Monica eased away from the papers. “May, do you happen to have any letters from Kyle? Maybe, I don’t know… even some of his old school work?” Highly likely, given the state of the house. May seemed to keep everything. And maybe they could get their hands on a sample of Kyle’s handwriting for comparison.
May blinked and rubbed her head. “What? Why’d you be wanting that?”
So I can see if he’s a killer. “It relates to an investigation we’re pursuing,” she told her.
“You investigatin’ Kyle?” Her head shook, back and forth. “No, no, he ain’t done nothin’!”
“Easy, May, it’s all right,” Luke said.
But she backed away, ramming her elbow into a stack of newspapers and sending them crashing to the floor. “M-my head… startin’ to hurt again. Need my medicine…” Her lips twisted and she muttered, “Be mine, Valentine.”
What? Monica cleared her throat.
“Um, where is your medicine, May?” Luke edged closer to her “Tell me and I can get it for you.”
“No! No! I don’t need you. I don’t—”
“All right.” He tossed her a light smile. Still so easy. “Was Kyle with Margaret when the fire started?” Luke asked.
The color bleached from May’s face. Fear flared in her light green eyes. “I want you to leave, you hear me? Leave. I’m a sick old woman. You shouldn’t be here, messin’ with me.”
“Sorry, May,” Luke said immediately, “we didn’t mean—”
“Leave!” She jumped to her feet, and her hands fisted.
Monica met Luke’s stare and inclined her head. “Thanks for your time.” Soft. “And if we could just get those old letters of Kyle’s…” Because she needed them.
May’s thin lips twisted. “No. I know my rights. You can’t take anything from me!”
Not without a warrant. But if that was the way they needed to play, so be it.
They headed for the door. Luke stopped and offered May his card. “Just in case you hear from Kyle, give me a call, would you?”
She snatched the card. “Won’t hear from him. Haven’t heard from him in a year, ungrateful little bastard.”
Right. A “little bastard” that the woman sure seemed to be protecting. “Thanks for your time,” he told her.
But Monica hesitated. Be mine, Valentine. Where had that come from? And why? May’s voice had softened, saddened when she said it. “When was the fire—I mean, what date?”
Monica managed to keep her eyes steady on May. “I’m sorry for your loss.”
“Leave.” A whisper now, holding the edge of desperation.
Monica knew they wouldn’t be getting any more help from May. She crossed the threshold, with Luke walking out into the night ahead of her.
May slammed the door shut behind her. Almost got her foot.
“Not a lot of Southern hospitality there,” Luke murmured.
No, and Monica sure would have liked to learn just what “medicine” May was taking.
“Think she’s telling us the truth?” He headed toward the car.
Monica glanced back at the closed door. “Probably not.” But her fear—that stark flash when she’d asked about Kyle and the fire—that had been real.
“Don’t go back to the motel, not yet.”
Luke had thought Monica slept beside him as he drove. The SUV had eaten up the interstate, leaving the cypress trees and the heavy moss behind.
She had lain back beside him and closed her eyes, leaving him. For sleep?
No, he should have realized her mind was still working. Always working.
“Did you hear me?” She stirred a bit, straightening. “Don’t go back to the motel yet. Take us to the Moffett crime scene.”
“What?” His gaze slipped toward her, just for a second, then back to the road. But he could still see her from the corner of his eye. She pulled at her seatbelt, then rubbed her forehead, the back of her hand pushing back that silky soft hair.
“It doesn’t make sense. I mean, the tree, I get. Saundra’s kill was personal; he wanted her to die seeing what she’d lost.” A quick sigh. “And the car wreck—it was the exact same place. He was forcing the vic to relive the worst night of her life.”
Monica had been working the case during the drive. He’d thought she was dead on her feet, and she’d been mulling over the case.
Monica’s nails drummed on the armrest. “That’s what he was doing—forcing them all into the past. With Saundra, with Patty, with Sally—he took them to a place from their pasts. And he made them fear.”
His hold on the wheel tightened. “Then why’d he bury Laura behind that house? How was that important to her?”
He steered off on the exit ramp, turning north and heading for the house of death.
“We missed something out there,” she said. “I know we did.”
“You really think we’re gonna be able to find anything tonight?” They should just go back in the morning, with plenty of light, and maybe she’d be able to do her voodoo and figure out what message that twisted creep was trying to send them.
No, not to them. The message was to the victims.
“This guy does everything for a reason. The people he picks, the way he kills them. The places he chooses—and when he kills,” Monica said. “I want to see the scene the way he saw it.”
She’d come to play his game. He watched the lights of the agents’ SUV cut through the darkness.
Back so soon.
She hadn’t even been in Gatlin a full twenty-four hours. Not time to learn any good secrets. Disappointing. He’d expected more from her. She was supposed to be the best.
But she’d hardly presented any challenge so far.
He pulled onto the road behind them and kept his lights off. They’d never know he was there, getting so close.
Tonight wasn’t a kill night, not for her—because he didn’t know yet what Monica Davenport feared. So many things could chill. So many things could wake her up in the night, screaming. But what was the one thing that scared her the most?
He had to know. He would know. It was his mission. Find out, break her.
They didn’t turn toward the motel. He tensed a bit at that. He’d expected them to go back. Maybe to screw. Because he’d seen the way the man, Dante, looked at her.