West was late.
Sam had been told West would be late, that his leave had been cancelled and he’d been rerouted at the last minute. But Rebecca Madigan had already been missing for eight hours and if she was still alive - which was a big if - she was probably in a good deal of pain and scared witless.
An impatient muscle in his thigh started to twitch when finally - finally - a taxi pulled into the diner parking lot and disgorged the harried-looking Special Agent Jason West.
West was young, probably early thirties, dark hair, classically etched features. Just the way Sam liked them. His cock made its interest known. Fucking hell.
Yeah, yeah, Jason West was a pretty boy with a mouth made for sucking cock. That didn’t mean Sam was going to partake. Hell, the kid could be straight.
Probably not, though.
He dressed strikingly well, narrow cuts and custom tailoring. Too well for an ordinary field agent, but Sam had been briefed that he came from money. Serious money. His family had owned a vacation home in Kingsfield and the kid supposedly knew his way around the affluent town.
“Special Agent West. I thought maybe you stopped off to see if you could solve the Gardner Museum Heist on your way over here.”
West’s lip curled enough to assure Sam that his comment was sufficiently dickish to earn him the other agent’s enmity. He didn’t want to make friends. And he didn’t want a partner whose skills were limited to telling the difference between a Manet and a Monet.
He didn’t want a partner at all.
Not that West was a partner. West was a babysitter, brought in to keep Sam in check, to avoid another Wisconsin. Sam got the job done in Wisconsin. He wasn’t sorry that he’d made a few enemies doing so. The fallout was a source of unmitigated irritation, though.
“Nice to meet you, too,” West shot back in an unexpectedly firm tenor. He started to bring up his right hand, tan, strong, long fingers, but when Sam didn’t make a move to unfold his arms, he slid it smoothly into his pocket. “Just to be clear,” he said, and Sam knew this was coming. “I’m supposed to be on vacation. In fact, I busted my ass to be here. I was in Boston about to catch a flight home to L.A.”
He was going home for his vacation. Not traveling elsewhere? Or traveling from L.A.? Because he was traveling with someone?
That seemed likely. West looked like a heartbreaker but he probably had some bright, attentive lover at home. His family was connected, maybe someone in politics. Sam bet they had a dog.
It was a terrible idea to profile someone you’d only known for thirty seconds. It wasn’t even the way profiling worked. But if Sam was going to make it through this trip, he had to take his pleasures where he could.
“Duly noted,” he said mildly. “You can throw your bag in the trunk.” He reached into the open window on the driver’s side and tapped the button to pop the trunk release. West was taking his sweet time stowing his gear, so Sam added, “We need to hit the road. That girl’s been missing over eight hours already.”
He opened the door and slid into the seat. A glance at his watch told him West hadn’t even been five minutes past the scheduled rendezvous time. But Sam was impatient. Martin Pink was the Huntsman. He was confident in his earlier work. But. Had there been a partner? An accomplice? An apprentice? His instincts all said no but if he’d missed something, if he’d left someone free to pick up where Pink had left off, he was responsible for whatever horrors Rebecca Madigan was living through now.
No. He knew better than that. Only Rebecca’s abductor was responsible for her disappearance. But he’d always have to fight down that sliver of doubt, even if he’d trained himself to do so automatically.
West didn’t try to make conversation as he slammed the trunk and buckled himself into the passenger seat. He’d seemed like a talker. Wrong again. If Sam was a betting man, he’d be having some serious doubts in his own abilities just then.
“So you know the area?” Sam asked his silent monitor as he pulled out of the parking lot onto the dreadfully familiar path. “Your family used to have a vacation home in Kingsfield?”
“That’s right,” West said measuredly.
“How nice,” Sam said. A fucking vacation home. When he’d been a boy, his mother could barely afford to both keep a roof over his head and food on the table. The taunts of the other children mocking her clothes or her tattered bag or the ancient battered car were cold echoes by now, but they’d soaked into his bones.
“I guess,” West said with all the inflectionless insouciance of someone privileged from his first breath. Vacation home in Kingsfield wasn’t nice enough? “Clarify something for me,” he said as Sam steered the car onto the interstate. “The Kingsfield Police Chief asked specifically for you because he thinks he might have a copycat killer on his hands?”
“It’s too soon to say, but yeah. That’s the concern, of course.” And SAC Manning jumped at the chance to send Sam a message. “No girl is going to go missing in Worcester County ever again that people aren’t going to fear it’s some sort of copycat crime.”
Sam summarized the facts of the case for West. He didn't bother to mention any of his impressions or theories. For one thing, perceptions shifted quickly on the ground. For another thing he wanted to hear West's own impressions first.
Also he didn't like West.
Manning had clearly found himself an ambitious young agent willing to swan around in Behavioral Analysis - coincidentally one of the most prestigious units in the Bureau - to babysit rogue agent Sam Kennedy, lest he insult the idiot son-in-law of someone deemed Important.
"There could be a lot of reasons a teenage girl disappears,” West said thoughtfully. No dummy, this one.
Yep," Sam drawled. “But like I said the folks of Worcester County have long memories."
West turned his face to the window. He watched Worcester County go by, and behind his Oakleys, Sam watched him. West's face was a collection of sharp angles, a California tan starting to fade into something more sallow. His shoulders were wide, exceeding the span of the car's seat, and Sam wasn't quite sure how he'd gotten the impression West was too thin. Sam wasn't a small man himself and he didn't requisition small cars. He had no desire to be jammed in a vehicle like a canned fish.
“I remember the original case,” West said out of the blue as the miles slid by. "You were behind the capture and conviction of Martin Pink.”
Oh good. A fanboy.
"I played a role," Sam said evenly. He'd played a large role, but the local LEOs had been motivated and they had listened to him.
West nodded once and gazed out the window for a bit before asking, "What kind of party was it?"
"What do you mean?" The question seemed a little odd to Sam, but he was interested in where West was going with it.
“It's June,” West said, as if that explained anything. "Was it a graduation party? Birthday party? Sweet sixteen? Secret baby shower?"
The last proposition was unexpected enough to make Sam laugh but he muzzled it with a frown. It would, in fact, be the most useful occasion, sober witnesses, an unhappy lover, open and shut and completely unrelated to the Huntsman investigation.
Sam couldn't possibly be that lucky.
