Page 87 of Killer Secrets

Or the life-and-death important.

He’d been feeling pretty damn good before he got here, considering the circumstances—funny how waking up next to a beautiful woman could brighten a man’s outlook before he even got out of bed—but disquiet simmered around his detective. Knowing how unflappable Ben was, Sam’s own good mood dissipated like water down a drain.

“Is this something Daniel needs to hear?”

Ben nodded. “He’ll be here in a minute.”

It probably was only sixty seconds before Daniel came through the door, but it seemed an eternity. Before he got settled in the only other chair, Ben started.

“I called the Phoenix Police Department to ask about the car wreck that killed Mila’s parents. There was a bad wreck near there fifteen years ago. Car hit a bridge at a high speed, exploded, huge fireball, killed two people. They sent me the report.”

That was on top of his stack of papers. Sam knew they were organized, from the first one he needed to the last, because that was the way Ben did things.

“The victims were identified as David Brumley and Teresa Mackay. Brumley by logic, mostly—the car was registered to him, and he had a driver’s license in that name. With Mackay, they used dental records. A third person was thrown from the car, a woman who called herself Mary Jackson. She was badly injured—almost didn’t make it. It was two months before she could talk with the police. She said she didn’t know Brumley and Mackay, that she was hitchhiking and they gave her a ride.”

Ben laid a printout of Brumley’s driver’s license on the desk between them. He was an average-looking guy: slight, five nine, 150 pounds. Brown hair, blue eyes, big smile, but there was something off about him. Even without the information Sam had, something about Brumley—aka Joshua—would have roused his suspicions.

“Okay, so David Brumley didn’t exist before he came to Arizona to live. His driver’s license was a good-quality fake. Social Security number was, too. He rented a house out in the country, him and his wife, and had been there about three months. Landlord ID’d him from the driver’s license but had only ever seen him the time he showed them the house. They paid the rent on time in cash, never asked for anything.”

Ben handed over another driver’s license photo, a pretty blonde. Just on sight, Sam would plug her as married, kids, soccer mom, cheer mom, as busy in the kids’ activities as her own.

“Teresa Mackay was a dental hygienist in Phoenix. She went shopping for her niece’s birthday present the day before the crash and never came home. Surveillance footage from the mall showed her leaving with David Brumley.”

A series of grainy photos showed the two coming out of a service entrance at the mall and getting into a white midsize sedan. David pushed Teresa into the back seat, then slid in beside her, and the driver, unseen on the footage, drove away. One thing Sam did see in the final picture: a small, slim figure in the front passenger seat. She huddled against the door, head bent so her black hair covered her face, and her shoulders were rounded as if she didn’t have far to go to disappear into a ball of arms and legs.

Nausea rose in his gut as he raised his gaze from the photos to the detectives. “Mila’s father and mother went to the mall to kidnap this woman, and they took her with them?”

Ben’s nod was sour. “Makes sense that they were just body parts to her, doesn’t it?”

More than he wanted. “So Teresa Mackay was real. David Brumley was a phony. I’m guessing Mary Jackson is also a phony.”

Another nod from Ben. “She claimed when she realized they were going to crash, she jumped out of the car and lost everything she owned, including her ID. Hitting the ground at that speed, she broke half the bones in her body. The doctors were amazed she survived.”

Sam tilted his head back to study the ceiling. He was ignoring the single most important part of what Ben had discovered. He needed a moment to make sense of the lesser stuff first.

Like the fact that Mila’s father had kidnapped a woman, and his wife had helped him, and they’d taken their eleven-year-old daughter along for the ride. What had been the point of that? Had he planned to rape Teresa Mackay? Had he intended to kill her? Was his mistreatment of Mila just a warm-up for his real pleasure in life—kidnapping, abusing and killing a strange woman for the fun of it?