Deadly Fear Page 22

“What happened?”

“That boy had sliced open his cat.”

Shit.

“Damn, sheriff…” Gerry exhaled on a hard breath.

“The mother was sure the neighbor had done it, said he was mad ’cause the cat kept gettin’ in his garden. But I saw her boy when we were haulin’ the carcass away.”

Silence hung in the room.

“He was smilin’.” Davis crossed the room and picked up the sealed clippings. “They moved away a few months later, and I forgot about the kid until I saw him on the TV fifteen years later.” His shoulders hunched a bit and his eyes rose to meet Luke’s. “I saw the evil in him that day, but I didn’t have any proof he’d sliced that animal. I didn’t do anything, even though I saw. When I learned about those girls…”

Raped. Tortured. Yeah, he’d seen the pictures.

“I wondered if I could’ve saved them, if I’d just paid more attention, followed that boy, or just contacted the sheriff in Louisiana to let him know what I suspected.”

Christ. “Where did Romeo live?” The killer had sent these damn clips for a reason. “Are there any relatives here? Anyone linked to his case?” Bad blood—maybe literally.

“House was torn down years ago. Highway goes over it now. As for relatives… no, it was just the boy and his ma. The father died when the boy was young, in some kind of car accident.”

But there was something there, connecting the cases. The perp out there hunting in Jasper wanted them to know about that link.

Something or someone connected the cases.

“Luke,” Monica’s sharp cry.

He glanced over to see her and Kenton hurry inside. “Lee interviewed all the rental agents at the airport. No one rented Sam a car,” she told him.

“And no taxi drivers reported picking up her fare either.” Kenton said, a muscle flexing along his jaw. “She’s just… disappeared.”

The sheriff’s Adam’s apple bobbed. “I told Hyde the county was secure. I told him it was safe down here.”

Not even close.

“Why?” He glanced up, and his face flushed dark red. “Why would he go after that agent? He’s been pickin’ local women.”

Monica shook her head. “Sheriff, I’ve told you, I believe this man has killed before, outside of your county. Killed women like Saundra Swain.”

His tongue swiped over his lips. “You found something in Gatlin?”

They hadn’t briefed the sheriff on Gatlin because, well, hell had broken loose last night.

“Maybe. I had Sam working to get some background info for me. The victim in Gatlin, Saundra, had a boyfriend who disappeared just after her death.”

“You think it’s him?” The sheriff asked. “What’s his name? We can put an APB out for him!”

“We don’t have any proof that he’s guilty. We don’t even know where he is right now. We’re pulling up his driver’s license photo now from the DMV, and we’re waiting on a warrant to search a house belonging to the guy’s aunt.”

Her phone rang. Monica broke off and snatched her cell phone up from her hip. Luke caught the rasp of her breath right before she said, “Local number. It-it’s the number Sally had.”

Fuck. They’d gotten all the numbers for the vics because they’d known this call would be coming.

Her eyes were on Luke when she pushed the button to answer the call.

“I’m getting bored with you, Agent Davenport,” he told her, brushing his fingers against the pane of the window. “You’re supposed to be so good. I thought you’d be better at this game.”

“Killing people isn’t a game!”

Ah, she seemed angry. Good. “To me it is.”

She sucked in a sharp breath.

He smiled. “And to your pretty little friend, it’s a game, too.”

“You have Samantha?”

Did she really need to ask? Disappointing. And he’d been told she was such good prey. “She’s rather too trusting, don’t you think? Supposed to be so smart, and she never even saw me coming until it was too late.”

Because no one was smarter than he was. He didn’t need those f**king fancy degrees.

“Let her go,” Monica said, voice tight. “You haven’t killed her yet so just—”

“Are you sure?”

Silence. Then, voice quiet, “Yes.”

“How are you sure?” Not much time. He wouldn’t talk much longer. The agents with her would have already started tracking his signal. He’d have to make the dump fast. He turned away from the window, headed for the back door. Really, they should pay better attention around these parts. Just anyone could walk in.

