Tainted mind, p.22

Tainted Mind, страница 22


Tainted Mind

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  “So, is there any way to find out who his obsession is?” Carly posited.

  “And do what, use her as bait? Come on Carly, you know we'd never do that,” Marcus responded.

  “No, we wouldn't,” Ian interjected. “But I imagine, like most things, the more we know about his obsession, the more likely we are to find him.” He turned to Vivienne, who was nodding.

  “If we can find the woman, it's more likely than not the killer will be someone she knows. But that makes it sound easier than it is because she may not know she knows him. It's possible he could be her brother or an uncle or something like that. But it's just as likely to be the guy at the coffee shop who serves her coffee every day, or the male nurse at her doctor's office. But still, if we can find her we might be able to narrow the playing field, so to speak.”

  “But we don't have to find her, do we, to find him?” Ian believed in Vivienne's work as a forensic psychologist and didn't discount the benefit of knowing the victim, but everything in him screamed to find the killer.

  “You're right. It's a bit if the chicken and egg scenario. We can try to find her in order to find him, or we can try to find him directly through the evidence. We don't have a lot of physical evidence in these cases, but we should be tracking both avenues,” she answered.

  “We may have some more evidence,” Carly said, standing and holding out three files. “The families of these three victims have left standing permissions to have the bodies exhumed if it will help find the person responsible.”

  Ian took one of the files and handed the other two to Vivienne. He flipped it open and saw the face of a young woman smiling back at him. Her long brown hair was blowing in a breeze, and her dark brown eyes sparkled in laughter. She'd been twenty-nine when she was killed. Her body found in an abandoned mine shaft in Virginia, not far from her DC home. Her parents had included a directive in the case file that left no room for doubt, agreeing to the exhumation of their only child if it meant someone might bring the person responsible to justice.

  “No parent should have to do this.” He slammed the file shut and handed it to Vivienne as well. “I'll leave it up to you as to whether or not you think we should exhume these women.”

  She nodded in response. “I'll take these files with the autopsy reports up to Sam and Daniel and come up with a game plan.” She glanced at Carly, who'd gone back to her place among the files with Marcus sitting beside her reading off information. Turning back to Ian, Vivienne asked, “Can I talk to you for a second?”

  Ian inclined his head. He had a few things to say to her, to ask her, but he wasn't sure if this was the right time. Still, he followed her down to his office and shut the door behind them. Vivienne's eyes darted out the window. He crossed his arms and leaned against his desk.

  “I have some things I need to do today. I'm going to run these files up to Albany, and then Nick and I have a couple of things to discuss. I'll probably head straight to The Tavern when I get back. He'll be there, and I can also check in with Naomi to see if the facial recognition program has kicked up any faces yet.”

  Ian wondered if she knew what a bad liar she was. She might be doing everything she said, but there was something she wasn't telling him.

  “Do you want to tell me what errand you sent Nick on?” For a moment, she looked like a deer in headlights. Then she turned away and walked to the window, keeping her back to him. He figured it wouldn't be long before she spoke. And it wasn't.

  “Do you want to talk about what you were doing out at the accident scene this morning?”

  For a moment, his temper flared. That she'd turned the conversation around on him wasn't a good sign. In his experience, if someone evaded a question, they usually had something to hide.

  At his silence, she looked at him over her shoulder. And when she turned to face him, he saw his own frustration mirrored in her eyes. He had evaded her this morning in much the same way she was evading him now. But she'd let him get away with it—for the moment. And in her acceptance, in her willingness to let him pick the time and place, he'd found himself knowing that he would do the same for her. His own sense of honor and respect demanded that he give her the opportunity. Even if he hated doing so.

  “Later. We'll talk later.”

  She nodded, walked toward him, and brushed a kiss against his cheek. “I'll meet you at The Tavern tonight. I'll call and let you know when I'll be there.” And then she was gone.


