Justice for Corrie
by Susan Stoker
Series: Badge of Honor: Texas Heroes, #3
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Release Date: March 8, 2016
** Justice for Corrie is the 3rd book in the Badge of Honor: Texas Heroes Series. Each book is a stand-alone, with no cliffhanger endings. **
Blind since birth, Corrie Madison relies on her other sharpened senses in her job as a chiropractor. Never did she imagine she'd have to depend on them to identify a killer. But when a man enters her practice, murdering everyone in his path, Corrie is the only witness—putting her directly in the killer's crosshairs.
Officer Quint Axton wasn't looking for love, or even a relationship, until he meets Corrie. Beautiful and brave, resilient and intelligent, she's everything Quint wants—if he can keep her alive long enough to explore their mutual attraction. The threats on Corrie's life are escalating. Surely a blind person is helpless against a ruthless killer?
Hardly. Corrie is about to prove that disabled does not equal defenseless.
Just as Corrie reached for the doorknob to see if she could find Shaun—he usually hung out in the makeshift break room toward the back of the clinic—she heard angry voices in the reception area, followed by a weird popping noise. She froze in her tracks and tilted her head to the side, trying to figure out what was going on.
It wasn’t until she heard Cayley’s scream cut short that Corrie figured out something horrible was happening.
Knowing better than to open her door and try to stop whatever was going on, Corrie stepped quickly away from the door and imagined her office layout in her head. As the popping noises and the screams continued—and got closer to her office—she frantically thought about where she could hide.
Her desk was large, and sat perpendicular to the doorway. She could walk from the door straight to the chair at her desk without having to swerve around any furniture. She kept her office purposely free of extraneous chairs and tables so she didn’t have to worry about tripping over them. She could hide under the desk, but wasn’t that where everyone always hid—and died doing it? If she was a crazy person hell-bent on killing everyone around her, that’s the first place she’d look for stragglers who might be hiding.
The exam door down the hall was opened and Corrie heard Mr. Treadaway ask, “Who are you?” before the awful popping sound came again.
Knowing time was running out, the gunman would be at her office within moments, Corrie made the split-second decision to see if she could fit in the small area under the sink. There was no other place she could hide.
When she’d been hired, there hadn’t been any extra space for her to have an office in the small clinic. A small break room had been converted for her, and the sink and cabinets still lined one wall. It would be a tight fit, an extremely tight fit, but Corrie didn’t hesitate.
Hearing the unsteady gait of someone walking down the hall, Corrie raced over to the sink and opened the cabinet underneath. She shoved her butt in first and wiggled it around, knocking over a few odds and ends that were stored under there in the process. She drew her knees up as close to her chest as she could get them and sighed in relief as she realized she fit, barely. Her neck was bent down at an awkward angle and she couldn’t breathe very well, but Corrie quickly, and quietly, closed one door, then the other, praying whoever was shooting wouldn’t think to look under the sink for anyone.
At the same moment Corrie heard the soft click of the cabinet door to her hiding place engage with the small magnet that kept it shut, she heard her office door burst open.
Because Corrie was blind, her other senses had always been more acute than a sighted person’s. She seemed to hear, smell, and taste what people with no disabilities couldn’t. The man who’d entered her office walked straight to her desk. Corrie heard her desk chair being pulled away. Yup, he’d immediately checked under there to see if someone was hiding from him. She heard him walk to the small window and held her breath.
Corrie nearly jumped out of her skin when she heard the man’s cell phone ring. He answered it and paced around her office as he spoke to whomever was on the other end.
“Yeah? Just about. No trouble whatsoever. Easiest job I’ve had in a long time. Haven’t seen the asshole yet. Yeah, he was supposed to be here. I’ve got one more room to check. No, no witnesses. Yes, I’m fucking sure. He’ll wish he paid what he owes us once he sees what happened to his coworkers. Fuck off. You’ll hear from me when you hear from me.”
Corrie breathed shallowly, trying not to make a sound. She knew she was one cough, one muscle twitch, one wrong move away from death.
The shooter sounded mean. She couldn’t tell what he looked like, of course, but his voice had a unique accent. She couldn’t place it, but Corrie was pretty sure if she ever heard it again, she’d recognize it. She listened as he walked around the room one more time. It sounded as if he was limping; there was a light pause between his footsteps, as if he dragged one leg a bit more than the other.
She almost had a heart attack when he came over to the sink and turned on the water above her. Corrie heard it gurgling through the pipes her knees were jammed against and even felt the pipe warm as the liquid coming out of the faucet heated up. The water turned off and she heard the killer grab a paper towel from the stack next to the sink.
