If She Hid
Blake Pierce is author of the bestselling RILEY PAGE mystery series, which includes fourteen books (and counting). Blake Pierce is also the author of the MACKENZIE WHITE mystery series, comprising eleven books (and counting); of the AVERY BLACK mystery series, comprising six books; of the KERI LOCKE mystery series, comprising five books; of the MAKING OF RILEY PAIGE mystery series, comprising four books (and counting); of the KATE WISE mystery series, comprising five books (and counting); of the CHLOE FINE psychological suspense mystery, comprising four books (and counting); and of the JESSE HUNT psychological suspense thriller series, comprising four books (and counting).
An avid reader and lifelong fan of the mystery and thriller genres, Blake loves to hear from you, so please feel free to visit www.blakepierceauthor.com to learn more and stay in touch.
Copyright © 2019 by Blake Pierce. All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior permission of the author. This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return it and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organizations, places, events, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictionally. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. Jacket image Copyright andreiuc88, used under license from Shutterstock.com.
BOOKS BY BLAKE PIERCE
A JESSIE HUNT PSYCHOLOGICAL SUSPENSE SERIES
THE PERFECT WIFE (Book #1)
THE PERFECT BLOCK (Book #2)
THE PERFECT HOUSE (Book #3)
THE PERFECT SMILE (Book #4)
CHLOE FINE PSYCHOLOGICAL SUSPENSE SERIES
NEXT DOOR (Book #1)
A NEIGHBOR’S LIE (Book #2)
CUL DE SAC (Book #3)
SILENT NEIGHBOR (Book #4)
KATE WISE MYSTERY SERIES
IF SHE KNEW (Book #1)
IF SHE SAW (Book #2)
IF SHE RAN (Book #3)
IF SHE HID (Book #4)
IF SHE FLED (Book #5)
THE MAKING OF RILEY PAIGE SERIES
WATCHING (Book #1)
WAITING (Book #2)
LURING (Book #3)
TAKING (Book #4)
RILEY PAIGE MYSTERY SERIES
ONCE GONE (Book #1)
ONCE TAKEN (Book #2)
ONCE CRAVED (Book #3)
ONCE LURED (Book #4)
ONCE HUNTED (Book #5)
ONCE PINED (Book #6)
ONCE FORSAKEN (Book #7)
ONCE COLD (Book #8)
ONCE STALKED (Book #9)
ONCE LOST (Book #10)
ONCE BURIED (Book #11)
ONCE BOUND (Book #12)
ONCE TRAPPED (Book #13)
ONCE DORMANT (Book #14)
ONCE SHUNNED (Book #15)
MACKENZIE WHITE MYSTERY SERIES
BEFORE HE KILLS (Book #1)
BEFORE HE SEES (Book #2)
BEFORE HE COVETS (Book #3)
BEFORE HE TAKES (Book #4)
BEFORE HE NEEDS (Book #5)
BEFORE HE FEELS (Book #6)
BEFORE HE SINS (Book #7)
BEFORE HE HUNTS (Book #8)
BEFORE HE PREYS (Book #9)
BEFORE HE LONGS (Book #10)
BEFORE HE LAPSES (Book #11)
BEFORE HE ENVIES (Book #12)
AVERY BLACK MYSTERY SERIES
CAUSE TO KILL (Book #1)
CAUSE TO RUN (Book #2)
CAUSE TO HIDE (Book #3)
CAUSE TO FEAR (Book #4)
CAUSE TO SAVE (Book #5)
CAUSE TO DREAD (Book #6)
KERI LOCKE MYSTERY SERIES
A TRACE OF DEATH (Book #1)
A TRACE OF MURDER (Book #2)
A TRACE OF VICE (Book #3)
A TRACE OF CRIME (Book #4)
A TRACE OF HOPE (Book #5)
There are moments in every woman’s life when they are expected to cry: weddings, giving birth, maybe during their children’s first dance or marriage. But one moment Kate Wise had not expected to turn on the waterworks was watching her granddaughter crawl for the very first time.
She was babysitting for Melissa and Terry, as she had been doing once a week for the past month. They had made a commitment to make sure their marriage stayed fresh and exciting, pledging to have at least one date night a week. Kate kept little Michelle on those nights and, for the past five weeks, had been watching her granddaughter experiment with placing weight on her knees and forearms until, about five minutes ago, cooing and smiling, she had rocked back and forth in a push-up position.