  IAN'S ARM ACHED IN A PULSING RHYTHM as he pulled on his jacket and prepared to close up for the night. Vivienne had called to tell him she'd be back at seven, and Carly and Marcus had left ten minutes earlier, leaving a scattering of papers and the smell of coffee behind them. He glanced down at the table and debated whether or not to tidy up. Then training got the better of him, and he began to put the papers in order.

  Fingering one of the sheets, he thought it was such a flimsy thing, thin and weightless, to be carrying such a heavy load. He looked at the name on paper, Genevieve Gray, aged thirty-one when she was murdered.

  He sighed, finished straightening up, and flicked the lights off. From the other side of the alley, the church security light cast long shadows through the windows and across the room. Forcing himself to leave his maudlin thoughts behind, to not wonder how a room that held so much death could look so normal in the night, he made his way down the stairs, careful not to jog his body or head too much.

  Still, the short walk to The Tavern, down his quiet Main Street, did him some good. Whether it was the movement or the familiar scents and sights of his hometown, who could say? When Ian arrived at The Tavern ten minutes later, his arm still pounded but his head felt a bit less fuzzy.

  “Hi Rob,” he said, entering the bar area. It felt like ages had passed since he and Vivienne had shared their first meal together her second night in town. His eyes traveled of their own accord to the corner table they had shared. It was now occupied by two women. And the sight of their food seemed to awaken the hunger in his own body, his stomach growling loudly enough for him to not just feel it but hear it too.

  Inhaling the scent of shepherd's pie and beer with longing, Ian slid onto a bar stool. “Seen Vivienne?” he asked the bartender. Rob gave him a sideways look then gestured upstairs with a nod of his head. Ian sighed; food would have to wait.

  He climbed the stairs that creaked as much as his body at this point, and turned toward Vivienne's old room. He knew she was meeting with Nick and figured Nick's room would be a good start.

  “You have to tell him, Viv.” Nick's voice was loud enough to be heard through the door and Ian stopped short outside the room.

  “I will, Nick, but you have to give me some time. I need some time.”

  “Time we may not have, luv.” Ian heard the sound of a notebook or file being slammed onto a desk, punctuating the frustration he heard in the other man's voice.

  “I've been doing this almost as long as you, Nick. I know the cost. I know the risk. I will tell him. I'm just not going to do it right now, and I'm not going to do it over the phone.”

  “Then when?” Nick insisted.

  Ian heard Vivienne let out a deep breath, and she paused before answering. “Tonight. I'll tell him tonight. We have a few things we need to hash out anyway. But in the meantime, do not, I repeat, do not tell anyone, Nick.”

  “Ahh, luv.” That Nick thought Vivienne was making the wrong decision was about as clear as the night sky.

  “Promise me.” She insisted

  “God, you are bloody stubborn. Fine, I promise. I won't say anything until you talk to Ian.”

  “Until we have a plan,” she insisted.

  “Viv,” Nick all but pleaded. Ian's stomach plummeted to the floor. He didn't know what they were talking about, but he sure as hell recognized the desperation in Nick's voice. And he knew enough about Nick at this point to know the man was not prone to hysterics. If Nick was worried, something bad must be going down.

  Ian heard the shuff
le of feet and Vivienne's voice. It was so low he couldn't catch the words, but the tone was solemn. Nick must have finally grumbled an assent, because Ian heard Vivienne mutter a thank you. And in the silence that followed, Ian became acutely aware of the feel of his blood rushing through his body—a response to the unknown.

  He recognized and acknowledged a moment of insecurity as it washed over him. When she'd said to him, “We need to talk,” did she want to talk about them? In his gut, he didn't think so. In his gut, he believed that if there was a problem between the two of them, Vivienne would have spoken earlier.

  Or maybe that was denial.

  Fuck, he thought to himself. His life was already screwed up enough, and in the last few days it had taken a monumental dive into a cesspool. He didn't know what the hell was going on, but as his superior used to tell him, quoting Winston Churchill, when you find yourself in hell, just keep moving. And so he did.

