He’d memorized the pictures of Amy, Suzanne, and Lacey until he nearly believed they were his pictures. His friends who laughed and panned for the camera. Tight, revealing leotards, amazing feats of balance and flexibility. His fascination for gymnasts had been locked in from that moment. A few years later he’d visited Dave in Oregon, timing it with Southeast Oregon University’s appearance at the gymnastic invitational in Corvallis. He’d shown his brother the pictures, suggested a gymnast be their next victim, and his brother had agreed. The result was Suzanne.
His eyes ran a hand down a rough wall of his hidden nest. No running water, a simple stove for heat and cooking, and silence. Here he felt connected with nature, living the life of a settler from two hundred years ago. Hunting, trapping. He pointedly ignored the generator, grocery store firewood, propane lamps, and can opener.
The police had never connected this place to his brother. Originally it’d belonged to an acquaintance of his mother’s who’d let the two boys use it whenever they’d wanted. Years ago, he’d convinced the old man to sell it; after all, he never used it. The two brothers were the only ones who’d stepped foot in it for twenty years.
Now it was his. His mother had moved him from western state to western state, searching for a job or men to mooch from. He’d ached for a place to put down roots. That’s what the cabin was. Where he was rooted.
Sometimes it was lonely. He missed his brother, their discussions on bondage, sex slaves, and weapons. When he’d found out his brother was going to die in prison, he’d funneled his anger into planning revenge on those who put him there. The cabin was where he’d created his perfect plan.
Dave didn’t breathe a word about his brother’s involvement in the college girls’ deaths. He’d kept quiet on Suzanne’s fate to the police, because she was his special project, not Dave’s. When he was fifteen, he’d been toying with the idea of having a sex slave. Someone who was ready whenever he wanted her and then disappeared when he was finished. He’d been a frustrated teen. Girls didn’t want anything to do with him and he’d started to doubt that he’d ever have sex. Dave had said a sex slave wouldn’t work, but he’d still wanted to try. They’d tapped into an online newsletter for people in the sex slave trade, studied their habits, the dos and don’ts. He’d wanted to keep Suzanne for himself forever. All that gorgeous hair and spunk.
His hands tightened into fists as his groin hardened.
It hadn’t worked. His big brother had been right. Suzanne had too big a mouth and got on his nerves, fighting him every step of the way. When he’d realized Suzanne was pregnant, he’d been surprised by his desire for a real family. Mommy, daddy, and baby. But Suzanne wasn’t docile enough. He’d picked the wrong type of woman. After the baby was born, he’d finished her and buried her deep in the forest. Dave had always left their victims to be found. He’d wanted to keep Suzanne for himself in death if he couldn’t have her in life.
His thoughts drifted to Lacey, snug and silent in the cabin cellar. Would things have been different if his brother had caught Lacey instead of Suzanne? Would she have driven him to kill her like Suzanne? Or would they be a family today?
Questions. Questions. He knew better than to play the what-if game.
He’d injected Lacey on the drive from Molalla, knowing the original inhalant wouldn’t last long. At least Lacey had been easier to move than the Harper woman. Lacey couldn’t weigh more than a hundred pounds.
He flopped into a ripped easy chair, slouching, and pictured Melody Harper. What a waste to leave her behind, but she’d served her purpose as bait. Harper and Lacey had come out of hiding as if he’d called them on the phone. Just like he knew they would. Perfect planning.
It would have been nice to follow through on some of the interesting scenarios he’d dreamed up for Melody. He liked her name. Melody. It turned his mind to musical things. Piano and guitar strings, violin bows and drumsticks. He liked to stick to a theme. It got his creative juices flowing.
He heard humming.
Annoyed, he abruptly stood and threw two perfectly cut pieces of wood on the fire. He took a moment on one knee, watching the red and yellow flames attack the new fuel. Beginnings and endings.
He was nearly done. It felt like he’d put his plan in motion long ago. He’d carefully recovered Suzanne’s bones from her burial site and then hid them and the cop’s badge in a hole beneath the apartment building. Not everything had flowed exactly as planned, but he was still on schedule and sitting exactly where he’d foreseen he’d be at the end.
He was as far as he’d get on his list of five targets. Three dead, one waiting in the cellar, and one unknown. If only he’d figured out who the fifth person was. The one who’d given Dave AIDS. He would’ve offed the fag. He had to settle for assuming the fag would slowly die of the disease. Maybe he was already dead.
He closed his eyes. Today was the tenth anniversary of Dave’s sentencing. An echo of the pain from when the judge slammed his gavel and sent his brother to his death rattled through him.
The cop, the two lawyers, and the witness. Too bad the judge already was dead. Emphysema. It was a hellish disease to die from, gasping for every breath as the lungs failed and the body screamed for oxygen. Good.
He’d considered adding Jack Harper and Michael Brody to his list. They’d interfered substantially along his chosen path, wreaking havoc here and there. It wasn’t reason enough for their deaths. Brody had efficiently covered his quest. Robert had loved reading about his own exploits and the police’s confusion. Harper had raised the stakes, made things more challenging, and he’d appreciated the competition. He’d known Harper owned that apartment building. He’d chosen that site specifically to muddle the investigation, because it belonged to a former suspect in the Co-Ed killings. He leaned on a hand against the mantel of the fireplace, scowling. He hadn’t dreamed his actions would push Harper and Lacey Campbell into bed.