"It was the kind of party you throw when your parents are out of town for the weekend." Surely West was familiar with those if his parents had money.
"Was everybody invited, or was it private?" West asked, proving Sam's point.
“We don't have the details yet," Sam told him. "You know everything I know."
That was clearly a fallacy given the dozen years of experience Sam had in matters like these but as far as hard facts went, he had conveyed everything of substance.
West narrowed his eyes and a muscle twitched in his jaw, but he didn't say anything else. He just looked out the window again and rubbed his right shoulder like it hurt.
Great. Manning had even managed to find him a defective one. Sam hoped West was left-handed. He should have taken Travis Petty up on his offer to come with.
No. He'd been right not to.
Sam liked Petty. He was good-looking and smart and he was a good agent with a healthy skepticism of bureaucracy. And he was damn good in bed.
But that, after all, was the problem. The FBI didn't have a non-fraternization policy and Petty understood the rules of case-based hookups. At least he had. Asking to accompany Sam on this case ... Sam would have had to request his presence and if it came out they were fucking, well. Sam was on thin ice as it was.
Also Sam was getting an uncomfortable feeling that Petty's interest was maybe expending past Sam's own comfort zone.
The town of Kingsfield appeared on the horizon, miniaturized but bright. Sam observed West, watched him approach the town where he’d once spent idyllic childhood summers. Or maybe not so idyllic. Serial murder had away of dampening an experience.
At the edge of town, he watched West blink at the heart-shaped memorial to the first victim, Honey Corrigan. He hadn't seen that before.
The police station was in the center of town so Sam used the drive to familiarize himself with the changes to the local landscape.
There weren't many to speak of.
"Just like you remember?" he asked West, who was still daydreaming out the window.
"Doesn't seem to have changed much," West replied shortly.
That didn't give Sam much to go on since nothing really looked like it had changed in about 60 years.
"When was the last time you visited?"
“Years," West said unhelpfully.
Sam clenched his jaw and kept his eyes glued to the windshield. He hadn't expected Manning's Art Squad nerd to crack the case for him, but basic info like when West had actually been present in the town didn't seem like too much to ask. Had he known Pink? Any of the victims? Heard any rumors?
He didn't ask, though. West wasn't going to be forthcoming on a direct approach. He'd get the information another way if it even turned out to be relevant. For all he knew, West could have been six years old on his last trip out here.
Sam navigated around the little shops and houses, head still sorting through Rebecca Madigan's possible whereabouts, and turned into the parking lot behind the police station.
One change - this had been the Town Hall building ten years ago. Maybe this meant Kingsfield had upgraded their department.
One could hope.
"I'd expect to see a lot more cars here,” West said eyeing the near-empty lot.
“Everybody is out searching,” Sam reminded him.
West pulled a face. Chagrined, if Sam were to hazard a guess. Probably didn't have people walking a grid when a painting went missing.
There were still a couple of vehicles besides their own in the lot so Sam expected someone was holding down the fort. The sticky air hit him as he closed the car door and his shirt was damp on his arms before he was halfway to the building. The East Coast was lousy with humidity, but more often than not, it was where the job was.
He showed his ID at the desk sergeant, who nodded them down the hall. Her nameplate said A. Courtney and her tone with the call she was handling was brisk and professional.
Rebecca Madigan beamed at him from every vertical surface in the incident room . She looked like Honey Corrigan. And Theresa Nolan. Ginny Chapin. Jody Escobar. Susan Parvel.
She looked like Number 8. Even Sam could see it.
There was one person in the room, a squared-away uniform far too young to have been a cop when Sam had last been in Kingsfield.
"Kennedy, FBI," he announced flashing his badge at the kid. “This is Special Agent West."
“We’ve been expecting you,” the local guy said, turning enough for Sam to finally see his name - Boxner. “Chief Gervase is directing the hunt for Rebecca. He asked me to escort you to the search site.”
“Let’s get moving,” Sam said. They’d already wasted too much time.
“Or,” West said, like he was in charge of this rodeo, “maybe we should set up base here and start reading through the witness statements. There are going to be a lot of eyewitness accounts to sort through and it’s possible there’s some overlooked indicator as to why she might walk away voluntarily. Though I’d also like to swing by the girl’s house. Take a look around.”
What. The. Actual. Fuck.
Sam pulled off his sunglasses and wheeled around on West. Rebecca Madigan had been missing almost ten hours at this point. Too long, he feared, but it was a fucking miracle to be on the scene in the first 48, in a position to actually do some good rather than come in after the bodies had started piling up.
“We’ll liaise with Chief Gervase,” he bit out slowly, doing his level best to keep a civil tone.
“Why?” West challenged, lifting his chin and looking at Sam with those green eyes wide, like butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth. “Are they short of volunteers? Isn’t the point of our being here to look at the case from an objective and impartial viewpoint?”
It seemed Sam had underestimated West. West wasn’t just a babysitter. West was ambitious. And ambition could be catastrophic in these cases. Sam would know.
“You want me to leave you two to work it out?” Boxner said. He was watching West like he’d rather make popcorn and cheer on the bloodsport than leave.
“If you don’t mind, I’d like to have a word with my colleague.” Colleague felt dirty on his tongue - as it so often did these days.
“Right,” Boxner said. “I’ll bring the car around.”
Sam waited until Boxner had slunk down the hall and then he let loose on West.
“Okay, pretty boy. Let’s get something straight. We both know your role here is to run interference between me and everybody else. All you need to do is stay out of my way and smooth the feathers when needed. And in return you’ll be the guy who gets to pose in front of the cameras with Chief Gervase. Fair enough?”
That should have done the job. If West wanted to climb the ladder, nothing would look better than his supposedly bringing the mad dog to heel and giving the cameras a handsome hero to fawn over.
But West didn’t look placated.
“The hell,” he snarled, showing more bite than Sam would have thought possible. “I’ve been asked to try and make sure you don’t step in it again, sure, but I’m not here to hold your cape, Batman. I’m your partner on this case whether either of us likes it or not. And, for the record, I don’t like it - any more than you do.”
“Then make it easy on both of us,” Sam shot back. “You stay out of my murder investigation and I’ll let you know if I hear about any paintings being stolen.”
