I’m serious—stand down until I get back.
Detective Allen Shephard read the text, but he didn’t respond. He also didn’t stand down.
Pocketing his phone, he looked out the rain-dotted windshield at the dark, deserted parking lot. The raindrops were getting bigger. Thicker, too, like globs of slush. It was early for snow in Seattle, but he had a feeling they were in for a white Thanksgiving. He didn’t mind; he just hoped he’d be giving thanks this year for a closed investigation and some evil sons of bitches behind bars. Or dead. He’d be especially thankful if they were dead, and that was why he was here tonight.
Backup would have been good, but he couldn’t wait. He was too close, and everyone else was too far away. Special Agent Melissa Walker—the one who’d sent the text—was all the way across the country in D.C. to bury her partner. Allen’s own partner, Detective Damian Arruda, wasn’t involved with this somewhat off-the-books investigation.
Allen still felt guilty for leaving Damian out of the loop. Early on, he’d tried to bring him in, but Damian hadn’t believed him. He hadn’t seen the murder of Allen’s beloved wife, Sarah, as anything other than a random act of violence, and the evidence had been on his side. If Allen had been in a clearer frame of mind at the time, he probably would have agreed, and he’d have dropped it.
But he hadn’t, and his unrelenting obsession had sent him stumbling into the truth—that her murder hadn’t been random. That it hadn’t been isolated. That it was connected to something bigger, uglier, and more violent than even he had imagined.
Once Allen had learned what he was really up against, he’d deliberately left Damian in the dark. He couldn’t bring him into this. The monsters had already taken Sarah; they weren’t getting their hands on his best friend and longtime partner, too.
And anyway, Allen wasn’t so sure tonight was going to play out by the book.
He absently thumbed the pistol resting on the console of his car. It was loaded with a round in the chamber. All he had to do was click off the safety, and he was ready to take out these assholes if it came down to it. Or even if it didn’t. Tonight there was a very blurry line between Detective Shephard and the grieving widower in search of an eye for an eye. If he had to falsify a report and claim self-defense, he would, but he wouldn’t lose a moment of sleep over killing the man who’d murdered Sarah and one of her students.
If Damian were here, he’d never let Allen go through with it. Neither would Melissa. Melissa’s late partner, Shel, might have been onboard with Allen’s plan, but there was no way to know that now. Allen suspected he had the man’s blessing from beyond the grave, though. If he’d correctly read the writing on the wall, the asshole he was meeting tonight had also murdered Shel. Not only murdered him, but framed his death to look like a suicide so his family would be denied the survivor benefits he’d worked his whole life to earn.
Scanning the rain-blurred darkness, Allen clicked the safety off. Then back on. Then off again.
Where are you, asshole?
He checked his phone. 2:43 a.m. Thirteen minutes after they’d agreed to meet.
There was also another text from Melissa.
It was almost six in the morning where she was, and he suspected she was staring at her phone, trying to will a message to come through from him. Ideally confirming that he’d stood down.
With a sigh, he wrote back, On my way home.
Then he turned off his phone and tossed it in the passenger seat. He didn’t like lying to Melissa. They’d been working together on this for months, and she was a damn good agent. He trusted her like he’d trusted few others. She’d want to be there for the endgame as much as he would.
But she was three thousand miles away, and the man had wanted to meet tonight or not at all. Allen couldn’t risk putting this off and losing his chance.
And even if she were here…
He glanced at the gun. Its shape was barely visible—nothing but a few planes and angles catching the pale glow from the weak streetlights.
Melissa was too by-the-book to understand his methods tonight, but she’d be relieved to close the investigation. Especially now that the violence had gotten personal for her too.
Off to his left, headlights knifed through the gloomy night. Allen watched the car cruise across the lot before coming to a stop beside an empty shopping cart return. The headlights cut off, and for a few seconds, they were a set of amber eyes glowing in the rain-streaked darkness before they dimmed and went out completely. The other driver didn’t get out, but Allen swore he could feel the man’s gaze on him.
The car matched the description—a black Toyota Camry. Either this was his guy or some incredibly unlucky asshole had picked the wrong parking lot to swing into at three in the morning.
Heart thumping, Allen slid his gun into its holster on his hip, took the keys from the ignition, and stepped out into the cold, wet night.