“You’re going to do it,” Kate said, getting on the floor with Michelle. She could feel the tears even then, surprised by them but welcoming them at the same time.
Michelle looked at her, clearly pleased by the cheer in her grandmother’s voice. She rocked forward then back…and then she crawled. She only made it forward by two motions before her arms went out from under her. But then she picked herself right back up and did it again.
“There you go,” Kate said, clapping her hands. “Good girl!”
Michelle cooed at her again and then continued ambling forward on her clumsy little hands and feet.
Kate understood that it might not be the fact that Michelle was crawling that was making her cry. It was the look on the baby’s face, the unadulterated trust and happiness in her little eyes when they found Kate’s face. Michelle looked very much like Melissa had as a baby and the entirety of the situation was just too much.
They were sitting on a blanket on the floor, the blanket doubled over for added thickness in the event Michelle wobbled over. Other than the one time, though, she had not toppled at all. In fact, she was currently slapping at Kate’s legs, as if demanding more attention. Kate picked her up, plopped her between her legs, and let Michelle grip her thumbs.
Kate simply enjoyed the moment. She’d watched her daughter grow up impossibly fast, so she knew how fleeting these moments could be. She did feel a little guilty that Melissa and Terry were missing this milestone, though. She nearly called Melissa to let her know, but she didn’t want to interrupt their date.
As she sat on the blanket playing with Michelle, someone knocked on her door. Kate had been expecting the knock, but Michelle jerked her little head in the direction of the door with an uncertain expression.
Kate wiped the last remnants of tears away from her face before saying, “Come on in.”
The front door opened and Allen entered. He was carrying Chinese carry-out bags and, Kate was delighted to find, his overnight bag.
“How are my two favorite girls?” Allen asked.
“We’re very mobile,” Kate said with a smile. “This little stinker just crawled for the first time.”
“Yes, she did.”
Allen walked to the kitchen and took two plates out of the cupboard. As he divvied out their dinner onto the plates, Kate smiled. He knew his way around her house now. And he knew her well, too; for instance, he knew that she hated eating Chinese food out of those flimsy little containers and much preferred to eat it off of actual plates.
He brought dinner over to the living room, setting it on the coffee table. Michelle showed great interest in it and reached up. When she realized she could not reach it, she turned her attention to her toes.
“I saw you brought your overnight bag,” Kate said.
“I did. Is that okay?”
“I figured we could leave early in the morning and make that drive down to the Blue Ridge Mountains we keep talking about. Take in a few wine tours, maybe stay at a quaint little bed and breakfast in the mountains.”
“That sounds nice. And spontaneous, too.”
“Not too spontaneous,” Allen chuckled. “We have been talking about it for about a month now.”
Allen sat down across from her and opened his arms for Michelle to come over to him. She knew his face well enough and assumed the crawling position. She started over toward him, cooing all the way. Kate watched it all unfold, trying to remember a time when her heart had been this full.
She started to eat her dinner, watching Allen play with her granddaughter. Michelle was doing her little rocking-back-and-forth act while Allen cheered her on.
When Kate’s phone rang, all three of them looked toward it. Even Michelle knew the sound of a cell phone ringer, her little hands reaching out for it as she moved into a seated position on the blanket. Kate plucked the phone from the coffee table, assuming it would be Melissa calling to check on Michelle.
But it wasn’t Melissa. The name on the display read: Duran.
She was torn when she saw the name. A large part of her was excited at the prospect of helping out with a case. But the part that was enamored in the current moment didn’t want to answer the phone. While it could be Duran simply calling with a question or research request—something he had been doing more and more these last few months—she also knew that it could be something more pressing and time consuming.
Kate could tell that Allen had already pieced together who was calling. Maybe he figured it out by the indecision on her face.
She answered the call dutifully, still quite proud that she was still actively working with the bureau despite being on the tail end of fifty-six.
“Hello, Director,” she said. “To what do I owe the pleasure?”
“Good evening, Wise. Look…we’ve got a situation not too far from your neck of the woods. A double homicide and missing person. All the same case. It’s got a small-town feel to it—so small that the local PD is admitting that they are unprepared for it. Because there’s a missing persons element to it—the missing person being a fifteen-year-old girl—I’d like for you and DeMarco to try to wrap it quietly before the news hears about it and makes it a much harder case than it has to be.”
