Fallen: A Cassidy & Spenser Thriller
Author: Carey Baldwin
Series: Cassidy & Spenser
On Sale Date: June 9, 2015
Imprint: Witness Impulse
A body just fell from the sky onto Hollywood Boulevard.
When a beautiful prostitute is dumped onto the Walk of Fame, FBI profiler Atticus Spenser and forensic psychiatrist Dr. Caitlin Cassidy are called in to solve one of their most baffling cases yet.
The media’s dubbed him the Fallen Angel Killer – a crazed murderer who’s leaving the bodies of high-priced call girls in Los Angeles tourist traps.
Then the killer raises the stakes, demanding that a mysterious celebrity publically admit to his sinful secrets —or he’ll dispose of his latest kidnapped escort. With every “john” the team exposes in their search for Celebrity X, another Hollywood secret is revealed and another charmed life is left in ruins.
Now time is running out, and Cassidy and Spenser will do anything to find the twisted serial killer…before another innocent woman winds up as the next grotesque tourist attraction.
In real life I’m a mild-mannered brunette. A very nice doctor who happens to write edgy romantic thrillers.
Oh, and before I became a doctor, I used to be a clinical psychologist. I guess that’s why writing about psychopaths comes naturally. I still haven’t decided precisely what I want to be when I grow up, so you can expect to see me serving up a genre mix.
Here’s my favorite recipe: A dollop of romance + a dash of medicine + a cup of crazy. Fold into a story. Bake until it rises, and voila, you’ve cooked up a delicious thriller!
Tuesday, July 30
It was the kind of scream that could change everything. Elwood Lawrence, known to his squad mates as Woody on account of his obvious appreciation of the hookers Vice dragged in, felt the marrow curdle inside his bones. Reaching for his preferred off-duty carry, the Glock 27 holstered at his hip, his muscles drew tight. In a heartbeat, he was spring-loaded for action, knees flexed, fingers twitching near his gun, gaze searching the crowded street.
Hollywood Boulevard to be exact.
The very personification of this town.
Here on this famous thoroughfare, out-of-work actors, tourists, and drug dealers all shared the same space, basking in the gloried California sun, sucking in air that was both heavy with the smog of despair and high on the promise of dreams come true.
A moment of tense anticipation. Then the Prince, Johnny Depp, and Cat Woman look-alikes stopped working the street for tips and went into suspended animation—the scream had been that powerful. Woody’s ears pricked. Sounded like it’d come from directly above them. Tourists looked up, craning their necks, as if waiting for the show to begin. But he knew this wasn’t part of the festival-o-crap put on for out-of-towners. Knifing through the pedestrians with his shoulders, he sprang in front of his charge, actor Jamie Robb, like a human shield.
What the hell?
Had the last thing he’d expected actually happened? Could there be a legit threat to Jamie Robb? Had the former child star’s request for personal security at the unveiling of his refurbished Walk of Fame star been motivated by more than an inflated ego? True, his star had been vandalized—hence the replacement ceremony—but that was probably kids.
One beat followed another, passing uneventfully.
Woody flexed, then relaxed his shaky right hand, keeping it close to his pistol. It didn’t figure anyone would have it out for Jamie Robb. Unlike your average everyday former child star, Jamie hadn’t dropped out, coked up, or blown all his dough on whores. He was as squeaky-clean today as when he’d played the role of eight-year-old Chester in Family Rules some twenty-odd years ago. By all accounts, he’d never filed a lawsuit against his parents, cheated on his wife, or punched a paparazzo.
Nor was Robb the type to attract stalkers and what-have-you. He was more the type you barely noticed until he was right in front of you. Up close and personal, though, Woody had to admit he could still catch a whiff of little Jimmy Robb’s secret sauce. But whatever remained of young Jimmy’s charisma was mostly hidden by the extra pounds, balding visage, and defeated eyes of old Jamie. Old being a relative term. Child stars passed their prime so quick, they might as well be aging in dog years.
Jamie Robb was yesterday’s headline. And Woody, on personal leave (a polite way of saying Captain Jeffers had given him thirty days to get sober) from the Hollywood division of the LAPD, wasn’t the freshest slice of pizza pie himself. This bodyguard gig should’ve been a low-risk high-reward way to beef up Woody’s underfed bank account, and hopefully that was just exactly how things would turn out.
Another empty moment passed.
Whatever that scream had been, it seemed like it would stay a mystery, and that was a-okay by him.
He eased his hand off his pistol.
At about the same time he came to the relieved conclusion that nothing other than the usual mischief was afoot, the crowd seemed to do the same. Marilyn Monroe switched on a fan beneath a full fifties-style skirt. SpiderMan motioned over a youngster in sloppy shorts, while his father pulled out a wallet and filled the tip jar. Milling, gawking, and hustling resumed per Hollywood Boulevard protocol.
“What was that?” Jamie Robb looked around almost hopefully. Woody would bet a box of Krispy Kremes that Jamie’s heart had beat like an excited puppy’s when he’d first heard that cry. He’d bet a year’s supply of coffee for dunking those donuts that, at least for a moment, Jamie had believed he’d heard a screaming fan, like in the old days. Of course, that was impossible since there did not appear to be a single Jamie Robb fan in sight.
