I stopped for a moment, appreciating the sight of Gail walking up the stairs in front of me. We were heading to Tom’s office, to meet up with Eli and brief the Captain on what he should say to the public. We didn’t need all the details out there, just enough for the public to be aware, and careful.
I ran up after her, hiding my smile, “So... ah... Those cameras for my place, when will they get installed?” I asked.
“I sent techs out to do it now. Should be done by lunch.” She smiled and looked past me.
“Hey, Eli.” She greeted him as he came up the stairs behind us.
Thanks for ruining the moment.
We all went into Tom's office, Gail sitting down at his desk and Eli and I stood behind her, my six-foot frame inches above his five-seven. Tom finished the call he was on and gave us his attention.
“Ok, let’s hear it.” He said.
Gail began rambling, in her one breath, information-packed mumble and I watched the back of her head, her black hair moving as she spoke.
I always thought she was a kid, but I wonder how old she really is… What the fuck! Snap out of it! Focus you idiot!
I tore my gaze away, blinking at the ground, and caught Eli smiling next to me, watching me out the corner of his eye. I narrowed my eyes at him and gestured to the Captain.
“You two have anything to add in the back there?” Tom asked us, and we both wiped the smiles off our faces.
“No Captain. I think Gail covered it all.” Eli hit back with a quick save.
“Ok. The broadcast is at nine.” Tom said, looking at his watch, “I think it’s time we had a chat with Miss Daniels. Bring her in.”
We left his office and I waited to watch Gail go down the stairs to her lab. Eli cleared his throat next to me, with a stupid grin on his face.
“Shut up,” I said and went to my desk. I heard him laugh as he came over and sat down next to me. I picked up my new phone and dialed Molly’s number at home first. When there was no answer, I dialed her cell.
“Miss Daniels, this is detective Mason, Portland PD. We need to ask you some questions, could you come into the central precinct today?”
“What’s this about?” She asked, and in the background, I heard a familiar male voice ask, “Who is it, honey?”
I quickly scribbled on a paper to Eli “He’s with Molly!”
Eli flew off his chair and ran towards Tom’s office, pulling his cell out at the same time.
“You know what, Miss Daniels, I have a better idea. I don’t want to waste your time by asking you to come into the city for a quick chat. Let me come past your house, and we can discuss this there.” I said watching Tom and Eli run out of the office, both on their phones.
I picked up the desk phone, and dialed Gail, putting her on speaker, and muting it. I put the call from my cell onto the table and hit the speaker button.
“I’m sorry Detective, I’m not home right now. My fiancé and I are out looking at wedding venues.”
“Oh, well congrats Miss Daniels. Looking for a venue was the best part of the wedding planning for me.” I said, making sure Gail heard it.
“Yeah, you would think so, but my dear husband to be is the most impatient person on this planet.” She said, clearly talking to him rather than me.
“Give the guy a break, it’s a lot to deal with. Anyway, Miss Daniels, if it makes it easier, I can come out to you. To be honest I could do with speaking to both of you.” I said, crossing my fingers that she will give me an address.
“What is this about, detective?” She asked again.
“There was a break-in at a house on your street. We are canvassing all the neighbors to see if they saw anything. Just some routine questions.” I said, keeping the anger out of my voice.
“We didn’t see anything. My fiancé surprised me by not going to Italy, and we went out for dinner. We were gone most of the evening.” She said.
She isn’t going to tell me.
“I see. Well, thank you for your time. And good luck.” I said, hanging up.
I picked up the receiver from my desk phone and unmuted the call. “Did you get that?” I asked.
“Oh yes. Tracking her phone. Eli and Tom are on the way to her now, and the officers at her house are breaching as we speak.”
I was about to run out of the office, but I paused, opening the file on Molly. I ran my finger over the pages looking for the piece of information I wanted and picked up the phone again and dialed.
"Ainsworth Elementary School, Helen speaking, can I help?”
“Helen, this is Detective Mason, Portland PD. I need you to check if a student is at school today. Alex Daniels.”
I waited for her to come back on the line. My heart racing and my minds only thought was that if the boy wasn’t there, then he already did something terrible to him. He knew we found Molly, and him being with her was another game.
“Yes, he is, he is with Mr. Richards for Maths. Is everything alright?” She asked.
“Yes, it's fine. Do not let the boy leave, no matter who comes to get him. Understand?” I asked.
“Yes, Detective. Should we be worried about the other students?”
“No,” I said, hanging up the call. I pulled my jacket off the back of my chair and ran out of the building. I dialed Eli’s number as I got in the car and put the phone into the hands-free kit on my dash.
After several rings, Eli answered, “Paul, Tom and I are heading to Gray Gables Estate. Meet us there.” He called out.
“Have you sent a unit out? It’s gonna take us at least an hour to get there once we hit traffic.”
I pushed the car as fast as it could go, spinning the tires around the corners.
“Yeah, Tom has a local unit en route. They were in the area. Orders are to find them, watch them and not let him out of their sight until we get there.”
I nodded to myself, “Good. I’ll see you there. And Eli, if you find him before I get there, be careful. This is all part of his game and we don’t know what he has up his sleeve.”
“Got it,” Eli shouted and ended the call.
I dialed Gail and when her voice filled my car a small sense of ease filled me, “Gail, are there any cameras at Gray Gables?”
“Yeah, there are, I already have the feeds, But I don’t see him on any of them. He’s hiding. I have Molly, and I can see she is speaking to someone, but I can’t see who. Hurry up Paul, it looks like they gonna leave soon.”
