Jaci Travers opened her eyes when the vehicle stopped. They had been traveling for the last hour on country roads so the wooded field in front of her was no surprise. Four county sheriff’s cars, Two regular trucks, and a coroner’s van were parked off to their left.
“Yeah.” She turned her head to look at her partner. “Are you?”
Paul Rooney met her matching green eyes and raised an eyebrow.
“Of course you are. What was I thinking?” She smiled.
Paul was dressed in his usual jeans and black tee with his black leather jacket open down the front while she was wearing her red tee-shirt dress and tan leggings with black knee boots. The only concession she gave the weather was a windbreaker. Fall was her favorite time of the year.
A dark-haired man in a tan uniform and hat moved away from the group by the cars and headed toward their SUV.
“That the sheriff?”
“Yeah, that’s Ackers.” Paul nodded. “He’s friends with my ex-captain and can be just as hard-nosed so be careful.”
“You don’t think he’ll like my sense of humor?”
“He might but he won’t let it show.” Paul shrugged and got out of the vehicle, coming around to her side to meet the Sheriff. “Sheriff, I’m Paul Rooney.”
“Detective.” The sheriff nodded to him, then looked to Jaci. “Ms. Travers, I presume.”
“Yes.” Jaci opened the door and slid out, closing it behind her. “I see the coroner is here.”
“As the detective instructed.”
“Good.” She gathered up her long dark hair and put it in a ponytail to keep it out of the way. “Anything we need to know?”
“I don’t know.”
She was already getting a faint reading just from touching the road. When she stepped onto the land proper she knew the strength of the sending would be increased.
“Captain Horne said that you didn’t find anything in the house or at any of the crime scenes to link this guy to the murders.” Rooney looked at the sheriff. “But he said you think he’s good for it.”
“He ran into a woman that fits the type the killer goes for. His bad luck a deputy came upon the scene moments later.”
“According to what files I saw all the cars were hit and runs with the female drivers missing.”
“Yes.” Ackers nodded. “Five so far. With little or no paint transfer. The color matches his vehicle but there’s no damage for yesterday’s accident. The house he rents was a bust as was the yard around. Then we found he owned this parcel.”
“How many acres is his?” Jaci asked.
“He’s got two lots so six and a half acres.”
“You got the warrant to search this land?” Paul asked.
“Everything’s legal.” Ackers told them.
“Good.” Paul looked over at Jaci. “Ready to start?”
“It’s alright if I come with you?” the sheriff asked.
“Sure,” Jaci told him. “Just don’t touch me. “
Jaci stepped onto the grass and paused as impressions hit her. Taking a deep breath she walked until she came to a deer trail, then moved along it for a bit before stopping. She squatted and laid her hand on the ground. More impressions assaulted her. She pushed aside the strong negative emotions and concentrated on the perceptions she was receiving.
“Jak?” Paul squatted beside her, the sheriff standing to the side.
Seven, females, secret
“He’s killed more than five, Sheriff.” Jaci withdrew her hand from the ground and looked at Ackers. “There are seven bodies here.”
Both Jaci and Paul stood.
“Along this path starting here.” She tapped the ground with her boot. “What I got is that he started here a month ago. Something happened and he killed two women within a week of each other, then stopped before he started this group. He is just full of negative energy that leaks into this land when he’s here. That’s why some of the trees are dying.” She gestured to a dead fall not far to their right.
Ackers pulled out his phone and called the coroner according to what Jaci was hearing. “My men and Dr. Rice will be here in a minute.”
Paul pulled Jaci into his arms and she buried her face into his chest, sagging into him. He knew reading took a lot out of her emotionally. The emotions and impressions that hit her were only blocked by man-made articles like steel and concrete. Otherwise she received everything buffered only by her own metal shields.
Three men joined them. Two were in the same beige uniform the sheriff was and the other was an older man dressed in jeans and flannel. The deputies were carrying shovels while the coroner had his bag with him.
“Start digging just off the path where they’re standing, Jackson, Marston,” the sheriff told his two deputies.
The two deputies nodded and Jaci and Paul stepped back from each other before getting out of the men’s way. Both deputies started digging while Jaci and Paul moved to join the sheriff and coroner down the path a ways.