Woody shrugged. “Somebody screamed.”
Robb’s chest deflated, and his mouth screwed up like he’d just taken a shot of vinegar, then quickly relaxed into a practiced smile. You’d think his publicist would’ve procured a couple of fake fans, brought in a reporter, or at the very least, tipped the SLY Stars tour-bus driver to swing by the event. Speaking of which, where was the master of ceremonies? They should’ve had this show on the road by now. Woody hated seeing any man made into a fool in front of his offspring, so he decided to bluff concern. Looking importantly at Jamie’s kid, a freckly ten-year-old slumped at his father’s side and way overdressed in a long-sleeved shirt and tie, Woody bellowed, “Not to worry, Mr. Robb. My eyes are peeled for all threats.”
“Thank you. My son and I feel a lot more secure with you around.” Jamie made a dramatic half bow, as though playing to an audience, and the kid rolled his eyes.
Woody wondered if Jamie kept the theatrics up at home. Everyone knew celebs were quirky, but this shit was already starting to annoy him; he could only imagine what it must be like to have to live with an actor twenty-four/seven. Or maybe Woody was just edgy because the sun was beating down on the back of his neck, causing sweat to bead uncomfortably beneath his collar, or because his 6:00 a.m. shot of whiskey wasn’t holding him. He was cutting back, he really was, but the eye-opener was no biggie, and he couldn’t quite bring himself to let it go. The stale taste in his mouth reminded him he’d forgotten to grab his breath spray on the way out the door.
He scanned the area yet again, hoping to find a pair of dress shoes among the flip-flops and tennies, a hand holding a mic, any damn sign of someone official. Woody was just about to ask Robb if he’d maybe gotten the date wrong when he spied a kid in black slacks jogging up the boulevard with a pair of chrome posts and some twisted red rope tucked under his armpit. Woody waved at the guy like he was his long-lost friend and got a nod of acknowledgment in return. Good. They were finally setting up for the program. But he still didn’t see the master of ceremonies or any invited guests—not even Tom La Grande.
La Grande, a fast friend of Jamie’s ever since their Family Rules days, had promised to attend the program, and Woody had even offered the megastar free protection, a deluxe two-for-one bodyguard package—three-for-one if you counted Jamie’s kid. But La Grande had claimed he wasn’t famous enough to need a muscleman. Yeah, like La Grande didn’t have two gold statues in his pocket and a home overlooking the surf.
The kid tugged on his father’s shirtsleeve. “Can we go now, Dad?”
Humiliating. Woody tightened his belt, keeping his hands busy. He would’ve given Jamie a sympathetic pat on the back, but that would be overstepping. Despite the quirks, he didn’t mind the guy that much. Jamie might be a washed-up has-been hanging on to the past, but he appeared to be a good dad, and a good husband, and that was a hell of a lot more than Woody could claim. Thanks to his drinking, his grown kid wouldn’t speak to him, and last week, his sweet Rayleen had packed her bags and returned to Iowa. Only two creatures on the planet who still liked him were his ma and his three-legged pit bull, King … and sometimes his sponsor. It was his sponsor, a former Vice cop like Woody, who’d said all he needed was a break and hooked him up with Jamie Robb’s people.
Another desperate scream.
This time the hairs on every inch of Woody’s body lifted, sounding the alarm. His trigger finger pulsed, ready to pull if called for. Just his lousy luck the one time a sweet gig landed in his lap, something would go and screw it up. Crouching, he drew his Glock. He jerked his gaze upward, and his brain slowed time into a molasses drip as he watched it fall from the sky.
From a window two stories up in the Sky Walk Hotel, a body floated backward, bounced off the awning above them, then rolled onto the ground a few feet in front of him—the head cracking sickeningly against the sidewalk and blood spraying from the neck of a half-nude blond beauty like a busted garden hose.
Woody’s stomach dropped as all sound was absorbed into the uproar surrounding him. His gaze darted about so quickly, it seemed he could see everywhere at once. On every side, tourists fled, shoving, stumbling, some even falling to the ground. Beside him, Jamie Robb froze. His kid yanked on his arm, trying to drag him away, but Robb just stared ahead as though in a daze. His shoulders trembled, then the tremor turned to a full-on shake. Suddenly, Robb’s eyes snapped into focus, and his lips curled away from his teeth. The guy was losing it.
Woody didn’t have that luxury. He tightened his grip on his pistol. Hands steady, now that adrenaline had usurped the hold alcohol had on his nervous system, he shoved Jamie and the kid into a protected alcove to keep them from being trampled by the panicked mob. Then he lunged forward, fighting his way against the crowd until he reached the woman. Staring down at her beautiful, broken body, his breath whooshed out, shrinking his lungs into tight, airless bags. Pressure welled behind his eyes.
Holy mother of saints.
It was as if one of heaven’s own angels had fallen from the sky.
And landed splat on top of Jamie Robb’s shiny new star.