Remy wished he was able to turn a blind eye like Arlo. Hell, hadn’t he all these years? When Jay sat beside Remy at each funeral, he’d been so compassionate. Jay stuck up for him, and yet he hadn’t done the same. The dude always struck him as an imbecile, starting when he latched onto his best friend when he showed up at the overcrowded orphanage, causing fights Arlo ended up black and blue over because the shit-stirrer couldn’t fight his way out a paper bag. Arlo often brought women into their relationship after they moved out, and they would end up in his bed at some point. Jay never objected to the things he did, but now questioned if it pissed him off enough to wreak havoc hiding behind a mask of benevolence.
Calder watched indecision flit across Remy’s face as he hesitated to open the files. “This proof’s the confirmation we’re chasing. Where is he, huh? Jay has a cell, right?”
He glared at Calder, “Yeah. He’s not picking up. Are you going to accuse me next?”
Remy ignored Arlo’s usual manner of dealing with stressful situations. Arlo was a ‘whoa—let’s take this slow,’ kind of guy, except for when on a job. Then he was unstoppable. The sudden thought of work triggered his memory of the leather recliner that Teena owned too. Were Jay and Teena... Nah? Well, he frequented the club a lot. More than him since he avoided the place unless summoned.
“Hey,” Calder snapped, meeting his stare with a tenacious gleam in his eyes, “Listen to me, Astrid’s out there and we can find her. I know it.”
He clicked on the first file. The video started, and Arlo stepped closer out of curiosity.
Astrid’s bedroom appeared on the screen. A moment later he entered the room with her, asking if she were okay.
“Yes, it’s just… you have no idea how you make me feel.”
“I have a clue.”
His breath caught when he realized what he was reliving, staggering away from the car.
“What does this mean?” Arlo whispered, “Remy?”
It meant Jay installed cameras in her house long before she met Calder and they were fucked!
* Elsewhere *
Astrid sipped from the straw Jay placed in her mouth. Still laying on her belly, there was no choice but to consume the fruit juice he offered. Jay sat off to the side, holding a candy bar. He hadn’t come back with a knife, and she didn’t know whether to be relieved or not.
“Enough,” he exchanged the drink for food, “Here, eat little bites.”
She obeyed, chewing the chocolate and caramel treat. The tangy aftertaste from the juice remained even after she finished. Jay patted her head like a dog with a smirk before inspecting the cuts on her back.
“You’ve stopped bleeding,” he commented, “That knife sure is scary, huh? I love sharp objects. There’s a whole bag of weapons here, but we’ll wait to use those toys.”
Astrid licked the roof of her mouth, aware something unnatural was going on. Her mind became foggy as tension bled from her aching limbs. Had he drugged her? Shit! With what? Jay yammered on and on about how he welded knives better than cameras while her body slowly melted into the stinky mattress.
Cameras? She had no idea why he compared the two until he confessed, “I have a great job. Rich people love to catch intruders or cheating spouses, so I install the latest and greatest tech for a large fee. The home or business owner can access the data via a streaming link or download the feed. I have a surprise for you.”
Jay stood and went into the hall. Astrid’s head felt so light she could barely move it. The drug made her almost zombie-like. Her eyes couldn’t focus and she flirted with the sandman, uncaring what he had in store.
He returned to the candlelit room carrying a surface laptop, chuckling at the way Astrid rubbed her face absently on the mattress. Crouching down, he set the computer in front of her. The bed stank, but so fucking what? There was no more pain, and she smiled at the tranquility enveloping her senses.
“You probably realize by now I’ve given you a sedative,” Jay spoke tenderly, swiping hair away from her brow as the glow from the screen highlighted his ghostly smile, “You will enjoy yourself until it wears thin. Maybe you’ll even participate next time I take you. Are you ready to see what I have? You may speak.”
Astrid hadn’t spoken in so long that forming words took effort, but she slurred, “Yeah.” When the video played, her blurry vision narrowed on the small device.
“Remy came to me last week and placed cameras in your house after stealing your extra key,” Jay chuckled studying her closely, “Little did he know, I already installed mine before he introduced us. You see, I figured out where the asshole meets women. Who he fucks outside of work. I didn’t foresee he would go soft and return the equipment a few days later. Remy did not invade your privacy to watch you bang Calder, but to trap a killer. I’m pleased by how easy he makes it. Aren’t you?”
Remy was a sneaky asshole, yet for a good cause twisted in the worst way. She watched the video of Calder and her making love. She could hear everything. Suddenly glad he’d drugged her so this moment was just another detached memory in time, felt laughter bubble over the knowledge Jay flat out outwitted everyone in his life for years. Who knew the stoner in the corner with the pierced brow was an evil genius?
