Authors: Dani Pettrey
Tags: #FIC042060, #Alaska—Fiction, #Murder—Investigation—Fiction, #FIC027110, #Mountaineers—Fiction, #FIC042040
Jake picked up Landon at the station, where he was waiting with a warrant. Luckily Judge Morrell had been at the station on business when Jake’s call came in, and Landon pounced.
Carol’s rental home sat on the corner of Sterling and Thomas Run Road. A small one-story cabin next to the home of Yancey’s fire marshal, of all people.
The cabin looked quiet, too quiet.
Landon signaled he’d cover the back as Jake stepped to the front door with Thoreau.
He knocked. “Sheriff’s Department. Open up.”
Signaling Thoreau to cover him as he entered, Jake kicked in the door.
The front room was dim, the shades closed. Jake scanned the space. A light shone from beneath a door at the end of the hall.
He signaled Thoreau to move as Landon entered from the rear.
They cleared each room they passed en route to the one at the end of the hall.
Jake leaned against the wall and tapped. “Sheriff’s Department. Open up.”
Nothing but the soft sound of . . .
Landon nodded, and Jake opened the door. The three men moved in . . . and stopped short.
“What on earth?” Thoreau hitched. “She’s one sick puppy.”
The wall ahead was a shrine to Jake—newspaper articles covering the Markum case, pictures, and a U.S. map with red circles around towns he’d spent time in before landing in Yancey. Not all of them, but a fair number. Had Angela hired someone to track him? How long had she been planning her revenge? Close to four years stewing in a cell was more than enough time to fixate on someone and to lose sight of anything else.
Articles on Becca’s death, Joel Markum’s suicide, and Angela’s imprisonment—they were all there, along with surveillance photos of the McKennas, each going about their daily life. She’d been studying them for weeks. She was here to exact revenge.
In the center of the twisted collage, and most disturbing of all, was a picture of Jake and Kayden dancing at Cole and Bailey’s wedding, a red target around their heads. What had been one of the most perfect moments of his life . . . and
been there, watching them. It made his skin crawl.
“What’s up with the music?” Thoreau said, disconnecting the iPod.
“It was the song Kayden and I danced to at Cole and Bailey’s wedding.” He stepped over and tapped the picture. “The night this was taken.”
“So she’s clearly after you and Kayden,” Landon said.
“Why is she after Kayden?” Thoreau asked.
“She just is,” Landon said, kindly sparing Jake the need to express his love for Kayden for the first time publicly, to Thoreau, of all people. If he was going to express his love, it would be to her.
“Are you sure she’s not just trying to goad you? Trying to make you emotional, so you’re not thinking clearly?” Landon asked.
“I’m sure that’s part of it, but she’s already attacked Kayden and left me several blatantly clear messages.”
Landon arched a brow.
Jake explained the rock left on his truck and the cypress flowers left in Kayden’s room. The same flowers had been left on Becca’s body. “They symbolize death.”
Angela watched from her vantage point with a smile and set her binoculars down. So, he’d found her little presents and the groundwork for her masterpiece.
. The game was in full swing.
Jake studied the wall display, following Angela’s tracking, her thought process frighteningly displayed for them, while Landon ran a full crime-scene analysis of the house. It would take the rest of the day but hopefully would produce something of help in catching her.
Landon looked up from lifting fingerprints off the iPod. Thankfully Thoreau had been smart enough to put on gloves before turning it off. “What do you think her next move is?”
Jake pointed to the picture of him and Kayden dancing, the bull’s-eye on them. “To pick up where her husband left off. To hurt me by hurting the people I love. But I won’t let that happen. I’ll stop her—one way or another.”
Jake rapped on the fire chief’s door. Strange that Angela would choose a property right next door to someone with close connections to the police. Maybe she hadn’t known, or maybe she’d hoped Ralph was a talker—which both he and his wife, Mabel, were—and she could get some juicy information out of him.
