Home > The Enigma (Unlawful Men #2)

The Enigma (Unlawful Men #2)
Author: Jodi Ellen Malpas


Prologue - Part One

 

 

Miami – Two Years Ago

 

 

JAMES

 

 

Darkness isn’t what it used to be. Not to me. It’s too much of a regular in my life now. Every day, dark. Every thought, dark. Every action, dark. It used to be scary. Unwelcomed.

Now, I am the dark.

And before me, a dark river. Blackness. Not even the moonlight is illuminating it, the dense clouds blocking any chance of light.

I stand on the edge, staring across the still water, waiting for the adrenalin to subside. For my shakes to leave. For my mind to clear.

Calm.

I need calm before I end a man’s life. I need to be stable. Composed.

Seen.

I reach up and pull off my balaclava, breathing in the chilly nighttime air and filling my lungs with something clean. The banging coming from the car is starting to irritate the shit out of me. I look over my shoulder. “Shut the fuck up,” I growl, my jaw in spasm. I should find his pleas for mercy humorous. He actually thinks I might change my mind. That his dribbling, pitiful prayers might alter his fate. Unlucky for him, it only fuels my rage. Changing his fate is about as likely as bringing me back into the light.

Zero possibility.

I take one last drag of my cigarette and flick it into the river before turning and pacing back to the car. I yank open the door. My victim stills, halting his squirming across the back seat. The bag over his head starts to inflate and deflate from the force of his heavy breathing. “Time to die,” I whisper, grabbing his arm and manhandling him out onto the gravel.

“No, no, please! Whatever you want, I’ll make it happen.” Even his Irish accent grates on me, and I used to be a sucker for an Irish lilt. Now, people simply talking aggravates me, because no one in this world seems to have anything useful to say. No truths. Only lies.

I crouch down before him, where he’s squirming on his front, rubbing into the cutting stones, his hands bound. I tug off the bag, and he stills, blinking into the ground.

He can’t see me. And that won’t do.

I rise and push my boot into his side, forcing him to his back. He looks up at me, fear imbedded into every pore of his pitted face, his eyes wide. “Who are you? Who sent you?” he blabbers.

I pull a blade out of my pocket and slowly turn it, catching the moonlight, making it sparkle prettily. I look up. The clouds have floated past, revealing the moon. Perfect timing. Seen. “No one sent me.” I crouch again, my eyes refocused on the blade. “And who I am is irrelevant.” I turn my stare onto him. “You’re still going to die.” I flick the knife out accurately, slicing across his mouth, so that when he squeals in pain, his cheeks rip. The piercing, blood-curdling sound goes straight through me. Inflames the anger more.

I pull out my gun and casually attach the silencer, taking my time while my prey writhes and wails in the dust and dirt, begging for mercy. There will be no mercy. Not for me, and not for him. I push it into his groin.

“No, please!” he screams, blood pouring from his mouth.

“You want to know who I am?” I ask, and he stills for a moment. “No one knows who I am.”

Realization finds him. “No.”

“Yes.” I slowly squeeze the trigger and the whoosh of the bullet leaving the chamber brings a smile to my face, as does his scream.

“Enough, Kel.”

I look over my shoulder, seeing the shadow of one of the only people I like. “Come to spoil my fun?”

“Finish it.”

I sigh, swapping my pistol for my blade. “Fine.” And I drag it slowly across his throat. Deep. Straight.

Dead.

And then I cut out his tongue before rising, using the bag from his head to wipe the knife clean. I pat his pockets down and pull out a burner phone, tossing it to Goldie. “Get into it,” I say, grabbing my victim’s legs and dragging him to the edge of the river. I nudge him in with my boot, the sound of his body hitting the water echoing in the nighttime air. I watch him sink. “I feel much better,” I say to the water.

“As always, I’m happy for you.”

Yes, I feel better, but we both know I need more than the kill. The peace. The satisfaction. I pull out my phone and send a message to Beth, organizing the rest of my evening. “I’ll need some privacy,” I say, stalking away, the thrill of my recent kill fading fast. I look up to the sky. The clouds are back. The moonlight blocked.

Familiar.

I’ve spent so much time in darkness, I have become the darkness.

 

I arrive back at my apartment and light the candles around my desk before taking my chair and resting back, breathing in and out, calm and controlled. My heart is steady again. Slow enough for me not to be able to feel the beats.

I need to feel the beats.

“Where the fuck is she?” I mutter as I rest my elbows on the edge of the glass and stare at one of the flickering flames, mesmerized by the tiny blaze. My hand extends of its own volition, and I hover above the small fire, feeling the instant, intense heat.

I stare.

I feel.

Ding!

I snatch my hand away and look up at my office door, hearing the familiar sound of heels clinking the floor. I blow out the candles and make my way to the stairs, coming to a stop at the top. I see Beth down below, helping herself to some water.

I observe her, wondering what makes her tick. I know why I do what I do. I do it because I’m invisible in every aspect of my life. And this? I’m seen.

“I’ll be in the shower,” I say, and she looks up. “Join me in ten minutes.” I leave to go wash off my kill and get ready for more relief.

But first . . .

I go back to my office and collect a phone from the drawer, dialing FBI Agent Jaz Hayley as I perch on the edge of my desk. She answers quickly. Always does. “You’ll find one in the river,” I say coolly. “I believe they call him The Snake.”

“For fuck’s sake,” she breathes. “You need to stop.”

“Never.”

“Then I’ll stop you.”

“Don’t make me kill you, Jaz,” I warn. “I’m beginning to like you.” I switch on the bank of TVs on the wall and scroll through the faces of dozens of men. I imagine Jaz Hayley has a similar list, except hers will have a special place on it for me. Probably at the top. Such a shame she doesn’t know my name. What I look like.

Who I am.

“Fuck you,” she hisses.

I smile. “What are your plans for tonight?”

A light laugh indicates how exasperating she finds me. Frustrating. “Decorating my new place with my daughter. Picking out bridesmaids’ dresses for her wedding. But you already know that, don’t you?”

“She’s getting married,” I muse, as if I didn’t actually know that. “You’ll want to be around to see that.”

“Don’t threaten me,” she warns, and my small smile widens. “James,” she adds casually.

My amusement vanishes in a heartbeat at the mention of my name. Or, at least, one of them. What the fuck? And how the fuck? I know this woman is a talented FBI agent. She aced her tests and powered up the ranks. But she’s not a fucking clairvoyant.

“James Kelly.” She adds my surname for extra punch, to ensure I know she’s not fucking about.

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