The Perfect Murder - Kat Martin

The Perfect Murder

New York Times bestselling author Kat Martin is back with her most thrilling novel yet in the Maximum Security series—The Perfect Murder. Fans of Sandra Brown, Linda Howard and Julie Garwood will fall in love with The Max.

The eldest of the three wealthy Garrett brothers, Reese Garrett is in the middle of a major purchase for his multimillion-dollar oil and gas company, Garrett Resources. The Poseidon offshore drilling platform venture will greatly enhance the company’s value.

But when Reese is on a trip out to see the rig, his helicopter crashes, leaving him hospitalized and two men dead. It’s discovered the chopper was sabotaged, and Reese is determined to find out who’s behind the crash—and whether he was the intended target. Then, when his lover, Kenzie, is accused of her ex-husband’s murder—a man with a vested interest in the Poseidon deal—clues start pointing to a connection that puts Reese, Kenzie and her young son in the sights of a killer.

From the Texas heat to the Louisiana bayous, Reese and his brothers must track down the truth before the body count gets any higher.

Excerpt 1 From "The Perfect Murder"

Chapter One

Galveston, Texas

Last Day of July

 

Seconds after the chopper lifted off the pad, Reese felt the odd vibration.  Along with the pilot and co-pilot and five members of the crew, the Eurocopter EC135 was headed for the Poseidon offshore drilling platform.

For a moment, the ride leveled out and Reese relaxed against his seat.  As CEO of Garrett Resources, the billion-dollar oil and gas company he owned with his brothers, he was always searching for the right investment to expand company holdings, the reason he was flying out to the platform.

For months he’d been working with Sea Titan Drilling, the owner of the offshore rig, to complete the five-hundred-million-dollar purchase, an extremely good value when the average price of a similar rig was around six-fifty.

The vibration returned and with it came a grinding noise that put Reese on alert.  The men in the cabin began to glance back and forth and shift nervously in their seats.  A sharp jolt, then the chopper seemed to fall out of the sky.  It climbed again, began to dip and sway, dropped then climbed as the pilot fought for control.

The pilot’s deep voice rumbled through the headset.  “We’ve got a problem.  I don’t want you to panic, but we need to find a place to set down.”

There was definitely a problem, Reese thought, as the vibration continued to worsen.  The chopper was out of control and the whole cabin was shaking as if it would break apart any minute.  His pulse was hammering, his adrenalin pumping.

Along with the men in the crew who rode back and forth from the rig every few weeks, he stared out the window toward the ground.  They were no longer above the heliport.  Clearly the pilot was looking for an open space big enough to handle the thirty-six-foot blade span.  All Reese could see were the rooftops of warehouses and metal commercial buildings.

The chopper kept shaking.  The crew was grim-faced but resigned.  The pilot did something to take the pitch out of the rotors and the chopper started falling.

“No need to worry,” the pilot said.  “We’ll auto-rotate down.  I’ve done it a dozen times.”

Auto rotate down.  Reese knew the concept, the technique helicopter pilots used to land when the engine failed.  The trick was to find a safe place to hit the ground.

Both engines went silent.  The blades were flat now, the wind whistling through them, tying his stomach into a knot.

“Brace for impact,” the pilot said.  Below them, Reese spotted an open flat slab of asphalt in the yard of a small trucking firm–the only possible landing site anywhere around.  Trouble was it didn’t look wide enough to handle the blades.

At the last second, the pilot flared the helicopter in an effort to slow the descent, then the ground rushed up and the chopper hit with a jolt that wracked Reese’s whole body.

For an instant, he thought they were going to make it.  Then one of the spinning rotor blades hit the corner of a building and tore free.  The Plexiglas bubble shattered as the long metal blades exploded into a hundred deadly pieces, careening like knives through the air, slicing into buildings and the cabin of the helicopter.

Reese didn’t feel the impact.  One moment he was conscious, then the world suddenly went black.

 

Chapter Two

Four weeks later

Dallas, Texas

 

For McKenzie Haines, her day as Executive Assistant to Reese Garrett, CEO of Garrett Resources, started as usual.  After a few minutes spent with her assistant, Kenzie began her early morning briefing with Reese to go over his daily schedule and discuss what he needed her to do.

