Halfway to the Grave

Page 37

Bones didn't say anything. I waited, tapping my finger. "How is this related to Hennessey? You said you smelled him and other vampires there. Do you think somehow he found out who I was from the other night? That he wanted to finish what he'd started?"

"No." His response was instant. "She'd been coddling up to you all week, you said. If Hennessey had found out who you were, believe me, he wouldn't have been patient about things. He'd have come at you in force straightaway, the minute he knew your name. Snatched up you and anyone unlucky enough to be around you. That's why I asked you what you touched and then wiped her place down. Though I doubt you have prints on file, I want no trace of you left for him to follow."

"If not because of last weekend, then why would Stephanie be involved with him and try to kidnap me? It doesn't make any sense!"

He gave me a hooded look. "Let's sort this out inside. Gives me a chance to go through her things while we talk."

I followed him determinedly into the cave. No way was I letting him get away without telling me everything. Hennessey might have struck me as a typical scumbag, but there was obviously more to it than that. I wasn't leaving until I found out how much more.

Bones and I picked our way through the narrow entrance and back to where he'd made his living quarters in the high-domed part of the cave. He emptied the garbage bag's contents and I sat on the couch in front of him, watching as he opened Stephanie's laptop first.

"Have you ever heard of the Bennington Triangle?" he asked, powering up her computer.

I frowned. "No. I've heard of the Bermuda one."

His fingers flew over the keyboard. My, but they were limber. After a second, he let out a disgusted snort.

"Bloody girl didn't even bother to password her files. Just pure sodding arrogance, but that's in our favor. Look, there you are, Kitten. Under 'Potentials.' You should be flattered. You were first on her list."

I gaped over his shoulder and saw 'Cathy-redhead-twenty-two' with other names and similar short descriptions under it.

"Are you kidding me? Who are those other girls? Potential what?"

More blurring movement over the keys, and then he leaned back with a smile.

"Well, what have we here? Charlie, and Club Flame on Forty-second Street. Sounds like a contact. Here's hoping the twit was thick enough to write the actual name of the place and not just a code for it."


The sharpness in my voice made him set aside the laptop and meet my eyes.

"The Bennington Triangle refers to an area in Maine where several people disappeared back in the fifties. To this day, no trace of them has been found. Something similar took place in Mexico several years back. A friend of mine's daughter disappeared. Her remains were found a few months afterward in the desert, and when I say remains, I mean they only found pieces of her. She had to be identified by dental records. At the autopsy, it was discovered that she'd been alive for months before she was murdered, and when I investigated further, it turned out not to be at all uncommon."

"What do you mean?"

Bones leaned back. "Hundreds of women were murdered or went missing in Mexican border towns around that time. Today, there's still not a speck of any real idea who did it. Then, several years ago, a number of young girls started to go missing in and around the Great Lakes area. More recently, it became centered in Ohio. Most of them were presumed to be runaways, prostitutes, addicts, or just average, little-known girls who had vanished with no signs of foul play. Since most of them were in high-risk categories, there wasn't much of a media fuss. I think Hennessey's involved. It's why I came here. He was near all three places when the disappearances started."

"You think Hennessey did all that?" The sheer numbers appalled me. "He can't eat that much if he wanted to! What is he, some kind of...undead Ted Bundy?"

"Oh, I think he might be a ringleader, no doubt about that, but he's not a traditional serial killer," Bones said crisply. "Serial killers are more possessive in their motives. From the bits and pieces I've gathered over the years, I don't think he's keeping these people to himself-I think he's made an industry out of them."

I almost asked what kind of an industry, but then I remembered what Bones had said to Sergio last weekend. Knew you couldn't pass up a pretty girl...You're his best client, from what I hear... Did you grow short on funds so you had to go out for dinner instead of order in?...And then tonight, with Stephanie. Just making my rent, and you, cookie, are just what the landlord likes... College girls, you're all the same...

"You think he's running a takeout service," I breathed. "Turning those people into Meals on Wheels! My God, Bones, how could he get away with it?"

"Hennessey was sloppy in Maine and Mexico, but he's gotten smarter. He now chooses women society doesn't hold in high regard, and if they don't fall into that category, then he sends vampires to prevent them from even being reported missing. Remember those girls Winston told you about? He wasn't wrong, luv, they are all dead. I wanted confirmation that there were more girls missing than had been reported, so that's why I sent you to Winston. A ghost knows who's died, even if those girls' families don't. I went to see them, and they'd all been bitten into believing their daughters were off pursuing an acting career, like you'd been told, or backpacking across Europe, or moving in with an old boyfriend, whatever. They'd been programmed not to question their absence, and only a vampire can have that much mind control. Hennessey's had his people rounding up even more girls for him lately. At colleges. On street corners. In bars, clubs, and back alleys. How could he get away with it? Have you ever really looked at the faces on your milk carton? People disappear all the time. The police? There's enough crimes involving the rich, famous, and powerful to make it easy for them to put the disappearance of some derelicts on their back burner, and they don't know about the others. As far as the undead world goes, Hennessey's covered his tracks very well. There's only suspicion, but no proof."

Now that I knew what was going on in my own state, what Stephanie had been doing made perfect sense, if you had the ethics of a crocodile. A huge, crowded college campus had been her all-you-can-eat buffet; she just hadn't been the one eating. No, she was someone hired to stock Hennessey's refrigerator. And I, with my background, had been the perfect dish. Stephanie had hit the nail on the head with that. I could disappear very easily, with few questions being asked, and it would have worked just as planned. Except for the one thing about me she hadn't counted on.

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