Title: Fixed in Fear by T.E. Woods
A Justice Novel
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense
Length: 298 pages
The Fixer returns in the pulse-pounding Justice series—perfect for fans of Lisa Gardner, Karin Slaughter, and Jeff Lindsay’s Dexter thrillers—as worlds collide in an inferno of bloodshed, revenge, and holy terror.
I’ll probably never see my daughter again. And if I do, she’ll either be dead or in a jail cell.
Seattle Chief of Detectives Mort Grant cannot reconcile the memories of his vibrant, headstrong young daughter with the cold, deadly woman she has become. The head of one of the largest criminal enterprises in the world, Allie Grant seized power by wrenching it away from her lover, a notorious Russian gangster. How she maintains her control, Mort doesn’t even want to imagine.
Only two other people know the truth about Allie: the vigilante known as The Fixer, and Mort’s best friend, Larry, who’s undergoing a crisis of his own. Someone close to Larry, his last real connection to his beloved late wife, has been slain in a mass murder at a sweat lodge deep in the woods of Washington State. When word gets out, Mort immediately takes on the gruesome case.
But as Mort hunts down a pair of methodical killers, The Fixer does some deep digging of her own. And what she unearths will rock Mort’s family forever. Because The Fixer has set her sights on Allie Grant—and nothing will ever be the same again.
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“You got a visitor.” Daphne’s nasal announcement pulled Mort away from his monthly budget report. “I walked him up myself.”
Mort told her he could see that and did a double take when L. Jackson Clark, Ph.D., stepped into his office. He thanked Daphne and motioned his friend toward a battered leather chair. “This is what, Larry? The second or third time you’ve been to the station since I’ve known you? Did hell choose this particular Monday to freeze over?”
The stately black man with graying curls displayed none of his customary humor when he raised sad brown eyes toward his friend. Mort tossed his budget aside and shifted his tone to reflect the concern he felt. “What’s going on?” he asked.
Larry’s mouth opened and closed several times. He tapped his large hand on his knee and stared into nothing.
“Are you okay?” Mort leaned forward. “You just come back from the doctor or something?”
The internationally renowned scholar, a man accustomed to lengthy discussions on any number of arcane topics with the world’s greatest minds, remained silent. Mort got up and closed his office door. He grabbed a bottle of cold water from the minifridge behind his desk and carried it to his friend.
Larry stared straight ahead. “Carlton Smydon is dead.”
It took Mort a moment to place the name. “Your uncle? I guess I should say Helen’s uncle. Is that who you mean?”
“I had dinner with him last week.” Larry pulled the bottle of water from Mort’s hand and unscrewed the cap. “The man knew enough about world religions to sit on the faculty of any university. We spent the evening discussing how the various sects of Shinto view communal responsibility.” Larry’s voice sounded distant, as if he was focused on a memory he wanted to trace before it disappeared. “There were times I heard the lilt of Helen’s voice in him. After all these years.”
Mort let him linger in the moment. Their friendship had begun with a mutual passion for New York Times crossword puzzles and grew over two decades. They’d celebrated and shared successes and acted as each other’s confidant and adviser during troubling times. But despite the challenges and joys, it was the shared experience of widowhood that bonded them as brothers.
“Was it a heart attack?” Mort asked. “He wasn’t much older than you, was he?”
Larry stayed in that faraway place. “Carlton was only ten years older than Helen. She would have been fifty this year.” A smile came to him. “Imagine that. Helen at fifty. I wonder how the years would have changed her. My hunch is her eyes would still flash with that mischievous dare that was always twinkling in them.” He looked up toward his friend. “She’s been dead as long as she was alive. That hardly seems possible.”
Mort nodded. Larry was respected around the world for his writings. He advised kings and presidents. He attended Hollywood premieres, royal weddings, and had the pope’s personal cellphone number listed in his contacts as “Yeah, That Guy.” But Mort knew Larry would trade it all in a heartbeat to have the lifetime of memories Mort had shared with Edie. “How’d he die, Larry? When?”
Larry blinked his eyes rapidly, as though forcing himself into the present moment. “Yesterday. Or maybe Saturday. The bodies were found Sunday morning. That sweat lodge mayhem in Enumclaw. I read about it in the paper, of course, but I had no idea Carlton . . .” Larry drifted away again. “There was a fire. All of them dead . . . burned. The news reports say it’s being handled as a mass murder. Abraham called me this morning. Apparently the authorities contacted him looking to verify identification.”
“Abraham Smydon has never been one of your favorite people.”
Larry shrugged. “He was Helen’s father. Pissed beyond description when his darling daughter announced she’d fallen in love with a lowly assistant professor. He never forgave me for proposing marriage.” The black man’s face hardened. “And I suppose I’ve never forgiven him for insisting Helen be at that damned blowout he had for his fiftieth. If she hadn’t gone she . . . she might . . .”
Mort didn’t need him to finish his thought. He knew the history. Helen had kissed her young husband goodbye and boarded a ferry to Orcas Island twenty-five years ago to attend the weekend celebration of her father’s birthday. That was the last time he saw her alive.
All those years ago Abraham had asked his secretary to call Larry to tell him Helen had been killed.
This time was different. Abraham called personally, asking Larry to tend to his murdered brother.
“From what I’ve read, those bodies were badly burned,” Mort said. “What led anyone to think Carlton was there?”
Larry took a sip of water. “He was registered at the lodge. He’d signed up for the activity. Carlton was spiritually hungry. He traveled nonstop seeking experiences he thought might get him closer to the Ultimate.”
Mort knew that appetite was what connected Carlton to Larry. “How’s Abraham doing?”
“He’s seventy-five. Strong as a moose and still running that blasted seafood business. You remember me telling you Carlton is Abraham’s half brother, right? Abraham’s mother died when he was ten. Cancer. His father remarried a much younger woman, and Carlton came along a few years later. They were never close.” Larry shook his head. “My guess is Abraham is not racked with grief.”
In his thirty years as a cop Mort had the occasion to see all manner of corpses. He knew what fire could do to a body. “Where do they have him? I’ll go with you.”
“There’s no need,” Larry said. “Five people were killed. Carlton was the only African American at the lodge. One black body was found. Beyond that . . .” Larry lifted his left trouser leg to reveal a tattoo Mort had seen dozens of times. “Carlton adored Helen. They were only ten years apart. He was more big brother than uncle. We grew close after Helen’s death. The night after her murderer was convicted we got drunk enough to get matching tats.”
Mort nodded at the heart and the teardrop inked on Larry’s ankle. The name helen underneath.
“The body was burned primarily in the torso region,” Larry said. “I described the tattoo and the police verified the exact one on the body in the morgue. I let Abraham know, and he asked if I’d oversee cremation.”
Mort watched his friend, now with two loved ones murdered, sit wrapped in the numbness of grief. “I’m sorry, Larry. What can I do?”
“Do I have to ask, Mort?” Larry’s jaw tightened. “I need a cop. I need to know who murdered Helen’s uncle.”
T. E. Woods is as eager as her fans to return to the thrilling world of the Justice series. She’s busy writing the next installment and is developing a new series set in Madison, Wisconsin.
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