Oliver Quick rubbed at his bloodshot eyes and glanced at the
blinking phone on his desk.
He wondered how long the caller would hold before growing
impatient and hanging up altogether.
The door to his office abruptly opened and his secretary,
Joyce Meeks poked her head inside.
She stared at him with a disapproving look before marching
across the room to snatch up the phone. "I apologize for the
wait, Mr. Williams, Oliver is on another line. I'd be happy
to take a message if you'd rather not continue to hold."
Oliver listened to Joyce repeat his brother-n-law, Aaron
Williams's words back to him, understanding full well she
did it for Oliver's benefit.
Joyce Meeks had been with Oliver since he'd opened Quick
Investigations a little more than five years ago. Though she
spoke with the voice of a seasoned general and wore her hair
in a similar fashion, she had kind, blue eyes. And she
thought of Oliver as the son she never had.
She returned the phone receiver to its home with a little
more force than was probably necessary, and pierced Oliver
with an accessing stare. "Too much scotch last night?"
Oliver leaned back in his chair, propping his feet on the
corner of his desk and ignored Joyce's reference to his
late-night drinking. "What did Aaron want?"
"Besides calling to invite you to the children's' birthday
party next weekend? I have no idea. Why don't you call him
back and find out?"
Oliver inwardly cringed. Spending his weekend with a bunch
of screaming kids didn't bode well with his hangover.
He opened his mouth to announce that very thing, when the
trill of the phone once again echoed from his desk, sending
an unwelcome pain shooting through his skull.
"Serves you right," Joyce snapped, striding toward the open
door. "That drinking is going to be the death of you." The
door clicked shut behind her.
"Quick Investigations," Oliver nearly growled, answering the
A brief pause ensued. "Hello Oliver, it's Richard Hollman."
Oliver's stomach tightened. There would be only one reason
the supervisor of the local FBI field office would be
calling him. They needed his help.
"SSA Hollman," Quick acknowledged. "It's been a minute."
Nearly six years to be exact.
Richard cleared his throat. "That, it has. Look Quick, I
could use your help."
"My help? With what?" But Oliver knew. He'd already heard
about the dismembered body discovered under the pier two
mornings ago in Panama City Beach. It was all over the news.
"I'm not a profiler any longer, Richard. I haven't been for
"A profiler isn't something you do, Quick, it's who you are."
Oliver refrained from pointing out the obvious. The last
serial killer he profiled, had not only killed his wife, but
he'd gone on to kill six more women shortly afterward.
"I'm headed to Panama City Beach," Richard was saying,
pulling Oliver out of his unwanted thoughts. "Can you meet
me for lunch?"
The last thing Oliver needed was the smell of greasy food
invading his hung-over, consistently throbbing head. But the
profiler in him couldn't resist meeting with the leader of
the local FBI unit in Fort Walton Beach. "Salty Sue's in
half an hour."
"I'll be there." The line went dead.
Oliver replaced the phone receiver and stood. He wandered
over to his large office window to stare out at the busy
Destin traffic of back beach road.
His hands sank into the pockets of his navy blue, Armani
slacks. He watched the cars move bumper to bumper in an
impatient line of horn blowing maniacs.
April had loved this place, Oliver thought, his gaze moving
to the beach beyond. She'd wanted to raise their children
thereâ€¦children they would never have.
The old familiar ache that always began in his heart with
thoughts of April, traveled through his chest to settle in
Nausea was instant.
Oliver locked his teeth together, his eyes sliding closed to
shut out the view before him.
He groaned deep in his throat, allowing the memories of his
beautiful April to wash through him.
Her laughter, the always present twinkle in her pretty green
eyes, flashed behind his closed lids in haunting clarity.
His mind instantly rebelled against what he knew would come
next, but he could no longer block it out than he could stop
the waves from crashing onto the shore of the beach in front
April lying in that morgue. A perfectly straight
incision on her bruised and battered throat. Her larynx had
been removed with the precision of a surgeon and then the
wound sewn closed.
