Home > Watch Her Disappear (Detective Josie Quinn #14)

Watch Her Disappear (Detective Josie Quinn #14)
Author: Lisa Regan

 

Prologue

 

 

Western Pennsylvania, 1994

 

 

The men were visible through a tear in the heavy blind. There were at least a dozen of them, maybe more. Some wore police uniforms. Others wore suits. Some arrived dressed all in black with stiff, bulky vests wrapped around their torsos and helmets protecting their heads. Some of them crouched next to their vehicles while others stood around, eyes searching the surroundings. All of them carried guns: handguns and larger, longer, sleek guns. The men in the tactical gear approached the house first, picking through the weedy, trash-strewn front lawn. Their boots pounded out a staccato beat. When their feet reached the wooden porch, the entire house shook. There was shouting and then the sounds of a large object ramming against the front door. Wood splintered and then they were inside. Running, shouting, smashing in doors.

“Clear!”

“Clear!”

“Jesus, what is that smell?”

“Someone check the back.”

“This place is a mess. We need more guys in here.”

No one noticed the man in jeans and a plain black T-shirt with a pistol in his hand. He was the first one through the bedroom door. A cough erupted from his throat. He gagged and covered his mouth with his free hand. Edging around the room, he found the window and tore the shade down. Light exploded across the ugly tableau. The pistol clattered to the floor. Falling to his knees, the man crawled across the dirty hardwood floor and gathered the small girl in his arms.

It was his keening that drew the attention of the other men, finally. Great, eerie, high-pitched wails filled the air. For a few seconds, the entire house went silent. Even with all the activity outside, the exterior fell preternaturally quiet. Then the battering boots returned. Men’s shadows filled the doorway.

“Jesus! Oh Jesus.”

“What the hell?”

“What is he doing here? What the hell is he doing here?”

“Oh God.”

“Someone get him out of here. He’s contaminating the scene.”

In the hall, someone retched.

“How did he get in here?”

“Oh shit. Oh no.”

From the crush of bodies just outside the room came the sound of someone crying. “How could someone do something like that?”

A radio squawked. Movement from the corner of the room caught the eye of one of the men. He let out a gasp. Then he yelled, “Help! We need help in here!”

 

 

One

 

 

Denton, Pennsylvania, Present Day

 

 

Lindsay Jones was going to kill someone. She didn’t care that it was prom night. What she cared about was that some skank on the junior varsity cheerleading squad had just posted an Instagram live story gushing about how Lindsay’s boyfriend, Brody Ford, had promised to meet up with her at a hotel after prom. Except that one of the girl’s followers on Insta had told Lindsay’s best friend about the whole thing.

Now Lindsay stood in the girls’ restroom just outside of Denton East High School’s auditorium waiting for her best friend, who had promised to get a copy of the video. She checked her make-up in the mirror, leaning over the sink and using one of her long nails to scoop out a glob of mascara that was lodged in the corner of her eye. She patted down her long blonde hair, which her mother had spent over a hundred dollars to have blown out that day, and studied her dress. It was all slits and deep cuts in an elegant black that accentuated both her bony parts and her curves. Why Brody wasn’t satisfied with this, Lindsay would never understand.

She had noticed him flirting with other girls from time to time: in the halls at school before homeroom and sometimes at football games, but he’d sworn to her that he hadn’t done anything with any other girls. They were going to graduate from high school in less than two months. Then they were supposed to spend the summer traveling together before they went to separate colleges.

Lindsay wasn’t about to let some thirsty junior ruin her senior year.

The door to the bathroom banged open, letting in a blast of music and flickering colored lights. The auditorium was crammed with people dancing in the semi-darkness. Wearing a short, strapless blue dress covered in sequins, Lindsay’s best friend, Deborah Hart, strode over and handed Lindsay a phone. A sheen of sweat covered her round face and her chest heaved. “That’s Mary Jo Chachakis’s phone. She screen-recorded the Insta live video. We should be able to watch it.”

Lindsay beckoned Deborah closer and the two watched the video twice. It was exactly as bad as Lindsay expected. Tears stung the backs of her eyes, but she refused to let them fall. Deborah stared at her with a sympathy so saccharine it made Lindsay’s stomach turn. Lindsay thrust the screen into Deborah’s face. “Where is she?”

Deborah blinked and stared at Lindsay.

Lindsay rolled her eyes. Sighing, she said, “What?”

“Don’t you think that Brody is the one you should be confronting? I mean, like, you can go off on this junior, but that’s not going to stop him from trying to get with other girls.”

Lindsay hated admitting that Deborah was right. That was not the dynamic of their friendship. Lindsay was the alpha and Deborah followed. But Deborah had a point. “Fine,” Lindsay sighed. “First we find Brody, then we find this girl.”

It took fifteen minutes of weaving through packed bodies on the dance floor and shouted conversations with a dozen people to find out that Brody had gone outside to smoke. As Lindsay left the auditorium and stomped down the hallway toward the front of the building, Deborah hurried to catch up. Her heels clacked against the tile. “Where are you going?” she called.

“To the alcove,” Lindsay said over her shoulder.

“How do you know he’s out there?”

Lindsay stopped walking and turned on Deborah. “Where else would he go to smoke? God!”

A few minutes later, after convincing the faculty stationed at the front entrance that they needed something from Lindsay’s car, they rounded the back of the building. They walked through a grassy area on the east side of the school and through the parking lot used by the custodial staff. Four dumpsters lined the wall to their left. Lindsay stalked past them with Deborah in tow. The alcove was a small outdoor space between two parts of the building that jutted outward. It was a windowless recess that wasn’t quite large enough for a full parking lot. Long before Lindsay was even born, the school had attempted to make it into some kind of outdoor theater with fifteen curved steps that cascaded down toward a basement entrance to the school. At the bottom, next to the basement door, was a small, curved concrete stage. What they hadn’t counted on was that rain, snow, autumn leaves, and trash would gather there far too consistently for it ever to be kept completely clean, much less used.

Not many kids went down into the theater. It was dirty and creepy, and mostly unlit. They usually sat along the wall that separated the theater from the rest of the alcove to engage in activities the school didn’t allow. Only one dim light hung over the entire area. Lindsay’s skin prickled as she and Deborah stepped into the shadows. She felt some of her resolve weaken. She’d been out here plenty of times with Brody during school hours while he smoked. She usually had her vape pen. On occasion, she and Deborah had smoked pot out here. But they’d never been in the alcove at night.

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