She was as much a victim as her prey.

More chapters from ToxiCity

A VG Serial: ToxiCity

Episode 91

Stone found FBI Agent Cecil Vaughan with his feet up on the conference room table at the police station. After their conversation, Vaughan had set up a parallel operation alongside the Task Force in Glenbrook. The type of Feeb who seemed more comfortable in a corporate boardroom than a police station, Vaughan was wearing a crisp pinstriped suit and silk tie at three in the morning.

Stone was terse. “Ricki Feldman disappeared about an hour ago from her home in Lake Forest. When we went in, we found a photo of the Meadow City field in her mail— the same shot that was sent to the other victims. By Maggie Champlain.”

“You’re sure she’s the one?”

Stone went over what they’d discovered. That her child died as a result of Meadow City; that she got screwed during the lawsuit; that she hooked up with a Separatists’ group up north; that her ex-husband had photos of Meadow City construction. “She’s the only one we haven’t talked to. At the very least we have strong suspicions.”

Vaughan considered it for a moment, then swung his legs down. “What about Feldman—the father?”

“He’s surrounded by armed guards at the hospital. But she’s not anywhere. Doesn’t answer a page or cell.”

Vaughan hunched forward, elbows on knees. “Where are your men?”

“Nowhere. Everywhere.” Stone motioned to the map. “I got no idea where the fuck to deploy them.”

Vaughan stood and moved to the map. “Run down the other vics for me. Where you found them.” He coughed, a smoker’s hack, and pulled out a pack of Camels.

“Romano was in a dumpster behind the high school. Simon was in a pit at the landfill. Landon was in a dumpster on the Feldman site.”

Striking a match, Vaughan studied the map. “So, if it’s her, she’s local. At least now.”

“That’s the good news.”

“What’s the bad?”

“They were all dead when we found them.”

Vaughan dragged on his cigarette. “You’re sure Feldman’s daughter is next?”

“There’s a pattern. Champlain deviates from it sometimes, but generally she’s consistent.”

“Elaborate.”

Stone explained how the killer went after the contractor at Prairie State, then the owner’s son. Employee, then owner. Romano and Landon were employees. Simon wasn’t, but he was sandwiched between the others. He described the photos that were sent to most of the victims.

“Looks like we have an exhibitionist,” Vaughan said. “Theatrical. Scripting the scene. Wants the world to know what she’s doing.”

“It varies once in a while.”

“Close enough. So if this goes to pattern, you think they’ll toss the body near some garbage or toxic waste site?”

Stone nodded.

“What if they don’t?”

“I hope to hell that’s the case. I want the Feldman woman alive.”

Vaughan started picking up phones. “I’ll get men over to the spots she’s already dumped.”

Stone noted his use of “she.” “She doesn’t dump in the same place twice.”

Vaughan punched in a number. “What about those pictures? You think she’d take her out to Meadow City?”

“Too obvious.”

“Probably. But I’ll put men there anyway.” Stone watched as Vaughan made calls. With virtually unlimited resources, massive deployment was something the Bureau did well. There was only one problem. They were still one step behind the killer.

“You got any other ideas?” Vaughan said.

“What about this militia group—the Family?”

The lines on Vaughan’s forehead deepened. “We’re still waiting for intel. There’s a shitload of separatist groups in Minnesota, hunkered down in the backwoods and the lakes. Ex-Vietnam vets, disaffected hippies, cults. Impossible to find, some of ‘em. This could be some splinter group.” He tapped his fingers on the number pad of his phone. “Where’s Singer? He was bonking her, wasn’t he?”

Stone explained about Georgia’s accident.

“Man, some guys have all the luck.”

Stone bit back a reply.

Vaughan checked his watch. “It’s after three. I’m ‘gonna head over to the construction site. You coming?”

“Not yet.”

Vaughan waved his cell. “Let me know where you are, pal.”

Alone in the conference room, Stone sagged into a chair. He knew he would track the killer to her lair. He’d even take her out if he had to. But he couldn’t summon up much hatred for Maggie Champlain—despite what she’d done. She was as much a victim as her prey.

Episodes in the novel will be published on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

Please click the following title,ToxiCity, to read more about Libby Fischer Hellman’s books on Amazon.

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