Sylvie looked around. Something was different. Normally this place looked like an armed camp. Where was everybody? Oh right, today was Tuesday. There was a big security staff meeting going on. They were getting new night vision equipment, very high tech. The company that manufactured the products was sending someone over to show them how to use it.
For once, she was actually grateful for the frigid cold air. Maybe it would clear her head.
She hurried down the path to the boat house; her heart pounding, thoughts churning. What did she do now? She couldn’t tell Connor or call any of the investigators. They weren’t interested in her theories or suspicions. What did she have really? Nothing! He was thinner than the others. So fucking what? Yesterday her money had been on Jameson. She thought he looked good for the murders. The day before that she was pointing the finger at the Frommer brothers. Sylvie’s mind kept returning to the bullet proof vest. It would add just enough girth to make her mistake his body for Connor’s. But why would he do this? They were friends for God’s sake, best friends. What was the motive? There had to be a motive! But what could it possibly be? He just woke up one morning and decided to start murdering people for shits and giggles? Twenty-three people were dead. There had to be a reason! Facts flew through her brain. She had to discount everything the investigators said and go back to her original surmise that Zahara was the first victim. She puzzled over that for a minute. If that were true, then as strange and bizarre as it seemed, maybe the motive for these murders actually did originate in high school. Why would a kid starting his senior year in high school suddenly become a killer? What possible reason could he have had? Was he bullied? Ostracized? Deprived? Deformed? Unpopular? Ugly as sin? No! Not at all! What then? Jealousy? Rage? For losing an election? That was insane! It made no sense. And yet there it was. But she was getting ahead of herself. First Sylvie had to prove he was the killer. How? By surreptitiously sniffing him? Nuzzling his neck with her nose? That’s assuming he always used the same combination of soap and cologne. And how would you even go about introducing a smell as evidence in court?
She was lost in thought, standing on the shore at the edge of the ice, when she looked up and saw a figure gliding across the surface toward her. By the poles in his hands, it appeared he was cross-country skiing, not skating. He was tall and wearing tightfitting black pants with a matching ski jacket that had grey on the shoulders. An oversized, black, knit hat was pulled down low over his ears and forehead, completely covering his hair. The iridescent orange snow goggles he wore obscured much of his face. But even with his features hidden, Sylvie knew who it was. She had to get back to the house…now!
Sylvie looked around, still no security. There were supposed to be sensors all over the place, guarding against intruders. Surely if he set foot on the property, he’d set off an alarm. Then they’d come. Her heart was thumping wildly in her chest. Stop it! Calm down! Start walking back to the house now! She started back up the path. Her feet moving fast. No! Don’t run! Act as though nothing’s wrong.
‘Sylvie! Sylvie wait up!’
Don’t panic. There’s nothing to worry about…yet! The son of a bitch thinks he got away with it. He thinks he’s home free. Sylvie turned and watched as he propelled himself off the ice and onto the snow, his poles pulling him forward. She turned to acknowledge him, a smile pasted on her face.
Coming up beside her, he took off his googles and gave her a big, toothy grin. ‘It’s good to see you again Sylvie. Glad to see you’re up and around. How are you feeling? Better?’ The questions seemed to pour out of his mouth. ‘You gave us all quite a scare you know. Such a terrible business. Just terrible!’
‘Yes it is. How have you been Drake?’ Sylvie backed away when he leaned in to kiss her hello. She visibly shuddered at his touch. If she wasn’t sure before, she was now. She smelled faint traces of cologne mixed with citrus on him.
‘You seem awfully jumpy. Is something wrong? You’re shivering. You should be more careful, dress warmer for this weather,’ he said, grabbing her lapels and pulling up her collar. Drake looked around at the house, the yard, and the surrounding woods. ‘Why are you out here by yourself anyway? I’m surprised Connor even lets you out of the house after what you’ve been through.’
‘I’m supposed to breathe fresh air,’ she told him, trying to suppress the rage boiling up inside her. ‘Doctor’s orders. What are you doing here? I thought you weren’t arriving until dinnertime.’ Turning away, she started walking toward the house again.
