by Debbie Smythe
I quick-stepped past a boney tree, pretending I wasn't shaking like a goddamn probie. Pretending that tree, black with shadow and old-man twisted, wasn't creeping me out. Lack of sleep, probably, or something I didn't eat, as in breakfast or lunch. I mean, could a girl get a Ring-Ding in this town?
I unbuttoned my coat, clearing my gun. Habit. The scene was secure.
"So, whad'ya think?" Lopez nodded toward the clearing where the local ME crouched over the victim. "Our guy?"
"How 'bout we actually look at the body before deciding who killed her?"
"Yeah, serial killers tend to put me in a bad mood. Go figure." Okay, so cranky was putting it politely.
I drew, tracked and…jammed my weapon home.
Lopez grinned, watching the shadow soar. "Guess you're not the woodsy type," he said, adding an, "oof," as Jennifer jabbed him with her forensic-kit and a pointed glare as she passed. "Oh, right. Sorry, Moll. Didn't mean to dredge up bad memories."
"Nothing to dredge."
"You don't remember anything?"
"Only what they told me later."
"Abducted girl found wandering the woods. Multiple injuries."
I shrugged and stepped into the clearing. "Whad'ya have, Jen?"
"Judging by the dirt under her fingernails, I'd say she was buried alive. And look at this."
She stood, revealing a child's body, and beyond that a boulder, bearing a message in blood:
To replace the one that got away.
A deep-water chill sluiced through me. Not our guy, my guy.