(Not Professionally Edited)
Before her stood a man that not only abused children sexually, but had murdered them without so much as blink an eye. Yet he looked as normal as anyone you might see on the street. How was that possible?
He was tall, middle aged and in remarkable shape. His dusty brown hair was cut short and kept neat, his face round, and clean-shaven. He looked like he could be anyone's favorite uncle. Yet she knew, deep inside was an ugliness that matched the devil himself.
Her mind scrambled for words. “I…uh, dropped my lighter,” she said quickly, lifting the lighter to show him.
His eyes flicked quickly to the lighter, than back up to her face. “That still doesn’t explain what you’re doing on my property?”
“I…uh, was across the way, at the church, and I saw your horses in the fields. I just can’t resist horses, and I was wondering if you sell them?”
He shifted his feet, his hands resting in the pockets of his worn jeans, his eyes looking at her with suspicion. “No, I don’t sell them. Care to explain what you’re doing in here then, instead of outside admiring the horses?”
Shit, shit. “Well, I thought I might catch a glimpse of a foal, they’re so adorable when they’re young. I was hoping I might get a younger one, raise it myself.”
“I don’t keep them in here anymore. This building is old. I keep them down the field.”
“Oh,” she laughed nervously. “That explains why I didn’t find any here. My name’s Eliza Johnson, and you are?”
He looked down at the hand she extended to him, then back up to her face. “Daniel Bennett.”
He took her hand and she felt a shock wave of electricity jolt into her hand and all the way up her arm. It was the same sensation she felt from the children when they touched her. They’d left their mark on him, that was certain. If she hadn't felt the children here or even felt the jolt from his touch, his name would have tipped it over the scale for her.
Daniel Bennett, D.B.
“Well, Mr. Bennett, I’ve invaded enough of your time, though I’m sorry I couldn’t talk you into selling me one of your horses. I should go.” She pulled her hand away, wanting desperately to wipe it off on her jeans.
Her steps quick, she hurried from the paddock and across his land. She simply couldn’t get away fast enough. Stepping through the wire fence, Sam ran to her car. She had to go to the police. She had to tell them what she knew.
Climbing into her car, Sam took a moment to rest her head on the wheel, her body trembling. She’d found him, found them, it was finally over.
Sam didn’t bother with formalities or politeness as she raced through the precinct in search of Detective Carson. “I’ve found them and the man responsible for their deaths,” she blurted out, breathlessly.
Carson stood, looking bewildered. “Excuse me? Who are you?”
“Samantha Dowling. I’ve found him. You have to hurry. I’ll take you there now.” She grabbed his arm. He jerked it free.
“Miss Dowling, calm yourself and tell me what in the blue heaven you are babbling about.”
“The missing children, I’ve found them.”
His eyes went wide now, his body on full alert. “What? You found them? Where?”
She reached out to grab his arm again, annoyed when he pulled it away. “I’ll take you to them, but you have to hurry. His name is Daniel Bennett, D.B., and he killed them all.”
“Damn it, detective! Get your ass in gear! We have to hurry. He buried them in the old paddock. I’ve seen them. Please, just trust me.”
“All right. I’ll go with you, but you need to calm down.”
“Okay. Okay, but we have to hurry.” She went with him as he grabbed his partner. Though reluctant at first, Sam agreed to ride with them instead of taking her car. As long as they hurried, she didn’t care what care she was in.
It seemed to take forever to drive to the horse ranch and when they pulled into the gravel driveway, she saw the smoke.
“What’s with all the smoke?” Detective Jenkins asked, his eyes looking into the blue sky marred by grey billowing smoke.
“I guess we’re going to find out.” Pulling into the driveway of the Bennett farm, Carson climbed out first. He was just fast enough at grabbing Sam, any slower and she would’ve been off at a dead run. “You wait here,” he demanded.
Like hell she was going to wait here. “I have to show you where he has them.”
