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Facts lie . . . Two decades after the murder that shattered her world, FBI agent and forensic artist Sydney Fitzpatrick confronts her father's killer face to face. But the inmate who's scheduled to be executed for the crime is not what she expected. Heightening Sydney's unease, she receives a photograph sent to her by a man just prior to his suicide, causing her to question everything she believed about her father. Now she wants the truth-no matter where it's hidden, no matter how painful . . . or dangerous. But Sydney Fitzpatrick is about to trespass on sacred ground. And being a federal agent will offer her no security or shelter if it's her own government that wants her dead.


Face of a Killer

Chapter One

Sydney Fitzpatrick eyed the bottle of scotch, watched the bartender pour the amber liquid into her glass, and wondered how much of it she'd have to drink to forget it had been twenty years since her father had been killed.

"Leave the bottle," she told the bartender.

"Don't think so."

"You're only going to have to come back."

"Maybe," he said, returning the whiskey to its place among the other bottles, all backlit, shining, each advertising its own brand of panacea.

All false advertising, she thought, finishing her second shot. She would've ordered a third—except her cell phone started vibrating an alert.

Only one sort of call comes in at one in the morning, never mind that Sydney recognized the number: her boss, Dave Dixon. "Fitzpatrick," she announced into the phone. "And I'm supposed to have the day off."

"Day being the operative word. It's dark out, which makes it night, which you didn't request off."

"And I've been drinking."

"Since when do you drink?"

"Since an hour ago," she said, and let him wonder.

Apparently he didn't wonder long. "We need you down here. A Seven matter," he said, giving the Bureau program designator for initiating a kidnap investigation.

Her stomach knotted. She did not need this. Not tonight.

"Did you hear me, Fitzpatrick? Got a kidnap-rape."

"You assigning me the case?"

"No. Just a sketch."

Sydney eyed the bottle of whiskey that seemed to beckon, thinking that even on a good day it was hard enough to interview victims for drawings, hard to get past the mental exhaustion of being inside her victims' heads, knowing the pain and terror they felt . . .

Maybe she should tell Dixon no, but that would require an explanation, and she wasn't sure she wanted to go into that. It wasn't that Dixon didn't know her history. They'd worked together in D.C., used to be friends, at least up until he was promoted and all friendships were checked at the door. The last thing Sydney wanted was for him to worry about her. "I'm just a few blocks away. I'll be right there."

She took some money out of her wallet, paid for her drinks, then walked to the door and opened it. What had been a light sprinkle when she'd left her car at home that October night to drink herself into oblivion, had now turned into a heavy downpour that hammered the sidewalk with a deafening blast. And lucky her, not a cab in sight.

With no umbrella, she'd be soaked, and she was tempted to see if the rain might slow. But then she thought of the waiting that her victim had already endured. In the grand scheme of things, getting wet was the least of her worries, and she stepped out into the driving rain. She hadn't walked more than half a block when the odd feeling of being watched came over her. She stopped, turned, eyed the street up and down, saw nothing but a few parked cars, seemingly unoccupied. Across the street, a couple of women huddled beneath an overhang, smoking a cigarette. Other than that, the streets seemed deserted.

Hearing nothing but the rain, the water sluicing down the gutters into the storm drains, she pulled her coat tighter against the autumn chill. But the farther she walked, the stronger the feeling came that she was being followed. It's only your imagination, she told herself. Even so, she quickened her pace and pressed her right elbow into her hip, wanting to feel the reassuring presence of her holstered Glock—then remembered she'd left it in her desk drawer.

She normally carried the damned thing night and day, but she'd intended to spend the night drinking in a vain attempt to erase not only the anniversary of her father's murder, but also the bitter fight she'd had with her mother over her plans for the upcoming day. It was the same fight they'd had last year and the two years before that. At thirty-three years old, a girl should be able to make up her own damned mind on how she spent her day. Her mother had nothing to do with this, she thought, as a movement caught her eye. Definitely someone back there. She doubled her pace, didn't get far, when a man stepped out in front of her, blocked her path.

She jumped back, her pulse slamming in her veins. The man towered a good eight inches over her, his craggy face barely visible beneath his knit cap and a scarf wrapped around his neck and mouth. A sharp smell of body odor, unwashed clothes, wet, stale, and sour, assaulted her nose.

"Got some change?" he asked, opening his hand, palm up. His other was shoved in the pocket of an army coat, ragged, buttons dangling, held closed with another scarf tied around his waist.

Recognition hit her. Private Cooper was a regular on this block, chased off by the cops on a continual basis, only to return the moment they left. Right now she was grateful for his presence. "Yeah," she said, digging into her purse. She handed him a few bills, then looked back, saw a figure darting into the shadows. Someone was following her, no doubt. The federal building was only two blocks away, and she crossed to the other side of the street, where the building facades were more modern, better lit. If whoever it was thought she was going to be an easy mark, he'd have to come out and get her.

A few minutes later, she waved her access identification across the pad, punched in her code, and with one last look behind her, entered the door of the San Francisco FBI field office. A purse snatcher had been hitting women in the area for a couple of weeks now, and she wondered if that was who'd been tailing her. Not that she could offer any description, she thought, walking down the hall to her office.

Face of a Killer. Copyright © by Robin Burcell. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Excerpted from Face of a Killer by Robin Burcell
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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