Fire flared in West’s eyes and Sam made himself walk away. His control was slipping, just as it had in Wisconsin. He wondered if West was deliberately baiting him, setting him up to walk right into Manning’s trap.
He couldn’t do his job without the resources of the Federal government behind him. And he had made a vow, what seemed like so very long ago. He had to keep it together. He had to keep going. He was a man with a mission.
The kind of mission that couldn’t be allowed to fail.
Chapter 2: Chapter 2
The crime scene was a shitshow.
Sam counted at least four different uniforms, which he hoped was interagency cooperation and not jurisdictional nightmare. What looked like the entire town had turned out, but most were crowded up in their cars and on porches because…
...A cloud of stinging insects zigzagged drunkenly across the field. Wasps, someone said, not hornets, but Sam was fairly sure they were still a metaphor for the entire case.
He scanned the crowd, looking for familiar faces and one in particular. “Chief Gervase!” he called when he found his mark. The man in question turned his head and lifted his chin in recognition. ”Special Agent Kennedy. You came.” He excused himself from the group he was speaking with and crossed the distance between them.
Gervase had been about fifty when Sam had met him for the first time ten years ago. The Huntsman was escalating and Gervase had known he was out of his element. He’d been smart, realistic, and a sort of humble that let him ask for help when he needed it. His hair and beard had been salt and pepper when Sam first met him but now it was completely gray. Cases like the Huntsman did that to a man.
“Good to see you, Kennedy,” Gervase said, offering a strong hand. Sam took it. “Christ, you haven’t changed a bit.”
Ironic, that was what Sam had been thinking of Gervase. And his whole town. “Sorry it’s under these circumstances,” he said briskly. Murder was never the kind of occasion that made for warm greetings and he, like West, thought Gervase was jumping the gun by inviting in the FBI. Speaking of, “This is Agent West.”
“Agent West,” Gervase said, leaning forward and reaching for West’s hand. “Appreciate the help.”
“Chief.” West’s tone was professional.
“You can see what we’re facing,” Gervase said, batting idly at a bypassing wasp. “Eden Pond is to the east, and the woods are to the west. We’ve finished canvassing the neighborhood and we’ve completed the search of the immediate perimeter, but there’s still a hell of a lot of ground to cover, and there’s no sign of the Madigan girl. Nothing. It’s like she just vanished off the face of the earth. Just like before.”
Incorrect. None of the Huntsman’s victims had been taken from a crowded place. They had all been alone, all been isolated. No witnesses, no one to hear them cry for help. Rebecca Madigan had been taken - if she had been taken, which still remained to be determined - from her own pool party. The closet analogous Huntsman case would have been Susan Parvel, who had been alone at her parents’ house, floating in the pool. But if Susan Parvel had fifty of her closest friends nearby, Martin Pink never would have laid a hand on her. Of that, Sam was sure.
“Can you bring us up to speed?” he requested instead. People weren’t fans of hearing they were wrong. He’d never shied away from telling them when necessary, but he had learned enough tact and political savvy to find new ways to get that point across.
Gervase nodded but hadn't even had the chance to open his mouth when a State Police officer inserted him in their circle and said, "Bill Swenson. State Police.”
"Sam Kennedy," Sam said. "FBI. This is Special Agent West.”
"Sir," West chimed in on cue.
"I thought we'd put all this behind us,” Swenson said.
There it was.
Sam had not been called to Kingsfield to find a copycat or otherwise leverage his expertise. He was there to defend his earlier work. Maybe Gervase had good intentions but Swenson’s point of view was hardly singular. Sam had little doubt that Manning’s motivation was closer to Swenson’s.
The edge in Swenson's voice was clear. Mindful of West's and Gevase's eyes on him, Sam simply said, "We'll soon find out."
Gervase broke the tense silence by saying, "I've got granddaughters about Rebecca's age. One a little older. One a little younger. If this is starting up again...." The circle stayed silent as Gervase shook his head. Clearly no one was ready to dispute that serial murder was starting up again - even without another missing girl, or even a body.
God forbid he agree with West, but there were absolutely a lot of reasons for a teenage girl to run off without a boogeyman to blame. It was just too early to make a determination one way or another. “I'm not going to pretend we've got the resources to handle this thing anymore now than we did ten years ago," Gervase finished.
"At least you've got plenty of reinforcements," West assured him, shifting his stance to eye the Worcester County cruiser that pulled up. Sam glanced over at the cruiser and then out at the field. The wasps were gathered in sort of a storm cloud, blocking access to the forest. If Rebecca had gone that way, voluntarily or not, would she have disturbed the nest? How had the searchers managed to do so as quickly as they did?
"That we do,” Gervase admitted. “We've even got cadets from the state Police Academy out here lending a hand. And we had them back then, too. Which is why I'm asking for Special Agent Kennedy’s help."
The sound of his name redirected Sam's attention. It was unlikely Rebecca Madigan would have crossed that field voluntarily. Especially in nothing but her bathing suit.
"You've got it,” he said, turning his attention back to the crowd of law enforcement agents. "What do we know about this party?"
"From what we've been told, her close friends - about a half dozen of them - came over to keep Rebecca company.”
"What time?" Sam asked. He wanted to start building a timeline.
"Nine-thirty,” Gervase said. "By eleven, every kid in the county was there. Eleven-fifteen, neighbor calls in a noise complaint. Boyd stops by - “
"Boyd?” Sam asked. "One of yours?"
"Yessir. Boyd Boxner,” Gervase said. "Guy who drove you over."
“Got it," Sam said. "What then?"
"Eleven-thirty, Rebecca and her best friend, a girl named Patty - Patricia - Douglas, get in some kinda tiff. No one knows what. Just that it was minor and they made up like five minutes later. Patty was the one who realized Rebecca was missing, about one am."
"Did they call you then?" Sam asked. They couldn't have, unless Kingfield PD just shut down and played the national anthem from midnight to six am.
"Nah. Guess a bunch of them checked the house and backyard, then decided she’d probably gone off to her boyfriend's house. This morning, Alice - Alice Cornwall, the housekeeper - calls the boyfriend, Tony McEnroe - like the tennis player - and when he says he hasn't seen her since he left the party at ten-thirty, she gives us a call.”
Sam rubbed his jaw, making a mental note to go back to the boyfriend. "Rebecca intended to party with a few close friends, but word got out and her soiree was crashed by...rough estimate?"
