When ATT called with the location of Drake’s phone, she and Hal were ready to go. She had called the School Resource Officer, Rosie, to sit with Elijah. Rosie had the most experience and training working with children, and she hadn’t been on duty the night Andie was killed. She hoped she could watch Elijah without intimidating him like some of the other deputies might. She knew that she had made the right decision when Rosie showed up with dinner for Elijah.
“Thanks, Rosie. All he’s had since lunch are snack foods.”
“That’s okay, Sheriff. I thought he might be hungry, and you’ve got a lot to handle right now.”
Madison nodded and turned away. Her eyes threatened to fill up with tears, but she had to stay strong, for Drake and Elijah. Hal appeared from the weapons room with two high-powered rifles.
“Are you ready to go?” Madison nodded. She stepped into the office to say good-bye to Elijah and then she and Hal headed to her SUV. Ross and James, the other two deputies she had called in to duty were already waiting in Hal’s SUV. Hal held out his hands for the keys to her SUV. Normally, she would have balked. She could drive as well as any of the deputies, but Hal knew the area better than she did. He probably knew right where they were going. She didn’t want to lose time by having to follow directions. Hal pulled out of her parking space and sped out of town. The other deputies were behind them. Hal turned on his lights and headed down K Road. As they passed a driveway, Hal pointed it out to Madison.
“That’s the other murder scene. Kurt just called me before we left. They’re wrapping up the scene, they’ll be with us as soon as the coroner loads the body.”
“What about the other scene?”
“Harold is still there with two other deputies. He’s waiting on the coroner. Mesa County had to send someone else for that body.”
In a few minutes, they pulled up to the road that led to the cabin where they had located Drake’s phone. Hal killed the lights as did the deputies behind them. He drove slowly on the rutted gravel road. Scrub brush and wild grass surrounded the road.
“There’s no cover. If they’re in there, they’re going to see us coming.”
“I know Hal. We’ll just have to take our chances.”
The cabin stood in a clearing at the end of the road. The cabin was surrounded by several large trees. Drake’s Pacifica stood in front of the cabin. The Sheriff Department SUV’s pulled up side by side, but no one got out of the cars. Hal used the speaker on Madison’s SUV to call out to the cabin.
“This is the Fruita Sheriff’s Department. Any one in the cabin come out now.”
They waited a few minutes and then Hal made the announcement again. Madison couldn’t stand it any more.
“I’m going in, Hal.”
Hal nodded. As he turned off the ignition and slid the keys into his pocket, Madison pulled her gun out and clicked the safety off. She made sure that she had a round already in the chamber. Hal did the same. Using Drake’s SUV as cover, Madison and Hal slowly approached the cabin. The other two deputies were armed with high-powered rifles and came in behind them. They weren’t SWAT trained, but they were both good, steady men. They covered Hal and Madison as they approached the cabin. Nothing moved at the front window. When Madison approached the door, she could see through the peeling wooden screen that the front door was open. Slowly, she opened the screen door and held it with her foot while she pointed her weapon through the doorway. Stepping into the cabin, she stopped, stunned by what she saw. Dropping her arms but still holding her weapon, she called to Hal. The living room is clear. Hal came in behind her. He only paused a moment before the grisly scene in the living room and proceeded to clear the kitchen and the other rooms down the hallway leading form the living room. When he finished clearing the rest of the cabin, he returned to the living room.
Madison stood in the middle of the room. Another message was scrawled on the wall in blood: You’re wasting your time.
Hal was already on the phone calling for the coroner. The other deputies brought in their forensics kit and began processing the scene. Madison knew she should help, but she stood frozen to the spot. She had no way of contacting the suspect, and no idea where he and Drake were. She hoped that Drake were alive, but if the suspect had realized that she wasn’t going to bargain with him, he may have already killed Drake. Finally, she tore her eyes away from the bloody message, and stepped out of the cabin. She needed to follow protocol like anyone else. She went to her SUV and pulled booties and gloves out of her Forensics kit. The deputies already had a kit in the cabin, so she left hers where it was. At the door of the cabin, she covered her boots with the booties and slid the gloves onto her hands.
When she stepped into the crime scene, Hal was on the phone ordering another coroner. How many coroners did they have working on this case now? Three? It was getting out of hand. She knew that the town wouldn’t stay quiet much longer about the continuing murders, and she was powerless to stop it. They didn’t have a clear description of the suspect, nor did they know what car he and Drake were now using to travel. They could be anywhere. The one thing she knew for sure, however, was that they were still in the area. She now knew that the killer wouldn’t leave until he got what he wanted—Elijah. And there was no way she was going to let him near the boy. She hoped Drake would forgive her for not putting him first, as usual. His last words drifted into her mind: Don’t worry about me, just take care of… She assumed he meant that she should take care of Elijah, and that’s what she intended to do.
