Jack exhaled loudly in the phone. “Thank you.”
“Don’t move. We’ll be right there.”
Mason slapped his phone shut and gestured at Ray.
“We’ve got another situation.”
Mason felt like he’d aged ten years. The emotional ups and downs of this case were going to kill him. He took a deep breath, pulled his hat, and started a rapid walk down the cold street to the roadblock. One phrase ricocheted through his skull.
This isn’t over.
It was too easy.
While the police focused on his house, he’d simply hidden in a house down the street. The owners had asked him to feed the dog while they were on vacation. He liked dogs and the home provided the perfect foil to avoid the police and watch as they surrounded his home. He’d even parked his car in the neighbor’s garage.
Thank goodness, his mother had cared enough to call and warn him.
She’d hesitated on the phone, uncertain she was doing the right thing. He’d cajoled as usual, lying about his involvement, claimed the police were trying to pin things on him because he was Dave’s brother. He’d convinced her he would talk to the police and straighten it out.
So gullible. All women were.
Even the untouchable Dr. Campbell.
She hadn’t blinked when he rushed up to the truck, saying Detective Callahan wanted her out of the street, out of harm’s way, and in the safe house. The police at the roadblock had been distracted with the events down the street. They weren’t watching behind them and didn’t see Lacey get out of the truck and cross to the house. He’d seen the flicker of recognition spark. She’d known him from somewhere, but couldn’t place him. He’d worn a navy blue ball cap and windbreaker. Generic police-looking enough. She’d probably thought she’d seen him with the detectives. The momentary confusion had her following him silently as she tried to place his face.
As the two of them stepped through the door, and he laid his hand at the small of her back, she’d known.
He’d felt her twitch the second comprehension dawned. By then it was too late; she was in the house. He’d simply followed the same routine as with the Harper woman. Cloth over the face, make them inhale, and then into his car.
This one had fought. Fought like a furious little cat. She’d knocked two pictures off the wall and broke some sort of Chinese figurine. She’d used teeth, fingernails, and feet to fight him. He gently touched his face. He’d have a scratch on his cheek and bite mark on his arm for a week. Bitch.
The police hadn’t glanced his way as he backed out of the garage and drove off. The snow in the street in front of the house had been flattened and messed up by police vehicles and boots. His tracks were indistinguishable.
He downed his coffee and scanned the main room of the cabin. He needed to prepare. Since the police had tracked him to one house, it wouldn’t be long before they traced him here, just as he needed them to. Out here in the center of the forest, he was alone. He’d always loved this ramshackle cabin as a kid. He and Dave had spent months here during the hunting seasons. Both animal and human. This was the place where his brother had initiated him into his private, twisted world. He’d felt flattered. Together, the two of them had dug out a cellar, lined it with concrete, and built a heavy door for locking up their women.
He’d realized then his brother was sloppy and careless with his women. No finesse. Dave never concerned himself with technique. Dave simply got the job done.
He’d realized the kill could be so much more. An opportunity to enjoy the chase and relish the power. And develop a signature. The broken femurs. It’d been his idea to break the femurs on the girls Dave took and he’d carried it on with his own kills. Not only was it an incapacitating move, but the femur was the longest bone in the body, one of the strongest bones. To him it was a symbolic gesture of his power over the victim. With his more recent kills, adding the signature of using something close to the victim was unique and distinguished him from the sloppier killers. It showed he’d studied his vics and used some careful reflection. He smiled behind his coffee cup. He’d spent years getting it perfect. The recent three victims had been works of art.
He regretted pushing the Mount Junction girl into the river with her car. She’d been his first kill without Dave’s involvement, and he’d worried about trace evidence. So he’d disposed of the girl, covering his tracks. In Southeast Oregon he hadn’t had a remote place where he could keep someone for a few days. He’d had to get rid of her immediately, but least he’d been able to leave his signature with the femurs. No one had recognized it until lately. That reporter from The Oregonian had put the pieces together. It was a relief somewhat. He’d wanted credit for his work but hadn’t known how to publicize it without exposing himself. Thank you, Mr. Brody.
He opened a kitchen cupboard and pulled a photo album off the top shelf, gently flipping the pages. The pictures were starting to discolor a bit. His favorite pictures were curling at the corners from his excessive handling over the years. It was one of those albums with the slightly sticky pages to hold the photos, but the stickiness was long gone. He’d had to add glue and tape to make the photos stick.
He twisted his lips as he studied a photo of Amy Smith on the beam. He still wasn’t certain why he’d stolen it so long ago. He’d broken into the gymnast’s apartment expecting to find her home, but the place had been empty. He’d been furious; he’d wanted her with a soul-deep longing. He’d spotted her on a billboard along the highway in Mount Junction, and had been hooked by the come-hither pose. He’d started following the gymnasts, trying to place a name with her face, find out where she lived. He finally did and she wasn’t home. So he’d snooped through her things, fascinated with the trivia of a college girl’s life. Posters of rock bands, cheap stuffed animals from fairs, clothes, clothes, and clothes. The album had been lying on her bed, half-finished. After flipping through the pictures he’d known he had to keep it.