“The ground does look disturbed here,” the coroner, Dr. Rice, said.
Indeed on both sides of the path there was bare spots of upturned earth. But nothing that looked like a grave. The spots were only three feet long and grass had begun to grow on some of them.
“He brings them here after he’s done with them,” Jaci told the sheriff. “He has a lair somewhere else.”
Ackers looked at her sharply. “You mean he doesn’t kill them here?”
“No.” She shook her head. “Just a dumping ground.”
“Damn! He can say someone else did this, even you.”
“We were in Canada when the first two went missing and in California for the last one,” Paul said. “We got receipts.”
“Still, reasonable doubt.”
“But you can charge him now,” Paul said. “And he’d have to make bail.”
“True. If we find the bodies.”
Before Paul could say anything else one of the deputies yelled Ackers name.
Ackers went over and stared for a moment, then looked at Paul. “Go back to the vehicles and wait for me. I want to talk to you.”
“Sure.” Paul wrapped his arm around Jaci and they both headed back along the trail toward the vehicles. “What did he find?”
“He dismembers them. Easier to carry and bury.”
“The sheriff’s still skeptical but he carries an old burden.”
“But he thinks we can help?”
“He’s uncertain .”
They stepped off the deer trail and headed for the SUV, ignoring the two men leaning against the coroner’s van. At their vehicle, Paul opened the passenger door and settled Jaci on the seat, her legs hanging out the side. He leaned against the SUV next to her and pulled out a piece of hard candy, popping it in his own mouth when Jaci shook her head.
“We’re only getting the law enforcement consultant fee for this.” Paul said. “We won’t even pay for this rental, not to mention the plane fare and motel.”
“You’re always telling me it’s good PR. You changing your mind now?”
“No, just saying we can’t afford a protracted stay.”
“Necro-Covery is getting its legs. Dan is still directing that recovery at that cemetery and Kara is helping him with finishing identifying the bodies. We got two more recoveries lined up for them once they’re done there. Plus we have a call from that couple who thinks their house is built on a graveyard since they found that skull in their backyard . And we got our own appointment in a few days in Utah. Besides you know I didn’t get into this to make money.”
“I know but without money we can’t do this.”
“God will provide.”
The sheriff joined them. “Thank you for waiting.” He was silent for a second, then spoke again. “I don’t know how to say this.”
“Why don’t you start at the beginning,” Paul said.
“That will take awhile.”
“Ten years ago a couple of kids, well, they were college students, went missing near here in the National Forest Reserve or so we thought. I had just been elected then for the first time, you understand.” Ackers paused. “It was my first real case.”
“Still open?” Paul asked.
Ackers nodded, “Never found them.”
“Something happened to bring it back up,” Jaci said.
“Yes.” he paused. “The father of one of the students received his kid’s college ID in the mail a few days ago. He immediately called me.”
“Was there anything else with the ID?” Paul asked.
“No, but I figure it’s a matter of time before the sender asks for money. The father is a wealthy man.”
“You have an area where they were last seen? “ Jaci asked. “I need a place to start if you want me to do my thing.”
“And I want to look at the files,” Paul added.
“The files are at my office. I pulled them as soon as I got the call. We’ll have to wait ‘til tomorrow to visit the site. It would be dark by the time we got there today.”
“That’s fine.” Paul said. “We can look at the files this afternoon and see the site tomorrow.”
Ackers nodded. “Alright. You know where my office is?”
“I’ll meet you there in an hour.”
Jaci turned in the seat and Paul closed the door before going around to the driver’s side. He got in, started the vehicle, and pulled away from the field, heading toward town.
“You changed your tune.”
“We all have a case that haunts us.” Paul glanced over at her. “Besides you know I couldn’t say no to a father looking for his daughter.”
Jaci ducked her head, her eyes sliding away from him. That was a can of worms she didn’t want to open.
“Good thing we brought our backpacks for this trip.” Paul was clearly changing the subject a bit. “Seems like we’re going hiking after all.”
“Hmm. Think we have time for a ‘nap’?” She wiggled her eyebrows when he glanced at her. “I suddenly feel tired.”
“I suddenly feel tired too,” he said with a smile.