Reckless Whisper KO PL B

By: Barbara Freethy

One


"You'll be sorry."

The hoarse, whispered words shook her out of sleep. Special Agent Bree Adams sat up in bed, holding her phone closer to her ear. "Who is this?"

Silence followed, but she could hear breathing.

"If you want to threaten me, don't you want me to know who you are?" she challenged.

The call disconnected.

She drew in a breath and let it out, looking around her shadowy bedroom. Through the curtains, she could see the New York City lights, and hear the loud noises from the garbage trucks making their way through the back alley behind her apartment building. The clock on the bedside table told her it was just past dawn.

Getting out of bed, she threw on a robe and shivered as she walked into the hallway of her one-bedroom apartment to turn on the heat. It was early October, and it definitely felt like winter was coming. The cold mornings were actually a welcome change from the long, hot summer, a summer where so many things had changed. There had been a massive shakeup at the FBI New York field office in June, the fallout of which was still rippling through the building.

As she entered her kitchen and turned on the coffeemaker, she looked around her apartment. Everything appeared to be normal. Nothing was out of place. But she felt unsettled, which was obviously what the caller had been going for.

How had he gotten her number? As a federal agent, she used every precaution to protect her personal life. She'd ask one of the techs to see if they could trace the call, but it was doubtful that would be successful. Prepaid burner phones that could be dumped after every call made tracing criminals through their phones extremely difficult.

The male voice had also been deliberately altered, which meant that whoever was calling her had been smart enough to mask his voice. Was that because she knew him?

Since joining the FBI five years ago, she'd spent most of her career working child abductions and had become a member of the CARD program seven months earlier, making her part of one of several Critical Action Response Detail teams who sprang into action to help local law enforcement find an endangered child within the first critical hours after an abduction.

It was a job filled with highs and lows—sometimes frustrating, discouraging, terrifying and occasionally jubilant. But she loved it. Being able to put a family back together always made her feel a bit more whole.

Her phone rang again, and her nerves tightened.

Walking quickly back into the bedroom, she picked up the phone from the bed, steeling herself to hear the same creepy, cryptic voice.

But it was her team leader, Special Agent Dan Fagan, and she knew what that meant.

"What happened?" she asked.

"Ten-year-old disappeared from the backstage area of a school concert last night just after eight p.m. A broken white rose was found near the back door."

Her body tightened. This would be the fourth time in six months that a child had disappeared from a school event. The eleven-year-old girl in Newark had been found dead seven days later, the twelve-year-old girl from Albany had also been killed a week after her disappearance, and the twelve-year-old girl from Philadelphia had been found alive in an abandoned building, probably only one day before she would have met the same sad ending. While they'd been thrilled to save that child's life, the kidnapper was still in the wind.

Had he struck again?

Was the creepy phone call she'd just received somehow connected to this incident?

She'd been the one to track down the girl in Philadelphia. She'd been the face on the news. She'd been the one to promise that they would do everything they could to find the White Rose Kidnapper, as the press had dubbed him.

"Where did it happen?" she asked.

"Chicago. He's apparently moving west."

Her heart jumped into her throat, and the phone slipped out of her hand, the crash bringing her back to reality.

She picked it up, seeing a crack on the screen, which felt prophetic. She'd left Chicago a long time ago and vowed to never go back.

"Is the Midwest team on it?" She could barely manage to get the words out through her tight lips.

"Yes. But they want you to consult. You've been working up a profile on this guy for months. How fast can you get to the airport?"

"I'll be there within the hour. But you should know—I just got a threatening call, altered male voice. He said I'd be sorry."