Read an Excerpt from Her Darkest Nightmare

The Evelyn Talbot Chronicles, Book 1


“Kill one and you might as well kill twenty-one.”
—Mark Martin, British murderer

When she came to, Evelyn Talbot could hear nothing. She couldn’t see anything, either. Darkness had fallen, and the shack, where she lay on the cool dirt floor, didn’t have electricity.

Or . . . was she no longer in the shack?

Her thoughts were fuzzy. . . .

Maybe she was dead. She’d been expecting death, been thinking that, unlike most people, she wouldn’t live long enough to graduate from high school. If she was alive, there would be pain. There’d been plenty of that in the three days Jasper Moore had held her captive in this place. Yet, in this moment, she felt . . . nothing.

That made no sense.

Unless she’d dreamed the whole thing. Was it all just a terrible nightmare? Would she wake up and go to school to find Jasper hanging out near her first-period class, lounging against the wall along with some of the other guys on the baseball team, talking about where they should eat dinner before prom?

She imagined telling him that she’d dreamed he killed Marissa, Jessie and Agatha—all three of her best friends. They’d have a good laugh, blame it on the horror movie they’d seen together not long ago, and he’d sling his arm around her neck and draw her in for a kiss, which would fix everything, put her world right.

But the brief flash of hope that shot through her didn’t last. Her own bed didn’t feel like the lumpy, hard-packed earth. Even the old mattress they’d dragged out here when they first found this place and made it their secret hideaway didn’t feel that uncomfortable. As soon as she inhaled, she could smell smoke and remembered Jasper tossing a lighted match on some kindling he’d gathered from the forest. He’d sat there, on one of the stools they’d also brought to this place, for what seemed like forever, smoking a joint. He’d never smoked weed before, at least not around her, and they’d been together for six months. But this Jasper Moore wasn’t the boy she’d known; this Jasper Moore was a monster.

While he studied her, she hadn’t dared to so much as twitch. She’d kept her eyes closed, couldn’t see what he was doing. But she’d had the feeling he was watching her carefully, waiting to be sure she was dead.

Since he’d released her from the rope he used to tie her up, she’d had the use of her hands. It had been all she could do not to use them to staunch the blood pouring from her neck. She could hardly keep from gurgling as she breathed—and the smoke that thickened the air made those shallow breaths even more difficult. She’d thought she might suffocate if she didn’t bleed to death first. But gut instinct had told her that her last and only chance depended on convincing him he’d finished the job he set out to do when he slit her throat.

“That’ll teach you to mess with me, bitch,” he’d muttered when, at long last, he walked out, leaving her to the fire he’d started to destroy the evidence.

Once he was gone, she’d tried to get up, but she must’ve blacked out. It had been light then, light enough that she’d pictured him hurrying home so he wouldn’t be late for baseball practice. He’d attended school while keeping her out here. When he returned each night, he’d laugh and tell her how frantic the whole community was to find her and her friends—even what various kids and teachers were saying at school—as if he found it quite thrilling. He’d talk about the prayer circles, the yellow ribbons, and the anxious news reporters who were hounding everyone she knew for the smallest detail. When she asked him how he was able to keep slipping away to come back to the shack, he’d explained that he told everyone he was going out searching, too. The worried boyfriend was a part he claimed to play well, and she had no doubt of it. He could play any part.

He’d certainly fooled her.

If only someone would realize he wasn’t sincerely upset and take a closer look at him! But that would never happen. With his chiseled face, athletic body, sharp mind and rich parents, he was so convincing, so believable, so unlikely a killer. No one would ever suspect him of committing a crime like this.

Squeezing her eyes closed, she struggled to staunch the tears that welled up. That he could betray her love in such a terrible way was the worst of what she’d suffered. But she couldn’t focus on the heartbreak. That would only make her situation worse. She had to concentrate on breathing or maybe she’d simply . . . stop.

