Yeah, he knew all about the guy’s plans from the night before. “What happened?”
“H-he was mad—talking about you. Said you were suspecting us of the killings.”
Monica’s brows rose. “So much for keeping this quiet.”
Right. Like she’d really wanted it quiet.
“I told him there was nothing to worry about. I told him.”
“Maybe there isn’t anything for you to worry about,” Luke said. He noticed the sheriff had sunk down into his chair even more. Davis wasn’t a bad guy, not by any means. From what he’d seen, the guy tried his best to keep order in Jasper. Davis had never counted on a serial setting up shop in his quiet town.
No one ever counted on that.
And Luke knew that, though Davis had been fighting the idea—on the outside, anyway—that someone from his office could be involved in the crimes, the sheriff was starting to see the full picture. The knowledge was right there, in the pain that etched across his face.
The pieces were adding up, and everything was starting to point to the missing Lee Pope.
“Lee stormed off. I tried to stop him, but—” A shrug. “I think, uh, I figured he just needed to cool off for a while.”
Or maybe he’d needed to run.
“You don’t know where he was going?” Monica asked.
Vance rubbed his palms over the front of his pants. “No.”
Monica raised one eyebrow. Just one. He remembered that look from their training days. One eyebrow up meant she thought the suspect was lying. “You’re not trying to protect him, are you?”
“Lee hasn’t done anything wrong. He’s just probably sleeping off his beers somewhere. He wasn’t due on shift ’til nine.” Said fast. Too fast. People talked fast when they were nervous.
“Do you really think you know him?” Monica pressed, and her gaze was so intent on the deputy.
A grim nod. “Yeah, I do. I’d stake my life on his innocence.”
Luke barely controlled a wince. Dude really needed to be careful. “Then if I were you, I’d hope good old Lee shows up for work soon.”
Vance’s cheeks flushed, a shade lighter than his hair. “You’re lettin’ the real killer get away.”
Monica’s gaze never wavered. “No, I’m not.”
Be mine, Valentine. Monica squinted as she stared at the pages of data Ramirez had faxed over from the SSD.
Kyle West’s mother had died on Valentine’s Day. She’d been killed in a “suspicious fire” at their house.
“Suspicious, my ass,” she muttered. The stove had been turned on, and accelerant was discovered in three areas of the house. That was a whole lot more than suspicious. That was clear-cut arson.
Kyle had been eleven at the time. He’d made it out. After he’d climbed through his bedroom window, he’d run to a neighbor. But his mother hadn’t been so lucky. She’d gotten trapped when part of the den’s ceiling fell on her.
She’d burned before help could arrive.
Monica’s fingers smoothed over the grainy photo of Kyle. She died. But you got out.
And then went—where? To live with May? As she battled schizophrenia? She’d read the notes on May. When she’d been medicated, May would have seemed almost normal. But without her meds…
Seeing people who weren’t there.
What had it been like for Kyle, living with May?
She studied the arson data again and a chill skated down her spine. Okay, yeah, that was one hell of a coincidence.
Valentine’s Day. Fifteen years ago.
The same night that Hyde had pulled her out of that closet, and Romeo’s reign had ended.
Too bad she didn’t believe in coincidences.
The same night. And Romeo had been close to Gatlin, close enough for the deputies to come over and help out on the scene.
Holy hell. Monica sprang to her feet and yanked open the door. “Luke!”
He and Kenton had their heads together, staring at a computer screen. They were trying to track Lee’s car.
“Luke!” Louder this time, and with a desperate edge.
His head snapped up and he focused on her.
She took a deep breath and felt all eyes on her. “We need to talk.” Alone. There was too much tension in that office already.
He slapped Kenton on the shoulder and stalked toward her. The weight of all eyes bored down on her. So much suspicion.
Melinda walked past, gave her a slow nod. “Agent Davenport.” Ice could have dripped from those words. Actually, it did. Hell, that’s right. Lee had dated Melinda in high school. Had she been the bad break-up that sent him to Gatlin? That relationship would definitely explain the arctic blast.
But another hour had passed, and there had still been no word from Lee.
There wouldn’t be any word. She knew that.
So the other deputies could be pissed, they could be uncooperative, but it wouldn’t make a bit of difference.
Monica shut the door behind Luke. “Something you should know.” The place was so small they were almost on top of each other.
He waited. Looked strong and sexy and—
I won’t lose him. The case was about to go to end game. She wouldn’t let it explode on her, and she would not risk him.
Because if she was right, the killer would be coming for her soon, and he’d try to use Luke against her.
Think like them. Yeah, that’s what she was doing. She couldn’t turn it off, but she could use it.
Luke was her weakness, and she couldn’t afford to be weak.
Not with the killer watching.
“Kyle West’s mother died the same night that Hyde brought down the Romeo killer.”
A slight flaring of his eyes. “Bullshit.”
He gave a soundless whistle.
“It was two counties over. Most of the deputies had been called in for backup on Romeo. The fire, um, let’s just say it didn’t get as much attention as it should have.”
“I’m pretty sure Kyle killed his mom.” The first kill. All the signs were there. He’d started on the night that Romeo stopped killing. “I suspect he’s been killing since then. Maybe at first, his mother’s death cooled his need, and he was able to go a couple more years before he hurt anyone else… but the need would have come back.” A compulsion. That’s what some serials said they had.
The compulsion to kill.
“But Kyle West is dead,” Luke told her, speaking slowly, thoughtfully. “He’s not our guy, Monica, even if he did kill his mother.”