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“If we can get Tiggs’s okay, I’d like to use the media,” Jerry told his partner.

“Why the hell not?” O’Donnell muttered. “Nothing else is working.”

Jed stood. “Time for me to go, but thanks for letting me in,” he said to the two cops and the M.E.

“Sure. Just don’t make us out to be the bad guys in your next blockbuster, huh?” There was a note of venom in O’Donnell’s voice that surprised Jed. He’d thought the department had accepted that the Interstate Killer had been one of their own gone bad.

“Where are you off to?” Jerry asked Jed suspiciously.

“Gainesville,” Jed told him.

“To see Larry Atkins?” O’Donnell asked sharply.


O’Donnell shook his head. “Atkins will swear on his life that he knew he was doing the right thing. What do you expect? That he wants to be known as a trigger-happy cop who killed his own partner?”

“Maybe these are copycat killings,” Jerry said. “Hell, none of us were around back when it all went down.”

O’Donnell looked away. He obviously wasn’t pleased to have Jed around now. Too bad, Jed thought. Because if he felt like it, he could say he had been hired to look into the case.

Beau Kidd’s sister was looking for the truth.

Jed felt a sense of uneasiness. It was imperative for them to solve this case quickly. This guy was piling up victims fast.

But there was something more frightening, more personal, about the current situation.

The killer was focusing on redheads. Like Beau Kidd’s sister.

And like Christina Hardy.

Jed looked at his watch. Plenty of time. He had an hour-, hour-and-a-half ride ahead of him. Larry Atkins had retired to a farm outside Gainesville, where he kept retired racehorses that hadn’t been successful enough to become breeding stallions or broodmares, horses that might have wound up in the glue factory. He was a homebody. His wife had died a decade ago, and his kids had gone to college out west and stayed there.

Most nights Larry could be found on his porch from about seven to nine, smoking his pipe in peace and quiet, and staring out over the acreage his pension had bought him.

Two killings. God in heaven, Larry had to have something to give him. It was as if this guy was carrying out a series of perfect murders, as if he were in law enforcement, forensics…

As if he were a detective assigned to this very case.

There was no such thing as the perfect murder, Jed reminded himself.

“Tell Larry hi for me,” O’Donnell said.

“Will do,” Jed assured him, and he headed for his car.

“Hey!” O’Donnell yelled.

“Yeah?” Jed turned back.

“No secrets, no being a big man and thinking you’re going to solve the case. You—”

“Yes, I know,” Jed said patiently. “If I come up with anything at all, I’ll be calling.”


What the hell did it matter who figured it out?

As long as the killing stopped. Now. Before…

He gritted his teeth and kept going to his car.

It was the phone. Nothing more than the phone.

Christina laughed aloud, then sobered, glad she hadn’t hurt herself when she’d jumped off the piano bench with such force that it had tipped over. She’d forgotten that the phone rang as loud as a banshee’s howl because Gran had been afraid she was losing her hearing.

“Hey, you,” Ana said when Christina caught her breath and picked up.

“Hey, yourself.”

“What are you doing?” Ana asked cheerfully.

Sitting here afraid that I’m imagining really weird things. Or that I’m not imagining them and they’re real, which is even worse.

“Working,” she said instead.

“I’m coming over, and we’re going out,” Ana said.


“You need to get out of that house,” Ana said.

“Ana, I just moved in.”

“You have to get away from your own company for a while,” Ana said.

“Now, that’s just mean. I actually like myself just fine,” Christina told her.

“Great, well, then, do you still like me?”

“Of course I do.”

“Good. Because I want to go shopping. I don’t have anything to wear for Halloween. And I don’t want to go out alone.”

Did she really want to stay there? Christina asked herself. No.

“Give me ten minutes,” she said into the phone.

As soon as Ana arrived, Christina ran out to her car and slid into the passenger seat, then stared at her friend and asked accusingly, “Okay, who have you been talking to?”

“About what?”


Ana shrugged. “Well, I did get a call from Jed.”

Christina groaned. “He thinks I’m crazy.”

“Not true. He…cares about you.”

“Don’t be ridiculous. I’ve barely seen him in years.”

