Chapter Twenty-Nine


Edward slowly dragged the tips of his fingers along Bella's arm. Her sigh made him still his movements, but only for a moment. He couldn't stop touching her, even though he thought he should.

"I'm fine," she whispered, her voice still rough from sleep. He looked up long enough to see that she was watching him closely. One of her soft hands lifted and curled around the back of his neck, turning to her side to face him.

"You're not," he murmured, shaking his head. "I'm not."

Again, she made a small sound of protest. "The question is if you're going to allow all of this," she waved her hand around, "to come between us? Allow it to consume you until you can't focus on catching a killer."

His hand slid along her hips until it fell to his side as he shifted. On his back, it seemed easier to talk than to look her in the eyes. Something he hadn't been able to do since he hit her.

"I'm not going to lie and say I'm fine, when I'm not. It will eat away at me, as it should. If it didn't, I'd be an asshole."

"If it didn't, I'd think you were emotionally stunted." That was Bella, always honest. He grunted in agreement. "It means you care and that you didn't want to do it. Just don't dwell on it, and we'll get past it. Though, if you chose to walk away, I wouldn't blame you."

The softer quality of her voice made him look at her. He propped up on his side and elbow again. "Why would I?" He thought about leaving, but it was only to catch the killer. If he survived, he hoped to return and convince her to leave the cabin and stay with him. "Other than my own issues about hurting you, there's nothing that could send me away, but you."

She mimicked his position, lifting her hand to run over his jaw, chin, and lips. He nipped at the top of her fingers, to make her smile. Unable to resist, he pulled her closer.

"I come with a lot of baggage." She wrapped her arm around him, her head on his chest. "PTSD, my agoraphobia, and this shit with my gift, curse, whatever."

"That may disappear once he's gone," Edward stated.

Bella didn't believe that. Other than seeing through the eyes of the killer and his victims, she had the ability to astral-project. Memories from childhood had sprung up in her mind over the last week since she gained more control.

She used to have dreams of walking through the halls and kitchen at night. In the third grade, Vincent Palmer frightened her. She was so scared that she hid, and later when she knew the coast was clear, she got in trouble for scaring him. He claimed that he saw her as a ghost. He urinated his pants, and all the kids laughed at him. She remembered seeing him do it too, but knew she was in the janitor's closet across the campus at the time.

The incidents were sporadic throughout childhood, stopping when she got older. Then the murders happened, and nothing was the same again.

She looked up and met Edward's concerned gaze. "He has to die, doesn't he?" She already knew the answer. It was the moment and understanding they shared when she was pulled into herself after he struck her.

They knew then.

Edward pulled her on top of him, cautious of her cuts. He said nothing, but that was as clear of an answer as anything he could've said.

~oOo~

Everyone agreed to take the morning off, but once lunch was done, everyone went to work. Billy and Charlie worked on blocking Dante's trail once again. They intended for it to look natural and not intentional, just in case. Garrett and Edward poured over case files, trying to narrow down the pool of suspects the current program produced.

Bella stood by the bulletin board with pictures of the three potential targets pinned on it. "Why is the pool so small?" she asked, crossing her arms over her chest.

Garrett stood, hands on his hips as he explained. "Your mother only subbed for a total of seven years, and only kindergarten through third grade. Some people moved and died since then. Add the fact that most schools in the area consisted of two hundred students, grand total for several schools the number of students weren't large. Add ages and hair color, it narrowed it to these three."

She rubbed her forehead. "What would he do when he runs out of victims?" Rubbing her temples, she shook her head. "How did he find my mother anyway?"

"Good questions," Edward said, tossing a file on the table. "Some we may never find answers to."

Bella let out a frustrated groan. "As he was hurting himself, it was so different in his mind. In comparison to the time when he was at the courthouse," she stated, mimicking the motion of cutting her forearms.

It made her shiver.

"How different are you saying?" Garrett asked, watching her warily. Edward didn't blame him, the dark circles under her eyes meant she'd gotten minimal sleep. With all the stress and everything that happened in the last week, it was obvious it was taking a toll on her.

"Like he's two different people maybe?"

Garrett held up his hand, asking, "You mean multiple personalities or are you saying that there are two suspects?"

"That's not right," she groaned, closing her eyes for a moment. "They're the same person, but it's like one of them is an act. He has two different faces."

"Have you picked up anything besides that?" Garrett asked. "This is something the profiler can use to help narrow down that suspect list."

"The killer punishes himself for his failures, and that's something he learned. Sort of like, if you mess up, you pay the price. It's the only way you'll learn your lesson."

"So it comes back to the abuse." Garrett grabbed his phone to type out a text. "We need to include any reported abuse in the program."

Bella bit the corner of her month, grabbing a pencil from the table. "Don't forget that he hates authority figures and something tells me that if it had been reported, any charges were dropped."

Edward sat back, hands clasped behind his head. "Could one of the people that raised him be a cop?"

She remained silent, as her hand formed a fist around a pencil, and hit her palm hard a few times.

"Do all cops carry a nightstick?"

"No, are you remembering something?" Edward rose from his chair to join her.

"Some of the images in my head are all scrambled, and it's taking time to decode them. Some were strong and the strongest was an image of someone in black pants, shoes, and belt. His hands are waist high, slapping a dark stick into his hand. In that memory, the killer is looking out from behind a door or sometimes from under a bed. I never saw the man's face."

"It could be cops, highway patrol, maybe," Edward said, pulling a notebook filled with his scribbles. He added to it quickly.

"Officers in this county do not wear black," Garrett stated, having seen Charlie's deputies in brown uniforms.

