BY: JENNIFER MOSS

Detective Ryan Doherty is skeptical when motivational speaker Jessica Way walks into the squad reporting death threats against her. After all, the threat letters appear to be in her own handwriting. But when Jessica turns up dead the next day, Ryan gets the case—and the guilt along with it. After Jessica’s twelve-year-old daughter Hannah goes missing, Ryan brings in psychic empath Catharine Lulling to help find the girl—and the murderer.

 

TAYLOR JONES SAYS: Way to Go by Jennifer Moss is a sequel to Town Red, a continuation of the Ryan Doherty Mysteries. In this second book, Ryan is riddled by guilt because he didn’t take seriously the death threats against a life coach and the woman ends up dead. Is the killer the man the man the victim had sex with just before she died? Or is it her husband, who is also having an affair? Or could it be this life coach isn’t as beloved by her fans as she thinks she is? Ryan doesn’t know, but he is determined to find out. Then the victim’s twelve-year-old daughter goes missing, and Ryan brings in Catharine Lulling, the empath, to help solve the case.

Moss’s characters are well-developed, three-dimensional, and very realistic. And while the book is fast-paced and intense, the author adds touches of humor that ease the tension just at the right moment. The plot is strong and immediately catches your interest. I was riveted from the very first page.

REGAN MURPHY SAYS: Way to Go by Jennifer Moss is an excellent second course to Town Red. It was nice to get reacquainted with old friends and to meet new ones. I especially enjoyed the way the characters from the first book had grown and changed so that they had new dimensions to their personalities. The plot in the second book is a bit more complicated than the one in the first, and the characters’ interactions a bit more involved.

Way to Go is equally as well-written as the first book, but the story crafting is a bit more sophisticated as if the author is more sure of herself and her work. Moss’s characters are solid and real, the action strong and fast-paced, and the subplots intricate and intriguing. All in all, this is a book that you will want to keep on your shelf to read over and over again—a real keeper.

CHAPTER 1

I never thought the day would come
To say sorry for the things I’ve done
— Good Charlotte, “Jealousy”

If you had told Detective Ryan Doherty just six months ago that he was going to fall for a woman whose bank balance was in the eight digits, who lived in an odd mansion of her own design, and who possessed a multitude of inexplicable extrasensory talents, he would’ve put you in cuffs and called the psych unit. But it had been four months and eight days since he had started dating Catharine Lulling, and it was all beginning to feel normal. Except for the fact that she couldn’t leave her house.

Between Catharine’s rarely mentioned agoraphobia and Ryan’s work, their actual time together was limited. And yet even when together, they weren’t always alone. This particular Saturday night, Cat’s twins, Hank and Duke, were getting ready to celebrate their nineteenth birthday with a pool party on the lower level of the estate, while Ryan and Cat planned to have a quiet evening upstairs with dinner and a movie. She had picked out some chick flick about a notebook, which would earn Ryan points–points that he planned to cash in later in the bedroom. Truth was, though, he didn’t need any incentive–he’d do anything for her.

Which was why he was carrying a twenty-five pound bag of ice on each bicep as he arrived back at the house from his Cat-assigned party errands. It was nearing eight o’clock, and the front gates had been left open for the eighty-some guests. The March winter evening hovered in the low forties, warm enough for the college kids to hike the six blocks from campus, if they bundled up.

As he came in the front door, Ryan circled around some early-arrivers in the entryway. Duke was taking coats as the kids stood gawking at the interior of the mansion. Ryan had been speechless himself when he had first laid eyes on the fully-grown oak trees, the flowers, the stream, and the waterfall that made up the atrium in the middle of the home. Catharine had designed the estate with nature being the primary theme.

He quickly made it to the gourmet kitchen, located directly behind the atrium, turning his back to open the swinging door. Catharine was arranging a tray of subs, looking stunning as always in a pink sweater over black stretch pants and ballet flats. Her long brown curls were swept into a loose ponytail, falling over her right shoulder.

“Hey, babe. Where do you want these?” he asked. “Hurry, it’s cold!”

Catharine glanced up and gave him a look that could’ve melted both bags. “Oh! Okay, put one in here,” she said as she pulled the freezer door open. “And one goes downstairs.” He stuffed one of the bags onto a shelf and dropped the other onto the kitchen island, next to an assortment of veggies.

“Hey, Ma! You need any help?” Hank said, bursting through the swinging door. He glanced at Ryan but didn’t acknowledge him.

