If looks could kill, p.9

If Looks Could Kill, page 9

 

If Looks Could Kill
 



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  “I’d give up ten years of life just to see you naked,” he whispered.

  She thought he was teasing at first, trying to make her feel better. But then she looked at him. And he wasn’t teasing.

  “I’d die just to touch you…to…” He moved his lips closer to her ear and whispered a few graphic words describing with explicit simplicity what he wanted to do to her.

  “It would be wrong!” she whispered.

  “Why?”

  She shook her head.

  She should have been horrified; she should have stood up, slapped him and walked away.

  Except that she was tempted. And his words were both soothing to her wounded ego and…exciting.

  Exciting as…fantasy? she asked herself. Or reality?

  She wasn’t sure.

  “I…I…can’t…” she whispered.

  “You’re not ready. And you don’t believe that I love you. And that I need—no I crave—to be loved by you in return. You don’t take me seriously. You can’t imagine how much I’ll love your children, how good I’ll be—how I can share being the caregiver.”

  “I…”

  “You need time. I’ll be waiting.”

  He rose and moved away.

  He was great. So charming. So handsome. So many women were quick to crowd around him….

  And she might not have this chance forever!

  But still…

  Kaila hugged her knees close to herself. She’d been married a long time. She didn’t really know any other man, and she was afraid. Surely, as mad as she was at him, she loved Dan.

  Didn’t she?

  Or was he just a habit in her life?

  She leaned her head down, feeling dizzy. Too many piña coladas. She should be happy. On paper, her life looked perfect. They were financially secure, and they did have three happy, healthy, beautiful children. What kind of a horrible human being was she to be so miserable?

  She didn’t know.

  She just didn’t know….

  Jassy stepped from the house onto the patio. The guests were beginning to leave. The night was growing quiet.

  She walked around the pool and toward the dock, staring out at the water. The night was beautiful. She felt wonderful.

  Arms suddenly slipped around her. She would have cried out from surprise, except that a hand quickly covered her mouth and a husky voice whispered, “Shh…”

  Her heart pounded furiously.

  The hand slipped from her mouth; the arms holding her eased.

  She spun within his now gentle embrace and kissed her new lover. The kiss deepened. His hands wandered, cupping her breasts. Tongues met and mingled. At length, Jassy drew back, groaning softly.

  “Not here, not now!” she whispered breathlessly.

  Her lover sighed. “I don’t know why we can’t just—”

  “It’s too soon. I want to be taken seriously.”

  He smoothed his fingers along a straying strand of her hair. “We need to go somewhere,” he said, kissing her again.

  She barely broke her lips from his.

  “Can’t.”

  “Have to,” he whispered against her mouth.

  “Can’t,” she repeated, her mouth against his again.

  “We need to be together.”

  She broke the kiss at last with a sigh. “I can’t leave here tonight. You know that. Not without a lot of explanations.”

  “You’re a doctor—have an emergency.”

  “I’m a pathologist. Dead people don’t have emergencies.”

  “Ah, come on. Sure they do….”

  “Other people are on duty.”

  He caught her hand and drew it down the length of his chest, then lower, pressing her fingers against the bulge beneath the button fly of his jeans. “See what you’re missing?”

  “A waste,” she agreed sadly.

  He smiled and kissed her cheek. “Fine. Miss you. Love you. Monday will be an eternity.”

  “Monday,” she agreed softly.

  They exchanged one more hot, sloppy kiss, and he slipped away in the shadows. Jassy watched as he greeted someone on the porch. She felt good. Great. God, being in love was wonderful!

  He was in agony, absolute agony.

  It was dark. Late. Very late. His room was dark and oddly misted. He was bone-weary, but he couldn’t sleep. Because of her.

  The whole thing was ridiculous. How could you see someone after so many years and want them so badly that it was a physical thing, an ache that couldn’t be controlled?

  Then there was the way she looked at him.

  Angrily. As if she wanted to kill him.

  Then…

  With something else. With a strange blue glitter in the wide depths of her amazing eyes.

