said, “I can’t say for sure, son.”
“Just think back. Take your time. Did you see the delivery person? Did you see what kind of packages they were carrying?”
Polyester pants shook his head, but his soft-spoken friend said, “I didn’t see the delivery man, but it must have been a big package, now that you mention it.”
“Why do you say that?”
“They usually park out by the curb, walk the parcels up to the door, and ring the bell. But today the truck backed into a driveway like they were delivering a big icebox or stove or something.”
“At the Dunham house?”
“I couldn’t say for sure.”
“And you didn’t see the driver?”
“No, sorry. Everybody has stuff delivered nowadays. Nobody goes to the store to interact with their neighbors like they used to. You see those damn trucks everywhere. They blend right in.”
Kaleb suppressed a grin—that would be exactly why the killer would choose to drive one. “Yes, they do. Thanks for your help, gentlemen.”
“Anytime, kid,” polyester pants said as he sipped his can of Pabst beer as though it were a fine wine.
Kaleb trotted across the street, excitement quickening his pace. He couldn’t wait to tell the lead detective and the FBI agents what he had learned. This could be the best real lead they had uncovered. Before entering the house, as an afterthought, he pulled out his phone and sent a text message to the governor’s rep, Garrison. That way no one could say that he had neglected to keep them in the loop.
The old house creaked and groaned as the autumn wind pounded against its wooden siding. The air was cold and smelled of bleach and varnish. Thomas White checked the vitals and fluids connected to the mother and her son. They rested on two old gurneys, the kind used in earlier twentieth-century mental institutions. Bags of chemicals hung from hooks, and the liquids ran into their arms through intravenous needles. White had put them into chemically-induced comas, just as he had the others. If the patriarch of their family chose to kill in their name, they would be released with little memory of the encounter. If the father failed, he would wake them from their drugged stupor just in time to see death coming.
They had set up shop in the old home’s parlor, which White found humorous—the room was still being used to entertain guests. He moved to the son’s side and stroked the boy’s face. The young man’s face would make a nice addition to his collection, if it came to that. Looking at the boy, he couldn’t help but think of his own son—his only son—Marcus.
He had first noticed Marcus during a national news broadcast out of Colorado. Thomas had set up a Google alert to notify him of any news stories or pages mentioning the term Francis Ackerman . One article that popped up described a fire at a hospital in Colorado Springs. He had watched the video of the broadcast online and saw a man being taken from the scene who looked eerily like himself—minus thirty years, fifty pounds, and the balding head. Under normal circumstances, he would have dismissed this as a coincidence, but in a story that involved the name Ackerman, there had to be a connection.
His research into the young man from the broadcast yielded wonderful results. He learned all he could about Marcus Williams, things that even Marcus himself didn’t know. His heart had ached to find his true son for years, and now he had. That information, coupled with the loss of the only woman he had loved since Marcus’s mother, had forced Thomas to consider his legacy and what he would leave behind for the world. He didn’t want to be merely a footnote to the exploits of the monster that shared his name. And his plans were coming together nicely.
Returning to the mother’s side, he leaned down and kissed her cheek. “I’ve been doing this for a long time, Mrs. Dunham. I know people. I know them better than they know themselves. Your husband is going to