And then she felt him give, relaxing just slightly, so slightly that if she hadn’t been standing right beside him, she might have missed it. “That’s all, Stephen. No one knows it was her. And we won’t wait around to see what happens.”
Her uncle nodded, agreeing to her father’s terms, and then he looked down at Violet. “Are you okay, Vi? Can you do this?” he asked her.
“Of course.” It was what she’d wanted all along…to catch this guy.
It took Chief Ambrose all of three minutes to update his men, and another ten to have the volunteers who’d been hovering around them discreetly pulled back from the area. He used only the officers he’d brought with him when he’d come to find Violet, and he told them nothing except that one of the volunteers thought they’d seen something suspicious.
His plan was simple, and it was to be executed quickly and quietly. He didn’t want trouble. There were too many civilians in the vicinity, and he wanted to make sure that no one was hurt.
When they were ready, her uncle Stephen gave the signal for his men to follow. Nobody questioned why Violet and her father were tagging along behind the police chief and his officers.
It was all over in a matter of minutes, at least her part of it.
Violet found the man again easily, the one they were searching for. He was in the exact spot where he’d been when she’d first encountered him, hovering over the body of an unnamed dead girl.
Violet squeezed her dad’s hand as hard as she could, and her dad gave her uncle the signal that confirmed that this was, in fact, their guy. Looks were silently exchanged between the men who worked for her uncle, and then Violet felt herself being half dragged by her father back through the trees, past the volunteers who were unaware of the drama unfolding deeper in the woods and toward the very epicenter of the search-and-rescue efforts. She clung to him as strongly as he did to her, neither wanting to let the other one go for a moment.
When they emerged into the opening at the edge of the forest, Violet heard her father breathe a heavy sigh of relief as though they had just cleared a minefield and come out unscathed. And she supposed that, in a way, they had.
“Will Uncle Stephen come by later to tell us what happened?” Violet asked as they approached her parked car. She handed her keys to her dad.
“He’ll come as soon as he can, but it may take a while,” he answered her honestly. “This is big, Violet. Really big, and he’s going to have to explain to everyone how he found the guy.”
Violet didn’t care how he explained it, even if it meant using her by name, because this was it, this was the ending she’d been hoping and waiting for.
They had the killer.
The next few hours went by in a blur for Violet.
She escaped to her bedroom as soon as was humanly possible, which was almost immediately, since her dad would need some time to talk to her mom. He would need to explain what had happened this morning out in the woods behind the Hildebrands’ house and then to try to calm her down afterward. And Violet didn’t want to be anywhere near them during that conversation, knowing that her mother was going to have a fit about what she’d done…hunting for a killer all by herself.
She waited until she was away from the prying eyes of her parents before checking her cell phone for messages. It was something Violet had been dying to do ever since she and her father had gotten into her car and she’d heard the phone’s vibrations, alerting her that she had missed calls.
She flipped it open and scrolled through the call log. She realized that she’d been holding her breath, hoping to see Jay’s number. His was the only number she’d wanted to see, and even though it was noticeably missing from the list, there were two numbers that she didn’t recognize.
She checked her voice mail and the automated voice told her that she had fourteen voice messages.
She listened, erasing each message after she’d listened to it, her frustration mounting with each disappointing message that wasn’t from Jay. When she was finished she tallied the calls in her head.
Chelsea had left one message. One was from her mom, wondering if she’d found her dad and what time they thought they’d be back. Twelve were from Grady, who apparently had been the one to call from the two unknown numbers, probably on the chance that Violet had been screening her calls. She hadn’t been, but only because she hadn’t had access to her phone, otherwise she would have.
None of the messages were from Jay.
Grady’s messages had been pathetic, teeming with profuse apologies and lame excuses about his having had too much to drink. Admissions of guilt and explanations were a common theme throughout all twelve of his messages, as he first asked, and then begged for her to call him back, so he could tell her just how sorry he really was. As though he hadn’t already said it at least a dozen times.
But Grady was the last person Violet wanted to talk to today.
She heard voices coming from downstairs, and at first she thought that her parents must be arguing, probably about her, because they were talking so loudly. But when she heard another voice, one that didn’t belong to either her mother or father, she thought that maybe her uncle had stopped by to give them an update.
She jumped up and raced down the stairs.
And then she stopped where she was, too surprised to take another step.
In the kitchen, her dad and Jay stood huddled together, talking quietly, keeping their voices low—their tone was serious. Violet was surprised by how much Jay seemed to belong there, in that setting.