Double Blind: New Excerpt
Double Blind by Iris and Roy Johansen is the emotional, gripping sixth entry in the bestselling Kendra Michaels series.
Kendra Michaels, formerly blind and now a hired gun for law enforcement agencies who relies on her razor-sharp powers of observation, is reluctant to help the FBI with the most recent case they’ve brought to her. But then she hears the details: the body was found just blocks away from Kendra’s condo. The young woman was carrying an envelope with Kendra’s name on it, and inside was an SD card with what appears to be an innocuous video of a wedding reception. The woman died trying to get the video to Kendra, but for what purpose? Before Kendra and the FBI can answer that question, the bride is abducted from her suburban home.
And so the hunt is on for a killer whose nightmarish plan is slowly becoming clear. A plan that involves a powerful law firm and a multi-billion dollar corporation. As the body count rises, Kendra joins forces with private investigator Jessie Mercado and agent-for-hire Adam Lynch to stop the plot as it grows ever closer to its terrifying conclusion.
SHE HAD TO STAY ALIVE just a few minutes longer.
Elena Meyer crouched in the alleyway, fighting the dizziness. Keep it together, girl. Breathe.
She felt her side. Warm and sticky where blood was still oozing from the gunshot wound.
Fight the darkness. Fight the fog creeping over her forehead and descending over her eyes.
Gotta keep moving. Gotta make it count.
Elena stood and steadied herself against the brick building. Her legs wobbled. As she tried to walk, her feet suddenly felt as if they were encased in concrete.
One foot forward, then the other.
A sound. What was that?
She turned. A bottle rolled across the paved alleyway, the high, hollow sound echoing off brick buildings. Someone was behind her.
He was there, somewhere in the dark.
How in the hell had he found her? She’d been so careful. But ever since she’d known him, he was always one step ahead.
“Always remember something,” he’d said. “I know you better than you know yourself. You do know that, don’t you?”
Only now, at the very end, did she truly believe him.
Her vision fogged and consciousness started slipping away.
She still had a job to do. She patted her jacket pocket, making sure her precious cargo was still there.
She turned and threw herself forward, toward the lights and traffic of Fifth Street. If she could just make it there before …
Footsteps hit the pavement behind her, echoing off those buildings. She imagined he was wearing those expensive Berluti leather shoes he was always so damned proud of.
The steps moved faster.
She couldn’t let him catch her. Not now, not after all she’d been through.
Tough luck, you son of a bitch.
Summoning the last bit of strength she would ever have, Elena threw herself into Fifth Street’s second lane of traffic.
She felt herself flying before she even saw the car. She didn’t feel the impact as she collapsed in a heap on the cool pavement.
Squealing brakes. Excited screams. A crowd, which included two police officers, surrounded her. Seconds after that, at least half a dozen cell phones were pointed in her direction, ensuring that her death would soon be online fodder.
She wanted to reach into her pocket and show them all what had led her to them, but she couldn’t move.
The sights and sounds grew dimmer by the second, but she could still make out those Berluti leather shoes in the crowd.
He wouldn’t dare show himself. Not in front of the police, not in front of all those camera phones.
She wanted to smile, but none of her muscles worked anymore.
I beat you, you son of a bitch.
The shoes backed into the alley, retreating into the darkness.
I beat you …
“I WANT TO BREAK BOTH WRISTS,” Kendra Michaels said. “Can you teach me that?”
Adam Lynch smiled. “Yours or mine?”
“Yours, of course. Show me how.”
They stood on mats spread out over a grassy patch of Sunset Cliffs Park, overlooking a particularly stunning view of the Pacific Ocean. It was always windy there, but the breeze had kicked up considerably in the past few minutes.
Kendra tugged at her worn T-shirt as she crouched into a defensive stance. “I’m serious. I saw it on YouTube. An Israeli military guy demonstrated how to disarm an attacker and break both of his wrists.”
Lynch laughed. “YouTube, huh? What do you need me for?”
“I’m beginning to ask myself just that question. You’ve shown me a few things, but now it’s time to get serious. You said you’d teach me how to defend myself.”
“Defend yourself, yes. I didn’t promise to turn you into a killing machine.”
Kendra half smiled. “Then what good are you?”
“I’ve been attempting to demonstrate that to you for a long time.” He flashed that movie-star smile. “Oh, you mean in the more deadly arts that aren’t nearly as much fun. Here’s the best advice I can give: Once you disarm your attacker, your best defense is to just get the hell away.”
“It’ll be easier to get away if my attacker is howling in pain and nursing a pair of broken wrists.”
“I can’t argue with that. But you need to walk before you can run, okay?” Lynch raised a small piece of wood. “Pretend this is a knife, and—”
“Pretty sorry excuse for a knife.”
“Pretend, okay? The first thing you need to do is—?”
In a lightning-fast motion, Kendra gripped his wrists, ducked, and spun around. She bent forward, using Lynch’s weight against him.
“Oww!” Lynch yelled.
“See?” She still gripped his wrists over her shoulders. “If I had just thrown myself a little more forward, your wrists would now be toast.”
From behind, he gently rested his chin on her right shoulder. “And that might have worked on some people.”
“You’re saying it wouldn’t have worked on you?”
He quickly closed his right arm, snapping it across her throat. “I could have broken your neck before you even finished turning around. Or, if I wanted, I could now be cutting off your oxygen in a nasty choke hold.” He leaned close and whispered into her ear. “Today’s lesson—don’t trust your life to YouTube.”
She fought to free herself, but he held firm.
He chuckled. “Don’t get discouraged. Your move probably would have worked on a common street thug.”
“You’re a pretty common thug yourself.”
