Her worst nightmare brought back to life, she risks everything for a second shot at justice. For thirty years, FBI scientist Olivia St. Martin has lived with guilt and one abiding certainty–that while she wasn’t able to save her sister’s life, she did testify and helped to convict the rapist and killer. When shocking new evidence exonerates the man Olivia is sure she saw abduct her sister, she breaks every rule in the book to uncover the truth. Driven by the possibility that she put the wrong man behind bars, Olivia discovers that a serial killer has been at large all these years. Believing that the monster has just struck again in Seattle, Olivia leaves her lab and poses as a field agent, sharing her unofficial investigation with a hardworking Seattle cop. Olivia doesn’t want to lie to detective Zack Travis. And she certainly doesn’t want to fall in love. But as the investigation intensifies, Olivia and Zack find that they’re rapidly losing control–over their hearts, their secrets, and a case that threatens to consume them
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The day Olivia St. Martins life turned upside down for the second time began like any other.
She inserted two slides onto the glass plate of the microscope and bent over the lens, adjusting the magnification until the minute carpet threads became clear. She recognized a match immediately, but went through all the points of commonality for her report and indicated them on the lab sheet.
When she was done, she used the microscopes built-in camera to photograph the matched fibers, removed the evidence with latex-covered hands, and preserved it in a sealed case to prevent contamination.
She signed the report, then reviewed the file to make sure her team had finished processing all evidence in the Camero murder. Everything appeared in order, though DNA hadnt reported in yet. A foreign pubic hair had been retrieved from the victim and sent to the CODIS unit to be analyzed and run through the database. Contrary to what was implied on popular television, DNA matching was a slow, laborious process largely dependent on staff and resources.
Olivia loved her job and had been well rewarded: last year, shed been promoted to director of Trace Evidence and Materials Analysis at the FBIs Virginia-based laboratory. The door opened and Olivia glanced up as Dr. Greg van Buren walked in. Her ex-husbands grim expression surprised her: Greg was generally either amused or thoughtful, rarely depressed.
She arched her eyebrow as she closed the file folder. Olivia. Greg cleared his throat. Beneath his wire-rimmed glasses, his clear blue eyes narrowed with concern. He shifted uneasily and glanced down. Something was wrong.
Her chest tightened. What is it?
Lets go for a walk.
Her legs werent completely steady when she stood, but she kept her head up as she walked down the hall with Greg. They were on the top floor of the three-story building, but took the stairs rather than the elevator to the main level.
Outside, a wave of hot, humid air washed over Olivia. She scrunched her nose. The cotton lining of her skirt instantly stuck to her legs and she resisted the urge to adjust it. Shed never get used to these sticky East Coast summers. Shed thought once Labor Day had passed, the weather would cool; no such luck. She never thought shed miss the San Francisco peninsulas gray mornings, but shed trade humidity for fog any day.
She studied Gregs demeanor and posturesomething was very wrong. Her stomach flipped. She was impatient for him to tell her, yet it might well be something she didnt want to know.
They walked past the stone plaque in front of the FBI laboratory, erected when the new facility opened in 2003.
BEHIND EVERY CASE IS A VICTIMMAN, WOMAN, OR CHILDAND THE PEOPLE WHO CARE FOR THEM. WE DEDICATE OUR EFFORTS AND THE NEW FBI LABORATORY BUILDING TO THOSE VICTIMS.
Olivia rarely allowed her emotions to surface, in public or private, but the sign never failed to move her, reminding her there was always more than one victim in every crime. That the dead left behind people who loved them. Family, friends, and often whole communities mourned, sometimes so deeply they resembled an empty shell, gutted. All the survivors had left was their hope that the guilty would be punished for their crimes.
Liv, I dont know how to tell you this.
Greg stopped walking and they stood in the shade of the building. Two smokers loitered in the designated smoking area a few dozen feet away. A faint trail of stale cigarette smoke hung in the still air.
I dont understand why they dont move the smoking area farther away, Olivia said, delaying the conversation.
Greg frowned. Olivia, this is important.
His tone set Olivias entire body on edge. She turned and stared at his aristocratic profile. His long face, chiseled nose, deep-set eyes. Greg van Burena distant relative of the former presidentwas attractive in a quiet, preppy way. He was familiar, soothing.
