EVE by Iris Johansen
By SMW Staff
Eve Duncan’s mission in life is to bring closure to the families who have experienced the agony of a missing child. As a forensic sculptor, she is able to piece together bones, create a face, and bring an identity to a child who would have otherwise gone unidentified…maybe forever. Eve is brilliant, and driven, and tormented–because her own daughter, Bonnie, was taken from her years ago. And Eve has never discovered what happened to her. But now a name from the past resurfaces, thanks to CIA agent Catherine Ling who knows all too well what it’s like to lose a child.
After teaming up with Agent Ling to find her missing son, Eve and Catherine share a bond forged by their mutual pain. Now, Catherine challenges Eve with a name: John Gallo. A man from Eve’s past. A man, seemingly raised from the dead, whose whereabouts are unknown. Could Gallo be the missing piece to the puzzle that has haunted Eve for years? Why was he in Atlanta just before Bonnie’s disappearance? With a brilliant narrative that goes back to Eve Duncan’s early life, exploring her history and motivations like no other novel before, Eve reveals long-guarded secrets and is guaranteed to leave Johansen fans panting for more—soon to come in Quinn (October 2011).
Malua, Samoa Present Day
The explosive was in place beneath the back veranda of the house. The charge set.
Agent Art Benkman slid behind the garden wall that surrounded the pool and house and waited.
No mistakes this time. His superior wouldn’t tolerate another near miss. It had been made clear that Black must be destroyed. He was a monster who knew too much.
No, he’d seen Paul Black go into the house an hour ago. It was the best time for the kill. Only one person in the house beside that son of a bitch. A housekeeper who occupied the end bedroom of the rambling bungalow. He’d seen her light go out two hours ago. She’d be asleep by now.
No one would survive this blast. He’d had to be sure.
The flames from the blast would probably reach the top of those palm trees hovering over the roof.
“I’ve got you, Black,” he murmured. “Burn in–”
He was flipped over and was looking up at the man who had sent the needle- sharp stiletto deep into his back.
Black. But it couldn’t be Paul Black. He was in the house.
No, he was here. That dark, devil’s face . . .
“Who sent you?” Black asked. “Who told you I was here?” He was searching in Benkman’s pockets, pulling out his wallet, and the e-mail that he’d received two days ago. He glanced at it and smiled. “Very explicit. And you obeyed blindly like a good agent? Never mind. You don’t have to answer. I don’t need you now.”
“Kill you . . .” Benkman whispered. “I have to–”
“Die,” Black supplied as he picked up Benkman as if he were a child. “That’s all you have to do.” He was carrying him over to the house. “How do you feel about cremation?”
“No!” He started to struggle as panic overcame pain. “Don’t leave me here. It’s going to–”
“Blow?” Black dropped him on the floor of the great room. “In about forty seconds.” He looked down at him. “Why don’t you see if you can make it through the French doors and out onto the terrace? You might survive then.” He turned and strolled out of the house.
Benkman rolled over and started to crawl toward the French doors.
The blood was pouring out of the wound as he moved.
The blood was slippery . . .
He was dying.
No, he’d be okay. He was always okay. He just had to get out of this damn house.
So slow. He was moving so slow.
He reached the French doors. Now crawl out onto the veranda. He was almost there . . .
And then he saw Black standing by the garden wall and watching him. He was smiling.
He tapped his watch.
Too late, Benkman realized frantically. He was too late. Time had run out.
“Don’t leave me!” he howled. “Get me out of–”
The house exploded and became an inferno.
“HERE’S THE REPORT, SIR. Shall I call Atlanta and give it to her?”
Venable scowled as he looked down at the report that Agent David Harley had put in front of him. This inquiry was shaping up to be a king- size headache. Why had he become involved in this mess?
He knew the answer. He liked Joe Quinn and Eve Duncan, and they had helped the CIA on many occasions. When Catherine Ling had asked him to pull strings and get this report concerning the death of Eve’s daughter, he’d thought it might be a way to pay back.
He wasn’t sure that would be true any longer. Eve Duncan was very fragile where anything connected to her murdered daughter, Bonnie, was concerned.
“Is anything wrong?” Agent Harley asked. “I used three sources. It all checked out. And Catherine Ling is usually very accurate.”
