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Close Enough to Touch

Close Enough to Touch

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Close Enough to Touch

3/5 (1 rating)
276 pages
4 hours
Jul 17, 2017


Joanna Grey injects the deadly poison into the chamber of the syringe—time after time. She's murdered before and she'll do it again. She's intelligent, educated, and beautiful.
At thirty-five, Rylee Hayes is a respected homicide detective. Her best friends are her grandparents, her coonhound, and her partner—in that order. She's about ready to give up on the idea of a relationship. She hasn't seen the love of her life, Kenzie Bigham, since college.
At thirty-four, Kenzie Bigham is the single mom of a thirteen-year-old, a church secretary, and a woman who's struggled much of her adult life with her own sexuality.
Their paths will cross when Rylee's new investigation involves members of Kenzie's congregation. They'll discover that the passage of time may have offered them a second chance at love—just as Joanna sights her next target. Will Rylee have what it takes to meet the challenge of a serial killer who's proven herself to be a more than worthy opponent?

Jul 17, 2017

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Close Enough to Touch - Cade Brogan


Chapter Two

It was Rylee’s day off, the first in almost a month. And whether Buckshot liked it or not, they were going. Come on, she called out. Nothing there you need to concern yourself about. She cocked her head, frowning. Come on I said. Let’s go.

The coonhound lifted his nose, made eye contact, and promptly put it back down. No doubt something died in that spot. He’d roll in that rotting pile of leaves and stink up her new truck if she didn’t move him along. I said come on, she barked, shaking the end of his leash, so he noticed. Don’t make me clip this on. He fell in step within a moment. He was a smart dog, and her third coonhound. She got him last year, just after she turned thirty-five. She got her first when she was four, a gift from her mom. Wasn’t long after that that her mom had her first breakdown. Rylee sucked in air, clearing her mind. Come on, Buckshot. They sped up making their way down the hill. As they rounded the bend, she caught sight of the pond she’d fished with her grandpa since she was a child. He hadn’t come with her for quite a while. Maybe next Sunday, she thought. There were lots of great fishing spots up and down the coast of Lake Michigan, with the best being right downtown. But even with the drive to the country, this one would always be her favorite one. She settled onto a rock and cast her line into the murky water. She could count on a string of bass, bluegill, and catfish by the time she finished up, around four. She’d clean ‘em, fry ‘em up, and share ‘em with her grandma and grandpa.

Rylee rubbed Buckshot’s ears at the sound of a squirrel barking in the distance. Minding his business like you need to be minding yours, she commented as he lay back down. She’d no more than turned back to check her line than her cell rang in her pocket. Only one reason she’d be getting a call from the precinct this early on a Sunday morning. Got a fifteen-minute hike back to my truck, she said, raking her hair back with her fingers, and then just over an hour drive back to Chi-town. She dropped her tackle back into her box. Be there as quick as I can, she added. At least it’s not rush hour. She exhaled, meeting her dog’s eye. Come on, Buckshot.


Rylee exited the expressway onto a multi-lane. Chicago, the third most populous city in the United States, with its sirens blaring, horns honking, and graffitied walls was home. She passed Chicago-Read, a state-run two-hundred-bed psychiatric hospital as she traversed the northwest side of the city. Her mouth went dry, averting her gaze from what she knew to be her mom’s room. The sound of a jackhammer returned her attention to the road. It seemed no one had a day off this Sunday morning. You guys just finishing up? she asked, ducking under the strip of yellow tape restricting access to the crime scene.

Yep, just did, the tech responded. He had what looked to be a DNA kit tucked under his arm. Your partner’s in there, he added, nodding toward what she assumed to be the bathroom. Victim is too. Medical Examiner should be here by eleven to pick her up.

Good deal, Rylee said, pausing to scan the entry area before making her way past the kitchen and through the living room. She came up beside her longtime partner as he shifted his position to the edge of the bathroom doorway. Rich was a good-looking guy, tall and muscled out, forty-five and African American. Lining up a shot? she guessed, her eyes narrowing as she looked into the room. No blood, she commented, scratching her head.

You don’t see it right off, Rich responded, looking her way. Pure luck Jones, and O’Malley saw it at all. He nodded downward. Look for yourself.

