“But I wasn’t,” he replies.
“Theo, I saw you.”
“You saw someone. Just not me. Yes, Vivian flirted and made it clear she’d be up for it. But I was never interested.”
I replay that moment in my mind. Hearing the moans muffled by the rush of the shower. Peering through the space between the planks. Seeing Vivian shoved against the wall, her hair running down her neck in wet tendrils, twisting like snakes. Theo behind her. Pushing into her. Face buried against her neck.
I never actually saw it.
I had just assumed it was Theo because I had seen him in the shower before.
“It had to be you,” I say. “There’s no one else it could be. You were the only man in the entire camp.”
Even as the words emerge, I know I’m wrong. There was someone else here close to Theo’s age. Someone who went unnoticed, simply doing his job, hiding in plain sight.
“The groundskeeper,” I say.
“Ben,” Theo says with a huff of disgust. “And if he did something like that back then, who knows what he’s been up to now.”
“Tell me about the girls,” Detective Flynn says. “The ones who are missing. Did you have any interactions with them?”
“I might have seen them. Don’t remember if I did or not, but probably.”
“Did you have any interactions with any of the girls in camp?”
“Not on purpose. Maybe if I needed to get somewhere and they were in my way, I’d say excuse me. Other than that, I keep to myself.”
He looks up at us from a chair built for someone half his age, his gaze resting a moment on each of our faces. First me. Then Theo. And finally Detective Flynn.
We’re all in the arts and crafts building, the mess hall having been taken over by the remaining campers and instructors for dinner. I spotted them glumly filing inside as Theo and I headed next door. A few of the girls still wept. Most wore stunned, blank expressions that were occasionally punctuated by disbelief. I saw it in their eyes when they lifted their faces to the sky as the search helicopter made another deafening pass over camp.
So we ended up here, in a former horse stable painted to resemble a storybook forest, lit by fluorescent bulbs that buzz overhead. I stand next to Theo, keeping several feet of space between us. I still don’t entirely trust him. I’m sure he feels the same way about me. But for now, we’re uncomfortable allies, united in our suspicion of a man whose full name I’ve only recently learned.
The groundskeeper. The man who had sex with Vivian. The same man who might know where Miranda, Krystal, and Sasha are. I let Flynn do the talking, choosing to stay silent even though all I want is to pummel Ben Schumacher until he tells me where they are and what he’s done to them.
He certainly appears capable of doing harm. He’s got a hard look about him. He’s spent much of his life working outdoors, and it shows in the calluses on his hands and the sunburned streak on the bridge of his nose. He’s big, too. There’s a noticeable bulk hidden beneath his flannel shirt and white tee.
“Where were you at five this morning?” Detective Flynn asks him.
“Probably in the kitchen. About to get ready for work.”
Flynn nods toward the gold wedding band on Ben’s left hand. “Can your wife confirm that?”
“I hope so, seeing how she was in the kitchen with me. Although she’s awfully groggy before that first cup of coffee.”
Ben chuckles. The rest of us don’t. He leans back in his chair and says, “Why are you asking me this stuff?”
“What’s your job here?” Flynn says, ignoring the question.
“Groundskeeper. I told you that already.”
“I know, but what specifically do you do?”
“Whatever needs doing. Mowing the lawn. Working on the buildings.”
“So, general maintenance?”
“Yeah.” Ben gives a half smirk at the vaguely genteel job description. “General maintenance.”
“And how long have you worked for Camp Nightingale?”
“I don’t. I work for the family. Sometimes that means doing some things for the camp. Sometimes it doesn’t.”
“Then how long have you worked for the Harris-Whites?”
“About fifteen years.”
“Which means the summer Camp Nightingale closed was your first summer here?”
“It was,” Ben says.
Flynn makes a note of it in the same notebook he jotted down all my useless information. “How did you get the job?”
“I was a year out of high school, picking up the odd job here and there around town. Barely scraping by. So when I got wind that Mrs. Harris-White was looking for a groundskeeper, I jumped at the chance. Been here ever since.”
For confirmation, Flynn turns to Theo, who says, “It’s true.”
“Fifteen years is a long time to be working the same job,” Flynn tells Ben. “Do you like working for the Harris-Whites?”
“It’s decent work. Pays well. Puts a roof over my family’s head and food in their stomachs. I got no complaints.”
“What about the family? Do you like them?”
Ben looks to Theo, his expression unreadable. “Like I said, no complaints.”