Read Face Off Online

Authors: Emma Brookes

Face Off


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Title Page

Copyright Notice



Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-one

Chapter Twenty-two

Chapter Twenty-three

Chapter Twenty-four

Chapter Twenty-five

Chapter Twenty-six

Chapter Twenty-seven

Chapter Twenty-eight

Chapter Twenty-nine


St. Martin's Paperbacks Titles by Emma Brookes



Suzanne and Jessie stood in front of the enormous roller coaster. A short rope fence separated them from a series of gears and wiring. Jessie stepped over the rope, motioning Suzanne to follow her. The boy taking the tickets did not notice them as they disappeared back under the scaffolding. Jessie began running her hands back and forth over the cables Randal Clark had worked.

“Let it come naturally, Jessie.” Suzanne spoke softly. “Empty your mind. Make it a blank screeen, like at the movies.” She grabbed Jessie's hand, holding it tight.

Jessie's head tilted to the left. Almost immediately, little mewing sounds began coming from her lips. “No. Please, no.” In her mind, she could see a single-edged razor coming toward the face of a girl whose features were frozen in terror …


For my sisters

Jo Ellen Bale Androes

Patricia Bale Cox

Helen Bale West

Barbara Bale Renick

Margaret Ann Wellbrock


Rain drizzled down out of a partly overcast sky, making the night even darker. Even so, the tall, thin man standing under the tree outside the Sunshine Evangelical Free Church stepped back farther into the shadow of the branches when he saw car lights coming slowly down the street. He removed the cigarette from his mouth, cupping his hand around it to keep it lit, yet obscured from view. The car slowed, then turned left at the corner.

Inside the church he could once again hear singing. Surely it wouldn't be long now. Not that he was in any hurry. He had been following the girl for three days, trying to decide if she were the right one. No, actually, that wasn't true. He had followed her for three days because he needed time to work up his courage.
Shit, who wouldn't!

He had finally located the perfect spot—an old abandoned office building on Brighton Avenue, scheduled for demolition. City crews would do a room-to-room check before starting any blasting. They were sure to find her body. He took a deep drag from his cigarette, blowing smoke out of the side of his mouth slowly. He felt important. It always gave him a
to kill—an extra little buzz, like he'd had too much caffeine or popped an upper. Still, this wasn't quite the same. Not the same at all.

Damn cops. Think they're so friggin' smart. Well, let them try and figure
one out! He used the sleeve of his blue dress shirt to wipe dampness from his face, not certain if the moisture was coming from the light misting of rain, or sweat from the humid, muggy night.

The doors to the church suddenly swung outward, and he dropped his cigarette, grinding it to bits on the ground. There she was—part of the first group coming out. Her long blond hair was tied demurely back in a ponytail, and even from this distance, he could see her rosy cheeks and lips, devoid of makeup as always. Yeah. She was perfect. She was just friggin' perfect!

Chapter One

Suzanne didn't move from the comfortable nest she had made on the couch. If she didn't answer the door, whoever was leaning on her doorbell would surely fade away into the night. It couldn't be anyone she knew. People who knew her knew better than to drop by unexpectedly.

“Miss Richards, are you in there? Please open the door, I need to talk to you.” The voice sounded young, and unfamiliar to Suzanne.

“Go away!” Suzanne yelled. “Whatever you're selling, I don't want any!”

“Please, Miss Richards. I—I've come about my sister. I was told you could help me.”

Suzanne laid the half-eaten bag of chips on the cluttered coffee table and rose, reluctantly, to her feet. Why the hell couldn't the world leave her alone? That part of her life was over.

She glanced around her small apartment. Stacks of papers and books were piled on tables and chairs. Empty take-out containers were scattered about, and three huge ashtrays were overflowing with stale cigarette butts. No way was anyone getting in here.

She left the chain on the lock and cracked the door. “Yes? What is it?”

“Miss Richards? Suzanne Richards?”

Suzanne nodded at the young girl standing in the hallway. She looked to be in her early teens. Fourteen, maybe fifteen. Her face was unfamiliar.

“Yes. I'm Suzanne Richards. What can I do for you?”

The young girl's eyes filled with sudden tears. “I want you to find my sister before she dies!”

Suzanne stared at the girl, then dropped her gaze and spoke softly. “I'm sorry. I can't help you. If someone told you I could, they were mistaken. I'm sorry.” She started to close the door, but the girl put her small foot into the opening.

“Miss Richards, I rode a bus for sixteen hours and spent another four hours walking around looking for this apartment. My parents don't know where I am, and goodness knows they have enough on their minds right now without worrying about me. I've come a long way to talk with you, and I'm not leaving until I do.” Her bold statement over, the girl sucked in a long, shuddering breath, and burst into tears.

