“We got another one.”
“Yay, yay, yay,” Detective Dante Delamarre dry panned. This was not how he wanted to start his day.
“That makes five now,” his partner said.
“Is that why you’re here? To state the obvious?” he snapped. Why did Milla always have to be so cheerful? Why couldn’t she be like a normal cop and let the job break down her spirit piece by piece until it was only by strength of will that he didn’t end up like one of the people he hunted on a daily basis as a homicide detective.
“Nope, I’m here to help you,” Milla answered cheerfully. “You’d miss me if I wasn’t around.”
“As if,” he muttered under his breath as he stalked through the library. As his partner had so uselessly pointed out this was the fifth librarian to go missing in the last month. All had been women, although this current one was the youngest-and if her picture was anything to go by the prettiest-all had been working late and been alone, all had disappeared without a trace, all had turned up the following day horrible mauled to death. And all of the abduction scenes had been set up as though there was to be a party.
This crime scene appeared to be no different.
Which meant that at any minute now he could expect to receive a phone call saying that Sydney Carriere’s body had been discovered.
“We’ve already notified all libraries in the area not to leave staff here alone in the evenings, why do you think she was here by herself last night?” Milla asked.
“We’ll never know,” Dante said. He was under no illusion that anyone was ever going to see Sydney alive again. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to, if there was a way to save her life he would do it in a heartbeat, but he was resigned to the facts, and the facts in this case were the woman would soon be dead if she wasn’t already.
“Why do you think he does this?” Milla waved her hand at the party scene before them.
“If we knew that we’d probably know who he is and why he’s killing these women.”
“How do you think he does it? Don’t they see him? Or hear him? Do you think he breaks in after everyone else leaves, or was he in here at some point during the day and hid, waiting until everyone left before sneaking out and setting this up? I don’t get how the women don’t know he’s here until he’s ready for them,” Milla said.
Dante didn’t have answers to any of those questions.
Which drove him crazy.
He had become a cop because he wanted to save people. Every person he couldn’t save was like another weight added around his neck. Too many unsaved people over too many years left him with too much weight to carry around. His job was slowly but surely killing him and yet he could never give it up. It was all he had in his life.
Milla’s phone buzzed, and she answered it while he did a slow walk around the kitchen that served as the break room for the library staff. A plate of cookies, two glasses of champagne, balloons, what was important enough about these items that he set this up at each of the crime scenes. When the first woman had gone missing they had assumed she’d had a date here and that something had gone wrong. They’d wasted over a week working that angle, and it wasn’t until the second woman went missing that they realised they were looking for a serial killer.
Serial killers were kind of his area of expertise. Usually he could figure them out, what was their motivation, what had set them on this path, what was their end game, when he got those answers it led him to the man he was looking for.
But this time?
He couldn’t get a read on this guy.
“Dante, that was a call about a body that could be Sydney Carriere, we should go check it out,” Milla said, coming over to him.
“Why don’t you go, I want to spend a bit more time here, try to get a read on this guy.” The library was empty, it would remain closed for the rest of the day, crime scene would be here soon, but right now he needed some time along so he could think.
“Okay, I’ll call you when I get there, let you know what I find.”
He nodded absently, his attention focused on the room. There were two glasses of champagne, and two chairs had been decorated with balloons. Was the killer recreating a date that had gone bad?
If that was the case how did it factor in with the libraries? Had the date been at a library? Had the woman he’d been on the date with been a librarian? Had his mother been a librarian and this was something to do with her? Or perhaps a sister, or an aunt, or niece, or some other relative?
Dante was so preoccupied he didn’t notice the man behind him until it was too late.
A brick connected with his skull and he dropped.