  He knocked on the door, and when it swung open, Vivienne stood on the other side looking surprised. “You told me to meet you at seven,” he said.

  She glanced at her watch. “Oh, I guess I lost track of time. Are you hungry?”

  He looked into the room and saw Nick glaring at them from his position behind the desk.

  “Everything okay?” Ian asked.

  “Everything is, well, everything will be fine.” Vivienne walked toward him and, grabbing his good hand, laced her fingers in his. The gesture itself surprised him, but what caught him off guard was the sense of reassurance she seemed to want from him. He gave her hand a quick squeeze and her shoulders relaxed.

  “Dinner?” she asked. He had no idea what was going on, but dinner was always a good place to start.

  * * *

  Vivi slid into her seat across from Ian and wondered how she was going to eat. Not only had the day been almost as shitty as the one before, but she saw the curiosity in Ian's eyes. Curiosity laced with a hint of suspicion. She would allay that suspicion, but what she knew would replace it was much worse.

  Somehow, by mutual but unspoken assent, they made their way through the meal without discussing the case at all. And it wasn't until she saw Ian grappling with closing the door to her car with his casted hand that they started to discuss the day. In a safe way.

  “It's been a long day. How are you feeling?” she asked as she pulled out of the parking lot and turned north toward Ian's house.

  “I'm okay.”

  She stopped at the one light in town and used the time to stare him into the truth. He cracked and offered her a half smile. “I'm sore, my head hurts, and I feel like I may not make it all the way into bed before I fall asleep tonight, I'm so tired. Knowing you can't carry me and that I'd have to sleep in the car is probably the only thing keeping me awake right now.”

  She made a right turn onto the other end of County Route 8 from where Jessica was found. “Did they give you any medications?”

  He grunted. “Yeah, but I don't want to take them.”

  “Taking them because you need them is different than taking them because you want them.”

  “Yeah, I know. But after the IED attack, I was doped up for weeks and then again all during recovery. It took me months to not feel like I needed the painkillers. I'd rather not remind my body of how good they can make me feel. Especially when they make my brain feel like shit.”

  She mulled this over for minute. After that first time she'd asked him about his injury, he hadn't brought it up. She spared a glance at him and noticed he was rubbing his thigh.

  “Does it hurt now?”

  He shook his head. “No, but I also don't want to take the medication, because the doctors told me they'd had to up the level they gave me in the hospital for the surgery. Turns out that, even though I don't crave the drugs anymore, my body still has a high tolerance for them.”

  “And that scares you.” It would scare her. For a man as in control as Ian, knowing his body teetered on the edge of dependency must be disconcerting, at the very least.

  “I don't know that scared is the right word. But it's true, I don't like it.”

  Vivi slowed the car and made a left onto the dirt road that led to Ian's driveway. “Okay, so no meds. How about a shot of whiskey and a hot bath?”

  Picking up her right hand, he brought it to his lips and placed a kiss on her palm. “Now that's a treatment plan I could get into, Doc.”

  She curled her fingers over his cheek and felt some of the tension leave his body. “Then we'll see what we can do.”

  And, call her chicken, call them both cowards, but the minute they set foot in his house, that's exactly what they did. And despite the awkwardness of his casted arm, the hot bath and whiskey led to where it naturally would, where they both knew it would when they started. And by the early hours of the morning, Ian was sleeping like the dead with Vivi curled up beside him.

  With her head on his chest, she absorbed the feel of his heart beating beneath her cheek. The smell of the bath soap, clean sheets, and sex permeated her senses, as did the very solid presence of Ian beneath her. The moon had waned but was still more than half full, and dim shadows lined the walls.

  Vivi inched closer, thinking about what she needed to tell him. She wanted him to sleep for hours, she wanted this all to go away. But she knew she was only going to make it worse. Shifting out of his embrace, she slid off the bed and made her way to the bathroom. When she stepped back into the room, she paused and watched Ian as his arm twitched and he threw it over his head. It looked like a sweet, child-like gesture and she started to smile—until she saw the frown on his face. His arm came down again, and his body twisted under the sheets as his head began to thrash back and forth. He was having a nightmare.

