Lydia Janssen opened the front door and without even a casual glance at the investigators, turned her back on them and walked back toward the kitchen.
“We couldn’t reach you,” said Rankin as they gathered round the dining table. Janssen took a seat across from the sink. Hutsell and his partner moved to either side of her. “The hotel said you were no longer a guest.”
“I couldn’t stay there indefinitely.”
“You didn’t answer your phone.” Rankin looked at Janssen’s cell on the table.
“It’s turned off. I don’t want to be disturbed. So, you’ve come, you’ve seen, you’ve conquered. Now you can leave.”
There was movement at the entryway. Lydia turned her head and saw a tall man clad in a white shirt and jeans.
“Who’re you?” she asked with contempt.
“Deputy Sheriff Rick Hadley from Shannon County, Tennessee.”
“You allowing drive-alongs now, detectives?” she said without taking her eyes off Hadley. She watched as his gaze shifted to the six pill bottles she had lined up next to the sink. “None of your business, Tennessee.”
“In a way it is,” said Hadley. “I knew someone like you once.”
“Oh, really? You knew a woman who was being stalked by a madman who murdered her friends and family and then presented their bodies as anniversary presents?” she said. She turned away from him and stared straight ahead.
“Yes, ma’am, I did. Her name was Kerry Donlan. And she did what you are thinking about doing now.”
Both Rankin and Hutsell watched as Janssen closed her eyes and slowly dropped her head.
“May I come in?” Hadley asked.
Janssen nodded yes. Rick Hadley walked into the kitchen, stopped a few feet in front of Lydia, and crouched down. She looked at him and saw the same pain in his eyes she’d felt for the last three and a half years.
“Who was she?”
“A friend. So was her brother and former boyfriend. He paused and watched Janssen clasp her hands tight enough to stop the blood flow. “Please . . . help us stop him, Ms. Janssen.”
Lydia's eyes drifted back to the orange bottles with the white caps, “I’m tired, Tennessee.”
“I want it over, but it never will be . . . not even when he’s dead and gone.”
“I know that, too.”
“Then why are you here?” she asked, still focused on the pill bottles.
“The pain and hurt he has caused is almost unbearable. But what is even more unbearable is the thought of him causing more.”
“I can’t fight him anymore.”
“You’ve got the three of us now.”
“Others have tried. Nothing has worked.”
Hadley stood and looked at Rankin and Hutsell and mouthed, “Can I tell her?” The partners turned to each other. There was no denying Hadley’d had a positive effect on Janssen. She’d gone from kicking them out to carrying on a conversation. They gave their permission for him to continue.
“May I sit down?” he asked.
Lydia nodded, and Hadley took a seat in the chair to her left.
“Due to the efforts of detectives Rankin and Hutsell, we know of at least one other victim in addition to you and Kerry.”
Lydia turned to face him. He felt somebody smarter than him needed to invent a new word to describe the look on her face. She abruptly rose and rushed out of the room. Rankin followed while Hutsell and Hadley hoped Janssen made it to the bathroom in time.