Secluded. No eyes to see.
A curse from Dante. “You thinking the killer called the cops?”
Her stare dropped to the ground. Studied the red dirt at the end of the worn road. Tire tracks. “I’m thinking what good is a kill if no one can appreciate it?”
Monica’s eyes narrowed as she said, “The way Patty was found, she was still… fresh. Bigger shock value. If she’d stayed here, decayed, police wouldn’t have known what happened to her without one thorough autopsy—” She broke off and glanced behind her.
The wind blew her hair, whispered in her ears. She motioned toward the house. “Let’s do a sweep.” Shouldn’t be much to see, but then again, she hadn’t really figured on finding that note before.
“I’ll go around back,” he said, “You take the front.”
Fine by her. So what if his voice was clipped, and he’d barely glanced her way all morning? They had a job to do. No time for screwing around.
No matter how good the screw.
Monica gave a nod and drew her gun. It never paid to be too careful.
Luke disappeared around the side of the house. She climbed the porch steps. They creaked and sagged beneath her feet.
Her cell phone vibrated, shaking against her hip. Shit, the freaking thing had made her jump. So much for Ms. Tough FBI agent. Sucking in a breath, she lifted it up to her ear. “Special Agent Davenport—”
“Another girl’s gone missing.”
She knew that slow drawling voice. Sheriff Davis.
“What?” Her fingers clenched around the phone. No, not this soon. Sweat slicked her palms.
“She didn’t come back home this morning… not answering her cell…” His voice faded in and out. “Her boss said she left after her shift… Need you and your partner at the station…”
Monica’s heart raced too fast.
“Her parents are here, got to tell ’em something—”
“We’ll be there, Sheriff, but I want to check—”
A crackle of static. Loud enough to have her wincing. She should be grateful to even get a connection out here, but—
“Where are you, Davenport?”
“Moffett crime scene. Dante and I want to see—”
“Where?” Followed by another scream of static. “I need you—”
Monica spun around, instinct driving her as her gaze dropped to the tracks. “When was the last time your men were out here?”
“Wednesday.” Static. “Come to the office… parents… missing…”
Her eyes rose. The tall pines around the house swayed back and forth. Oh, yeah, this connection would be dying soon. “Be there in thirty.” Monica wasn’t sure if he heard her.
She clipped the phone back in place on her hip. She always checked out the weather before one of Hyde’s trips. She liked to know what she was getting herself into before she hit the road or the skies.
Thunderstorms had ripped through the area Wednesday night. A tornado had even touched down right outside the county lines.
In the days since, this part of Mississippi had been nothing but hot and dry.
And that meant the tracks were fresh.
So who the hell had been out here?
She tensed at Luke’s call, then took off in the direction of his shout. Her legs pumped as she rounded the edge of the house. She jumped over a fallen pine, ducked her head to avoid a slap from a branch.
There. The early sunlight filtered through the treetops in a hazy glow. Luke stood near a line of pines, his hands on his hips.
“Dante, what’s going on? What’d you find?” The gun was up, her body on full alert.
He glanced back at her. “Something I think you should see.”
She hurried to his side. His finger pointed through the brush. “I caught sight of it when I was doing a perimeter check.”
Her eyes narrowed. Trees. More trees and—
Holy shit. Her breath caught.
A twig snapped beneath her foot when she stepped forward. Watch the scene. Don’t screw up any—
Luke’s hand pressed against her back. A warm, steady weight. Almost reassuring.
But she didn’t need reassuring. Didn’t need him.
“Looks like someone’s been digging, huh?”
She managed a weak nod. Right in the middle of the clearing, there was a patch of dirt—not a patch, about a six foot span—higher than the rest.
Fresh dirt. Someone had definitely been digging.
No, not digging, burying something.
“You thinkin’ what I am?”
Yes. She shoved her gun back into the holster. “We’ve got another girl missing.”
Dante looked back at the mound of dirt. “Not anymore, we don’t.”
The punch in her gut told her that he was right.
What scares you?
“We don’t know what is buried here,” she said and was surprised by how cool her voice sounded. How calm.
“One way to find out.”
She couldn’t take her eye off that mound. One hell of a way to die. Buried in the woods, shoved in the dirt.
Monica yanked out her phone. Quickly punched in the number she’d memorized that morning.
One ring. Two. Good thing she had a stronger signal this time.
Monica wet her lips. “Think I’m going to need you to come to me, Sheriff. We found… something out at the Moffett scene.” Something. A body.
She’d seen holes just like this before on her cases. Too many. She’d told Dante they didn’t know, but, she did.
“Fuck.” A snarl from Davis.
Yes, she felt the same way. She’d joined the FBI to stop the killers.
Not to keep finding the dead.
Would the scales never balance?
Her eyes closed as she said, “And, sheriff, when you come… you’d better bring some shovels with you.”
A half-dozen deputies were on the scene in less than ten minutes. Luke watched them running around like ants, hauling out yellow police tape and attaching it to the swaying pines.
Sheriff Davis stood in the middle of the chaos, a shovel gripped in his hands. He hadn’t started digging yet. He just stared at the ground, his jaw clenched, his face white. Every few seconds, he’d mutter the same thing. “Sonofabitch.”
Over and over again.
Luke rolled his shoulders and glanced back at Monica. Her eyes were narrowed and locked on the freshly turned earth. He walked to her side. “You know they’re screwing the evidence trail.” All those bodies. Trampling over everything.