STOPPING AT THE MALL to pick up a cut-glass vase for his
sister's birthday, a mystery novel for his day off, and a few items
needed for the house had seemed like a good idea an hour ago,
but Luke Granger was still short two items on his shopping list,
and he had no desire to try another store.
The lady clutching two Bergner's shopping bags and the hand
of a three-year-old girl looked worried. "There's a woman in the
restroom who needs help. She asked me to find mall security."
He was city police and off duty, still in uniform after a day in
court; she was close enough. "Anyone else in there?"
He nodded and crossed the corridor into the hallway with
pay phones and restrooms. A cleaning-service cart sat outside a
door marked Utilities. He pulled it over to block the entryway to
the women's restroom. "Police officer coming in," he called in
warning. He walked through the sitting area with four chairs
and a stroller station and into the lavatory area.
He saw the lady: early forties, sick, her face alabaster white,
the counter doing more to hold her upright than her legs. He
turned, set down his purchases, and returned with a curved-back
and cushioned chair. "Sit down, ma'am."
He shut off the water streaming over her hands in the basin
and eased her back into the chair. She wore a white tailored
blouse and black dress slacks, the retailer version of a uniform,
and they were no longer neat or straight. He wondered at sexual
assault even as he stripped off his jacket and bundled it around
her to deal with the chill he could feel. He was a big man, broad
shouldered and tall, and the jacket swallowed her slim frame.
"His eyes were caramel, cold." A shudder rippled through her
"Okay." He swept hands down her midsection looking for the
source of the smeared blood on the front of the sink counter.
Blood darkened her slacks at the right thigh, but it hadn't
soaked through the fabric from a wound.
"Bressman's jewelry, the storeroom."
His gaze shot to hers.
"They're all dead. I checked."
He briskly closed his jacket snaps up to her neck. "Stay right
She gave a jerky nod.
He left her there.
* * *
Luke walked into Bressman's Jewelry. The sign turning above
the front display counter advertised 30 percent off diamond
pendants this week only. No salesclerks were in sight. He walked
around the counters and into a small back office, then turned
down the narrow hallway that paralleled the public restrooms.
A door moved back and forth in the breeze of the overhead air
conditioning, and a radio tuned to a country station began a
new song; nothing else spoke of life.
And because he was a cop, he stood. The horror took a good
minute to wash through his system as he cataloged the killings.
Four store staff herded back here and shot as a group, the blood
splatter staining the storage shelves. The youngest looked to be
barely out of high school with her makeup perfect and her nails
painted a soft pink. A lady his mother's age had been shot in the
head. The store manager and a third sales associate, both
middle-aged men, had died in front of a holder for gift boxes.
The blood hadn't attracted more than a couple flies yet: ten
The fact it had been done in his town, within his reach, and as
deputy chief of police he hadn't been able to prevent it, chilled his
anger to a hard, sharp edge. Luke reached for his radio. "55-14."
He recognized the dispatcher's voice in the brief answer.
"Janice, there's a multiple 187 at Ellerton Mall, Bressman's Jewelry."
He mentally ran through the list of detectives on duty. "I
need Connor, Marsh, Mayfield, and St. James. Tell them minutes
"Yes, sir. Priority calls are going out."
"Assign a band for this case."
He switched over his radio frequency.
"Emergency Services?" Janice asked.
"Dispatch forensics code orange to the scene and alert the
coroner. I'll need forty officers pulled in. Locate as many as you
can in-house, tap the Westford district, and then start calling
men back to duty. Marsh will be handling assignments on scene.
Where's Paul Riker right now?"
"His schedule shows a Q&A with print journalists."
"Have someone pass him a message. I need him on scene."
"I can handle it, sir."
"Good. I'm code four."
Footsteps had him turning. Two mall security officers, both
"Stay up front." Luke left the door swinging in the air-conditioned
breeze and walked back to the showroom. "There's been
a shooting. How many security officers does the mall have on
"Okay. I want the two of you to close this storefront. Parker,
once the gate is locked, I want you to sit at the side entrance to
this store. No one but Brentwood or Westford officers enter or
you won't be employed tomorrow, you understand?"
"Richards, I want you to get the other two mall guards and
start working the parking lot starting at this entrance. I want a
list of license-plate numbers for every vehicle on the lot."
They stood there.
