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Hour Game

By Roger Warren,2014-11-04 18:43
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SUMMARY:He's copying famous serial killers and the game has just begun. A woman is found murdered in the woods. It seems like a simple case but it soon escalates into a terrible nightmare. Someone is replicating the killing styles of the most infamous murderers of all time. No one knows this criminal's motives...or who will die next. Two ex-Secret Service agents, Sean King and Michelle Maxwell, have been hired to defend a man's innocence in a burglary involving an aristocratic, dysfunctional family. Then a series of secrets leads the partners right into the frantic hunt that is confounding even the FBI. Now King and Maxwell are playing the Hour Game, uncovering one horrifying revelation after another and putting their lives in danger. For the closer they get to the truth, the closer they g Published by Warner Books on 2004/04/15

    ?David Baldacci-Hour Game ALSO BY DAVID BALDACCI Absolute Power Total Control The Winner The Simple Truth Saving Faith Wish You Well Last Man Standing The Christmas Train Split Second ? This novel is dedicated to Harry L. Carrico Jane Giles And to the memory of Mary Rose Tatum

?

    Three of the finest people I have ever known

    ?

    CHAPTER

    ?

    1

    THE MAN IN THE RAIN SLICKER WALKEDslightly bent over, his breathing labored and his bodysweaty. The extra weight he was bearing, though not all that substantial, was awkwardly placed,and the terrain was uneven. It was never an easy thing to tote a dead body through the woods inthe middle of the night. He shifted the corpse to his left shoulder and trudged on. The solesof his shoes bore no distinguishing marks; not that it would have mattered, since the rainquickly washed away any traces of footprints. He’d checked the forecast; the rain was why hewas here. The inclement weather was the best friend he could ask for.

    Aside from the dead body draped over his sturdy shoulder, the man was also remarkable for theblack hood he wore, on which was stitched an esoteric symbol that ran down the length of thecloth. It was a circle with a crosshairs through its middle. Probably instantly recognizable toanyone over the age of fifty, the logo once inspired a dread that had significantly eroded withtime. It didn’t matter that no one “alive” would see him wearing the hood; he took grimsatisfaction in its lethal symbolism.

    Within ten minutes he’d reached the location he’d carefully selected on an earlier visit, andlaid the body down with a reverence that belied the violent manner in which the person haddied. He took a deep breath and held it as he undid the telephone wire holding the bundleclosed, and unwrapped the plastic. She was young with features that had been attractive twodays prior; the woman was not much to look at now. The soft blond hair fell away from thegreenish-tinged skin, revealing closed eyes and bloated cheeks. Had the eyes been open, theymight have still held the startled gaze of the deceased as she endured her own murder, anexperience replicated roughly thirty thousand times each year in America.

    He slid the plastic all the way free and laid the woman on her back. Then he let out hisbreath, fought the urge to retch caused by the stench of the body, and sucked in anotherlungful of air. Using one of his gloved hands and his light, he searched for and found thesmall, forked branch that he’d earlier placed in the bramble nearby. He used this to supportthe woman’s forearm, which he’d positioned such that it was pointing to the sky. The body’srigor mortis, though rapidly fading, had made the task difficult, but he was strong and hadfinally levered the stiffened limb to the correct angle. He took the watch out of his pocket,checked with his flashlight to make sure it was set properly, and placed it around the deadwoman’s wrist.

    Though far from a religious man, he knelt over the body and muttered a brief prayer, cuppinghis hand over his mouth and nose as he did so.

    “You weren’t directly responsible, but you were all I had. You didn’t die in vain. And Ibelieve you’re actually better off.”Did he really believe what he had just said? Maybe not.Maybe it didn’t matter.

    He looked at the dead woman’s face, studying her features scrupulously as though a scientistobserving a particularly fascinating experiment. He had never killed another person before.He’d made it quick and, he hoped, painless. In the dull, misty night the woman seemedsurrounded by a yellowish glow, as though she’d already become a spirit.

    He drew farther back and examined the area all around, checking for any extraneous items thatmight lead to evidence against him. He discovered only a piece of cloth from his hood that hadcaught on a bush near where the body lay.Careless, you can’t afford that. He placed it in his

    pocket. He spent several more minutes looking for other such items nearing microscopic size.