  He stood up, restlessly pacing the room, like a tiger on the prowl. All he had to do was walk down the hall. She was there. Just walk down the hall. Wake her up. Wrench her out of bed for a showdown. Look, we both want this, let’s do it, get it over with, get on with our lives….

  He was moving. Quietly opening and closing his door, entering the hallway. He was wearing a white terry robe, nothing more. Didn’t matter. The house was quiet. It was deep night; he knew in his heart that nothing, no one, was going to stop him.

  He threw open the door to her room.

  A soft night-light threw its yellow-red luminescence over her. She was lying back on her pillows in a black silk gown, her hair a cloak of fire. She saw him, and she didn’t say a word. She just slipped gracefully from the bed, staring at him all the while. She walked toward him, nearly reached him. She slid the black silk gown from her shoulders and stood in naked glory before him, breasts full and firm, pubic triangle the same deep flame red as her hair.

  She reached out. He let the terry robe fall. Her fingers scraped down his chest. Down…so close…

  Her whisper was right against his lips. The soft fall of her hair teased his flesh.

  “Look, we both want this. Let’s do it, get it over with, and get on with our lives….”

  “Yes…”

  He lifted her by the waist, walked her back to the bed, set her down, caught her legs, spread them, dragged her back to him. No time for play. Oh, God. He…

  Woke up.

  Shaking, sweating bullets, Kyle jerked himself from the dream. For a moment it was hard to convince himself that he’d imagined his every step.

  But he had.

  He was sitting in the guest room. Drenched. Worse.

  He groaned aloud, gritted his teeth and threaded his fingers through his hair, pressing tightly against his temples. Damn.

  This wasn’t working.

  Kyle slept late.

  He went to the ten-o’clock mass, having heard that Madison and the girls had gone to the eight o’clock. They hadn’t returned.

  He grabbed coffee at a doughnut stand and walked the streets of Key West, watching as the early “Conch Train,” full of tourists, explored the city’s attractions.

  Finally, around noon, he wandered back to the house.

  Madison had already started back for Miami with Carrie Anne. Jassy and Kaila had started back with her, so that Madison and Jassy could stop with Kaila for a few rest breaks along the way and help out with the kids.

  Kyle spent the afternoon fishing with Jordan, his father, Rafe and Trent. It was a good-ol’-guys kind of afternoon. They caught plenty of snapper, kingfish and brightly colored dolphinfish, and polished off several six-packs of beer. They fried the fish back at the house, and Kyle slept for several hours.

  Then he, too, headed for Miami.

  Monday morning was coming.

  And along with it…

  Body parts.

  6

  “I’m not sure I’m going to be very helpful,” Madison told Jimmy Gates. As planned, he’d picked her up on Monday morning. However, she hadn’t known that they were going to the morgue. She’d never gone with him to the morgue; he’d always taken her to crime scenes.

  Of course, it wasn
t that she never came to the medical examiner’s office. And that wasn’t because she had taken to visiting the dead, but because Jassy worked here.

  Still, Madison didn’t often walk down these corridors. She met her sister in her office when they were going to go to lunch.

  Jimmy glanced at Madison, and she gazed back at him. He had just celebrated his thirty-seventh birthday, and he still looked like a kid, with his continually tousled reddish hair, freckles and warm brown eyes. But those looks were deceptive. He could be relentless, ruthless, tough as nails, when it came to hunting down a killer. Luckily, his looks had kept him out of a trouble a few times when he sidestepped the law to get the information he wanted.

  “Bear with me, Madison, huh? I just have a hunch on this one.”

  “Okay.”

  A morgue, despite the best efforts of the cleaning crews, smelled like a morgue. Looking at tile, stainless steel and glass, Madison felt a chilling sensation.

  Creepy, Carrie Anne would have called it.

  Jimmy pushed open a door and they were in a fairly large room. An autopsy room, Madison thought. There were stainless-steel gurneys set beneath microphones. In a far corner, a group of four, covered in hospital greens, were working over the naked body of a man. To the side, their backs to her, a couple of suits—plainclothes cops?—were watching and listening as a man’s voice droned into the microphone with the details of death.