Knowing how many men betrayed and invaded her privacy may have given her an emotional meltdown if she stopped to reflect, but the drug made that a non-issue. Intense pain flared along her backside when he roughly patted her ass to gain her attention.
“You’ll get a kick out of this,” he grew excited, prideful as a kid showing off a science project, “Remy has all kinds of kinks. On the job, he’s a total degenerate.”
A new video played. Now she was looking at Remy’s empty bedroom with the camera pointed at the bed. Remy and Rose entered, and she listened to him order her around like a pissed off drill Sargent.
“Rose worships Remy. She’s a complete whore, though. On this particular night, you fled when we took ecstasy. After saying you wanted to take a break, Remy pulled her into his room, but he couldn’t pull the trigger. She loves it rough, and this next scene proves it.”
Jay snickered as Astrid blanched at the violent escapade between Rose and Remy. He was so mean to her! When he pushed her out of bed, she was glowing, although clearly hurt. Smiling! Astrid remembered telling Remy to leave her alone, and he took it out on the girl with such detestable detachment it made her wonder if he would strike her with the same resentment if given the chance.
If I can outlast this sick bastard, she mournfully mused, I’ll find Rose and tell her to let no one use her with such violence she can’t walk without limping.
“Remy knows I’m behind his misfortune,” he revealed, shutting the laptop with a bang, “He and Calder broke into my apartment.”
Hope fluttered through Astrid’s muddled mind. Would they hunt them down? From the casual way he stated their discovery, she didn’t think so. He would either relocate or kill her before letting them close.
Jay sighed, untying her legs. Her limbs hung heavy, although relaxed. He rolled her over, causing her hands to lift at the center of her spine.
He ran a hand across her breast, peering at her lax face, “You’re out of it, huh? Even if Remy finds us, I plan on killing you and then myself. That’s right, murder-suicide. I’m through pretending and taking you with me into the afterlife.”
Astrid’s jaw dropped in abject horror. He wants to die! Her chances of survival became zero, she realized as Jay relished her terror-stricken expression. How long would he continue to mess with her head before growing bored? Before he ended her short life? She had to keep his interest until they found them.
His fingers brushed against her taut skin, “Do you think you’re special?” he growled, “I couldn’t care less about you! Doing this to women over and over is an addiction I can’t seem to find a rehab for. It’s fucked up, isn’t it? Trick fucking question... I know it’s wrong, but torturing bitches like you always makes my dick hard.”
She let out a fearful whimper when he positioned himself between her knees, “You will come for me, slut. You’ll do it because you’re high as fuck and have no choice. Soon, you’ll ask for it. If you treat me right, I’ll bring you water. Feels good though, doesn’t it?”
Forced to endure such unbelievable events had her slurring out, “Die.”
The drug he slipped into her system stole her ability to fight. Time flew by and he allowed Astrid’s eyes to drift shut. At that instant, she was there only in body, which responded to Jay’s assault against her will, and he lapped up the falseness as only a lunatic would.
“Such a perfect whore,” he panted afterward, “I need to check on those idiots. Sleep. Next time, I’m bringing my toys.”
Jay kissed her chapped lips hard before slapping her across the face even harder. The sound was like a gunshot in the empty room. She bit back a curse, watching him saunter away. He hadn’t bothered to tie her legs, but within minutes Astrid passed out cold.
* Back when Remy played… *
The video of Remy having sex with Astrid for the first time shocked them all into silence. Arlo had the decency to walk off while Calder demanded the date of the footage.
“Months ago,” he rasped, clicking the next file. Calder fucking Astrid popped on screen and both flinched at the scene. “He placed cameras in her house! Arlo, still think Jay has nothing to do with her disappearance? That he’s our friend?”
“It doesn’t make sense!” Arlo cried, “Why would he do that?”
“This was before I introduced them,” he growled, yanking out the disc to put in the labeled one, “He’s been stalking my girlfriends for years! If this video is of Alice, I’ll rip his heart out! But first; he’ll experience exactly what I’ve gone through this last decade before ending his pathetic existence.”
Arlo took hold of his shoulders before he pressed play, “Don’t watch. Remy, I know you. You’ll lose it, and the police need this evidence. Let me do this for you, bro.”
Remy stepped away, then swiveled around, clenching a fist to his mouth so he wouldn’t scream. This was all his fault! Astrid was out there with a man who planned on killing her, all because Jay wanted to torment him for some twisted reason. To think he’d trusted the bastard! She would die unless they figured out where he held her. Guilt kicked him in the gut, acknowledging Jay targeted her because of his inability to leave her alone.
