Lost Diamond Girls
Names are deadly.
Diamonds are deadlier...
Detective Gabe Nichols is ready to start fresh. A new city, a new job, a new life. After all he and Kyra have been through in the past year, they deserve it. His first day on the new job brings a bizarre case in which several victims around the city are targeted. They all have identical names.
Detective Cody Oliver has moved from rural, small-town cop life to the big city. He and Gabe team up for a bizarre case. One that makes little logical sense and brings enemies from the past to the forefront of their lives again.
When another victim with the same name goes missing, and they realize missing children may be involved, Gabe and Cody race to figure out what clandestine organization is behind the murders. If they don’t act fast, more innocent victims may be lost to the light forever.
Read Excerpt Below:
Not everyone can be saved.
The line rang through Gabe's head over and over as he got ready for his first day at the new job. A white, button-down shirt atop dress pants made him feel professional. And like a fraud.
In Abstreuse, the detectives mostly dressed casually, especially given that they might have needed to venture into the Mire on any given day. And the Mire had been no place for clean clothes.
He had a feeling this would be a different sort of job. At least they didn’t insist on a tie.
Not everyone can be saved.
After the year he’d had, he couldn’t shake the thought, and he knew how ridiculous it made him. Who wanted a detective who didn’t believe people could be saved?
He didn’t know if he was cut out for police work anymore. And he didn’t want to quit. Truly. He looked forward to digging into some meaningful work for the first time in months.
He only wished his thoughts weren’t so dark. He wished he could be more of an optimist. Like Kyra. And he tried. Truly he did. His heart simply wasn’t in it.
After checking his appearance one more time in the bathroom mirror, he headed downstairs, to the cozy living area in the house he shared with his wife.
He noted the plate of toast she’d left on the table for him. In truth, he didn’t have an appetite this morning.
Kyra already sat at her computer, perched on a wheeled chair, hunched over her keyboard and pounding away at the keys. She’d been doing this a lot lately.
Her fingers went still, and she swiveled in her chair to face him as he came down the stairs. Her eyes traveled up and down his clothing, assessing him.
“Heading out?” she asked.
Still in the T-shirt and shorts she’d worn to bed the night before, she got to her feet, running her hand through her dark blonde hair. “Well, good luck on your first day. I know you’ll be great. Probably solve all the city’s cold cases by this afternoon.”
“Right,” he smirked. The way she met his eye when she said it, and the sincerity in her voice, put some warmth in his chest. Nervous as he felt, he needed it.
“Thank you.” He stepped forward and kissed her lightly. “I'll call you at lunch.”
He glanced past her, toward the computer. “You ready to tell me what you're working on over there day and night?”
A sly grin slid onto her face. Where he might have normally been annoyed with her secrecy, he found her coy smile sexy.
She stepped closer to him and reached up, twining her wrists together behind his neck. “Not yet. I want to get it all ready before I show you what it is.”
He studied her face, searching for any hint of what she might be doing, hoping she’d crack and tell him.
She pressed her lips firmly together, clasped her hands behind her back, and raised her chin a few centimeters.
Gabe chuckled and stepped back. “Have it your way. I don’t want to be late. Wish me luck.”
“Try to get back to the work you love, Gabe,” she said firmly, giving his hand a final squeeze. “Don’t think about Dillon at all.”
Gabe mustered a weak smile as the greasy feeling he always got when someone mentioned his brother built up in his chest. He opened the front door.
“Good luck!” she called as the door shut behind him.
Twenty-five minutes later, Gabe walked through the front, glass doors of his new station. A receptionist greeted him and walked him back toward Captain Tellson’s office.
Much different than the small precinct he’d been used to in Abstreuse, the relatively new building sprawled right and left with dozens of cubicles and desks, all full of people typing away on their computers or talking into their desk phones.
It reminded him of an enormous call center, except everyone happened to be doing police work.
Gabe had met the captain the previous week, when he’d come into the building several times to get the red tape out of the way. Paperwork, insurance, background checks, and the like.
The moment he stepped into Tellson's office, she looked up at him with a smile. A handsome woman in her middle years, with dark skin and hair, she wore pastel-colored pantsuit every time Gabe met with her.
She managed to look feminine and somewhat alluring, while also giving off the vibe of a rottweiler than any person with two cents’ worth of intelligence knew better than to mess with.
“Detective Nichols,” she rose from her chair and came around her desk. “Ready for your first day?”
“Yes, ma'am,” Gabe nodded. “Did you find a desk for me?”
Tellson motioned with one arm. “This way.”
Gabe turned sideways so she could slip past him through the door. Then he followed her across the expansive ground-floor of the station.
