Page 28

Who the hell was she, and how did he know her?

Katherine smiled, rising slightly, extending a hand. “You’re Angie McDuff. I saw you on TV a few days ago.”

Angie McDuff. Mike McDuff’s ex. How the hell could he have forgotten her? Though, admittedly, it had been a few years, and she had a lot more red in her hair than when he had seen her last.

“Thanks so much,” Angie said to Katherine, sounding genuinely pleased to have been recognized.

“Hi, Angie, how are you doing?” Jed said.

“Good, thanks. Though not as well as you are, it seems.”

“I beg your pardon?”

She smiled. “Your face has been all over the news.”

“Great,” he murmured.

“They can’t keep that book of yours on the shelves. I mean, I know it was fiction, but you know how people are. They’re interested in anything with a hint of scandal attached to it. I bet you’ll be getting a lot of calls soon, people wanting to interview you about Beau Kidd and what you think is going on now. Was Beau railroaded while the real killer got away, or is the current murderer a copycat?”

“Angie, this is Katherine Kidd,” he said politely. “Beau Kidd’s sister.”

Angie gasped, turning a mottled shade of red. “Oh. I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to bring up bad memories.”

Katherine shrugged. “It’s all right.”

“Well, nice to meet you. Jed, good to see you again. I think I saw your cousin Ana a few months back. And I heard that Mike’s cousin, Christina, has moved to town.” She flashed him a broad smile. “I bet she’ll find a lot of work here, and she’s going to need vocalists, of course.”

He tried to keep his smile in place. Angie McDuff never stopped.

“Put in a good word for me, will you, if you run into her?” she asked.

Was she kidding? But he kept his smile in place. Christina Hardy was one of the most loyal women in the world. No way would she hire her cousin’s ex, not that he was going to tell Angie that. “Sure,” he said, and left it there.

Angie waved goodbye to them both with another smile and walked away.

As soon as the other woman was gone, Katherine started speaking as if they’d never been interrupted. “My brother was good friends with Larry Atkins, but still…All I know is that Beau wasn’t guilty, and Larry’s the one who shot him.”

“He was kneeling over one of the victims. And he drew his own weapon,” Jed said.

“You could at least talk to Larry again.”

“All right, why not?” Jed told her. So what if he’d just been out there? he asked himself, thinking again about the amount of land Larry Atkins had now. It was hill country out there, too. Maybe there were a few secret places out on the property.

Katherine set her hand on his, breaking into his thoughts. “Want to see me home?” she asked softly. Suggestively.

He glanced at her hand. If this invitation had come a week ago…? But it hadn’t, and things were different now. “I’ll follow you home, see that you get inside okay,” he told her.

She drew her hand back. “There’s someone else?”

In the past years, there had been a number of someone elses, he thought. This could have been the same. But it wasn’t.

“Yes, there’s someone else,” he said huskily. “But I’ll be happy to see you home.”

She rose, then hesitated, shaking her head. “Actually, I don’t think I’m heading home after all. I think I’ll go down the street and see a movie. But thanks. And thank you so much for agreeing to see me. Please, after you’ve been to see Larry Atkins, will you give me a call and tell me how it went?”

“Yes,” he promised her.

“You’ll call no matter what?” she asked, her tone afraid and hopeful all at once.

“No matter what,” he promised.

With a wave, she was gone.

Beau Kidd was back. He sat on the floor with her, going through clippings, while Killer dozed on the couch. “There just has to be an answer,” he said.

She gazed up at him, gritting her teeth. He hadn’t been there…then he was. “You were the lead detective on the case,” she reminded him.

He shook his head. “Yeah, and as soon as I wanted to keep an eye on a girl…she died.”

“Beau, did you draw your weapon on Larry Atkins?” she demanded.

He paused, staring blankly out across the parlor. “I drew my weapon. But not on Larry.”

“What do you mean?”

“The killer was there.”

“The killer was there? Who was it?”

“Obviously, I don’t know.”

