“You’ve got Landry.”

“If I had all Landrys you’d never hear me complain one second.”

He looked up at the house. “If this turns out to be a homicide, that’ll be four in just a few days. I don’t like that. Way out of proportion to the population down here. Scare the tourists away. Town council won’t like that.”

“Any leads on the Storrows’ murders?”

“Not a one. No one saw anything. No one heard anything. But they were murdered, no doubt of that.”

“Cookie, the man in the tub, knew the Storrows.”

“How the hell do you know that?”

“He told me so.”

“That’s a link.”

“Yes, it is.”

“My tech will be here any minute. In the meantime I better go see for myself.”

“You better.”

He started off. Puller didn’t move.

“You coming?”

“In a minute. Got something to check first.”

Bullock went into the house and Puller hustled to his truck, passing by first Hooper and then Boyd as they were stringing up yellow police tape. Both cops gave him dirty looks, which he ignored.

He popped the rear door on the Tahoe and dug through his duffel. He found the photos he’d taken from his aunt’s house. He rifled quickly through them.

It took him all of two minutes before he found it. He held it up, letting the interior truck light fall fully on the photo.

In the picture was his aunt.

And Mr. and Mrs. Storrow bracketing her. He recognized their faces from the newspaper story that morning.

Apparently, like Cookie, she’d been friends with them too.

And now they were all dead.

He looked at Cookie’s house and then at his aunt’s house.

If this kept up there might not be anyone left alive on Orion Street.

CHAPTER 47

Puller called Landry and told her what had happened.

“I won’t make it there in an hour,” he told her. “Sorry.”

“Does Chief Bullock need me to come in?” “No, I think they’ve got it covered. Just processing the scene. Your buddy Hooper is working the graveyard shift.”

“I think it’s punishment from Bullock for being such a jerk.”

“I’m starting to like your boss more and more. I’ll see you when I see you. Okay if it’s late?”

“I’ll postpone my walk. But only if you fill me in on the details as soon as you get here.”

“Deal.”

He clicked off and went back into the house. Bullock was upstairs with his tech guy.

Cookie was still dead. Still at the bottom of the tub.

Bullock was looking around. “No fingerprints in the water.”

Puller said, “But most of these surfaces are great for prints. If they left a trace behind, great. If there’s no trace behind, that tells us a lot too. Means it’s been scrubbed. Which means he was killed.” He pointed to the floor. “Dry, but damp. Could be from water sloshing around, which would be the case if someone were holding him under.”

Bullock looked at his tech guy. “Get to it.” They both stared down at Cookie’s diminutive frame at the bottom of the water.

“Hell of a way to go,” Bullock noted.

“Anytime someone other than the man upstairs decides when you die it’s a hell of a way to go-”

“So you do think that’s what it is? Murder?”

Til wait for the post. But yeah, I wouldn’t be stunned if somebody killed him.”

“Looking a lot like your aunt’s situation.” “Yeah, it is.”

“I’ve got a car going to check on this Ryon woman.”

“That’s good.”

“You think she might have done it?”

“Cookie was old and small. She’s young and bigger and stronger. So, yeah, she could have done it.”

“And her motive?”

“No way to tell just yet.” Puller debated and then decided to share it. “My aunt also knew the Storrows.”

“You really think that’s significant?”

“Anytime you can tie murder victims together in some way it’s significant. Or at least it could be.”

“I guess.”

“I’m going to go check into a room at the Gull Coast.”

“About those men in your room last night?” “What about them?”

“We couldn’t hold them.”

“So Landry told me.”

“For what it’s worth, I believe you. Eight against one sort of explains itself.”

“Yeah, it should.”

“Watch your back.”

“I always have.”

On the way to his SUV, Puller scooped up Sadie along with some of her food and a leash. The tiny dog looked up at him mournfully as she sat in Puller’s big hand.

“Yeah, I know, Sadie,” said Puller. “But it’ll be okay.”

CHAPTER 48

The first thing was to make them fearful.

Well, to make him fearful.

Fearful people often took steps to stop that fear.

That is, they often made mistakes when they reacted fearfully.

Mistakes were good, when the other side was committing them.

Mecho looked up at the grand estate in the darkness. It looked different in the moonlight. But he knew exactly where everything was.

Tonight would not be the main assault. Tonight was just the opener.

He did not approach the main gate. The use of that gathered intelligence would come later.

There were six security agents roaming the grounds. They did not use guard dogs. Good for him, because his scent would have already reached them. Dogs were much better guards than humans in that regard. But humans were more dangerous.

Dogs only had teeth and claws.

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