Book 2 in the Cardinal Sins Series
This series must be read in chronological order, to avoid spoilers
Protect her at all costs…
The last thing I was looking for when I left the facility was a new woman, a new relationship, and a new cause. I found all three in a dark alley. Saving her life was the best choice I’ve ever made.
Now, Vienna is the center of my world. I’ve never met anyone so perfect for me and for whom I am perfect. Where others see flaws, she finds strength. When my demands and needs drove others away, she drew boundaries. In protecting her, I’ve found my purpose in life and I won’t let anything come between us.
That goal required me to deal with flirty Fletcher with his irritating concepts and desire to live dangerously. The past he was on the run from could come for him. That would make them her problem. Not acceptable. Yet as long as she wants him with us, then I’ll protect him and protect her from him. Keeping them safe will take everything I know how to do and the things I’m still learning.
Never has their safety been more important than now.
Because we have a new problem. I don’t know what we’re supposed to do with him. Vienna’s work demands that she hunt monsters. But when one hunts monsters, don’t those same monsters begin to hunt or at least haunt you? What does that make this latest interloper? Is he a man? Or a monster? I’m personally hoping for a monster. I know exactly what to do with those.
At least Fletcher seems to agree with me. Hopefully our first chorus won’t be our last.
Book 2 in the Cardinal Sins Series
Hours they’d been gone. The wait for Vienna to come back was always hard, even when I found ways to occupy myself. Fletcher accompanying her, however, added a whole new element of despair to my already heightened worry.
Or was it jealousy?
Yes, it was definitely jealousy cramping my muscles and leaving me aching. I prided myself on being so in touch with my emotions that I could recognize that. It didn’t mean I had to like it.
Sighing, I finished off the dusting so not even a spec of unwanted dirt lay anywhere in the house. Originally, I planned to squeegee the windows. When she brought one home the other day, excitement burst in my chest at how fun it would be to use it.
Taking care of Vienna was a bone-deep satisfaction and watching the results of my work just added to it. The ability to remove the dirty, soapy suds from windows and leave behind a glass pane so spotless you couldn’t even tell it was there was about to be my new favorite chore.
Before she’d left, she’d ask me to continue a different kind of work. So, instead of going down my cleaning checklist, I went to her room and retrieved the laptop, careful to follow her explicit instructions on how to get it out and set it up.
Instead of staying in her room, I carried it down to the living room. Her scent surrounded me in her room. I didn’t want to disturb it, saving it for later when I needed to remind myself. Some background noise would also be welcome right now. If it was too much and I couldn’t multitask, then I’d go back up to her room, but for now, I’d like not to be alone with the silence.
Flicking the TV on, I settled into my favorite spot on the couch, logging in to the dark web. I didn’t bother changing the channel from what it had been on, since I had no desire to actually watch it. Whoever was the last in the living room had been watching the I.D. channel.
I snorted, betting on Fletcher.
Vienna knew everything there was to know about her world, and I couldn’t see her trying to get ideas or inspiration from the crime channel. One, she didn’t do that type of crime. Two, this channel was focused on the past, and she had much more important things to do than this.
The few times we had watched a show together, she had picked comedies. Something mindless but entertaining. Well, there were the times she decided to watch the news, but that served a different purpose.
For a solid hour, I conducted research on the names on the list, both looking up new information, and checking for any changes on existing intel, when something caught my attention on the TV.
A deep, soothing voice of commentary complemented the reel of society pictures on the TV. “The Judge is arguably one of the most notorious serial killers outside of the Zodiac Killer. The hunt for their true identities remains ongoing.
“What separates these two, however, are the victims they choose. The Judge, with over fifty alleged kills and several more assumed, is a vigilante killer. While not all of the victims were men, they always appear guilty of some type of crime relating to women and children. While the nature of the crime may not have been known at the time of their deaths, these rich playboys,” a series of dated pictures showed men on yachts, jets, and parties in mansions, “well-respected politicians,” this time the pictures told a different story of men and women in expensive suits posing during red carpet events, shaking hands, or in one, kissing a baby on its fuzzy head. “Or community philanthropists, all hid dark, sometimes depraved secrets.” The final set of photos was almost sickening to see, knowing the people in those pictures had some kind of guilt under their grand exterior. “Further investigations following their deaths uncovered some shocking and heinous acts perpetrated by the Judge’s alleged victims.”
Vienna never shared if there was a name attached to her father, or even if the police knew of him, but fierce pride sizzled in my chest. This was the type of work her family did. Saving people when the law wouldn’t or couldn’t. Like Noel Warrick. She looked like someone’s grandmother, and she sold kids. That they would associate someone like the Judge or Vienna with the Zodiac Killer seemed kind of insulting. My perspective had changed entirely from the moment I saved Vienna, and I was happy for the new light of truth shining on the world.
“Sandra Jane, an investigative journalist, who likens herself to a Sherlock Holmes of the digital age, has been compiling the life and crimes of many of these victims. With her new insight on all the pieces of the puzzle known as the Judge, she believes she’ll finally be the one to uncover the highly sought after identity of this vigilante killer. Some may seek their own form of justice, and some may thank them for their efforts to keep society safe, but one thing is for certain… The days where the Judge is unknown are numbered. Here’s Sandra during her latest interview on Inside Cold Crimes.”
A clip of a young, slender woman appeared on the large screen. Whether it was her solemn expression and tenacious gaze, or the size of the TV hanging on Vienna’s wall, she seemed larger than life. Striking in an unconventional way, but exuding an iciness that chilled me.
Even when Vienna was working, she never felt cold to me.
“Thank you for having me.” She nodded toward the host off camera.
“We’re glad to have you join us, Sandra. Jumping right into what viewers are eager to know, we’re told that you have new information that could lead to finally identifying the Judge?”
She leaned forward, as if ready to impart a secret of epic proportions but had no smugness in how she obtained it. This woman was all business. “I do. From an anonymous source, I recently gained access to the journals of the late Casey Morgan, the lead FBI agent whose hunt for the Judge has been likened in some circles to Ahab’s obsession with finding Moby Dick. Only his white whale was the Judge. The data he gathered was never released to the public, and I believe with the technology available today, this is the key to everything…”