Deadly Fear Page 21

“Why would he do that?” Luke asked. Why change the rules with Jones?

“Because he’s a sick f**k.” She barely missed a beat.

“A sick dead man.” Davis raked shaking fingers through his hair. So much for his perfect news appearance.

“He’s not dead,” Monica assured him. “He’s not. The bastard called me again today.”

Davis paled. He knew about the first call; they’d briefed him right away. He inhaled deeply. “You sure it was him?”

“Same voice distortion. Same threats. It was him. He’s using his vics’ phones because he wants to make sure we know who he is and what he’s done.” Dead certain. “He couldn’t let the last kill stand. He wanted us to know…”

Her, Luke thought. The killer had called Monica because he’d wanted her to know what he’d done. And that f**king pissed him off. Stop going after her. Come after me, bastard.

“… he’s still out there,” Monica finished. “And he’s enjoying this. Every moment, he loves it.”

Davis exhaled heavily. “I just… wanted people to be safe. I wanted this to be over.”

“It’s not.”

Kenton burst through the metal doors. “You were right.” His face was flushed, chest heaving. “I found a spot, about twenty feet away, at the edge of the woods.”

“What?” Davis’s brow lined. “What are you talkin’ about—”

“The killer was there last night,” Monica said. “He just wasn’t the man who died.”

And now that he knew the score, Luke wished things had been different. They could have saved Jones. But when the bullets started flying, he’d just seen a killer locking sights on him.

Monica, though, she’d known. That was why she’d held back.

“The killer had a gun on Jones.” Kenton took a deep breath. “At the scene, I found grass bent, twigs snapped. The perfect place to watch, but not be seen.”

The ex-sniper, Ramirez, would have scoped out the joint in less than three seconds. It had taken Kenton a bit longer, but Luke hadn’t doubted Kenton would find the killer’s sweet spot.

“When the killer called, he said that he gave Jones a chance. But I don’t think he did, not really.” She rubbed her forehead. “I think he sent Jones out with the gun and told him to kill me and Agent Dante.”

Asshole.

“Why?” Davis was shocked, and behind him, the ME just stood there, his mouth hanging open as Cotton’s eyes flew back and forth between them. “Going up against two armed FBI agents would be suicide—”

Death by cop. Or agent.

“You see your old man get gunned down in the street,” Luke said. “Finding yourself on the same street, facing armed agents. Wouldn’t that be a bitch?”

“What you fear most.” From Kenton.

Davis swallowed. “I-I didn’t…”

“He said something to me. Right at the end.” Monica licked her lips. “Fuck you. Fuck him. My way.”

Luke saw Kenton’s brows shoot up.

Monica glanced at Luke. “When he said ‘him,’ I thought he meant you, but now I realize he was talking about the killer. Jeremy didn’t want to go out with us shooting him. He chose his way to end things. Not us. Not the killer’s choice. Jeremy’s.”

Kenton nodded. “From the looks of things, I’d say the serial had a gun on Jeremy the entire time. Where I found the marks, that position would have given him a perfect view of the house.” He gave a grim nod. “I’ve got a crime scene unit out there now.”

Luke felt his heart spike. “Did you find something?”

“Ashes, could be from a cigarette.” A faint shrug. “Saw ’em on the bent grass. No cigarette butts, that would have been too easy.”

Because they possibly could have gotten DNA from those.

“No way did this guy just start killing,” Luke said. No way. With this level of violence? No. People didn’t just wake up one day and decide to become serials. The instinct to kill was there, often showing first when the perp was just a kid. When he decided to see what the family pet’s insides looked like.

“No, he’s been leading up to this for a long time.” Monica rubbed her temple. “But he might have been too organized to get caught when he started his games.”

Games. Interesting word for murder.