“Sixty to seventy juveniles,” Boyd Boxner volunteered, appearing on the edge of the cluster. “Most but not all of them were from around here."
"Not enough supervision,” Gervase said. "If someone is to blame it's the parents."
Sam wondered if Gervase would feel the same if the missing girl were one of his granddaughters, and his own child were on the hook. "If someone's to blame, it's the sociopath who took a teenage girl from her backyard. The boyfriend left at ten-thirty. Early in the evening. That sounds like there may have been trouble between them."
"We interviewed Tony McEnroe first thing this morning. He said he never saw Rebecca after he left the party. He denied there being any problems in their relationship.”
“He would,” Sam said, trying not to sound entirely dismissive. "Officer Boxner said you've already interviewed the housekeeper, the neighbors, and the kids who were originally invited to the party.”
“Standard procedure," Gervase said. "I guess you'll want you to read over their statements?" he asked hopefully.
"We'll look them over," Sam agreed. Witness statements were only as useful as the person taking them. "Assuming we don't find Rebecca within the next few hours."
That was the second person who thought the witness statements were more useful than looking for the actual missing person. He glanced back at West. The other agent had an attentive but carefully neutral expression on his handsome face.
“Thoughts, Agent West?" he asked. Maybe he could send West back to the station to read over the statements and get him out of Sam's hair.
"I, er, concur," West stammered and cleared his throat.
Interesting. Apparently West had decided to get with the program. Sam wished his timing was
better, but he’d take the win.
"I take it you're still gathering statements from the party crashers?”
"It's going to take a while to track everyone down," Gervase said. “Especially when some of the guests don’t want their parents knowing where they were."
“Chief,” West spoke up. "Can I ask why you're so sure Rebecca is the victim of a copycat?”
So much for ‘with the program’. It wasn't like Sam hadn't warned him.
“You're not familiar with the Kingfield Killings, are you, son?”
Sam took advantage of Gervase’s rundown of the murders to watch West 's reactions. West obviously knew about the murders and about Martin Pink. Ten years ago, he would have been in college, maybe grad school. Would he still have been summering in Kingsfield? Sam didn't remember running into him during the original case.
And, he reflected wryly, watching West’s shoulders strain the seams of his jacket as he crossed
his arms, he would have remembered West.
“I remember the case," West said, but Gervase talked right over him. West's jaw twitched. A subtle tell but again Sam felt West knew more about the murders then he was saying.
"Now we've got another blonde and blue-eyed teenage girl missing from a pool party. I don't know about you, but I think that's one hell of a coincidence."
“It could be a coincidence,” Sam cut in. “It’s our job to make sure. One way or the other."
And he would make sure. No matter what it meant for his career.
Sam slipped away when he saw Gervase handing West a clipboard. The sun was climbing high in the sky. Everyone was preoccupied with the wasps, the search grid, their own worries about what might be happening in their picturesque little town.
He skirted the wide manicured lawns and walked up the winding driveway of the Madigans’ super-sized home. He rang the doorbell and schooled his face into the most disarming expression he could muster.
The woman who opened the door was in her fifties, her gray hair slipping out of her bun. Her eyes were rimmed with red.
“Mrs. Cornwall?" Sam asked gently. He had his credentials out but held low. He suspected Mrs. Cornwall wouldn’t be terribly interested in verifying his identity. Parental figures rarely were. "I'm Sam Kennedy. I'm a special agent with the FBI.”
"The FBI?" Mrs. Cornwall bit her lip. “You're here for Rebecca?"
"Yes,” Sam said. "Chief Gervase is covering all possible bases. He asked for our help. I know you spoke with Officer Boxner earlier today. I'm sorry to ask, but would you mind going over it again with me?"
"You'd better come in off the porch," Mrs. Cornwall, said opening the door more widely and stepping back.
The house was ostentatious, the foyer gleaming with white marble and mahogany. The sprawling area was larger than the house Sam had grown up in. He followed Mrs. Cornwall to a kitchen gleaming with copper and stainless steel.
"Would you like some coffee or tea?” Mrs. Cornwall asked.
“No, thank you,” Sam said. "Could you tell me how you realized Rebecca was missing?” He took a seat at the breakfast bar to put Mrs. Cornwall at ease.
"I get to the house around nine, most days," Mrs. Cornwall started. "It's usually quiet - during the year, the children have left for school, Mr. Madigan has left for work, Mrs. Madigan - " She shrugged. “Sometimes she's out, sometimes she's in. But she and Mr. Madigan are on vacation and Jimmy's at summer camp so it's just Rebecca and me this week.”
"Jimmy's the younger brother?” Sam asked. Boxner had mentioned him in the car on the ride over when West was asking questions.
"Yes. He's thirteen. Very smart."
Mrs. Cornwall sighed. "Rebecca spends all her time with her friends and that scuzzy boyfriend of hers. She's smart enough to skate by without studying."
"Why do you say her boyfriend is scuzzy?” Sam asked
“Ugh,” Mrs. Cornwall said. "He's just - well - for starters, he's twenty-two and dating a seventeen-year-old girl.” She sniffed. “He smokes a lot of marijuana, too. You can always smell it on him.”
Sam smiled and nodded encouragingly. In his experience, recreational pot users actually tended to be less violent than the general populace. But there were a lot of other things Tony McEnroe - like the tennis player - could be taking that would amend Sam’s evaluation.
“How does he treat Rebecca?" Sam asked.
Mrs. Cornwall shrugged. "Not how I would want to be treated. But dating today? Not what dating was in my day. They pretty much just hang out at each other's houses and watch tv.”
“And that works on a girl from a nice family like this?” Sam asked.
Mrs. Cornwall grimaced. Sam was learning a lot from her facial expressions and body language.
“The Madigans,” she started, then paused. “Is this confidential?” she asked.
“To the extent it doesn't interfere with a thorough investigation of the case,” Sam said. He was not ashamed to lie to a witness if necessary but he thought he’d get further with Mrs. Cornwall by being honest. She seemed to have a practical grasp on the situation.”
“They're not bad people,” Mrs. Cornwall said, looking at her hands. The skin on them was dry and showed her age. “But Mr. Madigan is very busy with his work - he’s in real estate - and they, they just don't spend as much time with the kids as they need.”
