CypherI’m rattled today.

If I’m being honest…Being honest is so important… If my dad had been honest…but that isn’t what you asked. You asked about my day. I’m rattled today because… I’m completely devastated. And scared. And I’m not sure what to do next.

That isn’t like me at all.

I’m usually very organized. People expect me to control myself and the chaos around me.

My name is Caroline Wainwright, Cara to my friends. My day usually begins with a visit to the hospital. My mama is ill, and it helps if I make sure she’s settled for the day. Then it’s off to the advertising agency, where I plan major events for our clients—fund raisers, announcement bashes, campaigns. If it requires logistics and breaking enormous tasks into manageable pieces, the event shows up on my desk. Of course, that planning ability is why at least one detective thinks I’m involved with what happened to my friends.

My friends. . . It’s horrible. . .

Breathe. Take a deep breath. Let it out slowly.

Let me explain how it began. I’d stay overnight at the hospital—Mama had a difficult night—so I missed going to Reese’s party with Natalie. Natalie, my college roommate, had come for the weekend. She and Reese were getting serious, but with all his roommates, she generally stayed at my place. It gave us a chance to catch up and honestly, my condo offered them some privacy.

If only I could go back in time and change that decision, but we don’t get do-overs, do we?

You see, when I finally got home, police officers filled my courtyard. At first I thought maybe it was a drug bust or someone was robbed, but then I realized the police were concentrating on my condo. When I asked what was happening, two officers whisked me into the manager’s office.

And then. . .

The office door jerked open. Cara whirled around. Two men entered, gold badges shining, police ID clipped to their shirts.

The detectives had arrived.


The first detective was in his fifties. Seriously overweight—heart-attack serious. His shirt strained to contain his belly. Slacks and a belt rode low on his hips, disappearing under the ponderous mass.

He sauntered forward with a bully’s swagger.

The second man was younger, maybe a few years older than she was. Casually dressed in jeans and a polo shirt, he had the relaxed carriage of an athlete—wiry, aerobic strength rather than the bunched bulk of a weight lifter. She caught his double take as he cleared the door. For just a second, his eyes narrowed and his lips thinned.

Cara stepped toward the center of the office. “Why are you holding me here?”

The older detective brushed past her, rounded the desk, and claimed the manager’s chair. She got the impression she’d given up a strategic advantage, but she was far more interested in the younger man. There was an intelligence in his expression she didn’t sense behind the heavy man’s cynical façade.

He notices things. Whatever’s going on, he’s the one to watch—and maybe to trust.

“I’m Detective Pennell.” The older man flipped a business card onto the desk. “That’s Detective Morris.”

The younger man stepped forward and placed a card beside his partner’s. If she had to deal with this pair in the future, she already knew which one she’d call.

“Miz Wainwright.” Pennell pointed at the straight chair in front of the desk. “Sit down.”

Cara wanted to refuse, just because he was being rude, but that wouldn’t accomplish anything. Resisting the urge to glare, she took the designated seat.

She’d dealt with men like Pennell for most of her career. If she reacted, Pennell would keep the power play going and make the rest of the interview as uncomfortable as he could. Clasping her hands in her lap to hide the shaking, she straightened her exhausted spine and met his glare with a cool expression.

Morris leaned against the wall. A quietly watchful air surrounded the detective, making her more aware of him than the florid officer who was apparently in charge.

Pennell pushed a button on the recorder, then looked at Cara, eyebrows raised. “Let’s start with your name.”

“I’m Caroline Wainwright.”

The detective’s mouth twisted. “What’s your real name?”

“Caroline Wainwright. My driver’s license is in my wallet. That policeman looked at it when he took my things.” She pointed toward the outer office.

Pennell pulled a Polaroid from an inner pocket and threw it on the desk. “If you’re Caroline Wainwright, who’s she?”

Cara gaped at the photo. Even with the blood and bullet hole, it was clearly Natalie. Roaring started in her ears, and her stomach rolled over. “Oh God.”

More photos hit the desktop. “I got two dead people. I want to know why.”

I don’t know who did it and I don’t know why, but I’m going to find out what happened to my friends. Even if it kills me.

You can read more about Cara in Cypher, published by Red Mountain Publishing.

GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment by 6 p.m. eastern on September 30 for the chance to win a copy of either HONOR CODE or THE PROFESSOR, winner’s choice. The giveaway is open to U.S. residents only.

About the author
An award-winning author, Cathy Perkins works in the financial industry, where she’s observed the hide-in-plain-sight CathyPskills employed by her villains. She writes predominantly financial-based mysteries but enjoys exploring the relationship aspect of her characters’ lives. A member of Sisters in Crime, Romance Writers of America (Kiss of Death chapter) and International Thriller Writers, she is a contributing editor for The Big Thrill, handles the blog and social media for the ITW Debut Authors, and coordinated for the prestigious Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense.

When not writing, she can be found doing battle with the beavers over the pond height or setting off on another travel adventure. Born and raised in South Carolina, the setting for Cypher, Honor Code and The Professor, she now lives in Washington with her husband, children, several dogs and the resident deer herd.

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