The Camry’s dome light came on as the door opened. A figure emerged. Even as Allen came closer, he couldn’t make out the man’s features in the low light, but it didn’t matter. He could get a closer look tomorrow at the morgue. Assuming there was anything left of the asshole’s face.
Allen kept his cool and didn’t go for his gun. Not yet. He wanted to shoot the fucker now and be done with it, but he needed the information first. A confession, maybe—with how much these guys needed glory and validation, it was just a matter of getting him to brag about what he’d done. Then Allen could switch off the body cam and do what he’d come here to do.
“You PBateman?” Allen asked.
The man stopped. “I am.”
“You have a real name?”
“Yes.” From the way he said it, he had no intention of divulging that piece of information.
Guess I better leave your face intact so we can match your dental records.
“You wanted to meet.” Allen spread his hands. “Here I am.”
“Yeah. It’s always good to make contact with fellow black pillers.”
Allen chuckled despite the sick feeling in his gut. “Nice to know we’re not alone.”
PBateman snorted, and his voice oozed bitterness: “Oh, we’re alone. But it won’t be long before all the Chads and Normies pay for that.”
Adrenaline surged through Allen. Yes. God, yes. He was one of those cocky types who had to brag, wasn’t he? Now that PBateman wasn’t on a computer and couldn’t be screencapped for posterity, it was only a matter of time before he let something incriminating slip. “Tell me how I can help.”
PBateman was quiet for a moment. Though Allen couldn’t see the man’s eyes, he was acutely aware of being scrutinized. Of being studied by a tiny minnow who didn’t know the worm dangling in front of him was the lure above the mouth of a much bigger, meaner fish.
Come closer, fishy. Just a little closer.
“Well? What now?” Allen asked. “We going to stand out here in the rain with our dicks in our hands?”
The other man shrugged. “You didn’t expect much this time, did you? I wanted to get a feel for you. Put a face with the name.”
Allen squinted. “I can’t see yours.”
“You don’t need to.” PBateman casually slid his hands into his jacket pockets. “Why do you want to be a part of this?”
“I’ve already told you that.” And I’m not the one who needs to be talking right now. He forced himself not to appear or sound impatient. “You want me to repeat everything I said on the forum, or what?”
“People say a lot of things online. I want to hear you say it.”
Allen took a deep breath of the cold night air. “I’m tired of being treated like shit on everyone’s shoes. Just because I’m not a Chad or a Normie doesn’t mean I should be alone. I deserve love too.” And I had it before you took her away, you son of a bitch. “But it won’t happen. That’s why I took the black pill, and it’s why I’m here.”
“Good.” PBateman was nodding slowly. “You want the Chads and Normies to pay, don’t you?”
“Fuck yes,” Allen growled. “And the femoid bitches too.” It nauseated him, hearing those words come out of his mouth. Sarah would have been horrified even if she knew it was a cover. “They deserve everything we already have to live with.”
“Yes, they do.” The grin in PBateman’s voice made Allen’s skin crawl. “When we’re done, the world won’t be able to ignore us anymore.” He gave a low, evil chuckle. “You thought about what kind of Stacey you’re going to ask for when they start issuing whores to us?”
Allen laughed despite the bile in his throat. “As long as she’s hot and obedient, I’ll be happy.”
“So true. Me, I want a blonde. I love those blonde bitches.”
Allen bristled, ready to whip out the weapon and drop the asshole. “So you’ve said.”
Without warning, PBateman drew down on him. Before Allen could reach for his own weapon, a muzzle flash lit up the night, and something punched into his Kevlar vest hard enough to stun him. With the second shot came fire ripping through his leg just below his groin, and pain dropped him onto the pavement on his side. He grabbed for the wound to try to staunch the bleeding, but another bullet to his Kevlar-protected chest knocked him on his back.
PBateman leaned down, features still eclipsed by shadows. Over his own cries and through the ringing in his ears, Allen distantly heard the man snarl, “I never told you I liked blondes, Officer.”
As Allen’s consciousness waned—Christ, he was bleeding out, and fast—he realized that tidbit of information must have come from… from something that had never been released to the public. A statement by… a comment from… oh fuck, he had to stay awake. Had to… had stay here.
PBateman was pulling at Allen’s shirt. Before Allen understood what was happening, the man ripped the body cam off. “Nice try, pig.”
He was vaguely aware of clicking on the pavement near him. Then crunching. Turning his head, he blinked his eyes into focus and saw the man’s boot heel grinding on something.