“Any details yet?” Kate asked.
“Not many. But here’s what I know so far.”
As she listened to Director Duran, letting her know why he was calling and what he’d need her to do over the next twelve hours or so, she looked sadly at Allen and Michelle.
The call ended three minutes later. She set the phone back down and caught Allen looking at her. There was a tired smile of understanding on his face.
“So maybe we can try the winery and bed and breakfast thing some other weekend?” she said.
He smiled back sadly, then turned away.
“Yeah, maybe,” he said.
He stared out the window, as if staring at their future, and Kate could see his uncertainty.
She couldn’t blame him; she herself didn’t know what her own future held.
But she knew one thing: someone was dead out there, and she damn sure was going to find out who did it.
While Kristen DeMarco was significantly younger than Kate (she had turned twenty-seven just a week ago), Kate had a hard time thinking of her as a young kid. Even when she was excited about starting on a new case, she managed to steep the excitement in the logic and gravity of the facts.
She was doing that now, as she and Kate headed west to the small town of Deton, Virginia. Kate had never been through Deton but had heard of it: a small rural town among a string of similar rural towns that dotted the northwestern edge of Virginia before West Virginia took over.
Apparently, DeMarco knew the town was nothing more than a small speck on the map as well. There was excitement in her voice as she went over the details of the case, but no real sense of urgency or expectation.
“Two nights ago, a Deton pastor visited the Fuller residence. He told police that he was there to collect several old Bibles from Wendy Fuller, the wife. When he arrived there, no one answered the door but he heard the television on inside. He tried the front door, found it unlocked, and shouted into the house to announce that he was there. According to the pastor, he saw blood on the carpet, still wet. He went inside to check things out and found both Wendy and Alvin Fuller dead. Their fifteen-year-old daughter, Mercy, was nowhere to be found.”
DeMarco paused for a moment and then looked away from the file she had brought with her from DC. “Do you mind me doing this?” she asked.
“Going over the case? Not at all.”
“I know it seems cheesy. But it helps me to retain the information.”
“That’s not cheesy,” Kate said. “I used to carry a voice recorder on me at all times. I’d do exactly what you’re doing right now and keep the recording on me at all times. So please…keep going. The details Duran gave me on the phone were scant at best.”
“The coroner’s report says the cause of death was multiple gunshot wounds, made with a Remington hunting rifle. Two shots to the father, one to the mother, who was also clubbed, probably with the butt of the gun. Local PD has checked hunting records and can confirm that the husband, Alvin Fuller, was a registered hunter and owned that very same rifle. But it was nowhere to be found on the scene.”
“So the murderer killed him with his own gun and then stole it?” Kate asked.
“Seems that way. Other than those notes, the local PD could come up with nothing, nor has the state PD found any real leads. Based on testimony from friends and family, the Fullers were considered to be good people. The pastor who discovered the bodies says they were at church almost every Sunday. He was collecting the Bibles from the Fullers to send overseas to missionaries in the Philippines.”
“Good people don’t always attract other good people, though,” Kate pointed out.
“But in this kind of town…everyone knows everyone. It makes me think that if no one has offered any sort of evidence or theories, the killer might be an outsider.”
“That’s likely,” Kate said. “But I think the fact that a fifteen-year-old girl is missing might be more important. Locals are of course going to assume that the girl was taken. But if we take that small-town filter away from it and don’t assume that everyone is a good person, what others theories does that bring up?”
“That the daughter may not have been taken,” DeMarco said. She spoke slowly, as if considering the idea very carefully. “That she may have run away. That she may be the killer.”
“Exactly. And I’ve seen this sort of thing before. If we get into Deton spouting off that theory, we’re going to get sour looks and closed doors.”
“I assumed as much.”
“That’s not to say we don’t treat it like a kidnapping case from the start. But we also can’t go in assuming the daughter is the killer, either.”
“Not until we know more about her,” DeMarco said.
“That’s right. And I feel like that’s where we need to start. Because if everyone in town sees the Fullers as good people, I can pretty much promise you that no one is properly looking into the daughter as a suspect.”