“Take this bag of ice down to the pool bar,” Catharine instructed her son. “Everything else ready?”

“Yep, everything’s good to go. Pool is warm, pop and chips are all set up. Our friends have started to come in. We have little signs to lead them down to the pool, so you guys can just stay out of the way, okay?”

“You know me,” Catharine responded. “I’ll stay out of the way, but Ryan may check it out.”

“And why’s that?” Hank said, turning to Ryan. He crossed his arms in front of his athletic chest in defiance. Hank had a few inches and about twenty pounds of muscle on him, but Ryan had no problem standing up to the boy.

“To make sure no alcohol or illegal substances enter your mother’s house.”

Hank looked to Catharine. “Ma, seriously? You don’t trust us?”

“You know I do, it’s just–”

“So, we’re gonna be the losers with a cop at their party? That fucking sucks!” Hank punched at the swinging door on his way out of the kitchen.

Ryan started to comment on Hank’s language, but decided to hold his tongue. As paternal as he felt with the boys at times, he wasn’t their father.

“He’s just stressed,” Catharine said, picking up on Ryan’s tension. “It’s the first time he’s had his college friends over to the house and he’s worried they’ll treat him differently because of all…this. It’s not just you.”

“With Hank, it’s always me. He doesn’t like me around, Cat, and he lets me know it at every turn.” Ryan sat down on a stool and glanced at the ice. Maybe he’d take it down himself to show he wasn’t going to be pushed around.

“It’s just been the three of us for so long, the boys are not used to sharing me. Hank’s just taking it a little harder than Duke.” She hugged Ryan around the waist, and he instinctively put his arms around her. “Oooh, cold hug.”

“And I am going down there tonight. I’m going to play bouncer at the door,” he said.

Just as she nuzzled into his neck and kissed his cheek, a train whistle rang out from his jeans.

Catharine laughed. “Wow, it whistles now?”

“Text from the sarge,” he said, pulling his phone from his pocket. “Well, I guess I won’t be bouncing tonight.”

“Why not?”

“I have to go,” he said, easing her off him while he stood up.

“Oh, no, not tonight. Do you have to?”

“Yeah. I’m sorry. I told Sarge I was out of commission, so this must be important.”

“Now, I’ll have to be the bouncer,” Catharine said, lifting her chin. She was too adorable trying to look tough.

“You? Bounce?” He chuckled as he grabbed a sub from the tray. “What are you, a buck-ten, wet?”

“A little more than that, but thank you,” she said. “Do you really have to go?”

It was times like these that he wished he had a nine-to-fiver. Odd shifts were fine when he was single, but they had suddenly become inconvenient now that he was a couple again.

“Yeah, I have to go. But you can walk me to the door.”

Catharine took the sandwich from him hand and wrapped it in foil before they left the kitchen. As they walked back through the atrium to the front door, she pulled on Ryan’s hand with the cell still in it. “Let me see that text,” she teased. “I want to make sure you’re not stepping out on me on a Saturday night.”

“What, you don’t trust me?” Ryan said, mocking Hank. He let Catharine read the text message as he pulled on his coat.

“What does this mean? Is it police code?”

“Sort of, it’s Sarge-code,” he said, pointing to the screen. “He hates texting, so he uses as few letters as possible. D.B. means dead body. M.C., major case. That means it’s someone important. Then the address. I helped him set up a group of us in his phone so he only has to send out one mass text.”

“Oh. What’s N-O-W?”

“Now. Like we have to be there now.”

“He doesn’t say who it is? Who’s been killed?”

“That’s intentional, because it shouldn’t matter. Whether it’s the mayor or a corner gangbanger, we should treat it the same. We may drag our feet, for example–if it’s the mayor.”

Catharine granted him half a laugh. “Well, like you always say, that D.B. is someone’s child. You have to go.”

“Yeah, I’m sorry. I’m sure you’re capable of keeping the party in order.” He kissed her forehead. “Seeing how this case goes, I’ll try to get a day off next week. Some comp time. We’ll have our own party.” He kissed her again, this time on the lips, lingering a bit. He meant it both as a goodbye and a promise.

***

Ryan had entered the address Besko sent him into the GPS app on his phone. He knew the neighborhood, which was about a mile northwest of their 18th District station, but he couldn’t place exactly what was on that particular block until he rounded the corner.

The Windmere Gardens Hotel.

His throat constricted as his heart accelerated. Four blue-and-white patrol cars were nosed up to the front of the hotel’s turnaround.