"You think Rebecca is dating Tony to get her parents’ attention?” Sam asked. Maybe Rebecca was trying to get her parents’ attention by dropping out of sight for a few days.
“Maybe,” Mrs. Cornwall said. "It's not working, though. They don't like him but they never follow up on any of their threats to make her stop seeing him.”
"Could she have taken a little vacation of her own?” Sam asked. “Does the boyfriend live alone? Maybe she's staying with him?"
“That's what I thought, too,” Mrs. Cornwall said, twisting her fingers together. "When I got here this morning, it was a mess. Bottles and glasses everywhere. I cleaned up the kitchen and then I went and knocked on Rebecca's door. I was going to give her a hard time about not even trying to hide that she'd thrown a rager. But she wasn't there.” Mrs. Cornwall took a deep breath. “I called Tony but he seemed really surprised she wasn't home."
"You believe him?" Sam asked mildly.
"Tony's a - " she paused. "I think the word the kids are using these days is douchenozzle? But he's not sneaky. If she was there, he would just say so. And that she wasn't coming home.”
“So you don't think he might have taken her?”
"Taken her?" Mrs. Cornwall chuckled but there was no humor in it. "He's not that smart.”
But, Sam wondered, was he that volatile?
"You said none of her clothes were taken," Sam said. "I'm not doubting you, but how can you be sure? Could she have gone shopping, or taken some old gym clothes?”
"Come see," Mrs. Cornwall said, pushing away from the breakfast bar. She led Sam up a
flight of back stairs and to the door of Rebecca's bedroom.
Sam thought of West commenting that he wanted a look at the Madigans’ house. Sorry, West, he thought with no real remorse.
The room looked like no teenage girl's room Sam had ever seen. No pink, no purple, no pop band posters. Rebecca's room was primarily white with black and gold accents.
The effect was marred by the fingerprint powder dusting the window sills.
"I just did laundry on Friday morning,” Mrs. Cornwall said. She opened the door to the closet. “No empty hangers.”
Sam bit back a low whistle. Rebecca’s walk-in closet was arranged by color, each piece on a matching white flocked hanger.
"Drawers?" he asked, but he had a sinking feeling they were no less organized.
Mrs. Cornwall opened the top drawer of a chest. Rows of neatly folded underwear were corralled by wooden dividers. The next drawer had bras. The next, socks. The next, sets of perfectly coordinated activewear.
"Her bathing suits are in here," Mrs. Cornwall said, pulling out the next drawer. The drawer was divided into six compartments. Five contained bathing suits. The sixth was empty. " It was a red bikini," Mrs. Cornwall said she closed the drawer and looked up
at Sam with tears in her eyes. “Rebecca was spoiled,” she said. "And she could be bratty. But I've been keeping house for the Madigans for four years, since they moved here. I’ve spent more time with those kids than their parents. I should have checked on her when I got here. But I was mad that she'd left such a mess and - "
Sam was shit at comforting victims.
"Do you mind if I take a look around?" he asked instead.
"Go ahead,” Mrs. Cornwall said. "I'll be downstairs.” She left hurriedly, wiping her eyes.
Sam used a pen to open Rebecca's nightstand drawer. A lot of creams and makeup, a bottle of gummy vitamins claiming to give one shiny hair and strong nails and - shoved in the back, a handful of condoms. Not surprising if her boyfriend was twenty-two. Or even if he wasn't. Sam had been sexually active at seventeen himself, and his boyfriend had been the same age.
No diary, no folded notes. Sam supposed all Rebecca’s correspondence would be on her phone, which had not been located.
Sam searched the rest of the room but found nothing more of interest. He went back down the stairs to find Mrs. Cornwall, who had pulled herself together.
"If I wanted to talk to one of Rebecca's friends," he asked, "who would you recommend?"
"Patty Douglas," Mrs. Cornwall said immediately.
"Where can I find her?"
"She's out with the search parties," Mrs. Cornwall said. "Let me find you a picture." She pulled out her own phone - a battered iPhone at least three generations past current - and skimmed through her pictures before turning the device to show Sam. The picture was of Rebecca and Patty dressed for some occasion, maybe a school dance. Short, tight dresses, makeup that made them look five years older. Patty was as dark as Rebecca was fair. Sam hoped he'd be able to recognize her without the false eyelashes and red lipstick. She had a lot of dark, curly hair and a turned-up little nose, so he had a fair amount of confidence in tracking her down. Still, he missed the physical photographs people used to loan him They made things a lot easier.
"Where are Rebecca's parents right now?" he asked. Grieving parents were bad, but parents of abducted children were far worse The not knowing affected everyone in horrible and individual ways.
"Caracas,” Mrs. Cornwall told him. “For their anniversary. They're on their way back. I called
them this morning."
Sam made it a policy not to use meaningless platitudes and never to give false assurances. So he left Mrs. Cornwall with his card and his promise to conduct a thorough investigation and left.
She was the first person not to question his role in Kingsfield's bloody history or ask if Rebecca's abductor was a copycat, or worse, the 'real' Huntsman. And he was satisfied to keep it that way.
He made a wide circle from the front walk around to the search grid. It might have been useful to consult with West, who had been tasked with coordinating the citizen search list, but Sam wasn't eager to give him any excuse to shirk the thankless and dull responsibility. He couldn't bring himself to feel bad about how much West bothered him. He hadn't asked for this assignment and he hadn't asked for this partner. They were both punishment and he couldn't afford to be angry about being asked to help find a missing girl. That left West to bear the brunt of his frustration. And West had been clear that Sam was bearing the brunt of his own.
In a way, it was a shame. West was a good-looking guy and Sam might have liked to find out what he was like naked and breathless when all this was over and Rebecca was safely home.
The search grid was coming back together as the wasps dispersed and Sam tramped from line to line of searchers, looking for someone fitting Patty’s description.
He found her fairly quickly. She had her hair gathered in a ponytail and was wearing a bright pink hoodie and track shorts. She had long, athlete’s legs and was even prettier without makeup.
“Hey,” he said, falling into step with Patty. “I’m Sam Kennedy.”
Patty looked up at him, her eyes instantly flitting to the logo on his polo shirt. “You’re in the FBI?”
“I am,” Sam said, flipping open his credentials and handing the wallet to her. She took it and chewed her bottom lip as she studied it.
