Marcus Williams stared at his office ceiling, counting the dots in the tiles and trying to ignore the terrible pounding in his skull. The throbbing stabs felt like tiny construction workers jackhammering against the backs of his eyeballs. If someone had said that drilling a hole in his skull would have relieved the pain, he would have at that moment been standing in line at the hardware store, anxiously waiting for the business to open its doors.
He gently pulled his arm out from beneath Maggie Carlisle’s naked form. She stirred, rolled her shoulders, and said with a moan, “It’s time you got a real bed.”
“This is a real bed.”
“It’s a futon. Death row inmates have nicer beds than this.”
“What can I say, I know how treat a girl right.”
He pulled himself up from the futon, the thin metal frame creaking beneath his shifting weight.
“Where you going?” Maggie asked with a yawn.
“Nowhere. Go back to sleep. I just need some Tylenol.”
Maggie rolled over, exposing the long tanned curve of her back and her golden blonde hair.
He glanced around the office at his collection of movie memorabilia and screen-used props. An Indiana Jones hat. A replica pulse rifle from Aliens. Carl Weathers’s severed arm from Predator. He could have bought a house in the burbs for what he paid for that one. But he didn’t want a house. Once maybe, but not anymore. He would never be normal, and the sooner he accepted that, the better off he’d be. Nearly everything he owned was in that room. He ate, slept, and worked there when he wasn’t on the road, which wasn’t too damn often.
He would have been on the road at the moment—tracking down a murderer known as the Coercion Killer—if he hadn’t been recalled back to DC for some kind of mandatory psych evaluation. The Director claimed that it was just a routine hoop that the pencil-pushers were making them jump through, but Marcus suspected there was more to it than that. Even he had to admit that his work had begun to suffer due to the headaches and insomnia.
Marcus worked for a group called the Shepherd Organization. On the surface, they were a think-tank operating under the auspices of the Department of Justice and the Attorney General’s office. In reality, their mandate was to track down serial killers by any means necessary. Even if that meant bending or outright breaking the law to do it.
His fingertips slid across the dark wood grain of his desk’s surface as he rounded the workspace and pulled open a drawer. He removed his pills and a bottle of eighteen-year-old Glenfiddich. Then he downed the OxyContin with a long swig of Scotch straight from the bottle. His eyes clenched, and his face puckered as the dark liquid slid down his throat.
He leaned back and closed his eyes as he waited for the drugs to dull the pain. After a few moments, he started back to the bed, but a vibrating against his leg stopped him in his tracks. Only a handful of people in the world had his cell number, and a call this late at night was never good. It was one of two things. Either they had an urgent situation, and the Director needed them on the road immediately. Or his older brother wanted to chat.
For most people, a call from a sibling at such a late hour would be a minor annoyance. But when your brother is one of the most wanted men in the country and a notorious serial murderer, a late-night phone call takes on a whole new dimension.