“Are the uniforms there yet?” I called out as I dodged between cars.
“About ten minutes out. Eli and the Captain are still twenty minutes away, and you, about forty. Paul, traffic is backing up out there, your gonna have to go the long way around, or you gonna get stuck in the gridlock.”
I checked the signs around me, and when the exit for the back-country roads came up, I swung the car off the freeway and pushed the engine on the open road. I heard Gail’s fingers tapping on the keys over the line. She was still there.
“Gail,” I said. I wanted to thank her again for helping me. To tell her I appreciate all the work she has done. I wanted to ask her to go for a drink with me.
“Yeah, Paul. I’m here.”
Instead, I asked, “How old are you?”
A short silence and then her smiling voice said, “Twenty-nine. You?”
Why the fuck are we having this conversation now?
“Thirty-six.” I smiled.
Not such a kid after all.
I shook my head, forcing my mind to focus, as the cars came flying past me. The two-way silence between us felt awkward but comforting at the same time. She was there. Just one word away. Safe, but with me in the car.
I put on a brave face for Eli and tried not to let it show in front of Gail or the Captain, but I was terrified. This man had destroyed my life in the past and killed almost everyone I cared about. Now, five years later, I had new friends. A partner, and Gail. He will come after them, sooner or later. Unless I get him first.
With that thought burning into my mind, I pressed the gas to the floor and raced towards the familiar wedding venue. I pulled into the parking, next to Toms car, and climbed out.
A uniformed officer came to me, “Captain Raymond and Detective Rodriguez are inside. Molly is in the garden, round the back. No sign of her fiancé.” He said.
I thanked him and went to the front door, looking around at sprawling gardens and the tall white building in front of me. I swung the door open, the smell of the white lilies tickled my nose.
I slowed my pace, looking around.
What are you up to?
Why lead us to this place?
Why risk being seen with Molly?
Tom and Eli came into the entrance and paused next to the large white bouquet of flowers, “Lilies?!” Tom asked, shaking his head.
“He’s playing us, Tom. He wants me here, out of the city, and in this exact spot.” I said.
Eli asked, “Why? Why here?”
“This is where I married Addison,” I said, dropping my hand from the Lilies.
Tom let out a long breath, “Molly’s in the back. No sign of the husband to be. Let’s go have a chat with her.”
The three of us walked out to the beautiful gardens in the back, and I remembered how stunning Addison looked in her wedding dress. How nervous I was, standing there waiting for her. How my mind kept playing tricks on me that she would get halfway and turn around and run. How happy she was, looking into my eyes as we spoke our vows to each other.
Molly stood by one of the uniforms, her arms crossed, biting her lip.
“Miss Daniels, my name is Detective Mason, this is Detective Rodriguez and Captain Raymond, Portland PD.” I introduced everyone as her eyes shifted between us.
“You called me today.” She said, looking back at me.
“Yes. Miss Daniels, where is your fiancé?”
She shrugged, “I don’t know. He was standing next to me one second, and when I turned around he was gone.”
Eli asked, “What’s his name?”
Tom let out a small laugh and shook his head, “The famous Italian chef.” He said, looking at me.
“Yeah, that’s right. He’s a chef.” Molly said, her frown deepening.
“Miss Daniels, Antonio Carluccio died in 1999. At the age of 80. I can assure you, your fiancé is not him.” Tom said.
“What? No, it is. He has a passport and a driver’s license.”
“Miss Daniels. Can I call you Molly?” I asked.
She nodded, and I continued, “Molly, about five years ago, this city was terrorized by a man the news called the Dinner Time killer, do you remember?”
“We never caught him. And now he’s back. We believe the man you have been living with for the last four years is the Dinner Time Killer.”
I watched her eyes fill up with tears. “No… No, that can’t be. I saw the sketch of that man, and Toni doesn’t look anything like him.”
“Do you have a picture of him?” I asked.
She reached into her bag, and took her phone out, “Only one. He hated having his picture taken, but I snapped this one today, while he wasn’t looking.” She flicked through her phone, and stopped on a picture, turning it to show us.
A man standing in the garden, in front of the house, looking longingly at the Lilies next to him. His hair now blond, the mustache was gone, and the hooded sweater and jeans were an unusual choice for someone who dressed in expensive suits.
“May I have this?” I asked, holding my hand out for the phone.
She gave it to me, and I called Gail.
“Have you got him?” She asked after one ring.
“Hey, no not yet. He’s in the wind, but I do have a picture of him for you.” I said, forwarding the image to her.
“Ok, I got it. This is perfect, nice and clean lines, both eyes, nose… Yeah, this will work in facial rec. I’ll call if I find anything.” She said and hung up.
I turned back to Molly, and gave her the phone back, “Molly you need to go with these officers to the station, we need to ask you a few questions.” I said, as my phone rang.
I looked at the screen, and the number was a local landline.
“Mason?” I answered.
“Detective Mason this is principle Orkley from Ainsworth Elementary School. You called earlier about Alex Daniels.”
“Yes, Principle Orkley. What can I do for you?”
“Well, Alex went out for lunch break with all the other kids, but he hasn’t come back. We can’t find him anywhere in the school. I thought you might know where he went.”
I shut my eyes as my body turned cold.
That’s what this was all about. To get to the kid. This is my lesson.
“Call the police, have them send units out. I’m not in the city right now, but I’m heading back as we speak. If you find him, call me!” I shouted.
Molly ran over to me, “Orkley. Is that Principle Orkley from my son’s school? Where is Alex? OH MY GOD, WHERE IS MY SON!”