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Authors: Carolyn Arnold

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BOOK: Silent Graves
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Detective Hanes passed a glance to the officer and then took a step forward. “That’s thirty-two women including Rogers and this latest one.”

“I said it back at the station, but her name is Sydney Poole. I’ll get you some help. Her name is Nadia Webber.” Jack extended a business card and told him the extension to reach her desk. “Give me fifteen minutes to let her know you’re going to be calling.”

“That won’t be necessary.”

We all turned to the officer.

He tucked a strand of hair behind an ear. “I have everything you’ll need to know on the thirty missing women from the last six years.”

“All thirty?” Jack’s brows rose.

“Yes.”

The team shared looks. Jack responded to him. “All right then.”

“I know from your faces what you’re thinking.”

“You can tell our thoughts from our faces? Wow, you’re better than us.” Jack stamped the butt of his cigarette on the ground.

“Well, what I believe you’re thinking. I knew something was going on with these missing women years ago. I’ve told you that.” He turned to the detective again, as if for backup. “I have all the information you’ve asked Detective Hanes for, maybe more. I’ll even get you everything on the latest two.”

“Hmm.”

The officer’s cheeks flushed. He must have experienced what I did on the end of Jack’s famous,
hmm.

“I would like to be a detective someday, Agent, maybe even work at the FBI.”

Jack studied his face. “You help Hanes get the board together.” He gestured to the card. “If you find out your information isn’t as complete as you think it is, call Nadia.”

He shoved the heel of his palms to his ears hoping to mute the voice. Maybe it would stop calling out to him, telling him it disapproved, directing his next step, but it didn’t matter. It summoned him even through ear plugs. He had tried. He attempted to drink himself unconscious—it got louder. He feared the results of mind-altering drugs such as cocaine, assuming the voice would take on an even more dominant presence. Doctors had tried to remedy him, but the voice was persistent—it prevailed and came out stronger.

She squirmed beneath him. He dropped his arms and rested his hands, one on each of her thighs.

“Please…off…why?”

He had let her ride the last dosage almost to its completion. The fact that her words were making it through told him her strength would also be coming back, and he couldn’t have that. He brushed a hand down the side of her face. She turned away.

Make her look at you.

He cupped her chin and forced her to face him. When she did, the fighting spirit had left her eyes. It was replaced by tears.

She doesn’t respect you. Make her.

His heart pounded.

Make her!

The image of another man pulling into her driveway and kissing her in the front window had been imprinted on his brain. His hands formed fists at his side.

“I thought you loved me.”

She didn’t move. She didn’t even appear to blink.

Make her respect you!

“How? To do that?” His eyes searched the room for the source of the voice—the one he started to believe was lodged in his mind.

She tensed up beneath him.

He got off the bed and slapped his hands against his thighs.

Tappity, tap. Tappity, tap.

She ain’t ever going to respect you.

The taunt was followed by laughter.

Even the voice ridiculed him and knew he didn’t deserve a woman’s love—if a whore were even capable of dispensing unconditional and loyal love. They gave what wasn’t theirs to everyone, flaunting it.

She said his name. Her weak voice still made it through to his ears. Anger pulsed in his core. No one had called out to him by name—not after he had brought them here. Did she think she could appeal to his soft side? First one had to exist.

Make her respect you! Be a man!

He spun on his heels and headed to the cabinet in the corner. He loaded a syringe and came at her. “You are a fucking slut, and, for this, you will pay.”

Her eyes enlarged as he pierced her skin and filled her veins with the serum.

 

 

 

Chapter 14

 

Paige pointed out Victor Harris’s house, and Zach parked the SUV at the side of the road in front. Cars lined the driveway, two wide and three deep. A speedboat occupied one spot.

“It costs a lot of money to have a boat like this. It probably cost forty-five thousand, or more, to buy, and that’s not even getting into the matter of fuel to use it.” Zach touched it as they walked past.

“Maybe that’s why it’s in the drive and not at the marina.”

“Could be.” He moved around it. He pointed to silver lettering announcing the boat as Lady Speed. “Well, that’s original.”

Paige laughed, but it was stifled when the front door opened.

“Can I help you?” A black man of about thirty stood there. He matched the DMV photo they had of Nina’s husband.