The body cam.
Everything he had.
Footsteps. Car door. An engine turning over. Headlights. Blinding headlights.
For a moment, he thought PBateman might hit him with the Camry, and he had just enough clarity to realize how stupid it was to be scared. He was already dying. The car would only speed up the inevitable.
The headlights dimmed. The engine faded. Partly because he was blacking out. Partly because PBateman was leaving. Escaping. Surviving to maim and murder another day.
No. Fuck, no.
Allen was too weak to get up. His car was too far away to drag himself. And his phone…
He saw himself turning it off and tossing it into the passenger seat.
With a helpless, anguished cry, Allen squeezed his burning eyes shut. How could he have been so careless? So stupid? So single-mindedly fixated on killing PBateman, so certain he’d shoot the asshole and be done with it, that he got sloppy? He’d left his phone in the car. He hadn’t bothered to leave anything for Melissa to connect this to PBateman because who was he kidding? He hadn’t come here to arrest PBateman. He knew the bastard was their man, but his instincts weren’t enough to charge him, never mind convict him. The guy had made videos and long, manifesto-like posts, but had carefully avoided saying anything that was actually illegal. No judge or jury would do what needed to be done, so Allen had skipped right to executioner.
I should have waited for Melissa. Damn it. I should have waited for her.
Except there hadn’t been time. Weeks ago, Allen had connected with the bastard, and he’d finally earned enough trust to meet up in the real world, but PBateman had kept all his cards close to the vest. He’d demanded they meet tonight—on only a few hours’ notice—and he’d given Allen nothing. Not a single thing he could leave behind for Melissa because there’d been nothing except hunches and gut feelings. Not even the man’s real name, his real address, or his fucking face. Just a message out of the blue saying now or never.
Let’s meet up and see if you’re the real deal.
And now this.
Allen was too weak to even put pressure on the wound, never mind stop the blood surging out with each beat of his dying heart. There was nothing he could do to contact Melissa. Reach Damian. Pursue PBateman. Avenge Sarah. Save himself.
The darkness was getting deeper. Clearer. Emptier. He couldn’t feel the rain anymore. He was just cold and scared and lost.
And as the black enveloped him completely…
I’m sorry, Sarah. I failed.
Fat snowflakes landed soundlessly on the casket’s silver-gray lid and instantly melted where they’d fallen. The flowers arranged around the gravesite were already beginning to shrivel. Few would likely remain in bloom until the end of the service.
In the front row of folding chairs under a gray vinyl tent, Detective Damian Arruda watched the snow falling and the flowers dying, but the cold barely registered. He was numb on the outside. Inside was a paradox of frozen emptiness and the fiery burn from twin coals of grief and guilt smoldering behind his ribs.
Distantly, he was aware of someone standing at the podium, huddled inside their overcoat while they spoke. He sort of caught that they were speaking unsteadily, either because they were shivering or were on the verge of tears. Maybe both. The words didn’t make it to Damian any more than the cold did. The only thing he could really comprehend was the thought that had been ricocheting around inside his shell-shocked mind for the past few days:
I should have listened to him.
He pushed out a breath, creating a thin cloud in the chill air between him and the chrome-edged box containing the man who’d had his back for almost a decade. In a few minutes, the casket would be lowered into the hole that had been dug into the semi-frozen ground, and Detective Allen Shephard would be laid to rest alongside Sarah, his wife of twelve years.
Damian sighed again, lowering his gaze to his gloved hands in his lap. Like Allen, Sarah had died far too young and far too violently. Allen had believed her death had been part of something bigger. Maybe a serial killer, or maybe a group targeting women, or… something. In Allen’s mind, Sarah hadn’t just been an innocent bystander murdered by a stalker obsessed with the student who’d also been killed. Damian had been convinced it was the grief talking. That Allen had been blind to the possibility that such a meaningful life could come to such a meaningless end.
But now, less than a year after Sarah and her student had been found in the university’s parking garage, Allen was dead too. Though the method and circumstances had been different, Damian’s gut told him this wasn’t a coincidence. And his heart told him that if he’d believed his partner, if he’d helped him or done something, Allen would still be alive.
His eyes stung suddenly. He didn’t know for sure if the numb shell around him was about to crack, or if that sudden gust of snow-laden wind was responsible for the tearing, but he prayed like hell it was the latter. He couldn’t break now. Not here. Allen’s family was struggling hard enough with their own grief, and they would all feel obligated to comfort him. They didn’t need that.
