Home > Paint It All Red (Mindf*ck #5)(6)

Paint It All Red (Mindf*ck #5)(6)
Author: S.T. Abby

“To kill someone,” I say flippantly.

He blanches, then looks down at the ground. “You didn’t ask who the original killer was when I said I knew.”

Turning around again, I start walking quickly into the night before calling over my shoulder, “Because I already know.”

Chapter 3

To be wronged is nothing unless you continue to remember it.



I hate myself. I hate this fucking case. And I hate everything that is standing between me and Lana right now.

“I fucked up,” I say quietly to Hadley as I drop to a chair in her cabin.

“I’ll say,” she mumbles.

“I don’t know what to do right now, but I shouldn’t have done what I did. I didn’t know she was Victoria when…”

I blow out a long breath, letting the words trail off, unable to finish them.

“When what?” Hadley prompts, leaning up.

“I fucked her out of anger, and then cuffed her to the bed, left her naked and exposed, and didn’t let her speak.”

Hadley goes stiff beside me.

“You didn’t,” she says in a harsh whisper, her teeth grinding.

I clench my hands together, lacing my fingers with each other tight enough to cause pain. “I thought she was Kennedy and obsessed with Victoria Evans. I had no idea she was Victoria Evans. I’d have handled everything differently. I’d be no less confused, but I sure as fuck wouldn’t have done that to her. I thought she’d been playing me. I was hurt. I felt duped. And—”

“And obsessed proxies are unstable and unable to love without fixation,” Hadley points out grimly. “But she’s not an obsessed proxy. She’s a scarred girl with more shit in her life than any one person should ever have to endure. And you just took your turn shitting on her. Great job, Bennett. Great fucking job.”

She stands, and I curse while standing with her. “I realize I fucked up. I’m trying to fix it, Hadley. But I can’t find her. That’s why I’m here.”

“Define your version of fixing it,” she says, eyeing me suspiciously.

“I have no idea just yet. It’s not like I can simply condone all she’s doing. And it’s not like I can lie and say I don’t understand it either. I feel…fucked up,” I groan, putting my head in my hands.

She leans up, her eyes on mine. “I realize I’m not the Boy Scout you are, but—”

“Don’t do that, Hadley,” I interrupt, my jaw ticking. “Don’t act like being conflicted about torture and murder means I have a stick up my ass.”

She collapses back against the chair, releasing a tortured breath.

“My stepfather was a monster, and my mother and her shrink convinced me I was a pathological liar for seeing him as such.” Her random, yet pained comment has me tensing. “Seventy kids in total that we know about, Logan.”

Her eyes tear up, and she clears her throat.

“I was conflicted too. Then I realized there were only sixty-nine pictures.”

“Your picture was missing,” I say quietly, but I already knew this. I just didn’t piece together at the time that it was my girlfriend sparing Hadley the indignity of the others seeing it.

“She didn’t want me to see the vulnerable little girl I was because she was afraid it would break me. Lana has lived through more pain than most people can endure. The physical pain alone from the numerous surgeries she needed to rebuild her facial structure was bad enough. Imagine the psychological toll that took on her. She lost her family. She lost her home. She gave up her identity so that it couldn’t be taken away. She’s stronger than you’re giving her credit for, and yeah. Maybe I’m a sick motherfucker, but I’m on her side.”

I scrub my face with both hands, staring at nothing as I try to process everything around me.

“It took me a minute to wrap my head around it, which is why I’m not punching you for doing the same. It’s also why I let you in here after you said you were done with me,” she adds.

Her lips quirk, and I run my hand over the stubble on my jaw, thinking about the way Lana would do that to me when she first woke up. She constantly touched me, as if checking to make sure I was still real.

“You were everything to her,” Hadley says quietly. “I’ve never been loved like that. She saved your life, Logan. This town tried to kill you, and she saved you. Personally, I think it’s over-the-top to stab a guy for the man you love, but still perfectly affective.”

Usually I appreciate her dry humor. Not so much today.

