Chief Matthew Cade rarely considered
another line of work, but the 4:30 a.m. phone call about
the dead teenage girl made him long for a job as an
accountant or electrician-some benign vocation that
didn't require him to look into the eyes of grieving parents.
He sat on the side of his bed, rubbing his eyes as he
clutched the phone to his ear.
"She's from Cape Refuge, Chief." Myrtle, his night
shift dispatcher, sounded shaken. "That new guy, Scott
Crown, just found her floating in a boat on the Tybee side
of the river. Looks like a homicide."
Cade braced himself. "Who is it, Myrtle?"
"Didn't give me a name yet. If they know it, they're
keeping it off the radio for now. But Chief Grant from
Tybee is hot about how Crown handled things, and he
wanted you to come to the scene as soon as you can."
"All right, give me the address." Oswald, Cade's cat,
jumped onto his lap, purring for attention as Cade fumbled
for a pen and jotted the address down. The cat stepped
onto the bed table and plopped down on the notepad. "So what is
it Crown did?"
"I'm not clear on that, Chief. But he's young. Go easy on him."
He clicked the phone off and thought about the nineteen-year-old
rookie. Crown had joined the force straight out of the
academy; he hadn't even been in Cade's department a week. His
zeal to be the best cop in the department had led to a few mishaps
already, but nothing serious. Cade knew he just needed to give the
kid some time to grow into his position. But what had he done to
aggravate the neighboring chief?
He got up, wincing at the arthritic ache he always felt in his
leg first thing in the morning. It had healed from the multiple fractures
he'd sustained in an injury a year ago-and he'd overcome
his limp for the most part-but the mornings always reminded
him how far he'd come.
He got dressed and hurried out to his truck. It was cool for
May, but he knew it would warm up to the upper eighties by the
end of the day. Life would go on as it always did-murder or not.
As he drove across the bridge that connected Cape Refuge to
Tybee Island, his mind raced with the faces of teenage girls who'd
grown up here. Whoever this girl was, the murder would have a
rippling effect, shattering her family and shaking her friends.
There would be a life-size hole in the heart of the small town.
He found the site and pulled up to the squad cars parked
there. One of the Tybee officers met him as he got out. "Oh, it's
you, Chief Cade. I didn't recognize you in your truck."
"Where's Chief Grant?" he asked.
The man pointed to the riverbank, and Cade saw him with
the medical examiner looking over the body.
As he approached, Cade saw the girl lying on the grass. She
was small, maybe a hundred pounds, and looked as if someone
had carefully laid her down there, her arms out from her body,
her knees together and bent to the side. In the flickering blue light,
he couldn't yet see her face, and her hair was wet, long . He
walked closer, and Keith Parker, the medical examiner, looked up
at him. "Hey, Cade. You recognize her?"
Chief Grant handed him a flashlight, and Cade stooped
down and illuminated her face. His heart plunged. She was Alan
Lawrence's girl, Emily. She couldn't be more than sixteen. Cade
didn't think she'd even gotten her license yet.
Anger stung his eyes, and he rubbed his jaw. His throat was
tight as he swallowed. Who could have done this? Who would
have wanted to end the life of an innocent, sweet girl whose parents
He cleared his throat. "Yeah, her name's Emily Lawrence.
Her parents are Alan and Marie." He paused, trying to steady his
voice. "You know the cause of death?"
"Gunshot," Grant said. "Looks like she was shot in another
location, then apparently brought here and put into that boat.
Your man found her."
Cade stood and looked in the direction Grant nodded. Scott
Crown stood with the other cops, answering questions. His uniform
was wet, and he looked shaken and nervous. Cade felt sorry
for the kid. Odds were he hadn't expected to find a dead girl his
first week on the job.
"Unfortunately," the Tybee chief went on, "your man compromised
the evidence. Moved the body out of the boat before he
called us. Got her wet trying to get her onto the shore. Who
knows what evidence might have been washed off? I would think
you'd train your people better than that."
Cade's anger shifted from the faceless killer to the rookie.
"What was he even doing over here? He was supposed to be
patrolling Cape Refuge."
"He saw the boat floating in the river between the two
islands, saw that someone was in it. Right then he should have
called my department instead of coming onto my turf and handling
the matter himself."
Cade sighed and looked toward the kid again. He'd had
reservations about hiring someone so young right out of the academy,
but Crown was Joe McCormick's nephew. When his detective
vouched for the kid, Cade decided to give him the benefit of
the doubt. But he'd recognized Crown's hero complex his first day
on the job. He was something of a loose cannon, and Cade had
wondered if he could trust him to follow the rules.
