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Paint It All Red: Chapter 5


False face must hide what the false heart doth know.

—William Shakespeare

“What do we know?” I ask Leonard, peeling the glove off.

“You mean besides the fact the sheriff is trying to get us the hell out of here? Not much.”

Johnson eyes me from across the room, pure hatred in his glare. I ignore him.

He knows I’m close to digging up hard evidence against him. It’s just a matter of time.

“I think that message was meant for you,” Leonard whispers as my eyes lift from the gory remains of Deputy Murdock.

My eyes flit up to the message he’s pointing out.


They stole. They lied. They brokered peace with the devil in exchange for the souls of an innocent family. Yet you call me the monster.

Fuck you. <3


The little heart on the end is definitely a signature Lana used to leave for me. Apparently she’s going to personalize these kills now, even address them to me without using my name.

“I silenced her, so now she’s getting her words in,” I say quietly.

Leonard looks around, making sure no one is close enough to overhear.

“This is quite literally a ‘fuck you’ message. It’s not rage or even a threat to us. She’s just basically sounding like a true ex. People might do the math.”

“No one here knows Lana and I broke up. I told the others she went back home because I convinced her it wasn’t safe.”

“What happens when people see her in town?”

I lean back, surveying the damage to the neck of Judge Thomas. I doubt it’s a coincidence his son came back to town today, and Lana decided to kill the father tonight.

“She won’t be seen,” I say absently. “Dev Thomas was there that night, and he seemed certain he’d been spared when he talked to us earlier. I think she paid him a visit when he arrived in town today.”


“To see why he was here.”

He looks confused, but I don’t want to talk in front of everyone.

“I shouldn’t be involving you in this and forcing you to—”

“You’re not forcing me to do anything,” Leonard says on a sigh. “Like I said, I get why she’s doing it. This town has been killing and torturing people for years, and no one even cared about it until her.”

I start to say something else, but Donny walks up, silencing our private conversation.

“So our unsub goes from quoting Voltaire to leaving a crude ‘fuck you’ message with a heart? Maybe you were right about it being a female, but why bother with the men’s boot prints if you’re going to leave a heart signature?”

“That message is about as petty as your girlfriend,” Lisa says as she joins us.

Leonard chokes on air, but I remain composed.

“Says the petty girl who keeps trying to make her jealous,” Hadley announces as she walks in, avoiding eye contact with me as she squats down with her kit to start taking samples.

My eyes rake over her, seeing her wearing different clothes than she left in. What is particularly eye-catching is the fact she’s in a red shirt.

Over the years, I’ve heard her bitch more than once about the fact her red hair limits her wardrobe. She never wears red.

But I know someone who does.

“She spit gum in my hair,” Lisa hisses.

“When?” I ask, hopeful this was recently and hopeful it wasn’t recently at the same time.

“After I accidentally walked in on you two,” Lisa mumbles, her cheeks turning pink.

“And provoked her,” Hadley says from her crouch, not bothering to look up. “Twice. I would have slapped you. Lana went for a less obvious approach.”

Leonard tugs my arm, guiding me out as Hadley and Lisa bicker. As soon as we’re outside of the courthouse, he looks around, making sure no one can hear.

“They called Elise to New York to help with a case.”

“I know. I’m the one who told you. And Elise volunteered to go because she’s still not physically one hundred percent and wanted to make sure no one else was pulled.”

“They called Craig back for something else.”

I nod.

“It’s just a matter of time before they pull us out of here completely, even if it is one by one.”

“They’ll try,” I say with a shrug. “But short of any charges, the director has no weight to pull us completely.”

Leonard looks out into the woods behind the courthouse.

“She could have easily killed Lisa.”

My eyebrows hit my hairline.


He looks back at me. “She’s fiercely protective of you, even killed to keep you safe. Yet Lisa provokes her over and over and she spits some gum in her hair?” he asks, his lips twitching.

“She still has a firm grip on reality.”

He leans back, his look going thoughtful again. “So Dev Thomas coming back prompted the demise of Judge Thomas. Why handle two at once? That’s risky. What was so important about Murdock that he needed to die tonight as well?”

Before I can answer that, Hadley walks up, eyeing us. “Here.”

She hands us a blood-stained folder, and I tilt my head as I pull on my gloves again.

I open it, looking over the files. It takes me a second to realize what I’m looking at.

“Those are Murdock’s eight-year-old daughter’s medical charts. Her wrist has been broken twice, and she can’t even play sports because of how weak it is now. Other bones have been broken over the years as well, including her ribs on multiple occasions. His wife’s chart looks thirty times worse, or at least I’d put money on it. It’s not here, but I bet I can hack into it for you,” Hadley states flatly.

“Why would his daughter’s charts be here?” Leonard asks, looking on with me.

“Because someone wanted you to see this,” Hadley says vaguely.

I close the file, blowing out a breath as I hand it to Leonard.

He skims over it quickly as Hadley walks away, a smug smirk on her lips.

“He was beating his kid?” Leonard asks, an edge to his tone.

“How much would you bet all the other deputies and the sheriff knew?” I ask rhetorically.

“We need to speak to Murdock’s widow before the sheriff gets to her first,” I say quietly as two deputies walk out, eyeing us on their way by.

“What is Collins saying about all this?” Leonard asks me as I fire off a quick text to Hadley, telling her what we’re doing and to keep it quiet.

“Collins is saying we still need physical evidence. Johnson backed the sheriff on the matter of one of the deputies trying to kill me as being one rogue cop. As of right now, he’s having to play politics, since the subcommittee nor the senate has convened over the actions of Johnson and the director.”

He follows me to the SUV, both of us avoiding drawing attention from any of the local law enforcement.

“I joined this unit because I thought there’d never be any politics with serial killers,” Leonard says dryly.

“I’m sure you never thought you’d find yourself compromised on a case either,” I point out.

He snorts derisively as I start the car.

“I bet you never thought you’d find yourself in love with a serial killer.”

I grimace, and he shakes his head. “Right. Sorry. Too soon. I’m still trying to wrap my head around all this, and awkward jokes seem to find their way out of my mouth.”

“Let’s just go see Murdock’s widow,” I grumble.


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