‘I decided to check out the fishing shack my caretaker put up. See if anything was biting.’
‘One of them is yours?’ she asked, surprised.
‘Yes, we put it up every year. If I get bored in the city I like to come up here and unwind.’
She nodded, noticing for the first time that his jacket was cinched with a black webbed belt. She hadn’t been aware of it at first. On the right, the side nearest her, was what appeared to be a black plastic canteen. On the other was a black leather scabbard, slightly curved at the end. She was sure it held a fishing knife.
‘It’s been a long time Sylvie.’
‘Not so long,’ she responded through clenched teeth, picking up the pace.
He skied along beside her, not saying a word, until they were within 500 feet of the house. ‘Is something wrong?’ he asked, watching her with the same evil intent that a spider does a fly.
‘I’m tired is all,’ she told him, refusing to meet his gaze. ‘I don’t normally walk this far. Most of the time I sit down to take the air.’
‘Why then by all means we’ll sit. I’ll keep you company. I wouldn’t want anything to happen to you. All alone out here by yourself. I could swear, though, I’ve seen you walking here before.’
Sylvie’s skin began to crawl. ‘I take it you’ve been up here a while then, if you’ve noticed me out walking. But you’ve never dropped in to say hello. Why is that Drake? Connor will be very put out.’
‘I didn’t want to be a pest. I’m sure Connor has a lot on his mind these days.’ He smiled. But it wasn’t a smile exactly. It was a sneer.
This was turning into a game of cat and mouse. She didn’t have to guess which part she was playing. ‘You didn’t say how long you’ve been here.’
‘I came up around the first of March. That’s about when you got here too isn’t it Sylvie? Quite a coincidence don’t you think?’
‘Yes, quite a coincidence.’
Sylvie shuffled along the path in silence, all the while keeping a wary eye on him. Drake repeatedly skied ahead, then stopped, waiting for her to catch up. Every time he did, he’d swing his skis around so they blocked part of the path. Just a little bit further and they’d be at the grouping of Adirondack chairs that had been put out on the lawn for her. And the little wooden tables crusted with snow that sat beside them. She just needed to get close enough to get one and then she’d bash in his fucking head. Drake hadn’t shown up here by accident. Connor must have told him they were coming home. And he wasn’t here by accident today either. He’d been watching the house waiting for a time to…to…to do what? Get her alone? Finish the job he’d started? But there were cameras and monitors everywhere. If he attacked her here he’d never get away with it. Perhaps it was some kind of perverse point of pride with him. He was playing God. His victims always died. Nobody got out alive! That’s what he’d done to that girl out west. When she didn’t die, he’d burned her alive in her hospital room. He’d done the same thing with Tara. He’d set fire to her apartment in Boston; and when that failed to kill her, he ran her down with a car. Maybe he hadn’t gotten the message from their last encounter…Sylvie wasn’t all that easy to kill. She tried to remember the personal defense classes Connor had made her take shortly after she went to work for him. He told her she’d thank him for them one day. Could be today was that day! What was she supposed to do? Stomp on his instep? Knee him in the balls? Punch him in the throat? Jab her fingers into his solar plexus? Then drive her thumbs into his eye sockets? That might be tough to do considering he was over a foot taller than her and probably outweighed her by 90 pounds. She might not be able to overpower him with her fists, but if she nailed him in those places with one of the tables, she might have a fighting chance. The worm was about to turn!
She reached into her pocket and slipped off her mitten. She flicked the sliding switch that turned the recorder on then rotated the volume all the way up. With luck it would pick up every word that was said from now on. She slipped the mitten back on and withdrew her hand. The bastard wasn’t going to weasel out of it this time. If he tried to harm her, she’d get it all on tape. Her eyes scanned the windows of the house, but she didn’t see anyone looking out. She’d repeatedly told them she was tired of being watched over like a child, having her every action monitored. Now she wished she’d kept her big mouth shut. Her breathing was becoming strained. She wasn’t sure if it was the icy air freezing her lungs or fear. Still no security guards. ‘Let’s sit down shall we. My leg’s a little sore from the walk.’