    In the world of criminal investigation it was these forensic “no-see-ums” that did one in. Asingle drop of blood, semen or saliva, a smudge of fingerprint, a hair follicle with a bit ofDNA-littered root attached, and the police could be reading you your rights while prosecutorscircled hungrily nearby. Unfortunately, even full awareness of that reality offered littleprotection. Every criminal, no matter how careful, left potentially incriminating material atthe crime scene. Thus, he’d taken great care to have no direct physical contact with the deadwoman as though she were an infectious agent that could cause a fatal disease.

    He rolled up the plastic and pocketed the telephone cord, checked the watch once more and thenslowly made his way back to his car.

    Behind him lay the dead woman, her hand upraised to the watery heavens. Her watch was slightlyluminous in the dark and made a dull beacon for her new resting place. She wouldn’t remainundiscovered for long. Dead bodies aboveground rarely did, even in places as isolated as this.

    As he drove off, the hooded man used his finger to trace the symbol on his hood, making thesign of the cross at the same time. The crosshairs symbol also appeared on the face of the

    That should certainly get a rise out of them. Hewatch he’d placed on the dead woman’s wrist.

    took a breath full of excitement as well as dread. For years he had imagined that this daywould never come. For years his courage had faltered. Now that the first step had been taken,he felt a great sense of empowerment and liberation.

    He shifted into third gear and sped up, his tires grabbing the slicked roadway and holding firmas the darkness swallowed up the lights of his blue VW. He wanted to get to where he was goingas fast as possible.

    He had a letter to write.

    ?

    CHAPTER

    2

    MICHELLE MAXWELL PICKED UP HER pace. She’d completed the “flat” portion of her run throughthe hills around Wrightsburg , Virginia , sequestered southwest of Charlottesville , Virginia ; the terrain would now grow much steeper. Maxwell was a former Olympic rower who’dsubsequently spent nine intense years in the Secret Service. Consequently, the five-foot-ten-inch woman was in remarkable physical shape. However, an enormous high-pressure system hadparked over the entire mid-Atlantic, making this spring day unusually humid, and her musclesand lungs were beginning to strain as she headed up an incline. A quarter of the way throughher run she’d put her shoulder-length black hair into a ponytail, though stubborn strandsstill found their way into her face.

    She’d left the Secret Service to start a private investigation firm in this small Virginia town, partnering with another former Secret Service agent, Sean King. King had left the Serviceunder a dark cloud but had become an attorney and forged a new life in Wrightsburg. The twohadn’t known each other while working for Uncle Sam; rather, they’d teamed up on a case theprevious year while Michelle was still in the Service and King had become embroiled in a seriesof local murders. After bringing that matter to a successful conclusion and gaining somenotoriety in the process Michelle had suggested they start their own firm, and King, somewhatreluctantly, had agreed. With the reputation they’d gained from the previous case, and theirskills as investigators, the business had quickly become a success. There had come a lull inthe work, though, for which Michelle was grateful. She was an outdoors woman, and she got asmuch satisfaction out of camping or running a marathon as she did busting counterfeiters orputting the clamps on a corporate spy.

    The woods were quiet save for the rustling branches from a moisture-laden breeze that wasconjuring miniature cyclones from last winter’s dead leaves. However, the sudden crack of treebranches caught Michelle’s attention. She’d been told that the occasional black bear could bespotted around here, but if she did encounter an animal, it was far more likely to be a deer,squirrel or fox. She thought nothing more of it, although she took comfort in the pistol riding

    in the clip holster attached to her fanny pack belt. As a Secret Service agent she’d nevergone anywhere without her gun, not even the toilet. One never knew where a nine-millimeter SIGand fourteen rounds might come in handy.

    Moments later another sound caught her attention and kept it: running feet. In her SecretService days Michelle had heard many types of running feet. Most had been innocuous; otherssignaled a darker purpose: stealth, attack or panic. She wasn’t sure how to classify this oneyet: good, bad or out of shape. She slowed her pace a little, using her hand to shield her eyesfrom the sunlight breaking through the tree canopies. For a few seconds there was dead silence,then the sounds of rushing feet returned, now much closer. Okay, what she was hearing wasclearly not the measured pace of a jogger. There was a level of fear in the rushed andunsteady-sounding footfalls. Off to her left now, it seemed, but she couldn’t be sure. Soundtended to whipsaw here.