“You really think something bad happened to Becky?” Patty asked, handing the wallet back. Sam tucked it back into his pocket.
“We don’t know,” Sam said with a shrug. “Something bad happened to some girls years ago, so now we take a lot of precautions.”
“Do you ever find people on these search things?” Patty asked.
“Sometimes,” Sam said, glancing at the woods. He didn’t mention that the missing people located by most search parties were already dead. “I need to ask you a few questions about last night.”
“Will it help you find Becky?” Patty asked. She tangled a curl around her index and middle fingers and tugged.
“I hope so,” Sam said. “The more you can tell me, the more it’s likely to help.”
Patty sighed. “Okay. What do you want to know?”
“Tell me about Becky and Tony,” Sam suggested. “I heard they had a fight.”
“They always had a fight,” Patty said with the kind of eyeroll only teenage girls could accomplish, in Sam’s experience. “They’re not really together anymore. Her parents were mad about it for a while but then they kind of gave up.”
“Hm,” Sam said. Interesting. “So Becky got bored?”
“Kinda,” Patty said. “I think Tony’s seeing someone else now.”
Sam thought about whether he wanted to pursue the idea of Rebecca going off on her own, or the Tony McEnroe thread. He went with Tony. “Any idea who?”
Patty shrugged. “Not sure.”
“Is that what they fought about?”
“I think it was more like Becky wanted him to keep pretending to hang around but then she ignored him.”
The sun was blazing overhead and sweat was starting to trickle down Sam’s back as he trudged on with Patty. The rest of her assigned search group were spread out as they had been instructed, the closest just out of earshot.
“Yeah,” Sam said. “That’s kind of annoying.”
“Would you date a girl who did that to you?” Patty asked, sounding wiser than her years.
“No. No I would not,” Sam stated definitively. She didn’t need further details. “Is that what you and Becky fought about later?”
“Me? No.” Patty tucked her hair behind her ear. “We didn’t fight. She made a really privileged comment about Officer Boxner - he came by because one of the neighbors called about the noise - and I called her out on it.”
Patty had just confirmed Gervase’s timeline. “What did she say?” Sam asked out of curiosity.
“Something about calling in the help,” Patty said reluctantly.
“That’s not too bad,” Sam said, to coax more out of her. He’d certainly heard worse himself. The town definitely had divisions between the haves and have-nots.
Patty shrugged. “He coaches the girls’ volleyball team,” she said. “He’s a good guy.” Her cheeks were flushed.
“You like him?” Sam asked casually.
“No, I mean. Yeah. He’s a good coach.” Patty flushed harder.
“So Becky knew you liked him and said it anyway?” Sam asked.
“Don’t tell anyone,” Patty said immediately. “I mean, don’t tell him I like him.”
That answered that question. Sam was not going to have to quietly break Boxner’s face.
“That’s not relevant to the investigation,” he said mildly. “He’s a little old for you.”
“I know,” Patty said, sounding frustrated, like this wasn't the first time someone had told her so. “I don’t really want to date him. It’s just - I’ve known every guy in this town since I was five. I’m over it.”
One of Sam’s policies was to keep his personal information close to the chest. He didn’t share things with colleagues, let alone witnesses. And he had a good sense of the way news traveled amongst high schoolers. But he said it anyway.
“The good news is,” he started, “you’re not stuck here forever. I grew up in Wyoming. If I made it out of there, you can get out of this place.”
Patty started to smile but then looked out at the woods. “Is Becky going to make it out of here?” she asked.
“I wish I had an answer to that,” Sam said, continuing his streak of unintended honesty. “Do you know of any place she might go to be alone?”
Patty shook her head. “She didn’t have to go anywhere. Her parents were never home. Besides, this isn’t exactly the sprawling metropolis,” she added. “Most of our parents already figured out all the good hiding places when they were kids.”
“Fair enough,” Sam said. “If you think of anything else that might be helpful, please give me a call.” He held out one of his cards.
Patty stared at it. “The FBI has business cards?” she asked, as if fearing for the state of federal technology.
“I’m super old,” Sam told her.
Patty didn’t disagree with him.
Chapter 3: Chapter 3
The trip back to base camp was both uphill and into the sun. Gervase, Boxner, and West stood in a cluster, arguing. West had taken off his jacket and rolled up his sleeves. Like everything, it was a good look on him.
“What’s up?” Sam asked, inserting himself in the circle. West flinched, his eyes tracking up to Sam’s face. Sam considered him as he waited for an answer. West’s tie was pulled low, exposing the tempting dip of his collarbone but otherwise he still looked crisp and clean, like he’d spent the afternoon standing around, doing nothing. Or maybe it was the restlessness in his frame making that suggestion.
“Everyone in Kingsfield is here looking for Rebecca,” Boxner said. “Except Tony McEnroe.”
“Not everyone,” Gervase said quellingly.
“Everyone’s who’s free to lend a hand is here,” Boxner retorted.
Sam glanced over at Gervase, who dipped his head in acknowledgement.
“McEnroe is the boyfriend,” Sam stated. He’d wanted to speak to the boyfriend. Now was as good a chance as any.
“The boyfriend,” Boxner confirmed. “And what a piece of work that guy is.”
So Sam had heard.
Sam looked at West to see where he fit into this conversation.
“I’ve confirmed he’s not officially on one of the search teams,” West said, recognizing his cue. Sam noted his precise use of ‘officially.’ Just because Tony McEnroe hadn’t signed in didn’t mean he wasn’t out there somewhere.
“If McEnroe was also missing, I’d have said they took off together,” Gervase said. “But we talked to McEnroe first thing this morning.”
“Waste of time on a waste of space,” Boxner announced. Tell us how you really feel, Boyd. Gervase and Boxner bickered further about McEnroe but Sam’s mind was made up.
“Maybe we ought to have a chat with Mr. McEnroe,” he suggested.
West completely missed his cue. After an awkward moment, he caught on that Sam was talking to him and sputtered out a belated, “Sure! Yeah!” Sam managed not to groan.
Gervase offered to drive them out to McEnroe’s place, which Sam accepted, and offered his opinions on McEnroe’s role in the matter, which Sam generally discarded as useless.