Seated across the desk from him in his spacious office, she waited as he finished an unexpected phone call.  With his wavy jet black hair and amazing blue eyes, Reese was one of the best-looking men Kenzie had ever seen.  Keenly intelligent and highly successful, he was a combination of virile masculinity and brooding reserve that attracted women of every age, shape, and size.

She could still see the faint scar on the side of his head near his temple from the helicopter crash that had killed two men and put Reese in the hospital.

At the time of the accident, Kenzie had worked for the company only five months, but in that time, she had come to admire and respect her employer.  She could still recall her sharp stab of fear when his brother, Chase, had phoned to inform her of the accident.

Three days later, Reese was back at his desk, running the company with the iron control he was known for.  Unfortunately, even now, four weeks after the incident, NTSB investigators remained unable to pinpoint the cause of the crash.

Reese’s phone call ended and his dark head came up, his intense blue eyes swinging toward her, locking on her face.  No matter how she worked to ignore it, Kenzie always felt the impact.

“Where were we?” he asked.

“You wanted me to reschedule your visit to the offshore platform.”

“Yes.  I’ve put it off too long already.”

“I probably shouldn’t say this, but after what happened, I don’t blame you.”

The corner of his mouth kicked up.  “Maybe not, but I want this deal done.  We’ve been working on it for months.  We need to finish our due-diligence and make it end.”

“Yes, sir.  Would you like me to go with you?”  Traveling with Reese when he needed her assistance was part of her job, though he hadn’t asked her to go with him the day of the crash, thank God.

One of his rare smiles appeared.  “You want to hold my hand in case I get scared in the chopper?”

Kenzie laughed, a little embarrassed he had hit so close to the truth.  She liked him, admired him.  He could have died that day.  “I just thought you might need me.”

“Not this time,” Reese said.

But Kenzie had watched him these past few weeks.  The helicopter crash still weighed heavily on his mind.  The authorities were investigating and so was Reese.

Kenzie was certain Reese wouldn’t stop until he knew exactly what had happened that day–and why two good men were dead.

 
Excerpt 2 From "The Perfect Murder"

Excerpt #2 – The Perfect Murder

 “I’ve got a few things I need to add to my schedule,” he said.  “Derek Stiles called yesterday.  Looks like we’re having more problems with the rig.”

“You’ll get them sorted.”  She flashed him a smile.  “You always do.”

But there was one thing he was having more and more trouble handling and it was standing right in front of him.
Reese clenched his jaw and went to work.

He was sitting at his desk two hours later when his intercom buzzed.

“It’s Frank Milburn,” Kenzie said.  “He has news about the crash.”

Milburn was in charge of the NTSB investigation.  “Put him through.”  Reese pressed the speaker button and settled back in his chair.

“I know you’ve been anxious to hear from us,” Frank said, a small man with close-cropped brown hair.  “I wish we could have completed the investigation sooner, but these things take time.”

“I’m aware.  So what have you found out?”

“The last of the reports came in.  We’d been waiting for some metal structural tests.  Combined with the rest of the information we’ve assembled, the reports revealed what we had recently begun to suspect but until today weren’t able to confirm.”

“Go on.”

“Sometime before the flight took off the morning of the crash, someone tampered with the engine.  A piece of metal in one of the gears was filed just enough to cause it to grind itself to pieces.  The flight control mechanism disconnected, rendering the helo uncontrollable.  To put it in layman’s terms, the helicopter was sabotaged.”

Tension tightened Reese’s shoulders.  He didn’t ask Milburn if he was sure.  The NTSB team had been investigating the crash for weeks.  Two men were dead.  The authorities had to be extremely thorough.  The question now was who had done it?  And why?

“Have you found out who’s responsible?” Reese asked.

“Unfortunately, not yet.  As we’ve known from the start and you were informed, pilot error contributed heavily to the event.  There should have been room for the chopper to safely auto-rotate down, but the pilot misjudged his position.  He came in too close to the building, one of blades clipped the corner, and the helicopter was torn apart.”

“So what, exactly, do you know?”

“As of today, we know a criminal act was committed that ended up causing the deaths of two men.  As of this morning, the FBI will be taking over the investigation.  They’ll be actively pursuing whoever is responsible for the crime, now a double murder.”

Murder.  The news sent a chill down Reese’s spine.  He leaned over his desk, shut off the speaker, and picked up the phone.  “Whatever you find out, I’ll expect you to keep me in the loop.”