Victor had a high brow line, a wide, flat nose, and a day’s worth of stubble on his face. Paige would consider him attractive if it wasn’t for the pain that had etched into his features. It had taken the genetic predisposition of a handsome man and tinged it with madness. The loss of his wife under such violent circumstances had stamped darkness into his eyes and the energy he exuded.

Zach held up his credentials. “We’re agents Miles and Dawson of the FBI.”

“The FBI.” His tone of voice made the inquiry a statement of fact. He walked down the front steps toward them. “Now you show up.”

“Is there somewhere we can talk?”

 “We are talking.” Victor blinked, his eyes misting with tears. “There’s nothing left to say though, is there Agent? My wife is dead. You didn’t save her. The police never saved her.”

“We’re sorry for your—”

He turned to Paige. “Save your speech. There would be no need for apologies if everyone had done their jobs.”

Paige stepped forward. “The only man responsible for your wife’s death is the one who murdered her.”

Victor let out a puff of air and his eyes read,
go ahead and shift the blame around
.

“We’re here because we want to find this person and hold him responsible for what he’s done, for the pain he has caused.”

Rage veiled over his eyes, and he pressed a flattened palm over his heart. “It’s not my pain I worry about. It was Nina’s. What did she go through up until—” His hand snapped up from his heart and covered his mouth.

“We can find who did this to her, and you can help.” Paige put a hand on Victor’s shoulder. When she made contact, he seemed to shrink under her touch, almost as if melting beneath it. The man was undergoing extreme grief.

He pressed his fingertips to his eyelids, and then glimpsed heavenward. “I’m not sure how. Everyone loved her. She had a way about her, you know. She was confident and full of life. Women loved her. Men loved her. I wished they didn’t so much, but I knew what I was getting into when I married her,” his chest heaved, “but she loved me.” His eyes connected with Paige’s. “What more could a guy like me ask for? What more could any guy ask for?”

With the intensity in Victor’s eyes, and the declaration of love for his wife, she believed him. The emotion even tapped a place deep inside of her she thought had died a long time ago—the need for a committed relationship. The excuse she chose as her primary arsenal, that she was too busy for a love affair, vanished when she tried to conjure it for validity. She hadn’t found the right person. She thought of Brandon and amended her thought—the right
available
person who shared her feelings. Paige removed her hand from Victor’s shoulder.

A shadow graced the front doorway, and a woman, appearing to be in her fifties, stepped outside. She eyed Paige and Zach. “Victor, baby, are you okay?”

Paige saw the similarities. The woman was his mother.

Victor turned around. “I’m fine. Go back inside. I’ll be right in.”

She bounded down the stairs toward him and squeezed him.

“I mean it, Mom, I’m fine.”

“Okay.” She directed a fierce glare at Paige and Zach. “You find the bastard who did this to her.”

Paige nodded. “We’ll do our best.”

With the woman back inside, Victor led them to the backyard and a patio set. Paige sensed eyes watching them, but, when she turned to the opened windows, no one was there.

“The day Nina went missing,” Paige began.

Victor put his hands on the table. “Tuesday I had to get to work. I was running late. I’m always running behind, but the boss doesn’t seem to mind.”

“You said your good-byes in the morning, and then went to work? Do you know what Nina’s schedule was for that day?”

“We didn’t even say good-bye that morning.” His eyes took in the yard. “We fought a lot, but I never would have hurt her. I never would have done anything like this. Neighbors had called the police on us a few times. Nina and I are, were, both animated people. When we saw things differently, well, the place wasn’t any library, but I would never raise a hand to her. Ever.” He paused, as if assessing whether they believed him. “The cops asked if it were possible that she was sleeping around on me and had simply taken off with her lover. I guess it’s obvious that’s not the case now.”

“You said women and men loved Nina. Any man in particular?”

“You mean who gave me the creeps? No.”

“We were noticing what a nice boat you have,” Zach said. “It must have taken a year’s wage to get it.”

Victor rolled his eyes. “Surprised you don’t know this, but Nina won a local lottery. She wanted the boat. I couldn’t care less about it. That was one of our heated arguments. Between taxes and that damned boat, there went the money. That’s why it’s in the driveway now. No sense paying the docking fees at the marina. If you’re interested, I’ll give you a deal.”

“Would Nina have any reason to be out near the area where she was found?”

