Ava wiped at the sweat that abruptly formed on her upper lip and noticed that her hand felt like ice. Her vision tunneled slightly.
Uh-oh. She recognized the symptoms of her blood pressure dropping. Sit. Before you end up on the floor.
She grabbed a chair and sat. That was better. She bent over and rested her head between her knees, sucking in deep breaths.
Anthony Sweet. She hadn’t known the name of the third victim until this moment. His photo was of his crumpled body against the wall. The man who’d left the safety of his store to try to help her and Misty.
Does he have a family?
She didn’t want to know. Her vision cleared and she sat up, but she couldn’t look back at the map. Frustration shot through her. The person who’d caused the deaths and pain was gone, but how many people would suffer for years because of what he’d done? A need to fight back and strike out overwhelmed her, making her hands shake. Something raw deep inside her longed to make the killer hurt.
But he’s already dead.
She ached to bring him to justice; she could taste the need to do so, but knew it would never be satisfied.
What can I do?
“Sorry to keep you waiting, Ava,” Sergeant Shaver said. “Things keep popping up around here. I guess that’s good—it means we’re getting closer to answers. I found this guy sticking his nose in things, too.” He pointed at Zander Wells with a thumb.
“Hey, Ava.” She felt the agent take a hard look at her, and she fought the urge to run a hand over her ponytail. Do I look like someone who nearly fainted a minute ago?
“I heard you have a positive identification,” she said, tossing out a small bone to take the focus off her.
Shaver’s mustache twitched, and Zander lifted a brow.
“Mason didn’t tell me the name,” she clarified. “But he said it’s solid.”
“It is. But I asked you to come in to look over some videotape with me.” Shaver neatly changed the subject without revealing the name. “I had our techs patch together some different clips that I’d like your opinion on.” He waved for her to follow him to a bank of computer monitors. She sat as he logged in and opened a file. Zander stood behind them, his arms crossed on his chest. Ava tensed as the monitor showed a color recording of her and Misty walking down an aisle of the mall. The angle of the video was steep—probably shot from a rooftop camera. The two of them walked past the children’s play area, where one mother guided her son down the slide. Neither she nor Misty glanced at the two of them.
I didn’t give them a second thought when the shooting started.
Dread swept over her, and sweat beaded at her temples. The carefree boy and his mother were oblivious to the fact that death was about to strike. Thank God I already know the ending to this movie. She had no recollection of seeing the woman and boy after the shooting began. She blew out a breath and, out of the corner of her eye, saw Shaver take a close look at her.
On the video she gestured with her hands as she spoke to Misty. She couldn’t recall what they had been discussing. They moved out of the camera’s range, and the feed jumped to a new view. Still steep but from the opposite side of the mall walkway. She and Misty stopped as Misty lifted her arms in a yoga pose and Ava stepped in front of her to adjust Misty’s arms. Ava nodded, her memory returning. They’d been discussing a new position. On-screen, Misty silently jerked as Ava jumped, and then she shoved Misty to the ground, covering her with her body.
Ava looked away and wiped her cheeks. “Jesus H. Christ.” Her hands iced over, and her heart raced.
Shaver paused the video. “Your reactions were spot-on. You got her down.”
“He’s right, Ava,” Zander added. “Some people would give you a medal for that.”
“Where’d the mother and boy go?” she whispered. I don’t want a fucking medal.
“Watch.” He hit PLAY.
Ava watched the woman sprint into the camera’s view. She had the boy clutched to her chest and was running toward the parking garage. She barely glanced at Ava and Misty on the ground. Mother’s instinct. Protect her child.
“You do a good job here,” Shaver commented. “You calm Misty down and immediately get her leg taken care of and get the two of you out of view.”
“Everything was locked,” said Ava. “I wanted to get her out of there, but I couldn’t carry her and she couldn’t move.”
Several minutes ticked by. The shooter came into view, and Ava leaned closer to the screen. Her impressions of him had been accurate. He moved like a hunter, searching and watching. Twice she saw him check his watch. “He looked at the time right before I thought he was going to shoot us,” Ava commented. “Does he do the same on the earlier views of his shootings?”
“Don’t know,” Zander said with an edge in his voice. “Two of the cameras in front of the theater area weren’t functioning. We don’t have any video of the first two shootings.”
“What? How?” Her mind raced. Was that deliberate or lucky? Maybe the point of the shooting was to take out the jewelry fence’s brother-in-law.
“We’re trying to figure that out,” said Shaver. “The cameras appear to have been tampered with. I’ve got a team printing them and checking the roofs right now to see if any evidence was left behind. Along with officers combing through video for how the shooter entered the mall.” He pointed at three people at another bank of computers. “We don’t know if he came on foot or parked in the garage. I wouldn’t mind finding his vehicle or figuring out where he got the weapon, either. So many things to get done.”