Rylee squatted down next to the body, the victim already stiffening with rigor mortis. Good job, Jones, and O’Malley, she said softly, noting that a solitary prick had resulted in a minuscule drop of blood. Dart, I’m guessing, she added as she stood up. What’s this? she asked, noticing a thorny twig in the upper right corner of the mirror.

Rich moved closer. Totally missed that, he admitted. Course it’s way up above my eye level. Small and high, it was a critical piece of evidence that could suggest they were looking at the work of a serial killer.

That’s it, Rylee responded, cocking her head, make a tall joke while I solve a murder for ya.

While you solve a possible murder for me, Rich countered. Autopsy’s not until late tomorrow. Death could still be due to natural causes.

Pretty sure it’s not, Rylee said as she positioned for a measurement and then a shot. I think it’s a blackberry bramble, she said, but I could be wrong. A ‘C’ in botany can only carry a guy so far. She gently removed the bramble from the mirror, dropped it into an evidence bag, and labeled it. Her shoulders tipped back as she took another look around, wondering if she’d be able to locate her old botany textbook. She had the sense that it was in her grandparent’s attic somewhere. So, what do we know about her?

Thirty-two, last month, Rich said. Lives alone according to the super. He described her as a good tenant. Found her at 0915 and called 911 at 0925. Claimed the neighbor across the hall called him after the door stood open for a couple of hours. Said he came right up to check it out. He lives on the first floor.

Did you talk to the neighbor? Rylee asked. She hated coming in late on a case, even if only by a couple of hours.

No, not yet, Rich responded, continuing. Time of death was 0600. ICE contact’s her mom. It’s an Arizona number, a landline. He took a breath, let it go, and met her eye. I tried, but there was no answer.

I’ll call her, Rylee offered, knowing that her partner had a difficult time telling parents they’d lost a child. The problem started after he lost his fifteen-year-old son to gang violence. That was two years ago. Since then, she’d tried her best to do all their informing. Any priors? she continued.

Reported a credit card stolen last year, Rich answered, but that’s all.

Rylee nodded, still looking around. No sign of struggle. She’d have fought back if someone came at her with a needle.

Yeah, probably, Rich responded. Unless she knew ‘em. Maybe she had someone over for a shower, and they took her by surprise. He shook his head with his fingers on his chin. I still think it could be natural causes though. Guess we’ll know tomorrow.

I tell ya, it’s not natural causes, Rylee countered. Look at her, young, healthy, and strong.

Stranger things have happened, Rich responded.

Whatever, whoever got her, got her quick, Rylee continued. She didn’t even have time to grab a towel. With one spare second, she’d have grabbed one. She shook her head as her upper lip curled. Sick bastard, she muttered, sneak up on a woman while she’s in the shower.

If she was murdered, Rich said, sick bastard is right.

She was, I tell ya, Rylee responded. She had a sense about these things. Call it woman’s intuition or good police instinct. Call it whatever you want, she could feel it in her gut.

Fish biting today? Rich asked, changing the subject.

They were gonna, Rylee answered as she went under the yellow tape, stepping into the hallway. She shook her head. You think we’re ever gonna get a full day off? she asked with a sigh.

I don’t know, Rich answered, following her. Maybe, maybe not. I sure hope so though. They stepped the stairs to the parking lot. We haven’t even had a chance to get the camper out of storage. With violent crime on the rise and detective positions left unfilled, days off were increasingly hard to come by. Chinese? he asked, pausing next to his unmarked squad car.

The place on Archer? Rylee asked.

Of course, Rich answered.

Good, Rylee said, glancing across the lot to her truck, because Buckshot loves their crab rangoon.

Chapter Three

I don’t get why we have to go every Sunday, Abby grumbled, yanking her blue dress off the hanger with enough force to tear the fabric. No one else has to go every single week. She didn’t care much for any of them, but if she had to wear one, it was her favorite.

Because we do, Kenzie responded. I don’t ask much of you, Abigail. Their gazes locked for a long moment.

I hate you sometimes, Abby muttered under her breath, jerking the dress on.