As she sat under the sink, wondering if the man would somehow realize she was there and shoot her in the head, Corrie could smell the cologne he was wearing. She’d never smelled anything like it before. If she’d met a man out at a party or a club, she might find the scent attractive, but because of her circumstance, and the knowledge that she was two inches away from death, she almost gagged at the stench of him. The smell of gunpowder also clung to the man, as if he were cloaked in it. Corrie knew she’d never forget the scent of his cologne mixed with that horrible smell of gunpowder.
Finally the man limped to the end of the row of cabinets and must’ve thrown away the wet paper towel he’d used to dry his hands. Such a polite murderer, not leaving any trash around. She heard him open the first upper cabinet and rummage through it.
What in God’s name was he doing? Shouldn’t he want to get away? He’d just shot and probably killed people—was he looking for condiments now? Why wouldn’t he just leave already?
She almost whimpered in relief when she heard the faint sound of sirens. Either someone in the clinic must’ve called 911 before they were killed or someone nearby heard the shots. It took the man another few beats to hear them and he’d opened another cabinet in the meantime. When he finally heard the wailing of the police sirens, he turned away from the cabinets and walked quickly to the door to the office with his uneven gait.
Corrie didn’t hear the door to her office close, and listened as the man walked to the last room he hadn’t checked yet. It was the small break room. Shaun obviously wasn’t there, because Corrie didn’t hear any more gunshots. The mystery man then walked back up the hall the way he’d arrived, and not too much later, Corrie heard nothing but silence.
The quietness rang in her ears. It wasn’t normal for her workplace. Usually she heard the sounds of keyboard keys clacking as Cayley worked on her computer. She’d hear Shaun talking with Cayley, or on the phone, or with a client. Clients sometimes spoke on their phones while they waited for their appointments, or talked to each other. Hiding under the sink, Corrie couldn’t even hear the hum of the air conditioner that usually drove her crazy by the end of each day. It had a high-pitched squeak that no one but her seemed able to hear.
Corrie’s legs were cramping, but she was too scared to move. She couldn’t see what was going on, if the man was really and truly gone, or if he had an accomplice. Maybe he was waiting to see if any witnesses, like herself, crawled out of their hidey-holes, so he could blow them away as well. She’d never been so scared in her entire life, and that was saying something.
Growing up blind hadn’t been a walk in the park. She’d made it through too many terrifying situations to count, including being lost in the middle of a large shopping mall. Or the time she went out with friends in college and got separated from them when a fight broke out in the bar they were in. Corrie could hear grunting and fists hitting bodies, but had no idea which way to go to escape the danger all around her.
But this—this was a whole new kind of scary.
Corrie stayed huddled under the sink, listening as several people finally entered the clinic area. They didn’t say a word, but Corrie could hear them methodically making their way through each room, saying “clear” as they entered each one. It was obviously the police, and she’d never been so glad to hear anything in her entire life.
Not wanting to get shot, she didn’t dare pop open the cabinet doors to crawl out. When she heard two people enter her office, she took a chance and tentatively called out, “Don’t shoot! I’m a chiropractor. I’m hiding under the sink.”
“Come out with your hands up.”
“Okay, I’m coming, but please, don’t shoot me.” Corrie’s voice wobbled as she answered. She leaned against the cabinet door with her shoulder and as she expected, the small magnet holding it shut popped open easily. She tried to keep her hands in full view of whoever was in the room. She stuck them out first and swung her legs out.
She nodded at the terse order. Corrie heard a shuffling sound to her right and to her left. There were at least two officers in the room. She ducked her head and emerged from the small space with a relieved sigh, staying on the ground, knowing her legs wouldn’t be able to hold her up just yet anyway.
“Put your hands on your head and don’t move.”
She did as instructed, intertwining her fingers together on the back of her head, knowing the officers were probably jacked-up on adrenaline, and she didn’t want to survive the workplace shooting only to make a wrong move and be accidentally shot by the good guys. She felt her wrists being forcibly grasped and held in place. She stayed sitting, waiting for more instructions. She felt another pair of hands patting down her sides, obviously looking for a weapon. After they found nothing, Corrie felt her hands being released.
“Who are you? What’s your name?”
“Corrie Madison. I’m a chiropractor here.”
“Can you tell us what happened?”
“I can tell you what I know, but please…is Cayley okay? What about Mr. Treadaway? I think there were others waiting for their appointments…” Her voice drifted off as she waited for reassurance that wouldn’t ever come.
“I’m sorry, Ms. Madison, they didn’t make it. Now, what can you tell us? What did you see?”
Corrie turned toward the demanding voice. Sometimes she forgot people couldn’t tell she was blind. It was refreshing, usually, but she’d give anything, absolutely anything at this point, to be able to tell this officer that she could identify who had killed her coworkers. She tried to hold back her tears. This was no time to lose it.
“I’m blind, officer. I didn’t see anything.”
She debuted her first series in 2014 and quickly followed that up with the SEAL of Protection Series, which solidified her love of writing and creating stories readers can get lost in.