  Death. So damned impersonal. Stripping the last vestiges of dignity from the human soul.

  “Madison.” Jimmy tapped her on the shoulder. He was speaking in a soft whisper. “Here. Right here.”

  He led her through a doorway into a side room, turning her around. There was a lump on one of the antiseptic stainless-steel tables, covered with a green sheet. A mousy-looking female pathology assistant, apparently impatient with her work, stood by the lump. Jimmy stared at Madison.

  She looked from him to the lump, feeling a chilling, trembling sensation sweep over her.

  Jimmy’s hunch had been right. She could already feel something. Something she didn’t want to feel…but she was going to be able to see something.

  Oh, God.

  But perhaps she could help.

  But she didn’t like this. She didn’t like this at all.

  “Uh…uh, brace yourself,” he warned Madison, and nodded to the pathology assistant.

  The woman pulled the sheet back. Madison’s first instinct was to be sick. Violently sick. The lump was a head. Set up at an angle, but obviously gnawed at the neck. The eyes had been eaten away. The flesh was so pasty that it might not have been real; it should have come out of some special-effects studio.

  A sound escaped Madison; she gripped her stomach and closed her eyes, afraid that she going to pass out. Her knees were buckling; she was going to fall….

  She suddenly felt rough arms around her, holding her up. To her astonishment, she heard Kyle Montgomery’s voice.

  “Jimmy, what the hell’s the matter with you, bringing her in here to see something like that?” He was furious.

  “Oh, come on, Kyle! She might be able to help.”

  “Jimmy, Jesus Christ!” Kyle was still holding her, supporting her.

  “Kyle, damn it, this is Madison, not some squeamish little kid. Her sister is one of the leading forensic scientists here. She knows what blood looks like. It’s not like I’m going to shock her or anything.”

  “Damn you, Jimmy, that head shocked me, and I promise you, I’ve seen some of the worst.”

  Madison didn’t want them fighting, and she didn’t want to stare at the head.

  But she stood, stiffening her spine to steel, determined to be strong enough to stand without Kyle’s help—despite the fact that she had to stare at the heart-wrenching sight before her.

  She couldn’t help herself, because a chilling sensation had settled over her, and though she was staring, the sight of the head was fading; she wasn’t seeing what was in front of her. She was seeing a pretty, vivacious redhead. She wasn’t sure if it was the same woman she had seen before, but if not, she was similar in height and build, and she had the same beautiful, streaming hair. She was laughing as she opened a car door and slipped into the driver’s seat. Someone was with her. They were driving…on the highway. Then they were on another road. There was an occasional huge bird’s nest up on a telephone pole on one side of the road. There was water on both sides, as well….

  They passed a sign. Lake Surprise. She knew the exact spot they were driving by; it was on U.S. 1, on the way to Key Largo.

  “The Keys,” she said suddenly.

  “What?” Kyle said.

  “The Keys,” she repeated, still staring at the head.

  “Will you please cover that up?” Kyle demanded of the mousy little pathologist.

  The woman started to oblige.

  “Wait a minute,” Jimmy protested. “Madison is getting something, she’s seeing things.”

  The sheet came back up.

  “She isn’t seeing anything else!” Kyle snapped. Which was true, but how he could possibly know, Madison had no idea.

  “I’m all right!” Madison lied. She was going to be strong. She was determined.

  Like Jassy. Madison wasn’t going to fall apart like a fragile female so she had to be held up by the strong male. Kyle.

  “I’m all right,” she repeated, and it sounded much better.

  It didn’t matter.

  Kyle led her out of the room and back into the corridor. Jimmy followed irritably behind, but Kyle didn’t stop until they had left the corridor of death and come to an employees’ lounge. It was empty except for a tattered sofa, which Kyle forced her down on.

  He ran his fingers through his dark hair. “Madison, you’re as white as a sheet. Are you sure you’re all right?”

  She nodded.

