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Bored, he decided to snoop some more. He’d already found six pornos, a small stash of weed, and over $2,000 in cash. He pocketed the DVDs and cash but left the pot. He didn’t contaminate his body with that kind of garbage. It dulled the mind like a fine blade dragged across asphalt.

The home was some sort of bachelor’s paradise. The owner had been divorced for five years and liked to express himself through electronics. High-end stereo equipment and razor-thin big-screen TVs garnished every room. More video games, DVDs, and Blu-rays than in a Blockbuster Video store lined the shelves of the theater-like screening room. The garage housed a Porsche and a Mini Cooper. The owner apparently driving the Mercedes 4WD tonight.

He wandered through the immaculate closet again, mindlessly humming an old Black Sabbath tune. He counted twenty-two suits, nine pairs of dress shoes, and what seemed like a million ties. His hand stopped on a gray suit jacket, liking the style and fabric. It was inviting to his fastidious sense of touch. He pulled it off the hanger and slipped his arms into it.

He couldn’t see his fingertips.

Ripping off the coat, he threw it on the floor like a spoiled preschooler hurling a broken toy.

His height. It always came back to haunt him.

His mother had told him he was a slow grower and later he’d catch up with everyone else. The bitch had been lying, as usual.

He’d concentrated on his brain in school, taking advanced classes and even college courses as a high school freshman. There wasn’t anything he could do about his height, but he could tower over everyone else in a different way.


To him school had been a tool to be exploited. He’d targeted teachers, librarians, whoever he’d thought could be of value to him, whoever could teach him a unique skill, whatever it took to get ahead. He learned to be a smooth talker, a manipulator, a salesman.

But he’d hated the students. Especially the other males. They’d tripped him, thrown away his notebooks, and made him the butt of every nasty joke in an evil high school handbook. He’d ached to blow them all away. He’d fantasized about revenge on the assholes who’d made his teen years so miserable.

When the high school shootings suddenly cropped up around the country, he’d been glued to the TV. He’d understood those kids. He’d understood the anger and rage that provoked them to kill. A sense of admiration and a touch of jealousy had stolen over him as he watched the endless news coverage. They’d actually done it. He’d thought and dreamed and wished. But never followed through. What a legacy those kids had left; no one could ever forget them.

A smile toyed at the corner of his mouth. He would achieve that level of fame. It was only a matter of time. A very short time, if he stuck to his time line. A painstakingly developed time line he’d honed and sharpened over the years. It couldn’t fail.

But he was considering following one unexpected tangent.

He hadn’t expected the appearance of Lacey Campbell so soon. What kind of amazing fate had placed her at the recovery of the Mills girl? He shook his head in disbelief for the hundredth time. He’d expected her later, when the corpse had arrived at the medical examiner’s office. Even if she hadn’t been a part of the examination, she would have heard whom the bones belonged to early on. Her early entry into the game was a powerful sign, but he needed to be cautious with its interpretation.

What did it mean?

Was he to follow his original blueprint? Or fight against his desire to toy with her? Had higher powers decided to move up her place in the time line? Giving him more time with the lovely woman. Was her presence a gift?

A gift? That was an idea. Surely he could simply send her a gift without affecting his plans. He needed to consider carefully what to send her. He set the thought aside for when he had time to weigh the possibilities.

Happier now, he sifted through a box of cufflinks, picking out the gold pairs. Unaware that he hummed as he sorted. The music was always in his head; he didn’t notice when he brought it to life.

He squinted at one pair of cufflinks with good-sized diamonds in them. Were they real? He pocketed them.

God, he was thirsty. Heading for the kitchen, he wondered what this lawyer stocked to drink in his fridge. Designer water? Microbrews? He’d just opened the door and happily picked up a Coke when he heard the low buzz of an automatic garage door opener.

Damn it. Why now? He eyed the cold soda in his hand, annoyed he wouldn’t have a chance to drink it before he started. He tossed the can back in the fridge and slammed the door. Where was that golf club? He stalked back to the bedroom, clamping down on his thirst. There was a busy night ahead of him.

The Coke would still be there in the morning.

Callahan and Lusco were trying to make their second personal call of the day. They’d already been lost once on the curving, sloped streets in the West Hills of Portland. Frustrated with the snowy weather, Mason was thankful he’d switched to his Blazer, leaving the useless rear-wheel-drive government sedan at home. A good decision. Several of the snow-packed, narrow streets were steep and treacherous. At least the sanding crews had made a pass through the area.

“God help them if they ever have a fire up here, they won’t be able to get out, let alone get a fire truck in.” Ray was grumbling, riding shotgun as navigator. He glanced up from his crumpled MapQuest printout. “Over there. That’s it.”

Mason stared at the big home. “Are you sure?” Dr. Campbell didn’t have a private dentistry practice. She just taught at the dental school and took on forensic cases. How’d she afford a home like that?