Kenzie took a breath, knowing that her thirteen-year-old was baiting her. Wear your jeans if you want, she said softly. She didn’t know what to do anymore. It seemed like everything, large and small, led to an argument. She opted to let this incident pass without comment. As the adult, she had the responsibility to help them choose their battles wisely. Years of counseling and they had virtually nothing to show for it. She’d resigned herself to the fact that she might never be forgiven for leaving, and subsequently divorcing, Abby’s father. Maybe she had it coming, who knows? To Abby, and her ex for that matter, her decision to leave had come out of the blue. In some respects, she supposed that was true. She’d been on the Dan Ryan that morning, running late. Traffic was more congested than usual. As it crawled to a stop, her mind filled with a notion of her future, old and unfulfilled. She was only twenty-nine, but in her mind, she saw her life ticking away, miserable. She moved out that weekend. Abby, then eight, refused to come with her. She was a strong-willed child and held her ground until the Court forced her to. In hindsight, Kenzie wondered if being honest about her reasons for leaving might’ve been the better thing to do. But she just couldn’t do it. She just couldn’t bring herself to. Five years, five long years since that day, and still her daughter hadn’t forgiven her. She blamed her for everything—that he hadn’t visited this year; hadn’t called since her birthday, and never wrote her. Maybe she deserved it. Maybe she had the right to stay angry for what seemed like forever. A wave of emptiness passed through the pit of her stomach as she slipped into her navy skirt. She called out Abby as she fastened the clasp on her necklace, a cross with a fiery orange garnet, her birthstone.

No answer.

Not unusual.

Abby, she called out again.

No answer.

Again, not unusual.

She exhaled, making her way down the upstairs hallway. Did you hear me? Kenzie asked, taking a position at the center of her daughter’s bedroom doorway.

Yeah, I heard ya, Abby answered, I was waiting for the rest of it.

Kenzie held her gaze for a long moment. Come on, she said firmly, it’s time to go.

Straight there? Abby asked. She removed her ear buds and laid them on the nightstand.

No, Kenzie responded, we’re picking up Sally and Jodi.

Figures, Abby said as she climbed into their old four-door.

Neither has it easy, Abigail, Kenzie continued. She shook her head slowly as she turned the key to start the car. It hesitated, like it might soon need a new battery, and then turned over. Giving folks a ride is something we can do to help, something that doesn’t hurt us at all.

I know, Abby mumbled. She leaned back, looking away for the next fourteen blocks. There’s Jodi, she finally blurted out as they approached the graffitied red brick structure, but no Sally.

Guess she’s not going this morning, Kenzie responded, pulling over.

Not everybody thinks they have to go every week, Abby responded.

I know, Abigail, Kenzie said, sighing. I know. She glanced to the backseat with a warm smile as her passenger climbed in and shut her door. Good morning, she greeted, forcing lift into her voice. What a beautiful dress! Robin egg blue’s my favorite color.


The church was a spacious, modern structure equipped to seat about twenty-five hundred to three thousand, with rows of pews facing a gigantic raised platform at the front. The stage lighting and sound system gave the impression that those in attendance were in for a show. Ten musicians were playing, and probably would continue to play, an easy mix of worship rock-n-roll. The lyrics were displayed on several large monitors. The pews were outfitted with soft cushions and headphones.

Joanna had arrived a good forty-five minutes before the service was scheduled to start. She liked to get a feel for a holy space before sitting down. So far, most were between the ages of thirty and fifty-five, predominately white. At least a thousand were milling around, many of whom were wearing t-shirts printed with one of two biblical quotes—Proverbs 9:10, The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. And Leviticus 20:13, If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them. They were two of her favorite verses. She liked this church and planned to come back.

Good morning, the greeters chirped, smiling.

And good morning to you, Joanna responded, smiling back. She shook their hands and studied them for an extra moment. What a difficult choice, she thought, guessing both to be first generation biracial. It was never a good idea to take more than one from the same house of worship, but...

I’m Jodi, the taller one blurted out, still smiling, Welcome to The Covenant. We hope with us you find the Lord.

I’m sure I will, Joanna responded, smiling back.

And I’m Kenzie, said the curvaceous one with the bouncy dark curls. She looked a little older, maybe thirty-four or five. Welcome, she added, pointing to an area with tables on the far side of the room. Please, enjoy some refreshments and make yourself comfortable.