“So that’s where we start,” DeMarco said.
“Yes, but maybe under the radar. If they find out we’re starting off with the fifteen-year-old daughter of the recently deceased as the primary suspect, this case is going to be much harder than it has to be.”
It was a foreboding statement, one that seemed even more pressing as they passed by a sign that told them Deton was only seven miles ahead.
Deton wasn’t quite as small as Kate had been expecting, but it was still quite rural. It seemed as if any business of any real importance was located along the main strip of highway that ran through the town. There was no Main Street, just a patch of Highway 44 that ran through it. Secondary roads meandered off of 44, snaking their way back into Deton’s less populated area.
The bulk of the town consisted of a Rite Aid, a Burger King, a Dollar General, and several smaller local businesses. Kate had seen hundreds of little towns just like this during a career that had taken her all across the country and she felt that they all looked the same. Of course, that did not mean the people and their cultures were the same. To think such a thing would be a huge mistake.
The Fuller residence lay about three miles off of the main stretch of town, on one of the secondary roads. It was a simple two-story house in need of new siding and roofing. Its rustic look betrayed the other things that Kate and DeMarco noticed as Kate pulled into the driveway.
There was a news van parked in the driveway. A good-looking female reporter and a cameraman were talking something over by the front of the van. A single police car also sat in the driveway, an officer simply sitting inside. He saw Kate and DeMarco arrive and slowly started to get out of his car.
The reporter looked up as Kate and DeMarco got out of the car. Like some dedicated bloodhound, the reporter instantly came rushing over. The cameraman jostled his equipment, trying to follow behind, but fell a few steps short.
“Are you detectives?” the reporter asked.
“No comment,” Kate barked.
“Do you have the authority to be here?”
“Do you?” Kate asked, biting back fast.
“I have a responsibility to report the news,” the reporter said, giving a canned answer.
Kate knew the reporter would be able to find out the FBI had been called in within an hour or so. Therefore, she was fine with showing the reporter her badge as she and DeMarco walked toward the house.
“We’re with the FBI,” Kate said. “Keep that in mind if you get any ideas about following us inside.”
The reporter stopped in her tracks, the cameraman nearly colliding with her. Behind them, the officer approached. Kate saw by the name tag and badge pinned to his uniform that this was the Deton sheriff. He grinned at the reporter as he passed them.
“See,” he told the reporter rather gruffly. “It’s not just me. No one wants you around.”
He stepped in front of Kate and DeMarco, leading them to the front door. Under his breath, he added: “You know the laws as well as I do. I can’t boot them because they’re technically doing nothing wrong. Damned vultures are hoping a relative or someone will come by.”
“How long have they been parked there?” DeMarco asked.
“There’s been at least one news van parked there every day since this happened two days ago. At one point yesterday, there were three. This whole thing has made pretty big news around here. There have been news vans and crews located all around the county police station, too. It’s pretty infuriating.”
He unlocked the front door and ushered them in. “I’m Sheriff Randall Barnes, by the way. I have the displeasure of being the lead on this thing. The Staties found out the bureau was on the way and decided to step aside. They’re still pursuing the manhunt for the daughter, but are leaving the murder part of the whole thing on my doorstep.”
They stepped inside as Kate and DeMarco also introduced themselves. There was no conversation afterward, though. The sight before them, while not nearly as bad as some murder scenes Kate had seen, was jarring. The dried maroon splotches on the blue carpet were very much in-your-face. There was a stale feel to the place, something Kate had felt at scenes like this before—something she had tried describing countless times but always failed.
Out of nowhere, she thought of Michael. She had tried explaining the feeling to him once before, stating that it was almost as if a house itself could sense loss and that feeling of staleness in the air was the house’s reaction. He had laughed at her and said it sounded almost spiritual in a weird way.
She was fine with that…mainly because it’s exactly what she felt as she took a look around the Fuller home.
“Agents, I’m going to step back out onto the porch,” he said. “Make sure we don’t get any prying eyes. Holler if you need anything. But I’ll tell you right now…anything you want to know that’s not already in the reports we sent over is going to have to come from one of my other officers—a fella named Foster. Here in Deton, we’re not exactly used to cases like this. We’re discovering just how unprepared we are for such things.”
“We’d love to speak with him after this,” DeMarco said.