He looked at her and grinned, smirked really. His eyes were boring into her. If he was trying to intimidate her, he was succeeding. But he didn’t have a poker this time, nor any of his other gruesome paraphernalia. What did he have? Two ski poles and one knife. All capable of killing her. What about the skis? As long as they were on his feet, he couldn’t use them as weapons. But maybe she could. Sylvie studied them, wondering what would happen if she stood on his skis while simultaneously slamming him in the head with a table. Would he break his ankle or maybe his leg, assuming he fell backward?
Drake was eyeing her with disdain, almost as though he knew what she was thinking. He gave her a simpering smile, pleased with himself, almost daring her to do something.. He stood his poles into a nearby drift, then sliding on his skis moved closer to the chairs. The area had been shoveled recently, so he shuffled rather than glided across the ice-covered grass. Not wanting to take his skis off, he grabbed one of the tables, and, splaying his legs, dragged it between them. He sat down.
Sylvie was hoping he’d fall on his ass, giving her the chance to get away. But no such luck. She noted how clumsy he was without the poles. The long skis were ungainly on the bare ground. Her leg was better, but if he got the skis off quickly enough, she’d never be able to make it to the house before he caught up with her. He was, after all, a competitive runner. His poles were out of reach, so all she had to worry about was the knife.
Drake coldly studied Sylvie, as a predator does his prey. He sniggered, his eyes taunting her.
This charade had gone on long enough! Sylvie could feel her temper rising, every muscle in her body tensed. Her ‘fuck you’ moment was fast approaching. He’d brutalized and dehumanized her, nearly killed her, and here they were making small talk like it never happened. He’d underestimated her, brazenly coming over here like this. What did he think she was going to do? Cower in fear? Never! She wouldn’t give him the satisfaction! She wanted vengeance! Wanted his head on a spike! Sylvie continued to the chair and sat down on the very edge of the seat, careful not to lean back. She draped her hand over the arm, resting it on the cedar side table, right above one of the legs.
Sylvie took in a deep breath, then looked him straight in the eye, her face showing a mixture of disgust and loathing. ‘I know it was you Drake. I know what you did.’
‘I have no idea what you’re talking about Sylvie,’ he said dismissively.
‘Oh really? The murders Drake. I’m talking about the murders. All those people you killed.’
‘Are you deranged?’ he snorted. ‘That’s totally ridiculous!’
‘Me deranged? That’s laughable. I’m not the one that murdered 23 people!’
The shocked look on his face surprised Sylvie. He’d been blindsided by the news. She’d just assumed that when Connor talked to Sean, Victor, and him about the assault, he’d have mentioned all the other murders. But maybe not. ‘Come now Drake. You’ve been a busy boy. You couldn’t possibly believe no one would notice. You left a string of bodies from one end of the country to the other. You thought you were clever Drake. But not clever enough. It certainly took them long enough to connect the dots. But they’ve got your number now. You’re going to spend the rest of your life in a cold, dark cage and then, hopefully, you’ll be extradited to Texas or maybe Florida. I hear they’ve both still got the death penalty. They don’t like murderers there. They’re going to sit you in a chair and fry your sorry ass.’
”I haven’t the faintest idea what you’re talking about,’ he growled; the muscles in his jaw clenched so tightly, she thought his teeth would shatter. ‘I know nothing about any murders.’
‘Give me a frigging break, Drake. Do I look like an idiot? I have to admit you had me flummoxed. You’ve always had everything handed to you on a silver platter your entire life. What reason would you have to kill people? And then I realized. You’re a sick fuck! It’s just that simple.’
‘Stop it! You’re…’
‘Oh bullshit! Are you going to tell me you’re innocent? Save your breath. You’re a homicidal maniac. I know it and you know it. And pretty soon everybody else is going to know it. The only thing I haven’t figured out yet is why? You certainly started young. What were you 17 when you killed Zahara?’ She’d struck a chord. His mouth gaped open and his eyes nearly popped out of his head. ‘You were the one who drugged her at the beach party and got her gang raped, weren’t you? That was all your doing. Did you tell your friends she wanted it? And those knuckleheads believed you? Tell me, were you trying to stop her from pressing charges when you burned down her house? And when that didn’t work, you killed her in the parking garage! I don’t get it…why? You assholes passed women around even then. Poaching. Isn’t that what you called it? She dated a lot of guys by all accounts. So what made you fixate on Connor? She went out with Alex and Nathan too. Why not blame them? It doesn’t make sense. Why kill her? Why not your friends? They’re the ones who betrayed your friendship.’