As casually as he could, Damian wiped his eyes.
From his left, Jenn put a hand on his forearm and squeezed gently. They exchanged looks. With an arched eyebrow, she asked if he was doing okay. With a subtle nod, he assured her that he was holding steady. She squeezed again. He patted her hand. Then they both turned their attention to the front again. He was grateful for his ex-wife’s presence, not to mention the non-verbal communication they were still so good at after all this time. Without her, he didn’t think he’d get through this.
It felt like they’d been sitting here for hours, but as the service wrapped up and people began to stand, Damian realized it had only lasted maybe thirty minutes. The graveside service had been much shorter—and with a smaller crowd—than the earlier Mass. He didn’t know if it was the weather that had kept people from coming to this part, or if this had been intended to be a more intimate event. There were fewer chairs set up, so maybe that was it. Whatever the case, he was glad for it. The throngs of mourners that had packed into St. Ann’s had been overwhelming enough.
As people began to trudge from the covered area toward the line of cars parked along the curb, he started getting restless. Now that the funeral was over, he needed to get the hell away from here, get home, get out of this fucking dress uniform, and get as shitfaced as his liver could handle. Maybe more than that.
Jenn touched his elbow. “We can go whenever you want to.” Six years divorced, and she could still read him like a book, especially when he was in get me out of here mode.
Damian nodded. “Thanks. I should… I probably shouldn’t run out while…” He motioned toward Allen’s family, who were currently gathered beside the casket, huddled in close with their heads bowed.
“Just say the word.”
“I will. Thanks.” He nestled his face into the collar of his overcoat. Pity the department’s dress code didn’t allow him to grow a longer beard than what he already had. He liked it trimmed short and neat this way, but right now, one of those big lumberjack things would have been a hell of a lot warmer.
Someone else touched his shoulder, and he turned to see Nick, Allen’s older brother.
“Hey,” Damian whispered. “How are you doing?”
Nick sniffed, brushing some wind-whipped gray hair off his forehead. “I’m… still in shock, I think.”
Damian hugged him tight. Squeezing his eyes shut, he stroked Nick’s hair. He wasn’t sure if the gesture seemed too intimate, but he didn’t care. Everyone who was still here knew about them, and anyone who mattered knew that although Damian and Nick had broken up almost three years ago, they were still close. Damian definitely counted his blessings today, grateful he’d maintained close relationships with both Nick and Jenn. He could be here for Nick and offer him comfort, and he could lean on Jenn.
Thank God for friendly breakups.
After a moment, Nick drew back, and he cleared his throat as he wiped his eyes. “What about you?”
Damian swallowed, steeling himself and trying to keep that numbness in place. “Same. Still in shock.”
Nick’s eyebrows pulled together. “Do they have any leads? Any idea who—”
“Nick.” Damian put his hands on his ex’s shoulders. “I promise you, everyone is doing everything they can to solve this case. Let us handle the investigation.” He nodded toward the Nick and Allen’s parents. “You focus on you and your family.”
Nick pressed his lips together. He looked like he might argue, and in any other situation, he probably would have. Damian knew him, after all. But right now, exhaustion radiated off him as visibly as grief, and he just nodded, his shoulders sinking. “You’ll keep me updated, right?”
“Of course.” He didn’t have to spell out that there was only so much he could say. Homicide detectives had to be tight-lipped, and no one knew that better than their families and romantic partners. Or ex-partners, as it were.
They hugged once more before Nick went back to his family. Damian blew out a breath and kneaded some stiffness out of his neck.
“Want me to go get the car?” Jenn asked.
Damian swallowed. Then he nodded. “Yeah. I think I need to go.”
“All right. I had to park near the cemetery’s entrance, so give me a few minutes.”
That wasn’t surprising. Though relatively few people who’d come to Mass had remained for the graveside service, the procession from the church to the cemetery had been a long one. At least it had seemed to be from what he’d been able to see from the black limousine where he’d sat with the other pallbearers. He fought back a shiver; thank God he didn’t have to leave the way he’d come.
“Okay,” he said. “I’ll, um… I’ll be here.”
They exchanged another look, checking in on each other without saying a single word, before she started down the path the other mourners had worn into the thin layer of fresh, wet snow.