“I’ll give him a call and make sure he’s at the station, then.”
He left back through the front door quietly, leaving them to the scene. Kate stepped around the initial blood splatters on the carpet. There were some on the couch, too, and splatters on the wall just above the couch. A small coffee table sat in front of the couch and a few things on it seemed scattered—a few bills, an empty but overturned plastic cup, and the television remote. It could indicate signs of a quick struggle, but if so, it was not a particularly fierce one.
“No real signs of struggle,” DeMarco said. “Unless their daughter is very strong and athletic, I don’t see how she could have done this.”
“If it was the daughter, they may not have seen it coming,” Kate argued. “She could have come right into the room, hiding the gun behind her. One of them could have been dead before the other had any clue what was happening.”
They studied the area for a few minutes, finding nothing out of the ordinary. There were a few pictures on the wall, several of which were family pictures. It was the first time she saw the girl she assumed was Mercy Fuller. The pictures showed her in varying stages of age: from around five to her current age. She was a cute girl who would likely become a beautiful girl sometime around college. She had black hair, brown eyes, and a radiant smile.
They then ventured deeper into the house, coming to a room that obviously belonged to a teenage girl. A bedazzled journal sat on a desk that was littered with pens and papers. A ceramic pink pineapple sat at the edge of the desk, a picture holder of sorts with a wire holder at the top. A picture of two teenaged girls, smiling widely for the camera, was held within it.
Kate opened up the journal. The last entry was from eight days ago and was about how a boy named Charlie had kissed her very quickly while they changed classes at school. She scanned a few of the entries before that and found similar scribblings: struggling with a test, wanting Charlie to pay more attention to her, wishing that bitch-face Kelsey Andrews would get hit by a train.
Nowhere within her room were there any indications of homicidal intent. They checked the parents’ bedroom next and found it similarly disinteresting. There were a few adult magazines hidden away in the closet but other than that, the Fullers seemed to be squeaky clean.
When they exited the house after twenty minutes, Barnes was still on the porch. He was sitting in an old tattered lounge chair, smoking a cigarette.
“Find anything?” he asked.
“Nothing,” DeMarco answered.
“Although I do wonder,” Kate added. “Did you or the state police happen to find a laptop or cell phone in the daughter’s room?”
“No. Now, on the laptop…that’s not much of a surprise. Maybe you could tell by the state of the house, but the Fullers weren’t exactly the type of family that could afford a laptop for their daughter. As for a phone, the Fullers’ cell phone plan shows that Mercy Fuller did indeed have her own phone. But no one has been table to trace it just yet.”
“Maybe it’s powered down,” DeMarco said.
“Probably,” Barnes said. “But apparently—and this was news to me—even when a phone is off, it can be tracked back to the place where it was powered down…the last place it was on. And the state guys figured out it was last powered on here, at the house. But, as you pointed out, it’s nowhere to be found.”
“How many men do you have actively working the case?” Kate asked.
“Three at the station right now, just basically running interviews and digging through things like last purchases, last known places they visited and things like that. There’s one guy left behind from the Staties that’s helping, though he’s not too happy about it.”
“And you have one guy on your force that you’d consider the lead on it other than yourself?”
“Correct. As I said, that would be Officer Foster. The man has a mind like a lock box.”
“Could you lead us to the station for a quick debrief meeting?” Kate asked. “But just yourself and this Officer Foster. Let’s keep it small.”
Barnes nodded grimly as he got up from the chair and flicked the last of his cigarette into the yard. “You want to talk about Mercy as a suspect without letting too many people know about it. Is that right?”
“I think it’s foolish to rule it out as a possibility without looking into it,” Kate said. “And while we look down that path, yes, you’re right. The fewer people that know about it, the better.”
“I’ll make the call to Foster on our way to the station.”
He walked down the steps, staring down the reporter and her cameraman. It made Kate wonder if he’d had at least one bad altercation with a news crew sometime during the last two days.
As she and DeMarco got into their car, she also gave the news crew a distrustful glance. She knew that in communities like Deton, a murder like this could be earth-shattering. And because of that, she knew that news crews in these areas would usually stop at nothing to get their story.
It made Kate wonder if maybe there was more of a story here than she was seeing—and if so, what she might need to do to get all of the pieces.