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Ana pointed to the television behind the bar. Customers usually sat there to watch sports. But there was no game on tonight. Instead the screen showed a reporter, looking grim as he spoke live from the shoulder of a highway, where he was interviewing a police spokesman.

“Turn it up, please,” someone at the bar said.

The entire restaurant seemed to go still as the police spokesman, a lean, older, authoritative man, spoke quietly.

“…yet another victim. We are withholding her identity until her next of kin have been notified. We’re asking everyone—especially young women—to be careful. Don’t go anywhere with strangers. Don’t walk through dark parking lots alone. Many of the businesses in the area will be taking special precautions to ensure the safety of our residents and tourists. We’re also asking for help. Be vigilant and report anything, anything at all, that looks suspicious. Be smart, be careful.”

“Some people are saying that the Interstate Killer has come back to town,” the interviewer said. “Are we looking at a copycat, or was a serious mistake made twelve years ago?”

“Beau Kidd was never convicted of any crime,” the spokesman said. “But we don’t know what we’re looking at just yet. Be assured that we have every law enforcement agency in the state on guard, and if circumstances warrant, the FBI will be called in, as well.”

Christina started when her dinner was set before her and looked up. Their waitress was a pretty girl with golden eyes, freckles and carrot-red hair. Her slight accent said she was Irish but had been in the States for a while.

“They aren’t saying it on TV,” the girl murmured with a shiver, “but some cops come in here all the time, and they talk. Freddy MacGregor was just in, and he said that girl was a brunette, but she had red streaks in her hair.”

Christina felt a sensation of dread come creeping over her.

“I’m dying my hair black,” the waitress announced, staring at the television. Then she cleared her throat. “More iced tea?” she asked cheerfully.

Christina hoped to find out more about the murder, but the station was no longer broadcasting live from the highway. They’d moved on to interviewing little children in homemade Halloween costumes.

“Just great, isn’t it?” Ana muttered in a tone that said it was anything but great.


“All those kids in monster costumes. What happened to being a cowboy or a princess? All those monsters…when there’s a real monster out there.”

“There’s always a real monster out there somewhere,” Christina said. And that was the sad truth, she thought. Somewhere, at any given time, there was a monster on the streets. “And the scariest monsters look just like the boy next door,” she murmured.

“I figured you’d be back,” Larry Atkins said.

As Jed had expected, Larry had been sitting on his porch, a cool beer by his side while he puffed on his pipe. The pipe smoke had a pleasant aroma.

“That thing will kill you one day,” Jed told him.

Larry smiled and ignored his words, using his pipe to point in the direction of his pasture. “You ever think about getting a horse, Jed? I just got a mare in—they were going to put her down. She didn’t live up to her promise. Sweetest thing you ever want to see. She follows me around just like a puppy dog, as if she knows I saved her life. A horse would do you good, you know. Grab a beer from the cooler over there, make yourself at home.”

Jed perched on the wooden porch fence and shook his head. “Thanks, but it’s a long drive back.”

“Yup. An hour and a half—just like the drive up here—and you decided to come on a whim, huh?”

“You haven’t heard yet? They found another victim.”

Larry stared at him and shook his head. “What the fuck is wrong with people? I drew my weapon twice when I was on the force. The first time I winged a guy so high on heroin that when he took aim at me, the bullet went about a hundred feet wide. And then…then I shot my own partner when I saw him with that girl. I gave him a warning, and that’s when he drew his gun on me. But I tell you, even seeing Beau there with the girl, even knowing he was a sick psychopath, even then…knowing that I’d killed a man was a bitch. How the hell do people get so warped that they can rip up another human being and take pleasure in the pain?”

“If we had that one solved, we could start working on world peace,” Jed told him.

“You came out here because you’re thinking I must have made a mistake,” Larry said, and scratched his chin thoughtfully.

“I saw the last victim not two hours ago,” Jed said quietly. “I’m telling you, it looks like the same guy. Larry, did I miss something in the files? Can you think of anything, anything at all, that was particular to the Interstate Killer? Something to prove this maniac is a copycat?”

“Boy, wouldn’t we both like that?” Larry breathed.