“I’ll do my best,” Milburn said.  “It’ll be more difficult once the gears of the FBI begin to turn.” 

He understood how a federal agency worked.  Lots of interlocking pieces and parts that inevitably slowed things down.  The call ended, but Reese had no intention of leaving the matter in the hands of some governmental bureaucracy, not even the FBI.  The feds would have to start over, look at the crash from an entirely different angle.  It could take weeks, even months. 

Two men were dead and he could have been the third.  He thought of the accidents that had been plaguing the Poseidon.  The helo crash hadn’t been accidental.  The chopper was meant to go down. 

Was it possible he had been the target?

Excerpt 3 From "The Perfect Murder"

Excerpt #3 – The Perfect Murder

Whatever Reese was about to say froze in the back of his throat.  The blue beaded gown worked perfectly with Kenzie’s coloring, her mahogany hair, golden brown eyes, and fair complexion.  It was modest for the most part, displaying her curves but only a hint of cleavage.  The fabric rustled when she moved, an erotic sound that stirred the blood already pounding through his veins.  

The dress was simple and in perfect taste.  On Kenzie, it was the sexiest gown Reese had ever seen.  He wanted to tell her how beautiful she looked, but it was exactly the wrong thing to do.

“So what do you think about the coaching job, Mr. Garrett?” Griff asked, giving Reese the moment he needed to compose himself.  Griffin Haines was a handsome kid with his mother’s good-looks and similar coloring, the golden brown eyes and thick, dark, reddish brown hair. 

He was smart, too, same as Kenzie.  Fortunately, Lee Haines weak chin and pale eyes had been overpowered by Kenzie’s stronger genes.

Reese’s gaze went back to her and he restarted the conversation.  “Griff mentioned he played Little League baseball and I said I had coached a team a couple of summers ago.  Griff says his coach recently quit and asked if I’d be interested.  I told him I’d give it some thought.”

Kenzie just nodded, clearly not excited at the prospect.  He wondered if she could be thinking along the same lines he was.  The last thing they needed was more time together. 

“If you don’t want to be late, we’d better get going,” she said with a glance at the door.

Gran walked them to the entry.  “You both look gorgeous tonight.  You make a beautiful couple.”

Reese managed to smile.  “Thank you, Mrs. Spencer.”

“It’s just Flo, like I said.”

He nodded.  “We won’t be late, Flo.”  He turned to Griff.  “I’ll have your mom home as early as possible.”

“That’s okay, Mom doesn’t have a curfew like I do.”

Reese managed to hold back a smile and just nodded.   

They left the townhouse, Kenzie walking beside him.  She missed a step in her sky-high heels but quickly righted herself without his help.  Reese felt a trickle of irritation at the forced propriety.  It felt strange to be escorting a woman he wasn’t allowed to touch.

As they continued on to the limo, Kenzie flicked him a sideways glance.  “Maybe we could set aside some of the politically correct protocol, just for tonight.”

Reese smiled broadly, relieved she felt the same.  “That sounds great.  Just remember it was your idea.” 

Kenzie smiled back.  He felt the kick but managed to ignore it.  As he steered her down the slightly uneven path to the long white stretch limo, the warmth of her body beneath his hand, seeping through her gown, sent his mind once more where it didn’t belong.

He focused on the limo driver who opened the rear passenger door.  A big, beefy African American, Reggie Porter owned the company.  He was former military, tough as nails, and a long-time, trusted friend of the Garrett family.

Reese helped Kenzie settle inside then slid onto the deep red leather seat beside her.  He couldn’t help thinking how good she felt next to him, which made him wonder if setting aside the rules for the evening had been the best plan. 

One thing he knew, dating his executive assistant was completely out of the question.  If he wanted to see her, he’d either have to fire her or find her another, less desirable position in the company, which, for both their sakes and especially his, Reese refused to do. 

With the investigation he was beginning, he needed Kenzie now more than ever.

Excerpt 4 From "The Perfect Murder"

Excerpt #4 – The Perfect Murder

Reese controlled his temper.  “Since the crash was just upgraded to a homicide, you might want to give it some thought–before the FBI arrives to ask you the same question.”

“Homicide?  Someone brought that chopper down on purpose?”

“That’s right.”

Color surfaced in Hollenbeck’s neck and crept into his face.  “I hadn’t heard.”

