Deadly Fate (Krewe of Hunters #19)(7)

She seemed to digest that for a minute and then breathed softly. “Really?”

He didn’t get off her, but he sat back carefully on his haunches to produce his credentials.

She looked at them.

He had a feeling, though, that in her mind it was the fact that she was still alive more than his identification that convinced her of the truth.

“Really,” he said.

She stared at him suspiciously—and stared at the documents again. “Thor?” she said.

“Yes, Thor. Thor Erikson.”

“It sounds made up.”

“It is made up. My parents—Heidi and Olaf Erikson—made it up when I was born!”

Again, she was silent for a minute, and then she said, “If that’s the truth, perhaps you wouldn’t mind getting off me? It’s very, very cold.”

He quickly rose and offered her a hand. She seemed to hesitate before accepting it, but then she did, trying to dust some of the snow off herself after she had risen. “Have you seen...?” she asked then.

“Miss...?” he began.

“Avery. Clara Avery,” she said. “Have you seen... Oh, God. The film crew—they’re all dead. Some at the Mansion...and”

“Miss Avery, I was just at the Mansion. I’m afraid that you’ve been misled because of a sick prank. The scene you discovered there was completely fabricated by set and scene designers for an episode of Gotcha.”

“No,” she murmured. She blinked, as if unable to assimilate that anyone could do such a thing as a prank.

Frankly, he couldn’t begin to understand it, either.

“Yes, Miss Avery. But, I’m sorry to say—”

“Even the—the body in the snow?”

He’d meant to tell her about Natalie Fontaine, but before he could do so, she had interrupted.

“What body in the snow?” he asked.

Her brows hiked up. “You didn’t see it?”

“No. I saw you—I tried to get you to stop, to listen to me.”

“You tackled me,” she muttered, and she seemed to be aggravated and angry—at the film people or him, he wasn’t sure, or maybe even herself—and apparently even more disgusted by the body in the snow.

“Where is this body?” he asked.

She pointed over a little rise of snow. “There,” she said.

It was probably more of the horror created by Wickedly Weird.

“A, two pieces,” she said.

He didn’t reply; he headed over the rise in the direction she had pointed.

Then he saw the drops of blood.

And then the dead woman.

A dead woman, in two pieces, as she had said.

He had witnessed pictures of a scene like this, too.

And then he knew what kicked in his memory.

The Black Dahlia.

This woman had been cut in two...and lain out just like the Black Dahlia. An unsolved murder; he had seen crime scene photos in one of the numerous classes he was always taking on criminology for the FBI.

He hoped against hope that this was another horror vignette by the Gotcha people.

But, as he neared the bisected body, and smelled the tinny scent of real blood, he knew that it was not.

He pulled out his radio and called back to the state police and Mike.

“We have another corpse,” he said quietly. “A real one.”


The city was filled with cell phones, PA systems, rapid response teams, computers, and all manner of tools and aids for investigation.

All of that was moot on Black Bear Island. Phones never seemed to work; the internet needed to be reconnected.

He had his walkie-talkie, and he had a corpse in the snow, and a woman standing so still she might have been a statue—except that she shook like blue blazes.

He shouldn’t leave the corpse; he really shouldn’t keep a witness standing there.

But there had to be something there that suggested how the killer had come and gone, what weapon or weapons he had used—and where the hell he was now. But there seemed to be nothing; just the victim, bisected, dead in the snow. Not enough blood for the young woman to have been murdered where she lay, so she must have been brought out here—and cut in half.

By what instrument? It wasn’t easy to do—unless you happened to know how to use a French headsman’s sword or a Japanese samurai sword, a machete or a chain saw. But a chain saw would have left little bits of flesh abounding around the body, like wood chips...

There were no prints in the snow. Nothing leading away from the disposal of the body. It looked as if the victim might have been teleported to where she lay.

It wouldn’t take Mike long to get there. Thor carefully skirted the body and hiked over the little rise. The snow there was already trodden and thrown—it was where he and the shaking blond had wound up in their ridiculous tussle.

His jaw still hurt. The woman knew how to throw a right hook.

“So horrible!” she whispered, as if to herself and not to him.

“You went to the Mansion?” he said.

She nodded jerkily. “I told you that I did—and what I saw!”

He didn’t know why—especially with his jaw still hurting—but he put his hands on her shoulders, causing her to actually look at him and heed his words. “And I told you. No one there is dead. Those are mannequins at the Mansion.”

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