Page 69 of Shiver

“Hello, Kyle.” Blake frowned when the kid wrapped his arms around Blake’s leg. “You’re not shy.”

“He is around girls,” said Emma. “Hi, Kensey, how are you?”

I returned her smile. “Great. You?”

“Fantastic.” She tipped her head toward the bearded male at her side. “This is my husband, Adam, and this is our son, Kyle.”

I narrowed my eyes at Adam. “You came to the bar a few days ago.” I only remembered him because Henry had mistaken him for someone else and made such a deal of it that he drew everyone’s attention.

Adam inclined his head, sheepish. “I heard a lot about you. I was curious.”

Emma rolled her eyes. “You’ve never known a more curious person than Adam.”

“I have,” said Blake, sliding a meaningful glance my way. “No one is more inquisitive than Kensey.” Bending slightly, he lifted the little boy. “Kyle, this is my girl, Kensey.” He whispered, “Isn’t she pretty?”

Kyle nodded. “Your eyes aren’t the same color,” he blurted out.

I smiled. “I know. Do you think they should both be blue or both be green?”

He thought about it for a moment. “Green. No, blue. No, green.”

“You know what?” Blake said to him. “I think she looks better with one of each. What do you think?”

After a moment, Kyle nodded his agreement. “Can I go sit down by the windows while I play on my iPad?”

“Sure,” Blake told him, lowering him to the floor. Kyle quickly scurried off.

“We have that information you asked for,” Emma announced.

“I see,” said Blake. “Come through to the kitchen. Kensey can make us coffee.”

I arched an imperious brow. “Can I?”

“Of course you can,” he said, like he was giving me permission. Ignoring my snort, he took my hand and then led me to the kitchen.

Using my coffee machine, I prepared everyone a drink and then we settled at the island.

“So … Ricky Tate,” Blake prompted.

“He was diagnosed with schizophrenia when he was twenty,” said Emma.

Schizophrenia? I pursed my lips. “That explains a lot.” And I couldn’t help feeling a pang of sympathy for him. Having your own brain turn against you that way had to be hard.

“He had treatment and therapy,” began Adam, “and it seems that he managed to get the condition under some form of control. He went back to high school, graduated, and he held a steady job with a bug extermination firm. Then, three months ago, he lost his shit in a spectacular fashion at work and was fired. His ex-employer hasn’t seen him since.”

“He lives with his mother,” said Emma. “But I’ve had someone watching that house every day, and they’ve never seen him coming or going.”

“I spoke to her,” Adam cut in. “She swears she has no idea where Ricky is, and she threatened to call the cops if I didn’t leave her alone. Very defensive and nervous.”

I rubbed at my nape. “What about Noah Linton?”

Emma’s nose wrinkled. “This may sound mean, but he’s a fairly boring person. Single. No kids. Never been married. His life seems to be his job.”

“No silver Sedan,” said Adam. “The guy doesn’t seem to own a car. He gets cabs everywhere. He’s smart. Super smart. Has multiple PhDs and a very nice condo just outside of Redwater that I find myself coveting.”

“He’s an only child,” added Emma. “Lost his parents in a road accident—adoptive parents, I should say. I found his birth certificate.” She gave me an inscrutable look. “His mother was, ‘Courtney Royal.’ Does that name ring a bell?”

My eyes fell closed. “Oh, shit.”

“What?” Blake splayed a supportive hand on my back. “You know her?”

“She was one of Michael’s victims.” I knew the name of each and every one of them.

Blake swore. “That explains his obsession with Bale.”

“And it means that Linton has motive to target you,” Emma said to me. “A good motivation for playing games with you would be to hurt Bale. And who’d have every reason to hurt him? A relative of a person he killed. But I can’t imagine that Linton would regret being adopted or care much about what happened to his birth mother. Sorry if that sounds cold, but I read about Courtney Royal. She was one fucked up bitch.”

“How fucked up?” asked Blake.

“She was a prostitute,” said Emma. “She’d include her daughter, Ava, in her ‘scenes’ if the Johns paid enough, though she didn’t actually allow them to penetrate Ava until the kid was four. Not out of any motherly concern, but because her regular Johns liked it real rough and Royal didn’t want Ava dying from internal injuries. Apparently, she’d learned from the mistake she’d made with a baby she had before Ava. The police found the baby boy buried in Royal’s backyard—he was ten months old when he died.”

“Jesus,” Blake breathed.

“Yeah.” I raked a hand through my hair, stomach rolling as all the details of the case hit me. Courtney Royal had only been out of prison two weeks when Michael took her. He’d raped her with a variety of instruments—some blunt, some sharp—until she died of severe internal injuries, much like Ava had done. Then he’d decapitated and buried her, just like she’d done to her ten-month-old son.

Could I deny that the punishment fitted the crime? No. That sick, heartless bitch had deserved to suffer in some way. But in truth, Michael had killed her because he needed to kill. Her crimes had merely been the excuse. It could be said that he’d gotten justice for Ava and her baby brother in a roundabout way, but Royal’s torture and death had ultimately been to satisfy Michael.

“It would be odd to hear that Linton would want revenge on Bale for killing Royal, considering she was a twisted bitch,” said Adam. “But I suppose Linton might have convinced himself that she was innocent of the charges.”

“Maybe,” mused Emma. “I had one of my guys tail Linton. He lingered around Kensey’s apartment building a few times, always staying out of sight. But he never stayed long, and he never went inside. Never went back to the Vault, either. He didn’t follow you or your mother around, Kensey. In fact, he spends most of his time in his condo, typing away on his computer.”

“We also found out that he had a hospital stay a few weeks ago,” Adam said.

Blake frowned. “Hospital stay?”

“He was mugged in the parking garage of Redwater City Mall. Got knifed in the shoulder.” Adam looked at me. “Emma said someone tried to mug you at knifepoint in a parking garage once.”

I turned to Blake. “Eerie coincidence?”

“I don’t believe in coincidences,” said Blake.

“You think the person who did that to Kensey also did it to Linton?” Emma asked him.

Blake shrugged. “It’s possible.”

I plastered my hands to the sides of my head and groaned. “My head is spinning. Every time I lean more toward one person, I find out something that makes me think I was wrong.”

Emma gave me a sympathetic smile. “I’m sorry, but I didn’t find out anything that could prove or disprove that Smith is Ricky Tate or Noah Linton.”

Tags: Suzanne Wright Romance