Authors: Iris Johansen
Eve tensed. Her phone, not the cottage phone. It could be her mother. It could be Logan again. It didn't have to be that monster.
Joe picked up her phone, which she'd laid on the coffee table after she'd talked to Logan. “Do you want me to answer?”
She shook her head. “Give it to me.” She punched the button. “Hello.”
“Bonnie's waiting for you to come and get her.”
Her hand tightened on the phone. “Bullshit.”
“After all these years of searching for her, you've come so close. It's a pity you're going to fail now. Have you finished with the boy's skull yet?”
“How do you know I'm doing—”
“Oh, I'm keeping close watch over you. After all, I do have a vested interest. Haven't you sensed me standing behind you, looking over your shoulder as you work on the skull?”
“You should. You will. Which boy is it?”
“Why should I tell you?”
“It doesn't really matter. I only vaguely remember them. They were just two of those frightened little birds. Not like your Bonnie. She was never—”
“You bastard. You probably don't have the guts to kill anyone. You creep around, making anonymous phone calls, threatening and trying to—”
“Anonymous? Is that annoying you? You can call me Dom if you like. But what's in a name? A rose by any other name would smell as—”
“The only thing that annoys me is that you think you can terrify me with these pitiful tricks.”
“And now you're trying to annoy me.” He laughed in delight. “And I believe you're succeeding. How refreshing. It only proves how right I was to choose you.”
“Did you harass those other poor people at Talladega before you killed them?”
“No, that would have been reckless, and I wasn't at that point yet.”
“But you are now?”
“I'm at the point where I'm willing to take a few chances to make life interesting. It was bound to happen sometime.”
“Because I need something to cleanse me. The moment I saw your photograph in the paper I knew you were the one. I looked at your face and I could see all the emotion and torment that's building inside you. It's only a question of making that emotion soar until it breaks through.” He paused. “Can you imagine what an explosion that will be for both of us?”
“Quite possibly. By your standards. Science has made such a study of the mind of the murderer. The causes, the early signs, the way we justify killing.”
“How do you justify it?”
“I don't. Pleasure is justification enough. I recently heard that recreational homicide went up twenty-five percent in the last ten years. I started long before that. It seems that society is finally catching up to me, doesn't it? Maybe you're all going mad too, Eve.”
“Then why let me go on killing? Have you ever considered that perhaps we've never really lost our cave instincts? The bloodlust, the search for power through that final act of violence. Perhaps in your heart of hearts you all wish you could be like me. Haven't you ever wanted to hunt, to prey?”
“You will. Ask Quinn how it feels. He's a hunter. He has the instinct. Ask him if his heart beats faster when he nears the kill.”
“Joe's not like you. No one is like you.”
“Thank you. I regard that as a compliment. I believe it's time to hang up now. I just wanted to touch base with you. It's important that we get to know each other. You're not one to fear the unknown.”
“I'm not afraid of you.”
“You will be. But it's clear I'll have to work at it a little harder. No problem. I wouldn't have it any other way.” He paused. “Bonnie misses you. You should really be together.” He hung up.
Pain tore through her. Damn him. He'd had to throw that last jab. She pressed the off button and looked at Joe. “He just wanted to touch base with me. The bastard wants me to be afraid of him.”
“Then pretend to be afraid. Don't challenge him.”
Joe smiled faintly. “I thought I'd try. Did you find out anything we can use?”
“He said his name is Dom. He's been killing for more than ten years and does it purely for pleasure. He's analytical about himself and the world in general. He's as smart as we thought he was.” She turned back to the pedestal. “Will you write all that down and call it in to Spiro? I have to get back to work.”
“It wouldn't hurt for you to take a break.”
“Yes, it would,” she said fiercely. “I won't let that bastard disturb my concentration. He wants to control me, and I'll be damned if I let him. I won't give him anything he wants.”
She stood before the skull. Her hands were shaking a little. Steady them. It was time for the final stage. Nothing must interfere with the sculpting. She had to be cool and detached.
Haven't you sensed me standing behind you, looking over your shoulder as you work on the skull?
She restrained the impulse to turn her head. No one was staring at her back or over her shoulder. No one was behind her but Joe.
