Once more, lying on her side in the darkness, she felt the vibrations of an engine and movement. But this time, she tugged the heavy quilt closer, buried her chin inside the collar of the damp shirt, and let the terrible fear slip away. She was...not safe, but safer.
Tears trickled down her cheeks, wetting the hand she’d laid beneath her head. Her last fuzzy thought before sleep claimed her was, I won’t go back, no matter what, even though she had no idea where she was going, and less of an idea where she’d been.
“SOME BONES HAVE turned up.”
Police Captain Colin McAllister lifted his head. “Bones?”
He’d waved Duane into his office a minute before. Lieutenant Duane Brewer headed Criminal Investigations, which meant that when he wanted a word, it was more likely to be about a corpse than a shoplifter. Still, it had taken Colin a moment to tear his attention from his computer monitor. He’d been trying to figure out how to plug holes in manpower without leapfrogging academy grads, with their shiny new badges, to detective. The problem was becoming chronic, and he knew who to blame. He’d known for ten years where the cancer lurked that was sickening the Angel Butte Police Department. He was just too damned stubborn to jump ship the way the others had.
He saved the work on his computer and leaned back in his leather desk chair, studying the man who’d been his mentor and whom he now outranked.
Fifty-four years old and thickening around the waist, Duane was the quintessential detective: patient, thorough and dogged. A loner, he liked what he did and hadn’t been happy about the promotion to lieutenant. Colin had begged him to take it.
“What’s the story?”
“You know those trees they’ve been taking out in the river park?”
Already feeling apprehension, Colin nodded. The infestation of pine beetles had become obvious when needles turned brown and fell. Some fungus had swept along in the wake of the beetles, taking advantage of the weakened trees. The city parks department had made the decision to cut out the infested ones before they fell in the next windstorm.
“They’re digging out the stumps, where they can get a bulldozer in.”
He knew that, too.
“Pulled one out today and some human bones came with it.”
“Not an Indian burial?”
“No. The foreman’s pretty shaken up. Hasn’t found a skull yet, but there’s a lower jaw. The teeth have fillings in them.” Duane ran a hand through his thinning hair, looking shaken. “Colin, I haven’t been out there yet, but it sounds like this isn’t more than a couple hundred yards from where Maddie was grabbed.”
Maddie Dubeau was Duane’s niece. Frantic at her disappearance twelve years ago, Duane had insisted on taking over the investigation, and nobody had been able to deny him. He’d let Colin, then a young officer who had been first responder, stay involved, going door-to-door with questions and searching the grid. They hadn’t talked about the case in years, but Colin knew that Duane had to be even more haunted by their failure to find her than Colin had been.
His own gaze shifted to a bulletin board where he kept a few photos. Victims whose killers had never been found. A two-year-old beaten to death by her father despite multiple calls to 911 from concerned neighbors, babysitters and medical personnel. Two kids who’d disappeared and never been found. Faces he wouldn’t—couldn’t—forget. Some were personal failures, some were department. He wanted their eyes watching him, even if he didn’t often look back at them.
Madeline Noelle Dubeau’s picture was one of them. It was her last school photo, taken her freshman year of high school. This was more flattering than the one on the learner’s permit he’d found at the scene but had bothered Colin in the same way. In it, she was smiling politely, as though the photographer had insisted, but her wide, cautious eyes weren’t happy. Looking at it, he thought that this was a girl who always stayed a step back, who didn’t expect the best from anyone. Just shy, he’d told himself every time he tried to delve into her secrets, but he couldn’t make himself believe it. He’d never asked Duane, who didn’t like talking about her.
Duane rose and went to the bulletin board, standing with his back to Colin’s desk. His shoulders hunched under his jacket. “I don’t keep a picture of her out. I can’t stand to.”
“Sometimes I’m convinced if I look long enough, I’ll be able to tell what she was thinking.” Impatient with himself, Colin grabbed his weapon from the top drawer and stood, then snagged his suit jacket from the back of the chair. “I’ll drive myself, but I want to see the site.”