He held her off. “No, you have to wait here while my partner and I check things out. Don’t make me cuff you to the door, Miss Dowling.”
She narrowed her eyes, tugged her arm free. “Fine.” She would simply wait until they were far enough ahead, then she’d move in. Giving the detectives a head start, Sam bolted. Running past them, she heard Carson calling to her to stop.
“No, no, no,” Sam cried out, running toward the fire. The old paddock engulfed in flames. She nearly decked Carson when he grabbed her arm to pull her back.
“Damn it, I should have cuffed you. What the hell is your problem?” He turned to his partner without giving Sam a chance to answer. “Call for a fire truck.”
“I already did.” Bennett hurried to the officers, eyeing Sam suspiciously. “What is she doing back here?”
“He torched the place, to hide the evidence. He knew I found them so he set it on fire,” Sam blurted out, her finger jabbing at Daniel. She never should have left the property. She should have just called the police and waited.
“I torched it?” He laughed with mockery. “You torched it when I threatened to call the police to have you escorted off my property.”
Sam’s mouth flew open in surprise. “You…I… That’s a fucking lie!” She lunged at him and was yanked back by Carson.
“Miss Dowling, calm yourself or I will cuff you.”
“Dowling, she told me her name was Johnson.” Bennett snarled at her. “I want this woman—whoever she is—arrested for arson.”
She couldn’t believe her ears. “You bastard! I didn’t start the fire. You did. You burned the paddock because you knew I found something and you needed to cover your tracks.” She turned to the detectives in a panic. “He has them here, buried beneath all those flames. Go, look. You’ll see.”
“Check her pockets. I saw her holding a lighter, a gold lighter. She was trying to hide it when I found her in here earlier.”
Sam took a step back, which she deduced later hadn’t been the smartest thing to do, and shoved her hands in her pockets. The look detective Carson gave her spoke volumes.
“Let’s see what's in your pockets, Miss Dowling.”
“No, no you can’t do this. He did this, not me. He set the place on fire to cover his tracks. I know the children are here. They’ve been calling to me for weeks. I’ve seen them, I’ve talked to them.”
“She’s obviously very disturbed. I don’t know why she would do this to me, but I won’t stand for it. I want her arrested,” Bennett stated sharply.
“Fuck you, you bastard! I didn’t do it!” Pulling her hands from her pockets, Sam lunged at Bennett. She barely got close enough to swipe at him when Detective Jenkins took her down. The air rushed from her lungs as she went down. Hard. Dazed, she gasped for the air that had been stolen from her. “Let me go. He’s the disturbed one. The children showed me what he did to them. He’s the sick one, not me,” she spouted as she kicked and fought to break free of the detectives hold.
“Miss Dowling, enough!” Jenkins held her down, pinning her to the ground.
“Well well, officers, what do we have here?” Bennett toed the lighter lying beside Sam on the ground. “As I said, she was carrying a gold lighter.”
Carson stooped down to have a look, then shifted his gaze to his partner. “Cuff her.”
“No, no stop! I didn’t do this. He’s framing me. He did this and he killed those children. Please, you have to believe me.” She winced when the handcuffs snapped tightly on her wrists. “Don’t do this, please don’t do this. You have to believe me.”
“I’ll bag this. We’ll need it as evidence.” Carson motioned to the lighter. In the distance sirens wailed. “I’ll take her in. You stay here,” he instructed his partner.
“No, stop, don’t do this. You have to stop him before he does this again.” Yanked to her feet, her wrists stinging, Sam continued to protest as Carson escorted her away. “No, stop, please.” Her begging and struggles were for not. Reaching the police car, the fire trucks coming to a stop, Sam stared helplessly as Carson stuffed her into the back seat.
She screamed her protest while he radioed in and she screamed her protest all the way back to the city and to the precinct.
They were making a huge mistake, letting a killer go. She wasn’t to blame, she wasn’t the one.