She woke up next to Dominic, happy. It had been a wonderful change to not wake up on a couch. She stared at him through happy eyes. He had stayed! Well, for now, anyway.
He rolled over and smiled at her. “How are you this morning, Hun?”
She smiled back. “I am happy. I–I never thought I would feel this way. I don’t want it to end.”
He pulled her to him and held her tight. She loved the feel of his hard, muscular body against hers. She pressed herself even tighter against him. She pulled her head above his chest, then pulled herself up so that her lips would meet his. They locked in a kiss that seemed to suck them both in for all eternity, though it only lasted a few seconds.
“I love you, Sara,” he stated softly, “I hope this will last forever.”
“Me too,” she cooed, “I finally feel safe.”
“Don’t worry, Baby,” he smiled, “I will keep you safe. I promise.”
“I know, Babe,” she replied, smiling back, “I know.”
She lay there, her head on his chest. Her mind had finally quieted down. Her fear was gone. Her feelings of being followed had vanished. For now.
She hoped that it was gone forever. She desperately needed to heal. She desperately wanted to remember everything. Who she really was. Why she had come to this city. Why Mardi Gras seemed so familiar a date.
She hated not knowing. It kept her from really understanding why she felt so alone. But right now, she didn’t care. She finally had a man who was going to stay. At least, that is what he had just promised.
Even though she knew her name was not Sara, she had to remain Sara for him. She had given that as her name, apparently, last night. Why else would he have called her that?
Michael sat at his desk. The deeper they dug into John Petty’s past, the more they realized that he was not who he claimed to be. His real name had not been John Petty. The real John Petty had vanished in Portland ten years ago. Sure, the man they knew as John Petty looked like the real one, but he was someone else altogether.
John Petty, the real one, had been a police officer. This imposter, whoever he was, had taken on all that had been the real officer. The string of murders had begun with this original Officer Petty and his wife. And their two children. Of course, now even Portland was beginning to look into similar rape-murders to see if they also matched those in New Orleans.
The police officer’s death had actually marked the killer’s exit from Portland and his appearance in New Orleans. “John” had moved to New Orleans as a decorated officer and been given a position immediately. His purpose, he said, had been to gain a higher position at some point. He had risen as high as he could, he said, in Portland. And besides. He had needed a change.
In their investigation, Michael was finding that the real John Petty had been about to go up for promotion. He was about to go from the beat to any department he wanted. Homicide. Vice. And with position. He was going to be made Captain.
Portland had found the real John Petty in a closet of his own home shortly after the imposter had moved. It had been the last known murder in a series that had taken place there. All had been raped before they had been killed, that was why they didn’t link the Petty murders to the rest. None of the Petty family had been touched. They had just been shot to death with Petty’s service revolver.
Michael was now laying out the details of the case. Whoever had assumed the identity of John Petty had been killing in Portland. When Portland began getting close to them, they took out the officer who was the closest to solving the case. In this case, Petty had been a possible witness and not actually a homicide team member. Or perhaps the traffic cop who’d stopped his killer and could possibly identify him.
Could they have been family? Was that also a factor? Portland had said no. Officer Petty’s family had all been Police officers, and John had been an only child. He had no cousins either. At least not in Portland.
Moreover, Portland had also reported the disappearance of a transient known as Mark Nelson. Nelson, they said, looked enough like Petty to pass himself off as the hapless officer to any who had never met John. The only difference was their view of others. John had always loved his community and even gave help to the prostitutes and transients of the city. Rides to the shelters. Rides to the hospitals for the prostitutes who been beaten by their pimps. Even offering them help to get out of their situations.
The city had never known a kinder officer. Nelson, on the other hand, was judgmental. All women were whores. He especially hated the prostitutes. Why, no one really knew. He would never say.
If he didn’t like a job, he would whine about having to do it. Probably the very reason he was transient. But no one had suspected him of anything. At least, not until he came up missing and the petty family had been found murdered.
When his picture had been shown around to the street people, they all knew who he was and had admitted that he had been the last person every woman in the rape cases had been seen with. They had mentioned the fact that there was something definitely not right about the man. Where Petty was kind, Nelson was pure evil. He hated. He fought with everyone. He cursed. he held grudges.
Michael knew that the man he had known as Petty had really been Nelson. He had come to New Orleans to continue his path of destruction. But this time, he had chosen to impersonate an officer of the law. Nelson had almost gotten away with it, too.
Now, though, he had vanished. Just like Portland, he must’ve thought that the homicide and vice teams were onto him. So he took off. At least, that is what it looked like. But was it what it seemed? Had he really ran? Or did something else happen?