Chapter no 18

A Flicker in the Dark

It’s still raining when I wake up, the kind of slow, lazy rain that threatens to pull you back to sleep. I lie in the dark, feeling the warmth of Daniel beside me, his bare skin pressed against mine. His breath rhythmic and slow. I listen to the drizzle outside, to the low rumbles of thunder. I close my eyes and imagine Lacey, her body half buried in the mud somewhere, the rain washing away any traces of evidence that might have been left behind.

It’s Saturday morning. One week from the discovery of Aubrey’s body. Five days since the news of Lacey’s disappearance and my face-to-face meeting with Aaron Jansen.

“What makes you think this is the work of a copycat?” I had asked, hunched over my cold coffee. “We hardly know anything about these cases at this point.”

“The location, the timing. Two fifteen-year-old girls who fit the profile of your father’s victims show up missing and dead weeks before the twentieth anniversary of Lena Rhodes’s disappearance. Not only that, but they happen in Baton Rouge—the city where Dick Davis’s family now lives.”

“Okay, but there are differences, too. They never found the bodies of my dad’s victims.”

“Right,” Aaron said. “But I think this copycat wants the bodies to be discovered. He wants credit for his work. He dumped Aubrey in a cemetery, in her last known location. It was just a matter of time before she was found.”

“Yeah, but that’s what I’m saying. That doesn’t sound like he’s copying my dad. It sounds like he selected Aubrey at random, killed her on the spot, and left her body there in a hurry. This wasn’t a calculated crime.”

“Or the spot where he dumped her has some sort of significance. It holds special meaning. Maybe there are clues on her body that he wanted to be found.”

“Cypress Cemetery does not hold any special meaning to my dad,” I said, getting agitated. “The timing of her murder, it’s just a coincidence—”

“So, it’s also just a coincidence that Lacey was snatched next, minutes after walking out of your office?”

I hesitated.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if you’ve seen this guy around before, Chloe. Copycats—they copy for a reason. Maybe they revere the guy they’re trying to emulate or maybe they revile him, but either way, they copy their style. Their victims. They try to become the killer that came before them, maybe even beat them at their own game.”

I raised my eyebrows, took another sip of my coffee.

“Copycats murder because they’re obsessed with another murderer,” Aaron continued, placing his arms on the table and leaning in. “They know everything about them—which means that this person could very well know you. He could be watching you. He could have seen Lacey walking out of your office. I’m just asking you to trust your gut here. Pay attention to what’s going on, and listen to your instincts.”

I thought back to Cypress Cemetery, to the feeling of eyes on my back as I walked to my car and drove to my office. I shifted in my chair, growing more uncomfortable by the minute. Talk of my dad always left me feeling guilt-ridden, but I could never tell where the guilt was supposed to be aimed. Did I feel guilty for betraying him, for being the sole finger pointed in his direction and locking him in a cage for the rest of his days? Or did I feel guilty for sharing his blood, his DNA, his last name? So many times, when talk of my father came up, I felt the overwhelming need to apologize. I wanted to apologize to Aaron, to Lena’s parents, to the town of Breaux Bridge. I wanted to apologize to everyone for simply existing. There would be so much less pain in the world if Richard Davis had never been born.

But he was, and because of that, so was I.

I feel a movement next to me and glance over toward Daniel, lying awake and staring in my direction. He’s watching me, watching my eyes flicker across the ceiling as I replay that conversation with Aaron in my mind.

“Good morning.” He sighs, his voice thick with sleep, as he wraps his arms around me and pulls me closer. His skin is warm, safe. “What are you thinking about?”

“Nothing,” I say, moving deeper into his arms. I brush against his hips and smile, the bulge in his boxers rubbing against my leg. I twist around so I’m facing him before gripping my legs tightly around his hips, and soon we begin to make love in mutual, somnolent silence. Our bodies are pressed together, slightly damp with early morning sweat, and he kisses me hard, his tongue down my throat, his teeth on my lip. His hands start to snake across my body, up my legs and across my stomach, before passing my chest and working their way toward my throat.

I continue kissing him, trying to ignore the feeling of his hands around my neck. Waiting for him to move them somewhere else, anywhere else. But he doesn’t. He keeps going, his hands still resting there as he pumps harder and harder, faster and faster. He starts to squeeze, and I let out a scream before shooting backward, moving as far away from him as I can.

“What?” he asks, sitting up. He’s staring at me with a startled look. “Did I hurt you?”

“No,” I say, my heart pounding in my chest. “No, you didn’t. It’s just that—”

I look at him, at the confused look on his face. At the concern in his eyes over causing me pain, the hurt he must feel at the prospect of me physically recoiling from his touch, his fingers like matches, leaving burn marks on my skin. But then I think about the way he kissed me last night, in the kitchen. The way he felt the pulse beneath my jaw with his fingers, the way he grabbed my neck gently yet firmly.

