Then: Salem, MA 1692. Burning, hanging, stoning and drowning were the way they killed a witch. The trials were a joke, and the deaths were a shame. The Killing times changed so many lives… forever.
Now: Salem, SC. Elizabeth LaRue has come home. After a stint in the FBI, a failed assignment and a disastrous affair, she has returned to a town she willingly walked away from, her body and heart battered and bruised. Her father’s sudden death has brought her home, opening up more questions that need answers. As she agrees to step in as Sheriff, she finds that the sleepy town isn’t quite as tranquil as she thought. A string of bizarre killings that are mimicking the Salem Witch trials is plaguing the town, and scaring the people she has sworn to protect.
Elizabeth now has to call in the FBI, and be faced with a past and people she is trying to forget.
Will Ethan Blackhawk be her salvation or her ultimate downfall?
Time is running out, bodies are stacking up, and there are only two options. Stop the killer, or die trying.
Twelve Months Earlier
It was all wrong, and he simply couldn’t accept it. There had to be something connecting these deaths, and he just wasn’t seeing it clearly. Sheriff Charlie LaRue sat at his desk in his home office, eating his dinner with his case files open on his lap. As he compared the three victims, there had to be a reason their lives all came to an end. It wasn’t as if these were the first deaths the town had seen, and yet something rubbed him the wrong way. Just last year there had been a drowning in the lake, but they chalked it up to too much booze on the holiday, but these three… they truly screamed ‘foul’. Charlie was bothered enough to keep digging through the information. Eventually, he would get to the bottom of it, even if it became his life mission. Now he was a dog with a meaty bone, and plenty of time to strip it bare. It seemed that all he had left at this point in his life was time.
He’d been a lawman for thirty years now. Charlie worked his way up through the ranks in the big city, supporting a wife and daughter on his salary. He truly loved the job. Then one day, that all came screeching to a halt. His wife, on her way to a soccer game with their only child, was killed in a car accident. He then was forced to become the mom and dad to a stubborn little spitfire. Big city life had to come to an end. When they had the chance, he moved them to Salem, to slow down the pace. This would ensure that he would live long enough to raise his daughter.
In his opinion, there was nothing like living in the Deep South. In the north, time moved forward quickly, where in Salem- it didn’t. It stayed a sleepy old town.
His work there was gratifying as sheriff. It wasn’t always exciting, but he got to interact daily with the people he swore to protect. It also allowed him to watch his daughter grow up into a fine young woman. Sadly though, slow town life didn’t suit her at all, and once she graduated college, Elizabeth was off to Quantico to become part of the FBI.
Pride swelled in his heart as he stared over at her picture on his book shelf. She was the spitting image of her momma, and the stubborn duplicate of her father.
God help the world!
As he refocused on the files in front of him, Charlie continued eating his salad, despite how much he loathed the leafy clippings. It reminded him of lawn cuttings and tasted just about the same. But a promise was made to his daughter, one he intended to keep. If he ate better and stopped smoking, then maybe he would get to see grandkids one day.
He glanced down at the greens that he had dumped from the big container in his refrigerator. Yeah, this was going to be torture. His ex-wife couldn’t get him to eat healthy, but his daughter and a promise of grandkids one day certainly could.
In her last email, she mentioned a possible second date. It gave him hope that it would lead to more. Charlie desperately wanted her to find the love he once had with his first wife. She had been his soul mate, and he desired that for his daughter too.
Since he’d been thinking of her and the emails, he needed to send one back. Maybe he should ask for a second set of eyes to take a look at these files. It was possible a trained special agent with the FBI would have a better chance at sorting through all this crap. Then possibly, Elizabeth could give her old man a clue.
He rolled his eyes in disgust as more greens went down the gullet.
Apparently, Charlie would do anything to one day see those grandkids.
As he began to type the email, he felt a quickening in his pulse and a tightening in his chest. Possibly, he was pushing himself a little too hard. In his medical history, there was a slight arrhythmia that gave him concern. The doctor assured him with medication, he would be fine. Maybe taking the rest of the night off would be a good thing; after all, he wasn’t a young man anymore. Sixty was right around the corner, and he hadn’t exactly lived a clean life. Yeah, the smoking and beer were catching up to him, so maybe he’d just finish his lawn clippings and head to bed.
Charlie was almost done. All that was left was to hit send. Before he could, there was a scraping noise from the patio. It sounded like someone was opening his door, trying to get into gain access to the house. Immediately, Charlie shut down all his files and closed his laptop.
It would have to wait until his company was gone.
In his mind, Charlie had plenty of time.
Charlie tried to stand, but the room swam and his throat began to constrict.
Oh God, something was wrong!
