22 Oct Never Forget the Past
She loved to watch things burn. Fire meant renewal. It allowed the old and useless items to be destroyed so new and worthwhile things could take their places. It was also cleansing. Sins could be erased in fire. The hot, searing heat held perfection and no mercy. No one could escape the fire’s wrath. Which was why it had to be done.
Some people believed that God doled out judgement, but the truth was that God was often too merciful. Too full of grace. He forgave people who didn’t deserve it. Therein lay the need for His angels. People who could witness the depravity of man or woman and take the necessary steps to cleanse the world. People like her.
She let the match burn to her fingertips, enjoying the heat that pulsed through her hand. Some angels preferred fancier ways to start a fire, but she had always enjoyed the simplest way. A little gasoline and a match. All it took was an open window, a splash of gas, one strike, and the fire would lick the gas up in giant gulps. Flames would race each other to the top of the house and snake their way along the walls. She never had to be inside this way, but she always made sure they were. And she always struck at night when deep sleep would keep them from escaping. So far, no one had escaped.
The match, a charred remnant of wood now, floated to the ground. When it landed, she placed the toe of her shoe over it and twisted, burying it into the dirt. She only ever left one. To leave any more would be tempting fate. Even the one she left was always a way back from the scene, but it was her homage, her thanks for being bestowed with this honor. Not everyone could do what she did, and she willingly bore the weight of her title.
As the flames licked higher, she stepped back into the comforting dark of the forest. The limbs of the trees reached out for her like arms of a mother, and the leaves hid her form so she could watch undisturbed. Watching was her favorite part. She thrived on the fear that graced each face that saw the fire, the terror that colored each voice as they yelled out orders or cried. Even the nervous bustling activity brought a smile to her face. But the best part by far was when the coroner arrived, and the body left the house in its black bag.
A finality existed just in the word black – its heavy feeling on the tongue and its abundance of thick blended consonants – but even more in the form of it. Zipped from head to toe, no more light poked into the bag. No more grace. Only darkness. A shiver of delight ran down her spine at the thought. Yes, that was her favorite part.
She settled against the tree and waited. It had been a long time, but finally, she was back.
Captain Makenna Drake stared at the crime scene and sighed. It had been so quiet the last few years. Why did this have to start again now?
“Do you think it’s the same guy?” Tad asked from behind her shoulder.
She glanced up at her lieutenant, the only other cop still on the force who had been on the case five years ago when the murders had first started. He was still young-looking, his face not yet marred with the wrinkles the stress of this job brought. His dark hair held no traces of gray, and his eyes glistened with curiosity and wonder – something she had lost long ago.
But, he’d just been training then. He’d heard about the murders and worked a little on the case, but he hadn’t been entrenched in it the way she had. And life had returned to normal after that – traffic stops and bar brawls, but nothing serious. She wondered if he would still look so young when this was over, or if, like her, his face would bear the brunt of the weight of cases like this. “I don’t know. The MO is the same. House fire at night, open window where the fire starts, but all the victims last time were women.”
“Except for Matt Parker,” he said.
Right, Matt Parker. The final victim. The man everyone thought was dead. Everyone except Makenna who knew better. Everyone except Makenna who sent him away when he came to her after the attempt on his life. “Yes, except for him, but if our killer changed his victim MO with Matt, why the long break?”
Tad shook his head, confusion clouding his face. “Something must have triggered him.”
“Yes, but what?” Makenna hated that this guy was killing again. She hated the fear that would blanket the small town as it had five years ago. She hated the fact that she hadn’t caught the guy last time. Even more, she hated the fact that she had told Matt Parker to leave, had let his family believe he was dead, for nothing. She’d thought she was saving him, had thought the killer was after him, but now he was striking again even though Matt Parker was long gone. How much of Matt Parker’s life had she destroyed with her wrong choice?
She supposed it could be a copycat. The fires always started at night when the victims were asleep. They always started inside an open window, and the only accelerant they could ever determine was gasoline. Sometimes the window was broken, but they never found fingerprints or what he used to break it which meant he took it with him and probably wore gloves. It wasn’t much to go on, but it was possible someone had read about the old cases and decided to try his hand.
