The Dark Gate. Pamela Palmer

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The Dark Gate - Pamela  Palmer

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      The Dark Gate

      Pamela Palmer


      MILLS & BOON

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      To my parents, Stew and Pat Palmer,

       for believing I could be anything I wished…

       and for raising me to believe



      Chapter 1

      Chapter 2

      Chapter 3

      Chapter 4

      Chapter 5

      Chapter 6

      Chapter 7

      Chapter 8

      Chapter 9

      Chapter 10

      Chapter 11

      Chapter 12

      Chapter 13

      Chapter 14

      Chapter 15

      Chapter 16

      Chapter 17

      Chapter 18

      Chapter 19

      Chapter 20


      If I were to list all the people who’ve helped me get to this place—the publication of my first book—the acknowledgments would rival the novel for sheer number of pages. So, in an effort to save the pages for the story, I want to thank a few special people who have made all the difference. Laurin Wittig, Kathryn Caskie, Denise McInerney, Elizabeth Holcolme, Ann Shaw Moran and Sophia Nash for their critiques, advice, encouragement and unyielding support. My husband and kids for always being there to celebrate the joys. The Mom’s Book Club, who cheered me on every step of the way and were waiting with bottles of champagne when the dream came true. And last, though never least, my agent, Helen Breitwieser, and my editors, Ann Leslie Tuttle and Tara Gavin, for taking a chance and opening the door to a dream. My heartfelt thanks.

      Chapter 1

      “Three assaults in five days, more than a dozen bystanders and no one remembers a thing. How in the hell is he doing it?”

      Metropolitan Police Detective Jack Hallihan paced the aft deck of the small cabin cruiser docked on the Potomac River in downtown Washington, D.C., his steps echoing his frustration. A jet roared overhead, making its final approach into Reagan National, while the summer sun beat down on the back of his neck, sending sweat rolling between his shoulder blades. He was running out of time.

      “He’s gotta be knocking ’em out, Jack.” Duke Robinson, a fellow detective and the wiry dark-skinned owner of the boat, tipped his baseball cap to shield his eyes from the afternoon sun even as his head turned, his gaze following the progress of a pair of young women strolling down the dock in bikini tops and short-shorts. “What’s up, ladies?”

      The voices in Jack’s head surged suddenly, unintelligible voices that filled his head night and day, and had for as long as he could remember. He clenched his teeth and dug his fingers into his dark hair, pressing his fingers to his scalp, trying to quiet the ceaseless chatter, if only a little.

      “You okay, man?” Henry Jefferson, Jack’s partner of ten years, eyed him with concern from the second deck chair as he rolled a cold Budweiser across a forehead several shades darker than Duke’s. Henry was as tall as Jack, but no longer lean. Too many years of his wife, Mei’s, fried egg rolls had softened him around the middle. There was nothing soft about the gaze he leveled on Jack. “You need to see someone about those headaches of yours.”

      Jack snatched his hand from his head. Hell. The last thing he needed was to bring attention to his worsening condition. No one knew he suffered from the same madness that destroyed his father. If he had his way, no one ever would.

      “It’s just the heat,” he told his friend. If only. He’d be happy if they were just headaches. Sometimes he felt as though he lived in the middle of a raucous party that never ended, a party where everyone spoke Bulgarian, or Mongolian, or some other language he would never understand. Usually he could tamp down the noise so it didn’t overwhelm his mind, like moving the party into the next room. But the past couple of weeks the voices had been all but shouting in his ears. It was starting to scare the shit out of him.

      He pulled the discussion back to the problem at hand, a mysterious rapist terrorizing the Dupont Circle neighborhood of D.C. “In each of the three cases, multiple victims were knocked unconscious by some unknown means to awaken simultaneously a short while later—estimated at anywhere from fifteen to thirty minutes. In each case, one young woman among them woke to find her clothing partially removed and blood and semen between her legs. In each case, no one, including the assault victim, remembered anything to help us identify the attacker and solve this case.”

      “It makes no sense,” Duke said. “How is he knocking them out before they ever get a look at him?”

      “We need those tox reports,” Jack said. “He’s got to be using some kind of gas or drug.”

      The muscle in Henry’s jaw visibly tightened. “I want him now, before he hurts another girl. The last assault victim was just eighteen years old. Barely more than a kid.”

      Henry’s own daughter, Sabrina, was only a handful of years younger. She and her brother were belowdeck even now. Henry wasn’t leaving her home alone. He wasn’t taking any chances. Jack didn’t blame him a bit.

      “And what does the theft at the Smithsonian have to do with all this?” Henry wondered out loud. During the first attack, an ancient stone amulet had been stolen.

      “What did you find out about this Stone of Ezrie?” he asked his friend. But Duke’s gaze was firmly fixed on a well-endowed woman making her way along the dock.

      Henry gave Duke’s shoulder a hard slug. “Stay in the game, man. We want to know what you learned.”

      Duke released a frustrated sigh. “It’s Sunday. Even cops need a day off.”

      “Not when girls are being attacked,” Henry said.

      “Yeah, okay.” Duke pulled out his wallet and removed a small paper photo. “The Stone of Ezrie.”

      Jack took the piece of paper and held it for Henry to see. The photo revealed a sky-blue, teardrop-shaped stone hanging from a simple silver chain. Engraved on the surface of the stone was a seven-point star.

      “Why would anyone want this thing?” Henry asked, echoing Jack’s own thoughts. “What kind of rock is it, anyway?”

      Duke shrugged. “Nothing valuable. The Smithsonian dude didn’t know why anyone would steal it. There were better things all around. The only thing this rock has going for it is some quack legend. Something about it being the key that opens the gates to Ezrie.”

      Henry lifted a thick brow. “What’s

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