Lindy made a gesture that might have been a shrug, or the closest she could get to it now. “Who the hell cares? She’s had a hundred names. My mother can tell you. She always did love the stupid brat more than me.” The next gesture was a farce of a smile. “But not Joshua. He loved me, and I loved him. We were one.”
“Yeah. You were so devoted to him that when you knew he was going to die, you jumped out of the car and saved your own life.”
“That’s not true! It wasn’t like that at all!” Tremors rocketed through her, making the red dot on his chest dance.
If he made her angry enough, maybe he would get the opportunity to charge her and get the gun from her. Or maybe she would shoot him at point-blank range. The Ruger might be small, but it was powerful. Who knew he should have worn a bulletproof vest to walk home from work?
“Then what was it like?”
“She killed him, as surely as if she’d shot him with this gun. He was the only reason she was alive—he wasn’t done with her yet—and she killed him. Ungrateful little brat. I was damned if I would let her kill me, too. She had to be punished, once and for all.”
Though he’d skipped lunch and barely touched his dinner, nausea rose in Sam’s gut. Had he said he was proud of Mila before? Proud didn’t even begin to cover it. It was nothing less than a miracle that she wasn’t locked in a psych hospital somewhere, totally incapable of dealing with life.
Milagro, Jessica had told him the first time they met, was Spanish for miracle. They’d chosen the perfect name for her.
Sweat trickled down his back. Fifteen minutes ago, he’d thought he would come home, shower and hopefully sleep a few hours in a cold room, then get up too soon to restart the hunt for this woman. She’d moved his schedule ahead a few hours.
“How many people have you and Joshua killed?”
“Killed? We didn’t kill anyone. We freed them.”
Great. Not just evil but crazy, too. “From what?”
“Existence in our world.” She made that odd attempt at a smile again. “We didn’t want them here.”
Not just evil and crazy but mean. God help them.
She shifted toward the porch railing, keeping the laser sighted on his chest. “We didn’t count. It was enough to keep us happy. When we got unhappy, we killed someone else.” Abruptly, she jerked her left hand, enclosed in a dark glove, toward the door. “I know you’re trying to distract me, Chief, but it won’t work. The brat’s inside. You need to go join her so I can finish this.”
Sam’s heart stuttered to a stop before bursting into a full gallop. “Mila—” He twisted the knob. It turned easily, the door swinging in without a sound, releasing the powerful stench of gasoline. Green light fell in a narrow wedge through the opening and showed his living room, everything in its place except the wooden dining chair that stood where the coffee table should be. Mila was sitting on the chair, wide strips of duct tape over her mouth, her wrists, her ankles. And five one-gallon gas cans were strewn on their sides around the room.
Of all the ways Lindy could kill them, she’d picked the absolute worst Sam could imagine. How the hell were they going to get out of this?
* * *
Mila should be frantic, in a panic, desperately trying to find a way to get out of this nightmare that she’d found herself back in. She should be trying to work her hands free, tearing through the tape, praying to God, but her brain had shut down the instant she’d awakened to find the one person she feared most leaning over her bed. Where was Gramma? Poppy? What had Lindy done to Ben? What about the officer keeping watch in the lobby? Were they hurt? Dying? Dear God, please not dead.
In that rusty voice, Lindy had whispered, “The cops might survive. Your stupid dog…she remembered me from before and let me walk right past. Your precious gramma…she’ll definitely survive. That’ll be her punishment. Living without you. Knowing that in the end, when it mattered most, she didn’t help you. She’ll hear your screams for the rest of her life, just like I hear Joshua’s.”
Her choice of weapon had surprised Mila. Her father had always used knives. He’d liked the feel of the warm, rich blood as it ran over his hands. In the latest killings, her mother had used blades, too, but tonight she held a gun. Of course, she’d had to face police officers and her own mother, who would claw her eyes out to keep Mila safe.