Makenna didn’t think so though. Woodville was a smaller town – not tiny but small enough that crimes were few and far between. Most of her time was spent ticketing speeders or the occasional red light runners. Besides those murders five years ago, the only other big case they’d had was when Tommy Granger went missing for a few hours and his parents believed he’d been kidnapped. Turned out, he had fallen asleep in the dog house with their new puppy and just didn’t hear all the shouts.
So, the chances of a copycat choosing their town again just didn’t sit right with her. It made much more sense that something had appeased the killer last time and something had triggered him again this time. Of course, the only thing that could have appeased him last time was the death of Matt Parker, but then why start killing again? As far as Makenna knew, she was the only one who knew Matt was alive, who knew where he was. Had there been more to it last time? Something she had missed?
“What are we going to do, Captain?” Tad asked.
Makenna took another deep breath and uttered the words she’d both hoped to and dreaded to say. “I guess I’m going to bring someone back from the dead.”
Billy “Bubba” Campbell glanced around his apartment as he locked up. Though he enjoyed his alone time, he wished he had someone to share the evenings with, but his job as a firefighter kept him busy. And then there was the issue with his past. No one in Fire Beach knew his real past, and though he had fully embraced his current life, that reality made it hard to let people in – really in – enough to form a relationship with. Besides, what if it happened again? He couldn’t stand any woman he cared about getting hurt again. No, it was better this way. He would just be content with good friends and the good Lord.
Speaking of good friends, he better hurry up. Tonight, Detective Jordan Graves, was throwing a party for Tia Sweetchild, the author who had ended up in their town after a car accident the opening night of Jordan’s restaurant. They had all worked to save her, and though she’d had a long recovery, she’d done it with the help of her now-boyfriend, Dr. Brody Cavanaugh. Bubba still marveled at how the members of the different departments had bonded.
The rest of the crew was already at the restaurant when Bubba entered, but thankfully, his friend and fellow firefighter Luca had saved him a seat. Luca was a Southerner like Bubba, but he was from Georgia. The differences were few, but they came out occasionally, usually around food. Luca had once called him a Yankee for not knowing what a ham hock was. Weird that they now both lived up North in Illinois.
He slid into the seat next to Luca just as Jordan banged his water glass with a spoon. Though he would never have opted for the title, Jordan had become their glue. He had a commanding presence, and being a cop plus the co-owner of the restaurant put him in the forefront quite often.
The conversation quieted, allowing him to speak. “Thank you all for coming. As you all know, we have a resident celebrity in our midst.” He smiled at Tia, and she dropped her eyes as a soft pink color crawled up her cheeks. “And she has finally finished her masterpiece. Tia get up here and show off your beautiful book.” Tia had been an author before her accident, but after it, she had taken some time to work in the restaurant while she healed. Somehow, she had managed to write a book at the same time.
Tia shook her head as she pushed back her chair. Bubba didn’t know all of Tia’s story, but he’d heard a little through the grapevine and he’d been there when she had first been rescued with the Jaws of Life. It would be hard to tell she had ever been in a serious accident except for the large red scar that still arced across her forehead.
She grabbed a bag and walked to the front of the table. “Thank you all for wanting to celebrate this with me. This wasn’t an easy book to write, but your support helped me get past all the hard parts. Now, I’ve loved a lot of books I’ve written, but I think this might be my best.”
“Hear, hear,” Brody, her boyfriend and ICU doctor, said lifting his glass and flashing her a large smile. “What?” he asked as he looked around the table. “I already read it, so I know that it’s good. She got the doctor spot on.”
Tia shook her head and smiled at him. “Anyway, I think it is because of all of you that it turned out so well, and that’s why I’m pleased to present to you…” she paused before pulling the book out of the bag, “The Key to Remember.”