If she let Dom influence her by sparking her imagination, then it would be a victory for him. Close him out. Think of the little boy, not of the monster who had killed him.
Bring him home.
With slow, certain strokes she began to mold the child's face.
SHE WAS STRONGER
than Dom had thought.
A surge of excitement tingled through him. She was going to stretch him, make him work for every ounce of emotion he drew from her.
It was no real surprise. He had been prepared for it. He welcomed it. It would force him to dig deep to find a way to jar her.
He already had an idea how to do it.
He started the car, backed out of the convenience store parking lot, and headed back to Atlanta.
C H A P T E R
Finished except for the eyes.
She reached for her eye case on the worktable.
Brown was the most prevalent eye color, and she almost always used brown eyes when reconstructing. She placed the glass eyeballs in the sockets and stepped back.
Is it you, John Devon? Did I do a good enough job to bring you home?
“Do you want the photo now?” Joe asked quietly.
She'd been vaguely aware that he'd been sitting on the couch all through the night, waiting. “Yes.”
He stood up and opened the large envelope on the coffee table. He discarded one photo and carried the other to her. “I think this is the one you want.”
She stared at the photo without touching it. He was wrong, she didn't want it.
Take it. Bring him home.
She reached out and took the photo. She should have put in blue eyes, she realized dully. Everything else was a match. “It's him. It's John Devon.”
“Yes.” He took the photo and tossed it on the workbench. “I'll call Spiro right after I get you to bed.”
“I'll call him.”
“Shut up.” He was pulling her across the room and down the hall. “I said I'd do it. You've done your part.”
Yes, she'd done her part. John Devon had been found and that meant—
“Stop thinking,” Joe said roughly as he pushed her down on the bed. “I knew it would start eating at you the minute you finished. But, dammit, you've got to rest now.” He disappeared into the bathroom and came back with a damp washcloth. He sat down beside her and began wiping the clay from her hands.
“I should take a shower.”
“When you wake up.” He tossed the washcloth on the nightstand, made her lie down, and covered her with a quilt.
“I was afraid it was going to be him,” she whispered. “Half of me wanted it to be John Devon, but I was afraid too.”
“I know.” He turned out the bathroom light, sat down beside her, and took both her hands in his. “But you wouldn't give up, would you?”
“I couldn't. You know I couldn't.”
The slight tightening of his grasp was his only answer.
“Since it was John Devon, that means that monster might have been telling the truth. Fraser might not have killed Bonnie.”
“He could still have been the one who killed her. Because Dom killed one of the children Fraser confessed to murdering doesn't mean he killed all of them.”
“But the chances are better now that Dom killed her.”
“I don't know, Eve,” he said wearily. “I just don't know.”
“And he might still have her. That little girl could be my Bonnie. It wasn't enough that he killed her; he's keeping her like some kind of trophy.”
“He's keeping her as bait.”
“I hate the idea of that monster with her. I hate it.”
“Shh. Don't think about it.”
“And how am I supposed to stop?”
“Hell, how do I know? Just do it.” He paused. “This is what he wants from you. Control. Wouldn't he love the idea of you lying here suffering because of something he'd done? Go to sleep and cheat the son of a bitch.”
He was right, she was doing exactly what Dom wanted her to do. “I'm sorry. I didn't mean to fall apart. I must be tired.”
“Now, I wonder why?”
“I'm confused. It's difficult not to—I wanted to bring her home but not like—”
“Face it after you've slept for a while.”
“You have to call Spiro.”
“It will wait. I'll stay here until you go to sleep.”
“You haven't slept either.”
“How do you know? I doubt you were aware I was on the planet while you were working on that boy.”
“That's not true.”
“I always know you're there. It's like—” It was hard to explain. “It's like having an old oak tree in your garden. Even if you don't pay attention to it, you never really forget it's there.”
“I believe I've been insulted. A tree? Are you trying to call me a knothead?”
No, if he was like a tree, it was because he gave shelter and strength and endurance. “Smart man. I should have known I couldn't fool you.”
“And I'm not
“Old enough.” She was smiling, she realized. A moment before she had been in pain, but she felt better now. Joe always made it better. “I'm okay. You don't have to stay with me.”