“Want to talk through it again?”

“Sure. I got nothing to hide. Beau had dated Janet Major, the fourth victim. I saw his face when we found her. He was green. At first I thought he was all torn up about it. But then, little by little, it comes out that the two of them had a real set-to over some other guy. She was seen leaving Beau’s apartment complex the day before she died. None of us believed it could be him, but our lieutenant did talk to him. Beau admitted to me that the lieutenant was worried—he hadn’t accused him, but he was about to take him off the case. So I did some background checks on the other victims and some sleuthing on my own…turned out he had at least met the other girls, as well. A few of the other detectives on the case were starting to look at him, too, especially after the point was made that we were looking for someone who knew what the cops would be looking for and knew how not to leave a trace. And we just couldn’t find anything. You would have thought one of those girls would have managed to scratch the killer, but…nothing.

“He was dating the girl from Tampa, the last victim, Grace Garcia. We all knew it. When I came up, he had her in his arms, he was laying her out. I shouted at him, and he drew on me! What the hell else could have been going on?”

Larry’s voice sounded tortured. Well, why the hell not? Jed thought. He was going through his own angst, and all he’d done was write a book.

Larry Atkins had shot and killed the man.

“Larry, other than Beau knowing the girls and being a cop, what was the other evidence against him?” Jed asked. “Run through it for me again.”

Larry stared out at the field, puffing on his pipe. “No alibi,” he said, and took a deep breath. “The way we saw it, and the FBI guy agreed with us, the profile was for a man in his twenties, a functioning psychotic, someone who smiled by day and went about his business. Hell, look how long Bundy got away with it.” He shook his head. “Lots of times, you get the guy who’s down and out, a car thief, a junkie. He looks weird, and people are afraid of him. Then you get the really scary guys, who look as normal as your dad or your brother, and everybody around goes, hell, no, he’s a nice guy, he pats my dog on the head, he keeps his yard neat. Beau was that guy.”

“So far, everything about these killings is the same as twelve years ago, the women disappearing, being missing for almost three days before they’re found.”

“Sounds right,” Larry agreed, rocking in his chair, not looking at Jed.

“So here’s the question. Where the hell is he keeping them?” Jed asked.

“We never found any evidence, but Beau must have been hiding them in his apartment, tying them up, gagging them…until their time was up and he killed them.”

“In his apartment,” Jed murmured.

“We’ve been over this before,” Larry said. “I wish I could think of something, something I’ve been missing.”

There has to be something, Jed thought.

“I’ve been thinking about nothing else, ever since I heard about the murder of Sherri Mason,” Larry told him. “I just can’t think of a damn thing.”

“Thanks for trying, Larry.”

“You come anytime.”

“I will. Thanks again.”

“Think about getting a horse, Jed.”

“I live in an apartment.”

“Get yourself some land, get into horses.”

“I’ll give it some thought,” Jed promised.

“I think I’m going to stay with you tonight,” Ana told Christina when they reached her house.

Christina realized that she was staring at the house with foreboding, and immediately felt irritated with herself.

It was her house now; she was the keeper of the family seat. And she loved it.

“I’m fine. Really,” she lied to Ana, hoping her tone was as convincing as her words.

“Maybe you’re fine, but I’m not,” Ana told her.

Christina turned to her friend in surprise. Ana did look upset.

They exited the car and looked around, then looked at each other, both silently acknowledging they really were somewhat nervous. But the night was clear and beautiful; there wasn’t a trace of the fog that had rolled in the night before.

Christina unlocked the door, and they entered the house. “Want tea or something?” she asked.

“We just ate,” Ana reminded her, then yawned. “I’m ready for bed.”

“Sounds good.”

Ana didn’t seem to be afraid once they were inside, Christina noticed, but she herself felt just as uneasy as she had before. She assured herself that the door to the basement was bolted, then wedged a chair under the doorknob to brace it, just for good measure.

“I’m going upstairs,” Ana called.

“Cool. Pick a room.”

“Pick a room? You just move over, sweetie. I’m bunking with you.”

“Thank God you’re small,” Christina teased.

She went to set the coffeepot timer for the next morning, and it was then that she froze.