Had Jericho been the “she” Davis had mentioned to Josh Quentin? The woman on the Falcon jet?
He touched the top of his head; his eye closed against the sudden, jarring pain.
Was I really that close to her?
He left the bedroom and walked into the office. He started going through papers, careful to put things back exactly as they were. He took some pictures of pages with the camera on his phone. He looked through the binders on the shelf and did the same with certain pages there.
Finished with that, he had one more thing left to do.
He walked back into the bedroom and lifted Ballard out of the bed as though he weighed nothing. And to Rogers the man did weigh nothing. And was nothing. Certainly not someone deserving of a life filled only with luxury.
He carried him over to the window that was set against one wall, put the unconscious old man down, and opened it. He peered out.
There was no one down there. The ground was cobblestone, as was the entire interior courtyard.
He stood Ballard up, gripped his shoulder and the back of his pajama trousers, lifted him off the floor, and pitched him headlong throug
h the open window.
He watched as the man fell. Rogers wasn’t sure if Ballard ever awoke to see death coming right at him.
And he didn’t really care.
Ballard hit the stone headfirst. The crunch was audible up here. Rogers waited, counting seconds off in his head. Then he heard the running feet outside.
Security guards converged on the mass of bloody flesh at the bottom of the window.
He knew what they would do next.
He went into the other room, went back out the window he’d come through, and closed it completely. Then he made his way down the sheer wall even as lights inside the house popped on.
Passing the third floor, through the open window he saw Davis jump up and throw a robe on before rushing out into the hall.
Rogers’s feet hit stone the moment the door to Ballard’s office was slid open.
He had reached the perimeter wall when he heard someone open the window he’d just come through.
He was over the wall by the time the person looked out and saw…nothing.
Rogers hit the dirt on the other side and started to sprint.
He was back in his room in Hampton exactly two hours later.
He sat on his bed, took out his phone, and looked at some of the pictures he’d taken.
One was of Claire Jericho and Chris Ballard. Ballard wasn’t as old as he had been tonight, but the man was still probably in his late seventies. So Jericho was alive. Or at least had been when this picture was taken.
Impulsively, he grabbed his keys and headed out.
He had a place he had to see. Places, in fact.
And he had to see them right now.
IT WAS A window of opportunity.
On the battlefield Puller had always referred to that as “the edge.” If he and his unit could hit the edge at precisely the right time they could accomplish their mission. Not necessarily survive. The principal goal was executing the mission. Survival was a close second, but still second. That’s why they called it combat.
Puller had left northern Virginia very late, and now it was less than two hours before dawn would break. He should have been asleep long ago, but sleep was the furthest thought from his mind.
He was ten minutes outside of Williamsburg. In the trunk of his Malibu was his big investigation duffel. Inside it was everything he needed to perform a professional and thorough examination of any crime scene. His only problem was that after thirty years there was no crime scene left to investigate.
But that wasn’t necessarily true. Hence the trip to Williamsburg.
He reached the city limits, pulled off the road, and consulted a list with four names and locations on it. These were the names of the dead women and the spots where their bodies had been found.
Two were on the perimeter of the campus of the College of William and Mary, the second oldest college in the country behind Harvard. It was a place where very smart young people went to learn.
It was also where a serial killer had dumped half his victims.
The other two had been found at two separate locations, but both well within the city limits.
He reached the first site, pulled over, and got out. He took a camera from his duffel and walked over to the forested area where the body of the chemist Jane Renner had been discovered thirty years ago under a pile of leaves.
He walked to the spot and looked down. It was bare ground now. There was no special marker, nothing to denote that a young woman’s body had been callously jettisoned here.
He took a few pictures of the spot and the surrounding area. It was lonely and probably was just as lonely thirty years ago. Within easy walking distance of the two-lane road he had driven in on.
Forensics had shown that Renner had not been killed at this spot. There had been very little blood. And lividity had demonstrated that the body had been moved after death. It was simple science. Once the heart stopped, blood ceased to flow and, due to gravity, settled in the lowest part of the body. If you died on your back, the blood settled and concentrated there, mostly in your back and buttocks, and some in your hamstrings and calves. If the body wasn’t moved for a certain period of time, then even when it was transported elsewhere and turned facedown, the blood would remain right where it was.
Such had been the case with Jane Renner. Her killer would have had to carry her here. She was five-seven and weighed one hundred and forty pounds, so that would not have been easy.
A strong man carrying the woman over his shoulder could easily manage it for the distance involved. And a man who could crush spines was obviously strong enough to tote his victims.
Puller got back into his car and was about to start it up when he noted a white van passing by. It seemed to slow as it neared where he was. Then it regained speed and kept going.
It looked like a van that a workman would use. The driver was probably heading out to an early morning job.
He put the car in gear and drove to the next site. It was two miles away. The streets were deserted, the moon full, the air crisp. He reached the site and once more got out with his camera.
He took a few pictures and walked the area where the second body had been dumped. Gloria Patterson, twenty-four and an engineer. The killer had not even bothered to cover her with leaves.
He eyed the area. It was isolated although the campus of William and Mary was not very far away. Just through some trees, really.
He got back into his car and started it up. When he reached the third site, he saw it heading down the road away from him.
A white van.
But was it the same white van?
He couldn’t be sure. It looked the same.
He snapped a few pictures of the area and then jumped back into his car.
The van was out of sight, but that didn’t matter. Puller knew where he was going, and if this turned out to be the mother of all breaks, so did the person driving the white van.
He turned down the road leading to the fourth and last site. As he drove up, he saw a glimmer of white as it reached a curve in the road and disappeared.
Puller didn’t even bother to stop. He sped up, but kept back a bit. The last thing he wanted was to spook whoever was up there.
They passed the site where the fourth victim, the computer programmer Julie Watson, had been found, and the van seemed to slow. Puller was praying that it would stop and the driver would get out. Then Puller would do his questioning with an M11 pointed in the person’s face.