Deadly Fear Page 23

Keep talking. The grief was there. Whispering through the words. Hold together, just a few more moments. A patrol car was on the way to the Kennedy home. Hyde wanted a guard with the family because he wasn’t sure what the killer might do.

Monica knew the family wasn’t in danger, but she didn’t want the mother left alone. Not with this kind of grief.

“W-walking on the-the pier. The wood was old, gave way—” And her words gave way to sobs. “We couldn’t get her out. My baby—my baby wasn’t breathing when we finally pulled her from the—the water.”

Darkness. Water. All around. Closing in. No air. No light.

What scares you?

Monica swallowed over the lump in her throat. A lump that threatened to choke her. “Has anything else ever happened to Sam? Any car accidents? Any other—”

“Just… the water. She doesn’t swim now…”

A bell pealed in the background.

“S-someone’s here.…” Confusion. A numbed voice.

“It should be a police officer. He’s there to explain.” What? That a twisted freak had her daughter? “He’ll tell you what you need to know.”

“F-find my baby.…”

“I will.” But would she find her alive?

Hold on, Sam.

Monica ended the call. Luke stood in front of her. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine.” Her control would hold.

He crept closer. “You look like you’re about to break apart.” His fingers smoothed down her arm, a hot touch that warmed her cold flesh.

For just a moment, she wanted to lean in to him. To steal some of his strength. That tempting warmth.

She always felt so cold. Like the bodies she found so often. Ice cold.

If she could just hold on to Luke for a few moments and take that warmth for herself.…

But then she’d be weak. The ice would break, chip away, and what if he saw that underneath the protective cover, she was weak? Weak and scared.

Her gaze scanned the room. If she broke here, with him, they’d all see.

And no, she wouldn’t be weak.

“Monica.” His eyes were so intent. “We’re going to find her.”

I was such a bitch to her, Luke. Such a bitch. She wanted to be my friend. She was always talking to me, asking me to lunch, but I froze her out.

Just like I froze you out.

But she didn’t say anything. Sometimes she felt like her damn secrets were suffocating her.

Always wondering, worrying. What will he think if he knows the truth? What would he see when he looked at me?

What would they all see?

She didn’t want to be a victim, and she’d be damned if she accepted anyone’s pity.

“You need to take a break. Get some coffee, get—”

“No.” Her shoulders snapped back. They didn’t have time to piss away, and she was not going to break. “We don’t have time to waste. We have to find her, and fast.”

His blond brows pulled low. “Twenty-four hours isn’t a lot of time.”

Monica laughed at that. She couldn’t help it. “Do you really think he’s giving us that long?”

Luke blinked.

“She’ll be dead in six. He’s f**king with us.” And that pissed her off. “He wants to have his fun with Sam, but he wants to watch us scramble. So he’ll play with her, kill her, then sit back and watch us struggle. And he’ll be watching from a safe distance. A safe, un-catchable distance.” Monica realized her voice was too loud. Her hands shook, and everyone was watching her.

Watching me break down.

Sam would break, too. The innocence that had been in Sam’s brown eyes would be gone soon. If it wasn’t already. She was an agent, yeah, but she’d been protected, kept safe. Hell, she’d probably only been in the field a handful of times.

There’d be no safety now.

Why did everyone have to stare? They needed to move. “Sheriff, I want a listing of every cabin or house that’s got lake access in this area. Every one—and I want it yesterday.”

He wiped his handkerchief across his sweaty brow. “Yes, ma’am.”

Her chin lifted. “We’re finding her, and we’re finding her now.”

The floorboard squeaked.

Every muscle in Sam’s body tightened. She didn’t know how long she’d been in that damn room, listening to the water, but she wasn’t alone now.

Maybe she’d never been.

A scent teased her nose. Strong and thick. Not cigarette smoke. Deeper. Smells like Uncle Jeremiah…

But this wasn’t her sweet old uncle. This was a sick freak who wanted to hurt her.

Then he whistled. A stupid, light tune. What was that? Something—

“I know.” A whisper. One that came right next to her ear. Close enough for her to feel his breath against her skin.

To catch that smell—stronger now. Cigar smoke.

She jerked away. He laughed.

Don’t show your fear. Her fingers curled down behind her. “You’ve made a mistake.” Her voice came out sounding calm. Monica would have approved. “I’m a federal agent, and my team will be tracking me. You don’t want—”

“That’s exactly what I want.” And he shoved something over her head. Something thick, heavy. A bag? Oh, God, he was suffocating her; he was going to kill her.

“Hold on, bitch, this might hurt.” He sliced the ropes away. Cut her skin. “Hope it does.” Ankles. Wrists. The blade pierced her skin every time.

But she didn’t scream.

She did attack. The minute the ropes fell away, she shot to her feet, spun around—

And fell, taking the chair down, slamming her elbows and knees onto the floor. Legs won’t work. No circulation. Can’t—

He had her tied again in seconds. Just her hands this time. Thick knots of rope that scraped away her skin.

He hauled her up and dragged her because her legs wouldn’t work. From the ropes or the drug? What had he done to her?

A door squeaked. Light flickered through the bag he’d shoved over her head. The lapping of the water teased her ears—louder—

“I know.” Damn whisper, grating in her ears. “I know all about you, sweet Samantha Kennedy.” His steps echoed, as if he were walking on something hollow.

Something hollow.

Fuck. A dock. They were walking on a dock. She could feel the slight shift in the wood beneath her.

“You really think you’re the only one who knows how to dig and pick apart a person’s life? A computer can show you so much these days. If you know just where to look, you can find anything.

Water lapped, so close.

