“My life was better when I thought it was simply an accident.” Gary’s eyes moved to a portrait of a toddler above the stone fireplace. Amy.
Michael nodded. Understandable.
Silent resentment filtered through the room.
“I found it.” Janet bustled into the living room, bringing back the warmth. Pride for her daughter rang in her voice and, seeing the poster, Michael appreciated why.
Amy had been beautiful. It was a profile shot of her sitting on the floor, her body filling the entire poster. She leaned back on one elbow, her head flung back with her chin pointing to the sky, exposing her neck. Her right leg was bent with her foot flat on the floor; the other leg stretched out straight, toes pointed. Her free hand rested lazily on top of the bent knee. She was in a red team leotard that highlighted the developed muscles particular to gymnasts. “Southeast Oregon University Gymnastics” was printed across the top of the poster. Without the college banner, it could have been a layout in any men’s magazine. The overall effect was sexual but athletic.
Michael studied the long blonde hair that caressed the floor from her tilted head.
It was just like Lacey’s.
Glancing at Gary, he saw the man regarding at the poster with an expression that swung between displeasure and pride. Michael tried looking at the poster through a father’s eyes.
Would he want his daughter posed on a billboard like that?
“She’s beautiful.” Michael gathered up his notebook and coat, clearing his throat. “Thank you for your time, I’m sorry to bother you.”
Startled, Janet pulled her misty gaze from the poster. She’d been somewhere else. Feeling like a trespasser, Michael headed for the door. With his hand on the knob, he turned back to Janet.
“Would you mind giving me Matt Petretti’s phone number?”
Twenty minutes after the video had been sent to Lacey’s phone, Alex walked in with two huge bags of Chinese food and two local cops at his heels. Rich smells filled the house and Lacey dashed out of the kitchen. She dry-heaved over the toilet, thankful she hadn’t eaten all day.
The food was cold by the time the police had left with her cell phone and a report of the incident. The men sat down to eat and pushed food at her, but Lacey’s appetite was gone. How could they eat after seeing those fishing lures? Both Alex and Jack had watched the clip several times. Once had been enough for her.
Alex ate quickly and excused himself, saying he had to make a phone call. He disappeared down the hall and Lacey heard the door click as he shut himself in his bedroom. She and Jack sat alone at the table. Several half-full white boxes dotted the table. The men had made a good-sized dent in the food, but Alex was going to have leftovers for several days.
Alex seemed to be warming up to Lacey. He’d responded in anger to the video clip and seemed genuinely concerned for her safety. He and Jack had done most of the talking over the meal, but he had asked her a few questions about DeCosta.
Now in the quiet dining room, she wished Alex back. He’d made a good buffer between her and Jack. Jack was impossible to ignore. He was one of those people who innately demanded attention simply by being in a room. In the tiny room, his male aura clogged every corner. No female could sit across a table from him and not physically feel the impact. A pang of sexual awareness swept through her, startling her. How could that happen, when she’d just seen the most petrifying sight in her life?
The plain truth was she was attracted to him and it scared her.
The man flitted from woman to woman like a kid let loose in Baskin-Robbins. A little taste here, a little taste there. Tired of one particular flavor, move on and try something else. That article in Portland Monthly had made it clear: Jack Harper didn’t have a commitment cell in his body.
That wasn’t the kind of man she needed.
“Don’t you like Chinese?”
“I do.” She grimaced. “I’m just not hungry anymore.”
Jack laid down his fork and gave her an inquisitive look. “What else do you like?”
“Mexican is good or Italian…”
He shook his head. “I didn’t mean food. I don’t know anything about you. I don’t know what kind of music you like, where you went to high school, or how you lost your mother.”
She blinked. Jack Harper wanted to know what made her tick.
She studied him, wondering at his intentions. He looked sincere. She couldn’t remember the last time someone had asked such personal questions. She’d locked herself off from relationships for so long, she’d forgotten how to create that feeling of intimacy. She’d been too private for too long. Michael and Amelia were the only people who truly knew her. And Kelly.
Tears filled her eyes at the thought of her missing friend.
“Oh, shit. I didn’t mean to pry. I didn’t think a few questions would upset you. Was it the question about your mom?” Jack looked genuinely distressed.
She grabbed at a clean napkin and pressed it against her eyes, then her leaking nose. Damn it! She hated crying in front of people. “No. It’s not that.” She tried to gracefully blow her nose in the napkin. Impossible. “It’s Kelly. Dear God. What’s happening to her?” Her tears cranked up ten notches.
Lacey had been through this before. When Suzanne vanished, she’d swam and struggled in the “what if” ocean for years. Her imagination had terrified her with painful scenarios. Her visions had been fueled by the newspaper descriptions of torture endured by the murdered girls.