Bubba joined in the cheers and clapping as Tia passed the book around the table. He hadn’t read it yet, but if it chronicled her narrow escape from the men who had been after her when she lost her memory, he had no doubt it would be interesting. When the book reached his hands, he flipped through the pages before turning to Luca Sanders. “Hey, this might even be a book you could read, Luca.”
“Only if it’s on audiobook,” Luca shot back. “I can’t sit still long enough to read a paper book. Sorry, Tia.”
“You probably couldn’t focus long enough to listen to an audiobook either,” Bubba said with a deep chuckle. “Unless maybe it was a Dr. Seuss book.”
“Hey, there is nothing wrong with Dr. Seuss,” Luca said, punching Bubba in the arm. “I still remember Green Eggs and Ham. Of course, maybe that’s because our teacher actually made us eat green eggs.” A grimace contorted his face and Bubba laughed out loud.
The conversation stilled at the unfamiliar voice, and Bubba’s blood ran cold. It couldn’t be. She’d promised not to come find him unless the murders started again. He turned toward the doorway where a petite woman stood. She was thinner and her hair held a few more silver strands, but Bubba would have wagered a year’s wage that the woman was Makenna Drake.
“I’m sorry to interrupt, but do any of you know where I can find Matt Parker?” Her eyes scanned the room, and Bubba knew when they reached him, she would recognize him. He hadn’t changed that much in five years. They hadn’t thought a change of appearance would be necessary. Moving him a few hours away and giving him a whole new name and past had seemed like enough.
Confused glances shot around the room and Jordan stood to address her. “I’m sorry, ma’am, there’s no Matt Parker here.”
“Actually, there is.” Bubba took a deep breath and let it out in a sigh. Time seemed to freeze as every eye turned turned his direction, and he pushed back his chair and stood. “I’m Matt Parker.”
“What? What are you talking about, Bubba? Who is this woman?” The questions fired at him from all across the table and Bubba held up his hands to quiet them down.
“I’ll answer all your questions, but let me start with the last one first.” He turned to Makenna and motioned her to join them. “This is Lieutenant Makenna Drake.”
“Actually, it’s Captain now.”
Bubba raised a brow and shot her a glance riddled with questions. She was a good cop, but captain already?
She smiled and shrugged as if reading his mind. “It’s a small town.”
He chuckled at that. “It is, but somehow I doubt that’s the only reason you’re a captain now. I should have expected nothing less.” He looked away from Makenna and back to his friends to continue his story. “Captain,” he emphasized the word, “Drake is from Woodville where I used to live.”
“Woodville? I thought you were from Texas,” Luca said.
“I am originally from Texas, but I moved to Woodville in high school. I graduated there and trained to become a firefighter.”
“You? Or Matt Parker?” Jordan asked, and Bubba did not miss the note of suspicion threading his voice.
“Matt Parker. That is the name I was born with. Anyway, for a couple of years, it was great. I loved the area and my job, but then about five years ago, people began dying.”
“Women, specifically,” Makenna said, joining in. “Women who happened to die in fires and all had some connection to Matt.”
“You didn’t honestly think he was responsible, did you?” Cassidy asked. Daggers flew from her eyes and laced her voice.
Bubba had to smile at Cassidy. She was the only female firefighter in their unit, and she was like his little sister. He was fiercely protective of her, and it appeared she was of him as well.
“We didn’t have much to go on,” Makenna said sadly. “Nothing is ever left at the scene, and the only link seemed to be Matt.”
“So, what changed your mind?” Officer Alayna “Al” Parker asked.
“When I became a victim,” Bubba said. “Maybe it was because I’m always around fires, but the smell woke me up, and I escaped. Makenna decided then that I wasn’t the perpetrator and that it would be safer if I left town and changed my name. She helped me set up this new identity. I didn’t mean to lie to you all.” Bubba meant every word, but he also couldn’t deny feeling lighter finally sharing his past with his friends.
“That all makes sense,” Jordan said, “but why are you back now?”
Makenna bit her lip and then sighed as she caught Bubba’s eye. “Because the murders have started again.”