“Detective Arruda.” The captain’s voice made Damian’s teeth clench. There was a softness to the two words, one that wasn’t usually there, but the no-nonsense gruffness was still present and accounted for.
Damian turned. Captain Adam Skorupa was, like his tone, an unusual mix of softness and sharpness. Like Damian, he wore his dress uniform, the medals and insignia gleaming despite the dull light of the rainy afternoon. His jaw was set as it always was, rigid and stubborn, but his eyes were a bit more… fatherly? It was odd to see him like this, and Damian didn’t like it. Somehow seeing grief and sympathy in Skorupa’s eyes added an excruciating layer of reality to Allen’s death.
He gave his boss a single nod. “Captain.”
“Detective. How are you doing?”
Damian tried not to let on how tired he was of that question. “I’ll feel better once we get this psycho off the street.”
Skorupa’s eyes flicked away for a second, and the subtle huff raised Damian’s hackles. “Look, Detective.” The captain’s voice was barely a whisper. “I get where you’re coming from. I do. But given the circumstances—”
“Don’t take me off this case, Captain,” Damian hissed, stepping closer so their conversation wouldn’t carry. “I need to—”
“You need to let someone besides the victim’s own partner handle the investigation.” Skorupa’s voice had taken on its usual nonnegotiable edge. “Don’t ask me to put you on the case. We both know I can’t do that.”
“Grieve your partner. Let us figure out who did this.”
Damian clenched his jaw. There was no point in arguing, and he didn’t have it in him to argue anyway. But a glance at Nick, who was watching him over his grieving mother’s shoulder, gave him a boost of determination, and he met his boss’s eyes again. “With all due respect, I’m too close to the case to let it go. They’re going to need me anyway because no one knew Allen better than me.” His own words made him wince. “No one who’s still alive, anyway.”
Skorupa shook his head, scowling. “I’m sorry, Detective. This isn’t up for discussion.” He put a heavy hand on Damian’s shoulder. “Go home, take it easy, and trust your fellow cops to find out who did this to one of our own.”
Damian locked eyes with the captain, and had a weird moment of wondering how the act of grieving could make him too sluggish to sucker punch the man who was keeping him from investigating his best friend’s murder. He wasn’t violent by nature. A hothead, yes. In possession of a legendary temper, sure. But not violent. Still, he couldn’t help hating himself for not having the energy to snap off a few of Skorupa’s teeth with his knuckles.
Fuck. Maybe Skorupa was right. Maybe Damian wasn’t in any frame of mind to investigate Allen’s murder.
He swallowed hard. Nearby, the low purr of a V8 cut through the soft murmur of voices and less impressive car engines. He turned toward the sound and saw Jenn’s yellow Corvette easing along the winding road, almost a literal ray of sunshine slicing through the miserable gray day. To the captain, he said, “That’s my ride. I’ll, um, see you soon.”
Skorupa gave his shoulder a firm squeeze. “Take as much time as you need, all right?”
“Thanks, Captain.” He gave his ex-wife a just a minute gesture, and went to say goodbye to Allen’s family.
As he approached, slush and half-frozen grass squishing under his polished dress shoes, they turned, and the pain in Allen’s mom’s eyes almost broke him.
She stepped out from under the vinyl shelter and hugged him tight. “Thank you so much for coming, Damiano.”
Damian winced. No one called him Damiãno. They tried to, but unless they were fluent in Portuguese, the odds of them pronouncing it correctly were slim to none, and he hated the Italian version most people seemed to default to. That was why he’d started going by Damian in junior high. But this wasn’t the time or place to get irritated with someone who couldn’t say it right. Not when it was his best friend’s mother grieving her youngest son.
“If there’s anything I can do,” he whispered, “please don’t hesitate to call me.”
“We won’t.” She kissed his cheek and released him. “And you’re going to find this man, right? Whoever did this to my boy?”
Despite his conversation with Skorupa, Damian nodded resolutely. “We’re doing everything we can. I promise.” The sort-of-lie prodded at his already throbbing conscience. Someone was looking into Allen’s murder, but him? He’d been sidelined. Benched by department policy.
She didn’t see through him, though, and smiled despite her tears. “Thank you, sweetheart. I know he’s in good hands.”
Oh. Fuck. Kill me.