“Oh, God! Will you stop that?” Suzanne tried to make herself heard. “You'll have the whole damn building on my neck!”

The young girl's wails continued until they reached a crescendo which threatened to shatter every piece of glass in the three-story brownstone.

“Okay! Okay!” Suzanne yelled. “Move your foot so I can release the chain, and I'll let you come in!”

The girl wiped her eyes on the sleeve of her blouse and looked at Suzanne, hesitantly. “Do you promise?”

Suzanne nodded, resigned. “I promise! Jesus! They'll probably have me arrested for child abuse if you keep that up!”

The girl managed a sheepish grin through her tears. “I
be rather … uh … annoying, when I put my mind to it, I guess. At least that's what Amy has always told me.” She pulled her foot from the door jamb.

Suzanne slid the chain off, opened the door, and stood there bemused. “You
That's like saying you
there is water in the Pacific Ocean!”

The girl slipped past Suzanne, and into the apartment, as if she were afraid Suzanne might change her mind at any minute and slam the door shut on her. Her large aquamarine eyes moved unabashedly around the small, dirty apartment, then fixed on the tall lady who still stood with one hand on the door, staring at her. Miss Richards was pretty, the girl decided. She had wide-set brown eyes, fringed with long lashes, thick eyebrows, and shoulder-length, dark brown hair, which needed combing.

“I need your help to find my sister, Amy. I know she is still alive, I just
it! The police have searched everywhere, and they say they can't be sure he even
her, but we all know he did, because Amy wouldn't just disappear without letting us know, and of course there was her purse and all, but the police say that just because they found the purse in his Dumpster, doesn't mean he kidnapped her, and even though we know they think he did it, they say they can't do anything and—”

“Whoa! Slow down.” Suzanne closed the door to her apartment and walked over to the girl. “Let's start at the beginning. First of all, what's your name, where do you live, and shouldn't we call your parents?”

The girl flushed slightly as she dropped her canvas tote bag, wiped her hand across her jeans, then stuck it out toward Suzanne. “I'm sorry. You must want to shake my hand, right? You need to know if I'm on the level and not lying, huh?”

you lying?”

“No! You'll see. Go ahead. Shake my hand.”

Suzanne rolled her eyes toward the ceiling. “Ah, geez, is that what this is about? Do you believe everything you read in the papers?”

“I didn't read about you only in the paper. You were in a book I got at the library.
Amazing Psychics.
It said you were probably the best psychic in the United States, maybe even the world.”

“Yeah, and that book also said that some boy in Austria could make himself fly. Did you believe that, too?”

“Well, no, I guess not.” The young girl looked defiant. “But I cross-checked most everything that author said. I looked up old newspaper clippings, and even read about … about that guy they had to let loose because of your testimony.”

Suzanne felt her knees go weak, and she slumped down on the couch. “If you know that, then you know why I don't offer my services anymore.” Her voice broke, as she whispered hoarsely, “And you know that two twelve-year-old girls died because of me.”

“That's not true! It wasn't
fault they let that jerk go. They had enough evidence to
that guy, and the stupid judge let him off!”

Suzanne shook her head, remembering the anguish on Judge Carpenter's face when he handed down his decision—a decision that had cost him his career.

“You're wrong. The judge didn't have any other choice. Every piece of evidence the police had was obtained through my visit, my
with Baxter Underwood. And guess what? There's such a thing in law as not having to testify against yourself, so all they could get him on was the traffic violation for which he had originally been stopped. If I hadn't entered the picture, sooner or later, the police would have gotten a lead and the case would have broken. As it was, he got off, and one month later—well, you know what he did to those two girls in Omaha.”

“It wasn't your fault. You were only trying to help.”

Suzanne forced herself to get on her feet. She had gone over the arguments a thousand times, back and forth. It wouldn't do any good to rehash them now. Her troubled eyes swept over the young girl, taking in the jeans and wrinkled white blouse, the wild mane of red hair, and the glistening eyes, once more on the verge of spilling over. Suddenly, she felt like a world-class heel. “What's your name, sweetie? Why don't we start with that?” As she called the girl by the pet name, a faint memory flitted in and out of her mind, surprising her. Someone—
—used to call her sweetie.

“Jessie. Jessie Matthews. And please, Miss Richards, you've just got to help me.”

“How old are you, Jessie? And where do you live?”

Jessie's shoulders slumped as if by answering Suzanne's question she was admitting defeat. “Fourteen. I'm fourteen years old and my home is on a dairy farm just outside Pueblo, Colorado.”

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