The fire must’ve burned itself out. She had no idea why it hadn’t consumed her and the shack, as Jasper had intended, but below that acrid scent she identified the sweet, cloying smell of decaying flesh. The stench had been getting worse, more stomach churning every day. Jasper had said it made him hard to have her friends watch, with their sightless eyes, what he did to her. He said they were all just hanging out together, having fun like old times—except her friends had finally shut their big mouths.

What he’d done to them made her skin crawl. How he talked about it, with such relish, was almost as bad. She couldn’t escape the vision she’d seen when she’d come looking for him—and surprised him while he was posing their bodies like mere mannequins. He’d said he killed them because they tried to make her break up with him by telling her he’d hit on Agatha at a party a week ago—as if their loyalty somehow made all of this their fault. He’d said he wouldn’t allow anyone to cause trouble for him.

He’d claimed he hadn’t been planning to kill her, but he certainly hadn’t acted as though he minded, as though she was any different or more special to him than they were. As a matter of fact, the more pain he caused her, the happier he became. The torture had ignited something in him, changed him. She’d never imagined anyone could be like that.

But she wasn’t dead yet. If she could smell what she could smell and feel what she could feel, the darkness was simply that—darkness. And her muddled thoughts? Whose thoughts wouldn’t be muddled after what she’d suffered? She had to fight the heaviness that dragged at her limbs and seemed to slow her heart, fight for her life. At least she didn’t have the fire to contend with. Good thing she’d been on the floor, below the smoke, or she probably would’ve died.

If she could make it to the highway, maybe she could flag down a passing motorist.

Lifting a heavy, unwieldy hand to her throat, she felt the stickiness of her own blood. She was lying in a pool of it. But the gaping slash in her throat wasn’t her only injury. She had a broken leg—it was crooked, which left little question—and had various other injuries. She could see out of only one eye and, in three days, hadn’t eaten anything except the gross substances he’d forced down her throat while enjoying the humiliation he caused.

Did she have even half a chance?

It was too late, she decided. No one could be expected to survive what she’d endured. She should use her last moments on earth to scratch a message into the dirt so that her family would know it was Jasper who’d killed her. At least then he wouldn’t get away with it.

But the thought of her parents created such a tremendous longing—and empathy for how they would feel to find her so badly used and broken—that she managed, with massive effort, to sit up. When she didn’t pass out again, she took heart and, feeling for something solid, grabbed Jasper’s stool to help drag her to her feet.

That was when the pain started. Why it suddenly rushed upon her out of nowhere she couldn’t begin to guess. But the moment she came upright, her entire body screamed out in protest. And when she put pressure on her leg—oh God! She nearly lost consciousness.

Focus! Keep standing! Push the pain away! Think of only one thing—what to do next!

That was getting out of the place where her friends had been murdered—where he’d asked them to meet him so they could have a “private talk.”

She feared Jasper would somehow realize the shack hadn’t burned and come back to investigate. But if she was going to live, she had to move now. In five minutes, or less, she might not have the strength or the presence of mind.

Considering the agony of every footfall, Evelyn had no idea how she managed to stagger through the rain-drenched woods. She wasn’t even sure she was moving in the right direction. It didn’t matter that she’d traversed the small path to the shack at least a hundred times. There was greenery everywhere, and it all looked the same. She could be going in a circle, but she had to keep moving, keep struggling—had to find someone to help her.

Not until she was in the road did she realize that she’d reached her goal—and then it occurred to her only because a car horn sounded as a vehicle came at her. The blast was intended to get her out of the way, but she couldn’t take another step, couldn’t even raise her arms to signal her distress.

She heard the brakes squeal as the driver swerved to miss her, heard the crunch of gravel as the car came to a stop. Then she crumbled and would’ve died right there on the dotted yellow line separating the two lanes of pavement if not for the man who came rushing toward her, shouting, “Oh my God! What happened to you?”

Chapter 1

“We are all evil in some form or another.”
—Richard Ramirez, the Night Stalker

Twenty years later . . .