Ralph answered the door. Mabel stood in the hall not five feet behind him.
“Ask him what’s going on,” Mabel said.
“Shh, Mabel. He’ll get around to it.”
Mabel crossed her arms over her chest with a huff.
“I assume you noticed the activity next door. I need to ask you some questions about the woman who rents there.”
“Carol? Sure. Nice lady.”
So she had them all fooled. But he knew the depth of her evil, prayed he’d already seen the worst of it. “What can you tell me about her?”
Mabel pushed past her husband, propping open the screen door. “She is an absolute doll.”
who had nearly killed Kayden.
He would eventually explain the truth of who Carol was to Ralph and Mabel, but he wanted to get their unbiased impression of her first.
“When did she move in?”
“Oh, I’d say at least five months back,” Ralph said, rubbing his chin.
“Yes. Arrived in Yancey just after New Year’s,” Mabel added.
. She’d been spying on him and the McKennas that long?
“Did she say where she moved from?”
“Anchorage,” Mabel answered before Ralph could.
“Did you ever see her with anybody? Did she have any repeat visitors?”
Mabel twirled a strand of hair around her finger. “Can’t say that I ever noticed anyone.”
And Mabel, being the busybody she was, would have noticed.
“What about you, Ralph?”
“No. Can’t say that I did. Wait. I did see Kirra Jacobs over there once. She didn’t stay long. Looked like she was dropping something off or picking something up.”
“Carol volunteered over at Kirra’s shelter,” Mabel said.
“Yes. I’m aware.” Angela had used the shelter as a way to get closer to Kayden.
“What else can you tell me?”
“What else do you want to know?” Ralph asked.
Mabel’s eyes narrowed. “Why the interest in Carol?”
Jake exhaled. Time to explain.
Ralph was clearly shocked. and Mabel seemed as if she half didn’t believe Jake, like it was all some sort of mix-up. Carol was too kind to be a killer’s wife.
Jake knew better. He knew the cold heart that beat inside Angela Markum, and there was nothing kind about it.
“Ma’am, you can’t go in there,” Deputy Earl Hansen said outside Kayden’s hospital room.
Reef stood, moving for the door. He needed to protect his sister at all costs. Had Carol been foolish enough to return? Reef shook his head.
. Carol Jones was Angela Markum. How bizarre. And he’d thought this trip home would be a calm one.
“I’d feel a whole lot better with my rifle,” Kayden said, propping herself up straighter in bed.
Taking a deep breath, Reef opened the door to find Kirra arguing with Earl.
Of course she’d barge in demanding answers.
He half considered letting Earl haul her away.
“Reef, tell him it’s okay for me to come in.”
Earl looked to him.
“Reef!” She huffed at his hesitation.
“She’s fine,” he finally said.
Earl narrowed his eyes. “You sure?”
Reef nodded, and Earl stepped aside, letting Kirra pass.
“Thanks,” she said, pushing past him into Kayden’s room.
“You’re welcome.” Could she be more abrasive?
“Kirra,” Kayden said with a smile, clearly anticipating what was about to go down.
Kirra whirled around on Reef, hands firmly planted on her hips. “Explain yourself?”
“Still bossy, I see.”
“I think I deserve an answer.”
Of course she thought she was deserving. Always had.
“You call me out of the blue and tell me one of my volunteers is in trouble and wanted by the law, and you think you can just leave it at that. No way! I want an explanation. What do you think Carol did?”
“First of all, her name isn’t Carol Jones. It’s Angela Markum.”
Kirra frowned. “What?”
Reef looked over at his sister, dark splotches under her eyes, and then back to Kirra. “Let’s take this outside.” His sister needed her rest.
Kirra looked at Kayden and nodded at Reef. “Fine.”
They stepped from the room.
“All right. Time to explain.”
“Why do you think I owe you anything? Maybe it’s none of your business.” Okay, he was being rude, but she had a way of getting under his skin.