All right, so tell me. She tried to disguise her tension under an air of disinterest.
Pain clouded in his eyes. And worry. Hamilton Craig called me today.
Why in the world would Hamilton call you? She had seen the district attorney just three months before, when her sisters killer was up for parole, which had rightfully been denied.
Craig was growing old and had announced hed be retiring at the end of his current term. Olivia now asked, Is something wrong? Is he okay?
Hes fine, Greg said. Its about Hall.
Olivia closed her eyes. She couldnt think about Brian Harrison Hall without conflicting emotions. Pain. Sorrow. Victory. Emptiness. Satisfaction that he was in prison, where he belonged. Rage that he hadnt been put to death. Her sister was dead because of him; he should have met the same fate. But the California Supreme Court tossed out the death penalty shortly after his conviction, so every three to five years he went up for parole.
She hadnt missed even one of Halls six parole hearings. She would do anything to keep him behind bars.
What? Outwardly, she was calm. Composed. Professional. Inside, her nerves vibrated at an uncomfortable pitch.
His attorney petitioned for a DNA test. The police had preserved evidence including pubic hair samples. So there was something to compare Halls DNA with. The court granted the request last month. The California state lab issued their report this morning. He paused, running a hand through his short-cropped hair. I dont know how to say this except flat out. No match.
Olivia was certain she hadnt heard Greg accurately. I dont understand, she said slowly. No match to what?
Halls DNA does not match the pubic hair found on your sisters body.
I dont believe you.
Her voice was reasonable. Her words were not, but she didnt care. There had to have been a mistake.
Evidence doesnt lie.
Halls being released tomorrow.
No. No, she said, shaking her head. It cant be.
He killed Missy. He killed her. I saw him.
She spoke matter-of-factly. She had seen him. She remembered the black truck. The blue eagle tattoo. The tattoo still on his arm. His blond hair. The truck was histhe evidence had proved it.
She hadnt known anything about the investigation when it happened thirty-four years ago. But shed read the reports multiple times since. Memorized them. Olivia knew every grisly detail of what Brian Harrison Hall had done to her sister. Fibers from the floor mats of his truck were found on Missys body. Her blood was found on his front seat.
The murdering bastard.
Hamilton faxed me the report. I read it carefully. I called the California state crime lab and talked to the technician who ran the comparison. Theres no mistake, Liv.
Her shout startled both of them. She never shouted. She never raised her voice. Greg reached to touch her arm.
Olivia, let me help
She jerked away. I want to see the report.
Before Greg could dissuade her, she stormed off toward the side doors, slapping her ID card on the keypad to regain access to the building. She heard his footfall behind her as she yanked open the door to the stairwell and raced up to the third floor.
There had to be a mistake. Halls new attorney had switched the evidence. It was corrupted. Not enough to match. The sample degenerated over time. There was a reason for this lie. There was always a reason. Hall was guilty. He killed Missy. He killed her, dammit!
With every step up, Olivia's fear and rage grew. Rage that justice had not been served. That Hall would be getting out on a technicality instead of rotting in prison. That he was playing the system, his miserable defense lawyer trying to make a name for himself as an advocate for murderers.
Then came fear. Deep, bone numbing fear jolted something deep inside Olivia, fear that Hall was innocent. That Missys killer was still at large. That he was still killing girls. Destroying families. Breaking hearts.
And it was all her fault.
She faltered in her brisk stride and reached out for support, her hand shaking as it touched the wall.
Greg caught up with her in the corridor outside the DNA laboratory. Olivia, stop.
She couldnt look at him, fearful that her eyes would expose her raw soul.
No youre not.
I just need to see the evidence. She spoke each word carefully, clearly, her jaw clenched.
Show me the damn report!
She took a deep breath and bit the inside of her cheek to control her emotions. With every ounce of willpower, she composed herself and turned a blank face to her ex-husband.
Im sorry, she said. That was uncalled for. I shouldnt take out my frustration on you.
She would not break down in front of Greg. Olivia St. Martin would not break down in front of anyone.
He opened his mouth to say something and Olivia steeled herself to defend her position professionally. She was a professional after all, able to look objectively at evidence. To see the truth in the facts, and present those facts clearly, concisely, to her peers or the court.
She could do it now.
He closed his mouth and used his passkey to unlock the lab door.
The report is on my desk.