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Love of the Second Degree

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Prologue

 

    Niall Lynch was many things. He was a hard worker, a father, a dreamer, and a gambler. He was exceptionally great at the first two things. His work often forced him to be gone from the Lynch homestead for several days or weeks at a time. When he was home, however, much of his time was spent devoted to his children.

    Matthew Lynch was the youngest. He was sweet, pure, and good. When he’d been born Niall knew that the boy and his mother, Aurora Lynch, were the same. Matthew loved unconditionally, with his whole heart. He was one for protecting.

    Declan Lynch was the oldest and he felt his father’s absence more than the others. He wasn’t like his mother, nor was he like his father. So, he spent the majority of his childhood trying to excel at everything he did. Something inside of him hoped to earn his father’s approval. He knew his mother would love him whether he failed or succeeded, but Niall was harder to please. Declan was simply one for being.

    Niall often boasted that he and Ronan were cut from the same cloth. They were one and the same, he and his middle son. Not only were they similar in looks with their dark hair and fair skin, but they were similar in behavior. Ronan threw himself aggressively at every task at hand. His passion for the animals at the farm, for Matthew, and for his father burned deep. He would go at lengths to ensure his brother and his mother stayed safe while Niall was gone. He was the one to do the protecting.


 

 

One

 

It was a warm, summer morning when Ronan remembered his father was coming home. When he’d peeked into his mother’s room he found Aurora lying peacefully in her bed, sleeping. However, a glance out the window revealed the sleek charcoal gray BMW Niall Lynch drove.

    Ronan’s heart had pounded with excitement. His father was home! He hardly had time to stuff his feet into a pair of sneakers before he flung open the screen door to the farmhouse and clattered off of the porch. The gravel had kicked up under his feet as he dashed across the drive to the car.

    Then, the closer he got the more wrong it had felt.

    The driver’s side door was open, the door beeped, keeping time with Ronan’s heart pounding in his chest.

    The sound of bagpipes played from the car, a tune that the boy recognized instantly because Niall was often whistling or humming while he worked.

    Dread was Ronan’s stomach in knots. He slowed to a walk as he rounded the rear of the car. The trunk had been popped and left open just a crack. That was wrong. It was all wrong.

    The first thing he saw when he rounded the driver’s side of the car was the blood. It was soaking into the dust, leaving behind red mud. There was a lot of it.

    The second thing was his father. If it hadn’t been for the cross hanging around his neck and the shock of dark hair on his head, Ronan wouldn’t have recognized him. He had been beaten so severely to the point of being unidentifiable.

    The weapon in question had been a crowbar, which laid covered in blood and brain matter a few feet away.

    Niall Lynch had been murdered and his son had been sleeping just a few feet away.

 

    The memory of discovering his father’s body was fresh in Ronan’s mind as he tore down the interstate towards town. It was like a bone that had never been set right. Talking about Niall Lynch didn’t hurt him anymore, but every now and again it left a deep, throbbing ache within him.

    Niall’s killer had never been found and that was the only reason Ronan was speeding through town at twice the limit in the middle of the night. It was the only reason he’d gone to college to be a detective. If it hadn’t been for that, he’d just be working on the family farm and doing nothing else.

    Ronan hated his fucking job.

    He hated that Gansey had called to wake him in the middle of the night when he’d finally been getting a decent sleep for a change. He hated knowing what awaited him at the crime scene, that somewhere there was a family grieving for the loss of a loved one.

    The lights of the police cars flashed blue and red in front of a restaurant in town. The lights were on in the apartment building above, Ronan could see his coworkers moving about in their uniforms.

    He got out of the BMW, switching off the red and blue lights he’d had installed in it when he’d first started (because he told Declan he wasn’t driving around in one of those shit-mobiles many in the department had). He slammed the door hard enough to make the car rock and strode toward the apartment.

    “Gansey is freaking out,” Noah said as he met Ronan in the stairs. His blond hair was tousled, his eyes were sleepy. “He thinks it’s Glendower.”

    “Gansey thinks every killing is tied to Glendower,” Ronan grumbled before pushing past Noah and moving up the rickety stairs.

    “It’s creepy up there.”

    “You think everything is creepy.”

    Noah shrugged, “Don't say I didn’t warn you.”

    Ronan and Gansey had been friends since high school. They both had attended a private college called Aglionby Academy. Gansey told Ronan he had wanted to go to a good school so he could go to an even better college to become a detective.