“None of my business? Carol volunteered at my shelter for months, was a trusted volunteer, and now you’re claiming she’s someone else? Trust me, if someone’s not who they appear to be, it is so my business.”
Nothing had changed. Kirra still assumed everyone else’s business was her own. Just like in grade school, when she’d caught him and his buddies playing an innocent prank and she busted them to their teacher. He’d spent more hours in time-out and detention because of Kirra Jacobs. The woman may be beautiful but she was still Killjoy Kirra.
Relief and worry wrestled inside Jake as Gage helped Kayden, or attempted to help Kayden, back into her house. Doc Graham had given her the all clear, but Jake feared it was too soon. He preferred she stay in the hospital with a deputy posted at her door. At home, out in the open, he feared what Angela had planned.
She swatted at her brother as they crossed the front porch. “I got it.”
Gage lifted his hands. “Suit yourself.”
She hobbled on her crutch. With her right leg broken and casted and her left shoulder swollen from the fall, it made an awkward combination for moving, but Kayden, as always, insisted on doing everything herself, despite the pain. All Jake wanted to do was jump up and help her, but he resisted the urge, knowing she’d only shoo him away.
A wonderful aroma greeted them as they stepped inside. Piper and Gage had spent the day making a delicious meal for Kayden’s homecoming.
Fettuccine Alfredo with shrimp, along with lemon-steamed broccoli, homemade seven-grain bread, and organic cobbler for dessert—it was made with sugar in the raw and steel-cut oats, all the healthy things Kayden loved and the rest of them tolerated, but tonight was for her. If Jake had his way, the rest of his life would be for her. Now Angela was threatening any fledgling hope he had of him and Kayden one day building a life together.
He hadn’t realized how much hope he’d actually had of it really being a possibility, of it really happening, until Angela threatened it.
“I still can’t believe Carol was a total fake,” Kirra said, settling in Piper and Kayden’s family room after the meal. “How could I not see that?”
“You had no reason to doubt what she claimed,” Gage said. “Stop beating yourself up.”
She sighed. “It’s just that, since everyone who works at the kennel is a volunteer, there’s no reason to fill out employment records or tax forms. I’ve never even asked to see an ID. I guess that’s pretty naïve.”
Reef shifted in his seat. “I’d say.”
Piper gave her brother a stern look before turning to Kirra. “No it’s not. We live in a small, close-knit community. It’s only natural to be trusting.”
Kirra swallowed, painful memories nipping at her. “It’s never wise to be too trusting.”
Reef arched a brow.
“Is there anything you can think of, anything Angela said or did that seemed odd to you?” Jake asked.
She started to say no, but then . . . “Well, there was this one time she said something about having to ship her good face cream all the way across the country, that she couldn’t find good stuff way out here.”
“So she said she was from Anchorage. That’s hardly across the country.”
“What else?” Jake asked.
“That was it.” Kirra shrugged.
“No. I mean what other conversations did you two have?” Jake scooted forward.
“Mostly basic stuff. The weather, the dogs . . . Kayden.”
His eyes widened. “You two discussed Kayden?”
Kayden frowned. “What about me?”
“Well, she asked about all of you at one point or another, but I guess she just showed more interest in you. Not weird, at least it didn’t seem so at the time. Just casual conversation.”
“Like what?” Jake pressed.
“I’m trying to remember. We’ve talked a lot over the past few months.”
“Take your time,” Jake said. “Anything you can think of. You never know what might be helpful.”
“I guess she seemed interested in how Kayden spent her time when she wasn’t at the shelter.”
“And what did you tell her?” Kayden asked.
“That you enjoyed rock climbing and spending time with your family. I’m sorry. I was just making conversation.”
“Don’t worry about it. I told her as much myself,” Kayden said.
Angela had worked at the shelter for months, interacting with her and Kayden on a daily basis. Kirra shuddered to think how much Angela had learned about the McKennas during that time. It was staggering.