A hub for a great deal of the police activity for this precinct, this building housed not only the detectives and the uniformed cops—most of whom didn’t have desks anyway—but also supplemental workers, such as programmers, data analysts, and a dozen others who worked on logistics and paperwork Gabe couldn’t have named.
HR sat on the floor above them, and Gabe knew the basement held a dispatch center.
Captain Tellson navigated what felt like a maze and deftly and brought him to the far corner of the room.
Here, slightly larger desks were clustered in groups of four, all facing one another. Similar to the setup Gabe enjoyed in Abstreuse with Tyke and Cora.
Before disaster struck. The disaster that shut down the precinct and prompted Gabe to leave Abstreuse forever.
Gabe’s eyes fell on a desk, empty save for one manilla file folder lying perfectly centered on top.
“This is your seat, Detective Nichols,” Tellson said, gesturing vaguely toward the empty desk. “These buffoons around you are your fellow detectives. They’ll show you the ropes, though I don’t expect you’ll need much. Your first case is in the folder,” her eyes shifted pointedly toward the file and back. “Any questions?”
“No, ma'am,” Gabe answered.
Only three other desks in the entire area were occupied. One held a slender man with a buzzed head who only stood as high as Gabe’s shoulder. He dug a spoon into a carton of something as they approached, chewing loudly.
Directly across from Gabe’s desk stood a tall man, perhaps in his late forties, with long hair that hung down his back, tattoo sleeves on both arms, and kind eyes surrounded by deep crows’ feet.
The third detective, a woman about Gabe’s age, had short-cropped strawberry blond hair and an attractive, round face.
Gabe strode over to stand behind his chair before the three detectives closed in around his desk.
“Dean Wilson,” the man with the buzzed head said, extending his hand. He had a hooked nose and a firm handshake.
The man with the long hair sat directly across from Gabe. He shook Gabe’s hand, too. When he smiled, Gabe caught a hint of gold teeth. “Ray Myers,” he said, his voice so quiet, Gabe strained to hear it. “Nice to meet you.”
Gabe guessed the man was naturally soft spoken.
He turned to the red-haired woman next, who flashed him a winning smile. “Robin Kettenring. How are you?”
Gabe shook her hand as well. “Anxious to get started.”
Wilson perched against the side of Gabe's desk and started shoveling food into his mouth again.
Gabe thought he detected a twinkle in the man’s eyes. “So, Nichols, huh? Any relation to the serial killer they just transferred up to the penitentiary?”
And with that, the first painful moment of the day arrived.
Gabe suppressed a sigh. He supposed it was best to rip off the bandaid. From the air of mischief about Detective Wilson, he could tell the man was teasing him. Trying to give him crap about having the same last name as a serial killer.
Poor guy. His attempt to bond with the newbie was about to backfire in a big way.
“He's my brother.”
Wilson choked on his food, coughing and sputtering for several seconds before wiping his mouth and turning to stare at Gabe. The other detectives around him turned wide eyes on him as well.
They would have made the connection quickly. After all, Dillon had been in the news a great deal and anyone who worked in law enforcement would follow the story of a serial killer being kept in the state pen close to where they worked.
The looks on his new co-workers’ faces said they'd assumed it would be a hi-I'm-Gabe-Nichols-no-relation sort of situation.
Gabe had hoped Tellson would have told them about him. He glanced down at her now and found her wearing a patient, knowing smile. She'd obviously expected exactly this.
Turning on her heel, she headed back toward her office, patting Gabe's arm as she walked past. “Good luck on your first day, Detective. If you have any questions, you know where my office is.”
“Thank you, Ma’am,” Gabe murmured.
An awkward silence descended over the four detectives.
“S-so,” Robin stuttered, obviously trying to break it. “Do you…see your brother often?”
Gabe nodded as he pulled out his chair. He’d already decided he would simply be as honest as possible with his fellow detectives. As he would be working closely with them, hiding the truth from them wouldn’t be an option anyway.
“I visit him once a week.”
“And,” this voice came from Ray. “What's that like?”
Gabe raised his head and looked Ray dead in the eye. “Difficult.” He kept his voice steady and calm. “It's very difficult.”
“I'm so sorry Detective,” Robin said softly.
Gabe looked up and met each of their eyes in succession. Empathy stared back at him. Even Detective Wilson, who still looked somewhat chagrined after the yogurt-inhaling incident, met Gabe's eyes with understanding.
Good. Already Gabe felt a kinship with them. He could see they respected his honesty. Somehow, he thought he would be fine here.