Then he offered, “I saw you finally solved that case in Wisconsin.” Finally. No kidding. “Did you really throw that sheriff out the window?”
“No,” Sam said. Truthfully, although for all the flack he’d gotten, he should have had the satisfaction. “Thought about it plenty.”
“Well, I guess you’ll weather that okay,” Gervase said with a laugh. “Your record ought to speak for itself.”
That was the question, wasn’t it? Sam didn’t answer and neither did West. Sam probably shouldn’t have said what he did about wanting to throw Sheriff Abernathy out a window, but he’d be damned if he was going to censor himself in front of Jason West. Instead, he settled for keeping his mouth shut.
The car bumped along in contemplative silence for a while, broken only by Gervase’s genial comments until West said, “Isn’t this near Martin Pink’s property?”
Sam twisted around to look at West. he knew West was more familiar with the original case than he’d been letting on. He couldn’t read West’s eyes behind his sunglasses.
“I guess you’ve done your homework,” Gervase said cheerfully, as if he hadn’t accused West of never having heard of the case a mere three hours earlier. “Yep. Pink lived over that ridge to your right. Lived there with his crazy old mother and his pothead brother. They’re all gone now. Even the house is falling down. Of course it always was.”
The car hit a pothole, as if to punctuate the Chief’s last comment.
“How long has McEnroe lived in the area?” Sam asked, calculating in his head. McEnroe was twenty-two. Ten years ago he would have been twelve. Too young, then, but Pink might have been validation for the early signs of dissociation typical of prepubescent psychopaths. McEnroe might have been out here killing squirrels and raccoons before ramping up for his debut.
“Four or five years,” Gervase said. “Unfortunately.”
Sam had been thinking the same but almost certainly for different reasons. He shifted in his seat to look at Gervase. “Trouble?”
“We’ve got an ongoing situation regarding a little patch of so-called medicinal marijuana he’s cultivating on his property.”
Again with the marijuana. Sam had no interest in the stuff himself, but he was from Wyoming, where what a man did on his own property was his own business. Generally speaking, anyway. The only reason he could see Gervase should care was if McEnroe was selling to the teenagers he hung out with, which was a reasonable possibility. But Sam wasn’t here to bust teenagers for pot.
“McEnroe is twenty-two,” Gervase picked up when neither Sam nor West commented on the marijuana. “Rebecca is seventeen. So yes, there is always going to be trouble in that kind of situation.”
Fair, Sam supposed.
He glanced back at the side mirror to watch West’s face. West was definitely not in town ten years ago when Sam led the hunt to capture Martin Pink. But he knew Pink - where he lived if nothing else. Ten years ago, West would have been in his early twenties, most likely, but sixteen years ago, he would have been in his teens. Sixteen years ago, he would still be vacationing with his parents, when Honey Corrigan was taken and killed. Had he known Corrigan? Or Theresa Nolan, maybe? Was this personal for him? Was that what the awkwardness at the station had been about? Was he hiding a stake in this investigation?
Sam contemplated as Gervase turned the truck down a dirt road where the trees shaded away the sun, casting the road and the truck into shadows. The gate was dilapidated, the ranch-style building dusty and faded. A white pick-up truck sat in the yard, in sore need of a good scrub-down. The air outside was heavy with humidity, and stale.
Sam thumbed open the snap on his holster. It would be stupid not to expect trouble. Not one person had a good word to say about McEnroe and even if he was entirely innocent of Rebecca’s disappearance, his role as her ne'er-do-well lover might have put him in danger of his own.
Gervase banged on the door, which shuddered in its frame, bits of paint flaking off and drifting to the small wooden platform that served as a porch. Nothing. Gervase banged again and Sam heard some rustling deep in the structure.
It took a third round of banging for the front door to swing open. The occupant slouched against the frame. If this was McEnroe, he was definitely a douchenozzle.
He was the kind of skinny that usually involved surviving on cigarettes and breakfast cereal, but otherwise looked like a beach bum who’d wandered 300 miles too far north. His hair was long and blond, but lank, and he had neither a full beard nor was his stubble groomed enough to look deliberate. No pants, and his boxers had a comic book villain printed on them. His thin shoulders hunched in a flannel shirt that was maybe new when Kurt Cobain had been alive, and not buttoned. Definitely more than Sam needed to know about Tony McEnroe.
“I already told you, she’s not here!” he whined.
“Okay,” Gervase agreed evenly. “You already told us. We’d still like to talk to you.”
“Who would?” McEnroe tilted his chin up to look over Gervase’s shoulder at Sam. “Who are you?” Sam watched the cogs turn slowly - so slowly - in McEnroe’s brain. “No way!” he burst out when he’d finally put it together. “You brought the goddamned ATF out here?”
Swing and a miss. But Sam was tired of waiting for McEnroe’s fried synapses to fire. “You’re thinking of the goddamned DEA,” he deadpanned. “We’re the goddamned FBI.” No one as much as cracked a smile. Tough audience. “And yes, we’d like a word.”
“How about fuck off?”
Besides being dumb as a rock, McEnroe was predictable. Sam grabbed the edge of the door Tony tried to slam in their faces and gave it a sharp shove inward. The move had the gratifying side effect of knocking Tony on his ass. “That’s two words,” Sam pointed out.
“Get up, Tony,” Gervase said. “We’re not here about your crop, so don’t make a bigger ass of yourself than you have to.”
McEnroe got up and sulked his way out to the couch in the front room. “I don’t know what the hell you want from me,” he whined. “I don’t know where Becky is.”
The place stunk, cigarettes and grease and some kind of solvent and looked like it was maybe in some stage of demolition.
“You do remember she’s only seventeen, right?” Gervase asked.
“What did you argue about last night?” Sam asked, cutting right to the chase. He subtly blocked the path to the front door. Gervase sat down in a nearby recliner. He must not have a lot of faith in McEnroe actually being a murderer, Sam thought. In the corner of his eye, he saw West position himself at an angle to see an approach from the kitchen. Not that Sam thought McEnroe had an accomplice, but at least West was behaving like an agent.
“I don’t - how did you know? We didn’t!”
Except that they had and everyone had said so. “Why did you leave the party early?” Sam countered.
“I-I just felt like it. It was boring. Too many stupid, snotty kids clogging up the place.” He was a fidgeter. Currently, he was fidgeting with his hair.
