Alice stared down at the phone on the table. She didn’t want what she’d just seen to be true, but she knew that this wasn’t the kind of world that cut people breaks. In her experience, the shit you wanted most not to be true always wound up practically guaranteed.
Wishing it away wasn’t going to do anything for her. Hesitantly, Alice picked the phone back up and turned it to look at the picture on the screen. It was a woman, her ribs open from collarbone to navel, the cavity within hollowed out, her intestines gleaming in the flash of camera.
Alice recognized her immediately. The terrified woman who had picked her up in the car the night before, The one who had helped her get away from the man with the knife. She had witnessed the attack. She had seen Alice put the barrel of her gun against the forehead of her attacker and pull the trigger.
“Shit.” There was no other reason for it. This woman, what was her name? Alice couldn’t even remember her name. Macy? She thought it was Macy. She shook her head. The only reason was that Alice had led the killer to her.
It couldn’t have been a coincidence. It was possible that Alice would be attacked at random, but not by someone as strong and fast as the guy who had tried to kill her. Probably. But for it to happen after Alice was leaving the crime scene from the first victim, right after she started working for Esther, and the woman who helped her escape gets killed by the same person as Janice. It couldn’t be a coincidence. He had picked her because she had helped Alice.
With that realization came the disturbing consequences that flowed from it. That the killer was definitely still out there. Alice had allowed herself to hope that she had killed him last night, that even if she had to deal with whatever consequences came down on her because of that, she had at least put down that monster. But now she had to think that whoever had attacked her hadn’t been the killer. Or if he was, it meant the man she had shot point blank in the face had survived it somehow.
And if that was the case… Alice shuddered. She didn’t want to think it was possible he had survived a bullet between the eyes. If he did… if these things could live through that, and not just live through, but get up and have the strength to do what it had done to Janice, to Macy now, to kill, and hollow out, and drain all of the blood from a woman, Alice didn’t want to think about what she was up against.
It meant maybe she hadn’t gotten revenge after all. It meant maybe Ed had died for no reason. It meant maybe the thing that had wormed its way into her house and her childhood, and had taken her mother, piece by piece, until she was as hollowed and dead inside as Janice was, and now Macy too, before he finally finished her off.
The thought hung in her like that for a minute that lasted for ten, the only sound Alice’s breathing and the creaking of the Lucas house on its ancient haunted foundation, when Bruce’s phone began to beep and buzz again, and reported message after message received.
Alice opened it up and was immediately faced with a series of photos downloading. She began to type a response with her thumbs when a final message came in, just one word. “Cops.”
Alice stopped typing and set the phone down, watching the pictures download. The first was of the car, Macy’s car, that old Toyota Corolla that she had pulled up in and saved Alice’s life with. It was parked in a parking garage of some kind. She could see the gray concrete barriers around it. On the ground next to it, she saw the edge of a white circle, and inside, a hand, what had to be Macy’s hand, lying on the asphalt.
The next photo was Macy’s body, naked, spread eagled on the cold pavement, her chest sliced open from neck to navel. Alice forced herself to use her investigator’s mind. Be objective. Understand what she’s looking at. She can be angry after she’s done.
A circle of white, probably salt, surrounded the corpse. Just like what happened to Janice. This was different, though. There were no candles. The white circle was just that, no ornamentation. The body wasn’t placed on an alter of any kind. “What is he doing with the clothes?” Alice wondered aloud.
Next came two pictures, up and down the lane of the parking garage, followed by a series of close-ups of Macy’s hands, feet, face, and chest. Alice was somewhat ashamed of herself for wanting to see pictures of the interior of the car. She wanted to see what kind of evidence she had left behind. Now, instead of just being tied to a possible self-defense killing in the snow, her blood was going to be on the scene of the serial killer’s latest victim.
Alice rubbed her nose. Things were not improving. She needed to take stock of what was going on. The killer had struck again. She was helpless to do anything, stuck in this house until either Bruce or Esther came back. Bruce and Esther probably weren’t coming back. The last message had been “Cops.” Esther had already been arrested related to these murders once. If she was found at the scene of another murder, they wouldn’t waste time asking questions before putting her in handcuffs.
And then it wouldn’t be long before they had a warrant to search her house for murder weapons. Alice would be here, found at the search. And, miracle of miracles, her DNA would match the blood in the car of the second victim. Alice didn’t like thinking about this analytically. It was leading her to some conclusions that involved spending the rest of her life in prison while the real killer stayed out and killed again.
She gave a short huff of a laugh. It’s not like he’d free to keep killing. She’d be exonerated by the ongoing murders while she was stuck in jail. Alice shook her head. This line of thinking was not going to help her get out in front of this. She needed to figure something out. She needed a plan. She went upstairs to grab the rest of her things and think before she made her next phone call.