If She Feared – Blake Pierce

When Tamara Bateman walked into the two-story house at 3:30 in the afternoon, she was reminded of why she loved her job so much. As a real estate agent in Estes, Delaware, she saw at least four new houses a week. Most of the time, those homes were so-so at best—carbon copies of other homes in the area, usually with a price tag somewhere in the upper four hundred thousands. But every now and then she’d step into a house and get a sort of tingle…a feeling that this house was going to make an exceptional home for someone. The house at 157 Hammermill Street was one of those homes. It wasn’t a brand new build like some of the houses she had shown this week, but it was new enough. Built in 2005, and only lived in by a married couple with no kids before being sold to a property owner who fixed it up even more, it still had that new-home smell. Of course, that had a lot to do with the immaculate cleaning job the hired cleaners had done. It was a gorgeous house. All of the floors had been polished, there was a fresh coat of paint on every wall, and the picture windows that looked out onto the garden in the backyard were to die for. With the touch of a professional stager and some modern furniture, the place would go quickly and make a great home. Tamara had been showing it for two weeks now, and while there was some general interest, there had not yet been a legitimate offer. With no furniture and having recently been cleaned spotless, it was essentially a blank canvas. But she was also starting to wonder if the lack of furnishings was what was hurting it. She took out her phone and started taking notes, trying to improve the public listing.

She knew there was no real science to writing the copy on the sell sheets, but she enjoyed doing it. She felt she had a knack for it—almost as if she was a weird sort of poet. And since she had two showings tomorrow, she wanted to make sure she was presenting it in its best light. She walked through the large living space, then the gorgeous kitchen with its farmhouse sink and industrial-looking barstools. As she was trying to come up with a non-mundane word for the marble countertops, she heard something move upstairs. It was just a slight shuffling, barely there at all but definitely there. She cocked her head and listened for the noise again, and sure enough, there it was. The noise was not footsteps, but softer. She imagined one of the windows opened, the light autumn breeze outside blowing the curtains. That was almost exactly what it sounded like.

But she didn’t think anyone had been in here for two or three days. And the only people who had keys to the place right now were herself and the contractor. She almost decided to ignore it, but then it came again. This time she was almost certain the sound was the rustling of curtains. But she could not see the contractor coming through and opening a window—much less opening it and leaving it open. She instantly tried to recall if it had rained in the past three days. She didn’t think so, but even if not, there were all kinds of birds and insects that could fly in. Irritated, Tamara marched back through the living area and to the staircase that led to the second floor. As she climbed the steps, she rolled through phrases in her head to explain how wide and spacious the stairs were. Before she reached the top of the stairs, she heard the noise again.

This time it was louder and more constant. And now she wasn’t so sure it was the shuffling of curtains. Now, it did sound like footsteps. But that made no sense. Only the owner and the contractor—a fifty-six-year-old man named Bob— had the other key and he was in New York right now, enjoying a show with his wife. Tamara knew this because he had griped about it the last time they’d seen one another. And the owner never bothered with any of his houses once they were listed by the real estate agency. So who the hell is up there? She surprised herself when she took a few more steps up. She was only two stairs shy of the second-floor hallway. She could see the carpet and the bottoms of the first two opened doors along the hall.

She nearly called out, but thought that would be stupid. If there was someone here, maybe it would benefit her for them to not know she was there. Don’t be stupid, she told herself. There’s nothing in this house to steal. If there is anyone here, it’s either Bob or some nosy neighbor. And if they got in, it means the contractor left the door unlocked like an idiot. It wouldn’t be the first time Bob forgot to lock up a property after stopping by. But then the footsteps came again, from somewhere very close. And then there was the sound of breathing—anxious, excited breathing. Tamara then followed her instincts.

She fought off her curiosity and bolted down the stairs. She fumbled with her phone, intending to call the police. Even if it did turn out to be nothing, she’d rather be safe than sorry. She’d rather— She heard footsteps thundering behind her. She felt the tremors in the stairway beneath her feet. She let out a little scream as she neared the bottom of the stairs, but it never had time to fully come out of her mouth. Something struck her hard from behind, connecting solidly with the back of her head and her upper back. Tamara went sprawling toward the floor. She threw her hands up to keep from smashing her face. In doing so, she twisted her wrist.