Bubba’s heart sank at the words, and a seed of anger sprouted in his chest. Makenna had told him that whoever was behind the killings held a vendetta against him for some reason and would stop with the news of his death. He had believed her. He had let his family believe he was dead and broken all communication with them. And for what? Nothing, it appeared now.
“I know you have no reason to come back, but I’m hoping that you will. You were the only victim who survived, though the killer doesn’t know that. We’re hoping that seeing that you survived might fluster him enough to mess up and give us some clue as to who he is.”
Bubba leaned back as he thought about her request. He owed her nothing. He’d spent the last five years trying to put Woodville out of his mind, to pretend he didn’t miss his family. And he was happy here in Fire Beach, mostly. But there had always been that nagging thought in his head. The thought that wondered if he would really ever forget Matt Parker and truly be Billy Campbell. The thought that the killer had some connection to him and by running, he had put more people in danger.
“I’ll do it,” he said finally. The thought of going back to Woodville held a sense of relief along with a feeling of terror, but it also felt right.
“Are you sure, Bubba?” Cassidy asked. “It sounds dangerous. Maybe Jordan should go with you.” She looked to her boyfriend, but his face was impassive.
“I’m about out of leave, but I’ll check with Stone, and see if he’ll give me some more leave.”
“I could go,” Al said. “I’m pretty certain I have some leave saved up.”
“Guys, I’ll be fine,” Bubba said though inside he wondered if that were true. He’d gone through a lot of counseling after leaving Woodville. He’d spent an abundant amount of time trying to forget the women who were killed, trying to forget his family. Could he really go back and relive it all again? What would his parents say?
“Thank you, Matt. I guess it’s settled then,” Makenna said.
But it didn’t feel settled to Bubba. Could he really face his old demons? What if he didn’t make it back this time? No, that was out of his hands. God had protected him last time, and He would do it again this time if it was His will. Bubba shook his head to clear the voices and turned to Makenna. “When do we leave?”
Makenna felt like a trespasser as she stood in Matt’s apartment waiting for him to gather some items. She had told him to pack for a week, but what if it turned out to be longer? What if Matt wasn’t the link and seeing him did nothing? What if it really was a copycat who would have little knowledge of Matt Parker at all?
Trust. She had to trust God that this was the right move. She’d learned to trust her instincts when she became a cop, and they had rarely proved her wrong. But, she knew that trusting God was even more important, and she felt sure He’d led her back to Matt Parker.
She’d begun looking to God after the case from five years ago. She’d needed a way to deal with her anger and frustration at not finding the killer. Then, the promotions had happened and stress had consumed her life. Church and her time with God had been the only sanity saving times for a while.
“Almost ready,” he called from the bedroom.
His place was small – a one bedroom apartment, but he had decorated it tastefully. The furniture matched, and the pictures on the wall complemented them. She wondered if he had decorated the place himself or if a woman had?
There had been several women at the restaurant where she’d found him, but none of them appeared to be more than a friend, and she saw no sign of a woman living in the apartment. Of course, it was none of her business if he did have a woman, but for some reason the thought that he didn’t… affected her. She told herself it was simply because she too was single and she liked the validation that it was okay to be in your thirties and still single, but if she were honest with herself, she would acknowledge that Matt had a place in her heart.
She had truly believed sending him away was saving not only his life but the life of his family and friends, but she had never forgotten him. She’d thought often of checking up on him to see how he was doing, but she hadn’t wanted to chance the killer finding out he was still alive and coming after him. Now, here he was back in her life. As strong and handsome as he had been five years ago.
“You ready?” he asked.
His voice shook her back to reality, and she nodded. “Do you have anyone to look after the place while you’re gone?” It was a cowardly way to ask, but his answer would tell her if he was seeing someone or not.
“Cassidy and Luca both offered to check in on the place.”
Makenna nodded and stepped out the front door. “They seem nice. Your friends.”
“They are. And protective. They’re all I’ve had for the last five years.” She didn’t hear condemnation in his voice, but she felt it all the same.
