Beverly Connor. The Night Killer

(Diane Fallon — 8)

To all my cousins

Chapter 1

The gray sky grew darker as Diane watched. The storm was coming fast. She tried not to show her unease as she listened to Roy Barre going on about his grandfather’s collection of Indian arrowheads that he was loaning to the museum. The two of them stood beside the museum’s SUV, the four-wheel-drive vehicle she had driven to his mountain home. Diane had the driver’s-side door open, key in hand, ready to get in when he wound down, or at least paused in his narrative.

“So, you going to put a plaque up on the wall with Granddaddy’s name?” Barre said. “He’d like that. He picked up arrowheads from the time he was a little boy. Found a lot of them in the creek bed. That big, pretty one I showed you of red flint-he was crossing the creek, looked down, and there it was, big as life right there with the river rocks.”

Diane had heard the story several times already.

“Yes,” she said, “there will be a plaque. Our archaeologist, Jonas Briggs, will oversee the display.”

Roy Barre was a tall, rounded, cheerful man in his mid-fifties with a ruddy face, graying beard, and brown hair down to his collar. In his overalls and plaid shirt, he didn’t look as though he owned most of the mountain and the one next to it. Even with the oncoming storm, had she consented, he would at this moment be showing her the property and the crisscross of creeks where his grandfather had found his arrowheads.

“Granddaddy didn’t dig for them, even when he was a little boy-he knowed that was wrong. You know, some people look for Indian burials and dig up the bones looking for pottery and nice arrowheads. Granddaddy didn’t do that. No, he didn’t bother anybody’s resting place. He just picked up arrowheads he found on the ground or in the creek. A lot of them was in the creek, washed from somewhere. He never knew from where. He just eyed the creek bottom and, sure enough, he’d always find something. He sure found some pretty ones. Yes, he did.”

The trees whipped back and forth and the wind picked up with a roar.

“Roy, you let that woman go. I swear, you’ve told her the same stories three times already. A storm’s coming and she needs to get off the mountain.”

Holding her sweater close around her, Ozella Barre, Roy’s wife, came down the long concrete steps leading from her house on the side of the hill.

“Listen to that wind,” she said. “Lord, it sounds like a train, don’t it?”

“Mama’s right, Miss Fallon, you need to be getting down the mountain before the rain comes. The roads can get pretty bad up here.”

“Thank you for your hospitality and the loan of your grandfather’s collection,” said Diane. “I’m sure our archaeologist will be calling you to ask you to tell him your stories again. I hope you don’t mind.”

Mrs. Barre laughed out loud and leaned against her husband. “How many times would he like to hear them?”

“You know how to get back to the main road?” asked Roy.

“I believe so,” said Diane, smiling. She got in the car before Roy commenced another story, and started the engine. She waved good-bye to them and eased down the long, winding gravel drive just as the first drops of rain began to fall.

Diane was the director of the RiverTrail Museum of Natural History, a small, well-respected museum in Rosewood, Georgia. She was also director of Rosewood’s crime lab, housed in the museum, and a forensic anthropologist. It was in her capacity as museum director that she was in the mountains of North Georgia, arranging the loan of the substantial arrowhead collection. Jonas Briggs, the museum’s archaeologist, was interested in the collection mainly because LeFette Barre, Roy’s grandfather, had kept a diary of sorts describing his hunting trips, including drawings of the arrowheads he found and where he found them-more or less. Jonas wanted to map the projectile points-as he called them-especially the several Clovis points in the collection. Unfortunately he was away, or it would be him, instead of her, up here in the North Georgia mountains trying to dodge the coming storm.

The mountain roads weren’t paved, and they were marked by ruts and gullies. She should have left earlier. The storm brought the darkness too soon, and despite what she said, she was just a little uncertain she could retrace her steps back to the main road. She looked down at the passenger seat for the directions. They weren’t there. Well, hell, she thought. Probably blew out of the vehicle while she had the door open. Just pretend it’s a cave, she told herself.

The trees looked frenzied, whipping back and forth against the darkening sky. Diane watched the road, looking for familiar landmarks. The rain began to fall harder. Diane turned her wipers up several notches and slowed down. With the heavy rain and fog, it was getting harder to see the road.

A tire slipped into a rut and spun, and for several moments she thought she was stuck. She pressed the four-wheel-drive button on the gearshift, and suddenly the vehicle lurched forward and was out. Just ahead, she recognized her first turn. That road wasn’t any better. It had heavy gouges and grooves carved into it by years of wheels and weather doing their destructive work. Diane remembered the ruts from when she came up the mountain, but the only annoyance then was a rough ride.

“Doesn’t anybody fix roads around here?” she grumbled to herself as she hit a deep pothole and again spun her tires.

So far, she was remembering her way back, but visibility was getting worse. She turned her wipers on the fastest setting. She would have liked to pull off the road and wait for the rain to stop, but she was afraid of getting stuck. She would be on foot if her vehicle became mired in the muddy shoulder of the road; and coming up the mountain she’d discovered that the area had no cell service.

Diane hoped she wouldn’t meet anyone trying to get up the mountain on the narrow road as she inched along, looking for the next turn. She couldn’t find it. Well, damn, she thought to herself. Did I miss it? There was no turning around. At least if I keep heading down, she thought, I’ll get to a main road sooner or later. She kept going- and looking.

Then she spotted the road-she just hadn’t gone far enough. She turned onto another dirt road, slipping in the mud as she did. Up ahead she saw a house that she remembered on her trip up. Good. She sighed with relief. She remembered from the map that this was called Massey Road.

The house was dark. Diane didn’t think anybody lived in it. It was run-down and, frankly, looked haunted, with its gray board siding, sagging porch, and strangely twisted trees in the front yard. Boo Radley’s house, she thought to herself as she approached.

A flash of lightning and a loud crack caused her to jump and slam on the brakes. The cracking sound continued, and with a sudden stab of fear, Diane saw one of the trees in the yard of the house falling toward her. She put the SUV in reverse and spun the wheels. The tree crashed across the front of her vehicle, and in the strobe of lightning flashes, she saw a human skull resting on the hood of her car. A skeletal hand slammed hard against her windshield and broke apart.

Diane let out a startled yelp and blinked at the apparition on the hood of her SUV. It took her several moments to rouse herself from the shock, turn off the ignition, and open the door. Rain poured in, soaking her clothes. Her wet shirt clung to her skin. She shielded her eyes with her left hand as she got out of the car to survey the damage, but she couldn’t take her eyes off the mottled brown skull grinning at her.

“What the hell?” she said.

“You all right?”

Diane jumped at the voice. She turned to see a man dressed in jeans and a black T-shirt as soaked as she. His hair was plastered to his head. His lips stretched over remarkably even, white teeth. He was in his thirties, she

Вы читаете The Night Killer
Добавить отзыв


Вы можете отметить интересные вам фрагменты текста, которые будут доступны по уникальной ссылке в адресной строке браузера.

Отметить Добавить цитату