She stared at him as if he had taken leave of his senses. “But you said—”

“It was night. Dark. Someone had called in a tip about shadows moving by the highway, so I called Larry and told him to meet me there, but I reached the location first. I thought…” He paused, and ghost or not, the look that flashed across his face was one of pure agony. “I saw her, and I thought she was still alive, so I ran over to her. But then I heard something, so I drew my weapon. I thought that the killer was still there. She was…she was still warm, you see,” he said very softly.

Killer suddenly stood up and barked once, his tail wagging.

The doorbell rang.

Christina leapt up as Killer barked again, excited, anxious to go to the door with her. “It has to be someone I know,” she explained, starting for the hallway. But when she turned back to see if Beau had heard her, he was gone.

Killer barked again. “And they make fun of you,” she told him affectionately as they reached the front hall. “You are a good guard dog.”

She hesitated at the door. Somehow, she knew it was Jed, maybe because Killer was already so pleased. Her heart thundered as she looked through the peephole.

It was Jed.

“Hey,” she said as she opened the door, trying to sound casual.

“Hey, yourself,” he replied as she stepped back to give him room to enter. He hunkered down immediately to pet Killer, who seemed positively ecstatic.

Then again, Killer seemed to like her ghost just fine, too. She turned, anxiously looking down the hallway. Was Beau Kidd still there somewhere, just keeping out of the way?

She suddenly felt very awkward, and just a little worried. She sure as hell couldn’t tell a man like Jed Braden that she had a ghost in her house. No need to give him any more reason to think she was seeing things. And yet…

The ghost was real. He wasn’t just in her mind. He wasn’t.

But she didn’t like the idea of the ghost listening in on their personal conversation. Or their personal…other communication.

“So what’s up?” she asked, leading the way into the parlor. Might as well see if Beau had reappeared, she thought. “I was actually going to call you later. I promised Dan that I’d go see him doing his Grim Reader thing. I was going to get hold of Ana and ask her to go with me tomorrow, and I was hoping you would come along.”

“You’re going to the new park?” he asked, his voice fierce, and he was frowning.

“I told you, I promised Dan I’d go.”

He followed her into the parlor and looked around at the multitude of boxes. “I guess they’re still doing all the Halloween stuff—despite the danger,” he said, and it wasn’t a question.

“Everyone has to make a living,” she said.

He took a seat on the piano bench, looking around some more. He froze when he spotted an old article on the Interstate Killer. “What have you been doing?”

“Just going through stuff,” she said.

“Tell me you’re not getting involved in this case,” he demanded.

“I’m just sorting out some old clippings.”

“What you need to do is stay as far away from this case as you can,” he said harshly.

Surprised by his tone, she shook her head. “You seem to be getting involved,” she pointed out.

“I used to be a cop.”

“So you should know that cops are grateful for any help they can get. If someone could figure out—”

“They might be in a lot of danger,” he said.

She hesitated, and in the silence she could have sworn she heard some of the clippings rustling around.

“Everyone is in danger until this killer is caught,” she said.

He leaned forward. “Christie, you write advertising jingles for a living.”

“And I’m a redhead,” she said coolly. “I’d like to see this solved.”

He stood, agitated. “Look—”

“Beau Kidd didn’t do it,” she heard herself say.

“And how the hell do you know that?”

“I just…I just…Well, look at what’s happening now. I just know he’s innocent,” she said stubbornly. When he didn’t deny her words, she whispered softly, “You agree, don’t you?”

“Agree?” he demanded.

“That Beau Kidd was innocent,” she said more loudly.

He stared at her as if puzzled by her vehemence. “In my opinion? Beau Kidd was not guilty.”

She smiled. “And the cops have to know that, too, right? So they must be looking for someone who was here then and is still here now.”

“That would be logical, yes,” he said.

“Maybe you could figure out the relationship between the victims then and the victims now,” she said.

He groaned. “Great. All the law enforcement officials on this case, and you think that hasn’t occurred to anyone yet?”

She flushed.

“Christina…why is it you suddenly seem to feel as if you have to personally make sure someone solves this and exonerates Beau Kidd?”

Not knowing how to answer that without sounding as if she needed to be locked up in a padded room, she changed the subject and asked, “Hey, how about some dinner? We could call out for pizza, or I could throw some eggs on the frying pan….” She paused. “You look kind of worn-out,” she told him. “Like you need a good meal.”