“I just don’t get it.…” Davis swiped a hand over his sweaty brow. “Why didn’t Jones say somethin’? Why did he—”

“I’m betting the killer probably told him that if he hesitated, or if Jones tried to warn the agents, he’d put a bullet in the back of his head. With that position just north of the house, if you had a scope on a rifle, it would have been like shooting fish in a damn barrel.”

Davis swallowed and seemed to pale.

“And because we’re dealing with a sadistic bastard who likes to play,” Luke’s eyes narrowed, “I bet he also told him that if he took us out, he’d live.” He gave Jones a chance. Kill the agents, get to live.

“That was a lie, though,” Monica said. “Because this perp doesn’t let his victims live.”

No, he didn’t. Poor Laura Billings was proof of that. She was in the room with them, locked up in the cold, just a few feet away.

He tied her to the chair, nice and tight. Then he watched as Special Agent Samantha Kennedy’s head sagged forward. She’d be out for a while.

No playtime. Not yet. But soon.

Would she cry like the others? Break as easily? Beg?

He’d bet she would.

They always broke.

Always.

How to break his prey—that had been his first lesson. The first of many he’d learned. And he’d been a very fast learner.

“Samantha,” he whispered her name. He already knew everything about her, everything that mattered. She wasn’t the only one who knew how to hack into a computer system.

Learn the prey to break the prey.

Some people—their fears were right there, on the surface. Just begging to be seen, exploited.

Others… like Davenport… they hid their fears. Pretended to be strong when really they were weak and scared inside.

He could make anyone afraid. He could make anyone beg.

For f**king years, he’d tried to be normal. Tried to fit into the perfect mold that people wanted, then he’d realized there was no point to being normal.

And he was better than normal.

He picked up the knife, spun it around in his hand, letting the blade just brush his fingertips. She was kinda pretty. He lifted the knife, let the blade ease down her cheek.

Patty had been pretty, too. At first. When he’d finished working on sweet Patty, she’d been f**king beautiful.

The blade nicked Sam’s cheek, and a drop of blood slid down her face. “I’ll make you beautiful, too,” he promised her. Death had a way of doing that. When she was swollen and the vessels in her eyes burst and her lips turned blue… Samantha Kennedy would be just as damn gorgeous as Patty.

Just as lovely as all the others.

The bloody tip of the knife slipped down her neck, smearing blood. Then down lower, right between her br**sts.

His jaw locked. Just wasn’t any damn fun when they were asleep. She couldn’t beg when she was out cold.

His gaze lifted, and he stared out the window. The knife wasn’t for her, anyway, even if he liked the feel of the blade in his hand.

No, Sam didn’t fear the knife. A smile lifted his lips. But he knew what she did fear.

“Hank!” A woman bustled inside, small with curly red hair. The Sheriff’s assistant, Lily, the woman who also happened to be his wife. “I, uh,” a quick look at the covered sheet, then away. “We’ve got a problem.”

Oh, hell. Luke really didn’t like the sound of that. From the look on Monica’s face, neither did she.

“Tell the press no story today.” Davis crossed his arms. “I don’t care how pissy that SOB from Channel 5 gets, you just tell him—”

“The…” Now a nervous look Luke’s way. He tried to look harmless as he stared back at her. She cleared her throat. “The agent’s missing.”

Davis’s eyes narrowed. “Lee’s gone to get her. He’ll be bringing her in from Gulfport in about half an hour.”

“Excuse me.” Luke lifted a brow and waited for the sheriff to glance his way. “Mind telling me just who’s coming in?” Yeah, another agent, he got that part. But why hadn’t he known?

The sheriff frowned. “Didn’t you get the message I left at the motel?”

“No.” And he’d be checking in with that desk clerk the minute he got back to the motel.

“I talked to Hyde last night. We found some computers at Jeremy’s place. Hyde wanted to send down an agent, Kennedy, to work on the equipment.”

“Samantha,” Monica said.

“Yeah, yeah, Samantha Kennedy. She was due to come in this morning. Her flight was arriving at—” He shot a quick glance at Lily.

“Seven,” she whispered.

