Home > The Perfect Veil (Jessie Hunt #17)

The Perfect Veil (Jessie Hunt #17)
Author: Blake Pierce

 

PROLOGUE

 

 

Beatrice knocked, just to be safe. And then she knocked again.

She’d been burned too often. More times than she could count, despite the absence of “do not disturb” placards on the outside of hotel room doors, she’d opened them to discover private activities going on inside. That usually led to yelling, and sometimes to complaints. So Beatrice had a system.

She knocked loudly and called out, “Housekeeping!” If there was no response after ten seconds, she knocked a second time. After ten more seconds, she did a final knock, with one more announcement of who she was. Then she used her key card to open the door a crack and made her presence known one final time before actually entering the room.

That’s the procedure she used before entering suite 1002 of the Buckingham Sunset Hotel in West Hollywood at 8:02 in the morning. And it seemed to work fine. She propped open the door, and walked in to survey the room before determining what needed to be done.

Suite 1002 was one of six suites on the tenth floor, all of which typically required twice the cleaning time of a regular room. She moved past the small entryway into the main sitting room of the suite, hoping the mess wouldn’t be too time-consuming.

She sensed something was off right away. At first she couldn’t place it. But after a few seconds she realized what it was. The large table lamp by the window overlooking the Sunset Strip was missing. She walked over to the adjoining couch to see if it had fallen behind it. That’s when she saw her.

The woman was lying face up on the carpet. Her eyes were closed and she appeared to be passed out. She was beautiful, with long black hair and dark skin. Beatrice guessed that she might be of Hispanic or Middle Eastern heritage. She was wearing a tight, black mini dress that looked like something one might wear out for a night on the Strip. The lamp was on the carpet beside the woman’s head and for a second Beatrice thought maybe she’d drunkenly knocked it over when she collapsed. But then she noticed the blood. It was pooled under the back of woman’s head, glowing slightly in the morning light.

Beatrice froze for a moment, unsure what to do. She could hear her own blood pumping loudly in her ears and her wheezing breaths told her that her asthma was kicking in. Oddly, she had no inclination to scream. Should she try to help the woman? Should she call the police?

In the end, she did the only thing she knew wouldn’t cost her the job she so desperately needed to keep. After taking a puff of her inhaler, she called the Housekeeping line and asked to speak to the manager on duty.

 

 

CHAPTER ONE

 

 

It was already a crazy morning.

Jessie had gotten up early to run five miles, part of her revamped fitness routine, now that she wasn’t in hiding from a serial killer. By the time she got back home, her fiancé, Ryan Hernandez, had done his workout, showered and gotten dressed. Her half-sister, Hannah Dorsey, was still in sweats, but at least she was up and moving around the kitchen.

“Don’t forget, we have to be out the door in twenty minutes,” Jessie told her as she started for the bedroom to prep for her own shower.

“You’re kidding, right?” Hannah asked in disbelief.

“About what?”

“I told you this last night,” her sister said, exasperated. “It’s a teacher in-service day. I don’t have school. Why do you think I’m moving around so leisurely?”

“Oh right. Sorry. I forgot,” she admitted. “With everything going on this week, I’m all turned around. Say, as long as you’re in leisure mode, do you think you could make me one of your famous pesto egg breakfast sandwiches to go? Otherwise, I’ll never make it to the station on time.”

“What will you do for me?” Hannah asked, only half-joking.

“Well, here’s my offer: Kat is coming by to return an old textbook I lent her on Behavioral Criminology and if you make my sandwich, I might not ask her to stick around and watch you for the day. How’s that for an even trade?”

Hannah rolled her eyes almost completely out of her head.

“First of all, you two middle-aged women and your shared textbooks are shockingly lame.”

“You know I’m thirty—,” Jessie said, but Hannah wasn’t done.

“And secondly, we need to have a real talk about how quid pro quo works. I will make your sandwich but I expect that it will engender some goodwill that will pay off in unexpected ways down the line.”

“Thank you,” Jessie said, deciding to leave it there and head for the shower.

All things considered, it was a decent interaction, of which there had been surprisingly many recently. Of course, it was all relative. Everything short of shooting and killing an unarmed, handcuffed man to death counted as “decent” these days.

Admittedly the man that Hannah had shot went by the title of the Night Hunter and was a notorious serial killer who had stalked their whole family. But that didn’t change the troubling fact that when Hannah killed him, he was no longer a threat.

That’s why she’d been seeing Dr. Janice Lemmon regularly for the two and half weeks since the incident, though she had yet to admit to the psychiatrist what happened that night. Despite that fairly large omission, Hannah seemed to be making progress in therapy. And in most other ways, she was thriving.

As Jessie reminded herself while getting in the shower, there had been no additional acting out—that is, not putting herself in danger for the thrill of it. She was doing well in school, so well in fact that Jessie wondered if she ought to reconsider Hannah’s plan to go to culinary school in the fall. At this rate, despite all the traumas she’d suffered and school time she’d missed, she was on target to graduate with honors and could probably get into most public schools in the state.

In addition, Hannah still planned to go to the mountain town of Wildpines this summer. That’s where she, Jessie, and Ryan had hidden out from the Night Hunter for a few nights. While there, she’d learned that a local private school, the Wildpines Arts Conservatory, had a culinary arts program. Conveniently, a cute boy named Chris that she’d met in town would also be in the Conservatory’s summer program.

Jessie got out of the shower and dressed quickly in her standard work attire: comfortable but professional shirt, along with pants that looked nice but that she could run in. She tied her brown sneakers, which could pass for loafers, and grabbed a jacket to protect against the early February bite.

She gave herself a once-over in the bathroom mirror and declared herself satisfied. Those early morning workouts were paying dividends. She looked healthy and refreshed. Her shoulder-length brown hair had lost its former limpness and her green eyes were bright and clear, with none of the typical exhausted bleariness. Standing straight rather than slouching, she looked even taller than her five-foot-ten-inches.

When Jessie came out of the bedroom, there was a pesto egg sandwich and a to-go cup of coffee waiting for her on the breakfast table. Ryan was seated in his chair, sipping a coffee. Hannah was munching on a breakfast bar by the sink.

Jessie’s best friend, Katherine “Kat” Gentry was in another chair at the table, nibbling at a banana. Her work clothes—she was a private detective— were even more casual than Jessie’s. She wore jeans, a casual shirt and a brown leather jacket. Her dirty blonde hair was in a loose ponytail.

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