He’d kill her if he could. He’d attacked her once before. She had to remember that.

Dropping her pen on top of the notepad she’d carried in with her, Dr. Evelyn Talbot slipped her fingers under her glasses and rubbed her eyes. She hadn’t gotten much sleep last night; she’d had another of her terrible nightmares. “The plexiglass is there for a reason, Hugo. It will always be between us. And we both know why.”

This wasn’t the answer he’d been hoping for. Impatience etched lines in his handsome face, with its wide forehead and innocent-looking brown eyes, but he was careful not to raise his voice. In fact, he did the opposite: he lowered it in appeal. “I won’t lay a hand on you, I swear! I just have to tell you something. Come over to this side so I can whisper. It’ll only take a minute.”

It would take even less time for him to get his hands around her throat or put her in the hospital, like he did when she first met him at San Quentin.

Reclaiming her pen, she replied in the same measured tone she always reserved for her subjects. “You know I can’t do that. So say what you have to say. Do it right here, right now. We’ve been going around and around with this for two weeks.”

He twisted to look up at the camera being used to monitor his behavior. Whenever she met with an inmate, a correctional officer in a room down the hall viewed the proceedings on closed-circuit TV. The inmates thought they were being watched for security purposes, but these sessions were also recorded. The video enabled her to study the nuances in their body language, which was, in addition to their speech patterns, the focus of her research.

“I can’t,” he insisted. “Not in front of the cameras. I’m a dead man if I do.”

Someone had him convinced. She believed that much. Although, with the way her subjects lied, she could easily be wrong. Maybe he was making it all up. “But who would harm you?” She leaned closer. “And how?”

Evelyn had been studying Hugo Evanski since Hanover House opened three months ago, in November. He’d been among the first of the psychopaths transferred here, had scored a whopping 37 out of 40 on the Hare Psychopathy Checklist, or PCL-R. But to look at him or talk to him no one would know he was capable of murder. From the beginning, Evelyn had found him to be intelligent, tractable and, for the most part, polite. He was even helpful, when he could be.

The thought made her a bit uneasy, but if she had a friend among the psychopaths she’d come to Alaska to analyze it would be Hugo. Maybe that was why she was tempted to trust him, even after what he’d done before and everything else she’d been through.

“I was right about Jimmy, wasn’t I?” he said.

A month and a half ago, he’d warned her that another inmate was planning to hang himself with a sheet. If not for Hugo, Jimmy Wise would be dead.

“Yes, but you didn’t demand I risk my life to get that information.”

“Because Jimmy was no threat to me!”

“So who is?”

Squeezing his eyes closed, he tapped his forehead against the glass.

Evelyn waited.

“What can I do?” he asked when he spoke again. “How can I get you to believe me? To give me just a moment of privacy?”

He’d strangled fifteen women and he’d injured her. That meant there was nothing he could do, because she wasn’t stupid enough to put herself in jeopardy.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “I truly am.”

His gaze fell to the four-inch-long scar on her neck. “It’s his fault.”

She touched the raised flesh. She supposed, in a way, Hugo was right. But she found it amusing that he assumed no personal responsibility for his own behavior the day they met. She could’ve pointed that out but was more interested in what he hoped to tell her. “Yes.”

Getting up, he paced the length of the small cubicle that comprised his half of their meeting space—what constituted her “couch.” “I would never let anything happen to you,” he said, “not if I could help it.”

“And what happened at San Quentin?” This time she couldn’t resist. . . .

“I didn’t know you then. Things are different now.”

Were they really? That was the question.

“I appreciate the sentiment,” she responded, but that didn’t mean she’d change her mind.

He stopped and pivoted to face her. “You don’t understand. You’re not safe. None of us are.”

The intensity of his voice and expression made the hair on her arms stand on end. Was that what Hugo was hoping to do? Frighten her?

She had to admit it was working—but only because he’d never taken this tact before January 1. And he seemed so convinced, so sincere.

