Dead of Winter (Cold Case Psychic #15) - Pandora Pine

PROLOGUE

Ronan

December 2008…

Boston police patrolman, Ronan O’Mara, was dead on his feet. With two weeks to go until Christmas, it seemed everyone in the City of Boston was in a hurry to finish up their shopping, which meant Ronan was in hog heaven where traffic violations were concerned. He knew it was rather Grinchy of him to write speeding tickets this close to Christmas, but the law was the law, no matter the time of year.

“Fifteen minutes to go,” Ronan muttered to his empty patrol car. His plan for the night was simple, take out from Chinese Dragon, a pu-pu platter for one and a small pineapple fried rice, followed by a couple of bottles of Heineken to go with the Celtics game. He knew that as tired as he was, it wasn’t likely he’d make it past halftime.

His mouth watered just thinking about the Dragon’s egg rolls. He didn’t know what the hell they were stuffed with, and didn’t care, so long as they crunched when he bit into them.

In another five minutes, he’d call in to the restaurant to place his order and ask for extra fortune cookies. He could use all the luck he could get. He had an interview scheduled for next week with Captain Davidson from homicide. Two weeks from now, he could be a newly minted detective rather than a patrolman. Ronan was rubbing his hands together in anticipation when the radio crackled to life. “We have an Amber Alert out of Roxbury.”

All thoughts of egg rolls and promotions vanished. Ronan turned up the radio. His heart pinched for the missing child and their family. He might have some bah-humbug in his heart for speeders, but a missing child was serious business, especially as the holidays approached.

“Twelve-year-old African American Female last seen wearing blue jeans and a bright-pink parka. Dark braided hair, brown eyes, approximately four feet tall. Her name is Delilah Madison. Last known location was the MLK Middle School on Congress Street in Roxbury when school ended at 3:15 p.m.” The radio crackled before falling silent.

It was nearly seven. Why the hell was the Amber Alert only going out now? Had no one noticed the little girl was missing for the last four hours? It had been dark since half past four. It would be that much more difficult to find a missing child in the dark. Not to mention the need to find her quickly. According to the readout in his squad car, the temperature was in the low thirties. It would only get colder as the night wore on.

Ronan’s cell phone buzzed at his hip. He punched the button to answer the call from Captain Silver. “O’Mara.”

“Ronan, head toward the Franklin Park Zoo. You cover the area around Forest Hills Street. I’ll be at the northern end of Seaver. Use your cell phone to communicate with me. Now that the word’s out, the media will be out in force to cover the story.”

“Got it,” Ronan assured his captain before disconnecting the call. The search for the missing preteen would be hard enough without camera crews descending like crows to the feast while he tried to locate the little girl.

Without lights and sirens, Ronan proceeded to Forest Hills Street. In addition to housing the zoo, Franklin Park boasted walking trails and playground apparatus for the neighborhood kids. Driving past, Ronan always took a minute to daydream about taking his future son or daughter to see the animals or for a trip down the slide. There was no time for such whimsical thoughts today.

Pushing those visions of the future from his mind, Ronan parked the patrol car on the side of the road. He turned the lights on so other motorists would see it and know he was there on official business. He grabbed his heavy-duty flashlight and climbed out.

The chill December wind hit him like a slap in the face. It wouldn’t take long for the wind to numb his face and hands. Ronan knew he had to act fast. A small girl with only a winter jacket wouldn’t last long in these temperatures.

He surveyed the landscape before beginning his search. The ground was flat where he’d parked the car, but about fifteen feet up the road was a culvert. The perfect place to hide a body, his mind supplied.

Shivering, Ronan headed in that direction, walking as slowly as he could. His flashlight beam moved over the ground in front of him before flicking up to penetrate the dark of the playground. As

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