Apparently, he couldn't.
He crossed the grass toward Crown. The kid turned, saw
him, and burst into his explanation. "Chief, I know I did wrong.
It was stupid. I don't even know what I was thinking. But there
were vultures, and I thought there must be a dead animal in the
boat . I crossed the bridge and came over here-"
"Your first mistake," Cade said.
"But if I hadn't, they might not have found her!"
"Crown, if you had called Tybee to tell them what you saw,
they would have been there in minutes. Not only did you step outside
of our jurisdiction, but you botched up the evidence."
The kid looked at the cops around him, as if humiliated that
he'd been reamed in front of them. "I didn't botch it up."
"Yes, you did! I know they taught you in the academy never
to move a body. And then you go and wash off the evidence!"
In the light of the police cars' headlights, he could see the
kid's face turning red. "Okay, I'm sorry! I got out to the boat
and recognized Emily. I wasn't sure she was dead. I was trying
to save her!"
"You should have checked before you got her out of the boat!"
"Right." Crown's voice rose as he shot back. "So let me get
this straight. Next time I see a girl dying in a boat, I'm supposed
to sit on my hands until the right people get there? I thought we
were emergency personnel. I thought it was our job to save lives!"
Crown was livid, stepping over his bounds. Clearly, Cade
wasn't going to teach him anything right here in front of his peers.
Besides, there was a dead girl lying there-and a killer to be identified.
He didn't have time to deal with the rookie.
"Go back to the station, Crown. Wait for me there."
"I don't want to go back. I found her!"
Cade stepped nose-to-nose with the kid, speaking through
his teeth. "Now, Crown. If I hear one more word, you're fired."
Crown backed down then and, without another word, stormed
off to his car. Cade watched him until he drove away, then breathed
a frustrated sigh and turned back to the body.
Emily. He remembered watching her at the Hanover House
Easter egg hunt when she was three. She'd practically tripped over
the "hidden" eggs and celebrated when she found her first one,
while those around her snatched up all the rest. Who would want
He went back to his car and radioed in. "Chief Cade here.
Get all available units to secure the bank of the Bull River across
from where the body was found. I don't want anyone traipsing
through there until I have a chance to get over there. We don't
know which side the boat was put in on."
The radio crackled, and Myrtle's voice rasped across the airwaves.
"Will do, Chief." As she began radioing the other cars on
duty, he went back to the body and stooped down next to the
medical examiner. "Where's the gunshot wound, Keith?"
The ME pointed to the hole in her stomach. "No exit
wound, so it probably didn't happen at close range. The bullet's
still in there. But she was shot hours ago. Bled out before she was
put into the boat."
Cade stood, a sick feeling twisting in his gut as he anticipated
having to go to her home and break the news to her parents. They
might not even know she was missing yet. If they'd gone to bed
before her curfew, they wouldn't know until morning. But if they
were more diligent, as he knew Alan was, they might be up even
now, waiting to confront her when she came in.
In a million years, they would never expect news like this.
He wished he was in charge of the investigation, but the murder
hadn't happened on his turf. Still, he looked over the body as
the medical examiner knelt beside her.
"That a bruise on her jaw?" Cade asked.
"Yep. Several more on her arms and legs. There was definitely
a struggle. And look at this." He pointed to the chafed skin
around her mouth. "Looks like duct tape was pulled off of her
mouth and wrists."
It had clearly been an abduction. Cade looked across the
dark water. Was there a murderer still lurking on his island, looking
for young girls?
"We need to notify the family, Cade."
He turned to Grant. "I'll do it. They're friends of mine."
"I'm waiting for the GBI to get here. I'll need their help on
Cade knew the GBI, Georgia's Bureau of Investigation, had
the resources to solve this case. He was glad they'd been notified
"One of our detectives is going to need to go through her
room, see what we can find," Grant said. "If you can just break
the news to the parents, then my detective or the state's men can
take it from there."
Right. Let me do the dirty work, then be on my way. "That's
fine. I'll seal off her room, make sure nobody goes in there."
He strode back to his truck, trying to get his head together.
How was he going to break it to them? The muscles in the back
of his neck were rock hard, and his jaw hurt as he ground his teeth
together. What would he say? How would he phrase it?
Lord, give me the words.
As he drove his pickup back to Cape Refuge, Cade rehearsed
the hated speech in his mind. Alan and Marie, I'm afraid I have
some bad news .