Thank you. I’ll do that, Joanna responded, locking onto her deep brown eyes. Maybe you should take both, she thought. It’s a large congregation after all. I can’t imagine that anyone would notice. She picked up an apocalypse pamphlet from a tabletop display as she made her way over to the cappuccino bar. Just this once, she told herself. Do them, and then you can move on to another house of worship.


Break lights flickered as the late model SUV in front of Joanna moved through the intersection. Too close, she told herself. Fall back. She eased up on the accelerator. In the next block, the traffic light turned yellow, and the old sedan stopped. The light was red by the time she came to a halt. She checked her mirror as she slid her tongue along the inside surface of her upper teeth. A poppy seed from the bagel she’d consumed had lodged itself between the two in front. There we go, she thought, swallowing. She nudged her cat-eye glasses up the bridge of her nose and re-tucked a stray lock of auburn hair into her bun. She considered the need for a salon appointment as the light turned green, but ruled it out as she moved forward. Her stomach fluttered in anticipation. It was always fun to scope out a new hunting ground. A full-size pickup passed, and then pulled in front of her. A woman with an olive complexion was driving. Her hair was dark brown, tapered in back, and feathered over her eyebrows. Masculine in appearance, she was most likely a lesbian. She had a dog with black spotted ears. The canine looked right at Joanna through the passenger window. She didn’t like dogs, large or small. She lifted her foot off the accelerator when an unmarked squad car pulled in behind the black truck. They turned the next corner. She squinted to see the street sign, making a mental note of where she was. Archer. Near Chinatown. In the next block, a red Volkswagen came to an abrupt halt. She stretched, keeping the old sedan in her sights as she whipped around. Could the two women be sisters? Probably not, because other than skin tone, they didn’t look much like one another. Six blocks down and one over, the old sedan came to a stop and the tall one—Jodi—got out. She waved to the curvy one—Kenzie—and the kid before making her way up the sidewalk. The building was like the one this morning, rundown. She’d come back later to figure out which apartment Jodi lived in. With any luck, her name would be on the mailbox. The old sedan pulled back into traffic. Off we go, she thought with an inward smile. Off we go, she giggled. Off we go to a brand new hunting ground!

Chapter Four

It’s our turn to try out the new one, Rich said, so be nice.

I’m always nice, Rylee responded, smiling and gently nudging his shoulder.

Uh-huh, Rich answered, sure you are. He was shaking his head as the receptionist appeared in the Medical Examiner’s window. Hayes and Winters, he announced, showing his ID even though he didn’t have to. We’ve got the nine o’clock, Sally Dee Smith.

Be right back, the woman responded, disappearing down the hall. Nice lady, always in good humor in spite of the fact that she was counting the days to retirement. Rylee would be counting too if she spent all day, every day, with dead people and forensic pathologists.

My least favorite part of the job, Rich admitted, wrinkling his nose.

Mine too, Rylee said, breathing through her mouth, Especially when someone’s working on a decomposer. She dabbed a bit of Vicks in each nostril, an old trick she’d learned from her field-training officer. Here, want some? she offered.

Yeah, thanks, Rich responded, stretching to catch the small tin that she’d just tossed at him. I need to replenish our supply.

Don’t worry about it, Rylee chuckled. It doesn’t cost that much. She’d been carrying the product with her since she’d been a rookie cop. It was hard to believe that’d be twelve years, come the first of July.

Dr. Grey’s expecting you, the receptionist announced, stepping back to the window. The door latch clicked when she pressed the buzzer. Room five, she added. You can go on back.

Thanks, Rich said, leading the way down the extra wide corridor. He grimaced as they walked past door number three. Stinker’s in there, he commented, wrinkling his nose. Feel bad for whoever’s got that one.

Yeah, me too, Rylee said with a hard swallow. You know it’s bad when Vicks can’t cut it.

Oh yeah, Rich said, nodding, and picking up the pace toward door number five.

Rylee shook her head when he held it open for her. Such a gentleman, she commented, sarcastically.

Joanna looked up, catching her eye.

Good morning, Rylee

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