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Many times he’d visited the tiny grave and stood there uncomfortably, feet shifting, staring at the small headstone, wondering if the baby had suffered. The guilt had surprised him. Back then, he hadn’t known he had a soft spot for babies.

“Do you know Tony McDaniels?”

He’d forgotten the old woman and jerked his head back toward her. “Who?”

Her eyes glanced at his badge again and narrowed. The neurons in that brain were sharper than he’d given her credit for. “Tony McDaniels. He writes sports for the Tribune. He’s my grandnephew.”

“Ohh. That Tony. Of course. I’ll tell him we met.” He glanced at his watch. “I need to get going. Thanks for your help.” Bits of tingling stress touched the base of his spine. He had to get away before she whipped out her cell and called her grandnephew to tell him she’d met Jeff Thomas. He took two steps backward and spun around.

“My name’s Evelyn Wakefield,” she hollered after him, shouting out the spelling of her last name.

Not turning back, he raised a hand in acknowledgment, hoping no one was paying attention to his hasty exit down the sidewalk. Was he was moving too fast? He slowed down to pretend to write some notes, looking from the house to his notebook a few times like he was writing a description. He noticed one of the detectives glance his way and then turn back to the package.

He’d pushed his luck. Why’d he detour from the original plan? Stupid, stupid, stupid.

The urge to see the aftermath had been too strong. The power still tingled in his fingers. Seeing the cops confused and the crowd excited. He’d done that. Everyone wanted to know who he was.

He stopped and exhaled deeply, eradicating the poisonous pride from his system. He had to exercise better control if he was going to succeed.

He wouldn’t make a mistake again.

Against his better judgment, Mason had decided to open the package on the site. The bomb squad had x-rayed it and cleared it, and he’d waited until someone who knew what they were doing showed up. He watched the woman photograph, dust the shiny tape, take trace evidence, and then carefully open the box. The UPS label was addressed to the victim. The return address was a PO box in Portland.

He and Lusco had argued about opening it. Lusco had wanted to take it back to the lab. Mason wanted it open here and now. The crime scene tech didn’t want to open it at the scene either, but Mason overruled her. The slaying inside the mansion had shown all the same characteristics of Trenton’s and Cochran’s murder scenes, except for one: a physical connection to a previous crime.

Their guy liked to leave things behind. Trenton’s badge at the Mills scene. Trenton’s hair at the Cochran scene. Even the video on Dr. Campbell’s porch and the ring in her lab coat.

All Mason’s senses screamed to rip open the box. He shifted weight from one foot to the other and repeated the movement. Lusco shot him an odd look, probably wondering if he needed to use the john. Mason stopped and twisted his fists inside his overcoat pockets. His breath steamed in the air.

What the hell was going on? This was looking like the third murder related to that damned serial killer DeCosta. Someone was definitely making a point. The broken femurs on each body were deliberately telling the police that the same person was murdering each man.

Had they put away the wrong man back then? Missed an accomplice? And who was next?

The questions were starting to haunt him in his sleep. He clenched his teeth. The little dentist could be next. She’d played a big role in putting DeCosta away. Thank God the presiding trial judge, Stanley Williams, had died a few years ago. At least that was one less person to worry about.

They’d warned Richard Buck two days ago. Suggested he take a vacation or get out of town for a few days. Just like they’d warned Dr. Campbell. But Buck had been in the middle of an important trial. He’d laughed at Mason’s suggestion that someone else finish the trial.

Mason bet Buck believed him now.

Finally. The package was coming open. God, she was slow! He ducked his head and flexed his hands. The tech was doing her job and she was doing it right. But damn it, he knew there was something in there.

Several of the neighbors had told the police they’d seen the UPS truck. They’d all thought it looked legit, not fishy at all. The delivery would be easy enough to check on. The company was so computerized, they knew where everything was and when. Mason knew it would check out as a normal delivery, but the return address would be bogus—the package dropped off at a mailing center.

He bent and peered over the tech’s shoulder. And felt no surprise at the sight. There was a baggie of hair that he knew would belong to Joseph Cochran, but in the baggie something gold glinted. The tech lifted the bag to eye level with long tweezers.

Mason stared at the gold ring inside the plastic and felt his heart stop. He knew the ring would have Dr. Campbell’s initials. Another connection.


Pulling out his cell phone, he whirled to the uniform on the porch and pointed. “Get a patrol car over to Dr. Campbell’s house. Have him check on her, plant his ass in front of her house, and not move until we get there.” He glanced up at the defense attorney’s gigantic home as his phone speed-dialed Dr. Campbell. “Tell him we’re going to be a while.”

Mount Junction was tinted with all the shades between white and gray. White snow covered the surrounding mountain range and dark gray gunk covered the snowbanks along the lighter gray streets. It was the largest town for a hundred miles in the lower corner of Oregon. A town built around its university. The university was the biggest employer in the county, and the rest of the population either ranched or provided support services for the students, like restaurants and clothing stores. Mount Junction’s reputation was conservative, a reflection of the school that was proud to be red in the prominently blue state. Michael had noticed immediately that these Southeast Oregonians were significantly more talented at driving in poor winter conditions than Portlanders. Snow was a way of life out here.