Love Me Dead (Lilah Love Book 3) - Book cover

Love Me Dead (Lilah Love Book 3)

Lisa Renee Jones

Chapter 1

It’s a fucking disaster, a downpour of epic proportions, the mother of all storms, that came out of nowhere. The kind of storm that demands you hunker down in the company of Cheetos, strawberries, coffee and/or booze. The latter choice, at least for me, depending on how irritated I am at the world at the time. The kind of storm that makes you want to do those things inside and by a fire. Not here, walking the Manhattan streets, with no umbrella, on my way to a crime scene. I pull the hood of my rain jacket lower, down to my brow and round the corner to find a carnival of uniforms, flashing lights, and an ambulance that will be the ride to the morgue. Rarely am I called in when the victim lives to talk about the crime. Dead bodies are my thing. They talk to me. I understand them. Those who are still living and breathing, not so much.

My cellphone rings, and I halt, digging it from my field bag that rests at my hip. Glancing at my caller ID, I find Kane’s number, when he’s supposed to be on a plane, jetting off on the kind of business we don’t talk about but we pretend is something it’s not. Kane and I are both masters of pretending to be something we’re not. Me, an FBI agent who would never cross the line. Him, nothing more than the CEO of Mendez Enterprises, a company deeply rooted in oil, not the man who took over the Mendez cartel when his father died. He damn sure didn’t take on the Society, the deep state that secretly runs our government as some might call them, and force their retreat, even if only for the moment, with nothing but oil money. I decline the call, shove my phone back in my bag and start walking again. I can’t walk onto the crime scene feeling like I’m as transparent as Kane makes me feel, and I can’t think about the war we’ve managed to enter with the Society, at least not with this particular crime scene to think about.

Nothing about me being called in on this case, a suspected serial killer’s involvement or not, makes sense, not when that request, per Director Murphy, my pain in the ass judgmental boss, came from my old mentor, Roger Griffin. Roger’s NYPD. I’m FBI. I’ve never known that power hungry, grumpy old man to ask for agency assistance. Hell, he doesn’t ask for help at all, and he doesn’t need it. He’s so damn good at what he does that he can look into the eyes of a killer and see a killer when someone else might see Mary fucking Poppins. I don’t know what he saw in me when he snapped me up so many years ago and started training me. I just know that I don’t want to know what he’ll see now.

Cutting across the street, I beeline toward the yellow tape establishing the police perimeter, flashing my FBI badge at an NYPD ran site, and I don’t stop walking, my strides steady right up until the point that I’m standing outside the building that is the crime scene. Fortunately, there’s a small overhang taking the beating of the storm for me now, so I yank my hood down while watching an officer and his muddy boots enter the building. I step in front of Carl, the beat cop who just let that happen, a cop I’ve known from years back when I worked at the local NYPD.

“Lilah fucking Love,” he greets, because this is my home base, this is where I got my start before relocating to LA with the FBI. Everyone here knows that I like the word fuck. The word fuck fucks with people. If there was a book about my life, it would be called “Lilah Fucking Love Says Fuck You.” And then all those delicate people who get their feelings hurt easily would go away, thank you, Jesus. Unfortunately for Carl, before we’re through here, he’s going to be one of the people I offend. “Heard you were in LA working for the FBI,” he says.

“And yet, I’m standing right here in New York City, wearing an FBI badge.”

“Are you here to work the case?” he asks.

“No, I’m here to bring you lunch.” I reach in my field bag and hand him a package of cheese crackers that are about a year old. “I heard it had been a long night.”

“Smartass,” he grumbles, staring down at the crumbled mess in his hand. “I see your attitude hasn’t changed.”

“You mean the one I learned from all you old-timers who thought I was too young to profile?”

“You were a kid when you started out. You still are.”

I don’t bother to tell him that twenty-eight is not a kid, or that my brother is North Hamptons’ police chief, a job he inherited from my father, who is now the mayor. I stopped justifying my skills versus my age a long damn time ago, but my silence doesn’t matter. Carl is still talking.

“Take it from me,” he adds. “Opt out of this one. It’s the worst thing I’ve ever seen.”

In other words, a little girl like me just can’t play with the big boys. “It’s not the worst thing I’ve ever seen.”

“You haven’t even been up there yet.”