“I’m sorry, Matt.”
He held up a hand and shook his head. “Let’s not rehash the past. You did what you thought was right, and I went along with it. Let’s just hope it ends differently this time.”
Makenna nodded. What could she say to that? He locked the door and followed her to her car, but the tension lay heavy between them. Like an invisible barrier. She hoped she hadn’t made a mistake coming back here and upending his life. Again.
She glanced over at Matt as they drove back to Woodville. His posture was stiff and his eyes stared out of the window. She wondered what was going on in his head. Was he scared? Nervous? She sure was. It had been a nightmare working this case five years ago, but she’d still been learning then. Now, she was running the department which meant that more responsibility lay on her shoulders. She had to catch this guy.
“Why Bubba?” she asked. The audible words surprised her. She had been wondering about the nickname from the moment she heard it, but she hadn’t meant to ask the question aloud. At least, not yet.
Matt shrugged and turned his head slowly in her direction. “Bubba seemed to fit the Southern personality I had created. Once I said it out loud, it just sort of stuck.”
“Should I call you that?” Makenna wasn’t sure what to call him. She knew him as Matt, but she also knew he’d been living under a different name for the last few years. How odd must that be? She didn’t even like nicknames though her old captain had called her Mac. He was the only one though.
Matt appeared to think for a minute as the knuckles of his right hand ran down the side of his square jaw. She’d forgotten how solid he was, but now that he was in her car, it was hard not to notice how his broad shoulders filled every inch of the passenger seat and how the seatbelt accentuated his muscular chest.
“Yeah, Bubba would be nice. It’s the only name that’s felt right since I quit being Matt.”
“Was it hard to adjust?”
The seatbelt groaned as it stretched with his deep breath. “It was at first. Especially leaving my life behind. How is my family anyway?”
“They’re fine,” Makenna said careful to keep her voice even, but she knew that was far from the truth. His parents had been devastated by Matt’s “death,” and the grief had aged them faster than they might have without it. She knew he probably had other siblings, but the only one she had ever met was Felicity, his sister who worked for a local doctor. She had grieved briefly, but then she had seemed to continue on as if nothing had happened. Perhaps, it was because of her job. Maybe her boss had given her counseling, but it had still given Makenna pause. His parents, however, would probably be overjoyed to see him now and know he was alive, but Makenna knew they would rain fire down on her for the lie, even if it had been a lie to keep him safe.
“That was the hardest part,” he continued. Makenna breathed a sigh of relief that he hadn’t pressed about his family any further. “Not seeing my family and learning to respond to a different name. It’s not something I ever thought I’d have to do, and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. I often felt like I was developing multiple personalities.”
Makenna could understand that. Even though she knew he was the same person, the man sitting next to her was slightly different from the one who had left five years ago. His voice was softer. His eyes carried a little more sadness. Even some of his mannerisms were different.
“I’m sorry. I thought it was the best way to keep you safe.”
He shrugged again and turned his face back to the window. “It probably was.”
Silence filled the car, and Makenna forced her mouth shut. She wanted to ask him more questions. About the last few years, about what he remembered of the case, about how he was feeling, but she could tell he wasn’t ready to throw that door wide open yet.
“Why do you think he started again?” Matt asked as he turned to her suddenly. No, not Matt. Bubba. He wanted her to call him Bubba, and she would try and honor that. The name felt weird in her head and she imagined it would on her tongue as well, but she would bury her discomfort for him.
“We’re not sure. Something definitely triggered him. Maybe a death.” She paused, unsure if she should tell him the rest of the issue now or when they could look over the evidence.
“What aren’t you saying?”
Her eyes flicked from the road to meet his steely gaze. Now, it was. If he hadn’t become a firefighter, he would have made a great cop as well. “Something in the MO changed.”
“A copycat?” Bubba asked.
Makenna shook her head. “No, we’re pretty sure it’s the same guy. Same details. Fire started at an open window, gas for accelerant, single match found at the scene. Details we never released to the public.”