Apparently, even she could still be taken in. . . .

Grabbing her pad and her pen, Evelyn stood. “I’m afraid we’ll have to end our session early. You’re so obsessed with . . . whatever it is that’s causing your agitation we can’t make any progress.”

“Wait!” He rushed the glass. “Evelyn . . .”

When she gaped at him for using her first name as if they were familiar enough for him to do that, he reverted to the usual formalities.

“Dr. Talbot, listen to me. Please. This prison houses psychopaths, right? Men who take lives without hesitation or remorse.”

She made no reply, didn’t see where one was necessary. He was stating information they both knew to be accurate.

“I’m trying to tell you that”— he glanced at the camera again—“not every killer at Hanover House is locked up.”

This was the last thing she’d expected. “What are you talking about?”

“That’s all I’ll say. Unless . . . unless you can give me a chance to speak to you in private. I’ll explain what I know, what I’ve seen and heard. And I won’t hurt you. I’m trying to help!”

Evelyn refused to listen to any more of this. Clearly, Hugo was hoping to gain some type of control in their relationship by acting like her protector at the same time he chipped away at her peace of mind. No way would she allow him to do that. At just sixteen, her life had nearly been taken when she fell in love with a man like Hugo. After becoming a psychiatrist eight years ago, she’d devoted her life to unraveling the mysteries of the remorseless killer. She knew more about the psychopathic mind than anyone else in the world, except, maybe, Dr. Robert D. Hare, who had developed the PCL-R and had been researching the same subject for nearly thirty years. But, sadly, even she didn’t know as much as she wanted, not nearly enough to protect the unsuspecting.

“We’ll meet at our regular time day after tomorrow,” she told Hugo. “Do what you can to relax. You’re growing paranoid.”

She walked out, but he didn’t let it go at that. “You’ll see,” he called after her. “You’re going to wish you’d believed me!”

* * *

With a sigh of bone-deep exhaustion, Evelyn tossed her notepad on her desk and slid into her chair.

“What’s wrong? Another headache?”

The sound of Lorraine Drummond’s voice at her open door brought Evelyn’s head up. “No, I just left a session with Hugo Evanski.”

Lorraine, who’d answered an ad in the newspaper when Evelyn and the warden began staffing the center last September, was heavyset, in her mid-fifties and recently single. She had a small house in Anchorage an hour away, two grown children and no education beyond high school. She hadn’t even worked until her divorce, but she was doing a terrific job of running the center’s food service program.

“Since he came here, Hugo’s been perfect. You told me that yourself.”

“He’s changing. Acting strange.”

“Why not pass him along to Dr. Fitzpatrick or one of the others? Give yourself a break?”

“Dr. Fitzpatrick is already using him for some of his studies—and has been since we opened. I can’t ask him to do more. Not since Dr. Brand quit and Dr. Wilheim came down with the shingles. We’re barely managing without them. Who knows how long it’ll be before we can find someone to replace Martin and Stacy’s able to come back to work?” Besides, Evelyn felt duty bound to carry the heaviest load. She was largely the reason they were all stuck in the middle of nowhere with thirty-seven of the worst serial killers in America. The other 213 inmates were also diagnosed as psychopathic but were in for lesser crimes and would one day be released.

“You could if you wanted to,” Lorraine insisted.

“I don’t want to. There’re only four other productive members of the team right now. I can handle him.” The men she’d come here to study manipulated her constantly, or tried to. Why should she expect Hugo to be any different? Especially with the way their first meeting had gone?

“He’s very nice whenever I see him in the dining hall.” Lorraine put a sack lunch on the desk. She came over to the mental health wing quite often to make sure Evelyn had food to eat, regardless of the meal.

Evelyn peeked in at her lunch: carrots, an apple, a cup of chicken noodle soup and a chocolate-chip cookie. “You can’t trust nice.” Jasper had once been nice, too. And look what he did.

