Incriminating Evidence(2)

By: Amanda Stevens

No bone trauma like the other victims. No nicks or fractures. Not even an exit wound.

Jane Doe Thirteen had definitely captured Catherine’s imagination, but for now she had more pressing business.

Clutching the plastic bag to her chest, she plunged on through the puddles.

What were the chances? she wondered as she cast another glance over her shoulder. What were the odds that not one but two old serial-killer cases with seemingly no relation to the other had entered her quiet, ordinary world to wreak havoc on her peace of mind? Delmar Gainey had died in his bed at the Cloverdale Rest Home, no doubt savoring his monstrous deeds to the bitter end. Orson Lee Finch—the so-called Twilight Killer—was still very much alive but destined to spend the rest of his days in the Kirkland Correctional Institution, housed in a specialized unit for the state’s most violent inmates.

Catherine had been little more than a baby when Gainey and Finch had stalked the streets of her city, each possessing a very different set of stressors, signatures and criteria. Then the remains had been found on Delmar Gainey’s property and, soon after, headlines had exploded with startling new developments in the Orson Lee Finch case.

Catherine had experienced little more than professional curiosity until her mother’s death unearthed a more personal revelation. Since early childhood, Catherine had known she was adopted. Her mother, Laura, had spoken openly about the circumstances of Catherine’s birth. You’ll have questions as you grow older. At some point, you may even feel your loyalties are divided. That’s only natural. But I want you to know that you can always come to me, Cath. There should be no secrets between us.

No secrets? Then why hadn’t Catherine known about the loose floorboard in her mother’s closet or the box of newspaper clippings stashed inside the secret compartment? Why hadn’t she been told about the photograph?

Why had Laura March, so pale and weak on her deathbed, pulled her daughter close and whispered a distressing message in her ear?

It’s all a lie.

A car horn sounded in the distance, drawing Catherine’s attention back to the present. She stood shivering on the curb as she waited for the light to change. It was a hot summer day, but the rain and her dark thoughts chilled her.

She took another quick check of her surroundings. She was alone on the street. No one else was about. No one that she could see. The rain had chased everyone inside. She was tempted to scurry across the intersection against the light, but she could almost hear her mother chastising her from the grave. Careful, Cath. Always look before you leap.

Grief settled heavily on her shoulders and tightened her chest. She couldn’t remember ever feeling more alone than she did at the moment, huddled beneath her umbrella and missing Laura March more than she would have ever dreamed possible.

Wiping a hand across her damp cheeks, she drew a sharp breath. The feeling was there again. That frigid whisper up her backbone. She turned, almost expecting to find her mother’s ghost floating toward her through the gloom. Instead, she saw a man watching her from a recessed doorway.

Their gazes collided before he glanced away, but in that fleeting moment of contact, Catherine experienced a flicker of recognition. She searched her mind for a time when their paths might have crossed. The man was memorable, not so much for his crudely tattooed arms but for the aura of danger that shrouded him. There was something sinister in his closely set eyes, something threatening in his body language. He looked to be middle-aged, his hair longish and slicked back, his cheekbones as sharp as razor blades. As if aware of Catherine’s scrutiny, he tipped back his head and blew a long stream of smoke out into the rain.

Her heart raced as she considered her options. Run away or confront him. Before she had time to think, she found herself walking toward him.

“Excuse me!” she called out. “Do I know you?”

Even as she continued to advance, she admonished herself for provoking a stranger on a deserted street, but she couldn’t seem to help herself. Grief did strange things to people. Maybe her emotions had been pent up for too long. Maybe her anguish had been suppressed to the point of explosion.

“Sir? Are you following me?”

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