They rushed to bring down the security gate, pulling the first
panel from the ceiling to cover the main section of the store
Luke walked over to the east wall of the display area and took
down the sixth framed picture. His witness looked better in
her official photo. Kelly Brown. It didn't sound like a forty
something's name. Her hair had changed-it was now a couple
inches longer and a shade darker auburn-but the blue eyes were
He kept the photo and walked the display cases. Nothing appeared
disturbed. A robbery with multiple murders and no jewelry
taken? How much would be here in inventory? A hundred
thousand? More? Do you have a special sales area, Kelly Brown?
Rings, watches, the necklaces that would cost a year of my salary? You
were wearing no jewelry today, not even a ring. That surprised me. The
cash register also appeared untouched.
Luke looked up as the first officers he had requested began to
stream in. Connor was in the lead with his partner, Marsh, towering
over him a step behind. Connor was all of five nine, wearing
the black jeans and sweatshirt he favored for days working
the streets. Marsh, at six four, still looked like a hungover drunk
after too many days staking out alleys, and the dark shadows
under his eyes were more pronounced than normal. Luke considered
them to be among the best officers in the department,
even though neither would like to hear that commendation
repeated in public for fear they would end up in management
"What do we have, Boss?"
Luke pointed to the back hallway. "I'm leaving the scene to
you, Connor. Marsh, you're coordinating the officers coming in
to assist. I've got a witness to deal with. I need names and addresses
of the victims fast, because I'm not seeing robbery as the
motive. We're still in the first hour, so light a fire under everyone."
"Keep the traffic on channel four. As soon as Riker arrives,
page me. The press is going to be a problem with this one."
Trying to clear the mall of all shoppers wasn't a workable option,
and sending a SWAT team searching for the shooter in a
crowded mall would only end up with public panic and injuries.
The shooter had come in, herded store staff to a back storage
room, and shot them there. The scene presented said the
shooter had left without trying to attract attention, and the
timing of the shootings said he was already gone. For now they
would work it outward from the shooting scene and try not to
amplify the problem they faced.
Already a crowd of shoppers was slowing, stopping, and asking
questions of each other. Luke walked through them and
around the corridor to the restrooms. The cleaning cart remained
where he had left it. Luke stepped around it and into the
The chair sat in the lavatory section, empty but for his folded
jacket. "Ma'am? Kelly Brown?"
He left the lavatory and walked through the stalls. The
restroom was empty. She'd left. As shaky as she had been, she'd
still managed to leave.
He walked out of the restroom and looked around the corridor.
She wasn't watching the officers at the store, propelled
there by the awfulness of what she had seen. There wasn't a need to
run, Kelly. You were safe now.
"I need an address and a vehicle make for Kelly Brown, early
forties. Give me any DMV records close to the name and age registered
in the city." He started the trace and then flipped
through the phone book to locate the main Bressman store. He
tore out the page. Five branches. Why this one?
Luke reentered the jewelry store and moved into the small office
area; the hallway had begun to fill with forensics people.
Connor looked up from a file. "Your witness?"
"Skipped. And from the sound of it, she saw the shooter. I've
got a trace running for her car now. Anything here show ad
dresses, phone numbers of the staff?"
"I've got customer information-jewelry repair and special
orders-but the best I've done so far on the staff is an index card
taped by the phone. The main store has all the personnel files.
I've got an officer bringing them over."
Luke checked the index card. Just first names, but only one
Kelly. He touched his radio. "I need a reverse lookup on a phone
number." He read it off and got an address back. "She's close by;
I'm heading over there. You're good here?"
"The photos and phone numbers give me a place to start, and
forensics has a priority to tell me the weapon used. I'll have preliminary
inventory confirmed in twenty minutes. Right now
you're right; it looks like everything is here."
"Former staff, recent firings-this types as a workplace shooting,
not a robbery. Station a patrol car and officer at the other
Bressman stores; there's no reasoning yet for why this branch.
Let's make sure it's not simply the first."
"Marsh had the same thought; he's got officers on the way to
the stores now."
Luke stopped at the restroom to retrieve his jacket and his
purchases from an hour ago. He headed toward his sedan. He
could send other officers, but Kelly was spooked enough, and
what she had seen was their strongest lead right now.
The trip took seven minutes, three of them spent idling at red
lights. He turned on Amber Road. He wasn't sure he would personally
like to live this close to where he worked. He slowed as
the house numbers counted down to the address he sought and
he stopped: an old two-story red brick with a massive front
porch and a narrow lot. The oak tree in front towered above the
house and shaded the yard. No vehicle was in Kelly Brown's
driveway, and a slow drive past showed the garage had a blown
over trash can rolling back and forth in front of the door, suggesting
she hadn't pulled through into the garage.