    “Hello,” she called out, even as her hand reached down and took out her pistol. She didn’texpect an answer and didn’t get one. She chambered a round but kept the safety on. As withscissors, one should avoid running with a loaded gun while the safety was off. The sounds keptcoming; it was human feet certainly. She glanced behind her; this might be a setup. It could bedone in pairs: one to draw her attention while the other got the jump on her. Well, if so, theywere going to be very sorry they chose to pick on her.

    She stopped now as she finally locked on the sound’s source: it was to the right, above theknoll directly in front of her. The breathing was accelerated; the rush of legs, the crashingof underbrush, seemed frenetic. In another few seconds whoever it was would have to clear therim of dirt and rock.

    Michelle slipped off her gun’s safety and took up position behind a wide oak tree. Hopefully,it was only another jogger, and the person wouldn’t even be aware of her armed presence. Dirtand pebbles shot out over the edge of the knoll heralding the arrival of the source of all thecommotion. Michelle braced herself, both hands glued around her pistol grips, ready ifnecessary to put a bullet between someone’s pupils.

    A young boy burst out from the top of the knoll, was suspended in space for an instant and thenwith a scream tumbled down the slope. Before he hit bottom another boy, a little older, cameinto view at the knoll’s crest but caught himself in time and merely slid down the slope onhis butt, flopping next to his companion.

    Michelle would have thought they were just horsing around, except for the look of utter terroretched on both their faces. The younger one was sobbing, his face streaked with dirt and tears.The older boy pulled him up by the scruff of his shirt, and they took off running, both theirfaces crimson with accelerated blood flow.

    Michelle holstered her gun, stepped out from behind the tree and held up her hand. “Boys,stop!”

    The pair screamed and shot around on either side of her in a blur. She spun around, grabbed forone but missed. She called after them, “What’s wrong? I want to help you!”

    For an instant she contemplated sprinting after them, but despite her Olympian background, itwasn’t certain she could catch two young boys whose feet were apparently jet-fueled by sheerfright. She turned back around and looked toward the top of the knoll. What could have scaredthem that badly? She quickly altered her line of thinking. Orwho could have? She looked once

    more in the direction of the fleeing boys. Then she turned back and cautiously made her way upin the direction the kids had come from.Okay, this is getting a little dicey. She thought about

    using her cell phone to call for help but decided to check things out first. She didn’t wantto call the cops in only to discover the boys had been spooked by a bear.

    At the top of the knoll she easily found the path the two had used. She slipped through thenarrow trail erratically carved by their frantic flight. It ran for about a hundred feet andthen opened into a small clearing. From here the path was less certain, but then she spottedthe piece of cloth dangling on the lower branch of a dogwood, and she made her way through this

    cleft in the forest. Fifty feet later she came to another clearing, this one larger, where acampfire had been doused.

     been camping here and indeed been frightened by some animal. AndShe wondered if the boyshad

    yet they’d had no camping gear on them, and there was none here in the clearing. And the firedidn’t look all that recent.No, something else is going on.

    In an instant the direction of the wind changed and drove the smell deep into her nostrils. Shegagged, and her eyes assumed their own level of panic. She’d experienced that unmistakablesmell before.

    It was putrefied flesh.Human flesh!

    Michelle pulled her tank shirt up and over her mouth and nose, trying to breathe in the stinkof her own sweat rather than the rank odor of a decomposing body. She made her way around theperimeter of the clearing. At 120 degrees on her mental compass she found it. Or her. In thebrush that ran along the fringe of the clearing the hand was sticking up, like the dead womanwas waving hello or in this case good-bye. Even from this distance Michelle could see that thegreenish skin on the arm was slipping down off the bone. She scooted around to the upwind sideof the body and took a replenishing breath.

    She ran her gaze along the corpse but kept her gun ready. Though the stench from the body, itsdiscoloration and the skin slippage showed the woman had been dead for quite some time, itcould have been recently dumped here and the killer still nearby. Michelle had no desire tojoin the lady’s fate.

