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Authors: Leslie Parrish

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chest. “You sayin’ I’m not nice and normal, Miz Wainwright?”

A faint sheen of pink might have appeared in her cheeks, and she

smoothed her dress, suddenly looking a little more prim and uptight.

Embarrassed. Rich Southern ladies didn’t usual y go around insulting people,

and she apparently thought she had. “Sorry. I didn’t mean . . .”

“I’m kidding,” he said, gentle and earnest. “Because you’re right. I don’t live

a lifestyle that can be cal ed in any way normal. No homicide detective ever

could.”

“I agree. Nobody surrounded by death al the time could ever be said to

have an entirely ordinary, sane existence,” she said, that thoughtful tone

returning to her voice. “That’s what I meant. Again, I’m sorry if I sounded snotty.


“You didn’t.”

“It’s just, normal’s not in my vocabulary, either.”

He doubted that. Olivia looked about as normal a member of the Southern

elite as anyone he’d ever known, even if she did have a kind streak and

spoke in a down-to-earth way that didn’t quite match the dol ar signs under

which he suspected she’d been born.

Then he remembered her background, the whole reason she’d come here

today.

Hel . No,
normal
wasn’t necessarily the word to describe this woman’s life,

and it hadn’t been, not since she was fifteen years old. And nothing could

make an ivorytowered princess come down to earth faster than realizing she

was just as likely to be a victim of crime as any normal person born into a

middle-class lifestyle. In her case, with those dol ar signs attached to her

name, probably even more so. He doubted she’d have been awakened in the

middle of the night by a kidnapper if she’d been the daughter of a truck driver

and a high school teacher. She’d seen darkness most people couldn’t even

imagine.

Even as he thought it, he saw the way her shoulders gradual y slumped as

she came to the same realization. Her smile faded. A low sigh emerged from

her mouth. It appeared distraction time was over; her mind was heading back

toward business.

“Thanks,” she whispered.

“You’re welcome,” he replied, knowing exactly what she meant. She

appreciated the distraction. The brief segue into
normalcy
. “And for the

record?”

“Yes?”

“I’m so sorry about what happened to you,” he said, almost surprising

himself with the tender note in his own voice. But it was only the truth. He

hated even picturing those awful days, and wished he could turn back the

clock and change things so she’d never have to know about such ugliness. No

innocent kid ever should.

“You’re real y a nice man, aren’t you?” she asked.

Feeling stupid for having opened his mouth, he muttered, “Don’t let it get

around.”

“Our little secret,” she said, not laughing, sounding more thoughtful and

appreciative than anything else. Then she shook her head, as if shaking out

any distractions, and got back to the reason she’d come here. “Now, as to

whether I’m basing this just on my memory of what Jack looked like, let me

just point out a couple of things.” She raised her hand, ticking off points like a

lawyer presenting closing arguments in a case. “The boy I remember seemed

to be about twelve or thirteen years old, in line with what the coroner said

about the remains you found.”

“He said nine to twelve.”

“So he was smal for his age. Or mature beyond his years—probably with

reason.”

He nodded, conceding the point.

“You said you think this might have taken place twelve years ago, around

the time the bar underwent renovations after a previous fire?”

“It’s a theory.”

A pretty solid one, actual y, considering what forensics had discovered.

They didn’t believe the body had been disturbed since it had been put inside

that wal —at least, not until the fire—and that it had been there for the ful

period of decomposition. Some tests they’d run on the bones as wel as on a

few flecks of the clothing and plastic that remained put the time period at no

less than a decade, and it was doubtful somebody had moved the boy and

wal ed him up after he’d started to decompose.

Building permit records had indicated a major renovation twelve years back

. . . long before Fast Eddie had ever bought the place from the former owner,

who’d since died. And the blueprints on file with the county showed the

addition of the very storage room where the boy was found. It was

circumstantial, but, like a lot of circumstantial evidence, it al certainly led to a

picture that seemed more likely than not to be the truth.

“My kidnapping happened twelve years ago last spring.”

“The timing does seem to fit.” Stil , he didn’t want her to get her hopes up

that her long-held mystery was definitely solved. “But a lot of children go

missing each and every year. The chances of it being this one particular boy . .

.”

“I know,” she murmured.

“Listen, how about I go get the file, bring back the sketch so you can give it

a closer look?” And also, he knew, so that he could take a quick look at this

woman’s history, just to confirm everything she’d said. Not that he doubted her

—he didn’t. But he had the feeling there was more to learn about Olivia

Wainwright.

Rising to leave the room, he paused, his hand on the doorknob, when she

spoke again.

“There’s one more thing.”

“Yes?”

She swal owed, a visible gulp of grit to go on with something that bothered

her. Gabe geared himself up to hear it, sensing they’d come to something big.

Something major, in fact. He loosened his grip on the knob.

“This bar, this Fast Eddie’s, it’s very close to Laurel Grove.”

“The north section, yes.”

Another deep swal ow, and he’d swear her hands shook the tiniest bit on

the table. She confirmed it by clenching them together again, each long, slim

finger twining into another until she looked like she was gonna do that kid’s

rhyme about the church and the steeple. Like if she didn’t have something to

hold on to—her own other hand—she might falter or lose her nerve.

Final y, she got down to it. “I’ve been there, Detective Cooper.”

He hesitated, not entirely sure why that mattered. Hel , in point of fact, she’d

pretty wel been there just Monday morning.

