All the Lies (Page 6)
“She’s still a hotshot in Manhattan. After he was dead, she moved on, as the sharks in that city tend to do.”
I pick my phone up, and I press play on the recording I made.
“Hush, little baby,” are the first words that play aloud. It’s the same recording from the speakers that took forever to shut up.
His breath catches, and he stares at the phone with an almost unreadable look. Finally, he peers back up, his lips tense.
“Jasmine?” Donny asks.
He stands and grabs another DVD, this one lying in plain sight. He has several that look to be burned at home, all labeled.
When he returns, he hands it to me.
“It’s from that play the year before she died. Everyone in the town was there. Both Evans kids were in it as well. Robert too. It was a big deal to the town, because it was the Founder’s Day play. It was the last year the town celebrated it.”
“The sheriff cancelled it the next year because of something that happened with some of his deputies. The year after that, he didn’t reinstate it. Same for the next. Soon it was a forgotten tradition.”
“What happened?” I ask, even though I shouldn’t have to.
He leans forward, looking me right in the eye. “The same thing that always happens when you have a bunch of men too close to power. They think the sheriff is invincible, and by proxy, so are they. I could give you a list of indiscretions a mile long, but on that particular day, it was a fire that was set. The deputies burned a house down with two people in it because they wouldn’t sell their property for the new town restaurant—a restaurant the sheriff put in after their untimely deaths.”
“What happened to the deputies?” Donny asks.
“Chad Briggs and his brother still work there. Founder’s day was cancelled. Deputies were not reprimanded. The fire was ruled as an accident. It was the catalyst into the corruption that only got worse. The people realized they had to do as ordered, or suffer the consequences. Soon, people just learned to pretend as though Delaney Grove was the sweet little hometown the rest of the world thought it was.”
“That’s why our unsub is using that music,” I say quietly to Donny.
“I’m sorry, what was that?” Christopher Denver asks, expecting me to say it again a little louder.
“What did they do to Robert Evans?” I ask instead of answering him.
“You want those answers, you need to talk to someone who knows. That town wasn’t exactly sharing dirty secrets with the one man who tried to defend him.”
He leans back in his chair, studying us.
“Can you at least point us in the right direction?” Donny asks. “Tell us the name of someone who will talk?”
“I could tell you someone who would break easily if you leaned on him. But what good will it do to know?”
“Excuse me?” I ask.
He leans back up, his eyes narrowing. “You can hear all the stories you want. Eye witness testimonies mean dick against an entire police force and a judge. They mean even less when those witnesses disappear or decide to recant their statements.”
“We’ll find evidence,” I say, determined to put an end to this.
I called Collins. He told me the words of an old lady who didn’t even see all the corruption first hand won’t be enough to put the director or Johnson off this case. Then again, I already knew that.
My eyes flick to the console table near the window. There’s a tray of medicines there, and I look back to Denver. “Are you okay?”
His lips tense, and he darts a glance to the tray. “I’ve been sick for several months. Some days are better than others. You’re catching me on a good day,” he says, then grimaces. “I always hoped I’d have the chance to get my best friend some justice. The doctors aren’t even sure what exactly is wrong with me. Sometimes I think it’s my punishment for not getting Robert’s story out there where it could be heard better.”
“Then help us now, Mr. Denver,” I say softly, hating that I’m using a sick man’s guilty conscious against him, but desperate enough to do it all the same.
He studies me for a long moment before I see the concession in his eyes, deciding he has no choice but to trust me and hope for the best.
“Carl Burrows. He used to work at the coroner’s office.”
“Thank you for your time, Mr. Denver,” I say as Donny and I stand, then hand him my card, which he takes. “Call us if you think of anything else.”
Just as we reach the door, he says, “They say the Scarlet Slayer paints a wall in red.”
I turn, looking back at him as he slowly faces us.
“That’s not something we’ve shared with the public,” I tell him, narrowing my eyes.
“You don’t have to share it. I’m from Delaney Grove. Those rumors of these deaths were spreading like fire before you ever announced the killer’s existence.”
I take a step toward him. He seemed surprised by the kill list earlier, yet now he sounds like he has information?
“You know what it means?”
He nods slowly. “Before Victoria died, she spoke to my son. Told him they’d painted the streets with their blood. Marcus wanted to paint the world with theirs.”
“Who else did your son tell that to?”
He shrugs. “Anyone who would listen, SSA Bennett. If Victoria had lived, she would have come back. She’d be this Scarlet Slayer you’re looking for. That girl’s fire always burned hotter and fiercer than anyone else’s.”
“But Victoria Evans died,” I tell him, pursing my lips. “And this killer is most definitely a man.”
He nods. “I’m aware. Not even Victoria would be able to have physically taken these men down.”
Then why even mention it?
He doesn’t stop us as we walk out, and Donny sidles up next to me.
“Besides Kyle, Victoria never really dated, and no one even knew Jacob ever dated Marcus,” Donny tells me, reading a text from Elise.
“Jacob wasn’t out about being bisexual when he lived in Delaney Grove, so that last part isn’t surprising,” I say absently. “What’s going on with his whereabouts?” I ask.
“Cameras failed us as expected. Low ball cap—predictably. He left on a private boat, apparently. Before we could ever get any cops out there. He told the hotel he had business, but didn’t say where. It’s hard to get anyone of authority to take him seriously as a suspect when he’s not here and he’s in a wheelchair.”
“Are we going to see Carl Burrows?” he asks.
“Yeah. I just want to stop in by the cabins and check on Lana first.”
History is only the register of crimes and misfortune.
For the past hour and a half since she woke up, Diana has been staring blankly, looking into my eyes to see if I still have a soul. I wonder what she sees in there besides a dark abyss.
“I can’t believe it’s really you,” she whispers hoarsely, though it’s about all she’s said since I explained the morbid reality surrounding us.
“They’re going to come for you,” I tell her, watching the cameras from my phone, flipping between different ones nearest to us.
I expected them to come as soon as it was nightfall. Their specialty is suffocating or strangling. Then they lie and say it was a heart attack when someone is Diana’s age. They call it a seizure or something when they’re younger.
“And you’re going to just kill them?” she asks in disbelief, her voice breaking. “Oh, baby. You shouldn’t be scarring your soul with their blood. You should be living the life you almost didn’t have.”
Coldly, I lift my gaze to meet her teary eyes. “They took everything, Diana. My brother and father still need peace. Do you remember Marcus? Do you remember the kind, bright soul that always sought to bring forth a smile from a stranger just to put more good vibes out into the universe? Do you remember what they did to him? Because I can’t ever forget it.”
She bats away her tears. “I remember.” Her voice is barely a rasp by now, but I feel no emotion clogging my throat. I’ve trained against it. The one moment of unexpected emotion when I saw her has passed, and I’m back in control.
I’m the killer right now.
“Confucius said something about digging two graves if you seek revenge. I know your momma always quoted that man.”
“Confucius was never brutally raped, stabbed, and forced to watch his brother suffer even worse. I’m sure his viewpoints might have changed. Besides, he wasn’t a romantic.”
She makes a strangled sound, and I glance back to see her choking back her sobs, as though the image I painted was just too much. She knows the details, but seeing me…hearing me confirm the tale… It’s hurting her.
However, her morals are still intact.
“They tried to force Marcus to fuck me,” I say with a deadly edge. “And when he refused, they cut off his—”
A beep sounds from my phone, cutting off my words as the silent alert that someone is near our cabins goes off. It could be one of the team members again, but I still check it.