He laughed, his breath feeling warm in her ear.
“Are you quite finished?” she asked.
“Not in the slightest.” He slid his other arm across her torso. “You’re the one who put us into this rather pleasurable position.”
“And now I’m trying to get out of it.”
“You’re not trying very hard.”
“Don’t flatter yourself.”
“I’ve missed you, Kendra. I’m glad you called.”
She found herself relaxing against him. Not a good idea. She could feel his hardness, his warmth, could breathe in the scent of him. She forced herself to stiffen again. “Yeah?”
“How very noncommittal of you.”
“I called because you’ve been promising to show me a few things.”
“Oh, I will.” He pulled her even closer. “If only you’ll let me.”
She snorted. “I walked right into that one.”
He released his hold and gently turned her around. “You don’t think it would be amazing?”
She was about to make another crack, but she stopped herself. It would be amazing. She’d known Adam Lynch for over two years, and they’d faced scores of life-and-death situations together, seen each other at their best and worst. But in the past few months, she found herself thinking about him more and more in that way. There had been moments that had verged on explosive when she had wanted only one thing from him. She had been so close … What was stopping her?
“What’s holding you back?” he whispered, as if reading her mind.
She looked away. “You’re … complicated.”
“In some ways. And so are you. But there’s nothing complicated about the way I feel about you. That’s extremely simple.”
“Ha. There’s nothing simple about you.”
“Stop pretending that’s a minus and not a plus.”
She moistened her lips. “Look, you promised to show me some self-defense techniques and I just took you up on it.”
“Liar. Metcalf or any of your other FBI buddies would have been happy to teach you whatever you wanted to know. And yet you called me.”
“I thought I’d feel more comfortable with you. I’m now starting to seriously doubt my judgment on that count.”
“I think you were bored. Maybe you thought that it was time to forget about comfort.” He chuckled as he strolled over to her backpack and got them each a bottle of water. “Because you knew exactly what you were going to get from me, Kendra. I’ve been more patient than you’ve ever known me to be. Both of us had some healing to do after that last case we worked together. But I regard this summons as very promising. You must have missed me.” He took a swallow of water. “Think about it.”
“I’m thinking that I haven’t missed either your arrogance or your ego,” she said dryly.
He threw back his head and laughed. “Okay, maybe it wasn’t an excuse. So why the sudden interest in breaking men’s bones?” His smile faded. “Has something made you particularly afraid?”
Lord, now he was getting protective. “No. And for the record, it’s not just men’s bones. I’m entirely open to breaking women’s bones if the occasion demands it.”
“I stand corrected. Why?”
Kendra took a swallow from her bottle and turned toward the ocean where whitecaps collided with the rocky coastline. “By my best estimate, I’ve come close to being murdered twenty-six times in the last few years.”
“Hmm. Interesting. Twenty-six times.”
“Yes. That may be a typical Tuesday for you, but I’m a music therapist. I didn’t sign up for this.”
“You are having a bad day, aren’t you? You’re more than a music therapist. You catch killers on a fairly routine basis. That puts you in a special category.”
She grimaced. “Lunatic?”
He shook his head. “No, someone who can’t just stand by and watch while people are being hurt. And you have as much a gift for it as you do for music therapy. Maybe more. So suck it up and accept it.”
“Your sympathy is incredibly touching.”
He grinned. “You don’t want my sympathy. You’d punish me if you thought I was offering it. But we’ve known each other long enough for you to admit that I do understand you.” He shrugged. “Look, you were born blind and spent the first twenty years of your life in the dark before you got your sight. That’s amazing. But you know what? If you’d never gotten that surgical procedure, you’d still be an amazing person. You made the best of what you had. You adapted. You used your other senses—your hearing, touch, sense of smell, all of them—to pick up things the rest of us ignore.”
“All blind people do that.”
“True. But now that you have your sight, you also apply that same level of concentration on things you see.”
“Like I’ve told you, after being in the dark for so long, I can’t take things I see for granted. I don’t see how anyone can.”
“Well, all these things combine to make you an incredible investigator. You walk onto a crime scene and detect things no other cop could dream of picking up. It’s no wonder the police and FBI are always fighting over you.”
“Not really. And as much as you claim to be bothered by these cases, the intrusion on your life and your practice, you could always say no.”
“I have, many times.”
“But there have also been many times when you’ve said yes.”
“Hence the twenty-six attempts on my life.”
Lynch shrugged. “You do it because innocent people will die if you don’t. That makes you a very special person.”
“You do it.”
“I used to do it. These days I’m well paid to do a variety of things, and a scant few of my activities involve saving lives.”
Kendra turned to look at him. “Probably because those variety of things fall into an entirely different and lethal category.” Lynch had been an FBI agent, but he now worked freelance for whatever government agency was willing to pay for his services. He rarely talked specifics about his assignments, and she knew better than to try and press him for details.
Lynch flashed his high-wattage smile at her again. “This is a long way of saying that I’m glad you’re thinking more about defending yourself. For one thing, I want you to be safe. But it also means that you’ve reached some measure of peace about helping in these investigations. You’re obviously thinking about doing more in the future?”
“Not necessarily. Maybe. But when I do, I want to be better prepared for whatever comes my way.”
“Have you thought about carrying a gun?” he asked quietly. “I have an excellent supplier who—”
“I’m sure you do, but I don’t want a gun.”
“You just want to crunch bones.”
His blue eyes were suddenly glinting with mischief. “Okay, I can help you with that. Crunching bones is one of my specialties.”
She had no intention of asking about any of his other “specialties.” “Thanks.”
* * *
Copyright © 2018 Iris Johansen & Roy Johansen.