In ten days, the killer would strike again.

More chapters from ToxiCity

A VG Serial: ToxiCity

Episode 59

Matt and Stone worked late in the conference room, honing their victimologies of Romano, Simon, and Landon. The discovery of the photograph confirmed that Simon and Romano’s deaths were connected. Matt was sure Landon was linked to them, too.

Stone wasn’t convinced. He’d searched Landon’s apartment, but he didn’t find any photographs.

“What about his office?” Matt said. “That’s where we found Simon’s.”

“We’ll go down to Feldman Development in the morning.”

“You know there’s another possibility.” Matt looked at Stone. “Van Thorsen says the killer is intelligent and cunning. What if they’re intentionally throwing us off?”

Stone frowned. “How do you mean?”

“Acting unpredictably. Establishing a pattern and then breaking it—just to keep us guessing.”

“Why would they do that?”

“To keep us from connecting the three deaths?”

“But we’re doing that anyway.”

“We’re still off the reservation with Landon.”

“You think they like watching us stumble around in the dark?”

“I do.”

Stone thought about the dead dog on the SGF site. No note, no claim of responsibility. What if it had been orchestrated by their killer—for no reason other than to confuse them? He stood and shoved his hands in his pockets. “Okay. Let’s say they are doing a head-trip on us. Dropping a clue here and there, planting a red herring for us to trip over. What does that say about our killer?”

“It’s a game. They’re daring us to catch them.”

“And if it’s a game, what’s the ultimate objective?”

“To win.”

Stone walked across the room. “Haven’t they already won? They’ve killed two, probably three people.”

He studied the documents taped to the wall. A map of the North Shore with pushpins flagging the locations of the bodies, the homes of the victims, and their places of work. A time line marking the days they’d found each victim. A list of interviews with family, neighbors, and others. Other leads in blue, including the dates they found the photographs and the day Matt found Brenda Hartman. Stone had added two dates: the day he found the dog shit and the dead dog on the site.

Stone turned around in front of the time-line. “What happens when you win?”

“You claim victory. You get a prize. You’re showered with honor and fame—” Matt nearly jumped out of his chair. “That’s it! Fame. Notoriety. They want us to figure out who they are.”

And why they’re doing it.” Stone jabbed a finger. “But then why change their MO? That makes things tougher for us.”

“Because they’re not finished,” Matt said. “They want to keep us guessing until they’re finished.”

Stone turned back to the timeline and studied it. “Ten days.”

“Ten days what?”

He pointed to the timeline. “Romano was hit the third week of October, Simon the first week of November. Landon two weeks after that. Our killer hits in two-week intervals. We’ve got ten days until they strike again.”

 ***

It was after eleven when he opened the door, but the apartment was empty. Matt popped open a soda. He couldn’t imagine not being able to do the job you’d been trained for. At least Georgia was out having a good time. He was swigging seltzer when the phone rang.

“Yeah?”

“This Matt Singer?”

“That’s right.”

“This is Ed, bartender up at Italian Gardens.”

“Yeah?”

“I got your wife up here. She’s ready to go home.”

Matt hesitated a beat. “Thanks, man. I’ll be right there.”

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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