He glared at her. ‘Because they weren’t pregnant.’
This time it was Sylvie’s mouth that dropped open. That came out of left field. She hadn’t been expecting it. ‘Was it yours?’
‘Zahara said it was. That little bitch was going to tell her parents. I’d have had to take a paternity test and my life would have been ruined. I couldn’t let her do that.’
‘But why the rape? Why would…’ The realization suddenly dawned on her. ‘You evil bastard! You thought that being repeatedly raped would somehow induce a miscarriage didn’t you? And when that didn’t work, you set out to kill her. I suppose by some perverted logic I can see your motive in that one. But what reason did you have to kill Connor’s parents? What did they ever do to you?’
Drake’s eyes darted to the wood line and back to the house. He was looking for security.
‘There are cameras all over this property Drake. Connor’s obsessed with security. You should know that. You’re probably the cause of that. They’re watching us right now I’m sure. But you didn’t answer my question. Why did you kill your best friend’s parents?’ He started fidgeting. His gloved hands rubbing back and forth on his thighs. ‘Hell Drake! What are you so nervous about? We’re just having a little conversation here. Haven’t you ever heard the old adage that confession is good for the soul?’
‘You are a persistent little bitch aren’t you? Why does it matter? Why does any of it matter?’
‘Because it does!’
‘If you must know, Mrs. Hudson didn’t like me.’
‘Well, I can certainly understand that. What did she do? Hurt your feelings or something?’
‘I’m a Rowe! My ancestors came over on the Mayflower! They built this country and that witch, that nobody, had the audacity to say she didn’t want her son hanging around with me anymore! That I was a bad influence on him! She said she was glad she’d been able to persuade Connor to go to Columbia and not Harvard, because she didn’t want him anywhere near me.’
‘When did she say that?’
‘The day before he left for Europe. I’d had an accident and my parents wouldn’t let me go. I called to see if I could convince him to wait. I wanted to go later in the summer, after my parents calmed down. But the bitch wouldn’t let me talk to him.’
‘And so you burned her and her husband alive, because she what…dissed you?‘ He didn’t respond. ‘Moving on,’ she spat at him. ‘Why Marisol and Connor’s other girlfriends? Did you even know them?’
‘Yes I knew them, all but the married one. I never actually met her before…’ He leered at her menacingly then continued. ‘Connor would prattle on about how gorgeous she was. How wonderful. Really? She was a fucking adulteress. A slut! I was there the night he met Marisol. Do you even know where that was?’
She shook her head that she didn’t. Sylvie could tell by his nasty tone of voice that his revelation was meant to shock her.
‘It was in a sex club in the city. What’s he told you about her? That she was beautiful and talented? Did he also tell you she was a whore?’
Sylvie looked at him quizzically. It wasn’t the sex club part that surprised Sylvie. It was him calling her a whore. ‘Why would you say that about her?’
‘You really are a naïve little cunt aren’t you? They were all whores!’
‘I doubt it. Were you jealous? Jealous that he was getting the girls and you weren’t? Did you try to poach them and they gave you the brush off or something? I’m beginning to see a pattern emerging here Drake. You’ve lost to Connor all your life haven’t you? He gets to be captain of the basketball and track teams, president of the class; and you, old ‘my ancestors came over on the Mayflower’ boy, get shit! It doesn’t matter where your fucking relatives are from. It doesn’t change what you are, which is a pathetic loser! Did you kill those women to prove to yourself that you weren’t? That you could take away something Connor wanted just like he had you? It was just a stupid school election, Drake. So he became class president…big deal! What did you think? It was owed you because your last name was Rowe? And as for being captain of the basketball and track teams…’
His mouth dropped open again. Where was she getting all this stuff? How did she know? Had Connor told her?
