“In Arnold’s well-executed fifth Brandon Fisher FBI novel (after 2015’s Blue Baby), FBI agent Paige Dawson becomes embroiled in a case, not as an investigator but as a suspect, when she travels to Valencia, Calif., to seek out Ferris Hall, the man who raped a friend of hers 22 years before in Mexico. Coincidentally, Hall is murdered at a Valencia motel the night before the police discover Dawson entering his house, and she falls under suspicion. Dawson works with seasoned profilers Fisher and Jack Harper to clear her name and also track down the culprit, possibly a serial killer out for vengeance against violent men. The romantic tension between Fisher and Dawson grows as she grapples with residual feelings for her fellow investigator while attempting to pursue a new relationship. Arnold does a good job creating an air of uncertainty surrounding the murder, and the chemistry among her FBI characters is convincing.”
In the following excerpt, FBI agent Paige Dawson is at the home of the man who raped her friend twentysome years ago. When he didn’t answer the door, she refused to turn away…
Enjoy this excerpt from Chapter 4 from Violated (Brandon Fisher FBI Series):
PAIGE STEPPED ONTO FERRIS’S DECK, keeping her steps light as she moved across the wood to the patio door. Fence or no fence, ethical or not, it had taken years to get this close to Ferris, and now that she was outside his home, she couldn’t just turn around and accept that Ferris wasn’t here and move on.
The vertical blinds on the patio door were drawn open, but that wasn’t all Paige noticed. The sliding door was partially open, too.
“Ferris Hall?” she called through the crack.
She didn’t hear any sounds or movements coming from inside. Her FBI training was telling her that something wasn’t right, that people didn’t usually leave their doors wide open in the middle of the morning, but that same experience told her she couldn’t go inside without justification.
Paige pressed her face to the glass and held a hand to her forehead to cut out the glare. Directly inside was a dining room with a table and four chairs. Beyond that she could see an L-shaped kitchen, and to the left of the dining area was the living room. Everything appeared to be neat and tidy. Even the counters were relatively clear except for a toaster, coffeemaker, and a bottle of Aleve.
There were no visual signs of an altercation; therefore, no real basis to enter. Except her gut was knotted with a foreboding sense that someone had broken into Ferris’s house. Despite the edge of the door and the frame not appearing to have any damage, without something blocking the inside track, a patio door made an easy access point for breaking and entering.
A burst of giggles came from behind her, and she turned quickly to see more children racing along the pathway. None of them paid her any attention.
When they disappeared from view, she turned back to the house. She stuck her head through the opening and called out his name again. “Ferris?”
Straining to listen, she was again met with silence.
Why would his back door be open if he wasn’t home, other than a B&E? Surely, he wouldn’t have forgotten to close the door behind him if he’d left.
She gnawed on her lip, trying to find a rationalization for her to enter. If something had happened to Ferris in there, would she even be inclined to help him, though? The man had essentially taken her friend’s life. If she found him dead, would she feel any pity, or would she just feel as though Karma had been repaid?
But she was curious to see how this man lived his life, how he carried on despite the fact he destroyed lives.
Still, she was an FBI agent, she argued with herself—not above the law but an advocate of the law. Could she defend a decision to enter without any sign of a true disturbance? She calmed herself with the thought that if she entered and found nothing amiss, no one even needed to know she’d been there. And if something had happened, she’d admit to the truth.
She called out a third time, and when he didn’t respond, she swallowed, about to step inside.
“Excuse me,” a woman called out in a curious tone. “Who are you?” Based on the direction of her voice, she must be standing on the pathway to Paige’s right.
Coolness blanketed Paige’s flesh as heat burned her insides. She blew a strand of hair off her cheek and turned her face toward the woman. She was wearing dark sunglasses and dressed in shorts and a collared tee. One hand was on her hip, and she held the other to her forehead, shielding her eyes from the sun.
“What do you think you’re doing?” Her curious tone had quickly turned accusatory, and the woman moved closer to the fence.
Paige had one option: lie. The question was just whether she was going to simply distort the truth or completely evade it. She could say she was an FBI agent and add that she was here to speak to Ferris. That actually would have been quite accurate. But that would lead the woman to believe that he was suspected of a crime and being questioned concerning one. If there was a situation inside, it would give her something to fall back on if she had to report a crime, but it would also get the Bureau involved.
“I’m a friend of Ferris’s,” Paige blurted out before she could really formulate her plan. At the same time, she made sure that her holster was tucked under her shirt. Thankfully, the woman was on her right and the gun on her left.
The woman lifted her shades up and rested them on her forehead. “I’ve never seen you before. And it still doesn’t explain why you’re at his back door.”
Think, Paige, think.
“I feel so stupid.” Maybe if she played the distraught and somewhat crazy one-night stand… Paige stepped across the deck, closing the distance between her and the woman. “I spent last night with him and left my purse inside.”
The woman was through the gate in an instant. Oh God. She hopped up the three stairs onto the deck, stopping short of Paige. She pointed toward the open door. “Did you do that? Are you breaking in?”
“No, no.” She hated lying, but in this case it was necessary. “He…he gave me a key.”
The woman arched a penciled brow but relaxed as Paige maintained eye contact. Her expression eased into a smile. “Oh, I’ve been there before. You have everything under control, then?”
Paige mustered a smile for her in return. “Yep. I think I do.”
“All right, then. I’m off. Things to do.” The woman hopped off the deck and into the grass as if the four-foot elevation was nothing and waved over her head. “Have a good day,” she said with one last glance over her shoulder at Paige.
Paige returned the wave and slipped inside Ferris’s house. She took a moment to catch her breath, supporting herself on a dining chair. It turned out trespassing wasn’t that easy on the heart rate. She abruptly jumped back as she realized she had let the distracting neighbor mar her better judgment. She had to approach this as she would a crime scene, and her fingerprints would be all over the top of the chair now. She pulled on the bottom of her T-shirt and wiped the surface with it. Then she covered her fingers with her shirt to slide the door closed.
Being inside Ferris’s home like this felt as if she were violating him—an odd emotion given what he had done to her friend. She’d breached brick and mortar; he had transgressed against flesh and blood.