As he got out of the vehicle, the cold nipped at his face and the wind swept under his flannel shirt. He liked the cold. It, like death, energized him.
He stretched, his body aching from the driving. Already he missed his home. His land. It was about this time of night when he’d open his box and take Sara out to play. She’d been a favorite of his. Pale, thin, and blond. Just as he liked. Drexler had decided not to starve her too quickly as he had the others. Still, withholding food had made her docile. And in the last weeks, she’d grown so easy to handle. She’d do anything for him or to him for a few extra french fries.
Now she was gone. And he was on the run. Alone.
He’d texted his cousin, Richie, who’d told him Hayden had left Utah. What the hell? She turned his life upside down and then she went on as if she’d done nothing wrong.
News reports revealed his worst fear. They had found his Sara, and then they’d found his other girls. Beth. Cici. Debby. Naomi. They were all gone now.
The idea that they’d dug up his girls made his stomach twist and turn. Angry. No respect for the dead.
Last week he didn’t know Kate Hayden’s name. Now all he could think about was putting her in a box that was a few inches too short for her little body. That would teach her some manners.
In the convenience store, he nodded to the clerk but kept his gaze low as he moved to the coolers and pulled out a couple of energy drinks as well as a six-pack of beer.
He spotted a man, who had parked by his vehicle, stagger toward the store and straight to the beer case.
Drexler kept his gaze averted from the security camera and, tossing a pack of jerky on the counter by the drinks, dug twenty bucks out of his pocket. The clerk took the twenty and scooped his change out of the register.
“Thanks,” Drexler muttered as he shoved the rumpled bills and coins in his pocket.
He returned to his car and set his purchases on the ground. If the cops weren’t looking for this truck yet, they would be soon. Time to ditch it. He glanced back toward the store and watched the other lone customer pay for a twelve-pack of beer.
Drexler looked around, making sure no one saw him, and dropped to his knee. He flicked open a switchblade. Taking the car parked next to his would fix at least one of his problems.
After several minutes, the drunk staggered out of the store, the twelve-pack in hand. He was older, lean, and dressed in a mechanic’s jumpsuit. The man swerved when he walked across the lot. He sang some country song as he fumbled for his keys. Drexler’s heart beat faster, and his palms began to sweat. He wasn’t fond of using a knife.
The other man didn’t see Drexler crouched by the front of the car until he all but tripped over him.
“What the fuck?” the man asked, staggering back a step.
Drexler rose up quickly and jabbed the stranger in the gut several times. Drexler found the sensation of metal cutting into flesh nauseating. He didn’t like blood or killing with his hands.
Blood oozed out of the man’s gut as he stumbled and collapsed into Drexler’s arms. The beers dropped to the ground with a hard thunk.
Drexler grabbed the man’s keys and patted him down for a wallet. He found a money clip securing a hundred dollars’ worth of bills and a phone. Drexler shoved his victim onto the passenger-side seat of his stolen truck. The man groaned. Drexler pulled the blade over the man’s neck, severing his carotid artery. Hot, sticky blood was slick between his fingers as it gushed down over the dead man’s white oval nameplate that read Jimmy.
Drexler swung Jimmy’s legs in and turned his head away from the window. The dark seats and rug would hide the blood, at least until morning. And if anyone glanced in before sunrise, they’d see a drunk sleeping it off.
Drexler checked Jimmy’s phone and discovered it was locked. He grabbed Jimmy’s right thumb and pressed it against the “Home” button. The phone opened.
Drexler slammed the door closed to his truck, grabbed all the beer, and slid behind the wheel of the black Dodge truck. The truck was at least ten years old, and it smelled of old fast food and booze. But the engine cranked immediately, and the tank had enough gas to get him at least three hundred miles farther south.
The cops would find Drexler’s vehicle and the man’s body, but he figured he had about eight to ten hours before anyone figured out what had happened. By then, he’d find a new vehicle.
As he drove, he removed the security settings on the phone and searched for Kate Hayden. Immediately an article by Taylor North popped up. According to North, Kate Hayden was working a case in San Antonio.
As he drove, he kept searching, learning that Kate had been raised in San Antonio where her mother still lived.
When he’d first run from his property, he’d had no other plan than survival. Now he had a plan.
“San Antonio, Texas, here I come.”