“I'll stick around. You've got to be hysterical if you're calling me an oak tree. The only way you'll get rid of me is by going to sleep.”
She was already getting drowsy. It was safe to let everything go for now. Joe was there, holding back the darkness. “This reminds me of when we were on Cumberland Island after Fraser was executed. Remember? You held my hands like this and made me talk and talk. . . .”
“Now I'm trying to shut you up. Go to sleep.”
She was silent a moment. “He's beginning to scare me, Joe.”
“There's nothing to be scared about. I won't let anything happen to you.”
“I didn't think I'd be afraid. I was only angry at first, but he's smart, and killing me isn't his main priority. He has to make me feel . . . he has to hurt me. He needs it.”
A sudden thought exploded through her. “Mom.”
“She's under guard. I made sure he can't touch her.”
Relief surged through her. “You did?”
“It was the logical move. Not bad for a knothead.”
“Not too bad.” If Mom was safe, a prime weapon was taken away from Dom. He couldn't hurt Eve through someone she loved.
The hell he couldn't. He still had Bonnie.
But Bonnie was dead. Eve might be sick with horror at the thought of him having Bonnie, but he could no longer hurt her daughter. Eve was the only one who could be hurt, and she would hide that hurt from him.
“It's okay. I told you, your mom's safe,” Joe said. “There's no reason to be uneasy.”
She was uneasy. Trust Joe to sense it. Not about her mother. If Joe said she was safe, she was safe. She was just . . .
Forget about it. Go to sleep and when she woke they would find a way to catch the bastard and bring Bonnie home. He wasn't invincible. He had made a mistake when he contacted Eve. There wasn't any way he could really hurt her.
She had no reason to be uneasy.
HER NAME WAS
Jane MacGuire and she was ten years old.
Dom had seen her a few days before when he was cruising the public housing developments on the south side. He had first been attracted by her red hair and then by her air of independence and defiance. She walked down the street as if daring the world to get in her way. No docile little bird here.
Too defiant to appeal to Eve Duncan? Her own daughter had been completely different. But then, Bonnie Duncan had not been brought up in four foster homes like Jane MacGuire. She'd had no need to learn to be streetwise.
He cruised slowly behind the kid. She was going somewhere. She had a purpose.
She suddenly darted into an alley. Should he go after her and risk having her see him? The danger wasn't that great. As usual when he was on the hunt, he'd taken the precaution of a disguise.
He parked the car and got out. She was too good a prospect. He had to make sure.
SON OF A
bitch. The creep was following her again.
Well, let him, Jane thought crossly. He was just another dirty old man like the ones who hung out at the school yard and drove away fast if Jane screamed for the teacher. She knew this alley and could run faster than him if she needed to get away. She had noticed him following her yesterday and kept to the public streets.
She couldn't do that today.
“I'm here, Jane.”
She saw Mike crouched inside a big cardboard box against the brick wall. He looked cold. He'd probably slept in the box last night. He usually did when his father came home. Bad luck the bastard had decided to wander back in January, when it was so cold.
She reached into a jacket pocket and handed him the sandwich she'd stolen from Fay's refrigerator that morning. “Breakfast. It's pretty stale. I couldn't get anything else.”
She watched him gobble down the food, then shot a glance behind her.
The creep had ducked into the shadows of a garbage dump. Good place for him.
“Come on. Time to go to school,” she told Mike.
“I ain't going.”
“Sure you are. You want to grow up stupid like your father?”
“I ain't going.”
She played her trump card. “It's warm there.”
Mike thought about it and then got to his feet. “Maybe I'll go just today.”
She'd thought he would. The cold and an empty belly were enemies. She'd spent a lot of nights in alleys herself when she'd been staying with the Carbonis. That was the foster home before Fay's and it was there she'd learned that if she caused enough trouble, not even the welfare money would make foster parents keep her. Welfare was always ready to give them another kid if one didn't work out.
Fay was much better. She was always tired and often crabby, but sometimes Jane thought she might grow to like her . . . if she stayed long enough.
She glanced back at the creep. Still hiding behind the dump. “I think maybe you should find another place to sleep tonight. There's a place near the Union Mission. I'll show you.”
