They were walking. His arms were around her. Heavy and hard. She couldn’t speak. Couldn’t see. Was something wrong with her glasses? No, no, her glasses were gone, and everything seemed too blurry.
“Yeah, baby, I missed you, too…” His voice. Too loud. Why would he say that? What—
Her knees buckled. He lifted her. Put her—what? When had they gotten to the parking lot? Because she could feel a car seat under her legs. A door slammed.
She fumbled, trying to find the door handle. She needed to get out. Something was wrong. She was sick.
He hit her. Actually punched her in the face. “Stay with me, bitch.” And fear bloomed beneath the enveloping fog that had started to numb her mind and body.
She caught the flash of teeth. A big grin. “You’re gonna help me,” he said.
She tried to shake her head. Weapon… she needed to find—
“Poor little Sam.” An engine cranked. No, no, he was taking her away! And her eyes wouldn’t stay open.
“L-let… g-go…” was all she could manage. The words should have been a scream. But her whisper came out as a tangle of words.
He was whistling now. The tune was so clear and loud, echoing in her head.
Then, right before the darkness claimed her, she heard him say, “Tell me, agent, is there anything that scares you?”
“Davis, you can’t go on the air now!” Monica paced in front of the dead body, her hands clenched. “The serial is still out there! This guy,” she pointed toward the sheet. “He’s another victim.”
The ME’s lair was quickly filling up with victims. And Luke hated coming in there with the dead.
“Jeremy Jones has never been a victim a day in his life.” The sheriff’s foot tapped on the tile. “Not one day.”
What about the day he saw you shoot his father?
“Well, now, Sheriff, hold on…” Dr. Charles Cotton scratched his lower chin. “I did find some bruising around the ankles and wrists that would suggest—”
“He was tied up,” Monica finished. “Our killer tied him up and—”
“And what? Gave him a gun and said, ‘Son, do me a favor and go shoot those two agents for me now, ya hear?’ ”
Luke blinked. Okay, maybe the good sheriff needed to dial things back a bit. Davis was dressed in his finest. Freshly shaved. Obviously the guy was ready for his moment in the sun. A moment that just wasn’t coming.
“Tell me,” Monica’s voice came softly, “if you saw your father get gunned down on the street in front of you, what would you fear?”
Some of the heat faded from Davis’s face. “That was a clean shooting. We told him, over and over, to drop his weapon. He tried to shoot us. He—”
“What would you fear?”
Davis’s jaw worked. “You can’t know for sure.”
“Let me tell you what I think.” She stood near the side of the gurney. “I think our killer took Jeremy Jones. I think he knew all about Jeremy’s past. He held him and he gave him a choice.”
“Why would he do that?” Luke asked. Why change the rules with Jones?
“Because he’s a sick f**k.” She barely missed a beat.
“A sick dead man.” Davis raked shaking fingers through his hair. So much for his perfect news appearance.
“He’s not dead,” Monica assured him. “He’s not. The bastard called me again today.”
Davis paled. He knew about the first call; they’d briefed him right away. He inhaled deeply. “You sure it was him?”
“Same voice distortion. Same threats. It was him. He’s using his vics’ phones because he wants to make sure we know who he is and what he’s done.” Dead certain. “He couldn’t let the last kill stand. He wanted us to know…”
Her, Luke thought. The killer had called Monica because he’d wanted her to know what he’d done. And that f**king pissed him off. Stop going after her. Come after me, bastard.
“… he’s still out there,” Monica finished. “And he’s enjoying this. Every moment, he loves it.”
Davis exhaled heavily. “I just… wanted people to be safe. I wanted this to be over.”
Kenton burst through the metal doors. “You were right.” His face was flushed, chest heaving. “I found a spot, about twenty feet away, at the edge of the woods.”
“What?” Davis’s brow lined. “What are you talkin’ about—”
“The killer was there last night,” Monica said. “He just wasn’t the man who died.”
And now that he knew the score, Luke wished things had been different. They could have saved Jones. But when the bullets started flying, he’d just seen a killer locking sights on him.
Monica, though, she’d known. That was why she’d held back.
“The killer had a gun on Jones.” Kenton took a deep breath. “At the scene, I found grass bent, twigs snapped. The perfect place to watch, but not be seen.”
The ex-sniper, Ramirez, would have scoped out the joint in less than three seconds. It had taken Kenton a bit longer, but Luke hadn’t doubted Kenton would find the killer’s sweet spot.
“When the killer called, he said that he gave Jones a chance. But I don’t think he did, not really.” She rubbed her forehead. “I think he sent Jones out with the gun and told him to kill me and Agent Dante.”
“Why?” Davis was shocked, and behind him, the ME just stood there, his mouth hanging open as Cotton’s eyes flew back and forth between them. “Going up against two armed FBI agents would be suicide—”
Death by cop. Or agent.
“You see your old man get gunned down in the street,” Luke said. “Finding yourself on the same street, facing armed agents. Wouldn’t that be a bitch?”
“What you fear most.” From Kenton.
Davis swallowed. “I-I didn’t…”
“He said something to me. Right at the end.” Monica licked her lips. “Fuck you. Fuck him. My way.”
Luke saw Kenton’s brows shoot up.
Monica glanced at Luke. “When he said ‘him,’ I thought he meant you, but now I realize he was talking about the killer. Jeremy didn’t want to go out with us shooting him. He chose his way to end things. Not us. Not the killer’s choice. Jeremy’s.”