The Body Finder (The Body Finder 1) - Page 31

She glanced around her. The mall was crowded, and there were lines at several of the eateries. Women with toddlers and preschoolers in tow converged on the McDonald’s. The smells from the different fast-food restaurants, all lingering together, were strong but not entirely unpleasant.

And then she noticed something strange.

Suddenly it wasn’t the smells that Violet was acutely aware of but rather the taste. She had the strangest sensation of garlic in the back of her mouth…it was pungent and thick, and nearly overpowering.

This was it. This might be the something she’d been looking for.

An echo of some sort.

Violet looked around her, trying to imagine where it might be coming from, but there was really only one way to be sure.

She started walking, leaving the food court behind her and moving farther into the mall. When the pungent taste grew stronger, Violet knew she was heading in the right direction.

Her heart rate increased and her other senses heightened as she looked around her, wondering if she might be walking right toward the killer. She was terrified and at the same time exhilarated. She knew Jay would be mad at her for wandering off.

She reached the end of the offshoot of the mall that housed the food court and arcade, and met the larger inner space of the shopping center, where big department stores dwarfed the outlets and boutiques. She had to decide which way to go now.

She chose to go left and found herself heading toward two of the larger department stores. It seemed like a fine choice, a busy section of the mall, but after walking past several stores she knew she’d picked the wrong direction. The garlicky taste in her mouth began to fade. She turned around and headed back in the opposite direction.

She passed her starting point and kept going, moving toward Sears and Macy’s. She concentrated on the sensation inside of her mouth, savoring the garlicky flavor…not because she enjoyed the taste, but because it was acting like a compass…guiding her way.

The taste grew stronger, and more tangible, the farther she walked. Her pulse quickened and her breathing began to feel hoarse and erratic. She looked everywhere, at everyone, trying to decide who it might be…where the echo, or imprint, was coming from. She had to weave around mothers pushing strollers and couples holding hands.

And then, without warning, the taste began to fade again, and Violet felt herself spiraling into a frustrated panic. She stopped right where she was, in the middle of the mall, in the middle of the heavy pedestrian traffic, looking around her for a clue as to where she should go next. A shopper passed her, bumping Violet with the overflowing shopping bags that hung from her arms. Violet ignored the woman.

She walked back the other way, trying to recapture the taste.

When she did, it only grew stronger for several long strides, before disappearing again.

Violet watched the people around her, trying to see where he was…and just who he might be. But there were so many people, moving in so many directions, that she couldn’t tell who it was coming from. She glanced at the nearest stores and tried approaching each of them, one at a time, but the taste only faded when she did.

He wasn’t in the stores. So where was he, then?

She turned around, feeling waves of disappointment washing over her, and just when she decided that she might have to give up, the taste hit her again…stronger than before. And she realized that he had to be close.

That was when she noticed it…the long, narrow hallway leading off the main drag of the mall, with the sign hanging above the entrance that read RESTROOMS.

Violet approached the poorly lit hallway slowly…cautiously, feeling overwhelmed by the unexpected apprehension. She couldn’t be sure, but she thought that her legs might be shaking as she made her way toward the public bathrooms.

She approached the men’s room, and when her taste buds nearly exploded from the burst of hot garlic that shot through them—her mouth felt like it was on fire—she knew that whoever he was, he was inside.

She paused, suddenly unsure. She didn’t know if she could do this. She was so close to discovering whoever it was that carried the imprint of death, the one who was making her mouth feel like she’d just eaten an entire plate of warm, buttery-soft garlic cloves. But she couldn’t help thinking that maybe she was too close. Maybe Jay had been right. Maybe this was too dangerous.

She felt frozen in place as time slowed down. She could hear the beat of her thundering heart in her ears, and her mouth was suddenly parched. She tentatively stepped closer to the door in front of her, just one small step. She was still trying to decide whether she should go inside or just stay put until whoever was in there came out. Goose bumps prickled up and down her arms, and she held her breath, afraid that if she let it out, somehow he might hear her behind the door…waiting for him.

She took another tense step forward.

It wasn’t until she felt a hand close around her wrist that she realized someone was standing right behind her. A strong arm pulled her backward before she even had a chance to react. Her eyes widened, and she tried to remember how to scream, but her voice was frozen, and for a moment, she thought she might have forgotten how to breathe as well.

“What the hell are you doing here?” She was stunned to hear Jay’s voice whispering against her ear. He didn’t sound happy.

She turned to face him and wasn’t quite sure what she saw there. Concern? Irritation? Annoyance? Definitely annoyance.

But before she could even try to explain why she’d left the arcade, he put his finger to his lips, dragging her close to him so he could speak in a voice that was quieter than a whisper. “Did you sense something?” The words were just a sliver of sound.

Tags: Kimberly Derting The Body Finder
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