Lorraine adjusted an earring that was hanging too low. “Dr. Fitzpatrick says everyone dons a mask. With psychopaths, that mask is more like a mirror. Whatever they think you want to see, that’s what they reflect back at you. They’re empty.”

No, not empty. Evelyn didn’t believe that for a second. She’d once seen the bared soul of a psychopath, stared into his eyes in a way Dr. Fitzpatrick never had and, God willing, never would. The men they treated were far from empty; “empty” was too synonymous with “neutral, harmless.” If she were a religious person she might substitute “soulless” and find it quite fitting, but she hadn’t been to church in over a decade.

“They know how to blend in,” she corrected. “How to appear as emotionally invested as those around them. They’re wolves in sheep’s clothing, which is why they’re able to cause so much pain and destruction.” And why the truly caring individuals involved in their lives usually suffered for it.

Lorraine seemed to measure Evelyn more closely. “Are you sure it’s only Hugo that’s got you down? You look . . . frazzled.”

And it was only Monday. Not a great way to start out the week. “I didn’t sleep well last night.”

“Why don’t you go home and lie down, get some rest?”

Evelyn waved her off. “It’s not even noon.”

“Listen, this place won’t fall apart if you take a couple of hours. Everyone admires your commitment—no one more than me—but you’ll run yourself into a brick wall if you don’t slow down.”

Evelyn shook a daily vitamin from the bottle she kept in her desk and tossed it back with a drink of water. “Don’t be so dramatic. I’m fine. And I can’t leave.” She checked the clock hanging on her wall. “Our new inmate will be here any minute.”

“Anthony Garza? I thought he wasn’t due until four.”

“Weather report says we’ve got another storm coming in. So they caught an earlier flight. You didn’t get the message?”

Lorraine adjusted her hairnet. “I haven’t checked my e-mail this morning. I’ve been too busy in the kitchen.”

“One of the federal marshals called just before I met with Hugo. The plane’s already landed in Anchorage.” Because of the amount of security required to move the high-profile killers they often received, arrivals were always a big deal. The entire on-site staff was alerted . . . just in case—although Lorraine’s presence wasn’t as high a priority as the warden, the COs and the mental health team. The last thing they needed was for someone to make a careless mistake that would result in an escape or injury. As the first institution of its kind, Hanover House was perceived to be a radical new approach to the psychopathy problem, which meant they had to prove themselves professional and effective or risk losing the public support they’d worked so hard to achieve. Just because Hilltop hadn’t mounted much resistance to having a maximum-security mental facility built on the outskirts of town—nothing like the other locations the government considered—didn’t mean they wouldn’t rally at the prodding of an inciting event. For the most part, the locals who weren’t working at the center seemed to be reserving judgment, but they weren’t welcoming her or her brainchild with open arms, especially Amarok, the handsome Alaska State Trooper who was about the town’s only police presence.

“What do we know about Garza?” Lorraine asked.

That question made Evelyn uncomfortable. The inmates at Hanover House were hand selected for the type of crimes they’d committed and the behavior they exhibited. That was one of the details that made their institution unique, besides the friendly name (“House” instead of “Prison”) and the focus on research and treatment as opposed to simple incarceration. But Evelyn had chosen Garza just because he was so difficult to handle. Had the team been asked to weigh in on some of the details, as they probably should’ve been, they would’ve rejected him on the grounds that he was too antagonistic to be considered for their program. Not only had he attacked every cellmate he’d ever had; a year ago he’d nearly killed a guard also.

But Evelyn thought that anger, that level of hatred and vocal interaction, might bring insights they’d been missing so far.

“We know he killed the first three of his four wives. That he’s egocentric, feels no real human attachment, has delusions of grandeur and lies like a rug.” She straightened her blotter. “He also has a penchant for self-mutilation, but that’s another thing.”

“How’d he murder his wives?” Lorraine’s expression suggested she didn’t really care to know but had to ask.

