The Summer Children (The Collector #3)(5)

“Why you?”

“I really hope we find out, because I haven’t a clue.”

“Technically we don’t have authority to see his file, but I’ll ask Holmes once the kid is settled. Maybe something in his history will jump out.” He crouches down to tie his shoes properly. “My couch is open, by the way.”


Despite the hour, sweat beads along his hairline. The sight makes me unpleasantly aware of how my dress is clinging damply to my back. Summer in Virginia. He gives me a lopsided smile and shifts position to tie the second shoe. “You’re not going to be able to stay here, and Siobhan does not look in the mood to have you trail into her place at some obscene hour of the morning.”

This is true. “Thanks,” I sigh. “As long as one of the officers precedes me inside, I should be able to grab some fresh clothing and such, rather than break into a go bag.”

“Lo que quieras.”

On the porch, one of the paramedics unfolds a crinkly silver blanket and tucks it gently around Ronnie. They must be getting ready to move him. Holmes is on her phone, listening more than talking, it looks like; her face doesn’t give away much. She has a kid around Ronnie’s age, if I remember correctly. After she hangs up, she says something to the officer and heads down the steps to join us.

“Social Services is going to meet us at the hospital,” she informs us. “Agent Ramirez, they’re asking that you not be there, at least at first. They want to see if your absence will help him remember anything else the killer might have said about you.”

“His parents are definitely dead, then?”

She glances down at her phone and whistles. “Oh, yeah. Detective Mignone is in charge of the scene. He says if you two want to check it out, he’ll get your names down.”

“Really?” asks Eddison, and he sounds more doubtful than he probably intended.

“We all know that this isn’t a Bureau case, but it could well become one. Piss jurisdictions, I’d rather keep you up to date before it’s an issue.”

“Appreciate it.”

“Agent Ryan can head on home.” I’d forgotten about Siobhan for a minute. “We may call with more questions at some point, but there’s no reason to keep her here. Agent Ramirez, do you need anything from inside before we put the tape up?”

My stomach sinks at the mention of the tape. Obviously I was never going to be able to keep it entirely from my neighbors, but the tape is going to make it a bit conspicuous. “Please,” I answer. I nod encouragingly at Ronnie as the paramedics and officer walk him past, the smaller paramedic keeping one hand flat against the boy’s shoulder.

Ronnie twists around to look at me, his eyes wide and wounded.

“He’s going to be okay,” Holmes says softly.

Eddison snorts. “For certain definitions of okay.”

This isn’t something you can go through without scars, deep and always a little raw. No matter how Ronnie ultimately stitches himself back together, he’ll see the seams, and so will anyone else who knows those scars on their own soul.

“I’ll let you give the news to Agent Ryan.”

I pull my keys from my purse and waggle them at Eddison. “I’m going to let her take my car, if she feels okay to drive. Hers is in the garage at work, so getting it back won’t be a problem.”

“Buena suerte.”

When I head down to the end of the drive, Siobhan has shifted from shocked to spitting mad, pacing in tight circles with her hair bouncing around her. She looks glorious, and I am not about to tell her that. “The detective says you’re free to go. Are you okay to drive or do you want me to drop you off?”

“Is this one of your cases?” she asks instead of answering. “Did it follow you home?”

“We don’t know what this is. As far as we know he’s not connected to any cases we’ve worked on or been asked to consult on. We’ll dig in today to find out for sure.”

“He was brought to your house, Mercedes! He was given your name!”

“I know.”

“Then why are you so fucking calm?” she hisses.

I’m not, but then, there aren’t many who would realize that. I can’t really blame her for not being one of them. My hands aren’t shaking, my voice is even, but there’s a frisson of electricity arcing through me that makes everything seem like it’s going a million miles an hour. “I’ve seen worse,” I say eventually.

Which might have been the wrong answer. She snatches the keys from my hand, gouging my palm. “I’ll text you the garage level in the morning.” She stalks up to the car, not even seeming to notice when Eddison opens the passenger door to put her bag inside. I step back onto the grass about two seconds ahead of her slamming the gas and nearly backing over me.

“So that went well,” Eddison notes.

“Asshole,” I mutter.

“Whatever you say, mija. Go on, get your gear. I’ll text Vic.”

The officer who had been with Siobhan accompanies me inside. It’s bizarre; there’s absolutely no sign that whoever dropped off Ronnie made any attempt to enter the house. I grab a bag and shove in clothes and toiletries, as well as one of the books of logic puzzles I keep beside the bed. There’s a choked sound from the officer standing in the bedroom doorway.

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