“Look, I’m all for vindicating your brother,” he said. “And I’m all for stopping the murderer at work now. But there isn’t room for vengeance in the mix.”
She wasn’t looking at him, he realized. She was staring past him, in the direction of the tables outside, and she looked upset. He turned around to see what was upsetting her and saw that Christina was there with Genevieve, Thor and Adam. And Killer. She had been coming to O’Reilly’s her whole life and undoubtedly knew she could keep the dog with her if they ate outside.
But why was Katherine so upset to see them?
Katherine stared at Jed. “Did someone tell you to call me? To meet me here?”
He didn’t try to lie. “Yes.”
“Your girlfriend is crazy.”
He didn’t know how to respond, because he wasn’t sure he could deny it.
Big tears welled in her eyes. “You know, people tell me to get over it, that I was just a kid when it happened. They say my brother has been dead for twelve years. Like that’s supposed to make it hurt less? Well, that’s bull. And you tell her…you tell that woman that…just tell her to leave me alone!”
“Katherine, she isn’t trying to hurt you,” Jed assured her, then let out a sigh of exasperation. “I don’t know what happened at the cemetery, but I do know this. The two of you—as in you and Christina—should be scared to death. You’re both fools if you don’t see your own resemblance to the victims. You need to be really careful. Yes, she called me. She was worried about you. She’s out with a group of people she knows and trusts. You were hanging in a deserted cemetery by yourself.”
She sat back in her chair, staring at him “What am I supposed to do? Stop visiting my brother’s grave? Stop going to work?” she asked.
“Do you have to work this afternoon?” he asked.
She shook her head. “No,” she admitted. “Not till Monday.”
“I’ll see you home from here, then,” he said. “And I want you stay in this weekend, unless you’re out with both your parents. Or the Fifth Army Brigade,” he added with a smile.
She actually smiled back. “All right.”
“Have you ordered?”
“Not yet. You don’t have to have lunch with me,” she told him. “I can eat at home.”
“I’m hungry. Lunch is a good idea.”
He waved the waitress over, and they ordered. Then she leaned toward him. “Just keep her away from me, okay? I can see the attraction, but…”
Jed looked out the window. Christina caught his eye, blushed and turned away.
Jed looked more closely and frowned. The dog was seated several feet away from her on the bench, as if leaving room for someone to sit between them. Killer suddenly moved his head, as if he were having his ears scratched—except no one was scratching them.
Jed turned away quickly, gritting his teeth. He was not getting sucked into whatever delusion Adam Harrison was there to investigate. A real killer was on the loose, and they needed logic and sanity to catch him.
“Hey, McDuff!” Mr. Smith shouted.
Dan had been just about to head out. He wondered why Smith was stopping him now, when the man knew the Grim Reader had an audience waiting for him. He got his answer right away.
“Dan, I just got word. They’ve canceled the shows for tonight.”
“What? You’re kidding!”
He frowned, his heart thundering quickly. This wasn’t anything to do with him, was it? Did they think they knew something about him?
“Sorry, Dan. They should have told us sooner, so you could have been called,” Smith told him. “They’re keeping the rides and some of the special attractions at the front of the park open, but they’re closing everything down back here until they get a handle on the fog situation and why it went crazy last night. It’s just for tonight. I hope.”
“I’m early shift tomorrow.”
“Then your last show finishes just before dark and you’ll get paid.”
“Hey, congratulations on Zeus. I think the show is going to be huge.”
“Thanks. I hope so. Hey, have you heard anything more about Marcie?”
“She’s doing fine.”
“She’s still going to play Hera, right?”
Smith nodded. “Yeah. They kept her in the hospital overnight, but the doctors say she just tripped and banged the back of her head. It was a mild concussion, nothing more.” He hesitated. “Thank God. We don’t want another Patti Jo.”
“No, we don’t. Anyway, I’m glad to hear she’s doing well,” Dan said, and forced a smile. “Well, good night, then. Guess I’ll take off this makeup and head out.”
“Got a Halloween party to go to, huh?”
“I’m sure I can find something to do with an unexpected night off,” Dan replied.
It was dark.
