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Page 12


So far, Broome had been able to locate ten men who might roughly fit the missing-person pattern. His ex-wife and partner, Erin Anderson, had even secured photographs of three of them. It would take time to get more. He handed the pictures to Rudy. “Do you recognize any of these guys?”
“They suspects?”
Broome frowned away the question. “Do you know any, yes or no?”
“Sheesh, all right, sorry I asked.” Rudy shuffled through the photographs. “I don’t know. This guy might look familiar.”
Peter Berman. Unemployed. First reported missing March 4, eight years ago.
“Where do you know him from?”
“What’s his name?”
“I didn’t say I know him. I said he might look familiar. I don’t know when or how. Might have been years ago.”
“How about eight years ago?”
“I don’t know, maybe, why?”
“Show the pictures around. See if anyone recognizes any of them. Don’t tell them what it’s for.”
“Hell, I don’t know what it’s for.”
Broome had checked all the other cases. So far—and it was early—the only one with a missing female attached to it was, of course, Stewart Green’s. Her name when she worked here had been Cassie. No one knew her real name. The feds and most cops scurried away when the stripper entered the picture. Rumors swirled, reaching the Greens’ neighborhood. Kids could be mean. Susie and Brandon had to hear the teasing from friends about Daddy running off with an exotic dancer.
Only one cop—one probably very stupid cop—hadn’t believed it.
“Anything else?” Rudy asked.
Broome shook his head, started for the door. He looked up and saw something that made him pause.
“What’s the matter?” Rudy asked.
Broome pointed up. “Surveillance cameras?”
“Sure. In case we get sued. Or, well, two months ago, this guy rings up a tab for twelve grand on his credit card. When his wife sees it, he pretends that someone stole his card or it’s fraud, some crap like that. Says he was never here. Demands his money back.”
Broome smiled. “So?”
“So I send him a surveillance photo of a double lap dance and tell him I’d be happy to send the full video to his wife. I then suggested he add on an extra tip because the girls worked hard that night.”
“So how long before you tape over?”
“Tape over? What is this, 2008? It’s all digital now. You don’t tape over nothing. I got every date in here for the last two years.”
“Can I get whatever you have for February eighteenth? This year and last.”
RAY DROVE TO THE FEDEX OFFICE IN NORTHFIELD. He logged on to his computer and printed off the photograph of Carlton Flynn in the Pine Barrens. He knew that if he just sent the JPEG, the photo file could lead back to the originating camera. So he printed out the photograph and made a color photocopy of the print.
He handled everything by the edges, being sure to leave no fingerprints. He used a sponge on the envelope, a plain blue Bic pen, writing in all block letters. He addressed the letter to the Atlantic City Police Department and drove to a mailbox on a quiet street in Absecon.
The image of the blood came back to him.
He’d wondered whether this move was too risky, whether this could indeed come back to him. He couldn’t see how, and maybe now, after all this time, that wasn’t even the issue. He didn’t have a choice. Whatever was eventually unearthed, whatever unpleasantness came back to him, well, what did he have to lose?
Ray didn’t want to think about the answer. He tossed the envelope into the mailbox and drove off.
MEGAN PULLED THE CAR TO a hard stop and threw open the driver-side door. She hurried through the lobby, past the tired night guard who gave her an eye roll, and made a left turn down the second corridor.
Agnes’s room was the third on the right. When Megan opened the door, she heard a little gasp come from the bed. The room was pitch-black. Damn, where was the night-light? She flipped on the switch and turned to the bed and felt her heart break all over again.
The elderly woman sat with the covers pulled up to her saucer-size eyes, like a small child watching a scary movie.
“It’s Megan.”
“It’s okay. I’m here.”
“He was in the room again,” the old woman whispered.
Megan hurried over to the bed and pulled her mother-in-law close. Agnes Pierce had lost so much weight over the past year that it felt as though she were grabbing a bag of bones. She felt cold to the touch, shivering in her too-big nightgown. Megan held her for a few minutes, comforting her in the same way she’d comforted her children when they woke up with nightmares.
“I’m sorry,” Agnes said through the sobs.
“Shh, it’s okay.”
“I shouldn’t have called.”
“I want you to call,” Megan said. “If something scares you, you should always call me, okay?”
The smell of urine was unmistakable. When Agnes calmed down, Megan helped her change the diaper—Agnes refused to let Megan do it herself—and helped her back into bed.
When they were settled back in, lying side by side on the big bed, Megan said, “Do you want to talk about it?”
Tears rolled down Agnes’s cheeks. Megan looked into her eyes because the eyes still told all. The signs of dementia began three years ago with the customary forgetfulness. She called her son, Dave, “Frank”—the name of not her late husband, but the fiancé who had left her at the altar fifty years ago. Once a doting grandmother, Agnes suddenly couldn’t remember the children’s names—or even who they were. It scared Kaylie. Paranoia became Agnes’s constant companion. She would think television dramas were real, worried that the killer on CSI: Miami was hiding under her bed.
“He was in the room again,” Agnes said now. “He said he was going to kill me.”
This was a new delusion. Dave tried, but he had no patience for this kind of thing. During the last Super Bowl, right before they knew that she could no longer live on her own, Agnes had kept insisting that the game wasn’t live—that she had already seen it and knew who won. Dave began jovially enough, asking, “Who won? I could use a little betting money.” Agnes would answer, “Oh, you’ll see.” But then Dave wouldn’t let it go. “Oh yeah, what’s going to happen now?” he asked, his exasperation growing moment by moment. “Watch,” Agnes would say, and as soon as the play ended, her face would light up and she’d say, “See? I told you.”