Home > I Am Death (Robert Hunter #7)(8)

I Am Death (Robert Hunter #7)(8)
Author: Chris Carter


Tears began to roll down Ricky’s cheeks.

‘But I’ve decided that that’s not what I’m going to do. At least, not yet.’

Ricky couldn’t tear his eyes from the man’s face.

‘Let me tell you this – life, as you knew it, is over, do you understand? You’ll never leave here. You’ll never have a friend again. Not that I think you had any. You’ll never go to school again, or play outside again, or see your family again, or do anything again other than obey me. Is that clear?’

Fear kept Ricky from replying.

‘Is. That. Clear?’

Ricky saw the man’s fingers close into a fist, and fear made him nod.

‘You’ll do everything I tell you to do. You’ll not open your mouth unless I give you permission to speak. You’ll only eat whatever is left over from my plate. If there’s nothing left over, you don’t eat. If you try to escape, I will know, and I will punish you. If you disobey any of my rules, I will know, and I will punish you. Do you understand?’

The boy nodded again.

‘This is a new beginning for you,’ the man continued. ‘And since it’s a new beginning, you need a new name, because I don’t like yours.’ He wiped the back of his right hand across his lips, and for an instant the man looked like he was pondering something. ‘You know what you look like, all awkward and skinny?’ He didn’t wait for an answer. ‘A squirm. You look like a squirm.’ A short pause. ‘I really like that.’ He smiled. ‘So that’s your new name – Squirm. Every time I call your name, you will answer “Yes, sir”. Do you understand, Squirm?’

The boy didn’t know what to do other than look totally and utterly petrified.

‘DO YOU UNDERSTAND, SQUIRM?’ The man’s yell reverberated against the brick walls like a death call.

‘Yes, sir.’ His voice was drowning in tears.

The man smiled as he walked back to the cell door.

‘Welcome to your new life, Squirm. Welcome to hell.’

The door closed behind him with a muffled thud like a coffin lid.

 

 

Six


Captain Blake waited while both detectives checked the file in their hands. It opened with an 11x8-inch colored portrait of a woman.

‘Her name was Nicole Wilson,’ the captain began, leaning back and sitting against the edge of her desk. ‘Twenty years old. She was born and raised in Evansville, Indiana, where her parents still live. About a year ago, after being accepted into law school at CSULA on a full academic scholarship, she moved here to Los Angeles. Her records show that she was an outstanding student. For pocket money, and when her college schedule allowed her, she would sometimes babysit a few nights a week. This was supposed to be her first college summer break, but instead of going back to Indiana to see her folks, she decided to stay around because she managed to land a temp job, running errands for a small law firm in downtown LA. One of her professors helped her get the job.’

Hunter and Garcia studied the opening photograph for a moment. Nicole Wilson had a round face, with expressive olive-shaped eyes complemented by a petite nose and full lips. Her cheeks were dusted with a handful of freckles, and her hair was light brown in color, coming down to the top of her shoulders.

‘Seven days ago,’ Captain Blake continued, as Hunter and Garcia moved past the opening photograph and on to the second page of the file – Nicole Wilson’s fact sheet – ‘Nicole was babysitting for Audrey and James Bennett, a wealthy couple who live in Upper Laurel Canyon, when she was abducted.’

Hunter’s questioning gaze moved from the fact sheet to Captain Blake.

‘Yes,’ the captain confirmed, reading the unspoken question in her detective’s eyes. ‘She was abducted while she was babysitting, not on her way to work, or on her way back. The perpetrator took her from inside the house.’

Hunter’s attention returned to the file. He flipped to the next page and skimmed through it. ‘No struggle?’

‘Forensics found no sign of it,’ Captain Blake replied, then paused for a second, observing both detectives before nodding once. ‘I know what you two are thinking – that the perpetrator was probably known to Nicole, and that she willingly allowed him into the house, hence the lack of evidence of a struggle. The same thought came to me when I first read that file, but no, that doesn’t seem to be the case here.’

‘How come?’ Garcia asked.

Captain Blake shrugged and moved over to the espresso machine on the corner by the bookshelves. ‘Because the perpetrator tricked Nicole with a bogus story.’ She chose a coffee capsule and inserted it into the machine. This was her second cup since she’d arrived at her office less than half an hour ago.

‘A bogus story?’ Hunter frowned.

‘That’s correct. Coffee?’

Both detectives shook their heads.

The captain watched the last drops of coffee trickle into her cup while she clarified: ‘It looks like the perpetrator pretended to be Ms. Bennett’s cousin from Texas, who was supposedly staying over at their garage apartment.’ She took a moment, allowing Hunter and Garcia to absorb the information before moving on. ‘Audrey Bennett doesn’t have a cousin from Texas. They had no one staying over at their garage apartment.’ She dropped a single sweetener tablet into her cup. ‘And get this, the perpetrator was having a sandwich in the kitchen when Nicole walked in on him.’

Curiosity and intrigue flooded Garcia’s face.

‘He was having a sandwich?’

‘According to Ms. Bennett, yes.’

‘Wait a second.’ Hunter lifted a hand. ‘I’m guessing that if Nicole was babysitting for the Bennetts, they were out of the house at the time?’

‘That’s correct,’ Captain Blake confirmed. ‘They were attending a judge’s dinner. James Bennett is a high-flying lawyer.’

‘So if they were out of the house, how does Ms. Bennett know about the perpetrator posing as her cousin?’

‘Well, that’s where it starts to get creepy,’ Captain Blake said, sipping her coffee. ‘The perpetrator allowed Nicole to answer a call from Audrey Bennett and tell her about the man she had met in the kitchen, before taking her.’ She indicated the file in Hunter’s hands. ‘A very detailed transcript of the interview Missing Persons did with Audrey Bennett is in there, next page along. It also includes her entire account of the phone conversation she had with Nicole.’

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