The Kept Woman Page 1

Author: Karin Slaughter

Series: Will Trent #8

Genres: Mystery , Thriller



Will Trent was worried about his dog. Betty was getting her teeth cleaned, which sounded like a ridiculous waste of money for a pet, but when the vet had explained to Will all the terrible things that poor dental hygiene could do to an animal, he had been ready to sell his house in order to buy the little thing a few more precious years.

Apparently, he wasn’t the only idiot in Atlanta who was ensuring his pet had better health care than many Americans. He glanced at the line of people waiting to enter the Dutch Valley Animal Clinic. A recalcitrant Great Dane was bottlenecking the front door, while several cat owners gave each other knowing looks. Will turned back to the street. He wiped the sweat off his neck, unsure whether he was perspiring from the intense late August heat or from the sheer panic of not knowing whether or not he had made the right decision. He’d never had a dog before. He’d never been solely responsible for an animal’s well-being. He put his hand to his chest. He could still feel the memory of Betty’s heart jangling like a tambourine as he handed her over to the vet tech.

Should he go back inside and rescue her?

The sharp beep of a car horn startled him out of his apprehension. He saw a flash of red as Faith Mitchell drove past in her Mini. She made a wide U-turn, then pulled up alongside Will. He was reaching for the handle when she leaned over and pushed open the door.

‘Hurry,’ she said, her voice raised over the whine of the air conditioning, which was set to polar. ‘Amanda already sent two texts asking where the hell we are.’

Will hesitated before getting into the tiny car. Faith’s government-issue Suburban was in the shop. There was a baby’s car seat strapped into the back seat, which left approximately thirty inches of space up front into which he could wedge his six-feet-four-inch frame.

Faith’s phone chirped with a new text. ‘Amanda.’ She said the name like a curse, which was how most people said it. Deputy Director Amanda Wagner was their boss at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. She was not known for her patience.

Will tossed his suit jacket into the back seat then folded himself into the car like a burrito. He tilted his head into the extra few inches afforded by the closed sunroof. The glovebox pressed into his shins. His knees almost touched his face. If they were in an accident, the coroner would have to scrape his nose off the inside of his skull.

‘Murder,’ Faith said, letting her foot off the brake before he’d even closed the door. ‘Male, fifty-eight years old.’

‘Nice,’ Will said, relishing the death of a fellow human being as only a law enforcement officer can. In his defense, both he and Faith had spent the last seven months pushing boulders up some very steep hills. She had been loaned out to a special task force investigating the Atlanta Public Schools cheating scandal, and he had been stuck in the particular hell of a high-visibility rape investigation.

Faith said, ‘Atlanta nine-one-one got the call around five this AM.’ She had an air of giddiness about her as she relayed the details. ‘An unidentified male caller said there was a dead body near those abandoned warehouses off Chattahoochee. Lots of blood. No murder weapon.’ She slowed for a red light. ‘They’re not releasing cause of death on the radio, so it must be pretty bad.’

Something inside the car started to beep. Will reached blindly for his seat belt. ‘Why are we working this?’ The GBI couldn’t just walk on to a case. They had to be ordered in by the governor or asked in by the local cops. The Atlanta Police Department dealt with murder on a weekly basis. They didn’t generally ask for help. Especially from the state.

‘The victim is an Atlanta cop.’ Faith grabbed his seat belt and buckled him in like he was one of her kids. ‘Detective First Grade Dale Harding, retired. Ever heard of him?’

Will shook his head. ‘You?’

‘My mom knew him. Never worked with him. He was in white-collar crimes. Took early medical leave, then popped up doing private security. Mostly knuckle-dragging and knee-breaking.’ Faith had been with the APD for fifteen years before she’d partnered with Will. Her mother had retired as a captain. Between the two of them, they were familiar with practically everyone on the force. ‘Mom says that knowing Harding’s reputation, he probably pissed off the wrong pimp or missed the vig with his bookie and got a bat to the head.’

The car jerked as the light changed. Will felt a sharp jab in his ribs from his Glock. He tried to shift his weight. Despite the frigid air conditioning, sweat had already glued the back of his shirt to the seat. The skin peeled away like a Band-Aid. The clock on the dash read 7:38 AM. He couldn’t let himself think about how sweltering it would be by noon.

Faith’s phone chirped with a text. Then chirped again. And again. ‘Amanda,’ she groaned. ‘Why does she break up the lines? She sends three separate sentences in three separate texts. All caps. It’s not fair.’ Faith drove with one hand and texted back with the other, which was dangerous and illegal, but Faith was one of those cops who only saw infractions in other people. ‘We’re about five minutes out, right?’

‘Probably closer to ten with traffic.’ Will reached over to steady the steering wheel so they wouldn’t end up on the sidewalk. ‘What’s the address on the warehouse?’

She scrolled back through her texts. ‘It’s a construction site near the warehouses. Three-eighty Beacon.’

Will’s jaw clamped down so tight that he felt a lightning bolt of pain shoot into his neck. ‘That’s Marcus Rippy’s nightclub.’

Faith gave him a startled look. ‘Are you kidding me?’

Will shook his head. There was nothing about Marcus Rippy that he would kid about. The man was a pro basketball player who’d been accused of drugging and raping a college student. Will had spent the last seven months building a pretty solid case against the lying asshole, but Rippy had hundreds of millions of dollars to spend on lawyers and specialists and experts and publicists, who had all made sure that the case never went to trial.

Faith asked, ‘What’s a dead ex-cop doing inside Marcus Rippy’s club less than two weeks after Rippy walks on a rape charge?’

‘I’m sure his lawyers will have a plausible explanation by the time we get there.’

‘Jesus.’ Faith dropped her phone into the cup holder and put both hands back on the wheel. She was quiet for a moment, probably considering all the ways this had just turned bad for them. Dale Harding was a cop, but he’d been a bad cop. The hard truth about murder in the big city was that in general, the deceased rarely turned out to be a shining, upstanding citizen. Not to blame the victim, but they tended to be involved in activities—like pissing off pimps and not paying bookies—where it made sense that they would eventually end up murdered.

Marcus Rippy’s involvement changed everything.

Faith slowed the car as morning traffic thickened like paste. ‘I know you said you didn’t want to talk about your case crapping out, but now I need you to talk about it.’

Will still didn’t want to talk about it. Over a five-hour period, Rippy had repeatedly assaulted his victim, sometimes beating her, sometimes strangling her into unconsciousness. Standing beside her hospital bed three days later, Will could make out the dark lines where Rippy’s fingers had gripped her neck the same way he would palm a basketball. There were other bruises documented in the medical report. Cuts. Lacerations. Tearing. Blunt-force trauma. Bleeding. The woman could not speak above a whisper, but she still told her story, and she kept telling it to anyone who would listen until Rippy’s lawyers shut her up.

Next page