Then she laid it out.

“I was found the fourth morning after the kidnapping, wandering around in

Laurel Grove Cemetery. Naked, filthy, badly injured, and nearly out of my mind

after having spent the entire night among the dead.”

Chapter 3

Tyler Wal ace had never been much of a reader, other than doing what he had

to for school and work. But as he quickly skimmed through Olivia Wainwright’s

case file, he found himself thinking he needed to check out more fiction

books. Because, man, did her story ever read like one. He couldn’t bear to put

it down.

When he’d returned from lunch and heard his partner was interviewing a

woman about the Jimmy Doe murder, he’d instinctively turned to join him. But

no sooner had he reached the hal way when Gabe had come out of the

interview room, appearing deep in thought. He also wore that excited look that

said he might be on to something.

Hearing the
something
was the twelve-year-old memory of a kidnapping

victim who thought their vic might have been a kid who’d shared her darkest

nightmare didn’t inspire a lot of confidence. In fact, the whole thing sounded

far-fetched or, at best, a total shot in the dark.

Stil , Ty had been every bit as hopeful that they’d final y gotten a break. This

case was getting to him on a personal level. It had been since they’d first

heard that firefighter talk about finding those little bones and had gotten worse

when he’d read the autopsy report. Because they weren’t merely talking about

the tragic murder of a boy, they were talking about systematic abuse of a kid

throughout much of his short life.

So, yeah, as Gabe had warned him it might, this case had started to mean

something to Ty. And it meant a lot to his partner. Even the thinnest lead

deserved every bit of respect they could give it. Which was why, together,

they’d come back to the bul pen to pul up the report on the Wainwright

kidnapping. After doing a little more poking around about Ms. Wainwright,

Gabe had frowned, then headed back in to talk to their witness, asking Ty to

finish reading over the case file without him.

It al read pretty normal y . . . until it got pretty damn freaky.

“Ki d
told
him to drown her,” Ty mumbled, his eyes drawn back to one

portion of the victim’s statement.

Any way of dying was bad, death being the main problem with it. But, in Ty’s

opinion, some means of getting there seemed a lot worse than others. For

him, drowning had always ranked as one of the worst ways to go. It was right

up there with being tied down to a set of train tracks, watching a big old freight

train barreling down on you. You’d know what was happening, but would have

a hel of a time surviving without help.

Though, to be fair, both were slightly less awful than being eaten by a shark

—also too easy to be aware of and tough to escape.

—also too easy to be aware of and tough to escape.

But
being
drowned as opposed to accidental drowning—that was some

heavy shit. To think about somebody holding you down in water, on purpose,

until you stopped struggling—what would it take to survive that? And what kind

of person would you become afterward?

Honestly, part of him wanted to meet this Wainwright woman just to see if

she had a whole Elvira, Mistress of the Dark thing going on. Because

something like that would have to scar someone for life, put him or her on a

first-name basis with the Grim Reaper.

Then there was that graveyard business. Talk about a nightmare after a bad

dream. It was like escaping from Michael Myers only to land in a nightmare

with Freddy Krueger.

When he’d first moved here, he’d walked around Laurel Grove as wel as

some of the other old cemeteries. Like the city’s famed squares, they were

part of Savannah’s unique charm, or so he’d heard. Though, honestly, he had

to question the sanity of anybody who would cal a cemetery charming.

To give credit where it was due, if there was one thing the South did wel ,

other than sweet tea and NASCAR, it was death. They knew how to take a

biological function and make it mysterious and eerie, each grave tel ing a

story, every headstone seeped in history and ritual.

Though not as big as the city’s more famous cemetery, Bonaventure, Laurel

Grove was stil a sprawling site, shadowed with massive, moss-draped trees,

al bent and gnarled like giant arthritic limbs. Gated family plots with rust-

encrusted wrought-iron fences vied for space with maudlin mausoleums

dripping with marble vines, cherubs and angels. Headstones that had once

been black or white were now a mottled gray color, about the shade of two-

day-dead skin. And for every twenty graves with bouquets of plastic flowers or

smal American flags on them, there would be one with a chicken claw, a bit of

eggplant or some strange brown powder.
Voodoo
.

Amid the commonplace surnames were others that stood out, repeated

again and again in testimony to the rich father-to-son tradition around here.

Whole sections of the cemetery bore eternal witness to some of the city’s

most respected families.

Of course, stones in the older part of the north cemetery wouldn’t include

the names of any black folks. Segregation had been alive and wel in

Savannah, even when it came to burying, and Laurel Grove South was where

they’d have stuck a Wal ace like him if he’d died a century ago or, hel ,

probably fifty years ago.

One walk-through had been enough for him. Ty had been raised in Florida

and far preferred going to theme parks for entertainment rather than

graveyards. He’d take a giant cartoon mouse over marble-carved, weeping

angels any day.

The Wainwright woman hadn’t had the choice. It had been made for her.

Run or die.

Those places were bad enough during the day, when other mourners were

around, but nighttime, al night long, a teenage girl alone? Worst of al ,

spending an entire windswept night there after being kidnapped, abused, and

brought back from the brink of death?

He couldn’t even imagine it. Frankly, he didn’t even want to try.

Olivia hadn’t intended to be so dramatic when tel ing Gabe Cooper about the

final hours of her long-ago ordeal. He’d left right after she’d said it, leaving her

to stew, feeling stupid. She’d probably sounded like some phony fortune-tel er

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