“I’m sure.” He could almost see her. Dark hair straight and perfect around her delicate features. Face expressionless. His agent liked her control.

He wanted to shatter that control into a million pieces, and he would, when he shattered her.

“You haven’t played with her yet,” the agent who thought she was so smart told him. “You don’t know her, don’t know her fears.”

He laughed. He couldn’t help it. “Ah, but I do know. I told you, I’ve been watching.” A quick glance at his watch. “I’ll give you twenty-four hours.” He kept the voice distorter, a handy device he’d picked up down in a New Orleans novelty shop, over the phone. “Twenty-four hours to save her.” Plenty of time for me to play.

“What do you mean?”

“Find her.” That was all he’d say. “Find her, save her. Twenty-four hours.” And he’d be watching. Because Samantha Kennedy didn’t matter. Monica did. This was her test.

What do you fear, agent? “Find her… or you’ll bury her.” Perhaps Monica would bury her either way because twenty-four hours might just be too long. It was so easy to get bored, and he really doubted that Samantha Kennedy would be able to last that long.

Monica stared at her phone. Her face felt cold. Icy pinpricks shot through her skin. “We’ve got twenty-four hours to find Sam.”

“Fuck!” Kenton whirled around. “That bastard had better not hurt her!”

“He said if we don’t find her in twenty-four hours,” she found Luke watching her, his gaze steady and strong, “then we’ll bury her.”

I’ll find you, Sam. Don’t worry. I will find you.

Because she knew what it was like to be a killer’s plaything. To know that he could hurt you, use you, break you—and that help wouldn’t get there in time.

No, this time, I’ll get there. Hold on, Sam.

Monica drew in a quick breath. Can’t panic. Work the case. Think like him.

“Kenton, get me that picture of Kyle West. See what you can find out about his whereabouts. I want all deputies to know his face—everyone needs to keep their eyes open for him.” One step at a time. “Luke, notify Hyde. He’s gonna want to come down here.” She hesitated, just for an instant. “I’ve got to talk to Sam’s family.”

Luke’s eyes widened. “You’re telling them? Already?”

“Yes.” The grief would rip them apart, but she wouldn’t lie to a fellow agent’s family. “I have to talk to them. They’re the only ones who can tell me—”

“What? What are they gonna tell you?” Davis demanded. “How are you gonna find her? This bastard is jerkin’ us all around by the balls!” His voice rose to a yell as sweat beaded his upper lip.

“Yes, he is.” Monica kept her voice quiet and firm. She understood the sheriff’s fury. His people were dying. Now one of hers was, too. “But we are going to stop him.”

“How?” The sheriff’s faith was gone.

“Leave that to me.” She tossed her cell phone to the tech who’d stood watching them, mouth open. “You were connected with the SSD, right?” They’d set the link up on Gerry’s computer beforehand because she’d known this call would come. “Have they sent you the GPS data?” The SSD would have been notified the moment her phone rang. Kim had been standing by, just waiting. “I want him. I need to know where he called from.”

“I-I think from right outside.” A woman’s voice said.

Monica spun around. Deputy Melinda Jenkins stood in the doorway, her face tense. She lifted her hand and raised a cell phone wrapped in a clear plastic bag. “I was getting a smoke. I-I found this out back.”

Oh, damn. Every muscle in her body tightened. There. So close to them… the bastard wasn’t scared. “Gerry, I want that phone torn apart.” Find something. Anything.

“Get your men out there, sheriff.” The order was Luke’s. “If that a**hole was outside, someone saw him.”

The killer was bold. And he was laughing right in their faces. Too confident. He knew the area too well. Knew the sheriff’s station too well.

Every move they made, he seemed to be right there.

“If the bastard was here…” Kenton’s voice came slowly. “Then where the hell is Sam? Christ, is she—is she even still alive?”