Oliver shuddered, unable to push the images from his mind.
His wife, his precious April had been repeatedly raped,
violated in the vilest of ways. Her breasts had been burned
in numerous places, along with her genitals.
She'd been bound for days, unable to speak or scream while
her killer endlessly tortured her to death. He'd then
painted her fingernails and toenails a blood red colorâ€¦
April had been his third victim in less than a month,
categorizing him as a serial killer. He'd been dubbed
The Silencer by the media for removing his
victim's voice boxes days before he ended their lives.
Somewhere in the far recesses of his mind, Oliver knew Joyce
spoke to him, but he couldn't seem to pull back from the
grief swimming inside him. He hadn't caught April's killer.
His profile had been off.
The Silencer had vanished almost six years ago, leaving no
evidence behind to his identity.
Oliver had worked day and night to profile the sick bastard,
only to come up empty. He'd been too close to the case,
making him less than objective.
His emotions, grief and helpless rage over the loss of his
wife had stood between him and his ability to be openminded
The Silencer had slipped through his fingers.
A hand rested against Quick's back, and his secretary's
voice finally penetrated his guilt filled mind. "Oliver, are
you all right?"
He swallowed with more than a little difficulty. "I'm fine,
Joyce. Thank you."
"There's a woman here to see you."
He answered without turning away from the window. "Have her
make an appointment. I'm meeting someone in ten minutes for
"Please, Joyce. I can't do this right now."
Something in his voice must have clued her in on his current
mental status. Her hand fell away and the sound of her shoes
slapping on the tile floor could be heard over the horns
blowing from the streets beyond.
Oliver waited until the door closed behind her, then trailed
to his desk, plucked up his suit jacket and left by way of
Richard Holland waited until the waitress moved away before
extending his hand across the table to Oliver. "Thank you
for coming on such short notice."
Oliver accepted his outstretched palm and took a seat. "It's
good to see you, Richard. So, tell me what you've got."
Holland nodded, pushing a yellow folder toward Oliver. "You
always did get right to the point."
Opening the folder, Oliver took in the sight before him.
Dozens of photos were inside; images of the dismembered body
of the female found beneath the pier in Panama City Beach.
He hardened himself against his emotions. "I understand the
heinousness of the crime, but why has the FBI been called in
Richard set his water glass down and wiped his mouth with a
cloth napkin. "Because there were two similar cases last
month, less than an hour from here over the Alabama line.
The Collier County Sheriff's Office called us in to assist."
Oliver's jaw tightened. "Similar cases?"
"There's enough similarities for us to ascertain it's the
"A serial killer," Oliver stated in a deadly soft tone.
Richard nodded. "The Bay County Police Department notified
us of the body found beneath the pier two mornings ago. They
called in the local Sheriff's Department and the FBI to help
with the investigation. My team is there now."
April's cold, pale body flashed behind Oliver's eyes. "Why
are you coming to me with this? You have an efficient team
working with you, and a dozen more at the Quantico office at
"Because you're a profiler, Quick. One of the best I've ever
seen, and I'd like your help with this."
Oliver closed the folder and got to his feet. "I'm a private
investigator now. I no longer hunt serial killers, Richard.
I haven't sinceâ€”"
"Since April died," Richard muttered softly, catching Oliver
"I understand your reluctance, Quick." Richard leaned across
the table and flipped the folder back open. "But this woman
had a family. A husbandâ€¦and a child on the way. She can't
tell us who did this to her, but I'm willing to bet that you
Richard lifted a picture of the woman's decapitated head and
held it up for Oliver to see. "Her husband needs closure. As
do her parents."
Oliver stared down into the lifeless eyes of the woman in
the picture for long moments. She'd been pregnantâ€¦just as
Swallowing back the bile that rose in his throat, Oliver
tore his gaze from the sickening photo, shut down his
emotions and returned to his seat.
As badly as he wanted to, he simply couldn't bring himself
to walk away. "What's the victim's name?"
"Clayton. Irma Clayton."