Ignoring that, Ana said, “And then I happened to run into Dan at the gas station.”

“My cousin thinks I’m crazy,” Christina said glumly, then brightened. “Did he tell you he’s going to be playing the Grim Reader?”

“No. Is he supposed to be scary?”

“Yeah, I think so. We need to go see him do his thing. Should be fun.”

Ana shuddered. “And crowded.”

“Not if we avoid the weekends and Halloween itself.”

“We should make plans, then. There are only two weeks left until Halloween.”

“My nights are fairly open,” Christina told her. She thought about it for a minute. “In fact, they’re completely open right now.”

Ana giggled. “Mine, too. Hey, can he get us free passes?”

“I’m sure he can. So where are we going tonight, anyway?”

“A place called Once More, With Feeling. They sell vintage stuff, and then for Halloween they bring in more costumes than anyone else in the area. You’ll like it.”

The shop was as eclectic as promised. Half of it was dedicated to the old, from fedoras to flower-child bell-bottoms. Then there were the costumes, as well as a selection of accessories that could be added to the off-the-rack offerings to individualize them.

“We should do a theme thing,” Ana murmured. “You know, like Dorothy, Toto, the Tin Man and all that.”

“Are we going trick-or-treating?” Christina asked.

“I want to go out, anyway. I’d love to win the costume contest at O’Reilly’s this year.”

“If you want Dan to come, you’ll have to make sure he’s not working.”

“We’ll just buy him a costume and hope for the best. Are you in?”


“Okay, I’ll be Toto,” Ana said.

“I’m not carrying you around in a basket all night,” Christina said.

“I know, but think about how great it will be. Every time you see people doing the Wizard of Oz thing, Toto is a stuffed toy. You never see a live Toto. And you’ll be fabulous as Dorothy.”

Christina shrugged. Ana was going through a rack of costumes, looking for what, Christina wasn’t certain. She found herself watching the other customers, curious to see what they were picking up.

A group of college boys were gravitating toward the slasher costumes. One of them put on a Freddy Krueger mask, and started laughing and menacing his friends. It was quite an effectively creepy costume, Christina thought.

And when he had it on, he could have been anyone.

It was a sobering thought.

“Are you listening?” Ana said, breaking into her thoughts.


“Pay attention, would you? Mike can be the Tin Man, and Dan can be the Scarecrow.”

“We’ll be missing the Cowardly Lion,” Christina pointed out.

“I’ll have to talk Jed into that one.”

“You think you can get Jed to dress up like the Cowardly Lion?”

“Maybe not.” Ana looked thoughtful for a moment. “We’ll work on who dresses up as what later. He might go for it, though. He actually does have a sense of humor. Somewhere,” Ana assured her dryly. “I’m going to pay for this stuff. Then we’ll go.”

“We’ll split it,” Christina told her.

After the costume shop, they headed down International Drive, Ana complaining about the tourists the whole way. “The traffic gets worse every day.”

“It’s October in theme-park land. What do you want?”

Ana was quiet for a minute. “Haven’t they heard we have a serial killer on the loose?” she asked.

Christina was surprised by her friend’s intensity. “Ana, most people never think they could be victims themselves. And most women can assure themselves they’re not young or a redhead.”

Ana looked at her worriedly. “You are.”

“But I’m not a tourist,” Christina said with a sigh.

“Here we are,” Ana said. “And I’m starving.”

They had reached O’Reilly’s, a pub that predated the invasion of theme parks into central Florida. Family-owned and operated, it was currently in the hands of the third generation. The food was good and solid, and the atmosphere was friendly.

“Check out the pictures on the wall when we go in,” Ana said. “You can see who’s won in previous years.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Christina said meekly, smiling.

A friendly hostess showed them to a booth. They both opted for iced tea and shepherd’s pie, the house specialty. When their drinks were delivered, Christina dutifully looked at the pictures on the wall, recently hung as a ploy to entice customers to make O’Reilly’s their destination of choice on Halloween. First prize was a thousand dollars—and a place on the October Wall of Infamy.

“Oh, my God,” Ana breathed suddenly.