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Chapter 15

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Chapter 15

Jason and Stevie stayed up the entire night talking.

It was early the next morning when Jason's cell phone rang. He looked at the number and quickly excused himself. Stevie noticed that his face turned serious as he stepped into his bedroom, shutting the door.

Stevie decided to take the opportunity to call into work and find out whether anything had happened last night.

She was told that according to police no one was killed last night. Or, at least as far as the police knew. The killer never called back.

Stevie was relieved. But it still didn't change the fact that there was a killer out there and now he was paying attention to Stevie.

"It looks like the killer took a break last night," Stevie said as Jason walked back into the room.

"Yeah, I know."

"You know? How? I just called into work."

Jason ran his fingers through his hair. "Well, I mean I guessed that was the case since no one called you sooner."

Stevie looked at Jason. He was acting a little strange since taking the call.

"That's good news, right?" he said.

"Yeah. It is," she said.

It took quite a bit of fast talking to convince Jason that she needed to go back to her apartment to shower and change. He reluctantly let her go home, only after she promised he could come over to check on her in a few hours.

Because the police took her phone, Stevie had to borrow a company cell phone. She gave Jason her temporary number and headed back to her apartment.

After she showered, Stevie realized she hadn't heard back from her police friend. She decided to call him, thinking he may have tried to call her other number. He didn't answer so she left a message.

She sat down on the couch. It had been such a long night, but now she was crashing. Before she knew it, she had fallen asleep. She woke an hour later to the sound of her phone.

"Stevie. Where have you been? I've been trying to call you," her friend said with an urgent tone.

Stevie explained about her phone. "What's the matter? You sound like something bad has happened."

"I'm not supposed to be telling you this, but I thought you should know. I could get fired if he knew I told you."

"If who knew?" Stevie asked.

"That doesn't matter," he said. "Your cat lady, she was found dead last night."

Stevie gasped. "How?"

"It appears she was strangled. She was found stuffed in her baby buggy in Swinney Park. Look, they're not releasing this to anyone. I don't think it was a coincidence you found that purse. Stevie, everything appears to be connected. You're connected."

"What do you mean?" Stevie was beginning to get scared.

"From what I've been able to find out all the girls match your profile. Think about it. They all have long brown hair. They all work late-night jobs. Stevie, they're all being killed on the nights you work. The killer is calling your workplace."

"Omigosh. What is going on?"

"I'm not sure. But the person I got this information from is in the know. He heard it from the FBI profiler himself. It sounds like they may know who the killer is."

"But I didn't think they had any evidence, other than the purse."

"That's not true. They found some sort of chemical on all the bodies. It's a kind of chemical that's used to develop photos. Photographers usually have this stuff."

Stevie's mind began to race. Photographers? It can't be.

It was beginning to make sense. How he was always at the scene. A dark-haired man around the apartment. Why he was so angry when she found the purse. Why he said he would always be watching her. How he knew there was no one murdered last night. It's Jason.

"Stevie, you're not safe."

It dawned on Stevie that Jason had said he would be coming over to check on her. It could be any moment. If he was the killer, she didn't want to be in the apartment alone. "I've got to go," she told her friend.

"Stevie, wait I ..."

She hung up the phone and ran to put on some clothes. She grabbed her stuff and hurried out the door. She was so focused on getting away from her apartment that she didn't see Crandall at the bottom of the stairs.

She nearly ran into him again. "Whoa. Where's the fire?"

"Oh, Crandall, you startled me. I wasn't expecting to see you."

"You look like you've seen a ghost."

Wait a minute. Crandall. Stevie knew that Jason would never think to look for her at Crandall's apartment. She felt bad using him this way, but it could buy her some time.

"I need to get away for a while. Can I come over to your place?"

Crandall straightened up and his face lit up. "It's him, isn't it? I told you he wasn't your type."

Stevie smiled weakly. Was this really what she wanted to do? If it would save her life, then yes.

By Terri Richardson, assistant managing editor for features.