The middle of the board was blank. After a teenage history of foster homes, group homes and juvenile prison, Cara Lindstrom had disappeared off the map at the age of twenty-one. She’d been invisible for eight years. The team had not found any hint of her location, her name, or any activities whatsoever until the day Roarke had seen her on the sidewalk behind Agent Greer just before his bloody demise. What Cara had done to Greer besides speak to him, naming his crime, was still unclear. What was clear was that Greer had turned, as undercovers sometimes do. He had been using the trafficked women he was sworn to protect, sexually abusing them rather than helping them to safety. Roarke had no idea how Cara could have known this about Greer, and he doubted they would ever be able to prove that murder, if murder was even what anyone could call it. That was the problem with Cara Lindstrom. She was forcing Roarke to come up with new definitions for everything he’d ever believed in.
But call it murder or call it — whatever —he had seen Cara kill eight men in one night and he had very little doubt that in the weeks to come they would find many, many more bodies to fill up that space in the middle of the board between Cara’s childhood and the bloodshed of two weeks ago.
Singh was speaking and Roarke turned back into the room to listen. “She is on the Wanted list. Bulletins are out to the agencies throughout the states, as well as in Nevada, Oregon, and Utah. We’ve gotten the usual assortment of useless tips and a few confessions. Not one has checked out so far. The San Luis Obispo Sheriff’s department is putting together a package to take to the District Attorney, to see if there is enough there to charge her.”
“If we can find her and deliver her,” Epps muttered.
It was almost always preferable to have local police bring a case rather than federal prosecutors, not just faster: the sentences in non-federal courts were often more harsh. But in this case it was more complicated, being that the trucker whose throat Cara had slashed had a record of sexual assault, and had come after her in the women’s bathroom.
Singh glanced at Roarke as if she’d heard his thought. “And it will be a difficult case to make, obviously. Any defense attorney will be able to introduce a strong motive of self-defense.”
“We’ve got her for kidnapping,” Jones said.
“Also not an easy case to make, under the circumstances.” Singh replied. “My understanding is that Sebastian will never press charges. He and his son are more likely to appear for the defense.”
Mark Sebastian was a newly divorced father who along with his five-year old son had befriended Cara while they were on vacation in Pismo Beach; she had used the pair of them as both hideout and camouflage after Roarke had picked up her trail. Cara had ended up killing the drug dealer boyfriend of Sebastian’s ex-wife. The dealer had been selling pictures of Jason to a pedophile ring. Another murder on her scorecard; another death not many people would ever lose sleep over.
Epps was speaking and Roarke forced himself back into the present to listen.
“We need to get her, and let the prosecutors worry about how to charge her,” Epps said tightly.
Singh glanced at him without comment and then continued. “One more thing. So far our bulletins are confined to law enforcement agencies. Obviously, we could begin a more public appeal—”
“No,” Roarke said, before she could finish the sentence.
His team looked at him.
“We don’t want the media anywhere near this. A female serial killer?”
He didn’t have to explain it. Female serial killers were exceedingly rare. There was even an argument to be made that no such thing existed that fit the textbook definition of sexual homicide, murder specifically for sexual gratification. Cara Lindstrom was a killer, the most unusual one Roarke had ever encountered. She hunted and killed brutally and specifically. But psychologically she was more of a vigilante, her victims hand-picked for their crimes against women and especially children: child molesters, sex traffickers, and in one case, a homegrown terrorist who had been plotting to bomb a Portland street fair.
He spoke into the silence. “We let word leak out about what she’s doing, we won’t be able to take a step without cameras down our throats. It’s too volatile, and a logistical nightmare. I say we do this quickly and quietly, and hope to God the press doesn’t get wind of it.”
He could see Epps struggling with himself, but finally he nodded reluctantly. “Agreed.”
Roarke breathed an inner sigh of relief, then took control. “So. Her last known whereabouts are the cement plant. We know that she steals cars for transportation. She has a master key for Hondas at the very least.” He turned to Singh.
“I have been monitoring reported car thefts in Southern California,” she said in her musical lilt. “There were none that checked out in the Blythe area on the night she disappeared.”
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Genre – Mystery / Thriller
Rating – PG13
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