“I know your father has spent his life screwing around on your mother. I know she spent her days and nights with the bottle to make it all better.”

No, her mom didn’t drink. Not anymore. Not since—

“And I know you, poor little Samantha. You were alone so much. Alone that day when you fell.”

Please, God—

“And no one heard your scream.”

She screamed now, as loud as she could. The bag didn’t stop her; it was loose around her head. She could—

“No one but me can hear you now, and I don’t give a shit.” He threw her onto the dock, grabbing her arms and twisting another rope on her hands. She was tied enough. Enough! Sam tried to kick out at him. Pinpricks shot through her feet and up her calves. Feeling was coming back, painful and burning.

Her feet hit something. Not him. Something hard and heavy. Something that made her bare feet throb.

His laughter filled her ears, and her heart slammed into her chest. Sam shook her head, trying to get out of that bag. “What are you doing? What are—”

Splash. She jerked forward, moving hard to the right. What the hell?

Goose bumps covered her arms. “I haven’t done anything to you!” A scream broke from her. Splash. “Why are you—”

“Because I can.” Splash. “Guess what? You’re next—”

He grabbed her, spinning her around. No, he wasn’t pulling her, something else was. The rope he’d just tied to her; it was pulling her—

Sam slammed into the water. Hit it hard and sank fast because something was pulling her, pulling her down to the bottom of the lake.

The bag drifted away from her twisting head and fluttered up in the murky water. Bubbles flew past her face. Because she was still screaming. Swallowing water and choking.

She couldn’t get free. The rope wouldn’t break, and he’d tied her to blocks. Looked like cinder blocks. Fucking splashes. That’s what the sound had been.

The blocks were dragging her down, straight to that sandy bottom. Swimming with the fishes…

Down…

God! Her lungs burned. The water stung her eyes, filled her nose, and poured down her throat.

Help me!

“Gatlin County Sheriff’s department,” a rumbling voice flowed over the phone line.

Monica inhaled a deep breath. “This is Monica Davenport with the FBI, and I need to speak with Sheriff Martin.” Now.

“Ah, sorry, ma’am, I mean, agent, but Sheriff Martin ain’t in the office today.”

“Who is this?” Monica demanded.

“Peter Fillerman, Deputy Peter Fillerman.”

“Listen to me, deputy, in just a few moments, your office is going to receive a fax from me. It’s a search warrant I want you to take and immediately execute at May Walker’s residence.” She needed those papers. If she could compare the signatures and get a match—got you.

“M-May Walker’s place?”

“She’s got papers there, going back for years. You need to find—”

“If it’s at May Walker’s, ma’am, I won’t be finding anything.”

More deputies piled into the room. Monica turned away, lifting a hand to her left ear to muffle their voices. “Why not? The warrant is perfectly legal, there’s no reason you can’t execute it.”

“There ain’t nothin’ left to search out at May Walker’s place. There was a fire there late last night.”

Her fingers tightened around the phone.

“Told Sheriff Martin for months that the place was a firetrap, but I couldn’t ever get him to go out there.”

“What about May?”

“She-she didn’t make it out of the fire.”

Monica’s eyes closed. God, what a terrible way to die.

“Real shame. May didn’t have any close neighbors and the fire was out of control before anyone knew what was happening.”

And May Walker was dead. Another lost life. She swallowed and forced her eyes to open. “Thank you for the information.”

“You want—you want Sheriff Martin to call you?”

She turned around and studied the gathered deputies. Luke was talking to them, his hands on his h*ps as he went over search procedures. “Where did you say Martin had gone?”

“I didn’t.”

No, she knew that.

“He’s gone up to Angola. He goes up there every few months.”

A chill skated down her spine. “Why?” Thousands of inmates were in Angola, but she knew one of those inmates very, very well.

A soft sigh. “Can’t really say for sure, ma’am, just know he drives up to visit for a few hours now and then. Guess he’s got someone up there he needs to see.”

And she had someone she never wanted to see.

“You want him to call you?”

“I’ll call him.” After she did some checking to see just who the sheriff was visiting at Angola. Had to be just a coincidence, but…

But she wasn’t taking chances. Monica ended the call with a push of her fingertip and stared down at the phone. Lost, remembering.

No one could hear you scream.

“Monica?”

She jumped when Luke called her name. Her head lifted, and she found his gaze on her. All of their gazes were on her as the deputies and the sheriff stood at attention. Waiting on her. She was supposed to tell them all what to do. She was the one they looked to. Right then, she couldn’t afford another trip down Freak Memory Lane.

No time. Focus.

Her shoulders straightened and she pointed behind the sheriff. “That a map of the county?”

He gave a quick nod.

She strode forward and yanked the map off the wall. She spread the map out on the conference room desk. Her gaze followed the criss-cross of lines that were the roads in and out of town.

No one could hear you scream.

The perp would have taken Sam someplace secluded, so he’d have time for his fun and games. Someplace close enough for the bastard to quickly come in and make his call, then ease away before anyone noticed. “He knows the area,” she muttered. A local, or someone who had been to Jasper often enough to learn every secret hollow and twist of land out there.

She bent forward, and her hand settled on the lake near the edge of the town. Had to be near water. And if he was going to do it right, make the torture the perfect match, he’d use a lake. He’d want to set the same scene for Sam. A nightmare come true.

“Are there cabins around this lake, Sheriff?”

“On the west.” His fingers joined hers. “Three there, then two on the east side.”

The east side was closer to town. The west more isolated. What choice had the killer made?

“They’re rentals,” he said, “but nobody ever goes up there these days.”

“Kenton, get me warrants to search every cabin there.”

“But I—”

“I know a judge,” Davis said. “Consider them gotten.”

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