Page 68 of Killer Secrets

Closing his eyes, Sam pinched the bridge of his nose. “It’s not a joke. The man who attempted to drown the woman at Cedar Creek this morning broke into her house and, we believe, took her dog. I figure two murders so close together have done enough harm to the city’s reputation. It would be nice to avoid a third one, and if finding the dog helps us find the killer, that can only be good.”

“Or the person who let the dog go is nothing more than a careless burglar who has nothing to do with anything else.”

“That’s possible, but not likely. I’ll make a deal with you, Mayor. You let me and my department do our jobs properly, or we’ll make you the official spokesperson for the Cedar Creek Police Department. You announce our successes—” the mayor always wanted in on that “—as well as explain our failures.” The mayor tried very hard to distance himself from his own failures, much less anyone else’s. “I need a decision now, Mayor, because I’ve got a meeting to get to.”

After a moment of throat clearing, no doubt done to stall while he envisioned himself announcing that they’d found the killer—or that they had another victim—the man heaved a sigh. “I’ll defer to your judgment. For the time being, Sam. Don’t drag this on too long.”

Sam was rarely rude to the mayor, even though His Honor carried no real influence on the job. His was just one vote when it came to the chief’s contract, and the other six members of the city council liked Sam just fine. But he hung up the instant the last word cleared the man’s mouth.

“Putz,” Little Bear said.

Beside him, Daniel nodded. “Major putz.”

A moment passed as if to solidify their agreement, then Daniel began talking. “I’ve seen more of this city today than in the years I’ve been living here, and I’ve seen only two yellow dogs. They were both golden retrievers, and their owner offered to keep an eye out for Poppy.”

“She also invited him to dinner at that new place on County Line,” Ben teased.

Daniel gave him a dry look but didn’t deny the date. “None of Mila’s neighbors saw anything except the one on the northwest side of the intersection. She was getting her kids ready to go clothes shopping, and she saw Poppy get into a dark car with a man wearing a hat. The only reason she noticed is that the only car ever over there is Jessica’s orange Bug, so this midsize dark sedan caught her eye.

“But she didn’t see the driver well enough to give any other description or where they went, and she wasn’t sure about the time. She was getting her six kids buckled in and settled down. She thought it was between eleven and twelve.” He looked as if the thought of having six kids boggled his mind.

“It’s fair to assume the guy still has the dog,” Ben said. “If he’d just let her go, someone would have seen her. When even the mayor’s found out, everyone else in town already knows. So what’s his plan? To kill the dog, leave her someplace for Mila to find? To just scare the crap out of her? He’s already accomplished that. To send the message that no one’s safe from him?”

“And how does it tie in with the other two murders?” Daniel asked.

“I don’t know if it does,” Sam replied. “In the beginning, you didn’t think the second murder had anything to do with the first.”

“I know. But Carlyle gets killed, and Mila finds his body. Greeley gets killed, and Mila’s there when the housekeeper finds his body. Her house is broken into, someone tries to drown her and someone takes her dog. She’s been involved in five crime scenes in less than two weeks. Maybe she saw something at the first scene.”

“Like what?” Sam asked.

“I don’t know,” Daniel answered irritably. “If I’d been there myself, we wouldn’t be looking for answers. Maybe a note blowing away in the breeze. Maybe a person in the woods. Maybe something he left on the table, then retrieved when she went to get help. Maybe it was something she really didn’t see but he suspected she did.”

Sam considered it thoughtfully. When she was working, Mila’s focus was pretty tight. It was possible she had arrived in Carlyle’s backyard before the killer had time to escape. By her own admission, it had taken her a few moments to notice the dead body. Could she have looked at but not noticed someone going inside the house or making his way to the woods? It was a big backyard with a lot of places to hide behind shrubs and tall, fat flowers.