He sat down in the chair and flipped open the file folder. A report that came in roughly half an hour ago stared back at him. An elderly woman had been found dead. Likely the result of a break-in. The unies and ME were probably at the scene now, waiting for the detective to arrive.
“Well,” he flipped the file shut again. “Looks like I have a crime scene to get to.”
“Yeah,” Wilson said clearing his throat. “I glanced through the file.”
He raised his hands in a placating way when Gabe arched an eyebrow at him.
“Sorry. I wondered which case the Captain would start you off with. I doubt it will be a hard one. Don't be too disappointed if you don’t get it solved.”
Gabe frowned, not sure what to make of the comment. “Why do you say that?”
Wilson shrugged. “Looks like a B & E gone bad. Probably some young punk looking to steal a tablet computer or something. It’s not uncommon in that part of the city, and those types of cases are almost never closed.”
By the tone in the man's voice and sincerity on his face, Gabe could tell he meant to be friendly; simply not wanting Gabe to get his hopes up.
Gabe merely nodded and opened the file once again. He didn’t agree, though.
Not everyone could be saved. Not by a long shot. That didn't mean every crime couldn't be solved.
Closing the file and nodding to the others, he got to his feet and headed for the parking garage.
The blaring of his alarm—upbeat, high-energy music—yanked Cody from his slumber. Alex set his phone alarm to some bizarre, high-tempo indie rock song to ‘help him wake up with more energy.’
Yeah, it wasn't working. An alarm was an alarm, no matter what it sounded like.
With a groan, Cody rolled over and slapped the screen of his smart phone three times before managing to silence the music. He rolled back over to snuggle under his blankets a moment longer.
Then reality came crashing in and he remembered he lay in bed alone. Alex didn’t sleep beside him. She hadn't for more than a week. Out of town for a job, she should be back tomorrow, but the house felt lonely without her.
Her absence, more than anything else, rousted him from his blankets. When he awoke to find her sleeping beside him, he wanted to spend a few extra minutes in bed. Without her there, he felt isolated and wanted to get up and start his day.
With a sigh, he threw his legs over the side of the mattress and headed for the bathroom.
After showering, shaving, and dressing, he headed into the kitchen to make his own breakfast. Another thing Alex always did for him in the morning.
Not that he couldn’t cook for himself, of course. He’d been a bachelor for a good handful of years before marrying, after all, and he did fine. Alex enjoyed doing it for him, though. He missed her presence, her warmth, in the morning.
The house felt unnaturally still without her.
When he cracked three eggs into a frying pan and tossed two pieces of bread into the toaster, the sound of the spitting oil helped cut down the silence.
Even so, when his phone exploded with sound—both buzzing and ringing on the laminate countertop—it startled Cody so much he dropped his spatula on the floor.
Rolling his eyes, he tossed the egg turner into the sink and answered the phone while rummaging in the drawer for a fresh one. “Yeah?”
“Whoa,” Alex's warm, familiar voice came through the line. “Bad morning?”
Cody chuckled. “Not really. The phone scared me, and I dropped my spatula.”
“Nice work,” Alex laughed. “Do I smell eggs frying?”
“You can't smell eggs through the phone, Alex,” Cody said in mock seriousness.
“Well, I can hear them cooking. Same difference.”
Cody smirked and flipped his eggs. “How are you feeling, Babe?”
“Great! Just wanted to say good morning. I hoped I would catch you before you left the house.”
“I’m glad you did. It's good to hear your voice. You still coming home tomorrow?”
“Planning on it. I’ll finish up today and catch a plane in the morning. Oh, except the flight got pushed back.”
Cody frowned. “Why?”
“I…forget. The airline sent me some message. I only half-way listened to it. It's some airport thing. It got pushed by a couple of hours, so I won't get in until around noon.”
“Oh,” Cody muttered, crestfallen. Her original flight left early—like five a.m. He’d hoped to pick her up from the airport before going to work. He couldn't wait to see her after a week of absence.
“Don’t sound so supportive there, detective,” she said, a note of teasing in her voice.
“Sorry. Can I still pick you up at the airport?”
“I thought I’d take an Uber. Maybe I’ll come to the station before going home and we can have lunch?”
Cody grinned, feeling encouraged. Their lunch might still be twenty-four hours away, but he already felt his day brightening. “Okay. It's a date. How’s your mom and dad?”
“Oh, you know my parents.”
Cody shoveled his eggs onto a plate and buttered his toast. “They giving you a hard time?”
“Only the normal stuff. Mad at us for living so far away. Trying to manipulate me into moving closer to them.” She hesitated, and he felt reluctance coming through the phone. “Especially…with the baby and all.”
