Roarke glanced toward the police sketch of Cara mounted on the corkboard: the delicate features behind sunglasses, the light and luxuriant hair. He willed himself to look away. “A blonde — that blonde — in Mexico? Trying to stay hidden?” He shook his head. “She knows the U.S. The Western U.S. That’s her comfort zone. She’s not going to be down there dodging federales and narcos.”
“Why not? That seems right up her alley,” Epps said tensely. “Take a bunch of the fuckers out. If she’s after bad guys—” He stopped, remembering himself. “If she thinks she’s after bad guys,” he qualified, too late, “that would be a good place to start.”
“No doubt,” Roarke said. “But I don’t see it.”
Epps stared at him hard, and Roarke knew that he was revealing himself. “You don’t see it,” his man said softly. “So what do you see?”
Roarke locked his eyes for a beat. “If it were me? I’d go east.” He did not know if he meant it at all. “Get out of her known hunting grounds.”
“She doesn’t know what we think her hunting grounds are,” Epps pointed out. But Roarke suspected she did. In the little contact he’d had with her, she seemed to read him well enough to figure some things out.
“I only said it’s what I would do. If I knew what she would do, I’d say that.” Roarke was aware his voice was far too taut for the circumstances.
“We’ve got less than two weeks to another full moon,” Epps said, glancing at the board, at the moon chart where Cara’s killings were chronicled. Most had taken place on nights when the moon was full. It was a not-uncommon characteristic of serial killers; the Reaper, the killer of Cara’s family, had also killed during full moons.
“I’m not so sure we have as much to worry about now,” Roarke said aloud. From almost the beginning of Roarke’s hunt for Cara Lindstrom, he had been consulting with his old mentor Chuck Snyder, a legendary profiler from the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit, and they had discussed this point in depth. “Snyder was very clear that the violent decompensation Cara was experiencing last month was triggered by the twenty-five year anniversary of her family’s deaths.” Anniversaries of traumatic events were known triggers for unstable and violent people. “After the bloodshed of that night, he thinks it’s unlikely she would be feeling the same kind of compulsion to kill again so soon.”
“Got it out of her system?” Jones suggested.
Roarke paused, and qualified, “For now.” Most serial killers had a rhythm of killing that included a long build-up of fantasizing about a kill before the actual kill, and then a “cooling-off” period after the frenzy of the kill. Not that Cara, or any woman, could easily or even usefully be compared to male patterns of sexual homicide. The motive for women to kill was completely different, and there was simply not enough data available to develop a useful profile.
“But we don’t know,” Epps said.
“No. We don’t know.”
Singh spoke up, with that serene calm that always made Roarke’s blood pressure lower a few notches just listening to her, no matter how gruesome the subject matter. “I am monitoring VICAP for all killings of adult men by slashed or slit throat. I also have a nationwide bulletin out asking for reports of such crimes from local law enforcement.”
“But there have been no more incidences in the country in the last two weeks?” Roarke asked, feeling himself tensing as he waited for the response.
“Nothing in which the perpetrator was not immediately arrested.” Singh answered. She reached for a stack of files, the gold armbands she always wore glinting on her wrists. “I am watching for all new cases. I also have a list from VICAP of all killings of adult men by slashed or slit throat from 2001 on. All states. And a nationwide bulletin out asking for reports from local law enforcement, previous cases that may not have made it into the VICAP database.”
“How many cases on that list?”
“Just under two thousand.” The temperature of the room dropped.
Singh acknowledged the reaction with a nod as she brushed her thick fall of dark hair back from her shoulders. “Most will be eliminated. I will start with the western states and work my way through it.”
“See you next century,” Jones muttered.
“You can start by working with just the kills that correspond to the full moons,” Roarke said.
“Yes, the moon is the first sign,” Singh agreed. “And I will ask local officers I speak with about the turtleneck or high collar.” Cara wore high collars to conceal the old scar on her neck. “I am also narrowing the field by victim profile, looking only at sex offenders or men who have had sex offenses alleged against them.”
“We don’t know that’s the only killing she’s done,” Epps said, with a dangerous edge.
“No, that’s right, there was also the mad bomber planning on killing hundreds of people on a single day,” Roarke said, and as he stared across the room at Epps, tension crackled between the two men.
“It is a tendency,” Singh said calmly, and Roarke had the sensation she’d just stepped in between him and Epps, as distinctly as if she’d done it physically. “Using a victim profile merely narrows the field for my initial search.”
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Genre – Mystery / Thriller
Rating – PG13
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