Heart & Endurance, Book 3
Can Agent Sullivan repress his feelings for the woman he secretly loves and use her as bait to catch a serial killer?
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Nineteen-year-old varsity swimmer Maxime Tremblay is leery of the string of fatal accidents involving female athletes, but after she thwarts an attack, she can no longer ignore the connection between the victims.
Special Agent Ross Sullivan investigates the deadly events on campus only to discover they are not accidents, the athletes are not targeted at random, and the killer is only warming up.
To protect his only witness, he goes undercover as Maxime’s boyfriend, but as pretense and reality begin to blur, Sullivan faces the dilemma of putting her in harm’s way to stop the killings.
Sully hadn’t visited a campus since his rookie years with the Drug Enforcement Agency. One of the police reports had contained Ms. Tremblay’s statement on this morning attack along with some personal notes from the investigating officer related to her whereabouts. From those notes, Sully had charted a crude schedule of her activities.
The clock on his dashboard indicated six forty-five. According to his best estimate, the young woman he sought should be at the pool for another fifteen minutes.
He pulled into the outdoor portion of the Sport Center pay parking lot then walked toward the front door.
As he approached, a wave of young men and women exited the premises. They all wore the same purple and gray jacket with the word swimming written in purple over the gray stripe. Concentrating his attention on the names written underneath swimming, Sully searched the jackets for something resembling Maxime or Tremblay. When he spotted a Splash chatting with a Torpedo, it occurred to him there might be a flaw in his search pattern.
The C on Torpedo’s sleeve prompted Sully to intercept the tall and muscular black swimmer as he walked away from the conversation.
The man abruptly stopped then turned around. “Yes?”
“Hi, my name is Falcon. I’m a friend of Maxime Tremblay.” In order not to attract undue attention to his investigation, he used his middle name. “Do you know if she’s still inside?”
Though Sully didn’t consider himself short at six feet, the swimmer towering over him by three or four inches cast an intimidating aura. The unconcealed curiosity shimmering in Torpedo’s dark eyes added a surreal quality to the encounter.
“Nice meeting you, Falcon. Ursa should be out shortly. She was talking to Kenney when I left. See you around.”
The swimmer jogged away before Sully had time to question him further, or thank him.
Along the sidewalk rested an unoccupied bench from where he could enjoy an obstructed view of the door. Seated with one arm over the back slate, Sully resumed his search for Maxime, Tremblay, Ursa, or any derivative.
The sun wouldn’t set for another forty minutes, but a chilly breeze already transformed every breath Sully took into a cool white mist. A large orange maple leaf swirling with red streaks whirled in the air then landed on the bench next to him. When he picked it up, he spied flaming curls out of the corner of his eyes.
An attractive young woman had left the building. A mane of fiery hair bounced over the purple and gray bag slung over her shoulder. The letter C was embroidered on the sleeve of her team jacket.
As Sully waited for her to switch direction so he could see the back of her jacket, he noticed the nickname on her bag. Ursa. He leapt to his feet, and within a few strides, he caught up with her.
“Maxime? Maxime Tremblay?”
Her body tensed. She glared at him, but she kept marching away. The fury burning in her eyes told him that despite her small built, she would put up a fight if he invaded her personal space.
Thread carefully. The warning resurfaced in his mind. Livingstone had obviously been apprised of Tremblay’s temperament, but for reasons Sully couldn’t fathom, she’d chosen not to elaborate.
“I see you prefer walking while talking. Very good idea.” Keeping pace with her was exhilarating. “Where are we heading exactly?”
She threw another dark look in his direction. “You? I have no clue. Me? I’m going to eat.”
As angry as she appeared to be, she still answered and without yelling. It was a short step in the right direction.
“I’m Special Agent Ross Sullivan.” He showed her his badge. “I’m investigating this morning attack at the pool.”
“Really? With your suit, your tie, your coat, and your demeanor, you could have fooled me.”
The sarcasm wasn’t lost on him. “For the record, could you please confirm you are indeed Maxime Tremblay? I’d like to be sure I’m insulted by the right person.”
“Yes, you are. And for the same record, Special Agent Ross Sullivan, I’ve had enough aggravation dealing with law enforcement to last me a lifetime. Goodbye.”
The uncanny feeling that something regarding Ms. Tremblay was indeed missing from the police reports sprouted inside his mind like poisonous weeds.
“If by law enforcement you mean the police, I couldn’t agree more. Unofficially that is. I pulled all my hair out this afternoon reading the reports.”
Stopped dead in her tracks on the sidewalk, she spun on her heels. “Okay, Agent Wisecracker, let me see that badge of yours again.”
He showed it to her and was pleased when she eyed it circumspectly. Earning her trust was an important step toward gathering the right information.
“So, Special Agent Ross Falcon Sullivan, what do you want to know that I haven’t already told the genius at police headquarters? Or are you here to arrest me for murder or attempted murder?”
The reference stumped him. “Why would I want to arrest you?”
A loud ominous sigh escaped her lips. “Yesterday afternoon, I was accused of murder after I told the genius in uniform that Manuela--she’s the runner who died yesterday morning in case you didn’t know--that I had proof she was lured into the wood and that her death looked nothing like an accident. Then this morning, I was accused of attempted murder by the same genius after Sonja’s attacker vanished into thin air. I was even warned not to leave the campus until Sonja corroborated my version of the attack.”
Wow. Talk about antagonizing your only witness. That police officer deserves a commendation for stupidity.
No wonder the young woman facing him with her arms crossed over her chest was upset. And no wonder his supervisor advised him to thread carefully. There had been no statement from Tremblay, or from anyone else, attached to that runner’s report, and no mention of accusations, but Agent Lucas had to have said something to Livingstone. That had to be the reason she suspected some statements were missing.
“For what it’s worth, Ms. Tremblay, that genius was an idiot. Unofficially that is.”