He reached for the phone to dial 911, but it slipped from his hand. All the feeling in his hand was gone, as the numbness spread to his legs, his thighs, and finally his chest. Suddenly, he wished he sent the email, or better yet had taken the time to call his daughter.
“Did you enjoy your salad, Charlie?” questioned the voice from the doorway.
Charlie tried to speak, but his tongue felt incredibly swollen. He couldn’t understand why the visitor was in his house.
“Oh, don’t worry, Charlie. While you were at work I mixed you up some special greens of my own.”
Panic set in as his breathing slowed. How he wished he could get to his gun and take one well aimed shot.
“I’m sure you realize now what Foxglove can do to the body. It’s very toxic and the poison works fairly quickly. Isn’t it delightful that digitalis is both a toxin and a cure? Nature can be such a wicked thing. As can humans, Charlie.”
He knew it was over, and he began whispering a mental goodbye to his daughter. He prayed when she was forced to come home, that she wouldn’t stay. If she remained, ultimately she would die too.
“It’s time to end your reign as Sheriff, Charlie. You won’t be investigating these deaths anymore. It’s time to sleep,” mocked the voice, as the man slowly began to slump over his laptop.
Breath shuddered, as everything came to a stop. He swore he heard the last beat of his heart. Soon, all his last cognizant thoughts were gone before the blackness came and swallowed him.
The laughter was sadistic and evil. “Tick, tock, Charlie. Now it looks like you’ll be my next victim. Sadly, they’ll think you had a heart attack, you old coot. Let’s keep that our own little secret. It appears you’ll be taking it to your grave.”
The voice placed the receiver back in the cradle and closed Charlie’s dead eyes. Now that he was gone, the purification of Salem could continue, but first, there would be a little break. There would be a new sheriff and the trail needed to temporarily go cold, until the replacement was found and studied. No need to draw suspicion with another death. There was plenty of time. Why rush and screw it up? After all, this was all a calling.
One from God!
Six Hundred Miles Away
Ethan Blackhawk tossed and turned in his bed. The dream grabbed him, refusing to let go, no matter how hard he tried to wake himself. He should be used to it by now, since the same woman had been habitually invading his nights and sometimes entering his days. There were moments where she brought him peace and other times abject horror.
Good dreams, bad dreams, even horrific ones all centered around her as if she was the catalyst. There were even some dreams that would make him blush if he wasn’t asleep. Ethan was ashamed to admit it, but his favorite ones were the voyeuristic dreams, where his blood heated his body. All of it was driving him mad with want.
The dreams were becoming more urgent. In this one the woman was standing in a circle of blood, as it ran over her body in sick rivulets. In one hand was a gun and in the other was a badge. Barely visible was the FBI lettering. Her long, black hair waved in the breeze, as she stared at him with the prettiest blue eyes he had ever seen. Correction, they were the most beautiful eyes he had ever seen in his life. They captivated his attention with their color alone. Her body was next to draw his full attention. The woman was tall and lean. Her hair whipped around her, like a cape in the invisible breeze. What Ethan wouldn’t give to slide his hands into the mass of black silk, holding her to his body.
“Come find me, Ethan. I need your help,” she whispered, into the darkness. It was as if she was staring right through him, seeing all his secrets.
“Where are you?” he pleaded. The desperation was building, as he needed to find her. Maybe if he located her, it would end the torment he was suffering. His life was plagued with this woman and the need to protect her. She had become his obsession, driven by his own selfish desires to touch, taste and feel her.
“I’m at the mouth of hell.” It was simply spoken with both fear and honesty. Wherever she was, it was indeed hellish. Death was surrounding her, and she couldn’t hold it back any longer. Soon it would be coming for her.
“How am I supposed to find you?” His own voice betrayed him, as all the need and want flooded through with the emotions. Blackhawk prided himself in being a man of few words. Yet in his dreams with her, he was always a geyser; desperate to keep her there with him as long as possible.
She tipped her head to the side, pondering the question and searching for the answer herself. How could she explain to him that she couldn’t supply him with the very thing that eluded her too? “Follow the trail of bodies, and they’ll lead you to me,” she replied, dropping her gun and badge into the puddle of blood, willingly abandoning them.
“Hurry Ethan, I need your help!” With that she turned and began walking away, leaving a trail of bloody footsteps marking her path.
Ethan watched the dream waver, sitting up in a panic and finally breaking through. He scrubbed his hands over his face, hoping to wipe away the dream and the panic brewing, but to no avail, it remained. He shuddered and pulled himself from his bed, walking to the window and staring out at the silence of the city.
“I’ll find you, I promise,” he whispered, praying it wouldn’t be too late for either of them.
Everything in him screamed the truth.
Ethan needed her to survive.
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