Taken by Monty Marsden
It’s been two years since mass murderer, Giacomo Riondino, disappeared after killing Greta Alfieri…
Dr Claps, devastated and guilt-ridden by Greta’s death has been on a man-hunt for Riondino ever since.
Meanwhile, an American girl disappears on the 382nd step of the Cerro trail in Guayaquil, Ecuador.
No one saw her disappear. Who took her? And how?
When the US authorities contact Claps, he is certain that it must be Riordino. But, unlike Riondino‘s other victims, the girl has disappeared into thin air…
Will Claps solve the puzzle, or will he lose his mind in the process, blinded by his own obsession?
Claps had spent the last three hours in his hotel room studying the file on Sheila Ross’s disappearance.
Her family had distant Italian origins: the founder of the clan, who had landed in New York with little money but plenty of dreams in October 1892, exactly four hundred years after Columbus, had been Giuseppe Rossi. Giuseppe hadn’t been afraid of hard work, and wasn’t lacking in strength or business nous, so as soon as he’d started making money, he set up a small business, and forty years later his first grandson, Joseph Ross, was one of the biggest taxpayers in Atlanta. Sheila was now the fifth generation and had everything she needed – as well as much more besides – for a happy life. But then she had encountered a man… Could it have been Riondino?
Claps sighed. There was nothing that proved for certain that the man Sheila Ross had spoken to in Malecon was the one that had abducted her, much less that it had been Riondino…
But he didn’t want to overlook anything.
That Riondino was abroad was obvious, and from the moment he had disappeared, Claps had been certain that there would be other victims.
But there was another thing of which he had been certain: sooner or later he would find him, wherever he was.
He would have no peace until he had succeeded. He unscrewed the safety cap of a plastic tub and took out a pill which he swallowed. Maybe he wouldn’t even have peace after he found him.
Claps slowly closed his eyes. Greta Alfieri was dead because of him. He had used her – used her to find in himself the strength to follow Riondino when he escaped, right at the time when he, the great criminologist, the profiler, had wanted nothing more than to leave that kind of manhunt behind him. Greta too, had been keeping her distance from that type of horror story for a long time, but he had manoeuvred her back into the game.
And in the game, she had met her death.
What atrocious irony destiny had reserved for them… Many years before, in the Morphy case, he had saved her life, only to then cause her to lose it at Riondino’s hand.
Claps knew he would never find peace, but he wasn’t going to let Riondino find it either: he would follow him all the way to hell, if that was what it took.
All the way to hell. And there he would let him burn. That was all he cared about.
He opened his eyes again: in addition to a profile of Sheila Ross and her friend’s testimony, the file contained the official information the Ecuadorian police had given to the media as well as what little Munro had managed to find out from his confidential sources. At first, the local cops had not taken the disappearance of the girl too seriously, considering it the caprice of some impulsive spoilt American rich kid, and only later, under pressure from the US government, the web and the local press, had the hypothesis of a kidnapping for ransom been advanced. But the demand for ransom had never come… The investigation had widened its scope, but they had found absolutely nothing. As far as the Italian was concerned, they didn’t seem to be trying too hard to identify him among the residents of Guayaquil. The latest reports made it clear how the police efforts had progressively tailed off along with the decline in media interest in Sheila Ross.
Claps went to the window and opened the heavy curtains. In the darkness of the evening a dense, thin rain continued to fall on the lights of Atlanta.
If the clues in the dossier led him to think that the man who had taken Sheila Ross was the Italian, none of them suggested that he might be Riondino. But there was also nothing which excluded the idea.
Yes, he would go to Guayaquil.
The CD that Munro had given to him contained more photos of Sheila Ross in addition to the one he had already seen at the airport. He had looked at them for a long time, but without feeling any empathy.
Once, that would not have been the case: he would have immediately felt a kind of deep bond with the victim of a crime he was called in to handle. He would have been overcome by a kind of dizziness… would have imagined her way of moving, of talking, of smiling. He would have smelled her scent… And he would have worked as hard to get justice for her as if she had been he himself. Now, though, whether she was alive or dead, he was as indifferent to Sheila Ross as he would be to anybody else.
There was a slim chance that her disappearance might lead him to Riondino, though… And if not for her, it was for himself that Claps needed justice: after all, in his own way, wasn’t he, like Greta Alfieri, one of Riondino’s victims?
He was alive, yes, but wasn’t it as though Riondino had killed him along with Greta?
Justice? Or Revenge?
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