    The sun was glinting off something on the woman’s wrist. Michelle drew closer and saw that itwas a watch. She glanced down at her own watch; it was two-thirty. She sat back on herhaunches, her nose cemented into her armpit. She called 911, calmly telling the dispatcher whatshe’d found and her location. After that she called Sean King.

    “Do you recognize her?” he asked.

    “I don’t think her own mother would know her, Sean.”

    “I’m on my way. Just stay on your guard. Whoever did it might come back to admire hishandiwork. Oh, and Michelle?” said King.

    “Yeah?”

    “Can’t you just start running on a treadmill?”

    She clicked off, took up a position as far away from the body as she could while still keepingit in view, and maintained a sharp lookout. The nice day and endorphin-churning run in thebeautiful foothills had suddenly taken on a grim veneer.

    Funny how murder had a way of doing that.

    ?

    CHAPTER

    3

    THE SMALL CLEARING WAS SEEINGquite a bit of activity, all of it man-made. A wide area had beencordoned off with yellow police tape intertwined among the trees. A two-person forensics teamwas foraging for clues directly around the crime scene, analyzing things that seemed far toosmall to be of any significance. Others hovered over the body of the dead woman, while stillothers were threading their way through the surrounding woods and underbrush looking for itemsof interest and possibly the ingress and egress of the killer. One uniformed officer hadphotographed and then videotaped the entire scene. All the cops wore floater masks to guardagainst the stench, and yet one by one they took turns hustling into the woods to empty theirstomachs.

    It all looked very efficient and orderly, but for a seasoned observer it was clearly bad guyone, good guys naught. They were finding zip.

    Michelle stood off a ways and watched. Next to her was Sean King, her partner in the privateinvestigation firm of King & Maxwell. King was in his forties, three inches taller than thefive-foot-ten Michelle, and had short dark hair graying at the temples. He was trim and broad-shouldered but had gimpy knees and a shoulder that a bullet had ripped into years ago during anarrest that had gone awry while he was working a forgery investigation as a Secret Serviceagent. He’d also once been a volunteer deputy police officer for Wrightsburg but had resigned,swearing off guns and law enforcement for the rest of his days.

    Sean King had suffered through several tragedies in his life: a disgraceful end to his SecretService career after a candidate he’d been guarding was assassinated right in front of him; afailed marriage and acrimonious divorce; and most recently, a plot to frame him for a series oflocal murders that had dredged up the painful details of his last days as a federal agent.These events had left King a very cautious man, unwilling to trust anyone, at least untilMichelle Maxwell hurtled into his life. Though their relationship had started off on very rockyground, she was now the one person he knew he could absolutely rely on.

    Michelle Maxwell had started life at a dead run, streaking through college in three years,winning an Olympic silver medal in rowing and becoming a police officer in her native Tennessee

     before joining the Secret Service. Like King, her exit from the federal agency hadn’t beenpleasant: she’d lost a protectee to an ingenious kidnapping scheme. It was the first time inher life she had failed at anything, and that debacle had nearly destroyed her. Whileinvestigating the kidnapping case she had met King. At first she’d taken an instant dislike tothe man. Now, as his partner, she saw Sean King for what he was: the best pure investigativemind she had ever been associated with. And her closest friend.

    Yet the two could not have been more different. While Michelle craved adrenaline highs andpushing her body to the limit with intensive, lung-and-limb-shocking physical activities, Kingpreferred spending his leisure time hunting for appropriate wines to add to his collection,dabbling in owning the works of local artists, reading good books, as well as boating andfishing on the lake that his home backed to. He was an introspective man by nature; he liked tothink things out thoroughly before taking action. Michelle tended to move at warp speed and letthe pieces fall where they may. This partnership of supernova and steady glacier had somehowflourished.

    “Did they find the boys?” she asked King.

    He nodded. “I understand they were pretty traumatized.”

    “Traumatized? They’ll probably need therapy all the way through college.”

    Michelle had already given a detailed statement to the local police, in the person of ChiefTodd Williams. The chief’s hair had become noticeably whiter after her and King’s firstadventure in Wrightsburg. Today his features held a resigned expression, as though murder andmayhem were now to be expected in his tiny hamlet.

    Michelle watched as a slender and attractive red-haired woman in her late thirties carrying ablack satchel and a rape kit arrived on the scene, knelt down and started examining the body.

