Silent Ridge by Gregg Olsen

One


Boning knives spread across the top of the bathroom vanity, glint in the flat light. Blood on the razor-sharp blades contrasts starkly with the light-colored pattern in the tiled surface. A woman’s body hangs from the steel shower head over the spacious garden tub. One master bath wall is a mural of a giant, brilliant-yellow sunflower. The theme carries over to the shower curtains, but the yellow vinyl is spattered with red blotches. Propped against the mirror, behind the knives, is a laminated South Kitsap High School photo of a teenaged girl.

The flayed skin of the woman slumps in the bathtub like a flesh suit. It had taken time. The intention was to cause as much fear as possible and to avoid killing the woman until every drop of humanity was bled from her.

Meddling bitch. I wish you could see the look I’m going to slice off of your daughter’s face. I wish you could hear her screams.

The fun part is over. The butcher’s apron is peeled off, rolled up and stuffed into a trash bag. The bag will be burned later.

The knives have to be cleaned of all the filth this pleading victim has left on them and are washed under the tap until the water turns from red to pink to clear.

My friend used to say: you take care of your tools and they will take care of you.

In the cabinet is a toothbrush, a bottle of peroxide and another of bleach. The blade is scrubbed until it gleams. The knives are wiped dry with a hand towel. The towel is put in the trash bag. The knives are slid into a cloth case, blades down. The case is rolled tight and secured with a string. The bleach and peroxide swirl down the sink. The containers and the toothbrush are dropped into the bag.

The knife case is carried into the bedroom, where clothes are set out. Some bloody smears are on the bathroom tiles but that’s no worry. It just adds to the story.

Dressed now. One more look in the bathroom. The skinless body, like a snake shed of its skin. The eyes are still begging, even in death. It’s more than she deserves.

One final step. The laminated photo of the girl, the one Monique knew as Rylee, is brought to the bedroom and left on the bed. Next to it is a recent snapshot. Rylee supposedly died years ago, but, like everything else about the girl, it was a lie. Monique helped her disappear. Rylee is alive. She is now Megan Carpenter. No matter who she pretends to be, she will be dead soon.

Back to the rental boat where the waiting begins. Two days pass. Maybe a mistake had been made? Maybe no one will find the body? Monique has no friends. Not here, at least. It may be weeks before someone finds the body. But a few hours later, an elderly woman walking a yapping dog down the street. The old woman keeps looking at the house. She walks the dog halfway up the yard and stops, sniffing the air like a dog sniffing another dog. Then she goes to the door, which was deliberately left unlocked. The old woman goes inside. She quickly comes back outside. Her face is white. Her hands shake.

She dials three digits on her cell phone.





Two





“Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office. Reserve Deputy Ronnie Marsh,” the young, red-haired woman says into the phone. She listens and jots some things down in a leather-bound notebook. She hangs up and blows a strand of hair out of her eyes and comes over to my desk.

I’m Sheriff’s Detective Megan Carpenter. Ronnie is a younger version of me, but my hair is shorter and blond where hers is red and down on her shoulders. Makeup covers a smattering of freckles high on her cheekbones. I only put on a touch of eye makeup.

Mascara when I need to look especially alert.

When I first met Ronnie a month ago, she had graduated from the law enforcement academy and was doing her rotation through the various sheriffs’ office units. Over my objections, she was assigned to me by Sheriff Tony Gray, my boss, my friend and mentor. I didn’t think she’d last two days working here.

She was injured during the last case we worked together and offered medical leave until her broken wrist healed. Instead, she had Sheriff Gray release her to desk duty. I talked him into extending Ronnie’s rotation time here in the office, claiming my files were in bad need of some type of order and we needed someone to answer the phone and make coffee and food runs. Even when she was wearing the cast on her arm, she proved herself capable. The cast is a thing of the past and, best of all, she’s dating Marley Yang, who is the supervisor at the crime lab. I finally had an in. I wasn’t above using people. And I was doing her a favor at the same time.

Ronnie comes to my desk holding her notebook so I can see what she’s written. “Detective Carpenter, this just came in.”

Her handwriting, like everything else about her, is stylish. I read the words she’s written. My jaw drops and I feel a lump growing in my throat. I don’t recognize the address but I sure know the name. For a moment I make myself hope she’s written the name wrong, or it’s someone else. But my gut tells me otherwise.

Monique Delmont is dead.

She’s been murdered.

Sheriff Gray got the call an hour ago and is just now notifying me. Not that he would know to notify me. He has no way of knowing about my relationship with Monique. But he knows I work murder cases and get good results. He should have called me. Plus, I’m curious why Sheriff Gray is working this one himself. He doesn’t usually act as lead investigator.

Ronnie stares at me like I’m a hair sample under a microscope. I haven’t hidden my shock very well. I used to be good at it; back then I didn’t have any attachment to anyone or any place and lied about who I was. One day I was a college student, the next with a newspaper, and so on.