Dead of Winter (Cold Case Psychic #15) - Pandora Pine Page 0,1

he walked, Ronan prayed to the Virgin Mary.

He’d grown up Catholic, and attended twelve years of parochial schooling, but no matter how hard he tried, he just didn’t believe in the tenants of the faith. His mother, Erin, did, so Ronan prayed by using the words he’d heard her whisper a thousand times. Hail Mary, full of grace…

It was the longest short walk of Ronan’s life. He examined every inch of ground meticulously. When he shined the flashlight beam toward the park, he could see three other patrol cars stationed north and east of his location. He could hear their distant cries for the girl.

“Delilah?” Ronan shouted. His voice echoed through the trees. A gust of wind was his only reply.

A pop of color caught Ronan’s eye. The culvert was filled with empty snack bags, candy bar wrappers, and brown leaves, long devoid of their brilliant reds and yellows. The quick flash of color wasn’t a Doritos bag and it sure as hell wasn’t from a Snickers.

Puffing out a rough, crystalized breath, Ronan hurried toward what he prayed wasn’t the child’s body. The closer he got, the more his gut instinct told him he’d unfortunately found what he was looking for.

Sure enough, what he’d seen was a pink parka. The girl was laid out in what could only be described as a funeral pose, flat on her back with her hands folded over her chest. She was wearing the pink jacket, but was nude from the waist down.

“Delilah?” Ronan hit his knees in front of the little girl. He felt for a pulse. The first thing Ronan noticed was that her skin was ice-cold. The second was that Delilah had no pulse. Oh, Jesus, no.

Gasping for air, Ronan sat back on his heels. The frozen December air burned his lungs, but he didn’t care. His pain was infinitesimal compared against the fact that a mother had lost her daughter. He pressed his fingers to her neck one more time in case he hadn’t pressed hard enough the first time. His brain knew the God-awful truth, while his heart pressed on.

No pulse. Again.

Ronan staggered back to his feet and reached for the mic clipped to his shoulder. At the last minute, he remembered Captain Silver not wanting information to go out over the radio. He pulled out his cell phone instead.

With shaking hands, he dialed his captain’s number.

“Silver,” the captain’s gruff voice filled Ronan’s head. “You got something, O’Mara?”

“I found her. Jesus Christ, I found her.” He struggled to draw a deep breath.

“Dead or alive, O’Mara?” Silver’s grim tone indicated he already knew the answer to his question.

“She’s dead, sir. No obvious signs of trauma to the body, but there are signs of possible sexual assault.” Ronan couldn’t believe the words coming out of his mouth. He was talking about the death and rape of a preteen girl.

“I’ll call EMS and work my way over to you. Keep a lid on this.”

“Y-Yes, sir.” Ronan’s voice trembled, but not from the cold.

“It’s going to be all right, son.” With those words, Silver was gone.

All through the police academy, Ronan had been taught to respect the words of his commanding officers, but he knew Captain Silver was wrong. Things would never be all right again.

Ronan hit his knees in front of the dead child, wanting nothing more than to cradle her in his arms, but knowing he couldn’t risk contaminating the body. His stomach revolted at the use of that word. He quickly scrambled to his feet and ran across the street. He threw up everything in his stomach with such force, he was sure his liver was going to come up with it.

When he’d applied to the police academy, he’d been filled with hope, knowing that he was going to do everything in his power to make this world a better place. He knew it had been naïve to think he alone could keep Massachusetts safe.

Staring down at the body of Delilah Madison, Ronan felt anger ignite in the pit of his stomach. He wanted nothing more than to find the animal who’d done this to Delilah and make sure he spent the rest of his life in prison. Being a patrolman, he wasn’t going to get the chance.

Ronan knew his call to Silver had set the wheels in motion. Within the next few minutes, both he and EMS would show up at the crime scene. They’d tape the area off while the paramedics did what they could for an already-dead child.

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