She heard it snap but was only dimly aware of it. She was still thinking of those thundering footsteps that had come from behind her. She was in a foggy daze, her head screaming in pain and her wrist starting to throb in a dull ache. She tried to turn to see her attacker but never got the chance. She felt something rough slide over her head and then rest on her neck. It was then drawn tight… and suddenly she was no longer fighting to turn over to face her attacker. She was now fighting to breathe. And as the darkness came in, the pain in her head overwhelmed by the desperate pain in her neck and lungs, it was a fight she lost quickly. CHAPTER ONE The kids on Stranger Things were starting to annoy Kate Wise. She supposed it made sense.

They were just like any other kids. Exciting and cute when you first met them, but with a tendency to get irritating as they got older. Kate felt she knew the Stranger Things kids pretty well; she had binged seasons one and two over the course of three days. And now that she was staring season three in the face, she didn’t think she had it in her. Kate set her Apple TV remote down on her coffee table and stood up. She looked at the clock and was a bit disgusted to find that it had somehow come to be 5:10 in the afternoon. She then looked at the end table by the couch, at the stack of books she had purchased from the used book store in Carytown last weekend. She’d started one—a rather dull look at the life of John Wayne Gacy—but had not had the mental capacity to handle it…or any book, for that matter. So she’d taken to finally using her Netflix account, something she only had because Allen had talked her into it. They had watched a few things together, mostly documentaries and The Of ice, but had quickly discovered that when they were together, they much preferred to talk.

But when Kate was alone as of late, she found that she preferred to just veg out. She’d never really enjoyed spending a lot of time in front of the television but lately, it seemed she was starting to enjoy mindless things that just let her unplug and detach from everything. She was beginning to enjoy the idea of escaping the real world; whether it was spending some time with the kids in the Upside Down or trying to feign interest in Grey’s Anatomy, it was nice to mentally check out and view someone else’s drama for a while. She’d had plenty of time to do it, after all. Director Duran had stayed true to his angry words and had not reached out to her in over six weeks. She knew she was not fired, but that she was only being considered for cases needing her expert touch or in-depth research. He had scolded her a bit and then told her she’d only be used in a research capacity—a lifeline for other agents at most. She understood it; she was a bit too careless for her age when she was on the job, as evidenced by the last case. But he also knew she was good at what she did and was not ready to have her removed just yet. So far, none of that had come about.

As she had waited for his call, her life had gone on. In those stagnant six weeks, she had turned fifty-six, her granddaughter, Michelle, had turned one year old, and she and Allen had gone on two trips—one to a remote cabin in the Blue Ridge Mountains and another to Surfside Beach, South Carolina, to get one last hoorah out of the summer. But that last trip had been two weeks ago. When they had come back, Allen had returned to work. While he still had his own place, he spent most of his time at Kate’s house. They had discussed permanently moving in together and she supposed that’s where they were headed. She thought about those sorts of things while wasting her days away. But then she’d found Stranger Things and, God help her, Grey’s Anatomy, and had plenty of ways to fill those long expanses of empty time. She’d tinkered with writing the book she’d always wanted to write—a look at some of her more bizarre cases. She had about fifty pages down, but all that had done was remind her that her glory days were now behind her.

Even with an agent already interested (though it was really just one of those friend-of-a-friend type of deals), she could not find the motivation to get the book moving along. She knew she was in a rut. If Duran had decided he no longer needed her anymore, she really wished he’d just say something. Being let go, she thought, would be preferable to being left in the dark. She had another hour before Allen would be home. With the TV finally off, she thought about the book but knew she didn’t have the drive to work on it today. She looked to her cell phone and thumbed through her old texts. She had received one from Kristen DeMarco five days ago, just checking in. She was still active, filling in on cases with agents who, for some reason or another, were short a partner. Still, DeMarco had stayed in touch—a gesture Kate appreciated more than DeMarco would ever know.

DeMarco had become a friend very quickly. This was saying a lot, as Kate had always been very good about drawing that thick line between partner and friend. But there was something about DeMarco that was different from all of her other partners. It was more than her promising career and her never-say-die charisma. She was a well-rounded woman who reminded Kate far too much of her younger self at times. And staying in touch with her had been one of the more pivotal cornerstones in Kate’s life over the past six weeks. Smiling, she pulled up DeMarco’s number and called. She was not too surprised when it went to voice mail after four rings. She didn’t bother leaving a message; DeMarco was probably working a case and while Kate did miss her, she did not want to interfere with her work. She put the phone down and made her way into the kitchen.

