her expression wouldn’t change. Evans followed her to a walled compound with a security gate. The woman swiped a card and the door’s lock snicked open. The area was a wide expanse of lawn with several small cottages spread haphazardly around the area. They were small, like the kind of rustic motel cabins in the country. The woman walked directly to the cabin the farthest from the door. Evans felt his heart beating faster as they approached. The woman got to the cottage and Evans saw that the cabin’s door had the same kind of security system. Butterfly swiped her card again and Evans followed her in. The girl was sitting on the bed, her hands in her lap. Evans stopped breathing. She was everything he’d hoped for. And more.
48 T he FBI’s rapid response team led the way, followed by Mack and a few other agents, as well as some D.C. cops. The address was a brownstone near Georgetown. According to records, the house was owned by a shell corporation called H. Cide Enterprises. The guy was good at mass murder, not so much at stand-up comedy, Mack thought. He hung back and watched the armed response team in action. They hit the front door, announced themselves, then used a battering ram to knock the door inward. The team raced inside and Mack heard what deep down he suspected they might find. Silence. When the all-clear was given, Mack entered the building. It was a beautiful brownstone with lovely hardwood floors, immaculately painted trim and wainscoting. The ceilings were high, the windows large and beautiful, letting in a tremendous amount of light. It was also completely empty. No furniture. No people. Nothing. Except for two items in the middle of the living room. The first was a dead man hanging by the neck from an exposed beam. He was dressed like an office worker on casual Friday. Khakis and a dress shirt. He was in his socks with a pair of penny loafers beneath him. Judging by his face and the odor in the room, he had been dead for at least several days. The other item sat on the floor next to the dead man, a dozen feet or so from the breathtaking marble fireplace. A complex system of hard drives. They were all connected and Mack watched the blinking green and yellow lights on a sophisticated display. Mack’s phone buzzed and he answered as crime scene techs began arriving and taking control of the room. It was Hopestil Fletcher. “His name is Terry Piechura,” she said. “Moody tracked him down. He was a hacker turned investor. Very wealthy but with an almost invisible past. All we know right now is that he and a woman named Chloe Jamison were charged as juveniles with a series of escalating crimes and then they both disappeared. “She’s the Collector,” Mack said without hesitation. “The janitor who snatched Rebecca Spencer was a woman. It’s got to be her. And judging by the setup here–“ He paused. “Mack?” Fletcher asked. “How did Moody track him down so fast?” he asked. “What the hell does that mean?” Fletcher said. “She’s the best we’ve got in cyber crimes. She’s a genius.” Mack shook his head. “Have her double-check the trail that led her to this guy. Did any of it recently come online?” He heard Fletcher sigh. “What is it, Mack?” Mack walked away from the room and back out onto the street. “Listen, I’ve tracked these guys all my life. They don’t commit suicide. They just don’t. Sure, there has been a case or two, but ninety-nine percent of the time, they don’t.” He thought back to some of his cases. “ They see themselves as victims, forced to kill by other people,” he continued. “There is no guilt. No fear of prison.” “So you’re saying this is a set-up?” Fletcher said. As he spoke the words, he suddenly realized how strong his conviction was. “Yes, it absolutely is.”
49 B ernard Evans’ hands were shaking he was so excited. The girl was beautiful. Better and sexier