‘Oh, c’mon! Haven’t you heard of the internet? Your life story is out there floating around in cyberspace. I don’t know why you’d want to be captain of either of those teams. Just because your dad was? The year you guys graduated your basketball and track teams sucked! They had an appalling record! How many games did your basketball team win that year? What was it, 4 out of 16 games? I went to a little high school in Wyoming where we hardly had enough kids in school to field a decent team and we had a better season record than you rich jerks. I don’t understand why you’d even care. Far be it for me to cast aspersions on Connor’s prowess as a basketball player, but I’ve got four older brothers and they all scored more points in a single game than he did. So what? It’s only high school sports. It doesn’t matter! Move on! Or was that when your father started seeing you in a different light? He had two other sons. They made the grade. Were leaders. Stand outs. And then…then there was you. Did he think you were a failure? Weren’t living up to the Rowe family name or something? Figured you were a loser because you couldn’t get elected captain of a mediocre basketball team? That’s a bit harsh! Did you ever think you got pushed aside in the family business not because of what happened in high school, but because you’re a chronic fuck up? You’ve been jealous of Connor since high school. Why? Why do you have a grudge against him? He’s worked his ass off for everything he has. That’s why he’s successful! That’s why he always got the girls! And speaking of girls. All those women you killed, how did you come to meet them? On the internet I’m supposing. Chat rooms? BDSM or Domestic Discipline sites? The woman you told me you killed, the one whose throat you slit, she thought you were coming to see her to become her dom didn’t she? That’s why she kept saying her safe word? You courted her online, then killed her. I didn’t research the areas where your other victims lived, but I’d wager they’re all within a day’s driving distance of a top-rated, swanky golf course; a fancy ski resort; a ranch or breeding farm that sells horses; or a race of some sort. Is that how you picked the women? Proximity to one of your leisure pursuits. Killing two birds with one stone so to speak. Am I right?’ Those poor women thought when you came to town to visit, they were going to meet the man of their dreams; and instead, they came face to face with a monster. You know Drake, you’re a sorry excuse for a human being!’
‘You think you’re so fucking smart don’t you?’ he thundered, seething.
‘I was the school nerd. The smartest girl in class. The one who prided herself on always knowing all the answers. I guess I haven’t changed much. Our little tête-à-tête here reminds me of something that’s been puzzling me. That reporter, Ernestine Shaw. You killed her didn’t you? What did you do, drug the woman at the party in the Hamptons? Dump her into bed to sleep it off, then leave? You arrived in Riverside Park just in time to kill Shaw. Up to then you were home free. But then you up and bungled it. Killing Caputo? Trying to frame him for the murder? Planting the knife? That was very amateurish. I’m really surprised you’ve managed to get away with your killing spree as long as you did. You’re not nearly as clever as you think.’
‘I think you underestimate me Sylvie.’
‘No. I think I have your number Drake! The only thing I can’t figure out is what was on the missing pages in Shaw’s notebook? Why the pages were torn out. Did she tell you what was on them when she called you? I’m thinking she did. Alternate suspects? Alternate theories of the crimes? That’s what she was working on. She was trying to eliminate other possible suspects to bolster her case against Connor. Was that what worried you? If your name popped up in one of her articles, the police might start checking alibis, and you sure as hell couldn’t have that! You’re a very charming snake, Drake. Shaw wanted a scoop, wanted to write an about exposé a celebrated, bestselling, billionaire writer who was also a murderer. She was going to use the story as a springboard to the big time. It wouldn’t have taken much to convince her to tear the pages out and bring them to you that night. What did you promise in return? That you’d help her prove your best friend Connor Hudson was the deranged, psycho serial killer she believed him to be? You wanted the police to find the remainder of her notebook to point the finger of suspicion at Connor. You just had to twist the knife didn’t you?’
Drake’s eyes were filled with hatred.