She and Allen had made plans to go out for dinner, so she wasn’t going to have to cook. She leaned against the kitchen counter and looked through the window, out onto her backyard. She supposed this was what an actual retirement might look like. Yes, she had experienced it a bit about a year and a half ago, but she had been expecting that one. She had busied herself with little hobbies and the occasional trip to the gun range. But this time, she felt bored and out of place. Maybe it was because she knew Duran could call at any moment and she’d be back into the flow of things. Or maybe, she thought, it was some sort of foreshadowing—of the universe or God or something similar telling her that this would be her life soon. So she’d better strap herself in for the ride and get used to it. *** They’d agreed on Thai food, which Kate was fine with because it had become one of her favorite types of food over the last few years.

It was the same restaurant they frequented at least twice a month. As they were seated, Kate felt the familiarity of the place and wondered if this was another aspect of the retired (or, in her case, partially retired) life—becoming all too familiar with local eateries and businesses, stuck in a loop that felt as if there was no real purpose. The monotony of the restaurant was broken by the topic of dinner conversation, though. Allen was retiring from his job as an advertising executive in three months. He would be leaving in two days to fly out to Chicago for a week or so and it would likely be his last trip before his retirement. His company was making a huge deal out of it and it had made Allen quite happy these last few days. “They’re saying I can bring a guest,” Allen said as he dug into his dinner. “And they’ll pay. So, if you want to spend a few days in Chicago with me…” “That would be great,” Kate said. “I’ve noticed you being a little…I don’t know…distant.

Not in a bad way. You just seem bored. Lingering…” “That’s an accurate description,” Kate said. “I thought I was hiding it better, though.” “Nope, not at all,” Allen said with a smile. “Now, if you go with me, I’m going to be working a lot of the time. I trust you’ll be fine by yourself, taking in the sights and doing some shopping in the Windy City.” “Yes, I think I’ll be able to handle myself.” The flow of conversation between the two of them was natural. It had been nearly a year since they had started dating, and nearly five months since things had gotten very serious.

They had not discussed marriage and had barely touched on the topic of actually living together—and that was fine with Kate. A large part of her heart was still reserved for her late husband, Michael. Whenever she tried to envision living the rest of her life with Allen, memories of Michael would surface and she didn’t know if she was ready just yet. “Have you talked to Melissa lately?” Allen asked. “Yesterday. She called to let me know Michelle is almost walking. Not quite yet, but almost there…” “Scary stuff,” Allen said. “Once they start walking…” “Oh, I know. Melissa was a holy terror once she was able to get her feet going. I remember one time when she—” Her phone rang within her purse, interrupting her.

She reached for it, assuming it was Melissa, as if summoned by the mention of her name. With a second thought, she ignored it. If it was Melissa, she’d leave a message and Kate would call her back later. They carried on with dinner, reminiscing over the two recent trips they had taken. Kate noticed the way Allen had been looking at her lately. There was depth there, a sense of Allen almost sizing her up. It was a conceited thought, but she wondered if marriage was on his mind. At their age, spending so much time together didn’t necessarily mean marriage was imminent, but every day that passed by had to count for something. She had no idea how she would react if he crossed that line, but it was still nice to think about. Dinner came to an end, the check was delivered, and Allen quickly scooped it up.

He knew she was not at all in any sort of financial distress; in fact, when she had retired the first time, she’d been looking at a comfortable retirement account to spend the rest of her life rather comfortably with. But Allen was all about making her feel secure when he could, like they were an actual dating couple. And to him, that meant the man had to pay. “I’ll catch up,” Kate said as he stood up from his seat with the check in hand. “I think Melissa called while we were eating. I’d like to go ahead and call her back.” “Tell her I said hi,” Allen said as he headed for the front of the restaurant. Kate dug her phone out of her purse and saw that the missed call had not been from Melissa. It had been from Duran. Excitement and guilt tore through her.

She knew Duran would only call—at this hour, no less—for one reason. And if her gut was right (and it usually was), his reason for calling was likely going to mean that she could forget about the trip to Chicago with Allen. No sense in wondering, she thought. She returned the call right away, knowing that Duran was not the type to stay on the phone for very long. It rang only once before he answered. “Kate, how are you?” “Good.” She knew that his use of her first name meant that he was in a hurry—that he wasn’t going to be bothered by formalities. “If you want in on it, I have a case for you. There shouldn’t be too much heavy lifting, nothing too out of the ordinary.” “Well, of course I want it.