Angela McDuff noticed just how dark the minute she left the salon. The bright forest-green neon lights over at O’Reilly’s had gone on, deepening the shadows and rendering them even more mysterious. She shouldn’t have made an appointment for so late, she supposed, but she’d needed to have her hair done. After all, appearances were everything in her business. And she meant to offer a damn good appearance wherever she went. Because she sure as hell didn’t intend to stay here.
Not that Orlando could be considered a hick town. Not these days. It had too much going on, thanks to the multiple tourist attractions that drove the area. But it had been a one-horse hick town once, and it was still surrounded by hick towns full of old Florida crackers, and she absolutely was not going to stay here forever.
There was only one place for a woman of her talents and abilities. Hollywood. And she didn’t mean Hollywood, Florida.
She swore softly, not sure why she was quite so worried, except that she had seen him today, and the absolute hatred in his eyes when he looked at her now, well, that was scary.
And then there were the murders. Women were just so damn vulnerable.
With long strides, she headed for the parking lot, noticing along the way that shadows seemed to be everywhere. She cursed the fact that the mall had planted so many trees, because in her overactive imagination, it seemed as if someone was hiding behind every one of them.
It was just because she was alone, she told herself. Because it was so dark. And it had to be the darkness that made the air feel cooler, and the breeze that made the trees sound as if they were whispering.
There was someone behind her, she realized. A man. She risked a quick glance, and even in the darkness she could tell that he had on a dark sweatshirt and a baseball cap. His shoulders were hunched over, and he was gaining on her.
The cap must be to conceal his identity. And his clothing was dark so he could move unnoticed through the night.
She told herself not to be ridiculous, that she was all right. She reached into her purse and pulled out her keys. She would reach her own car in a minute and set off the alarm.
She forced herself to quicken her pace, but not to run.
Just then she was blinded by headlights.
“Hey, are you all right?” someone called out to her.
She let out a sigh of relief and looked quickly over her shoulder. Whoever had been following her was gone. She felt giddy inside and walked past the car, waving to thank her savior. She smiled, catching a glimpse of the interior of the vehicle.
A moment later, she was inside it.
And she knew everything she shouldn’t know. Mainly…
That she was going to die.
J erry Dwyer and Mal O’Donnell were attending Allison Chesney’s wake, taking a shift and representing the city’s finest. They stayed to the rear of the room, where Jed and Christina joined them.
Jed spoke quietly with Jerry while they scoped out the attendees. There wasn’t much in the way of family. No parents, just an aunt and a number of cousins. The aunt was a dignified woman with blazing red hair who had thanked them for coming when they entered.
Christina stepped over to speak with her, and Jed could see that the aunt was grateful for her words. After a while, when the pew in front of the coffin was empty, Christina walked over to it, knelt down and lowered her head in prayer.
Watching her, he couldn’t help feeling uneasy. What did she think she was doing? Talking to the dead? Did she think Allison Chesney would sit up and begin to chat?
He stayed away from the coffin himself. He’d been to the autopsy, and that was more than enough for him.
While Christina did…whatever she was doing, he thought about the pressure the police were under to solve this case. Though he couldn’t see them, he knew that several hundreds of people were lined up outside the funeral home. They were quiet and orderly, out of respect for the family, but they all bore placards demanding that the police find the killer.
At last Jed walked over to Christina, ready to get her attention and lead her away. He couldn’t help but look down at the body of Allison Chesney.
The undertaker had done a good job, but it didn’t matter. No matter what anyone did, there was no escaping the fact that she looked like exactly what she was: dead.
He’d seen people look deader, he thought. Was there even such a thing as deader?
This poor woman did look almost as if she could sit up and talk.
Margaritte had never looked that way.
He closed his eyes, and in his mind he saw his wife lying in the coffin, her features gray and skeletal. What if Margaritte could suddenly sit up and…
He took Christina’s elbow to get her attention. “We need to go,” he said stiffly.
They were silent as they walked out.
He had scanned the guests in the funeral parlor and searched through the crowd outside, hoping to trigger something in his mind, some memory. He knew Jerry and Mal had done the same, hoping the killer would show up.
And he probably had. He was most likely one of the people ringing the mortuary carrying a placard demanding his own capture.