Ah. The reluctance made sense. “So, you told them.”
“I didn't have to. Mom took one look at me and knew. I told you she would.”
“How does she do that?” Cody asked, genuinely flabbergasted. “You’re not even showing yet.”
Alex laughed. “It's a mom thing.”
Cody snorted. “If you say so.” He sat down at the table and began shoveling food into his mouth.
“What about you?” Alex asked. “Get any interesting cases?”
Cody froze. He still hadn't told Alex about his latest.
“Well, the deer-in-the-headlights silence is an obvious yes.” Alex laughed. “Tell me about it.”
Cody sighed and put down his fork. “Okay. Don't get mad.”
After a slight hesitation, he heard the confusion in Alex's voice. “About what?”
“I took a new case a few days ago. I asked for it, actually.”
“Ooh, sounds intriguing. What made you want it?”
Cody sighed again, knowing Alex wouldn’t like the answer. “It’s a homicide case. The MO has obvious similarities to one of Resputa’s.”
Another brief silence followed, and Cody practically heard the gears in Alex's head turning. “I don’t…understand. Resputa is a pedophile. I mean, I know he's killed people trying to escape and everything—”
“Exactly. Remember a year ago when they almost caught him at the gas station near the border? He killed the attendant to get away. The MO in this case is…like that one.”
“You mean a hunting knife through the eye?” Alex asked dryly.
Cody smirked. He never needed to sugarcoat anything with Alex. She always faced the world head on, no matter how bleak. “Yeah.”
“I’m still not sure I understand. Do you think this is Resputa?”
Cody shook his head before realizing she couldn't see him. “No. The victimology is all wrong. And you’re right. Killing, in most cases, isn’t Resputa’s thing. He only did it to escape. He wouldn’t be going after the kinds of victims I’m seeing in this case. But the MO reminded me of him and…I don't know. I felt drawn to it.”
When Alex answered again, her voice took on a note of frustration. “Cody, I get it. I do, but you know the obsession you have with Resputa is borderline unhealthy, right?”
“You said you wouldn’t get mad,” he muttered.
A confused pause. “No, I didn’t.”
“It was implied.”
“Cody,” she tsked. “You know what I mean. You might never see this guy again. Might never come face-to-face with him. He's probably in Mexico or South America somewhere.”
“I know,” Cody said, running a hand through his short, dark hair. “Maybe that's why I’m drawn to cases that remind me of him. If I can't catch him, maybe I can catch the bad guys who are kinda, sorta like him. And it helps make up for it.”
The silence stretched a bit longer this time before Alex replied. “Okay. But Cody, try not to get too lost in it. And I'll be home tomorrow.”
Cody smiled. The implication being that she knew he would probably get too lost in it, and she would be there to support him. “I can't wait,” he said quietly.”
“Me neither.” She said gently. “Okay, I need to get going. Gotta take a shower and everything.”
Cody grinned. “Shower, huh? Well, I'll be thinking of you.”
Alex laughed. “You’d better hope my mother isn't listening on the extension.”
Cody frowned, confused. “On the ext—? Are you calling me from your parents landline?” When he answered his phone, he didn’t even glance at the number, so he didn’t notice which one she called from.
“Yes. My cell phone is on the fritz again. I need to buy a new one when I get home.”
“Well…stop calling me from your parents landline.”
Alex laughed again.
He loved the sound of her laugh.
“Will do. After tomorrow, I won't have to. Anyway, I'll see you then. I love you.”
“I love you too. Say hi to your parents for me.”
Cody hung up the phone and finished his breakfast. After putting his plate in the sink, he realized he was running late. Snatching up his gun, badge, and car keys, he headed for the door.
A long, horizontal, decorative mirror Alex hung beside the door caught his gaze. As he walked by it. Cody glanced at his reflection one final time before leaving the house.
Over the past ten years, since he’d first tussled with Resputa in a barn, trying to save Resputa’s child victims, Cody had made an art out of looking at himself in the mirror without staring at his own scar. The one Resputa carved into his face.
He always saw it, of course. He couldn’t truly miss it, given that it reached from his forehead, down over his right eye and partly down his cheek. He’d learned to focus on his hair or his jaw to make sure he didn’t miss any spots shaving, without truly looking at the scar.
Whenever he stared at the scar too long, his thoughts inevitably grew dark. This way, the reminder of Resputa remained a fleeting thought, and not something he dwelled on.
He knew Alex had the right of things. He might never see Resputa again. The idea gnawed at him, but he needed to learn to accept it.
Meanwhile, he had other cases, other victims to help. Other lives to save. And it would have to be enough.
Cody left the house.