Secrets Kill - Sneak Peek 2
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Of course, now we knew we’d failed spectacularly. I had worked so incredibly hard to keep anyone from finding out the truth that this girl—who went by the name Celeste as an escort but whose real name was Autumn Johnson--was in fact my sister. I had the lab run a DNA comparison of her blood against mine, and we showed a familial connection. Ian and Justin knew, but we’d all agree to keep it quiet until the case was over.
Autumn was already gone, and there was no reason to tarnish my perceived neutrality and potentially compromise the case by being impatient.
And I knew how to be patient. Incredibly patient. It was what made me such a good CSI—attention to detail, patience, and methodical documentation were as natural to me as breathing. I could work a search grid for hours, carefully combing through for every tiny scrap of evidence.
In Autumn’s crime scene, it had been slightly more complicated given the nest of mangrove roots and the rising tide, but we’d still gotten everything. There had been more than enough to prove these men had killed her.
I had a fairly good relationship with the Medical Examiner, Marissa. She was a study in contrasts, with her absolutely dour job and incredibly bubbly personality. Marissa had documented every injury on Autumn’s body, and she didn’t think much of me inquiring about it. She happily told me about every cut, burn, and bruise on her flesh. Autumn had been beaten, sliced, burned, stabbed, and raped, before finally receiving a bullet to the head. Her professional opinion that it had clearly been a group that murdered Autumn was a key piece of evidence for the prosecution.
That, combined with all the evidence we collected at the scene, and the eye-witnesses, made it an open-and-shut case to the DA. The defense’s case—that Celeste had enjoyed the party that had turned ‘a little rough’ and then was later killed by someone else—was weak. There was no DNA on her from another man. Just the five who were still celebrating as the jury filed out.
My eyes narrowed as I watched them. Was it possible the defendants had gotten to the jury? Coerced them somehow? Juries were supposed to be sequestered for the case, but it wasn’t impossible to imagine that someone with the wealth these five possessed—not to mention their criminal connections—could get to them, perhaps threaten their families. It only took a few vehement supporters to argue the others into agreeing. With the burden of proof being on the prosecution, having several jurors who insisted they weren’t convinced was enough to sow doubt in the rest.
Everyone around me was standing, preparing to leave the courtroom, and it felt as if I were glued to my seat. My eyes were lasers, burning holes into the men who had just, quite literally, gotten away with murder.
Jeremy Roddington. Emiliano Vargas. Justin French. Rafael Martinez. Benjamin Tremblay.
Hatred burned like an inferno in my chest, spreading and filling my body with blazing heat. My vision turned red, black around the edges, as I tuned out everything around me. All I could see, all I could hear, was those murderers.
They deserved to suffer like Autumn did. They deserved to die slow, agonizing, painful deaths, punctuated by terror and despair.
And if the justice system wouldn’t hold them accountable, perhaps someone else needed to do it.
Perhaps that someone was me.
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