Trail of Echoes

Trail of Echoes by Rachel Howzell Hall

Book: Trail of Echoes by Rachel Howzell Hall Read Free Book Online
Authors: Rachel Howzell Hall
picture. “This one looks different. In her picture, the petals are all open.”
    â€œDoes that happen at a certain time of year?” Pepe asked.
    I scrolled down the Web page. “Flowers appear in June, July, and September.”
    â€œShe couldn’t have just taken that picture, then,” Colin said. “Too early in the year.”
    â€œSo where was she last summer?” Pepe asked.
    â€œWe need to talk to her mom again,” I said, adding this question to my notepad.
    â€œAnd why did she take a picture of it?” Luke wondered.
    â€œGuess we need to find that out, too.” I scanned the article that accompanied the picture now on-screen. “ Atropa belladonna plant. Absorbed through skin and ingested … very poisonous … difficulty swallowing … paralysis … death . ” I looked up from the laptop. “Shit.”
    Colin and Lieutenant Rodriguez both stared at the image of the deadly flower. Pepe wrote in his notepad as Luke studied Chanita’s shot.
    I wiped my greasy fingers on a napkin. “So what do we know about him?” I stepped to the whiteboard, grabbed a red marker, and wrote “MONSTER” at the top of the board.
    â€œHe’s male,” Luke offered.
    â€œHe’s a sexual predator,” Pepe added.
    I wrote those two things, made an arrow, then scribbled an action item: “Check sex offenders near vic.”
    â€œWhy would he leave semen behind?” Colin wondered. “Either he wants to get caught or he knows he’ll be difficult to trace.”
    All of that went on the board.
    â€œHe has some knowledge about poisons,” Pepe said.
    â€œCuz you just don’t drive to Walgreens and buy atropine,” I said, writing.
    â€œHe breaks shit,” Colin said. “Her left foot, maybe.”
    I put a question mark by the word, then added, “Her tooth, possibly.”
    â€œ Her, ” Pepe added.
    â€œHow poetic,” Luke snarked.
    My face warmed, and I shot Luke a “you’re an asshole” glare.
    â€œHe’s strong,” Pepe said, ignoring his partner. “He carried her to that spot.”
    â€œHe knows the park,” Lieutenant Rodriguez offered. “Not just the hours, but the terrain.”
    â€œHe’s possessive,” I added.
    The men gave me quizzical looks.
    â€œHe injected her with repellent to keep the bugs away, interrupting the natural…” I narrowed my eyes. “Interrupting the natural order—he thinks he’s God. Bugs, yes, but also her life, her tooth— he took all of that. None of it happened naturally. Her foot— he broke it to keep her from running. And, finally, he killed her—the ultimate act of a god.”
    â€œThe Lord giveth,” Luke said, nodding.
    â€œAnd the Lord taketh away,” Lieutenant Rodriguez completed.
    We shuffled through the pictures Luke had taken of the crowds at Bonner Park. Every shade in the genetic pool was represented. More men than women. Older—who could jog and walk in a park at midday on a Wednesday? Each face presented the same levels of interest and fear. No one—no man —appeared to be too invested in what we had found on trail 5.
    â€œI don’t think I see him,” I said, pushing away my stack of pictures. “And the witness statements are boring as hell. Everyone saw something and saw nothing.”
    â€œWhat about Chanita?” Colin asked. “What do we know about her ?”
    â€œA thirteen-year-old in a relationship with an older man,” I said. “Ontrel or maybe even the monster. She has a special talent—photography. Poor, gifted, and black.”
    Lieutenant Rodriguez rubbed his face, then pulled down his cheeks.
    I caught his eye, then cocked an eyebrow. See? Just like I said: this won’t be easy.
    Luke reached for another slice of pizza. “She got any amigas ?”
    â€œProbably.” I wrote

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