I lean my head back onto my pillow and sigh.

“I’m sorry,” I say, pinching my eyes shut. I need to get out of my head. “I’m just wound kind of tight right now. I’m jumpy, for some reason.”

“It’s okay,” he says, folding his arm around my waist. I know I’ve ruined the moment—his arousal is gone, and mine is, too—but he holds me anyway. “There’s a lot going on right now.”

I know he knows I’m thinking about Aubrey and Lacey, but neither of us mentions it. We lie in silence for a while, listening to the rain. Just as I

think he might have fallen back asleep, his voice breaks into a whisper. “Chloe?” he asks.


“Is there anything you want to tell me?”

I’m quiet, my outstretched silence telling him all he needs to know.

“You can talk to me,” he says. “About anything. I’m your fiancé.

That’s what I’m here for.”

“I know,” I say. And I believe him. After all, I’ve told Daniel all about my father, my past. But it’s one thing to recount memories with detachment, relaying them as simple facts that happened and nothing more. It’s another thing completely to relive them in his presence. To see the face of my dad in every darkened corner, to hear the words of my mother echoed in the voices of others. And it’s even worse because this has happened before—this feeling of déjà vu. I’ll never forget the look on Cooper’s face as he stared at me that day, years ago, as I tried to explain myself, explain my reasoning. The look of concern intermixed with genuine fear.

“I’m fine,” I say. “Really, I am. It’s just a lot all at once. Those girls disappearing, my dad’s anniversary coming up—”

My phone vibrates violently across my bedside table, the light from the screen partially illuminating our still-dark bedroom. I lean on my elbow and squint at the unknown number trying to reach me.

“Who’s that?”

“I’m not sure,” I say. “It shouldn’t be for work, this early on a Saturday morning.”

“Go ahead and answer it,” he says, rolling over. “You never know.”

I pick up my phone and let it vibrate in my hand before swiping the screen and lifting it to my ear. I clear my throat before answering.

“This is Doctor Davis.”

“Hi, Doctor Davis, this is Detective Michael Thomas. We met at your office on Monday regarding the disappearance of Lacey Deckler.”

“Yes,” I say, glancing in Daniel’s direction. He’s on his phone now, scrolling through emails. “I remember. How can I help you?”

“Lacey’s body was found early this morning in the alleyway behind your office. I’m sorry to have to tell you this over the phone.”

I gasp, my hand instinctively moving to my mouth. Daniel looks at me, lowers his phone. I shake my head silently as tears begin to well in my eyes.

“We need you to come down to the morgue this morning. Take a look at the body.”

“I, um…” I hesitate, unsure if I heard him correctly. “I’m sorry, Detective, I’ve only met Lacey once. Surely you’ll want her mother to come identify her instead? I barely know her—”

“She’s been identified,” he says. “But since she was found right outside your office, and the last place her mother saw her was dropping her off there, it’s safe to assume at this point that you were the last person to see her alive. We’d like you to take a look at her and tell us if anything seems different than it did when you saw her for your appointment. If anything looks out of place.”

I exhale, moving my hand from my mouth to my forehead. The room seems to be getting hotter, the rain outside louder.

“I really don’t know how much help I can be. We were together for one hour. I barely remember what she was wearing.”

“Everything helps,” he says. “Maybe the sight of her will jog your memory. The earlier you can get here, the better.”

I nod, agreeing, before hanging up the phone and sinking back into


“Lacey’s dead,” I say, not as much to Daniel as admitting it to myself.

“They found her outside my office. She was killed right outside my office. I was probably still upstairs.”

“I already know where you’re going with this,” he says, leaning against the headboard. His hand finds mine in the sheets, and our fingers intertwine. “There’s nothing you could have done, Chloe. Nothing. You would have had no way of knowing.”

I think back to my father, that shovel slouched over one arm. An inky outline making his way through our backyard, slowly. Like he had all the time in the world. Me, upstairs, curled up on my bench with that little reading light, peering through a window. Present for the entire thing, yet completely unaware of what I was witnessing.

I’m sorry I didn’t say anything sooner. I … I didn’t know …

Had Lacey told me something that could have saved her life? Had I seen someone that day that looked suspicious, someone lingering around the office, but failed to notice? Just like before?

Aaron’s words echo through my mind.

This person could very well know you. He could be watching you.

“I should go,” I say, releasing Daniel’s hand before swinging my legs out of bed. I feel exposed sliding out of the sheets, my nakedness no longer the powerful, intimate thing it was just minutes before. Now it reeks of vulnerability, of shame. I feel Daniel’s eyes watching me as I walk across the bedroom and into the bathroom, moving quickly in the dark before closing the door behind me.

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