What details do you have?” “It’s in Delaware. Two murders so far, very likely linked. I’d need you out there tomorrow. As for the specifics, I’ll let the agent in charge of the case fill you in.” “Who is the agent?” “DeMarco,” Duran said. There seemed to be a bit of joy in his voice to reveal this. Even he could see the blossoming partnership the two had managed to grow. “She’s handled things wonderfully so far, but it’s starting to go nowhere fast, and she needs a hand. Of course, she won’t admit it.” “Does she know I’m coming?” “I’m going to call her when we get off of here to let her know.

You mind driving? The bureau will comp you for gas.” “That sounds great.” And while it really did sound great, she couldn’t help but think of Allen and Chicago. “Great. I’ll call DeMarco and have her check in with me when you get there. Thanks, Wise.” He ended the call, leaving Kate to sit at the table for a moment to get her emotions sorted out. As she got to her feet, she spotted Allen waiting for her by the front door. There was a thin smile on his face as she approached him. “That wasn’t Melissa, was it?” he asked.

“How did you know?” “You’re very relaxed when you speak to her. The conversation you just had…it lit your face up. You were sitting perfectly upright, focusing very hard. It was Duran, wasn’t it?” “It was.” He nodded as he opened the door for her. When they were back on the street, bathed in the glow of the streetlights, he took her hand. “I’m going to assume Chicago is out?” “I was presented an opportunity,” she said. “I figured we could talk about it tonight.” “A case?” “Yeah,” she said. “When would you be leaving?” “Early tomorrow morning.

” “Nothing to talk about then,” he said. “Kate, we’ve been through this. I know how much that job means to you. So just go. Hell, I’ve got the work trip anyway. It would have been nice to have you there, sure, but we would have barely seen one another.” “Allen, I can—” “It’s okay. You know…I gave you an ultimatum several weeks ago. I still stand by it but this…I think it’s okay. I do think we need to keep it in mind for when I finally kiss the working world goodbye.

” “Three months,” she said with a grin. “I know. It’s hard to believe.” The Thai place was only a mile and a half away from her house and they had chosen to walk— something they tried to do at least twice a week. The evening was nice, starting to chill a bit as the night crept in. “So, if I leave around four thirty in the morning, you aren’t going to get upset?” she asked a few moments later. “No. I want you to enjoy this job while we can both withstand it. I won’t be all that upset. Just make sure to kiss me before you go.

” She leaned into him, wondering how she had ever managed to find a man as forgiving and understanding as Allen. And, with that, she also wondered how much longer he was going to put up with her sort-of job. “If you keep up this understanding vibe you’ve got going on,” she said, “you’ll get a lot more than a kiss.” He laughed, wrapped his arm around her waist, and they continued on into the night. CHAPTER TWO It had been forever since Kate had driven through the early morning hours. She was out of the maze of DC exits and roadways by 4:50, heading northeast toward Delaware. She had checked her email the night before and had found nothing from Duran. But shortly after her alarm had gone off, she’d checked again and found, without much surprise, that Duran had sent her a specific location as well as electronic copies of the case files shortly after midnight. The town the murders had occurred in was called Estes, a small town situated around Fallows Lake. Graced with the sunrise along the way, it made her think of the beach vacation she and Allen had taken; they’d spent one morning early on the beach, eating bagels and strawberries while watching the sunrise.

While a lakeside town was a far stretch from a beach vacation, she imagined it still likely held some of the same charms…especially in the seasonal limbo that sat in those few weeks between the last true days of summer and the first cool days of fall. The memory made her feel warm but also guilty. Allen had seemed almost too understanding about this sudden case. It made her wonder if he would reinforce his ultimatum three months from now, after he retired. He’d have a right to, she supposed. And that meant she had some serious things to think about. For now, though, there was the case. And if the last case had taught her anything, it was that she was going to absolutely have to separate her personal life from her professional life. In some respects, it was even harder now than it had been when she’d been married and had a growing and rather difficult child on her hands. She entered the town of Estes at 7:40 that morning, twenty minutes ahead of when she was scheduled to meet DeMarco at the latest crime scene.

While the town was about a mile away from the lake, Estes was built in a way that made it feel like you were right on the shore. Hell, there were certain features of the area that made it appear as if the ocean was just around the corner rather than a lake. The homes were all coastal in appearance and there were several gift shops along the main stretch that looked as if they had simply wandered away from the Delaware beaches that sat about eighty miles to the east. Being early, Kate swung by a small coffee shop and ordered a dark roast before heading for the latest crime scene. When she arrived five minutes early, she found DeMarco already there. She was parked in the paved driveway, sipping her own coffee while leaning against what was clearly a bureau car. She smiled and waved at Kate as she parked next to her. “Hey,” Kate said as she stepped out. “Sorry to crash your party.” “I’ll be honest,” DeMarco said.