“Nope. I’ve been racking my brain on that.”

“Run us through her schedule for that day.”

He ran a hand across his brow. “We had been fighting. If she told me, I wasn’t listening.”

“Did she have any regular appointments she kept—the spa, the hairdresser, a gym?”

“She worked out all the time. I tried to get her to concede with a home gym, but she said she liked getting out. She liked the attention she got.” The implication of his words must have hit home. Tears pooled in his eyes. “Maybe she was cheating on me. I guess I wouldn’t know.”

“We’re going to need the name of that gym.”

“Last I knew she was going to Fitness Guru.”

Back in the car, Paige and Zach discussed what they had learned from Victor.

“He’s in denial about her cheating on him,” Paige said.

We tried reaching Brad Keyes at Fitness Guru, the gym he managed, but were directed to his house. He answered the door with a cell phone held to one ear. “You’re going to have to figure it out. I’ll be in as soon as I can. Listen, I’ve got to go.” He disconnected his call. “What can I do for you?”

“We’re here about your wife, Leslie Keyes.” Jack fished out his creds, and Brad led us into his house.

“It’s not a good time right now.”

“It’s not a good time? This is about your missing wife.” Jack’s face took on hard lines. I knew the expression all too well.

“She went missing six years ago. I’ve had to move—”

“Daddy! Daddy!” The words came from the sugar-coated lips of a boy of about six or seven.

“Come here. Let me wipe your face.” Brad hunched down to rub a thumb across the boy’s small mouth, wiping away what appeared to be white sugar powder from doughnuts. “This is Tristan. Say hi to our guests.”

“Hi.” His voice was low, and he rocked his torso, his eyes cast downward.

Brad rested a hand on top of the kid’s head. “He’s shy around strangers, and, as you can see, I’ve got my hands full today. Work’s falling apart without me, and hunting down a babysitter at the last minute like this is almost impossible. He’d be in school if it weren’t for the fact he isn’t feeling well. As you can see, that seems to have passed.”

“We won’t be long,” I said.

Brad bent down to Tristan’s level. “Why don’t you go play in your room? I’ll join you soon.”

“’Kay.” He waved a pudgy hand at us. “Bye.”

“Bye Tristan.” I smiled at the kid, and I sensed Jack picked up on my soft spot. Actually, if things had worked out differently with Deb, I could have had a kid about Tristan’s age.

When the kid’s steps reached the upstairs landing, Brad said, “I’ve just given up on her ever coming home. For years, I held out hope she’d walk back in that door. She never did. I told myself I’d get a phone call, and she’d confess she ran off with someone but missed Tristan.”

“He was yours and Leslie’s?” I asked.

Brad nodded. “He was a baby when she disappeared. Maybe she just couldn’t handle being a mother. I’ve been through it so many times, to the point of exhaustion. The same questions, the similar scenarios rolling around, until I realized I can’t live like that.” He gestured to a sitting area off to the right of the entryway. “I had Tristan to care for. It wasn’t just me. If it were, I probably would have let myself fall apart.”

“When you filed the report, you were asked if she cheated on you. Your answer was, ‘Les would never do that to me,’” Jack said, quoting the last part verbatim from the report.

“She wouldn’t. At least, I never thought she—” Brad’s cell phone rang. He held a finger up to us and then answered. “Hello…yes, I’ll be there. It will be fine…good-bye.” He shook his head and stood. “Listen, I don’t know what I can do to help with this. I have to move on with my life. Tristan has to move on with his too.”

Jack studied Brad’s facial expression, and I knew he was also taking in the man’s energy.

“Other women have gone missing,” Jack said.

“Here?” He pointed a finger downward. “In this town?”

“Thirty-two now, including Leslie, and taking in the surrounding areas.”

I noticed he didn’t include the first three known victims.

“Thirty-two?” Brad took a seat again.

“We believe the abductions accelerated after your wife.”

Seconds of silence passed.

“You believe they are all dead.” Brad’s eyes appeared moist. “Guess I always figured she was dead, but to really think about it…you think it started with my wife? Did you find her?”

I studied Jack’s profile, curious what he would disclose to this man and what he would hold back. At this point, Brad Keyes wasn’t a suspect, but no one rose above suspicion until cleared of it.

BOOK: Silent Graves
2.39Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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