Cross Your Heart…
One by one, they will die. He has waited patiently, planning their final moments. Their tortured screams, their pleas for mercy—all will be in vain...
Homicide detective Julia Cass has witnessed plenty of crime scenes. But the murder of a Chattanooga judge is shocking in its brutality. Teamed with FBI agent Will Brannock, Julia delves into an investigation that soon unearths more bodies—all mutilated in the same way, all left with a gruesome souvenir of a killer’s ruthless rage…
The only way to stop the slaughter is to predict the next victim. But when you’re dealing with vengeance at its most ruthless, one wrong move can make you a target…and the next word you utter could be your last…
Praise for the novels of Beverly Barton
“A shivery read… Tight twists and hairpin turns will keep readers racing through the pages.” —Bookpage on Don’t Cry
“Barton delivers a solid mix of romance and terror in her latest thriller.” —Publishers Weekly on Don’t Cry
“Masterful!” —New York Times bestselling author Linda Howard on Cold Hearted
Despite the sultry summer heat baking all of Chattanooga,
the deep limestone cave was pitch-black and
extremely cold. The man with the high-beam flashlight
slowly made his way down through the connecting tunnel,
turning on the electric lanterns hung at intervals
along the way. He wasn’t a killer yet, but he soon would
be. He was tired of waiting, tired of the years of pain and
heartbreak and the suppressed fury locked inside his
head. He stopped and rubbed his temples with his fingertips,
feeling the onset of another violent headache.
The lanterns cast a strange white light that sent elongated
shadows onto the craggy rock walls. It was damp
so deep in the earth, and rife with the smell of mold and
rot and sulfur. Once he reached his secret room, he
pulled on a heavy military-green parka. He kept it hidden
there for times such as this, for days when he
wanted only to retreat from the real world and everybody
in it. For times when he hurt so bad inside that he
couldn’t stand it a minute longer, couldn’t stand to go
about and pretend to have a normal life or be a decent
human being. He wasn’t normal, not anymore. He might
even be going insane. Maybe he was already. Maybe he
always had been. He didn’t really feel insane, not all the
time. The actions he was contemplating now were completely
crazy. He knew that. Still, he craved them. Savored
the gruesome details of his murderous fantasies.
Thought of little else but finally, after all these years, exacting
his righteous revenge.
Moving across the big cavern, he sat down in an old
brown rocking chair at the crude table he’d made out of
planks and sawhorses. He gazed down at the objects
he’d placed on the table, caressing each one. Everything
was ready now. He’d purchased all the supplies he
needed for his first kill. He’d been careful, had planned
for years how he would carry out the darkest of his fantasies.
He had driven all the way to Atlanta to buy the
yellow ski rope. He’d selected a small sporting goods
shop in Powder Springs, one without a surveillance
camera, run by a teenage clerk that didn’t have a clue.
The twelve-inch fillet knife was purchased in Knoxville
at a seedy fishing and hunting discount store in a strip
mall. Some of the other things he had made himself, to
suit his specific needs. Yes, it was all coming together
nicely—all the errands run, the knife sharpened to a
razor edge, the coins polished and counted out in distinct
The large Murder Book was also on the table. He had
spent years collecting and pasting photographs and
newspaper articles on its pages. There were a dozen
people who had to die; maybe more, depending on what
his victims told him before they took their last breath.
The book’s pages were separated with numbered tabs.
He had placed each person in the book in the order they
would die. He pulled the book onto his lap and opened
the unadorned black cover. There, on page one, staring
arrogantly at the camera, hiding all his wicked vileness
behind a smiling facade, was victim One, the worst of
the rotten, lying lot he was going to enjoy killing.
A white Bible lay beside the Murder Book. He opened
it to the page marked with a narrow, red satin ribbon.
The book of Proverbs. He found the right page and
placed his finger on the verse that gave him permission
to do the deeds he contemplated. The familiar peacefulness
flooded down over him like a soothing balm, and he
grew strangely calm and determined. The time had come.
He would start tonight. He would take someone’s life for
the very first time. He had it planned down to every detail,
every exigency, and every possible eventuality. He
would kill and mutilate and wreak God’s vengeance on
the guilty and wicked.
But could he do it? Could he go against every principle
he had believed in for his entire life? Could he get
his revenge? Kill in cold blood? Murder with pleasure?
Did he have the stomach for the gruesome, bloody acts
he had dreamed about doing for so long?
Oh yes, he thought, staring down at the smiling photograph
of One in his Murder Book. Yes, he could. And
he would. Soon.