Deadly Fear

Prologue

Is the girl still alive?” The question came from Special Agent Jonas McKall.

The guy had been with the unit for just over two years, tracking killers for a hell of a lot longer—and the man really should have known better.

Keith Hyde grunted and reached for his weapon. “It’s day four. You know the perp’s MO. Two days of fun and games.” Sick, twisted fuck.

Would the girl still be alive? Doubtful. Five other bodies had already been found. Young girls, in their teens, slaughtered.

Katherine Daniels had disappeared from her bus stop on Monday. They’d finally tracked the killer to his hole today, but the knot in Hyde’s gut told him they were too late.

Always too late.

“Go in slow,” he ordered, aware of the sweat trickling down his back. His team was trained for this shit, but he gave the warning anyway. The guy inside that cabin—he was smart. He’d had the cops and the Bureau chasing shadows for the last year.

While he sliced his girls apart.

“If Katherine’s alive, we can’t take the chance of spooking him.” Or of giving him the opportunity to finish her off.

The three agents around him gave quick nods.

“Sir, but what about—” Quiet, nasally, the voice grated in Hyde’s ears.

But he halted and turned to face the profiler.

“What about Mary Jane Hill?”

The third girl who’d gone missing.

The profiler’s gaze darted to the wooden cabin. “Her body wasn’t found.…”

Hyde’s back teeth locked. “Because the bastard dumped her in the woods, and the animals got to her first.” They’d found the other bodies, ravaged and torn, just before the beasts had.

But not Mary Jane.

Hyde figured they’d never find that poor girl.

“But what if—”

“She’s been gone for over three months, Brown. She’s dead.” The freak never broke his two-day rule.

The profiler should know that.

But, Brown, with his perfectly pressed suit and too-thick glasses, was a replacement. He’d signed on with the team just days before they’d gotten one lucky-ass lead.

The last profiler, Jasper Peters, had bailed on the case. Jasper had come to him with red cheeks and shaking hands. I can’t do this shit anymore. Can’t stop the monsters—they’ll never be stopped.

“Just stay back,” Hyde growled. Crickets chirped in the distance and a faint light glowed from within the cabin. “Stay back.”

He lifted his hand. Motioned to the team.

And prepared to enter Hell.

Hyde picked the lock on the door—snuck in as softly as a whisper. As soon as he stepped inside, the stench slapped him in the face. Blood and decay. Rancid and thick in the air.

The girl wouldn’t be found alive.

He swallowed the bile that rose in his throat and held his weapon steady. Somewhere in this pit, the killer hid.

They’d mapped the area. Even managed to find the builder who’d erected the cabin over twenty years before. There was a basement. A small, perfect-for-killing room down below.

That was where the man who’d been dubbed “Romeo” waited.

Hyde’s heart slammed against his chest when he saw the metal door. Thick, with a padlock dangling loosely from a chain.

Keeps them locked in when he’s gone. No way to escape.

But the lock was open now because the bastard was having his playtime below.

No more.

Hyde reached for the door, yanked back the handle.

The hard squeak of the metal grated in his ears like a scream.

Fuck.

Hyde flew through the doorway.

Still alive?

Doubtful. But maybe, maybe…

His boots pounded down the steps. Lights flickered overhead. Fluorescent bulbs that revealed, then concealed.

He tripped on the last step, but caught himself and shouted, “FBI! You need to—”

Laughter. Rich and dark. Shadows moved, and a man stepped forward. Young, in his mid-twenties, good-looking.

The profiler had been right about that.

He doesn’t