“Aren’t those stupid, snotty kids the same age as your girlfriend?” Sam asked. McEnroe just shook his head. The thing about serial killers is that they were, as a group, pretty smart. The ones who weren’t didn’t tend to make it to “serial.” But Tony didn’t necessarily have to be a serial killer. He just had to have had a bad day. “Tell us about the party,” Sam asked more evenly. “Walk us through the evening again.”
McEnroe glared up through his curtain of hair. “There isn’t anything to tell. I showed up about nine-thirty, which was when the party started. Becky was in a bitchy mood. So after an hour of it I left. That’s it. That’s the entire night right there. I went home and went to bed. The first I heard she was missing when you knocked on my door this morning.”
“Alice Cornwell contacted you before she phoned us,” Gervase pointed out before Sam could.
“Well, okay. Whatever. I just mean I didn’t see her again. She didn’t come here.”
“You don’t seem particularly broken up over your girlfriend going missing,” Gervase said.
“She’s not missing.”
Sam narrowed his eyes at McEnroe. “What does that mean?”
“She’s just doing this for attention,” McEnroe insisted. “I know Becky. This is her idea of getting back at me.”
For what? “Getting back at you?” Sam repeated, a technique he sometimes used to make the interrogee feel that Sam believed his bullshit. “Why would she want to get back at you?”
“Because she can’t stand it when everything doesn’t go her way,” McEnroe finally said after a lengthy pause. “When she isn’t the center of attention. When she isn’t the one in control.”
When she isn’t the one in control. Interesting phrasing. Interesting sentiment.
“I see,” Sam said. He waited.
“Is that it?” McEnroe asked, wiping sweat off his face with a flannel shirt sleeve.
“How did you get those scratches on your arm?” West asked from his corner.
Sam glanced back. West’s face was impassive, arms crossed. He couldn’t see McEnroe’s arms - Sam checked - so it must have been a calculated guess. Or a wild guess. Either way, it had an electrifying effect on McEnroe.
“What? I don’t - I was playing with the cat. Becky’s cat. Snowball. She scratched me. The cat scratched me.” For the first time, McEnroe didn’t look sulky and mad. He looked scared.
Sam’s pulse jumped. Until that moment, he had not really thought Tony McEnroe was capable of murder. He never ruled anything out, but McEnroe didn’t seem able to coordinate a bowl of cereal, let alone feign a disappearance. But he’d seen plenty of sociopaths play dumb.
“I think we’d better finish this conversation back at the station,” Gervase interrupted. He sat forward, like he was going to stand and McEnroe leapt to his feet.
“What!” McEnroe yelped. “You’re crazy, old man! I already told you I had nothing to do with Becky running away! I don’t know anything about it. I don’t want to know anything about it.”
Dammit. They’d just gotten their first reaction out of McEnroe. Sam wanted to push forward a little more before taking him in - he didn’t want to give McEnroe time to collect himself - but he also didn’t want to undermine Gervase’s authority.
“Maybe you did,” Gervase allowed, “Maybe you didn’t. There are still questions that have to be answered.”
“I don’t know anything!”
“Son, you can cooperate and come in voluntarily, or I can arrest your ass. Up to you.” This, Sam realized, was what had felt off. This was the first time Gervase had sounded anything like the tense, determined ex-soldier whom Sam had met ten years ago. Maybe Kingsfield had softened him up. Since the conviction of Martin Pink, it hadn’t been a particularly dangerous beat.
“This is crazy!” McEnroe was still going on. “I didn’t do anything!”
“What are you getting so worked up about, McEnroe?” Gervase asked. “You’re the boyfriend, you’re going to be questioned. If you’re innocent, you’ve got nothing to worry about. It’s a couple hours out of your life.”
“I’m not under arrest?” McEnroe’s demeanor evened out at this news. He stopped shaking, took it down a few notches. He looked pleadingly at Gervase.
“Not so far,” Gervase told him.
McEnroe swallowed. “Can I at least put my pants on?”
“Please do,” Gervase with the tone of a man who was saying what everyone else in the room was thinking. “Please do.”
McEnroe stood up and rabbited down the hallway. Sam heard the creak of a door and the muffled slide of drawers and cabinets. He wanted to pursue, make sure McEnroe wasn’t pulling a fast one on them or tucking away a weapon they were going to have to take off him later. This wasn’t standard procedure but then Kingsfield wasn’t a particularly dangerous town, since its last serial killer was put away, and Gervase appeared to have a good grasp on his troublemakers.
“You won’t need your toothbrush.” Gervase didn’t project his voice, but it carried through the tiny, shambling house.
“I’m going to cover the back entrance,” West said.
Sam nodded at him. At least he seemed to be taking this seriously. More seriously than Gervase, who said,
“Don’t worry. He’s not going anywhere,” and leaned back in the chair.
Sam listened to the front door close behind West. He listened to the closet door open and close. He listened to another drawer open. He listened to the shuffling noises stop. He didn’t hear West at all. The guy wasn’t a half-bad agent. Sure, he was young and brash, but Sam couldn’t hold that against him. He tracked down stolen art, which seemed like a job for, well, anyone but the FBI, but his investigative skills were on point. The question about the scratches had clearly been a shot in the dark, but it had found its mark. Of course West clearly hated Sam, that was a definite strike against him, but he was hardly alone in that opinion. And Sam did ruin his vacation.
Sam dragged his thoughts away from West. Suspect now, field assessment later. Tony McEnroe was hardly a criminal mastermind - he was barely a criminal - but even the idiots could be dangerous and Sam had not stayed in the game this long by ignoring his instincts.
It was taking too long. It was too quiet. Gervase was too comfortable. Sam gut tightened uncomfortably.
“I’m going to hustle him along,” Sam said quietly, and walked in the same direction McEnroe had without giving Gervase a chance to respond.
The hall was dark, the bathroom grungy, and Sam folded his palm around the butt of his gun before tapping the bedroom door with his fist. It swung open with a creaky sigh. “Really?” he muttered, and then, “Tony?”
The room was empty. The curtains fluttered in the breeze like - like the window was wide open. Sam crossed the room in three long steps - it wasn’t a large room - and shoved the curtain aside.
Jason West stood framed in the window, his service weapon drawn and pointed toward the woods. There was no sign of Tony McEnroe.