Monica swung toward him. “She’s alive.”

His gaze held hers. Kenton and Sam had dated briefly, and though they might not have made it as a couple, Monica knew they were friends. She could see the worry and fear on Kenton’s face.

“He would have drugged her and left her tied up someplace,” she said. “He wouldn’t have made the call close to her. He knew we’d track him.” Because he knew every move they made. Every move.

Sam opened her eyes and saw only darkness. Thick, pitch black. Her head pounded and nausea rolled in her belly. She tried to move but her hands were bound, tied behind her back. She sat in a wooden chair that was hard, with a high back. Her ankles were tied to the chair legs. The ropes were so tight that she could feel the dampness of her blood.

“H-hello?” Her voice came out as a rasp. Weak. No, she would not be weak. “Who’s there?” He had to be there. Watching her. Getting off on her fear.

Don’t show fear.

Monica had said that once. She’d been talking to the agents about what to do in a worst-case situation.

Oh, God, this is worst case. Trapped. Isolated. He’s going to kill me.

Monica knew killers. She knew how to handle them. If she were here, she wouldn’t be panicking, with terror nearly choking her. She’d be calling out to the killer, taunting him.

Staying in control.

Sam took another breath. A stale taste filled her mouth and that nausea was still rising in her throat. “Come out, bastard!” Yelling made her head hurt more. Dammit, what had he injected her with? How long had she been out?

Her eyes jerked to the left. The right. Can’t see anything. The familiar weight of her glasses was missing. Shit. Even if the lights were on, she wouldn’t be able to see much.

Why had he taken her? What did the guy want? She’d read the profile Monica faxed to Hyde. The guy tortured his victims by making them face their worst fears.

But there wasn’t any way for him to know what scared her. He didn’t know her.

And then she heard it. Sam froze. The faintest of sounds. Not too close, but it was…

The gentle lapping of water.

Oh, Jesus. No, no, he couldn’t know…

“Are you there? Are you there?” Sam shouted.

That lapping filled her ears, and Sam choked back a scream.

“Mrs. Kennedy, this is Monica Davenport with the SSD.” Her fingers curled lightly over the phone. Behind her, the sheriff’s office buzzed with activity. “I’m calling about your daughter Samantha.”

A faint hum over the line, then, “Monica, did you say? Ah, Sam’s friend. You two work together.” A flowing, cultured voice. Sam’s parents were wealthy, old money. Not that Sam appeared to ever touch their money. Why had Sam joined the Bureau? Monica had been given no choice—once the monsters got inside, she couldn’t get them out. But Sam—why had she traded the glitter for the grit?

Had she joined to save lives? Only to lose her own?

Monica swallowed. “Mrs. Kennedy, this is going to seem like an odd question, but I need to know, has Sam ever been involved in any sort of serious accident?”

“Wh-what?”

“Does she have any phobias?” Just tell me no. Tell me Sam is perfectly normal. No, better than normal. Nothing scares her.

“Sam doesn’t like the water.”

Monica’s heart slammed into her ribs. “Why?” Cold, brittle.

Silence. Then, “Why are you calling me, Ms. Davenport?” Distant now, when there’d been warmth in her voice moments before. “Where’s Sam?”

Monica glanced over at Luke. He’d just put a picture of Sam up on their crime board. Right next to the bloody image of Patricia Moffett and the still features of Laura Billings.

“Please tell me why she doesn’t like the water.” Find out first. The parents break when they hear the news about their kids.

A quick gasp. “S-something’s happened to my baby?”

No lies. Not about another agent. “She’s missing. We’re working a case and… she’s missing.”

Some people thought you couldn’t hear pain, but you could. Monica heard it loud and clear in the stark silence that came across that phone line. She cleared her throat. “This is very important. I need to know why she’s scared of water.”

“Sh-she was… eight. At our cabin. S-summer v-vacation…”

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