He touched his radio. "10-2."
"DMV records for Kelly Brown at that address show only one
vehicle registered, a Honda Odyssey, plates alpha-bravo-nine-
Luke circled the block and saw no sign of her vehicle. He
parked on the street. Picking up his jacket, he slipped it on. He
lifted the collar closer to his face and caught the faint trace of
her perfume. A lady's scent: welcoming, a touch elegant. He
walked up the sidewalk to her front porch. Mail jammed the
mailbox, and potted plants lined inside the front window.
Lights were off. He rang the doorbell and opened the screen
door to also knock. "Ms. Brown, Kelly, please come to the door.
It's Officer Granger."
He didn't get an answer.
He walked around the property and knocked on the back
door. The house appeared locked and quiet.
He hadn't seen her purse in that lavatory, and she hadn't re-entered
the jewelry store. If she wasn't home, then where? He
touched his radio. "Connor, get the mall security guard Richards
on the radio. Check if a Honda Odyssey is still in the mall
parking lot. Plates are alpha-bravo-nine-two-five."
Luke checked windows around the property, but what he
could see of Kelly Brown's life were plants, books, one bowl in
the draining rack beside the sink, and a jacket lying over the
back of a chair. He checked the mail and found it all addressed
to K. Brown or Kelly Brown. She lived alone.
"The vehicle is parked in section G, aisle five."
"Tell Richards to keep an eye on it. Have you found any
purses in the office?"
"No. There's a locker in the storeroom that may be for coats
and such. I'll check just as soon as forensics gives me access."
"I'm on my way back to you."
He had left her at the mall restroom. If she didn't have her
purse, she didn't have car or house keys, and she would have no
cash beyond what she might have slipped into her pocket. But if
she'd worked at that mall branch for three years, as the photo indicated,
she likely had friends on staff at other stores. Lack of
keys or cash wasn't going to slow her down. And if she was running
scared-come on, honey, the last thing I want to do is go knock on
the doors of your friends and leave them worried when I can't tell them
for sure you're okay.
She'd seen the shooter well enough to know his eye color.
She hadn't been killed. The two facts were incongruent. Some
one she knew? Someone she recognized on sight? Then why
hadn't she just said his name as the person who shot her co
Kelly Brown, I need to find you or you need to find me, and it has to
Luke parked beside responding squad cars at the mall and
walked back inside. Marsh had set up shop east of the jewelry-store
entrance in a small storefront available for lease, officers
streaming in and out with information and new assignments.
Luke handed Marsh Kelly's photo. "I need a canvas of the
mall, staff at the stores, anyone who has seen her or knows her.
She's going to be wound pretty tight, so have me paged rather
than approach her if someone spots her. She may have already
left with a friend, so also be asking at stores for the names of
who got off duty in the last hour and a half."
"You'll have it." Marsh passed the photo to the officer behind
him. "Thirty duplicates, color. Tom, get me another stack of
mall maps to mark store assignments. What's the latest count
on the mall security tapes?"
"Nine scanned so far," Tom replied. "They just brought down
"Your witness is going to turn out to be our best lead on the
shooter. The initial interviews of those around the jewelry store
are coming up dry, and the security tapes from the store and
mall aren't offering much."
Luke suspected that too. "She saw enough to give us the
shooter-I'm convinced of that. Stress that `do not approach'
when she's spotted; have me paged."
Luke stopped beside the mall security guard Parker. "Does
the mall have a regular bus stop?"
"One by the movie theater and the other by Sears. The blue
bus line stops at both every thirty minutes."
Luke headed over to the movie-theater entrance. The bus was
on time. He stepped aboard, confirmed the driver had been on
this route the last two hours, and got a negative when he de
scribed Kelly Brown.
Luke stepped back off. It had been a long shot. He flagged
down a mall-security patrol car and got in beside Roberts.
"Show me the van I tagged." As they drove the lot, Luke flipped
pages in the license-plate list. They'd been recorded by section.
"Three hundred cars, give or take?"
"Yes. The lot can hold seven hundred, and we've been under
half most of today. That's it." Roberts came to a stop behind the
Luke got out. The windows showed him two white shopping
sacks on the passenger seat and an open soda in the cup holder.
Nothing suggested she had been back to the vehicle; nothing
suggested someone else had carpooled with her to work. "I'll
walk from here."
Roberts nodded and returned to recording license plates.
Had Kelly headed out into the parking lot only to change
where she was going when she realized she didn't have her keys?
Had she tried for a cab ride to a friend's who could pay the bill