Detective Angie Pallorino took down a serial killer permanently and, according to her superiors, with excessive force. Benched on a desk assignment for twelve months, Angie struggles to maintain her sense of identity—if she’s not a detective, who is she? Then a decades-old cold case washes ashore, pulling her into an investigation she recognizes as deeply personal.
Angie’s lover and partner, James Maddocks, sees it, too. But spearheading an ongoing probe into a sex-trafficking ring while keeping Angie’s increasing obsession with her case in check is taking its toll. As startling connections between the parallel investigations emerge, Maddocks realizes he has even more than Angie’s emotional state to worry about.
Driven and desperate to solve her case, Angie goes rogue, risking her relationship, career, and very life in pursuit of answers. She’ll learn that some truths are too painful to bear, and some sacrifices include collateral damage.
But Angie Pallorino won’t let it go. She can’t. It’s not in her blood.
Angie stopped outside the ER entrance, her attention once more drawn to the brightly lit Starbucks outlet across the road. She studied the storefront through the rain, then shifted her attention to the apartments above it, the shops adjacent. The digitized article she’d told Jenny Marsden about had been accompanied by a news photo taken shortly after the gunfight had erupted outside the cathedral. Police had cordoned off the area in front of the cathedral, and the witnesses plus a small crowd had gathered on the opposite side of the street right about where that Starbucks was. Except it wasn’t a coffee shop back then.
Angie stepped farther back under the portico cover, out of the rain. She took her smartphone from her pocket—a new one she’d bought since she’d had to hand over her work phone along with her badge and gun while on suspension. She pulled up the news photo she’d clipped from the article and saved. It showed a group of about twenty people huddled in hats and coats, snow coming down, bright lights from a television news crew, yellow crime scene tape, officers in uniform. Behind them was a restaurant with a pink neon sign in the window that declared, THE PINK PEARL CHINESE KITCHEN.
She glanced up. The Chinese restaurant had been replaced by the Starbucks. But when? Had there been another business—or several—in that space after the Pink Pearl had vacated the premises? She could obtain that information from city planning and business license records on her next visit to the mainland, but asking wouldn’t hurt. Besides, she could do with a hit of warm caffeine and sugar.
Angie pulled up her hood, stepped back into the rain, and crossed Front Street. She entered the Starbucks.
The place was quiet inside at this dinner hour. A lone male sat with his laptop at a table near the back, and two females Angie guessed were hospital employees conversed in deep chairs in a corner. Music played softly—a lyrical, jazzy tune. Pushing back the hood of her jacket, Angie ordered a cappuccino and a brownie from the young woman behind the counter. The woman sported a nose ring and a silver bar across of the top of her ear. Wrapped around the left side of her thick neck was a large spiderweb tattoo. The tat reminded Angie of a fishnet stocking struggling to contain a fat white thigh—like some Rocky Horror costume. Angie moved to the end of the counter, where a male barista made her coffee.
“Do you know how long this Starbucks has been here?” she asked the barista.
Glancing up, he frowned and made a moue. “Like maybe four years? Or perhaps five?” He turned to his colleague with the tat. “You know how long this place has been open, Martine?”
Martine shook her head, clearly disinterested.
“We had a water pipe burst about six months ago,” the barista said, concentrating on pouring foam onto Angie’s drink. “So the interior of the place has been refurbished. That’s why it’s pretty new looking.”
“Any idea what was in this space before?”
He glanced up. “It was a Chinese restaurant. An old place that had been here for decades.” He smiled. “The only reason I know is because the old Chinese dude who used to run it like forever still lives in one of the apartments upstairs.”
Excitement flushed through Angie. “Do you know his name?”
“Hey, Martine, the old restaurant guy—you know his name?”
“Ken somebody,” she said. “Ken Ling . . . Lee. I dunno.” She wiped her hands on her apron, grabbed a silver jug, and went to the sink where she commenced rinsing it.
The barista handed Angie her cappuccino. “Like I said, he lives in the apartment building upstairs. Comes in here like clockwork every afternoon around two. Reads his paper and has a green tea latte. Always sits in that back corner if he can get the table.”
“So he’ll likely be here tomorrow?”
The barista snorted. “If nothing changes. I can set my watch by that guy.”
Rippling with adrenaline, Angie took her coffee and brownie to a counter that ran the length of a window facing Front Street. She perched atop a barstool and sipped her drink while she studied the image on her phone again. If that old restaurateur had been working here back in ’86, or if he knew someone who had, she might have her first witness. A place to start.
Energized, Angie bit into her brownie and called Maddocks’s number on her cell. As it rang she chewed her brownie, relishing the instant sugar and chocolate rush. Her call kicked to voicemail. Angie hit the kill button and slowly swallowed her mouthful, which was suddenly dry in her throat. He was busy on the barcode girls case. She knew that. Her case—or at least it should have been, in part. It was her and Maddocks’s work on the Baptist case that had led to the discovery and rescue of those young women with the barcode tats. A small tang of bitterness filled her mouth. She’d saved Maddocks’s life, and there he was, working one of the biggest and most intriguing investigations to hit the MVPD books in decades. And it would no doubt mushroom in scope with possible international reach. While she sat on the sidelines with her career in jeopardy.
Angie reached for her coffee and sipped as she turned her attention to the huge brick hospital across the street. Through her own reflection on the window, she studied the building. Smeared and darkened with rain and nestled up against the ominous stone cathedral, it brought to mind some Dickensian structure, a rambling place filled with galleries and passages and terrible pain and secrets. The place where she’d been abandoned. Where her new life as Angie Pallorino had begun; where her old slate had been wiped clean of her memories. As she regarded the building, the rain outside turned into fat flakes of snow. They floated down like weightless silver leaves and settled fast on the roofs of parked cars and on the cold sidewalk.
A surreal sensation sank through her—she was on the cusp of two identities. The child before. And the Angie after. With the sense of surreality came fear. It unfurled from somewhere deep down in the basement of her soul, from her buried past, fingering upward like a stranger into her present. She shook it. Because there was only one way forward now.
Ironically, it meant going backward first.
About the Author
Loreth Anne White is an award-winning author of romantic suspense, thrillers, and mysteries. She has won the Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award for Romantic Suspense, the National Readers’ Choice Award, and the Romantic Crown for Best Romantic Suspense and Best Book Overall. In addition, she has been a two-time RITA finalist, a Booksellers’ Best finalist, a multiple Daphne Du Maurier Award finalist, and a multiple CataRomance Reviewers’ Choice Award winner. A former journalist and newspaper editor who has worked in both South Africa and Canada, she now resides in the Pacific Northwest with her family.