Deadly Fate (Krewe of Hunters #19)

Deadly Fate (Krewe of Hunters #19)

Heather Graham


She lay in beauty.

Heartbreaking beauty, for she was gone.

There was no hope of resuscitation; she was as pale as the snow-white sheets upon which she rested. Her hair was sable brown, the color of soft fur. Her lips had been highlighted with a rich shade of red, and her features were as delicate and lovely as the intricate pattern of a snowflake.

She’d been a victim of the “Fairy Tale Killer,” a man Thor Erikson had been pursuing with his partner, Jackson Crow, for months. The killer had struck in cities from New York City to San Diego, and it was in Los Angeles where they’d caught him at last. He’d been kneeling over, bending down, tenderly touching a corpse—only to turn with a Smith & Wesson pointed directly at Thor and Crow.

Thor had fired first, and then rushed to the pallet upon which the killer had displayed his “Snow White,” knowing full well that they were too late; she was gone, drained of her life’s blood.

Thor could still see her in his mind’s eye, remember when she’d arranged a meeting with him and Crow; he could hear her sincerity as she had expressed concern about a coworker who had been dating a business executive, a man who traveled constantly. Her name had been Mandy Brandt, and she’d been so very worried about her friend, who worked at the tour center with her. He remembered the gentleness of her smile, her eagerness to help in any way...

And now here she lay, a beauty like Snow White. But no kiss would awaken her.

He turned to Jackson, who was kicking the gun from the killer’s grip, checking to see if he was dead; he was not. He was still breathing.

“Saved my life—and his,” Jackson said.

Thor was vaguely aware of Jackson getting on his phone, calling for medical assistance and backup.

Then the whole scene began to fog up and fade.

It was a dream that came to him again and again; a memory that played itself out in his mind when he was sleeping, when he was vulnerable. Over time it had come less and less, but sometimes, like now, it would return like the blade of a knife, digging into his mind as if piercing his flesh.

Tonight, however, Mandy’s eyes opened. And she looked at him with that beautiful and tremulous smile of hers. “Thor,” she said.


She reached up and touched his cheek. “You mustn’t let it happen again,” she told him softly.

He was dreaming; he knew that he was dreaming. He’d relived the scene a thousand times over.

And he’d wondered every time how he and Jackson and a slew of techs had managed to be just that little bit too far behind the killer...

No, he blamed it on himself. And maybe Jackson, just a little. Mostly it was his own fault. He should have known. They should have known. They shared a strange sense of...intuition, and they should have realized from the descriptions they’d received, from their gut sense of the past and time and purpose and...

Mandy had died anyway.

In his dream, he said, “Every day, Mandy, every day of my life, I still try to catch the killers, the bad guys, the sick, the evil... I am so sorry...”

She pressed a finger to his lips and sat up, then said softly, “No fault, Thor, no fault on your part. You believed me, you investigated, you discovered the truth. No fault. But it’s happening again. This time, Thor...this time, you must stop him.”

She stroked his cheek; her eyes were immense on his...

And then his alarm went off with a jarring sense of reality and he woke up, bolting to a sitting position, reaching for the offending noise box to silence it.

He lay there for a moment; the dream had been so real he felt as if he could still smell the scent of Mandy’s perfume on the air.

But, of course, he could not. He glanced at the other side of the bed. It was empty. As always. He and Janet had split up months ago and since then, he’d never brought anyone home.

He rose and headed to the kitchen of his Anchorage apartment, poured a cup of coffee from the brewer that was set for 6:30 a.m. every morning and walked out to the living room. Large windows all across the far wall gave him great views of the city.

People had a tendency to think of Alaska as the frozen frontier.

Sometimes, he wished it was nothing but a frontier filled with ice.

But Anchorage was a large, sprawling metropolis—perhaps not on the same level as NYC or Chicago, but it was still a thriving city with well over three hundred thousand residents, almost half the population of the entire state. The great thing about the apartment was it offered him a place to stay in the city—and have this incredible and majestic view of the white-tipped Chugach Mountains rising in the distance—without having to live here full-time.

Thanks to his enterprising antecedents, his family owned a sprawl of property between Anchorage and Seward, a vast tangle of family homes, a horse farm and a sled dog–breeding facility. His sister and her husband managed the estate, so he could live in both worlds—he even had a pair of the best dogs anyone could ask for.

He was, he knew, a damned lucky man.

Albeit a haunted one, because he could never shake certain images...

Lucky, he told himself firmly. Every man out there, every woman, too, lived with things that tore at them.

He shook off the feelings the dream had wrapped around him.

In his free time, he could head out to what was still pristine wilderness. He could spend countless hours in the national parks and encounter wildlife like he could in few other places.

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