The barriers of time and place dissolved, and she saw the grainy newspaper photo of the two-tone sedan and the headline above it: CAR USED IN ABDUCTION OF LOCAL GIRL FOUND.

It wasn’t Julie, though. Of course not; it couldn’t be. And now that she really looked, she saw that the girl was not an exact match.

Laura owed it to this girl not to get sidetracked. Her resemblance to Julie Marr was just a coincidence. Looking for a distraction, she glanced at Buddy Holland.

His face had turned deep crimson. He stared at the child, eyes fixed, a vein pulsing in his jaw. For a moment, she wondered if he was having a heart attack. She opened her mouth to ask him if he was all right.

He turned his head to look at her. For a moment, the bleakness in his eyes reminded her of Frank Entwistle staring across the hospital bed at his own death—what one guy in her squad referred to as the thousand-yard stare. Then his eyes turned stony, unreadable.

Laura looked at the girl. She was barefoot and dressed in an old-fashioned white dress. A little girl’s dress, babyish. Something a seven-year-old would wear to First Communion. If this girl really was Jessica Parris, she was fourteen years old—far too old to wear a dress like this.

“I wonder where he got the dress,” Laura said. “Who would sell dresses like that for a girl that age?”

“It looks small on her,” Buddy Holland said. His voice was thick with emotion. She liked him better.

Laura took inventory. The girl’s hands had been placed neatly in her lap. Her fingers were clasped together. Her hair had been brushed. Her legs had been slightly but not overtly spread. This last could indicate sexual motivation. Dressing her up was also most likely sexually motivated.

She had been arranged in a tableau.

Buddy’s voice echoed her own thoughts. “He staged this—put her on display. I’ll bet you dollars to doughnuts he’s done this before.”

“Probably.” Either the bad guy had killed before, or he had worked his way up to this, probably with rape.

God, she wished she had some water. She led the way to the band shell steps on the other side farthest from the street, the ones she believed the killer did not take.

She was pretty sure the guy had come up from below. That would have been easiest. He would have come up the steps from the Gulch, entered the park, and headed right up the steps to the band shell.

Up on the concrete stage, Laura scanned the inside walls. There was a door opposite, probably a storage area, padlocked closed. On the padlock someone had written FTW—Fuck the World. Bad guys, but likely not the ones she was looking for.

The floor was so clean it might have been swept. Clearly, he was an organized offender. He made very few mistakes. The guy she was looking for had probably read the same books she had, books on criminal investigation and forensic science. Laura stared across at the entrance to the park, just down the steps from the band shell, already picturing him coming up from the street. It would take him ten minutes, tops, and that included clasping the hands.

In, out.

Arms still folded, she hunkered down next to the girl in a catcher’s stance.

The girl looked nothing like Julie from this angle. Her eyes were too close together. Her hair was a lighter blond. It looked dyed. There were holes in her earlobes, but no earrings. Did he take them? There was a tiny butterfly tattoo on the fleshy part of the right hand, just below the thumb. At odds with the dress. The dress itself was white but appeared shop-soiled, as if it had been packed away for a while. She could see the creases. She leaned to look at where the girl’s back departed from the wall. The dress had been zipped up only halfway. No tag.

Laura took a deep breath and looked into the girl’s eyes.

She had seen many people who had died violently. It seemed to her that the eyes of a large percentage of these victims had been stamped with fathomless terror, as if they had seen their deaths coming for them.

But in this girl’s eyes Laura saw no emotion, just broken blood vessels in the whites—petechiae—which hinted at death by strangulation. Brown and brittle as acorn hulls, the girl’s eyes showed nothing at all.

Laura hoped it meant she hadn’t suffered, but the petechiae told her otherwise. Either way, she would never know the truth for sure.

She stood up and walked around to the other side, looking at the girl from that angle.

Laura always felt the victim could tell her something. There was usually some evidence that the dead kept to themselves, a secret they had taken with them, a secret the killer forgot. In every homicide case she’d investigated, there had been something that the dead had held back. She just had to find it. To recognize it when it looked her in the face.

“I figure the lividity points to the fact that she was moved,” Officer Billings said behind her. “Down by her ears, the bottom of her neck, see?”

She tried to block him out, concentrate on the girl.

“Looks to me like she was prostate when she was killed.”

“Prostrate,” Laura said.

“Prostrate, sorry.” He laughed nervously. “That’s funny, prostate. Anyway, I knew it the minute I saw her.”

“Would you shut the fuck up?” Buddy Holland snapped.

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