“Okay. You goin' to school now?” Mike asked. “Maybe I could walk along with you.”
He was lonely. He was only six and hadn't learned how to ignore the emptiness yet. “Sure. Why not?”
She smiled at him.
sure until he'd seen her smile.
The smile was warm and sweet. All the more appealing because of the kid's usual air of wariness and toughness. Without that streak of softness he wouldn't have been sure. But now he was convinced.
Little Jane MacGuire was perfect.
RE SURE HE
the Devon boy?” Spiro asked when Joe opened the door later that afternoon.
“It's close enough.” Joe gestured to the pedestal. “The picture's on the worktable. See for yourself.”
“I'll do that.” He crossed the room. “Where's Ms. Duncan?”
“Wake her up. I need to talk to her.”
“Screw you. She's exhausted. Talk to me.”
“I have to—” He gave a low whistle as he compared the reconstruction with the photo. “Damn, she's good.”
He tossed the photo back on the worktable. “I almost wish it wasn't him. You realize what this means?”
“Yes, and so does Eve.”
“I'm going to have to use her, Quinn.”
“No one uses Eve.”
“Unless she wants to be used,” Eve said from the doorway. She came toward them. She'd obviously just gotten out of bed; her hair was tousled, her clothing rumpled. “And the fact that he's John Devon doesn't make that much difference to you, Spiro. You would have tried to use me anyway.”
Spiro glanced back at the skull. “He could be telling the truth about Fraser taking credit for his kills.”
“Some of his kills,” Joe corrected Spiro. “All we have are the two boys.”
“Aren't they enough?” Spiro turned to Eve. “Are you going to help me?”
“No, I'm going to help me. You and Joe keep my mom safe and I'll let you use me as bait.”
“The hell you will,” Joe said.
She ignored him and asked Spiro, “He's been watching me, hasn't he?”
“Quinn told you?”
“No, but Dom knew about our trip to Talladega.” She glanced at Joe. “What else?”
“Someone's been keeping an eye on the cottage. I had Spiro send a forensic team yesterday to go through the bushes where he'd been standing, watching.”
“Thanks for telling me.”
“I'm telling you now. You were a little busy before.” He smiled. “I don't think he'll be back with Charlie and those other guards patrolling outside and me inside.”
“Don't be too sure. He's bored or he wouldn't have taken so many chances.”
His smile faded. “You think he's that unbalanced?”
“I believe he's desperate for some reason. But I don't think he'll try to kill me yet. Not until he gets what he wants.”
“And when he does, we'll be here,” Spiro said.
“Will you?” she said wearily. “Why would he attack if he knows there's a chance he'll be caught? If he's as smart as you believe, he'd find a way to get to me and elude you. Did your team find any evidence in the stuff they collected yesterday?”
“We're still sifting through—” Spiro shook his head. “We don't think so.”
She shrugged. “I rest my case.”
“And what do you suggest?”
“That we go after him, not wait for him to come after me.”
“It's much safer for you to—”
A knock on the door.
Charlie smiled apologetically. “Sorry to bother you, but I wondered if my call had come through. It's taken a lot longer than I thought it would.”
“No call,” Joe said.
“Why not ask me?” Spiro said dryly. “Did it occur to you that as your superior, I'm the one they would contact?”
Charlie eyed him warily. “Did they?”
“Last night. They're faxing the full report to me at Talladega. They were surprised I knew nothing about your request that they call you directly.”
Charlie grimaced. “Sorry. I guess I was being a hot dog.”
“Well, eagerness is better than apathy.”
“Did they find any cases that matched?” Joe asked.
“Two possibles. Two skeletons were found three months ago in San Luz, a suburb of Phoenix. No teeth. Wax sediment in the right hands.”
“Children?” Eve asked.
Spiro shook his head. “Adults. One man. One woman.”
“Arizona,” Joe repeated. “That's a long way.”
“Who says Dom is a local boy?” Spiro said.
“He was here ten years ago,” Eve said. “He's here now.”
“It's a mobile society, and organized serial killers are known to be particularly mobile.” Spiro turned toward the door. “At any rate, I'll send a man to Phoenix to see if he can find out anything more from the local PD. We'll probably have to organize an interstate task force now.”