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The Soul Catcher [A Maggie O'Dell Novel] [Secure eReader]
eBook by Alex Kava

eBook Category: Suspense/Thriller/Mystery/Crime
eBook Description: For FBI Special Agent Maggie O?Dell, there is nothing routine about being called in to work these two cases. As an expert criminal profiler, Maggie provides psychological insight on cases that involve suspected serial killers. She can't understand, then, why her boss, Assistant Director Cunningham, has assigned her to these two seemingly unrelated crimes. But as Maggie and her partner, Special Agent R.J. Tully, delve into the two cases, they learn that there is a connection between the crimes: Reverend Joseph Everett. The charismatic leader of a high-profile religious sect, Everett has cultivated a devoted following that is growing in numbers daily. The young men holed up in the cabin were members of Everett's church, and the murder of the young woman took place following a religious rally Everett held in the capital. The key to unraveling the significance of these two crimes is Everett himself. But he is untouchable, living on a heavily guarded compound the police are unable to penetrate. Maggie realizes, however, that she may have found a way to get to Everett: by using her own mother, a member of his church. Is Everett a psychotic madman who uses his position of power to perform heinous crimes? Or is he merely a scapegoat for a killer more cunning, more disciplined than he? Maggie realizes too late that there is more going on here than the FBI ever imagined--and her own mother may be about to pay the price.

eBook Publisher: Harlequin/MIRA
Fictionwise Release Date: March 2007


8 Reader Ratings:
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CHAPTER 1

WEDNESDAY
November 20
Suffolk County, Massachusetts, on the Neponset River

Eric Pratt leaned his head against the cabin wall. Plaster crumbled. It trickled down his shirt collar, sticking to the sweat on the back of his neck like tiny insects attempting to crawl beneath his skin. Outside it had gotten quiet—too quiet—the silence grinding seconds into minutes and minutes into eternity. What the hell were they up to?

With the floodlights no longer blasting through the dirty windows, Eric had to squint to make out the hunched shadows of his comrades. They were scattered throughout the cabin. They were exhausted and tense but ready and waiting. In the twilight, he could barely see them, but he could smell them: the pungent odor of sweat mixed with what he had come to recognize as the scent of fear.

Freedom of speech. Freedom from fear.

Where was that freedom now? Bullshit! It was all bullshit! Why hadn't he seen that long ago?

He relaxed his grip on the AR-15 assault rifle. In the last hour, the gun had grown heavier, yet, it remained the only thing that brought him a sense of security. He was embarrassed to admit that the gun gave him more comfort than any of David's mumblings of prayer or Father's radioed words of encouragement, both of which had stopped hours before.

What good were words, anyway, at a time like this? What power could they wield now as the six of them remained trapped in this one-room cabin? Now that they were surrounded by woods filled with FBI and ATF agents? With Satan's warriors descending upon them, what words could protect them from the anticipated explosion of bullets? The enemy had come. It was just as Father had predicted, but they'd need more than words to stop them. Words were just plain bullshit! He didn't care if God heard his thoughts. What more could God do to him now?

Eric brought the barrel of the gun to rest against his cheek, its cool metal soothing and reassuring.

Kill or be killed.

Yes, those were words he understood. Those words he could still believe in. He leaned his head back and let the plaster crumble into his hair, the pieces reminding him again of insects, of head lice burrowing into his greasy scalp. He closed his eyes and wished he could shut off his mind. Why was it so damned quiet? What the hell were they doing out there? He held his breath and listened.

Water dripped from the pump in the corner. Somewhere a clock ticked off the seconds. Outside a branch scraped against the roof. Above his head, a crisp fall breeze streamed in through the cracked window, bringing with it the scent of pine needles and the sound of dry leaves skittering across the ground like the rattle of bones in a cardboard box.

It's all that's left. Just a box of bones.

Bones and an old gray T-shirt, Justin's T-shirt. That was all that was left of his brother. Father had given him the box and told him Justin hadn't been strong enough. That his faith hadn't been strong enough. That this is what happened when you didn't believe.

Eric couldn't shake the image of those white bones, picked clean by wild animals. He couldn't stand the thought of it, bears or coyotes—or maybe both—growling and fighting over the ripped flesh. How could he endure the guilt? Why had he allowed it? Justin had come to the compound, attempting to save him, to convince him to leave, and what had Eric done in return? He should have never allowed Father's initiation ritual to take place. He should have escaped while he and Justin had a chance. Now what chance was there? And all he had of his younger brother was a cardboard box of bones. The memory brought a shiver down his back. He jerked it off, opening his eyes to see if anyone had noticed, but found only darkness swallowing the insides of the cabin.

"What's happening?" a voice screeched out.

Eric jumped to his feet, crouching low, swinging the rifle into position. In the shadows he could see the robotic jerks of the others, the panic clicking out in a metallic rhythm as they swung their own weapons into place.

"David, what's going on?" the voice asked again, this time softer and accompanied by a crackle of static.

Eric allowed himself to breathe and slid back down the wall, while he watched David crawl to the two-way radio across the room.

"We're still here," David whispered. "They've got us—"

"No wait," the voice interrupted. "Mary should be joining you in fifteen minutes."

There was a pause. Eric wondered if any of the others found Father's code words as absurd. Or for that matter, wouldn't anyone listening in find the words strange and outrageous? Yet without hesitation, he heard David turn the knobs, changing the radio's frequency to channel 15.

The room grew silent again. Eric could see the others positioning themselves closer to the radio, anxiously awaiting instructions or perhaps some divine intervention. David seemed to be waiting, too. Eric wished he could see David's face. Was he as frightened as the rest of them? Or would he continue to play out his part as the brave leader of this botched mission?

"David," the radio voice crackled, channel 15's frequency not as clear.

"We're here, Father," David answered, the quiver unmistakable, and Eric's stomach took a dive. If David was afraid, then things were worse than any of them realized.

"What's the situation?"

"We're surrounded. No gunfire has been exchanged yet." David paused to cough as if to dislodge the fear. "I'm afraid there's no choice but to surrender."

Copyright © 2002 by S. M. Kava.


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