"Next county over has tan, and Gadson Country has blue." Edward scrunched his eyes shut for a second, snapping his fingers. "Seattle has black ones."

"We're assuming he's from the same area." Bella cocked a hip, shaking her head. "He may have come here once he found out who his mother was, but that doesn't mean he was raised here."

"Let's assume for now that he was abandoned here. In the area where the killer tends to hunt," Garrett said, making her shudder. "Sorry. Anyway, according to Alistair, there were twelve babies left abandoned at hospitals, churches, or schools the year the killer was likely born."

"According to Charlie, Renee told him she'd been clean for a year."

"For the length of the pregnancy and while she debated on whether to keep the child," Garrett offered.

"Possibly," Bella said, but seemed hesitant. "Though if she was raped by her father, then I think it would be safe to say she would've abandoned it immediately."

"We're assuming he's the father. It could be he abused her because she'd become pregnant." Edward shrugged when they looked at him. "It's one of the main reasons a girl her age leaves, other than sexual assault. She got pregnant and her asshole father hit her and probably even kicked her out. He only told the authorities to save his own ass."

"We should have someone talk to him," Bella said, looking at Garrett.

"He's dead, Bella."

She said nothing, instead turned her attention back to the board. "We're also assuming he was abandoned. What if she gave him to someone?"

"Perhaps adding the reported abuse, even if it's a note on a teacher's file or social services, it should show up. Add in his knowledge of computers and someone that looks like me and my mother, it should narrow it down further." She tapped her chin a few times. "Oh, can we get an artist rendering of what he'd look like by now?"

"Not unless we have a picture of him as a child," Edward stated.

"That's not true," Garrett stated and grabbed his laptop. "There's a program that allows us to create a representation of what a child would look like using the parents' pictures." He typed a few things. "I need pictures of your mother and I can find a picture of your grandfather by grabbing his driver's license photo. That would give us a picture of a child and then we can do an age progression with that."

"How long will it take?" Edward asked.

"For a good one, a few days," he said, still staring at the screen. "I'm sending the information to Alistair, he's better at this part than I am."

"There's this weird chant in my head from when he cuts himself," Bella said, rubbing her temples hard. "He calls himself an abomination." It sounded like confirmation of their suspicions about what happened to her mother.

"Hell, come here." Edward pulled her against him, wrapping his arms around her. She nuzzled his chest and sighed.

"I'll see if I can find an old driver's license for your mother too," Garrett said. "I do know one thing, that asshole never found your mother, Bella, nor did he raise any more children after she ran away."

"What happened to my grandmother?" she asked warily.

"She died in the same car accident that killed your grandfather," Garrett replied, but quickly got on the phone with Alistair.

"I know it hurts to hear about all this," Edward whispered, holding her close. "This will help, and we'll finally be able to find out who he is."

"I hope when we do, it'll be on time."

~oOo~

Billy, Charlie, and Garrett left hours later along with Rufus. Mark and Seth, a trusted deputy and an agent, were on the way to offer more security. Someone would remain on alert, watching footage and checking the perimeter constantly.

Alice was still in a coma, while Jasper and her brother Emmett knew about as much as the media. With the exception, that they were aware of Bella's connection to the victims and killer through her ability.

They were skeptical of course, but as they spoke with Edward and Bella via Skype, they started to believe. Alice had shared some memories with Bella, things only she would know about. Jasper wanted to help, and as one of the best psychologists in the state, he worked with the profilers on the case.

Emmett spent what time he could, when he wasn't at the hospital, on the computer. As an experienced computer programmer, he knew some of the best hackers in the world. He was one too. He wanted to use his connections and skills to help catch a killer.

Three days later, they had an image of what the killer may look like, but nothing matched the database. Alistair insisted if Bella's grandfather was her half-brother's father, he should match to someone in the FBI database. Unless the killer had never had a driver's license or photo id recently.

~oOo~

A month passed, with nothing concrete to tie anyone to the murders, that Edward got the call in the middle of the night.

"What do you mean someone was taken?" Bella stirred beside Edward, watching him. "Bella hasn't had an episode." He looked at her to confirm, she shook her head.

"She fits the look of the others and the kidnapping is similar to them too. It was a routine trip to the cemetery to see her mother's grave, but her husband said she never came home. The car wasn't found there, but there was evidence that she was taken. She dropped her asthma inhaler on the road."

Edward continued to listen and soon ended the call. "He said someone was taken and that it looks like it was our killer again."

"Then why wouldn't I know that?" She tossed the blankets aside, grabbing a robe. She walked out into the hallway and made her way into the kitchen. "This makes no sense. Why am I not connected anymore?"

She had no problem projecting herself, something she practiced daily in the last few weeks. They worked hard to get her out of the house again, even taking long walks around the perimeter of the house. Twice Edward and Bella headed into town in disguise to see a movie, she was doing well.

"Maybe when I hit you," Edward said, his hands clenching at the memory, but continued. "I severed the connection permanently."

"No, that's not it."

Edward hoped it was. He'd rather figure it out the old-fashioned way than to have her suffer through another person's eyes.

"Then what?" he asked, watching as she made tea. He leaned against the counter.

"Copycat, maybe?"

He shook his head. "Even if that was the case, where's the body?"

"You'll find it in the forest, probably not in the custom built box like the others, because it's not the killer."

"You seem awfully sure of yourself," Edward said, crossing over to her. "Why?"

"Because the killer would consider the cemetery sacred ground as he was taught," she said. Her brow creased as she snapped her eyes shut. "Oh my God, the abomination remark, the prayers that seem to play in a loop in my head, he was raised by someone deeply religious."