    He could still remember the sparkle in his eyes as he leaned over to Ronan and whispered, “What do you know about Owen Glendower?”

    Ronan hadn’t known much about Glendower except for the fact that he was a mass murderer from Wales who had a very specific way of killing his victims and leaving their bodies for the authorities to find. He hadn’t wanted to know too much about it because he’d had enough murder to last him a lifetime after finding Niall’s body. However, he tolerated Gansey’s obsession because it was clear their friendship wasn’t ending anytime soon.

    The stairs creaked under Ronan’s feet as he stomped up them. When he got to the top he found Gansey studying the body, his thumb brushing against his lower lip thoughtfully.

    The body was face down, the arms bound behind his back, wrists left slashed open. The victim’s legs had been bound at the knees and again at the ankles.

    “I’ll be damned,” Ronan said as he stood next to Gansey. He knew enough about Owen Glendower to know that this was exactly the way he left his victims.

    “We’ll know as soon as we turn him over,” Gansey replied. Ronan’s vulgar language didn’t bother him.

    He looked around the apartment and cringed. Noah wasn’t wrong. It was fucking creepy. Shelves of dolls lined the walls. Some of the porcelain figurines were in perfect condition, but their eyes all seemed to stare at them. Others were cracked, chipped, broken, their mouths twisted up in wry smiles like they knew a secret they weren’t willing to tell.

    “It’s incredible that a dead body is the least creepy thing in this room,” he told Gansey before looking at the body again.

    “Hm,” he acknowledged. He moved past Ronan and peeked down the narrow staircase. “Does anybody know where Parrish is?”

The door opened and shut. Adam’s voice drawled up the stairs, “I’m right here.”

Ronan rolled his eyes and folded his arms over his chest. Adam fucking Parrish was another reason he hated his job.

Adam appeared in the doorway, his dusty hair glinted off of the light emitted from a dingy bare bulb hanging from the ceiling. The shadows cast from the light made his high cheekbones more elegant, turning his freckles to tan speckles flecked across his skin. His blue eyes locked with Ronan’s and then turned to the body. He did his best to stay out of the half-dried, bloody pool the body was lying in and crouched down next to it. “I see what you mean,” he said to Gansey.

“Could it be Glendower?”

“Could be.”

Ronan rolled his eyes again and watched as Adam pulled on a pair of white gloves over his long fingers. One of the reasons he hated Parrish was because the second he’d come in the department he and Gansey had been thick as thieves. Gansey went to him for everything; opinions, questions, ideas.

In reality, there was no reason for Ronan to be irritated about it and that very fact annoyed him.

Adam inspected the bound wrists, the skin around his eyes going tight. “Deep lacerations to the wrist were the cause of death. The knife didn’t appear to be really sharp.”

    “How long has the victim been dead?” Gansey asked.

    Adam looked at the copious amounts of half-dried blood on the floor and then the corpse again. “I’d say around twenty-four hours.”

    This answer seemed to satisfy him because he went back to rubbing his lower lip with his thumb.

    Adam rolled the body over and they all sucked in a collective breath.

    The man’s shirt was in shreds, hanging off of his barrel chest along with the torn skin beneath it. A jagged ‘G’ was carved into his chest, some of the cuts were so deep that the bone was visible beneath it.

    Gansey crouched next to Adam. “This is him,” he said. Although he tried to keep it at bay, the excitement was audible in his voice.  “This is the work of Glendower.”

    “How can you be so sure?” Ronan asked. He didn’t do it to piss on Gansey’s parade. He asked because he knew how his friend could get. Gansey threw himself at anything that had to do with Owen Glendower with reckless abandon. If this proved to be false, he’d be crushed.

    “I’m not,” Adam said. His eyes looked up to Ronan for two heartbeats, vibrant and alive. He then turned his attention back to Gansey. “Something about this doesn’t sit right with me. Why would Owen Glendower come out of hiding ten years after his last murder? We can’t find him. Why would he jeopardize that?”

    A crease formed between Gansey’s brow and he stood up again. Ronan knew it was because he knew, as always, Adam was right.

    Adam stood up too, looking at the two of them. “We’re going to have to dig out Glendower’s case files and review the evidence before we jump to any conclusions.”

    Ronan resisted the urge to groan. He hated desk work.