Excerpt from Death Offerings

   
     I gripped the phone and squeezed my eyes shut. Although I realized there was something I should say that would make him give a clue to his identity, something I could share with the police, my mind wouldn't work properly. Nothing clever came to me.
     My mouth felt stiff when I made myself speak. "You did this... you killed her so I'd keep writing the articles?"
     "We have a connection. I know you feel it too."
     "I don't even know you. If you're really the one doing this, please just stop."
     A low chuckle rumbled over the line. "Stop? I did stop, but my life wasn't complete. Something has been missing. Now, you've given me a new purpose. I'd gotten bored with the girls... the same old routine, blah, blah blah. You made it fun again."
     "You killed her because of me? For me?"
     "When I read your articles, something sparked." He paused, and when he continued, I detected emotion in his voice. "I can't explain it, but..." He sighed. "Forget it. I don't want to get all gushy. You get me. I know you do. Did your detective friend tell you about the penny?"
     "Penny?"
     "Your pennies from heaven story inspired me. I left a penny in the girl's hand, along with one of her teeth."
     Bile, thick and overpowering, clogged my throat. I swallowed hard and whispered, "One of her teeth?"
     "Yeah. With a little coaxing, I got her talking. Telling me about her life. She lost her first tooth in '03 when she was six. I found a penny dated 2003 and put it in her hand with the tooth. I bet the cops don't want that released. There you go. A human interest touch for your article." He sounded proud, like he'd just solved world hunger.
     My body went cold. My mind whirled with warring thoughts... find out something useful... hang up... keep him talking.... But the will to contain the screaming inside my head was all I could manage.
     Steeling my resolve, I drew in a deep breath and tried to force calm into my voice. "That's... that's clever." I nearly choked on the words. "I'm flattered that you paid so much attention to what I've written. Since we have a connection, don't you think we should know something about on another? You know my name. Tell me yours."
     He emitted a burst of laughter that sounded like it was filtered through a broken speaker. "I'm not an idiot, Monroe. Please don't think you can patronize me."
     Lifting a trembling hand, I scrunched the hair on top of my head. "You're right. I didn't mean to. I just... you fascinate me." It took everything I had to get the words out of my throat. Stroking the ego of a psycho was nauseating. "As you can see from my articles, you've fascinated me for years. I want to know you better."
     "You will." His tone softened. "In time. For now, I have to go. In case you're trying to start a trace. I'll be in touch, though. Can't wait to reconnect."
     "No... wait!"
     But he was gone. The arm holding the phone suddenly felt too heavy. I dropped the cell onto the sofa cushion beside me.
     Dear God.
     Lane.
     I had to call Lane. I picked up the phone once more, then remembered he was in a meeting. I dialed Tony instead.
     He answered after a few rings. "Monroe? Is everything okay?"
     "Not-not really." My teeth began to chatter, and I clenched my mouth shut to stop them.
     "What is it?"
     "I think I just got a phone call from the killer."
 
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