman was the mayor's wife, Blackberry Cove's police force has focused all their resources on finding her killer for three months with no luck. They're barely investigating the missing man."
"I'm willing to pay you—"
"It's not about money. Family priorities. I'm sorry." He shuffled around the corner of his desk and opened the door to his office.
Though his daughter probably wouldn't, Gregg liked to be nearby on the off chance she might call and ask to see him, perhaps for dinner or a movie. She was the only reason he still solved cases. Trying to prove to her—even without his badge and after the divorce—that he still could.
Rachel dragged herself to the door. "I thought you helped people, Mr. Hunter. This man needs help, and no one is doing anything about it. You didn't even ask anything about him. Don't you care?"
"If you've read that article, you know the answer to that," he replied.
Rachel expelled a short breath, then buttoned her coat. She forced a polite smile that was tinged with frustration and left the office. Gregg grabbed his umbrella and followed suit.
About the Author
Ben Cotterill was born and raised in Stirling, Scotland. Interested in understanding extreme human behaviors, he studied forensic psychology. After earning his PhD, he moved to the United States to teach forensic psychology to university students. When not working or writing fiction, he spends his weekends hiking the Appalachians and his vacations exploring as much of the world as possible.