“The helo gears were tampered with,” Reese continued.  “The break-in means someone besides the regular crew had access.  You got anything that could point us toward who might have broken in that night?”

Hollenbeck shook his head.  “Like I said, I can look at other break-ins and burglaries in the area.  Maybe that’ll turn up something.” 

The tension in Reese’s jaw eased.  The deputy’s attitude had definitely improved.  Amazing what tossing around the letters F B I could do.  “I appreciate your time and any help you can give us.”  Reese handed him a card and rose from the chair.

Kenzie rose, as well.  She was wearing black slacks and a dove-gray vee-neck blouse in a soft fabric that curved over her full breasts.  It was modest by any measure, shouldn’t have looked sexy, but did, which Hollenbeck clearly noticed.

Reese tamped down the irritation he had no right to feel.  “I’d appreciate a call if you come up with anything.”

The deputy nodded. 

They were on their way back to the Land Rover when Reese’s cell phone rang.  He pulled it out and checked the screen.

“It’s Tabby.”  He paused next to Kenzie on the sidewalk.  “Hey, Tab, tell me you’ve got something.”

“Couple of things, actually.”

“Hold a minute.  My assistant, Kenzie Haines, is helping me with this.  Let me put you on speaker.”  They moved into the shade of a nearby tree and Reese held the phone so Kenzie could hear.  “Go ahead.”

“I ran the names you gave me, got a couple of interesting hits.  Manual Alvarez, the guy off the Poseidon who died in the crash, had a nice little side business going.  He worked a typical shift, two weeks on, two off, which gave him plenty of time to deal drugs with his brother, Rico, in Houston.”

Reese smiled.  “I know better than to ask how you managed to find this out.”

Tabby laughed.  “I had a little help from a mutual friend.  I saw where Rico Alvarez was arrested the week before the crash so I asked Hawk Maddox to look into it, see if there was a chance Rico’s brother, Manuel, was working with him.  Sure enough, from what Hawk found out, Manuel and Rico worked as a team and both of them had enemies.  Apparently, the money from a couple of cocaine deliveries went missing.  The guys higher up the food chain weren’t happy about it.  Hawk says Rico was lucky he got arrested or he might be as dead as his brother.”

“Hawk thinks they sabotaged the chopper to get to Manuel?”

“He doesn’t know but he says it’s possible.”

“Thanks, Tabby, appreciate the help.”

“You said there were a couple of things,” Kenzie put in.  “Was there something else?”  She had a way of keeping him focused, one of the reasons he considered her such a valuable asset.

“I didn’t find out anything else, but Hawk made a few more calls and guess what?  Turns out, the co-pilot on the flight, Craig Bigelow, is sleeping with the wife of one of the mechanics who had access to the chopper.  You need to call Hawk.  He can fill you in.”

Reese nodded.  “Will do.”

“I’ll let you know if I come up with anything else.”

Reese ended the call and turned to Kenzie.  “It’s lunchtime.  There’s a place to eat just down the block.  I can call Hawk from there.”

They made their way into a small café called the Sunbonnet and slid into a booth at the near the back.  Pretty, wide-brimmed straw hats banded with silk flowers hung on the walls.  The booths were upholstered in bright yellow vinyl, and yellow  flowers in small glass vases sat in the middle of the tables.

“Hawk Maddox,” Kenzie said as she picked up a menu.  “He’s one of the guys at The Max, right?  You’ve mentioned his name a couple of times.”

“Jason Maddox.  Everyone calls him Hawk.  He’s a bounty hunter, one of the best in the trade.  He’s got a network of informants all over the country.  You want to know what’s happening in the underbelly of a city, Hawk’s your man.”

A little waitress with a bouncy blond ponytail arrived to take their orders: grilled chicken salad for Kenzie, a pastrami sandwich for Reese.  While they waited for the food, Reese phoned Hawk.

“I been expecting your call,” Maddox said, his deep baritone rumbling over the line.  He was a big guy, former spec-ops Marine, six-foot-four inches of solid muscle.  He was recently married and extremely happy about it.

“I hear you’ve got information for me,” Reese said.  “I’m putting you on speaker so my assistant can hear.”

“Kenzie, right?  Chase mentioned you were with her at some fundraiser he and Harper went to.”