  He started to mumble. Prayers, pleas, and orders to stop. His body reflecting the agony playing out in his mind. For a moment, Vivi watched, waiting to see if he would wake on his own. If he would wake before her own heart broke at his pain.

  When she couldn't take it anymore, she walked to the foot of the bed and called his name. He didn't respond, so she called again, louder, and grabbed ahold of his ankle. When she called a third time, Ian's body went rigid. Then, like a jack-in-the-box, he bolted upright. She jumped back at his sudden movement but kept her eyes locked on his.

  His breathing was coming fast and heavy; sweat beaded his face and chest. His eyes were wild and unfocused. And then they landed on her. Vivi watched him slowly, breath by breath, bring the world back into focus. And she saw a look of shame cross his face.

  “I scared you.” His voice was flat.

  She moved to sit beside him and placed a hand on his chest. His heart still thundered under her palm. “You didn't. I didn't want to scare you. I was up using the bathroom. I thought if I got back into bed to wake you, it might startle you when you came to.”

  His eyes searched hers, looking for any hint that she was lying. Vivi kept her gaze steady, hoping he would see only the truth.

  He let out a deep breath and rubbed his left hand over his face. “Was it bad?”

  She didn't have anything to compare it to so she lifted a shoulder in response. “What do you see, Ian?”

  He flopped back against his pillow and looked up at the ceiling. He was quiet for so long she wondered if he was going to answer at all. But then he reached for her hand and spoke.

  “Sometimes I don't remember at all. I just wake up with a feeling of helplessness, like I should have been somewhere sooner or stopped someone from doing something. Other times it's people I've known. Sometimes the dreams are of things that actually happened, but sometimes they aren't. Sometimes they're dreams of people from here, but doing something over there.”

  She came down beside him and he wrapped his arm around her. “And tonight?”

  “Tonight it was those kids. Those kids I hit in the accident yesterday.” By his tone, she knew there was more. It wasn't just the kids. He was thinking about the same thing he'd been thinking about when she'd found him this morning at the accident s


  He took in a deep breath. “I heard the pop of the tire and I think my PTSD thing kicked in. I should be able to handle a blown tire, Vivienne. Shit, you should see some of the things I've driven in and through. A popped tire on a well-paved road, even at the speed I was traveling? I should have been able to handle it. But I didn't. And because I didn't, those kids could have been seriously hurt.”

  Vivi's heart sank. It was time to pay the piper. She couldn't let him think that any longer. What she had to tell him might ease his mind about the accident. But it was going to make everything else a lot worse.

  She forced herself to sit up and leaned against the headboard. He rolled to his side and gave her a questioning look. Looking into his eyes, she wished to god there was a way to change what she was about to say, but knowing there wasn't, she dove in.

  “About that accident, Ian. It wasn't your fault.”

  He drew his head back and frowned. “I know it wasn't my fault, but I could have handled it better.”

  “Maybe, maybe not. I had Nick take a look at your Jeep. He went to the salvage yard this morning.”

  That got his attention and he sat up too. “Why would you do that?”

  “Because I thought the same thing. I thought it was weird that a blown tire would cause you to flip and roll your car. A normal driver, maybe, but I know what kind of training you've had. All the evasive and defensive techniques you've probably had to learn. And it didn't make sense to me either.” She paused and took a deep breath. “And then, when Marcus mentioned the new tires this morning, I knew something was off. So I sent Nick to have a look.”

  Ian's eyes had hardened in preparation for what was to come. “And what did he find?”

  “Your tire blew because it was shot out. By a high-powered rifle—a very high-powered rifle. Nick found the bullet lodged between the tire and the rim. If we search the side of the road, we'll probably find a casing. Unless, of course, the shooter collected it.”

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