“I was sort of happy when Duran called and told me he was sending you.” “Is the case running away from you a bit?” Kate asked. “No, not really. But this was my first solo case and so far, there’s nothing really popping, you know?” She looked up at the sky and smiled. “I know it’s just a simple lake, but have you ever noticed how even the sky starts to look different the closer you get to open water?” “No, I haven’t,” Kate said, looking skyward. She realized DeMarco was simply trying to avoid the fact that, when it was all boiled down, Duran had called Kate in because DeMarco had been unable to push the case forward on her own. She wondered how long DeMarco would be able to go without saying such a thing out loud. “Did Duran send you the case files?” DeMarco asked as she started walking toward the house. It was a two-story mock beach house, another of the homes that would have looked right at home along the Delaware coast. There was a FOR SALE sign at the edge of the yard, adorned by a pretty woman’s smiling face.

Her name—Tamara Bateman—and number were listed below her bright profile. “He did, but I figured it would save me some time and headache if I just heard it straight from you.” “Seems simple enough,” DeMarco said. “Two murders in Estes within a week of one another. The latest victim is that pretty lady right there.” She nodded back toward the FOR SALE sign. “When was she killed?” “Two days ago. I was called in yesterday, got here a little later than I would have preferred. I spoke with the people from the real estate agency but it wasn’t much help. Some of them were genuinely grief-stricken.

Others are too scared to talk to an FBI agent out of fear of what it might do for sales. They did give me to key to the place, though.” DeMarco fished the key from her pocket as they climbed the porch steps. She unlocked the front door and they stepped inside. Kate found that the house had been totally moved out, not a speck of furniture in the place. There was also the smell of fresh paint and some sort of polish on the floor. “And she was the second?” Kate asked as she closed the door behind them. “Yes. The first was also a real estate agent, in a house just like this one. The first victim, though, was killed in a newer home.

About two years old, I think. This house we’re standing in right now is about fifteen years old.” “Anything of note regarding the personal lives of the victims?” “Nothing yet. I’ve gone through background checks and had the help of the local PD in looking for arrest records. There’s nothing…just a few speeding tickets and a single DWI charge. The families are no help either. We’re being told they were both great women, wouldn’t hurt a fly. That sort of thing.” Kate took a look around. There were blood splatters on the floor, just inside the entryway.

A tall flight of stairs started just off of the foyer. There were smudges of dried blood on the hardwood stairs and even a dried stream of it running down the light teal paint on the wall that ran between the stairs and the ceiling. The stairs were the sort that were completely visible all the way to the second floor, a single thick railing breaking the space between the stairs and the open air. Kate studied the pattern and trail of the blood and could not make immediate sense of it. “Seems weird, right?” DeMarco said. “From what I’ve gathered, Tamara Bateman was attacked either on the stairs or at the very bottom. After that, she was dragged back to almost the very top of the stairs. She was then apparently thrown over the railing, with a noose attached to her neck. If you go up the stairs and have a look along the third step from the top, you can actually see pooled blood and what are very obviously rope fibers.” “She was hung?” “Yes.

And so was the first victim. Only, she was hung from a rafter that ran horizontally along the living room ceiling.” “Were the victims from the same real estate agency?” Kate asked. “Nope. Different agencies. But both houses had been recently put on the market. That and the fact that both victims are female agents are the only links. I say only…but it seems like those links would be more than enough. But—as if evidenced by you being called out here—it’s most definitely not.” “You been in here before now?” Kate asked.

“Yeah, yesterday afternoon. The body had been here for about twelve hours before anyone knew what had happened. Bateman’s boyfriend called the police to voice his concern. A call was made to the agency, they found out the properties she was dealing in, and voilà…they found her hanging from the railing. I got here about eight hours after the body had been removed. You are more than welcome to look the place over. I promise you I won’t be offended. I’ll get you a copy of the coroner’s report, too, but it says pretty much the same thing I just told you. When a woman is hit in the head and then hung, there’s usually not much to add.” “Any sexual abuse from the killer?” “Nothing showed up in the report.