His file lay on the corner of the desk. Evelyn had read the documents inside it several times. She slid it over and flipped through the pages as she spoke. “He didn’t do anything uniquely gruesome. Knocked them out with a hammer before setting the bed on fire.”

“He did that to all three?”

When she came to a picture of the burned remnants of a mobile home, Evelyn paused. She hated to imagine what’d happened to the poor woman who’d been inside, but couldn’t stop the heartbreaking images that flashed before her mind’s eye. “Yes.”

“He wasn’t afraid three fires would raise his chances of being caught?”

Evelyn managed a shrug as she closed the file. She had to keep some distance between her emotions and what she encountered every day or she would never survive this job. Even if she couldn’t maintain that separation, she faked it. Otherwise her colleagues would be all over her—cautioning her, giving advice, telling her she was taking the job too seriously. What she didn’t understand was how they could take the men and issues they dealt with any less seriously, how they could look at their jobs as just a nine-to-five grind. “He killed each one in a different state, and he nearly got away with it. Was only tried two years ago, five years after the death of the last woman. By then, he was separated from his fourth wife. I guess he found something that worked and stuck with it.”

Lorraine made a clicking sound with her tongue. “Amazing that these cases aren’t connected sooner. What about the last wife? Why didn’t he kill her?”

“Courtney Lofland? I have no idea.” Evelyn set the file aside. “She’s remarried and living in Kansas.”

“Lucky girl. I bet you’d love to talk to her, see what she has to say about Garza’s behavior.”

“I’ve already sent a letter,” Evelyn said with a smile.

Lorraine shook her head. “I should’ve known. With you, no stone goes unturned.”

Evelyn ignored the reference to her diligence because she knew the compulsion she felt had turned to obsession long ago. “If she agrees to be interviewed, I’ll fly out there and meet her.”

“And get away from all this?” Lorraine spread her arms to indicate the sprawling two-story complex, of which Evelyn’s office comprised only a small part of the third wing.

Outside, snow was falling so heavily Evelyn could no longer make out the Chugach Mountains. They’d had sixty inches since she arrived in September, and it was only January 13. “It’d be nice to feel the sun, warm up,” she admitted.

“I wish I could go with you. I haven’t been much farther from home than the prison.”

Evelyn pulled her gaze from the window. “You’d have to fight off the mental health team first. They’d all love to return to the Lower Forty-eight.” Homesickness was what had driven Martin Brand back to Portland, where he was from. That and it wasn’t easy adjusting to such a hostile environment. The echoing halls, clanging doors, occasional moans and crazy-sounding laughter were hard enough to cope with. Add to those realities the long, dark winter and lonely evenings spent with more files and psychology journals than people, and the memories of countless conversations filled with bloodcurdling details, and saying life here was harsh went well beyond the weather.

“Will you take one of them along?” Lorraine asked.

Evelyn shook her head. “We don’t have the funds. I’ll be lucky if the Bureau of Prisons approves my ticket.”

“So who’ll be working with Mr. Garza?”

“Who do you think?”

“Not you—you’re already juggling a lot more than the others. As it is you don’t get time to think about anything besides your patients.”

Evelyn offered her a rueful smile. “Maybe you haven’t noticed, but there’s not a lot to do in Hilltop besides work, especially this time of year.”

“You could get a social life.”

“Which would include . . . what? Drinking at the Moosehead?”

“Why not?”

Evelyn had gone there once last summer, before Hanover House even opened. Amarok had taken her. She’d had a good time, but she tried not to think about that.

“You never know what kind of guy you might meet,” Lorraine added by way of enticement.

She rolled her eyes. “Truer words were never spoken.”

“I meant that you might run into someone fun and interesting, not dangerous.”

Like Amarok. Surely Lorraine had heard the rumors about them. Or maybe not. As with so many other members of the staff, she lived in Anchorage and commuted to work. Didn’t socialize with the locals. “There are no guarantees.”

“Glenn would go with you.”

