“Some sort of tribal thing. Rutledge photographed it. We couldn’t make heads or tails out of it. Sometimes there’s a name or letters hidden inside the shapes, but I couldn’t see it.”
“Could just be a pattern he liked,” Mason said. “Did the mother send a photo of her son’s tattoo?”
“She was trying to find one. Said she knew her son had pictures of it, but she didn’t. The description and location sounded right.”
They stopped outside an open office door, and Mason tentatively knocked on the frame. “Dr. Campbell?”
The woman at the computer spun around and smiled warmly. “Mason! Ray said you were on your way. And you know better than to call me Dr. Campbell. It makes me look around for my father.”
He couldn’t help his grin. He’d first met Lacey ages ago when she was a young athlete in college, and their paths had crossed again a few years back in a serial killer case. Now he considered her a good friend. She was in her thirties and shone with a beauty that made every man dream his dentist looked like her.
“Your father’s enjoying retirement?” Ray asked. Dr. James Campbell had been the chief medical examiner before Dr. Rutledge.
“He’s in Australia as we speak. I’m pretty sure he’s coming back.”
“Rutledge seems to be holding down the fort pretty well,” Mason said, forcing his tongue to work since he was slightly dumbstruck, as was usual when he was in her presence.
“He’s fantastic,” Lacey agreed. “You’ll want to know about Justin Yoder?”
Her smile vanished. “I haven’t finished my report, but it’s a match. That’s definitely him.”
Silence filled the small office, and she looked from Mason to Ray. “Too abrupt? Do you want me to show you how I know?”
“Please,” Mason asked. He trusted the petite dentist’s findings, but he liked to know the why.
She turned back to her computer. “The top films are from his dentist and the ones along the bottom here, I took this morning.” She pointed with a pencil. “We’re lucky he had good dental care. These top films are only three months old. As you can see, he’s had composite restorations placed here, here, and here.” She touched three teeth in the first film in the top row and then moved her pencil to the film at the bottom of the screen on the left. “Compare those three restorations to the same teeth down here. They’re identical in shape—all three of them. Another body might have composite fillings in the same teeth, but the shape will always be different. On the other side of his mouth he has a good-sized gap between his first and second maxillary molars. The film from his dentist shows decay starting on the distal of number fourteen.” She touched the tip of the pencil to a dark spot on a film on the right side of her screen, and then moved it down to the corresponding film at the bottom. “On the film I took, the decay is gone and replaced by a composite filling. I called the office and they confirmed that they placed the filling after taking the films.” She tapped the film. “There’s still a gap between those teeth that will continue to catch food. He’s going to need . . .”
She stopped speaking and lowered the pencil. She slowly turned her chair around to face the detectives, her brown eyes soft. “I guess he won’t be needing anything,” she said quietly.
Mason sympathized. Beside him, Ray shoved his hands in his pockets.
“Thank you, Lacey,” Mason said. “This will give us a jump start on figuring out why he did what he did.”
“It’s terrifying,” she answered. “I shop at that mall all the time. Where will someone strike next?”
“Our goal is to make sure there won’t be a next time,” answered Mason.
Ava sipped at her coffee, not tasting it, as she studied the bustling room at the community center. Sergeant Shaver had called, asking her to come back to Cedar Edge for a second interview. In her opinion someone had set up a decent investigation center. Lots of room, neatly arranged tables, a dozen computer stations, timelines, maps, and photos on the walls. The atmosphere was slightly different from that of centers she’d been in before. The urgency she associated with big cases was missing. Here the bad guy had already been brought down, and now police were searching for the why. Investigators were more relaxed, not saddled with the stress of finding the shooter before he hurt someone else.
Mason had called during her drive and told her the shooter had been positively identified. He and Ray were on their way to update the Washington County sheriff and then would be paying a visit to the young man’s family.
Twenty years old.
She chewed on the edge of her paper coffee cup. What drives a twenty-year-old to murder strangers? Dark eyes behind a mask flashed in her mind. He’d stared right at her and decided not to shoot.
On the wall across the room Ava recognized the layout of the Rivertown Mall. Labeled pins tracked the shooter’s path. She couldn’t read any of the notations, but she could see the colors and markings. She had a good idea what the three large red Xs stood for. She scanned the room for Sergeant Shaver. He’d promised to be right back five minutes ago. She stood and went across the room to study the map.
A small rectangle was labeled SUNGLASSES KIOSK and directly next to it was a blue X and a green X. The green one was labeled with her name and a line that traced to a mini-bio and her picture. She looked exhausted in the photo. She faintly remembered the sergeant’s snapping it at some point yesterday. Misty Helm was the blue X. Her photo had been taken as she lay on a stretcher. Ava touched Misty’s picture, wanting to wipe the blood from her cheek. A small dotted line led from where Misty had been shot to their waiting place by the kiosk. Not far from the kiosk was a larger red X next to a wall. A line led to a description.