He forced a smile, reminding himself that even though he was lying, he was protecting her. She was in no frame of mind to understand why he wasn’t investigating her son’s death. Why he couldn’t, no matter how much he wanted to. The lie was kinder than the truth.
He offered condolences and hugs to the rest of his partner’s family before he started toward the road where Jenn waited. He was halfway there when a woman stepped in front of him.
Damian glanced past her at the Corvette idling beside the cloud of exhaust it was puffing into the air, then back at the woman. “Uh, yes?”
“Special Agent Melissa Walker.” She extended a gloved hand. “I’m with the FBI’s cybercrimes unit.”
Damian studied her as he shook her hand, but he said nothing. Special Agent Walker’s grip was firm, and so was the set of both her jaw and her shoulders. Judging by the gray streak in her dark hair and some subtle lines in her face, she was his age or a few years older. Mid forties, he guessed. She looked him right in the eyes, too, and something about her was… hell, she was kind of intimidating. And why in the world was a fed from cybercrimes approaching him? Least of all at a funeral?
She released his hand. “I think we need to have a conversation. But not”—she gestured around—“here.”
“A conversation?” Damian inclined his head. “About what?”
“About your partner.” She held up a white business card between two black-gloved fingers. “And how we can find out who killed him. Together.”
Damian frowned, not taking the card. “You’ll have to talk to Captain Skorupa. I’m not on the case.”
She didn’t flinch. “I’m not concerned about that.”
“Yeah, well.” He shook his head and started to walk past her. “Not much I can do about it, either.”
She caught his upper arm, her strong grip surprising him even after their handshake. “I’m not talking about you officially investigating your partner’s murder.”
He raised his eyebrows. Glanced at her hand. Met her eyes.
Walker removed her hand, but she didn’t break eye contact. “There’s a lot to explain, but the short version is that Allen and I were working together to solve his wife’s murder, along with a number of others. I’d like to partner with you to continue that investigation. And if that investigation happens to also uncover the identity of Allen’s killer”—she half-shrugged—“then it’s a fortunate bonus, isn’t it?”
Damian’s mouth went dry. The FBI was working on Sarah Shephard’s murder? They’d been working with Allen? And now this agent was offering Damian the opportunity to do something besides let someone else find Allen’s killer? And what the ever-loving fuck did any of it have to do with cybercrimes?
Special Agent Walker let go of his arm and held out the card again. “Call me.”
Speechless, he took the card.
Before he could find his voice again, the agent turned on her heel and headed back to the road, her long black overcoat whipping at her feet as she walked effortlessly across the slick ground. A moment later, she got into the passenger seat of a black sedan, and Damian watched stupidly as the car drove away. Walker never once looked back at him.
Damian turned the card between his fingers.
Special Agent Melissa Walker. Federal Bureau of Investigation. Cybercrimes Division.
It looked official enough, though he knew damn well how easily something like this could be faked. And she could have overheard his conversation with the captain, so she’d have the right information to manipulate him. Still, he was intrigued. It was a phone call. Maybe a meeting. A conversation, according to her.
And besides, she was offering the one thing that had any hope of giving his soul some peace—a shot at solving the murders of two people he’d loved. One of whom he might have been able to save if he’d listened.
Oh yeah. He needed to hear what Melissa had to say.
He’d be cautious. He’d check her credentials and make sure she was legit before he called, and he’d think long and hard before he committed to anything.
Today, he had a friend to grieve and a bottle to drown in.So he slid the card into his pocket and headed for Jenn’s Vette.
"Energetic crime fiction with sharp characters and a realistic menace." - Kirkus Reviews
Detective Damian Arruda thought his partner was just too distraught to accept his wife’s murder as a random act of violence. Then the devastated widower got too close to the truth, and now Damian is grieving his best friend. As his conscience threatens to eat him alive, he’ll stop at nothing to find the killer.
Special Agent Melissa Walker’s partner met a violent end as well, and his death is almost certainly connected. When she joins forces with Damian, the investigation takes them into the vile underbelly of the Internet: the incel community and its toxic forums full of misogynists who consider themselves “involuntarily celibate” and feed off each other’s vitriol and hatred.
As the pieces come together, there’s no denying the three deaths and the poisonous, cultlike community are part of a wave of murders, grisly assaults, and bombings. Damian and Melissa are running out of time to take the killers down before more innocent people fall victim—and before someone decides that one victim at a time isn’t enough.