    “That’s the deputy medical examiner assigned to this area,” King explained. “Sylvia Diaz.”

    “Diaz? She looks more like Maureen O’Hara.”

    “George Diaz was her husband. He was a very noted surgeon in the area. He was struck by a carand killed several years ago. Sylvia used to be a professor of forensic pathology at UVA. Nowshe’s a physician in private practice.”

    “And a deputy M.E. on the side. Busy woman. Any children?”

    “No. I guess her work is her life,” said King.

    Michelle put her hand up to her nose as the direction of the wind changed yet again, flingingthe stench of the body directly at them. “Some life,” she said. “God, she isn’t evenwearing a mask, and I’m about to hurl from back here.”

    Twenty minutes later Diaz rose, spoke with the police, popped off her examination gloves andstarted snapping pictures of the body and surrounding area. Finished with that, she stowed hercamera and started to walk away when she noticed King. She smiled warmly and headed towardthem.

    Michelle whispered, “And you forgot to tell me that you two dated?”

    King looked at her surprised. “We went out a few times a while back. How’d you know that?”

    “After spending close-up time with a dead body, you don’t get a smile like that unless therewas a prior relationship.”

    “Thanks for the astute observation. But be nice. Sylvia’s really wonderful.”

    “I’m sure she was, but I don’t need to hear the details, Sean.”

    “Rest assured, you’ll never hear the details while there’s breath in my body.”

    “I see. You’re being quite the Virginia gentleman.”

    “No, I just don’t want to be critiqued.”

    ?

    CHAPTER

    4

    SYLVIA DIAZ GAVE KING A HUGthat lingered a bit past “friends” status, Michelle felt, and thenKing introduced the two women.

    The deputy medical examiner looked at Michelle with what the latter perceived as an unfriendlygaze.

    “I haven’t seen you in a while, Sean,” Sylvia said, turning back to him.

    “We’d been swamped with investigative work, but things have finally slowed down.”

    “So,” Michelle broke in, “do you have a cause of death on our corpse yet?”

    Sylvia looked at her with a surprised expression. “That’s not really something I can discusswith you.”

    “I was just wondering,” said Michelle innocently, “since I happened to be one of the firston the scene. I guess you won’t know for sure until you do the post.”

    “You’ll be doing the autopsy here, won’t you?” asked King.

    Sylvia nodded. “Yes, although suspicious deaths traditionally were sent over to Roanoke .”

    “Why no longer?” asked Michelle.

    “There used to be four official facilities certified to conduct autopsies in the state: Fairfax , Richmond , Tidewater and Roanoke . However, due to the generosity of JohnPoindexter, a very wealthy man who was also a past Speaker of the House in the state GeneralAssembly, we now have a certified forensics substation right here.”

    “Strange donation, a morgue,” said Michelle.

    “Poindexter’s daughter was killed here years ago. Wrightsburg falls on the jurisdictionalline between the medical examiner’s office in Richmond and the western district office in Roanoke . Because of that, there was a fight over which office would perform the autopsy. Roanoke finally won out, but during the transfer of the body the vehicle was involved in anaccident, and vital evidence was lost or compromised. Consequently, the girl’s killer wasnever caught, and as you can imagine, her father was not very happy. When Poindexter died, hiswill left the money to build a state-of-the-art facility.” Sylvia glanced over her shoulder atthe body. “But even with a state-of-the-art facility the cause of death on this one might betricky.”

    “Any idea on how long she’s been dead?” asked King.

    “A lot depends on the individual, environmental factors and degree of decomposition. With abody dead this long the postmortem may give ussome idea of a time frame, but that’s all.”

“I see some of the fingers have been chewed off,” said King.

    “Animals, clearly.” Sylvia added thoughtfully, “But still there should have been more signsof invasion. They’re trying to get an ID on her now.”

    King said, “What do you make of the hand posed like that?”

    “Afraid that’s for the official detectives, not me. I just tell them how the victim died andcollect any evidence during the post that might be useful. I played Sherlock Holmes when Ifirst started doing this job, and I was quickly put in my place.”

    “There’s nothing wrong with using your specialized knowledge to help solve a crime,”commented Michelle.