‘You rightly figured that if you tore out the pages and left the rest of the notebook at the murder scene, the cops wouldn’t believe Connor had killed her. Why would he tear a few pages out when the other 60 pages were equally, if not more, damning? You behaved like an imbecile when it came to the notebook. You really screwed up! You should have asked her to bring the whole notebook. Then destroyed it after you killed her. There would have been no evidence! No cops! No investigation! But you were so bound and determined to incriminate Connor, you fucked yourself. It just proves my point.’
‘What point is that?’ he snarled.
‘That you’re a sick, pathetic loser! You’re not a mastermind! Hell, you’re not smart at all! You’re an idiot, an imbecile. I used to think you must be insane, but you’re not. Oh I’m sure the psychiatrists have a name for you. They’ll say you have antisocial personality disorder. That you’re a narcissistic sociopath. A psychopath. But me, I just think you’re evil, depraved. You were born without a soul or a conscience. I pray there’s a hell, because I want you to go there! I want you to writhe in torment, burning for all eternity, for what you’ve done, all the lives you’ve destroyed!’
Her eyes moved to the patio French doors. She could see a shadow watching them.
‘You’ve told a wonderful tale of murder and mayhem Sylvie. Very inventive. You would have made a good mystery writer.’ He bent and undid the bindings on his skis. ‘It’s a shame no one else will ever hear it.’
‘I wouldn’t bet on that if I were you. What are you going to do? Kill me? You’ll never get away with it. Security will be on you like stink on shit. They’ll kill you before you get off the property. And if by some miracle you were able to get away, you must know Connor would hunt you down. You’re doomed! There’s no way out!’
‘It doesn’t matter. You see, I’ll have won whatever happens. You might be smart, but you’re common and vulgar Sylvie. Your mouth is a sewer and you have absolutely no class. For the life of me, I don’t know what Connor sees in you. Or why he wants you. But the fact is…Connor will never have you. You’re going to be another sad statistic, a painful memory. The answer to your question is yes. Yes, I’m going to kill you Sylvie. Connor loses again! Too bad! So sad!’
‘Don’t count on it!’
Sylvie saw him pull the knife from the scabbard. With the dagger clenched in his hand, he stood up, arm swinging, slashing at her. She grabbed the leg of the table and lifted it. Before he could react, she swung it at him and caught him between the legs. He screamed and doubled over. His eyes teared up, face contorting in pain, his hand cupping his injured crotch. She was ready to make a run for it when he lifted and threw back his head. Face purple with rage, he stumbled forward and lunged at her; the jagged edge of the knife, normally used to scale fish, tearing at the shoulder of her coat. With all the force she could muster, Sylvie slammed the table into him again. This time catching him in the side. His jacket was so thick, he hardly reacted. She hadn’t hurt him at all!
Behind her alarms were going off. Someone had hit the panic button. Help would be here any second. All she had to do was hold him off a little longer. Still gasping for air and grimacing, he lifted his hand and stabbed at her, driving the blade into her left shoulder. Sylvie screamed in agony. He pulled out the knife, blood pouring from the wound. She staggered backward. The look in her eye murderous. He wasn’t going to let him win. Not this time! She growled and charged at him, brandishing the table to keep his knife at bay. When he lifted his arm again, seeing her opening, she sent the table flying through the air and connected with the side of his head. Sylvie suddenly felt dizzy and weak. She looked down at her shoulder. She was losing a lot of blood. Drake faltered as red liquid began pulsing from the gash in his temple as well. He backed away, dazed, his hand alternately clutching his crotch and his head. Then, regaining his senses, he lunged at her, looking crazed, maniacal, almost demonic.
An ear-shattering series of booms stopped Drake in his tracks; his head and body seeming to explode. Sylvie stumbled backward, dropping the table. Something wet and warm was splattered on her face. She looked down at her coat. It was covered with bits of brain and flesh. Only a few feet away, Drake was lying in an ever-widening pool of his own blood. It was over. It was finally over!
Sylvie looked toward the house, woozy and barely able to focus. Estelle was running toward her, holding a rifle, and screaming her name. Sylvie tried to respond, but no words came. She could see them now. People pouring out of the house. A blur of movement and color against the stark, white landscape. Sylvie’s knees buckled, eyes rolling back in her head, as her body slumped, then crumpled to the ground.
Leave a Reply