She rolls her eyes when I don’t crack a smile. “You need to pick a side soon, Logan. You can’t hang out in limbo. I chose mine, and it’s her.”

“So you’ve been falsifying all your forensic reports on—”

“Haven’t had to. Lana is too good to leave behind trace evidence.” She sighs as she stands. “But I would have. Yes. As far as risks go, you’re the only one she’s ever taken. You’re the one string to unravel all she has worked for since the night they shattered her and her brother. Are you going to take that away?”

“According to Jake, that’s not possible, no matter what I choose,” I state bitterly, wondering just how close he is to Lana. I don’t doubt her words when she said there was nothing sexual going on—for some reason I trust her on that, even though she told me that before I knew he was helping her slaughter ghosts from her pasts.

“He doesn’t know you or how good you are,” Hadley says as she starts grabbing her laptop.

“Do you know where she is?”

She looks me in the eye. “I have a hunch. I’ll share it with you if you pick the right side. Let me know what you decide.”

I follow her out, determined not to let her out of my sight, when a guy walks up. He’s familiar for some reason, and I watch his hands that are nested in his pockets. With his shoulders hunched forward and trepidation in his eyes, he looks too meek to be a threat.

“Can I help you?”

“I’m looking for SSA Bennett. My sister said you guys were camped out here.” He darts a glance around.

“I’m SSA Bennett,” I say warily, my hand leisurely hanging out on my gun holster, as my fingers slowly click open the strap that tucks my weapon in.

He pulls his hands out of his pockets, letting them dangle by his sides.

“I’m Devin Thomas.”

His name tells me why his face is familiar.

“You really shouldn’t be in this town right now,” I tell him, my jaw ticking.

Every fiber in me is fighting to restrain the urge to pummel his face into oblivion; a dark, protective side emerging on accident and surprising me. Knowing Lana was Victoria is changing everything about this case, making it personal. I didn’t know to what extreme until this moment.

“It’s a risk I’m willing to take,” he says grimly. “I have information you need.”

My eyes narrow. “You’re too late. We have tons of statements about what the thirteen of you did that night.”

He grimaces before running a hand through his hair. “That night has haunted me every waking and sleeping moment for the past decade. I may not have committed the same sins, but I was just as guilty. And if the Scarlet Slayer decides I need to die, I won’t blame her in the least.”

“Her?” I muse, my lips twitching when he pales.

Lana has already paid him a visit, it seems.

“I mean, him. Her. Whatever. Anyway, I came to tell you about Jane Davenport. I know you already know about that night.”

My eyebrows knit together. “Kyle’s mother,” I state flatly.

“Can we go inside?” he asks, looking around warily at the woods that surround us.

I gesture for him to go inside Hadley’s cabin, and I glance around, seeing Leonard. I nod for him to join me, and he jogs up.

“Who’s that guy?”

“Devin Thomas.”

He sucks in a breath, and we both enter the cabin as Devin takes a seat, rubbing his hands together nervously. “Why haven’t you arrested anyone? If you knew what we did, I mean.”

“Words mean nothing without any physical evidence. But if you’ll sign a confession, I’ll gladly take you in.”

I smile darkly, and he swallows, nodding.

“I’ve turned my life around, but if I feel as though that’s what God wants me to do, so be it. For now, let me tell you about Jane.”

“What about her?” Leonard asks, sitting down.

Devin eyes him, but finally faces me again. “The first several women found in the original killings had no DNA evidence on their bodies. Johnson came during the middle of those, and after he pretty much decided Evans was the killer, DNA evidence suddenly started turning up at all the new scenes.”

“You’re saying he falsified the evidence?” I ask flatly, not surprised. I’ve already had my suspicions. “How’d he get Robert’s semen inside the bodies?”

“Jane Davenport,” he answers immediately. “The sheriff had his claws deep in her. He hated that woman, and as punishment for hiding his son for so many years, he kept her here. Threatened to kill her if she ever left. And she knew for a fact it wasn’t a bluff.”

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