    “You’d think so, wouldn’t you?” Sylvia paused and said, “I can tell you that the arm wasbraced up by the stick and that it was done deliberately. Beyond that, I’m out of ideas.” Sheturned to King. “It was good to see you again, even if it was under these circumstances.” Sheput out her hand to Michelle, who shook it.

     to date.”usedAs the woman walked off, Michelle said, “I thought you said you

    “We did. It’s been over a year now.”

    “I’m not sure she got the message.”

    “I really appreciate the insight. Maybe you can read my palm next. You ready to go? Or do youwant to finish your run?”

    “Thanks, but I’ve had enough stimulation for one day.”

    As they passed close by the body, King stopped and stared at the hand that was still pointingto the sky, his face suddenly tense.

    “What is it?” Michelle asked, watching him closely.

    “The watch,” he said.

    She glanced at it, now seeing that it was set to one o’clock and didn’t appear to berunning. “What about it?”

    “Michelle, it’s a Zodiac watch.”

    “Zodiac?”

    “Something tells me we’re going to see this person’s work again,” said King.

    ?

    CHAPTER

    5

    THE ISOLATED AREA ON A BLUFF overlooking one of the main channels of thirty-mile-long Cardinal Lake had long been a favorite place for the teenagers in Wrightsburg to gather and perform avariety of acts their parents wouldn’t approve of. The night being overcast and drizzly with awind rattling the trees, there was only one car parked up on the bluff, but the occupants wereputting on an energetic show nonetheless.

    The girl was already naked, her dress and undergarments folded neatly in the backseat next toher shoes. The young man was frantically trying to pull his shirt over his head while the girlwas undoing his pants; it was tough going in the cramped quarters. The shirt finally came offabout the time his pants and underwear were ripped down by the hard-breathing young lady, forwhom patience, at least under these circumstances, was clearly not a virtue.

    He slid toward the middle of the front seat after putting on a condom, and she climbed astridehim, facing him. The windows of the car were fogging up now. Over her shoulder he stared outthe windshield, his own breath growing faster as he closed his eyes. It was his first time,though his partner appeared far more experienced. He’d been dreaming of this moment for atleast two years, his hormones building to levels of utter agony. He smiled as she moaned androcked on top of him.

Then he opened his eyes and stopped smiling.

    The figure in the black hood stared back at him through the windshield. Through the thickeningcondensation on the glass he saw the shotgun muzzle come up. He started to throw the girl offhim, instinctively thinking he would start the car and get out of here. He never made it. Theglass exploded inward. The impact of the buckshot against her back slammed the girl into him,yet her body shielded him. Still the collision with her head broke his nose, almost knockinghim out. Awash in her blood but as yet not critically wounded, he clutched the dead bodyagainst his chest, as though it were a cherished security blanket capable of warding off thebogeyman. He wanted to scream yet couldn’t. He finally let the girl go as he slid toward the

     He didn’t knowHad he been shot?driver’s side. His movements were clumsy, his mind clouded.

    it but he was suffering from shock, his rapidly rising and falling blood pressure dragging hisbody through levels of stress it wasn’t designed for.

    He started to turn the key in the ignition when the driver’s side door opened and there wasthe black hood again. As he stared helplessly, the shotgun muzzle glided at him like thedeadliest snake in the world. The boy started to beg and then to cry, the blood pouring fromhis destroyed nose. He inched back away from the gunman, until he bumped against the girl’sbody.“Please!” he wailed.“No, God, no!”

    The nine pellets of the shotgun blast hit him in the head with the collective force of agigantic hammer, and he fell next to the dead girl. The front of her was unmarked; however, theother side was obliterated. Looking at the girl lying there on her back, one couldn’t tellwhat had killed the young woman. The cause of death of her boyfriend was far more obvious,considering he no longer had a face.

    The killer leaned his shotgun against the car’s passenger side, opened the door and reachedin. He placed a watch on the young man’s wrist, bracing the arm up against the dash, finallywedging it between the dash and the door. Next he fiddled with the watch that the dead girl wasalready wearing. Then he pulled off the cheap amethyst ring the girl had on and put it in hispocket. He lifted a St. Christopher’s medal from around the young man’s neck. That also wentinto the hooded man’s pocket.