  “Of course she’s all right,” Jimmy said impatiently. “Right, Madison?”

  She wasn’t, of course. She was shaky, damned shaky. But she didn’t want Kyle to know that fact.

  “I’m fine. Perfectly fine,” she said, staring at Kyle. “I don’t need a big brother looking out for me.” She lowered her head quickly. She was doing it again. Lashing out. Acting like a two-year-old, when what she wanted to be was aloof and remote and dignified.

  “Madison,” Kyle said impatiently, “even the pathologists cringe at some sights. Cops who think they’ve seen everything see something else and get weak knees and throw up all over. You don’t have to be the damned Rock of Gibraltar.”

  She shook her head slightly. “I really am all right.”

  “What did you see, Madison?” Jimmy demanded impatiently.

  Again, she hesitated. She could have killed Jimmy. This wasn’t playing fair. He’d asked for her help. He hadn’t told her that Kyle might be involved. She didn’t want Kyle here. She didn’t want him seeing her in action and thinking, as he had thought when his wife died, that she was some kind of a…

  Freak.

  “Madison? Please, Madison, for the love of God, this is a bad one, a real bad one. We think it’s part of the case we asked for Kyle’s help on.”

  Her head jerked up, and she stared at Kyle.

  “I didn’t want her involved in this, Jimmy,” Kyle said.

  “It isn’t your call,” Madison informed him, but she could tell by the way he was looking at Jimmy that it wasn’t going to end there. Maybe it was Kyle’s call. He was FBI, and Jimmy was a local cop. She frowned, watching him. “I—I didn’t even see you when we first came in.”

  “I was watching the autopsy in process.”

  He’d been one of the suits. Of course.

  “Madison…” Jimmy said, pressuring her.

  “Jimmy, she shouldn’t be involved.”

  “Kyle, I am involved.” She looked at Jimmy. “I can see the woman right before she died. She got into a car with someone.”

  “Whose car?” Jimmy asked.

  “Her own—I think. She was driving. Someone was in the pass
enger seat. She was smiling and laughing, ready for a longish drive. She was excited, as if she was getting ready to go away for the weekend with someone she was comfortable with, with…”

  “A friend?” Kyle suggested.

  She shook her head, looking at him, wondering why she felt such a flush creeping to her cheeks.

  “A lover. A new lover. She was excited, breathless, happy. Maybe she thought she was heading out for her first real time with this man.”

  “Can you see the man?” Jimmy asked.

  “Is it definitely a man?” Kyle inquired.

  Madison shook her head, then stared at Kyle for a moment. “I thought you knew it was a man?”

  “My mind is always open.”

  Like hell, she thought. She turned back to Jimmy. “I’m really sorry, Jimmy. I assume it was a man. But I really can’t say. All I saw was her….” She paused, then drew a deep, shaky breath. “She was very pretty, so vivacious, full of life. She smiled, she got in with someone, and she started to drive. To the Keys. I’m certain.”

  “Why are you so certain?”

  “I saw a few cormorant nests up high in the telephone poles. And then I saw the sign for Lake Surprise.”

  Kyle and Jimmy glanced at one another.

  “Where from there?”

  Madison shook her head.

  “Okay, where did she wind up?” Jimmy asked.

  “In the sea,” Kyle said wearily. “I’m willing to bet that head goes with the severed arm.”

  Jimmy shot Kyle a quick glance, frowning. “Monroe hasn’t gotten us the arm yet. But that isn’t what I meant. Where did they go when they got to the Keys?”

  “I don’t know, Jimmy.”

  “Do you feel that you know for sure that the man in the car with her was the one who murdered her?” Kyle asked, his green eyes sharp on her.

  “No, I…I don’t know,” Madison said, feeling somewhat confused herself.

  “Madison, come on, can you give me anything else?”

  Once again she paused and looked at Kyle. “You think that the arm and the head are from the same person? Why do you think that?”

  “No real reason. A hunch.” He shrugged. “Okay, so it’s Miami. We still don’t usually come up with too many body parts that aren’t somehow related.”

 

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