“Bullshit. Rose said two men attacked her.”

“I didn’t know what to think!” Levi pleaded. “My main concern was hiding the body and keeping you and Rose safe.”

“Rose isn’t safe now,” said Truman. “Are you done with your story, Levi? Because we need to tell the FBI to go find Craig Rafferty.” He turned away and strode back to the house.

“When did you know?” Mercy whispered. “When did you know Craig had Rose?” A fine, frail thread connected her and her brother. A thread she’d repaired this week. Now it was close to breaking again.

“I don’t know that he has her,” Levi admitted. “I didn’t tell you right away because I wasn’t sure. I’m still not sure. I’m just guessing.”

“You’re lying. Where did you go at midnight?” The look on Levi’s face told her he’d suspected all along that Craig had been involved. Why didn’t he say something immediately?

Because it made him look bad.

Another hole ripped through her heart.

I can never trust him again.

His shoulders slumped. “I went to Craig’s to look. There’s no one there.”

“Damn you, Levi,” Mercy swore again, tears flooding her eyes, that thread stretching dangerously tight. “If Rose is dead, this is on you.”

Her brother started to cry.

THIRTY-SEVEN

Two hours later every available law enforcement officer had been mobilized, and Craig Rafferty was nowhere to be found.

After Levi’s confession, Truman had approached Jeff Garrison, Eddie, and Sheriff Ward Rhodes in the Kilpatrick kitchen. Speaking carefully to protect Mercy’s story, he told them that Rose had recently told Levi that she suspected Craig Rafferty had tried to break in to their house fifteen years ago. Karl Kilpatrick had been sitting with the officers and chimed in that Rose had heard a voice that night but had never known who’d been outside their home. Sheriff Ward asked if Karl had reported the disturbance back then and Karl had said, “Why would I? Nothing happened.”

It was the strongest lead they had, and the officers had thrown everything they had into finding Craig Rafferty’s whereabouts.

Craig’s house was empty. His vehicle missing. Mike Bevins hadn’t seen him since they stopped by the Kilpatrick home last night to offer help. No one at the Bevins ranch had seen him after that. Jeff filed a request for his cell phone records, and officers continued patrols searching for his vehicle.

His disappearance encouraged them that they were on the right track.

Eddie had given Truman an odd look, asking why Levi hadn’t mentioned Craig earlier. Truman had shrugged and lied, saying Rose hadn’t been positive about the identification and Levi hadn’t wanted to send the investigation in the wrong direction. Eddie had nodded, holding Truman’s gaze, and Truman suspected he knew he was bending the truth.

The other officers had jumped on the lead, not caring about its source.

And it was looking solid.

But no one could find Craig Rafferty.

Jeff Garrison scribbled on a pad of paper. “Who are his friends? Where’s he hang out? Does he own any other properties? Does he go fishing or hunting and use someone’s cabin? If he’s got a hostage, he needs a place to hold her without any prying eyes.”

“That describes nearly every place around here,” Truman muttered.

“Get his boss over here,” Garrison continued. “I want to talk to the guys he works with. We need to know what he likes to do.”

“This is the first time he’s taken anyone,” Eddie pointed out. “Before, someone was always killed in their home. Why is he changing it up?”

“We thought the most recent kills were for the weapons,” Sheriff Rhodes stated. “Taking Rose Kilpatrick doesn’t have anything to do with weapons, does it?” He looked to Karl, who shook his head.

“I don’t have more than a dozen guns,” her father said. “And they’re all intact. I checked.”

“So he’s returned to killing and raping women after a fifteen-year hiatus?” the sheriff muttered.

Karl turned white.

“We don’t know that,” Truman interjected. “Taking Rose indicates a totally different goal.” He wanted to kick the sheriff in the ass for speaking like that in front of her father.

“What’s that goal?” Garrison asked, looking at the other men. “That will help us find her.”

The other men exchanged glances.

“After Rose visited the Bevins ranch yesterday,” Truman said slowly, “he might have decided she was fishing around to identify his voice from all those years ago. Since the prepper murders, we’ve been taking a hard look at the Jennifer Sanders and Gwen Vargas cases. He could be nervous that he’s about to be caught for those. So he eliminates the witness.”

“But taking Rose increases the heat,” countered Eddie.

“I didn’t say he was the sharpest tool in the shed,” said Truman.

“Rose and I talked about that attempted break-in the other day,” Mercy said.

Truman hadn’t heard her enter the room. Her eyes were red and wet. Dark shadows were smudged under them.

“She’s wondered for a long time whose voice she heard that night,” said Mercy. “I think me being in town and looking into the old murders has stirred things up.”

“You flushed out a killer?” Jeff asked.

***

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