She stepped closer to the bodies. They were an older couple, maybe in their early seventies. They were tied to chairs. She wondered why the suspect had suddenly changed his MO. He had strangled both Andie and Mandy, now he was using a knife to stab people. There were two clean slices across both their throats. Their faces were contorted. He didn’t know who he had killed first, but it was obvious he had made the other one watch the murder. She didn’t understand what type of person could do this. How could someone be so evil that they would make people suffer so?
It took several hours to process the crime scene, because of all the blood evidence. After the coroner came and took the body, Madison and her deputies secured the crime scene. As the other deputies left the scene to file their reports and return to patrolling the area, Hal and she sat in silence.
“What do you want to do now?” he asked softly.
Madison didn’t know what to do. Until the suspect called them, there was nothing for them to do. She had to laugh at herself. She thought she was going to get the upper hand over him and gain control of the situation, but she was beginning to realize that she had never had control. The killer had been making the rules of his little game from the start. All she could do was try to figure out his next move.
When they returned to the Sheriff’s department, several news vans were in front of the Sheriff’s department. She was surprised that it had taken them this long to get a whiff of the story. She noticed a couple of vans from stations in Denver. Now, that there had been multiple murders, the rest of Colorado was starting to take an interest in their sleepy little town. She couldn’t give an impromptu press conference. She had to prepare a statement. When Hal saw the vans, he turned down the alley and parked at the back of the station. She and Hal rushed into the station before the reporters could realize where they had gone.
Rita met her at the back door.
“The mayor is waiting for you in the conference room.”
“He’s been here for a while. I think he’s getting impatient.”
That was all they needed. She hurried to the conference room to find the mayor examining the information written on the whiteboard. Mayor Rodriguez was a tall man with salt and pepper hair and piercing brown eyes. He turned and pinned her with an angry glare.
“We have a serial killer roaming our town, and I had to hear it from the news.”
“It’s not department protocol to alert you when we have a crime. My deputies and I are working the case.”
“Wouldn’t that be cases, plural, Sheriff? How many murders have there been?”
“Six, but we believe they’ve all been commited by the same perpetrator.”
The mayor paled. “Six? There have been six murders? Have you called in State Patrol to help you with the case?”
“No. The State Patrol doesn’t have jurisdiction over these cases. We’re handling it. My men have been trained in evidence collection and scene preservation. We’re more than capable of solving this case.”
“I disagree with you, Sheriff. You have a total of fifteen deputies and six cases to work. You don’t have the manpower. I want you to contact the State Patrol and get some additional men here now.”
“If I feel the additional men are needed, I will..”
The mayor cut her off. “I wasn’t making a suggestion. I appointed you as Sheriff and you’re damn well going to do what I say. Call the State Patrol in now or I’ll do it for you.”
The mayor stomped out of the office. When he stepped outside, he was besieged by reporters. Madison sent Hal out to run interference for him. When Hal returned after fending off the mob of reporters himself, he headed back to the conference room.
“Madison, I think he’s right.”
“Not you, too, Hal.”
“Look, I’m not questioning your ability as Sheriff, but on top of the murders, we have a kidnapping case, and the victim is your husband. You’re too close to the case. It’s going to compromise your ability to lead the investigation.”
She turned on Hal and snapped, “How am I compromised? Have I deviated from procedure in any way? Have I bargained with the suspect? I’ve followed procedure from the start. I tried to recuse myself from the case, but it’s gotten too big. We need every man available to handle this.”
“That’s what I’m saying. We don’t have enough people to investigate the cases and keep the town safe. We need help searching the back roads. We need help with Drake’s kidnapping. We need to call State Patrol and CBI. If you weren’t personally involved in these cases, I think you would have already called for back-up.”
Madison had to consider Hal’s words. Should she have called the State Patrol? Her men were pushed to the limit. They couldn’t work back-to-back shifts indefinitely. Also, CBI often handled kidnappings. They had the ability to issue statewide alerts. She knew, though, that once the CBI took over Drake’s case, she would have no control. The killer would realize that his game was over and kill Drake. She couldn’t let that happen. She needed to get Drake back and stop the killer before he did any more harm.
“Please, Hal, give me a little more time.”
“It’s not me you have to worry about, Madison. I think you’ve run out of time, but I’ll help you any way I can.”