“Exactly,” I say. “I should, in fact, be up there right now, but you know why I’m not?” I don’t wait for a reply. “I’m not up there now because I’m standing here wondering what idiot thought this spot where we’re standing isn’t part of the crime scene? Which idiot is that, Carl?”

He blanched. “I—the detective in charge—”

“Before you finish your sentence, there’s a person who lost their life tonight. If that was your mother, father, daughter, son, or wife would you want muddy boots stomping past this door?”

His jaw clenches. “I’ll handle it.”

“Get a tarp here ASAP and set it up as wide as possible. We need the teams to be able to cover up and clean up before and after they leave the building.”

“Got it. Handling it.”

“Is Roger here yet?”

“Roger Griffin?” he asks. “I haven’t heard any mention to him showing up. I thought that’s why they called you.”

He’s wrong. Roger doesn’t give up a crime scene. “Who exactly is in charge of this scene?”

“Lori Williams.”

“Wrong answer,” I say. “I am.” I open the bag I have hanging at my hip and pull out a pair of booties, stepping close to the door to slip them on my wet feet.

Another cop, a big burly guy with brown hair, tries to enter the building. “Hey!” I snap. “Don’t even think about walking in that door without covering up.”

He glares at me. “Who the hell are you?”

“The girl who will bitch slap you, and it only took one meeting, if you don’t do what the fuck I told you.” I shove my hand into a glove and then repeat.

“That’s Lilah Love, Reggie,” Carl chimes in. “She’s FBI and a profiler here to help. She’s also a bitch. I’d take her seriously if I were you.”

I give Reggie a condescending smile. “Don’t worry. I won’t turn you in to your boss. I’m not that big of a bitch. I’ll just tell the family of the victim that we’re sorry that the evidence was destroyed, but Reggie hates covering up, and we don’t like to make Reggie uncomfortable.”

“Bitch,” Reggie bites out.

“Now you get the idea,” I say, pleased that he’s not the slow learner I’d suspected. I eye Carl. “What floor?” I ask.

“Ten,” Carl replies.

I shrug out of my raincoat and drop it next to Carl because, unlike the rest of these assholes, I don’t plan on contaminating the evidence with a dripping wet jacket. I enter the building, stepping into a small foyer with mailboxes to the left. Taking nothing for granted, considering the fuck show this has proven to be, I scan the area, eyeing the ground, and even looking up toward the ceiling. I find nothing of interest, but I repeat my scan because what we miss the first time, we might not miss the second.

I start the walk up the narrow stairwell, which must be a bitch to travel after a big meal or a bunch of booze. For a big man, it would require skill to navigate quietly, a detail that I tuck in the back of my mind for later review. Even without overindulgence, for someone who doesn’t run five miles a day, much of it in the Hamptons on the sandy beach, like myself, this walk would be tough. That says something about the person who maneuvered the steps and disappeared without notice. Unless they were noticed. Maybe they belong here. Maybe they visit regularly. Maybe they’re a delivery person.

Apparently ten is the top level, and that was too simple a description for Carl. I pause at the top of the steps and canvas the roughly seven-by-four foyer, another tight spot, in this case, a tight spot that would be hard to escape for a woman being overpowered. There’s nothing here that presents like obvious evidence, just a few bagged jumpsuits waiting to be used, which tells me the scene is bloody. That’s one of my dirty secrets. Despite my comfort level with dead bodies, I don’t like blood, at least not in excess. Blood is actually fine. A bucket of blood, not so much. Blood to the ankles, which I’ve experienced, definitely not. I freak the fuck out. It’s a weakness that I don’t share with anyone, and yet, today, I’m asked for, by name, and the scene is bloody. Some might call that a coincidence, but as Roger taught me years ago and has always proven true, there is no such thing as coincidence. The fucked up part of this equation is that Roger knows exactly how I feel about blood. He was with me the first time I freaked out, the only time anyone of professional consequence has ever seen me freak out. Okay my ex back in LA might have seen a little bitty incident, too, but that was literally ankle deep blood, and he wasn’t a superior of professional consequence.

Next chapter
Rated 4.4 of 5 on the App Store
82.5K Ratings
Galatea logo

Unlimited books, immersive experiences.

Galatea FacebookGalatea InstagramGalatea TikTok