Who was next on the killer’s list?
February 4, 2014
A VG Serial: ToxiCity
For the first time Stone sensed he was dealing with the essence of Ricki Feldman. The layers had been peeled back, her imperious pretense stripped away, revealing a sad, lonely little girl. His voice softened. “What about afterwards? When the suits started flying?”
“I was in college,” she went on. “But I remember when it ended. It was in ‘Eighty-eight or nine. Mother had been gone for a while. Daddy called to say the judge dismissed us from the case. ‘It’s finally over,’ he said. ‘We’re clean.’“
Interesting choice of words. “What about the families of the children?”
She looked puzzled. “What about them? They suffered. I know what that’s like. But my father didn’t cause their suffering. He cleaned it up.” She straightened up, as if her memory of the case was now fueling her with confidence. “If you’re looking for a villain, blame the utility. Or the company that botched the clean up.”
“But they didn’t botch it. The state gave you a thumbs up. That’s why they let your father go ahead with Meadow City.”
“Exactly. My father did nothing wrong. He was not a polluter.”
Stone flexed his fingers. They weren’t communicating. “Ricki, bottom line, whether he was or wasn’t doesn’t matter. The poison was still in the ground. Houses went up on that ground. Children died. And no one was held accountable.”
“That wasn’t our responsibility. My father was dismissed from the case. He was the only one who was, you know.”
“Granted special dispensation, was he?”
Matt jerked his head up.
Ricki narrowed her eyes. “What are you getting at?”
“Your father pulled strings and was excused from the case. He—”
“I resent your implication, Detective.”
Stone raised his palm, choosing his words carefully. “All right. Let’s just say that he aggressively used the system to clear his name. But that didn’t mitigate the tragedy.”
“I still don’t get it. What are you trying to say?”
Stone couldn’t decide whether she really believed what she was saying or was just meeting her filial obligation to defend her father. “Let me lay it out for you. Six months ago, the man who headed the clean-up operation at Meadow City was killed. They found his body at the edge of a waste dump near Peoria. He worked for a company called Prairie State. Two weeks after that, the son of Prairie State’s owner was found dead. At the same waste dump.”
Dismay swept across Matt’s face. “The LEADs. From downstate.”
Stone barreled on. “A few weeks ago, the bookkeeper for the Meadow City property turned up dead in a dumpster. Two weeks after that, it was one of Meadow City’s biggest investors, and two weeks after that, the architect.”
Matt squeezed his eyes shut.
“Our killer doesn’t grant special dispensation, Ricki. They’re cutting down the people they think caused those children’s deaths. But—and this is the key— whoever it is isn’t going after the principals. First they’re killing the front line workers.” He aimed a finger at her. “And then, they’re killing their children.”
Ricki’s mouth opened. Nothing came out.
“We believe our killer works in two week intervals, and it’s been two weeks since Landon’s death. He’s already killed the son of Prairie State’s owner. If the key to this is the children, who do you think is next on his list?”
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.