Dakota Heat

By: Lisa Mondello

Chapter 1

“You’ve got to be kidding,” Summer Bigelow glared at the police chief of the Providence Police Department as she sat back against the chair. She’d thought the parking ticket she’d found on her windshield this morning was a bad start of the day and it could only get better from there.

She’d been wrong.

Matt Jorgensen looked at her with sympathy. “You’re one of the best dispatchers I have, Summer. I’m not disputing that.”

“Then why?” she said.

Matt raised his voice over hers. “But I’m not going to risk your life to some crazy stalker who has already killed four women.”

Summer’s mouth dropped open. She forced air into her lungs as she looked at the two detectives sitting in the office with them. Jake Santos and Kevin Gordon had been working this case right from the beginning and had been doing drive-by checks on her ever since the killer had called into her line.

“There was a fourth?”

The grim look they both offered was answer enough.

“Last time he called in, he reported there was a fourth,” Jake said. “A kid discovered her taking a short cut through a parking lot on the way to school this morning.”

“But he called in last week. He said...” Summer fought to think through the chain of events that had transpired over the last two weeks.

Kevin Gordon got up from his seat and walked in front of her, sitting on the desk. She knew his wife had been stalked by her ex-husband a few years ago and was nearly killed.

“You have to take this serious. We are. With Daria, we knew her ex-husband was after her and she didn’t leave town. We were watching him and he still managed to slip through our fingers. I thank God every day we found Daria in time. We don’t know who this serial killer is or where he’ll be next. All we know for sure is that based on his last phone call, he’s fixated on you.”

“Look at you,” Matt said, throwing his pen on the blotter on his desk. “It’s been a week since that nutcase called in and I can already see the toll it’s taking on you. You’ve got dark circles under your eyes and you look like you haven’t slept at all. And don’t blame Bobbi’s lumpy couch, either. You walk down the hall and I see you looking over your shoulder. That’s no way to live, Summer.”

“He doesn’t know my name. Bobbi said I could stay at her place as long as I need to while you watch my apartment. How could he possibly find me?”

Jake handed her a folded newspaper. “We found this on your doorstep this morning. He could be anyone you talk to on the street, Summer. Anyone.”

She opened the Providence Journal Bulletin. In red marker, the words YOU’RE NEXT were boldly scribbled on the page. Taped to the top was a picture of Summer walking out of Bobbi’s apartment. The picture had the mark of a bullseye over her face.

Summer swayed in her seat. The serial killer had been stalking her and she’d never even known. The growing ball of fear she’d walked around with for the past week burned in her stomach.

She thought to this morning when she’d found the parking ticket on her car in front of Bobbi’s apartment building. A nice man had stopped his walk when she’d ranted in frustration over what was happening and told her the day would get better. It could have been him. It could be anyone. How would she know?

“For your own safety,” Matt said. “You are going to be leaving Providence today. I’m not arguing the point.”

“But… You’re sending me to the middle of no man’s land.”

“South Dakota isn’t exactly the South Pole. You’ll be working fire dispatch. It’s a good cover. I’ve already briefed the superintendent in charge of the fire unit in the area.”

“Fire dispatch.”

Matt looked at her file. “You’ve been trained in it. It’s a perfect cover. If the killer continues looking for you he won’t be looking for a fire dispatcher.”

“Why would he look for me in South Dakota? What the hell is even in South Dakota?”

Kevin’s voice was sobering. “Safety.”

* * *

“You’re an accident waiting to happen, Sam McKinnon!” Kate McKinnon grabbed the knife out of her son’s hand and scowled.