    Over the boy’s body he said, “I’m sorry. You’re not personally guilty, but you were part ofthe original sin. You didn’t die in vain. You righted a long-overdue wrong. Take comfort inthat.”

    He didn’t bother praying over the girl. He took an object from his pocket and laid it on thefloor of the car, shut the door and lumbered off. As the rain came in through the shatteredwindshield, the two dead and naked young people seemed to be clinging to each other.

    On the floorboard was the object the killer had placed there.

    It was a dog collar.

    ?

    CHAPTER

    6

    CHIEF WILLIAMS STOPPED BY THEoffices of King & Maxwell located in a two-story brick townhousein the heart of the small yet posh Wrightsburg downtown. The offices had housed King’s lawpractice before he’d taken down his legal shingle. The chief sat with his hat in his lap, eyespuffy and features strained as he filled in King and Michelle on the grisly double homicide.

    “I left the police force in Norfolk so I wouldn’t have to deal with this sort of crap,”Williams began. “My ex-wife got me to move here for the peace and quiet. Damn, was that womanwrong! No wonder we got divorced.”

    King handed him a cup of coffee and then sat down across from him, while Michelle remainedperched on the edge of a leather couch. “Wait’ll the papers get hold of this one. And poorSylvia. She’d just finished the autopsy on that girl, and then she had to do two more.”

“Who were they?” asked King.

    “Students at Wrightsburg High School: Steve Canney and Janice Pembroke. She was shot in theback; he took it full in the face. Buckshot. When I opened that car door, it cost me mybreakfast. Hell, I’ll be seeing them in my sleep for months.”

    “No witnesses?”

    “Not that we know of. It was a rainy night. Theirs were the only tire tracks up there.”

    Michelle perked up. “Right, it was raining. So if you didn’t see any tire tracks, the killermust have walked up to the car. You didn’t find any traces of that?”

    “Most everything was washed away. There was an inch of bloody water on the floor of the car.Steve Canney was one of the most popular kids in school, football star and everything.”

    “And the girl?” asked Michelle.

    Williams hesitated. “Janice Pembroke had a reputation with the boys.”

    “As being . . . accessible?” asked King.

    “Yes.”

    “Was anything taken? Could it have been a robbery?”

    “Not likely, although two things were missing: a cheap ring Pembroke usually wore andCanney’s St. Christopher’s medal. We don’t know if the killer took them or not.”

    “You said Sylvia finished the autopsies. I’m assuming you attended them.”

    Williams looked embarrassed. “I had a little problem halfway through Jane Doe’s post, and Igot tied up while she was doing the other autopsies. I’m waiting on Sylvia’s reports,” headded hastily. “We don’t have an official homicide detective on the force, so I figuredcoming here and picking your brain wouldn’t be a bad thing.”

    “Any clues?” asked Michelle.

    “Not from the first killing. And we haven’t identified her yet either, though we were able tofingerprint her and we’re running those. We had a computerized facial composite done too,which we’re circulating.”

    “Any reason to believe the killings are connected?” asked Michelle.

    Williams shook his head. “Pembroke and Canney will probably turn out to be some love trianglething. Kids these days will kill you in a second and think nothing of it. All the crap on TVthey watch.”

    King and Michelle exchanged glances and then he said, “In the first killing either themurderer lured the woman into the woods or forced her to go with him. Or he killed herelsewhere and then carried her into the woods.”

    Michelle nodded. “If the latter, a strong man, then. With the killing of the teenagers theperson might have followed them there or been waiting on the bluff.”

    “Well, that area is well known as a make-out place, if they still even call it that,” saidWilliams. “Both victims were naked. That’s why I’m thinking it was maybe some boy Pembrokedumped or a kid who was jealous of Canney. The Jane Doe in the woods will be the harder one tocrack. That’s where I’m going to need your help.”

    King looked thoughtful for a moment and then said, “The watch in the first murder, did youreally notice it, Todd?”

    “Well, it seemed a little bulky for the girl.”

    “Sylvia said the arm the watch was on was deliberately braced up.”

    “She can’t know that for sure.”

    “I saw that the watch was set to one o’clock,” continued King.

    “Right, but it had stopped, or the stem was pulled out.”

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