“Seven,” he said with a nod. “I sent Lee out there to get her.” A brief pause. “Told Hyde I’d let you know. I thought you’d get the message about the agent—”

“And she’s not there, Hank,” Lily told him, voice tight. Her hands twisted in front of her. “Lee’s on the phone. The plane landed. Some folks saw her get off, but she’s gone now.”

“Gone where?” Kenton barked.

Because they were talking about one of their own. Missing.

“How the hell do I know?” Davis’s hair was crap now as his fingers ran through it once more. “She must’ve gotten a taxi or a rental or—”

Monica whipped out her phone. Punched in the numbers. Fast. Silence filled the room. Her eyes met Luke’s. “She’s not answering.”

Could be nothing, though. Bad service. If Samantha were driving on her own through the twisting back roads, she could have lost her cell service any number of turns. Could be nothing.

But if it was nothing, why did Monica look so worried?

And why was the knot in his gut getting tighter?

The cell phone rang. Again and again. Some chirpy, happy beat that a federal agent really shouldn’t have programmed on her phone.

He glanced at the phone’s display. Monica Davenport. Ah, so she was calling already. Trying to find her friend.

But she wouldn’t find her. Not yet.

He counted eight rings then the too cheery ring and the annoying vibration stopped.

He wouldn’t answer yet. The time wasn’t right. Monica needed to sweat it out as she wondered about her lost friend. The longer he waited, the more distraught Monica would become.

No, he wouldn’t answer her yet. But maybe next time.

Monica thought she was profiling him, but he’d been watching her so closely. He was almost sure he knew her break point now. Almost certain.

One more test would show him. One more.

It had been so easy to take Sam from that airport. No one had even glanced twice at him. And for an FBI agent, she’d been almost ridiculously easy to take.

Davenport would be more of a challenge. He’d researched her, spent the last four months learning about her. He’d hoped the kills in Jasper would bring her in. She was supposed to be the best the SSD had—he’d counted on them sending in their best.

He’d even chosen this town just for her, then set his bait with the kills.

And she hadn’t even made the connection yet.

CHAPTER Eleven

Romeo Killer Captured. One Victim Survives. Luke frowned down at the clear evidence bag, his eyes on the old newspaper clipping. “Did you get any prints off this?” he asked Gerry.

“Nah. Wiped clean.”

Figured. He shook his head and stared at the clipping. “Why’d he give us this? Why not one of his notes? Why this?”

“Maybe he wants one of those killer names,” Vance offered. He’d come into the lab about an hour before to do nothing more, Luke was pretty sure, than to make his life hell.

“I mean, nobody calls him nothin’,” Vance said. “Maybe it’s pissin’ him off.”

And the deputy was pissing him off.

“Maybe the Watchman,” Vance mused and rubbed his chin. “Maybe that’s what we should call him. ’Cause it seems, you know, like he’s always watchin’ people. He has to, right? I mean, to figure out what scares ’em.”

Luke stared at the man, hard.

“Or maybe he just wants fame… maybe he wants to be like that other bastard who ruined Jasper’s name.” The sheriff shook his head in disgust.

The other bastard? “Which bastard are you talking about?” Luke demanded.

The sheriff’s squinting gaze zeroed in on the deputy. “Get out of here, Monroe,” he snapped. “Get the hell out and go find some drunk causing trouble and throw his ass in jail.”

“Uh, right, Sheriff.” A bob of the deputy’s head. “I’m goin’, sorry.” He tripped, twice, then made it to the door.

Luke kept his attention on Davis. He waited for the deputy to leave, then said, “Romeo didn’t kill in Jasper.” He was absolutely certain of that fact. Romeo had attacked girls in Louisiana.

“Didn’t kill here; he lived here.” Davis exhaled. “Until he was ten years old, that boy lived in my town. Hell, I still remember the first time I was ever called over to his ma’s place. I’d just started as a deputy… never will forget that day.”

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