Hell of a way to die.
“The wounds on her face are so precise,” Monica whispered.
He heard the shuffle of feet behind him. A look over his shoulder showed the deputies craning their necks and inching closer.
“No hesitation.” Monica inhaled sharply. “Pleasure cuts.”
The ME’s jaw dropped and so did both of his chins. “What?”
Luke nodded because he knew exactly what she meant. Cuts to make the vic suffer and to give the perp his sick thrill.
The door of the morgue shoved open.
“Pope, Monroe—get your asses back out on the street!” Luke turned at the snarl and saw the sheriff, his uniform perfectly pressed, his hands balled into fists on his hips. “Billy Joe is drunk down at Taylor’s again, and Ron needs backup.”
The two deputies shot to attention. “Sir!”
They flew past him.
When the door slammed behind them, the sheriff marched forward and faced Luke. “You here to tell me what the hell is goin’ on in my county?”
They were there to try.
“Guessing you’re Dante,” the sheriff muttered. The sun had tanned his skin a dark brown. Lines cracked the planes of his face and gray dotted the black hair near his temples. “And you…” His gray eyes drifted to Monica. “You must be Davenport.”
Her head inclined toward him. “Sheriff.” Monica’s cool-as-you-please voice. A brief pause, then, “We’re going to need to see the other body.”
But the sheriff, Luke remembered his name was Hank Davis, shook his head. “Not gonna happen. Sally Jenkins was buried yesterday.”
Luke clenched his back teeth. Exhuming bodies was a bitch. Especially in these small-ass southern towns. Folks didn’t like it when their dead were jerked back out of the earth.
Not that he blamed them.
Monica’s eyes narrowed, and she stepped away from the slab. “She’s been buried? You knew the FBI was coming; you’re the one who called us! The body shouldn’t have been released—”
“Wasn’t a body to release.” His jaw flexed. “Just pieces of little Sally…”
Emotion there, lurking in the eyes and in the voice.
The guy had known the victim.
“You didn’t send a lot of information about Sally’s death to our office,” Luke said, trying to choose his words carefully now that he knew the connection was there for the sheriff. “I’ve got to tell you, I’m confused as hell. Why would you figure a woman who’d been stabbed to death…” Pleasure cuts. “And a woman who was killed in a car accident were linked?”
The sheriff and the ME shared a hard glance. Then Davis looked back over his shoulder, as if checking to make sure neither of the deputies had snuck back in to eavesdrop. “Didn’t send the info, but I told Hyde.” Davis’s jaw flexed. “Told him, and he understood. He sent you because he understood.”
Cotton shuffled over to a filing cabinet. The drawer groaned when he pulled it open. “I think you two should see these.”
Luke grabbed the file from him and tried to keep his face blank as he flipped through the pictures.
Wreckage. Twisted metal.
Pieces. Not of the car. Of… her. The wreck had torn her apart.
Monica eased beside him. Luke heard the hard breath she sucked in when she glimpsed Sally.
He studied the photos, examining and—“What the hell?”
Monica’s fingers lifted and clamped around his shoulder.
“Guess you see why I was worried about Sally’s death.” A hard, biting blast from the sheriff. “Not every day you see an accident victim who was tied to the steering wheel.”
No, not every day.
Christ. One hand and wrist were still attached to the wheel, hanging by the thick, knotted ropes.
“We found marks on the bumper—someone pushed Sally, hard and fast. That somebody drove her right into that ravine.”
And Sally had been helpless.
But the crimes were too different. With Sally, maybe someone had wanted to off her and claim insurance money that would have come from her “accident.” Maybe the killer had thought the car would blow up on impact, and the bindings on her wrists would have been destroyed. Maybe.
The stabbing, well, stabbings were personal. Intimate.
“Does Sally have a husband, a lover—someone we can talk to?” Monica asked.
They looked up at the Sheriff. He licked his lips. “Sally’s husband Jake was killed in a car accident last year. A year to the day of Sally’s death.” He swallowed. “She was in the car with him, barely survived.”
This time, she hadn’t.
Someone had made absolutely certain of that.
“What makes you think these two crimes are related?” Luke asked. Bizarre, yeah, but to say the same perp was out there—
“In the last ten years, we’ve only had two murders here in Jasper.” A heavy pause. “They both happened within the last two weeks.” The sheriff held his stare. “You think we got two murdering SOBs all of a sudden in the area? Or just one f**ked up ass**le?” His right hand moved to rest on the slab, right near Patty. “I’m betting my money on one ass**le.”
Walking through a dead woman’s house, poking through her possessions and rifling through what was left of her life was not really Monica’s favorite thing to do. It was a part of her job, though, a necessary one. Just one that she hated.
Every profiler knew, the first step was assimilation. She’d seen the body, seen the photos, read the autopsy reports, now she needed to work on victim profiles.
Luke flipped on the light as he stepped into Patty’s bedroom. Monica hesitated, just for a moment, then followed him inside the small room.
“Just what do you think we’re gonna find here?” he asked.
Hell if she knew. The locals had already been over the place. The sheriff had good instincts and good training, so she doubted the guy missed much.
But she always went to the victims’ houses on her cases. The houses and then the crime scenes. That was her pattern.
She rubbed the back of her right shoulder. “We need to do a thorough scan of the house, just in case the deputies overlooked something.” What that something was, well, she didn’t know. Yet.
Her gaze darted to the nightstand. A framed picture. A smiling, beautiful Patty, hugging a man, a good-looking guy with glasses.