“So, what’s changed?”
“The victim. When he struck five years ago, all the victims were women. Except for you. Our current victim is another man.”
“What does that mean?” Bubba asked as he shook his head.
“We don’t know. We’re hoping maybe you can help us figure that out.”
Bubba swallowed the lump that clogged his throat as they passed the small green “Welcome to Woodville” sign. Conflicting emotions raged within him. On one hand, he was excited to see his parents and his sister again, but coming back here also brought back a lot of memories.
Bubba’s eyes snapped open. For a second, he wasn’t sure what had woken him, but then he smelled it – the acrid smell of smoke. Light but definitely there. Once you’ve been in a burning building, the smell of the smoke never leaves you, and he had been in enough buildings to never mistake the smell no matter how faint it was. Then the soft crackle of the fire met his ears. He threw his covers back and could already feel the gentle tease of the approaching heat. Out! He had to get out.
He touched the handle of his door and quickly pulled his hand back. An intense heat coated the metal. The fire was right outside of the door then. No opening the door to make it to an exit. No using his fire extinguisher to tame the fire. The idea of losing his house and belongings was sobering, but he hadn’t started this fire. Someone else had. Someone who could be the same arsonist who had killed three women in fires recently. Someone who could still be around – watching, waiting to see if Bubba escaped. From his years in the department, Bubba knew many arsonists liked to stay and watch the fires.
Bubba turned from the door and crossed to the window. He peered into the darkness but saw no one waiting in the shadows. Still, what if the killer was waiting outside to make sure Bubba didn’t escape? It was a chance he had to take. He grabbed his cell phone and threw on a pair of shoes, and then he opened the window and knocked out the screen. It would be a tight squeeze for his large frame, but he thought he would just fit.
The cool night air sent a shiver down his back as it dispelled the heat he had felt just moments before. He should have grabbed a shirt too or a jacket. His feet hit the ground, and he stepped back. The fire had already claimed half of his house, and the flames licked closer to where he stood. With a final glance around him, Bubba shot off in the direction farthest from the fire’s origin. Only when he felt he was far enough away not to be seen or heard did he pull his cell phone out and dial 911.
Bubba squeezed his eyes shut to dispel the images and then took a deep breath. He could do this.
“You okay?” Makenna asked beside him.
“Yeah, just dealing with a few demons from the past.”
She didn’t press the issue for which Bubba was glad. He didn’t want to relive the nightmare out loud. He’d done enough of that in counseling when he’d first moved to Fire Beach. The therapist had been cleared and sworn to secrecy, but Bubba had still been relieved when the sessions ended.
“I know you want to see your family, but I have a feeling it might be a long and emotional reunion, so do you mind if we hit the station first? I want to see what we’ve found out about our victim.”
“Fine.” Bubba did want to see his parents and his sister if she still lived here, but he was nervous about it as well. He wouldn’t mind the extra time to prepare himself mentally. “Is anybody else from the old case still here?” Most of the cops had been great, but there’d been one, an older, gruff man who had glared at Bubba every time he’d come around.
“Just Tad Brewer. He’s my lieutenant now. Everyone else either retired or took a position in another town.”
“Couldn’t handle the pressure of the investigation?” Bubba asked.
She glanced at him as she pulled into the parking lot. “I’m sure that was the issue for a few of them – the ones who have always tied everything up with a nice bow. For the others,” she shrugged, “I think they thought a small town would be less work.”
Bubba chuckled at that, but he bet she was right.
“You ready?” she asked as she turned off the engine.
“As I’ll ever be, I guess.” Could one ever be ready for something like this? To step back into the fire after narrowly escaping with his life? What if the killer found out he was still alive and went after him again? No. Trust. He had to trust. He whispered a silent prayer as he put his hand on the door.
“Okay, let’s go.”
Makenna pulled open the door and stepped inside the small station first, but she could feel the hulking presence of Bubba behind her. Had he always been such a presence? She remembered him being handsome back then, but she’d been too focused on her career to notice many men. Plus, he’d been a suspect at first, making him unsuitable to date, but now she was settled and he was cleared. And she couldn’t deny he was attractive.
