Fiona felt a pulse of exhaustion behind her eyes, countered by a spurt of jagged energy that wouldn't let her stay still. She turned and paced away from the hill and the lights of the gas station, toward the darkness past the hood of her car at the other end of Old Barrons Road. "Of course you think they covered everything," she said to Jamie, her voice coming out sharper than she intended. "You're a cop. You have to believe it. In your world, a girl gets murdered, and Vermont's greatest minds come together to solve the case and put the bad guys away." Her boots scuffed the gravel on the side of the road, and the wind pierced through the legs of her jeans. She pulled up the collar of her coat as a cold shudder moved through her, an icy draft blasting through the layers of her clothes.
Jamie wasn't rising to her bait, which was one of the things that drove her crazy about him. "Fiona, I know they covered everything because I've been through the file. More than once. As have you, against all the rules and regulations of my job. It's all there in the murder file. In black and white."
"She wasn't your sister," Fiona said.
He was quiet for a second, acknowledging that. "Tim Christopher was charged," he said. "He was tried and convicted of Deb's murder. He's spent the past twenty years in a maximum-security prison. And, Fee, you're still out there on Old Barrons Road at three o'clock in the morning."
The farther she walked, the darker it got. It was colder here, a strange pocket of air that made her hunch farther into her coat as her nose grew numb. "I need to know how he did it," she said. Her sister, age twenty, had been strangled and dumped in the middle of the former sports field on the abandoned grounds of Idlewild Hall in 1994, left lying on one side, her knees drawn up, her eyes open. Her shirt and bra had been ripped open, the fabric and elastic torn straight through. She'd last been seen in her college dorm thirty miles away. Her boyfriend, Tim Christopher, had spent twenty years in prison for the crime. He'd claimed he was innocent, and he still did.
Fiona had been seventeen. She didn't much like to think about how the murder had torn her family apart, how it had affected her life. It was easier to stand on the side of the road and obsess over how Christopher had dumped her sister's body, something that had never been fully understood, since no footprints had been found in the field or the woods, no tire tracks on the side of the road. The Idlewild property was surrounded by a fence, but it was decades old and mostly broken; he could have easily carried the body through one of the gaps. Assuming he came this way.
Jamie was right. Damn him and his cop brain, which her journalist brain was constantly at odds with. This was a detail that was rubbing her raw, keeping her wound bleeding, long after everyone else had tied their bandages and hobbled away. She should grab a crutch—alcohol or drugs were the convenient ones—and start hobbling with the rest of them. Still, she shivered and stared into the trees, thinking, 'How the hell did he carry her through there without leaving footprints?'
The phone was still to her ear. She could hear Jamie there, waiting.
"You're judging me," she said to him.
"I'm not," he protested.
"I can hear it in how you breathe."
"Are you being serious?"
"I—" She heard the scuff of a footstep behind her, and froze.
"Fiona?" Jamie asked, as though he'd heard it through the phone.
"Ssshh," she said, the sound coming instinctively from her lips. She stopped still and cocked her head. She was in almost complete darkness now. Idlewild Hall, the former girls' boarding school, had been closed and abandoned since 1979, long before Deb died, the gates locked, the grounds overgrown. There were no lights here at the end of the road, at the gates of the old school. Nothing but the wind in the trees.
She stiffly turned on her heel. It had been distinct, a footstep against the gravel. If it was some creep coming from the woods, she had no weapon to defend herself with. She'd have to scream through the phone at Jamie and hope for the best.
She stared into the dark silence behind her, watched the last dying leaves shimmer on the inky trees.
"What the fuck?" Jamie barked. He never swore unless he was alarmed.
"Ssshh," she said to him again. "It's no one. It's nothing. I thought I heard something, that's all."
"Do I have to tell you," he said, "to get off of a dark, abandoned road in the middle of the night?"
"Have you ever thought that there's something creepy about Old Barrons Road?" she asked. "I mean, have you ever been out here? It's sort of uncanny. It's like there's something..."
"I can't take much more of this," Jamie said. "Get back in your car and drive home, or I'm coming to get you."