Chapter 1

Ryan watched as the green Taurus was pulled out of the canal, the steel tow cable clanking loudly in his ear. Divers guided the car out of the marshy water, waves of brown muck cascading out of the open windows and from under the hood.

Jesse stood next to Ryan, both men watching silently, iron-jawed. Both felt a tight ball of burning anger settle somewhere behind their stomachs.

"You think it's another one?" Ryan asked tightly.

"For her sake, I hope not," Jesse answered quietly.

The workers finally hauled the car out of the water; it settled on the muddy banks with a squelch. Tom strode forward from the side to examine the dead body in the driver's seat. Ryan and Jesse approached him slowly, neither wanting to see what they knew awaited them in the car.

Ryan shook his head in sorrow and resignation when he saw her.

A young woman, no more than thirty years old, was waxy white in the front seat of the car. Her blonde hair was plastered to her head and matted with blood and canal filth. Her face was heavily bruised; her nose was clearly broken. Black and purple rings of bruising wrapped around her neck and both wrists. Her clothes were heavily spotted with blood and were uncommonly disheveled, indicating the killer had redressed her.

Jesse walked around to the passenger's side of the car as Tom carefully opened the driver's side door to more closely examine the body.

"Can you unbutton her shirt, Tom?" Ryan asked reluctantly.

The medical examiner looked at him sadly, knowing why. He carefully complied, undoing the top two buttons of the woman's yellow silk blouse.

A dark red bullet hole went straight through her heart, an angry pink burn in the shape of a gun muzzle surrounding it. Someone had pressed a gun to her chest and fired, the heat from the blast melting the imprint into her skin.

Tom and Ryan looked at each other knowingly.

Tom sighed. "I'll examine the tissue surrounding the wound at the post, but I would guess that the gunshot was post-mortem. Cause of death was probably strangulation, judging by the bruising around her neck and the cyanosis of her lips."

"Same as Hailey Jackson, Dianna Young and Laura Dominguez," Ryan said. "Casanova has his fourth victim."

"Her name's Rachel Pope," Jesse called from the other side of the car. He held up a water-logged registration document he fished out of the glove compartment. "Does she have the muzzle stamp on her chest?"

Ryan and Tom nodded. Jesse cursed under his breath.

"I'll start the post right away," Tom assured them.

"Maybe this bastard's finally left us something to nail him with," Ryan growled.