"I'll need to see the scene where the body parts were found."
Richard placed the picture back in the folder and tucked it
inside his briefcase. "I'll take you there right after you
get some food in you. From the looks of your eyes, you could
Oliver wasn't hungry, but he would order anyway. He needed
something to soak up the over abundance of alcohol from the
night before. And he needed strength for what he knew lay ahead.
* * * *
After driving to his condo to change into jeans and running
shoes, Oliver donned his Oakley sunglasses and followed
Hollman to the normally busy beach in Panama City.
The expected yellow tape and police presence surrounded the
massive pier to keep onlookers from contaminating what was
left of the crime scene.
The rising tide from the previous two nights had no doubt
destroyed what evidence that had been left behind. Which
Oliver doubted would be any.
But it wasn't evidence Oliver looked for. Most serial
killers were meticulous, they didn't leave behind
incriminating evidence. No, he needed to see what the killer
saw, hear what he heardâ€¦and figure out why he chose that
particular place to dispose of the body.
Oliver trailed along behind Holland, his gaze touching on
everything around him. From the mobs of onlookers to the
surrounding storefronts and restaurants in close proximity
to the pier.
His gaze then swung to the dunes behind him, coming to rest
on the taped off markings embedded in the sand. Drag marks,
most likely from a body.
How had the killer dragged a bag of body parts down to the
pier without being noticed by anyone?
Oliver ducked beneath the yellow tape, Holland lifted for
him and then held up a hand, indicating he wanted to go down
Holland didn't speak, nor did Oliver expect him to. He'd
worked with the man long enough in the past to know that
Richard understood his particular profiling methods.
Oliver didn't bother to search the sugary white beach sand
around the pier. He wouldn't find anything there. Besides,
the local police department had most assuredly crawled
through the scene with the precision of ants erecting a mound.
Shutting out everything around him, Oliver's mind slipped
into profiler mode. His vision grew tunneled and his senses
became heightened. Sounds from the crashing waves of the
Gulf faded to the background, along with the murmuring of
voices surrounding the crime scene.
The bright noonday sun turned into a silvery moon in
Oliver's mind, casting shadows along the dunes and sending
the long, giant pier plummeting into darkness.
Oliver's head swiveled to the right, imagining the lights
along the rails of the pier coming on at sunset.
His gaze traveled to the local restaurant, sitting a short
distance up the beach. Music spilled out from the open deck
to be swept away on the warm moonlit breeze.
The lights shone brightly through the fog hovering over the
Gulf, illuminating the dunes between the deck and the pier.
Smiling faces of tourists moved through his mind, their
laughter and friendly banter growing in volume in order to
be heard over the music thumping in the background.
No one from that deck would likely notice a lone figure
making their way beneath the pier.
His gaze swept to the left, to a souvenir shop that probably
closed their doors at five o'clock sharp on the weekdays. No
danger of being seen from there.
On it went, with Oliver studying his surroundings, an
imaginary garbage bag in his hand, growing heavier with each
He imaged himself pulling in to the parking lot up the hill,
waiting for his opportunity to move.
But why the busy pier area? There are literally hundreds
of miles of beach front to dump a body. Yet he chose this
particular spot. Whyâ€¦?
Because he's a narcissist. Torture isn't enough for him.
He garners some kind of rush from the threat of exposure. He
believes the women are beneath him. He thinks himself
The face of the decapitated woman appeared in Oliver's mind,
pulling him back from the abyss, back to the dozens of eyes
watching him expectantly.
He sought out Holland, who promptly moved to his side.
"What are you thinking, Quick?"
Oliver held the shorter man's gaze. "I'd need to see the
autopsy results to be sure, but I'm willing to bet that the
unsub drown the victim before cutting her up."
"What makes you think that?"
Oliver shrugged. "He's grandstanding by bringing her out
here and leaving her to be found. But the water, the water
is significant to him somehow."
"Then why cut her up?"
"I don't know yet," Oliver stated in a matter of fact tone.
"But I'd like to see the body, now."