Where could they be? The psycho murdered Alice and Joyce without leaving one clue for the detectives to pick up. He pictured Astrid’s sweet smile the last time they’d kissed and nearly fell to his knees in despair. What did he do to cause Jay’s hatred? To hurt innocent women he loved and cared for?
Arlo and Calder quietly watched the screen as Remy paced back and forth behind them in a seething rage. There was no sound, just a pretty brunette staring at the lens of the slow-moving camera. It zoomed in on her face for a moment before panning out to show her sitting naked on a chair.
Calder licked his dry lips, bile rising in his throat. He recognized her from the reports. Arlo planted both hands on the hood as if it was the only thing holding him up. He turned a sickly pale color, and he couldn’t imagine the devastation they were experiencing.
The camera moved again and Alice continued to stare blankly and silently. She looks doped up, he concluded from her passive expression. Her limbs were bound to the wooden chair she sat on. Blood. Calder’s stomach lurched. realizing her entire body appeared coated in crimson. Her glassy blue eyes conveyed terror, although the girl didn’t utter a single word. The video ended with another close up of Alice’s face. That was it. Nothing but Alice tied up and bloody while Jay recorded her misery.
“What the fuck!” Arlo ranted to Remy, “He... he killed them! Jay actually kidnapped and murdered those girls! I don’t understand. Why?” Tears ran down his cheeks before racing several feet away to throw up beside a dumpster.
“What’s on the disk?” Remy anxiously demanded, “Was it my Alice? Tell me, dammit!”
“Yes,” Calder confirmed, feeling horrible being the one to deliver such devastating news, “He... recorded her tied to a chair. Blood... there was so much blood. I’m sorry, Remy.”
Remy was only nineteen when Alice died. He’d had a long time to forgive himself, knowing he couldn’t have predicted her fate. The same went for Joyce, although the woman had a lot of issues and always imagined she’d pissed off the wrong lover since they found her across state lines.
Remy straightened, focusing on the current shit-storm. “All right. Did you see anything remarkable about the place in the video? Any clues at all? They dragged her body from Lake Sunshine. Joyce in another state.”
“Call the police,” Arlo pleaded, coming back on shaky legs, “They have experts and need this evidence. My God, poor Astrid.”
Remy shook his head, ejecting the disc, “We need to keep moving and the authorities will only slow us down. Here Arlo, give these to the detective on this card. Explain what we’ve done and I’ll figure out a way to watch these VHS tapes.”
Arlo accepted the items, not wanting to deal with Laramy by himself, “Dude, are you sure? Jay might be in the woods.”
Calder and Remy stopped what they were doing, rounding on the man. Remy knew nothing of Jay’s personal life besides seeing him constantly high on the couch.
“What woods?” Calder barked, startling Arlo, “Be specific.”
Arlo palmed his face, flushing under pressure, “He goes outside of the city and waterfront. Likes to look at the boats and hike trails around Rolling Rock Bluff. We once took a day trip there. He seemed acquainted with the paths.”
Remy struggled to picture the area, but he was a metropolis guy, never into nature.
Calder was the opposite saying, “That’s near Sunrise Mountain. I know the territory well since my family owns fifty acres. Boats? I have one in the bay.”
Looking like he’d rather receive an enema than spend time with law enforcement, Arlo tried to change their minds, “Then why not talk to the cops? It could take forever to locate Jay. He may not even be there!”
Remy clasped his friend on the shoulder, peering into his scared eyes, “Don’t smoke any more shit. I’m counting on you. Call me afterward, but tell them everything. More manpower isn’t a bad thing.”
Arlo agreed, then watched Remy drive away with Calder before hurrying upstairs to turn in his boyfriend for the kidnapping and murder of two women.
“Do you think Jay knows we know?” Calder asked, “You’re right, this feels too easy. Organized. When I bought my yacht, it had one of those little TVs with a built-in VHS player. I planned on tossing it, but the owner left a bunch of tapes so I never did. It became useful during the rainy season.”
Remy snorted, “Seriously?”
“Chicks dig retro,” he smirked, “When I put on Dirty Dancing it works like a charm.”
Remy blew through a red light and Calder understood time wasn’t on their side so said nothing while cars blasted horns in annoyance. It was already after seven and Astrid was missing for over twenty-four hours.
“I’m not familiar with the countryside,” Remy admitted, “Once we reach the lake, you can take over.”
Calder nodded in agreement. What a strange bond they now had. No animosity. No bitter quips. Just constant worry for the safety of Astrid Trahern hoping to find her alive.