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Chapter 14

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Photo illustration by Samuel Hoffman, The Journal Gazette

Chapter 14

Stevie sat in Craig's office cradling a cup of coffee. She couldn't believe this was happening. What if someone dies because of me? She could feel tears sliding down her face.

The police had taken her phone and were trying to trace the call. The killer had always called the newsroom. Now he was calling Stevie. How did he get my number?

Worse yet, Stevie now knew someone was watching her. How would the killer know she had found the purse? The paper carrying her story hadn't been published yet, and she hadn't talked to any other media. No, the killer was definitely nearby.

Although the killer didn't say when he would kill, police were dispatched that night to parks within the city. "According to our FBI profiler, it's unlikely he will bring another body to the same parks," Stevie overheard an officer telling Craig, "but just to be safe we are covering all the parks."

"FBI?" Stevie said to the detective.

"Yes. They became involved when we found out the women were being brought across state lines. We don't know when or where they died, so we are going for kidnapping. However, the serial murder charge will be much greater once we catch this guy."

Stevie felt like she was going to be sick. What if he isn't caught?

Craig sat down beside Stevie. "Stevie, I don't think you should be alone tonight. Do you have someone you can stay with tonight?"

Stevie thought about Margie, but the only person she really wanted to be with at that moment was Jason.

It was beginning to rain when Stevie got to Jason's studio. She knocked on the door. She wasn't sure whether Jason was home or even still up. It was really late.

To Stevie's surprise, it only took a few minutes before Jason opened the door. "I wasn't sure you'd still be up."

"I told you I would be," Jason said. "I don't sleep very much, especially lately."

Stevie stepped inside the studio. She passed by the photo of the half-naked woman as Jason led her past the front counter to the back. She felt a twinge of envy as she thought about what that photo session must have been like. Jason's words brought her back.

"It's not much but it allows me to do my work."

He cleared books and papers off a sofa and Stevie sat down. Jason sat on the other end of the sofa. The two of them didn't speak for a few minutes.

The rain was coming down harder outside. Stevie could hear it hitting the windowpanes and clinking on something metal outside.

"Would you like something to drink?" Jason asked.

Stevie got up and walked to the window, watching the raindrops form small streams of water on the window. "Maybe this was a bad idea, me coming here. I should leave."

She didn't move. Her head was telling her to go, but her heart was saying stay.

Jason got up and walked to where she was standing. He put his hands on her arms and slowly, but gently ran his fingers down her skin.

"I heard what happened."

Stevie turned to look at him, tears beginning to pool in her eyes.

"I think it's the best thing that you came here. You can't go home. So why don't you stay with me."

Jason pulled Stevie closer. She laid her head on his chest.

"I couldn't think of anywhere else I wanted to be," she said.

"I'm glad," Jason said, lifting her face to his, "because if you weren't here I wouldn't be able to do this."

His soft lips caressed hers. His arms wrapped around her body, his hand supporting her back.

She again felt relief wash over her now that she was in Jason's presence. She felt so safe in his arms. She didn't want the night to end.

"Jason, I'm scared."

"I'll never let anything happen to you," Jason said.

"That's a mighty big promise. It appears I have been getting myself into a lot of trouble here lately. I might need a lot of watching out for."

Jason smiled. "I don't think I'll have any problems watching out for you, especially if it leads to nights like this."

By Terri Richardson, assistant managing editor for features.