Glenn Whitcomb, one of the COs, had taken it upon himself to look after the both of them, as well as some of the other women who worked at Hanover House. When he could, he walked them out of the prison, carried anything that was heavy or helped scrape the snow off their cars. “Glenn faces the same drive you do,” she said. “He doesn’t need to be staying here in Hilltop any later than his work requires.”

“Why not? What’s he got to go home to? His married sister? He needs to find a mate, too.”

“He’ll meet someone eventually.” Regardless, she couldn’t become any friendlier with him. She could sense how much he admired her, had to be careful. He was lonely, but getting too chummy with a guard wasn’t professional and could undermine her authority at HH.

“Come on,” Lorraine said. “You have to overcome the past at some point.”

She was spitting Evelyn’s own words back at her. “I’ve made peace with my past. I’m happy as I am,” she responded, but she knew she bore more scars than the one on her neck. After the attack, she’d spent nearly a decade in therapy.

“You’d rather be single for the rest of your life?” Lorraine asked.

Suddenly realizing that she was hungry, Evelyn pulled the carrots out of the sack. Maybe if she ate something she’d get her second wind. “I don’t need a man. I’ve filled my life with other things.”


“A purpose,” she said, tearing open the plastic. “And to fulfill that purpose, I can fit one more inmate into my schedule.”

Lorraine tsked. “You’re pushing too hard. Driving yourself right over the edge.”

“I appreciate the warning—and the lunch,” she said. “What would I do without you in all of this? But I’m okay. Really. So . . . did Glenn’s uncle get your security alarm installed?”

Lorraine gave her a look that let her know she recognized the deliberate change in subject. She allowed it, however. “Last week. That high-pitched tone that goes off when I open the door about makes me jump out of my skin.”

Evelyn chuckled. “You get used to it.” She could speak with confidence, because Glenn’s uncle had also installed one in her house. She found the sound quite comforting.

“I guess it’s a wise thing to have.”

“It is.” Especially because Lorraine’s husband had moved out six months ago and she was now living alone. Evelyn thought it might provide her with some peace of mind—once she became accustomed to how it worked.

“I’d better get back downstairs before all hell breaks loose,” Lorraine said. “But I wanted to ask you . . . have you heard anything from Danielle?”

“Connelly? The gal you hired to help in the kitchen? Not yet. Why?”

“She didn’t come in this morning.”

“Have you tried calling her house?”

“Of course. Over and over. There’s no answer.”

“Are you sure she didn’t talk to the warden or another member of the team? Maybe she’s sick. Maybe she turned off the ringer on her phone so she could get some sleep.”

A knock interrupted, right before her assistant, four-foot-nine Penny Singh, poked her head into the room. “Receiving just called. Anthony Garza has arrived.”

“Thank you.”

“Did you plan to talk to the marshals?” Penny asked.

“Of course.” Evelyn felt it was important to thank the escorts. Sometimes they had warnings or other information to convey. She also made it a habit to meet with every single inmate as soon as he received his jumpsuit and other essentials so she could create his chart, make some initial notes on his attitude and psychological state and whether he was likely to be a problem.

“You’ll have to hurry,” Penny prodded. “They can’t wait. They’re worried about missing their flight, are afraid they’ll get snowed in.”

Evelyn couldn’t blame them for being antsy. With the monstrous cold fronts that rolled through Anchorage, getting snowed in was a real possibility—and it could mean they’d be trapped for a week or longer. “I’m coming.” She turned to Lorraine. “About Danielle—can you get away long enough to drive by her house?”

“Not during work hours. Not when I’m short staffed. But I’ll stop on my way home.”

“Perfect. Call me if for some reason she’s not there.”

Lorraine nodded as Evelyn brushed past. But it wasn’t fifteen minutes later that Evelyn forgot Danielle. While the staff in Receiving checked Garza in, she met with the marshals in the warden’s conference room. What they had to say about Anthony made her nervous. So she was already on edge when, right after they left, the intermittent honk of the emergency alarm sounded, punching her heart into her throat.

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