“No–no–no–” Ryan chanted, as he screeched up beside the patrol cars and jammed his car into park. He leaped out of his Mustang and hurried to the hotel’s front entrance. A uniformed officer blocked the front door until he recognized Ryan.

“Oh, hey, Doherty. D.B.’s on five. It’s quite a scene up there.”

“You got a name?”

“Some high-profile chick, that motivational speaker. Di Santo just arrived a couple minutes ago.”

“The name!” he shouted at the officer. He closed his eyes and transmitted a prayer while the patrol consulted his notebook.

“Uh…Way. Jessica Way.”

“Shit!” Ryan burst into the hotel, stopped to get his bearings, and scanned the lobby for an elevator. A woman behind the desk pointed to his left. Thankfully, one was already waiting, doors open. He stepped in, waited for the doors to close, and 7then drummed the five button until they reopened on the fifth floor. He stepped into the hallway and clipped his shield to his belt so he could easily cut through the crowd. His partner stood about five doors down, waving him over.

“Just got here,” Di Santo said when Ryan approached. “I’m warning you, D, it’s bad.”

“Let me see her.” Ryan pushed past his partner and into the room. Even with all the lights turned on, the room was in shadow. It irritated him that hotels tried to save energy by using the lowest-wattage possible in their lamps. It was a small two-room suite. Directly off the entryway was a miniature spa-like bathroom on one side and a closet on the other. The main room held a sofa, coffee table, desk, and large flat panel television suspended over a long credenza. Through a door to the left, he could see a small bedroom. For a minute Ryan didn’t even see the body, as Zach Sloane from the Cook County Coroner’s office was blocking his view.

When Zach stepped aside, Ryan was faced with a female form, hunched forward in one of those black mesh ergonomic desk chairs. His first thought was that it might not be Jessica Way. It didn’t look like a blonde. He couldn’t see her features. What was staring back at him was not her face, but what was left of it, with a gaping hole right between the eyes. Gray brain matter was threatened to tumble out, lightly curtained by the woman’s hair, crimson with congealing blood.

“Jesus, Zach,” Ryan said, moving in a little closer to the body. “What happened?”

“Single gunshot, D. From the wound it looks like it could be a thirty-eight, but I’m not sure. Almost point blank, from the stippling. See?” Zach mimed the action by putting his index finger directly in front of the woman’s wound. “I’m seeing what is most probably gunshot residue on her skin.”

Ryan looked at the floor to take in any surrounding evidence. “Witnesses? A murder weapon?” he asked, staring at Jessica’s face. But he didn’t see a corpse. He saw the woman with the smug, flirtatious smile. He saw the way she had flipped her hair when she was challenged.

“The only witness was the woman who heard the shot. I didn’t spot a weapon when I came in, but have at it,” Zach said, waving his arm at the room. “We do know she wasn’t alone.” He pointed back to the far side of the credenza where a silver tray held two plates, two wine glasses and an empty bottle of wine. A twelve dollar Zinfandel that the hotel probably sold for thirty-five. Ryan’s thoughts kept rewinding to the previous day: Jessica Way in his office, not panicked, not scared, not insistent. Describing how she had received death threats, pressing him to take the case. And how he had brushed her off. Dismissed her.

His stomach cramped. Maybe it was the smell of the blood or the cascade of brains about to tumble forward or the guilt he felt for not preventing the whole incident, but he had to get out of the room. He backed up into the hallway, shoving past several of the onlookers and uniformed officers. Finding a blank spot on the wall, Ryan smacked it as hard as he could with the heel of his hand. The pain didn’t even come close to the agony inside him. He pressed his forehead against the cool painted plaster and took a couple of deep breaths.

Di Santo sidled up next to him. “D, you okay?” he said quietly next to his ear.

“No,” Ryan answered, and pounded the wall again. “We fucked up.”

© 2013 by Jennifer Moss


Chicago Police Officer:

The author is SPOT ON for all things Chicago from lingo to geography to the weather. Twists and turns make for an amazing book. HIGHLY recommend it! ~ Casey O’Neill, Chicago police officer, 18th District

FBI Agent, (Ret.):

Great characters and crackling dialogue! Catharine continues to turn Ryan’s life upside down when she extends her psychic abilities into his gritty world to help him with a case that has stumped the FBI. You’ll want to follow these two on their next case together as much as you’ll want to see them navigate their complicated relationship. ~ Kathleen Puckett, PhD, FBI Special Agent (ret.)