And Harley would be careful, Venable thought. He was new, but he was eager and conscientious.
“No, I’m sure you verified it correctly.” He shrugged. “I can just see a blowup looming on the horizon.”
“But Catherine Ling’s e-mail said that–”
“I know.” Venable held up his hand to stop him. Harley had met Catherine Ling only once, but he had been dazzled by her. Most men had the same response to Catherine. She was not only a top CIA agent, but she was part Caucasian, part Asian, and was one of the most gorgeous and exotic women Venable had ever met. “Catherine may be accurate, but that doesn’t mean she might not trigger an explosion. She’s ramming her way through every source I have to get that information, and she’s not going to stop.”
“Eve Duncan,” Harley repeated tentatively, glancing at the report. “I’ve heard of her. I saw some photos. Skulls and stuff. She’s a forensic sculptor, isn’t she?”
“Have a little respect. She’s the forensic sculptor,” Venable said. “She’s probably the best forensic sculptor in the world. Every police department in country is standing in line to get her to work on their cold cases involving skeletal remains. Totally dedicated.”
“Not totally.” Harley smiled. “I read that report. She’s been living with her lover police detective, Joe Quinn, for a number of years. In real life, she obviously prefers a warm body to those skeletons.”
“He’s a good guy,” Venable said. “And tough as hell. He’s an ex- SEAL. As I said, have a little respect, or you might regret it. He’s been with Eve since her daughter Bonnie was kidnapped by a serial killer years ago. The kid was only seven years old, and it nearly destroyed Eve.”
“I can see how it might be traumatic. Was she murdered?”
“Almost certainly. Though Bonnie’s body was never recovered and the real killer never arrested. That’s why Eve went back to school to become a forensic sculptor, to help bring other lost children home. But Eve’s been on the hunt for Bonnie’s killer all these years.”
“My wife’s pregnant and should be delivering my son any day,” Harley said. “I don’t know what I’d do if anything happened to him.”
“Go on the hunt,” Venable said. “As Eve Duncan is doing. As Joe Quinn is doing.”
“What about you, Agent Venable? Do you have any children?”
Venable shook his head. “Divorced. No kids. I have a job. A family would get in the way.” He tapped the report. “And Eve Duncan is a prime example of why I should stay that way. Finding her daughter’s killer has become an obsession that’s dominating everything and everyone around her. Including me.” He swore beneath his breath. “Catherine Ling should have stayed out of it. But no, she thinks that she can straighten out the entire world if she puts her mind to it.”
“She’s very clever,” Harley said. “It could happen, sir.”
“Are we expecting any more info?”
Harley shook his head. “Those are the only sources you asked me to tap.”
And the sources Catherine Ling had asked Venable to tap. She had known exactly what she’d wanted. He’d asked her to wait for these reports before she went to Eve Duncan with the information, but he couldn’t be sure that she’d do it. Catherine marched to her own drummer and had been so on edge that she’d wanted to get the confrontation over. That was always Catherine’s way. Bold, up-front, on the attack.
That had been Eve’s method of handling problems, too. It was one reason why the two women had become close friends.
“I’ll be glad to call Agent Ling and give her the information on this report for you,” Harley offered.
“I bet you would,” Venable murmured. “But I think I’d better handle this myself. You can’t expect a straightforward response from Catherine on this particular matter.”
“It seems pretty cut-and-dried to me.”
“Does it?” He was tempted to let Harley contact Catherine and have her interrogate him. If he thought she would become his new best friend, he was going to be sadly disappointed. She was going to want every detail so that she could mull the pros and cons, and she would be firing questions like a machine gun. It wasn’t often that Catherine formed a friendship for anyone, but she genuinely liked Eve Duncan, and she wanted every detail to be absolutely correct. “No, I’ll talk to her.”
Harley looked disappointed, but he shrugged and left the office.
All right, Catherine. Venable took out his phone. Here’s your ammunition to blow Eve out of the water. You may mean well, but it could go either way. I hope to hell both you and Eve manage to survive it.
There was something wrong with Eve.
Joe Quinn had glanced casually up to the porch from where he was standing at the barbecue grill near the lake. Eve had been sitting on the porch swing, but was now standing beside Catherine Ling, and Joe could tell that every muscle of her body was taut with tension.
What the hell?
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