“Hey, Captain,” Clark, her newest recruit, said from the front desk. He had just graduated from the academy and was green, but he seemed like a good kid.
She nodded at him before continuing through to the evidence room. Tad, Kelsey, and Brayden sat at their respective desks, but all looked up as they entered.
“Guys, this is Matt Parker, er Bubba, the guy I was telling you about. He’s the only one to escape the arsonist, and he’s offered to lend whatever help he can. Bubba, you remember Tad Brewer. This is Kelsey Knight and Brayden Cook.”
Tad stood first and extended a hand. “Good to see you again, man.” The two men shook and then Kelsey stood and threw out her hand as well.
Kelsey had been the first one hired after Makenna’s predecessor, Stillman, had made captain. She was good, thorough, and though her thinner frame mislead people, she was tough as nails.
“Nice to meet you, Bubba. Wish it was under better circumstances.”
“As do I.”
Brayden was the last to stand. He’d sent his application in right after the arsonist story made the news. Makenna hadn’t been sure whether he was simply chasing the story or if he was hoping to be the one to break the case. He had an ego the size of Texas. Had it been her decision, she might not have hired him, but he had turned out to be a decent cop.
“Okay, now that introductions are made, let’s catch Bubba up on the case. As you remember, there were three women killed the first time.” Makenna moved over to the board where pictures were hanging. “Daisy Johnson who worked at the coffee shop you stopped at regularly. Alexis Gibbons who worked out at the same gym you did, and Clarissa Wiggins who was a massage therapist and whom you dated briefly, am I right?”
Bubba nodded, but his eyes were wide as he looked from one woman to the next. “When you lay it out like that, I can see why you thought I was a suspect.”
Makenna nodded. “You were the only link we could find between these three women. Clarissa and Daisy didn’t attend the same gym Alexis did. Neither Alexis or Clarissa drank coffee much, and we found no record that Daisy or Alexis were ever clients of Clarissa.”
“So, if the killer was after me, why go after these women? I barely knew Daisy. I mean I spoke to her the mornings I ordered coffee, but I’d never seen her outside of the coffee shop, and Alexis led the aerobics classes at my gym which I didn’t take. The only one I had a true connection with was Clarissa, and we broke up months before she was killed. And it was amicable.”
“That’s what we’ve been trying to figure out,” Tad spoke up and joined Makenna at the board. “At first we thought the killer was a spurned interest or something. All of these women are beautiful, so perhaps he tried to ask them out and was rejected. That made sense until the attempt on your life.”
“When you were brought into the equation, we were left with two scenarios,” Makenna continued. “Either the killer wanted to hurt you and he chose these women because he thought they meant something to you or you represented what he would never be.”
“But if it were the latter, wouldn’t he have kept killing even after me?” Bubba’s eyes flicked from Tad to Makenna. “You said the killings had stopped after the attempt on my life.”
“They did. Until the other night. Now, we have another victim.” She motioned to Kelsey who stood and took her place at the board.
“This is Peter Smith,” Kelsey said pointing to a picture of a young looking man. “Single though we believe he had a girlfriend. He owned a detail shop on Fifth that he opened a few years ago. There’s only one other employee and we’re still working on his friends, but his parents live here as well.”
Bubba’s brow creased as he gazed at the man. “I don’t understand. I don’t know that man and he isn’t in the same occupation that I am. Does the killer want to be both of us?”
Makenna exchanged glances with her team. Bubba not knowing Peter did blow a hole in the first theory, and he was right – the other man didn’t look like him. He was smaller, more average looking, and his job didn’t hold the clout that a firefighter’s did. “We don’t know.”
She hated saying those words. She was supposed to be in control here, but this guy – if it was the same guy and not a copycat – just made no sense. Why the shift in victims? Why the long break? Why did he start killing again? There had to be some connection, some trigger, but she had no idea what it was.