“My date canceled at the last minute and Kenzie filled in for her.”

“I hear she’s a real stunner.”

Reese’s glance strayed toward her.  Impossible to deny it.  Kenzie was beautiful.  “She’s sitting right here, you know.  She can hear what you’re saying.”

“Hi, Hawk,” Kenzie said with a smile so warm he felt a little pinch in his chest.

“Nice to meet you, Kenzie,” Hawk said.

 

Excerpt 5 From "The Perfect Murder"

Excerpt #5 – The Perfect Murder

Reese drove the Land Rover into a parking space in front of the Harris County Jail.  He had pulled some strings and managed to get in on a special visitor’s pass to see Rico Alvarez, who had consented to the visit.  Apparently Rico preferred conversation to sitting in his cell.

It was Friday, still muggy and damp in Houston.  As he got out of the vehicle, his mind strayed to the hours he’d spent last night with Kenzie and a smile softened his lips.  The sex had been better than any of the fantasies he had worked so hard to keep out of his head–not that he had ever succeeded.

Kenzie had been married before and she had been outspoken in her desire for him.  Yet there was a sweetness, a naivety he hadn’t expected.  He’d decided to take things slowly, let her get used to him.  He didn’t want to frighten her away. 

For months, he’d spent at least five days a week with her, had grown to admire her business savvy and work ethic, to say nothing of the physical beauty that appealed to him on every level. 

In the beginning, he’d been able to ignore her feminine attributes and focus on her job skills, her value to the company and to him personally as CEO.  But little by little, the way she always seemed to be there when he needed her, her insight into helping him solve the problems he occasionally ran past her, combined with the love and devotion she felt for her family, forced him to see her as a woman and not just an employee.

Never once had he considered the attraction might be mutual.  Apparently, Kenzie was as good at hiding her emotions as he was.

As he crossed the sidewalk toward the double front doors of the nine-story, red-brick building on San Jacinto, his smile slowly faded.  All hell was going to break loose when his relationship with Kenzie came to light.  It wasn’t PC to date your executive assistant, to say the least.

Hypothetically, it could lead to all sorts of accusations and legal hassles that could cost him, personally, or Garrett Resources–a whole lot of money.  Not to mention the bad publicity. 

Reese was willing to take the chance.  He hadn’t felt such a strong attraction to a woman in years, maybe never.  His bitter divorce had made him even more wary.  If things didn’t work out, he would face the problem then. 

In the meantime, he wasn’t going to deny he was seeing her.  And he wasn’t giving her up.

As he pushed through the front door and stepped inside, Reese forced his mind away from Kenzie and back to the puzzle he was trying to solve.  Following the instructions he had been given, he checked in with a prison guard in black uniform pants and a short-sleeved white shirt with an embroidered patch on the sleeve.  The guard led him down a hall and passed him to another guard, a black woman with cornrows and a smile that put him a little more at ease.

“Rico’s waiting for you,” she said.  “If you’ll just follow me.”  She led him down another long hall and opened a door into a room with a series of glass windows.  Stools sat on both sides.  Rico Alvarez sat on one of them, the only person seated in the room.

“You’ve got twenty minutes,” the female guard said.  Still smiling, she closed the door.

Reese sat down across from Alvarez, who was short, his arms muscular and covered with prison tats where they showed below the half sleeve of his orange jumpsuit.  The lower portion of his head was shaved, the top longer, a bowl cut that reminded Reese of Moe in the old Three Stooges reruns he’d watched as a kid on TV.

Alvarez’s black eyes narrowed and he straightened on the stool.  “I figured I must know you but I don’t.  Who the hell are you, and what do you want?”

“I’m Reese Garrett.  I was a passenger on the helicopter that crashed and killed your brother.”

Alvarez glanced away, but not before Reese caught a flash of grief in his eyes. 

“I’m sorry for your loss,” Reese said.

Alvarez’s attention swung back to him.  “So what do you want?”

“I came to tell you the crash wasn’t an accident.  I figured you’d want to know.  Someone sabotaged the helo.”

 

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Book Details

  • Publisher : HQN; Original edition (June 22, 2021)
  • Language : English
  • Hardcover : 352 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 1335545301
  • ISBN-13 : 978-1335545305
  • Item Weight : 1.22 pounds
  • Dimensions : 6.13 x 1.18 x 9.25 inches

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