He took a step. Staggered. “No.”
Luke sucked in a sharp breath. Another. Another. Waves of darkness flickered around him, but he fought them. “You see anybody?”
God save him from the deputies. “Did you… ah… see anybody when you came in the,” a deep breath, “alley?”
A quick shake of Lee’s head. “Just you, man. You were lying there, facedown in the—”
Shit. Garbage. Whatever the hell it was.
“Did you see anyone else?” Like the person who’d slammed him?
“Y-You think the Watchman hit you?” Fear. Excitement. The guy really needed a life.
“I f**king know it.” He’d been there, listening and watching.
Where was Monica?
“Shit—I’ll call the sheriff!”
Right. For all the good it would do. The killer was long gone by now. And why did he leave me alive?
Because Luke wasn’t his target. The game wasn’t about him.
She’s not for you. If the bastard touched her, Luke would rip him apart. “Get on your radio and find out if anyone has seen Monica.” He ran toward the lot, his head throbbing.
“Agent Davenport? Why is she—”
“Get on the damn radio!” Because he didn’t have time to waste.
Neither did she.
I told you, Kenton… I don’t want to talk.” Sam’s voice was a croak, so strangled and weak. She’d turned toward the wall, hunching her shoulders and pulling the covers high over her.
How many times had she been in the water? Monica cleared her throat. “I’m not Kenton.”
Sam stiffened. “Not talking… to you… now.”
“Yes, you are.” Monica walked closer. She could only see darkness outside the window. “But first, I’m going to talk to you.” And it didn’t matter if Sam turned to look at her or not, she was talking.
Monica straightened her shoulders. “You need to know, he’s not getting you. Kenton is staying with you, Hyde is coming, we’re all taking shifts, and we’re going to make damn sure you’re not alone.”
“So he doesn’t… kill me… like he did L-Laura?”
“He’s not getting you,” she said again. “But we’re getting him.”
“You survived, Sam. You made it through his hell and survived.” Did she understand how rare that was? “You made it through when—”
“I wanted to die! At the end… I just wanted it… over.”
She was talking because, deep inside, Monica knew she wanted to talk. Needed to. “That’s—”
“I wanted to be… like you. You’re strong… you would have… told him to… fuck off… and fought.”
A two-by-three-foot closet. No light. The only sounds—the screams. And they came too often.
“N-no one will… look at me the same… they’ll all think… I’m—”
“Strong.” Because she was. “You lived. You made it through. You fought him, and you stayed alive, even when you didn’t want to.”
Sam glanced back at her. “I… hurt so much.”
“I know.” She did. “And you just wanted the pain to stop.” A small pause. “Tell me the truth though. More than that, didn’t you want to stop him? To hurt him? To make him pay?” Kill him. The two-word mantra that had kept her going for all those months.
A grim nod. “But he was… so strong. I was… tired, weak—”
“He’d drugged you.” Hyde had found that out from her tox screen. “He wanted you slowed down because it was the only way he could control you.”
Because it was all about control. Something else she’d learned so long ago.
She stared into Sam’s eyes and walked to the bed. “You’re going to get past this.”
“No.” So sure.
But she’d been certain once too. “The nightmares will come; they might even always come.” Hers still came. “But you’re going to keep living. Keep doing your job. Keep taking lovers, keep letting the days roll right by.” She stared down at Sam. “Because your life didn’t end in that water. You will keep going.”
A tear slipped from Sam’s left eye. “How do you know… for sure?”
She caught her hand. Squeezed tight. “Because I did.”
Sam’s lips trembled, and a sob shook her chest.
“Don’t make my mistakes,” Monica whispered. “Don’t close out life because you’re afraid—” Of living. Because you think you should have died, and you don’t deserve any second chances. Christ. Don’t miss out on life.
Because you were afraid.
“I see that water… every time I close my eyes.” Sam’s eyes squeezed shut. “Stop him.”
“I will.” She’d find the bastard. One way or another. Even if she had to be the bait to lure him in.…
Come and get me, ass**le. Come and get me.
Monica slammed the SUV’s door, pressed the lock button automatically, and heard the blip-blip as the vehicle secured. The light above her flickered, flashing too bright, then too dim.
New lodgings. Hyde had been insistent on a location transfer for her, Luke, and Kenton after Sam’s attack. They were staying in a worn-down hotel, this one situated far off the main highway. Another dump.
But this dump only allowed access to the rooms from the lobby. One elevator. One flight of stairs, and, thanks to Hyde’s quick work, one video camera set up to monitor the entrance area at all times.
Lights glowed from half of the rooms in the three-floor hotel. The humming of an air conditioner reached her ears. Monica hurried her steps. She wanted to get inside, download the info that she’d requested from SSD, and see what she could track down through the database of—
Monica froze. She’d heard something. A whisper of sound. A rustle.
Not the wind. There was no wind on this hot southern night. No wind.
Something else. Someone else.
Her gun was in her hands in less than two seconds. She turned slowly, sweeping the lot with her eyes. Too many trees near the edges of the pavement. Too many places to hide.
Was this place really supposed to be safer?
“Is someone there?” She kept her voice loud and even, because she would not give the prick the satisfaction of thinking she was afraid.