Thursday: December 5, 2024
1:02 AM; CLINSTONE, UNKNOWN LOCATION
Nicole cleared her throat. “The parents were at work when he nabbed the kid. He had stayed home sick from school that day, so he was still asleep when the guy came into the house. None of the neighbors noted anything strange, so I broke into the house while the parents were sleeping. I don’t have time to wait for them to leave. Either way, I got into his laptop. It must’ve been turned on and open when he was taken. These new computers… The cameras are always recording.
“So I got a little sneak peek of your killer. Not much to go off of, but he’s white and he has dark hair. Otherwise, I couldn’t see his face. After the left, though, I got a glimpse of his car through the window. A dark blue van. I left the house, got into the traffic cam footage, found the blue van. I snagged the plate, ran it through the system. Plate belongs to a Latina woman from Chesterwick, but it’s for a black Chevy of some sort. Stole the plate, swapped it out for some other plate.
“I went through, found the woman’s car in Chesterwick, snagged the plate, ran it through. Number belongs to a man in Minneapolis with a red convertible. The list goes on and on and on. I tracked down twenty cars in total, and I haven’t found the dick’s original plate, unless he used to be a woman named…” Nicole trailed off as she looked down at the notebook on her lap. “Cheryl. If his real name is Cheryl and he used to be from Germany, I have your man.
“But he’s not, and I know you don’t find that funny or anything. Neither do I,” she said. “But I tracked the blue van through the traffic cam footage and trailed it out of Clinstone and into Magnolia. There’s some sort of abandoned house here that’s registered to some chick that died, like, four years ago. I’m watching, waiting. There aren’t traffic cams here. Too small of a town. So I’m in the dark when it comes to figuring out where he is or where he went. I’m just guessing,” she said.
“My boy says you have until around six. You have less than five hours, Miss Duncan,” Jamal said. “Your main responsibility in this case is the boy. The boy cannot die,” he added.
“And if he does? I can only do so much,” Nicole explained.
“Then I’ll just break Wayne’s heart and let him know the Copycat got the drop on you.”
“Really? You wouldn’t take credit for murdering me?”
“I don’t take credit for any of my kills. Not publicly. I’d be in prison if I did,” Jamal said. “As a former serial killer, you should know that.”
“Vigilante,” Nicole hissed. “I was a vigilante, and you know it.”
“Yes, darling. A vigilante that murdered well over three people. You’re a serial killer, no matter which way you twist the facts,” Jamal said. “So, be a good little girl and find that boy before I rip your beating fucking heart out of your chest. My boy won’t suffer because of your failure.”
“So you only care about Bo? You raised Wayne, and you don’t give a shit about him?” Nicole asked.
“I love Wayne like the son that he is. My love for that man is the only reason you’re still breathing. I would’ve killed you a long damn time ago if it weren’t for him,” Jamal said. “So, find the boy, go home, and thank your husband for the life he has made sure you’ve been able to keep. Because if you continue to disrespect him the way you have been after my visits?” A pause. “You do not want to know what I will do if you continue to treat him like he’s something less than you. He’s a Duncan by blood, but he’s a Pitman by heart, and we are never less. Clear?”
“Good. I’ll call at six. You better bring good news, Nicole. I’m not in the mood to handle any more bullshit today,” Jamal said. “Under five hours, darling. Talk to you in a bit.”
Nicole tossed her phone onto the dash of her car as soon as Jamal ended the call. She’d never understand how Jamal Pitman had raised a serial killer that still managed to turn out kinder and more normal than the elderly man himself.
6:28 AM; CLINSTONE, SMOKE HILLS STATE FOREST
The man lifted the scrawny blonde up against the tree, releasing him once his armpits were resting on the replica tusks drilled into the tree. The murder would represent Mammoth perfectly. The blue-eyed blonde before him would destroy Bo once the kid was dead. But it wasn’t just Mammoth that he was hitting today.
Smoke Hills had been the Hunter’s burial grounds. The first and last case Bo and Bridget Decker had worked together in Clinstone.
The stalker pulled a knife from the holster at his waist. The boy’s eyes widened as he shook his head quickly. The man shook his head much slower than the boy had. A hand pressed to the boy’s shoulder, he sank the knife into the boy’s flesh near his right hip. The boy threw his head back against the tree, screaming behind his gag.
As soon as the blade reached the boy’s mid-chest, the man pulled it free and wiped his hand on his jeans. He wouldn’t make a mistake of the knife or his hand getting too bloody. Blood made the handle slick, and he wasn’t planning on slicing his hand open out of sheer stupidity.
He turned his head to the right just in time to make out a woman before she tackled him to the ground. While she reached for the knife with one hand, he pulled a smaller pocket knife from his pocket, flipped it open and slashed it across her wrist. He reached back and grabbed the larger knife from the ground. In the split second it took for her to wrap a hand around her wrist, he sliced the larger blade across her stomach.
He shoved her to the ground, scrambling to his feet. His eyes narrowed as he stared at the woman. Her head was bleeding. She’d hit a rock after he shoved her. He glanced up at the boy on the tree. He couldn’t finish the job. He didn’t have time. They’d both bleed out. That was all that mattered.
Shoving the bloody knife into the holster and the pocket knife back into his pocket, he ran.
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