Seriously…the damned thing was no help at all.” Kate gave her a grin, though it was indeed an awkward situation. She felt like she was stepping on DeMarco’s toes, poking her head in where it might not be wanted. Plus, it was the first case they worked together where DeMarco had been there first—where she more or less had the authority. She headed up the stairs cautiously, keeping her eyes down to make sure not to step in any blood even if it was dry. She found the stair where the killer had apparently tossed the body over. There was a very slight abrasion on the finely polished railing. There were decorative spindles positioned every six inches or so, connecting the rail to the stairs. The spindle along this particular stair had a few strands of what looked like hair-thin burlap sticking to it. Or, as DeMarco had indicated, rope fabric.

It was also resting on the edge of the stair, almost like dust. Kate peered over the railing, to the floor. About a twelve-foot drop. This meant the noose had likely been very short. And if it had been short, there was a chance the killer had intentionally made it short—as if he had preplanned it, knowing where he would hang Tamara Bateman and how much rope he’d need. “Got measurements on the noose?” Kate asked. “The rope itself was eight feet long,” DeMarco said. “Appeared to have been purchased at that length, as there was no clear sign of it having been cut.” Kate was impressed. The rope length was likely unimportant, but still a detail that would be necessary for an accurate and complete report.

As she had expected, DeMarco had not missed a beat. Kate continued up the stairs to the second floor. DeMarco trailed behind, being respectful and giving her ample space. There were five doorways along the upstairs hall: two on either side, and one at the end of the hallway. The hallway itself was not carpeted but the opened doors to all five rooms showed that the rooms (except the small bathroom at the end of the hall) were. Kate stepped into the first one. The house had apparently been cleaned and cared for quite well when the previous owners had moved out. There was not a single scratch on the walls and only the faintest indentations in the carpet to show that furniture had ever been there at all. This bedroom was likely one of the guest rooms, as it was quite small. The only area to check other than the empty room itself was the closet.

It was a small closet—no larger than a coat closet, really—and yielded nothing other than more very clean carpet. The next room was the same, as was the much larger master bedroom. The master bedroom also offered a large bathroom to look over, but it was just as sparkling clean as the rest of the house. The third room they came to was more of the same, only the closet was much larger; it was a thin walk-in closet complete with clothes racks and a shelf for shoes. It was equally as empty as the other rooms, but there was another door sitting in the far wall. It was thinner than the others, located all the way in the corner of the spacious closet. “Storage space?” Kate asked, walking toward the door. “Yeah, I think so. It’s a mostly unfinished attic space from the looks of it. I checked it yesterday.

” Kate opened the door and was met with a blast of humid air. The space was indeed unfinished. There were exposed beams and insulation, broken only by the large air conditioning unit that had been installed in the space. The previous owners had laid down a few sheets of plywood to walk safely across the area, but that was about it. Near the back, the shape of the slanted roof narrowed the space. The builders had supported this with several boards, making sort of a faux wall. It was the only break in the perfectly square area. Kate stepped out onto the plywood. As she walked across it, she thought it was a shame the space had gone to waste. If finished, it could have made a great office or playroom for a family with kids.

Just as she started to envision where to install a set of stairs to cut away through the floor back to the main level, she came to the lazy unfinished wall near the back where the roof slanted down. She peered behind the would-be wall and cocked her head, puzzled. “Did you look back here yesterday?” she asked. DeMarco came walking across the plywood floor, curious and concerned. She looked, saw the same thing Kate was seeing, and uttered: “What the hell?” There was a quilt lying on the plywood floor. An empty Dasani water bottle sat beside it, empty. “Kate, I won’t even lie to you. I didn’t even think to look back there.” “No reason to,” Kate said. “Not for anyone tasked with trying to figure this out all on their own.

Chalk this one up to my overly analytical mind.” “Still. I should have looked.” “Could be a squatter,” Kate pointed out, not wanting to give DeMarco time to be too hard on herself. “They tend to come and go, especially in properties that have been sitting stagnant for a while.” “Doubtful. The police were here all day yesterday, well into the night.” “Could be a squatter that kept eyes on the place, waiting for the police to leave. And if that’s the case, the squatter could be the killer. Certainly would be one hell of a coincidence if this is here right now if it wasn’t yesterday, considering someone was killed here less than two days ago.” “Someone would have to have been watching this house very closely, that’s for sure.” Kate and DeMarco looked down to the meager sleeping area, their minds already kicking into gear. Kate couldn’t help but think that if this quilt and bottle did indeed belong to the killer, she’d be heading back to Richmond before the day was over.


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