“Gatlin County Sheriff’s department,” a rumbling voice flowed over the phone line.
Monica inhaled a deep breath. “This is Monica Davenport with the FBI, and I need to speak with Sheriff Martin.” Now.
“Ah, sorry, ma’am, I mean, agent, but Sheriff Martin ain’t in the office today.”
“Who is this?” Monica demanded.
“Peter Fillerman, Deputy Peter Fillerman.”
“Listen to me, deputy, in just a few moments, your office is going to receive a fax from me. It’s a search warrant I want you to take and immediately execute at May Walker’s residence.” She needed those papers. If she could compare the signatures and get a match—got you.
“M-May Walker’s place?”
“She’s got papers there, going back for years. You need to find—”
“If it’s at May Walker’s, ma’am, I won’t be finding anything.”
More deputies piled into the room. Monica turned away, lifting a hand to her left ear to muffle their voices. “Why not? The warrant is perfectly legal, there’s no reason you can’t execute it.”
“There ain’t nothin’ left to search out at May Walker’s place. There was a fire there late last night.”
Her fingers tightened around the phone.
“Told Sheriff Martin for months that the place was a firetrap, but I couldn’t ever get him to go out there.”
“What about May?”
“She-she didn’t make it out of the fire.”
Monica’s eyes closed. God, what a terrible way to die.
“Real shame. May didn’t have any close neighbors and the fire was out of control before anyone knew what was happening.”
And May Walker was dead. Another lost life. She swallowed and forced her eyes to open. “Thank you for the information.”
“You want—you want Sheriff Martin to call you?”
She turned around and studied the gathered deputies. Luke was talking to them, his hands on his hips as he went over search procedures. “Where did you say Martin had gone?”
No, she knew that.
“He’s gone up to Angola. He goes up there every few months.”
A chill skated down her spine. “Why?” Thousands of inmates were in Angola, but she knew one of those inmates very, very well.
A soft sigh. “Can’t really say for sure, ma’am, just know he drives up to visit for a few hours now and then. Guess he’s got someone up there he needs to see.”
And she had someone she never wanted to see.
“You want him to call you?”
“I’ll call him.” After she did some checking to see just who the sheriff was visiting at Angola. Had to be just a coincidence, but…
But she wasn’t taking chances. Monica ended the call with a push of her fingertip and stared down at the phone. Lost, remembering.
No one could hear you scream.
She jumped when Luke called her name. Her head lifted, and she found his gaze on her. All of their gazes were on her as the deputies and the sheriff stood at attention. Waiting on her. She was supposed to tell them all what to do. She was the one they looked to. Right then, she couldn’t afford another trip down Freak Memory Lane.
No time. Focus.
Her shoulders straightened and she pointed behind the sheriff. “That a map of the county?”
He gave a quick nod.
She strode forward and yanked the map off the wall. She spread the map out on the conference room desk. Her gaze followed the criss-cross of lines that were the roads in and out of town.
No one could hear you scream.
The perp would have taken Sam someplace secluded, so he’d have time for his fun and games. Someplace close enough for the bastard to quickly come in and make his call, then ease away before anyone noticed. “He knows the area,” she muttered. A local, or someone who had been to Jasper often enough to learn every secret hollow and twist of land out there.
She bent forward, and her hand settled on the lake near the edge of the town. Had to be near water. And if he was going to do it right, make the torture the perfect match, he’d use a lake. He’d want to set the same scene for Sam. A nightmare come true.
“Are there cabins around this lake, Sheriff?”
“On the west.” His fingers joined hers. “Three there, then two on the east side.”
The east side was closer to town. The west more isolated. What choice had the killer made?
“They’re rentals,” he said, “but nobody ever goes up there these days.”
“Kenton, get me warrants to search every cabin there.”
“I know a judge,” Davis said. “Consider them gotten.”
Good. “Davis, I want you and your men to take the three cabins on the west side.” She looked up, letting her gaze touch on Luke and Kenton. “We’ll take the east side.” Hold on, Sam. She exhaled and pinned Davis with her stare. “Not one whisper of a siren, got it? I don’t want him to know we’re there.”
The female deputy, Melinda, stood behind the sheriff. From what Monica could tell, she was the one he trusted the most. But fear flickered in her dark eyes. Fear and excitement.
Monica knew that was one dangerous combination.
“We’ll be as silent as a whisper,” Melinda promised.
“Everyone, watch your ass.” The butt of her gun pressed into her side. “He’s playing with us, and taking Sam…” Too easy to follow the breadcrumbs and find those cabins on the map. “It could be a lure to pull us in.”
Because the guy had been planning everything so carefully. The victims, their phones—he’d known he would be contacting her. Because he’d known the SSD would become involved? “He knew Sam’s fear long before she got off the plane,” she whispered and knew it was true. He’d known about Sam. And he knows about me.
“The bastard set one trap already with Jones,” Luke’s voice came, strong and steady. “Stay on guard. We need to be ready for any damn thing.”
Including a guy using his victims as killers. “He’s done his homework,” Monica said. “He’ll be ready, and we have to be ready, too.”
The faces before her were tense. Grim nods met her words; a few offered, “Yes, ma’am” responses. She licked her lips. “Then let’s get the hell out of here,” Monica said, “because Agent Kennedy is not dying on my watch.”