Egypt set her coffee mug on the windowsill and drew the drapes again, closing herself inside with her unfinished project. Her creativity tended to peak at night, but she could sometimes get by with artificial darkness. As she walked back to her workstation, she glanced down at the heap of disassembled spy cameras and sighed. Events were moving along much faster than she’d anticipated now that Morris had turned up dead. Luckily, her undergraduate assistants had been enthusiastic about masquerading as pizza delivery men and political canvassers while surreptitiously gathering up the hidden cameras she’d planted around Rubicon Ranch.
Originally, she’d intended to end the docudrama with the bombshell that revered writer and celebrity, Morris Sinclair, was actually a pedophile so debased he’d taken trophies from the dead Peterson child as she lay in the desert. If she’d been able to control her own impulses and remained an observer, she could have followed the planned storyline. Now she had to make changes to account for what she’d done—no, what fate had dictated. Yes, the universe had mandated a violent end for Morris Sinclair and if she had anything to do with it, his hellspawn offspring would soon follow him.
Several minutes ticked by before Egypt’s anger subsided enough to resume work. After testing and adjusting audio levels, Egypt began her voiceover. “Let’s take a closer look at Rubicon Ranch, the same isolated suburban development where only months ago, a young girl was abducted and murdered. After those events, the community’s gilded reputation could no longer hide the dark currents seething within this elite enclave. The residents have all expressed shock over the Peterson affair, disavowing knowledge of any activity related to it. Yet even after the revelation of the vile photos possessed by their most famous homeowner, they did not expel Morris Sinclair from their midst. And even when criminal evidence lies right in their path, they choose to do nothing.”
She played the footage filmed by the spy camera near the Peterson house, watching until Leia examined and put down the ring box to continue her voice over. “Was this Sinclair’s final atrocity—to leave one of his trophies, the tooth of a young girl, as an offering on the doorstep of the Peterson house? Faced with such a horror, why did so many remain silent?”
Several scenes followed, showing people going past the Peterson house. Six of them stopped to look at the ring box, and three went to investigate. But all of them left it in place.
Egypt’s hand froze on the keyboard. She cocked her head and listened, but the house was silent. She must have imagined the scraping sound. Egypt picked up the narrative again. “Members of the media have visited Rubicon Ranch and left empty handed. The well-off and conservative members of the community maintain they keep to themselves and respect the privacy the desert allows them. Yet, does their behavior substantiate their claims?”
To illustrate her point, she inserted a scene of Melanie training a small digital camera on the Sinclair house. Egypt especially loved the one of old man Eloy striding over to Sinclair’s front door to have a visibly heated discussion on the porch. There were also scenes of Ward Preminger trying to look casual while scoping out the Sinclair house from different vantage points.
“Although Sinclair is a famous writer and a well-known recluse, is this a reason for his neighbors to slink around the back to visit? Were they summoned or were they up to something?” These questions accompanied footage of Leia sneaking toward the back of Morris’s property, and Eloy’s dog running through Sinclair’s back gate with Eloy following it into the yard until he went out of camera range. She let an overview of Morris’s house play silently until she cut in again.
“And what do the two Sinclair children know and when did they know it?” Egypt sequenced in two scenes: the Sheriff speaking with Moody Sinclair on the porch of the family home, Jake Sinclair parting the curtains to stare out the window as realtor Nancy screamed her head off on the street in front. Instead of responding, he let the curtain fall back in place.
“Now Morris Sinclair is dead, and his own head has been placed as a memorial to Riley Peterson.” Egypt paused the narrative and played a lengthy segment showing Nancy running from the Peterson house and her belated call to the police. Then she spliced in the arrival of police vehicles back at the house.
She continued, “This was but the finale to a series of indescribable acts designed to mimic one of Sinclair’s own stories. Although some residents have been questioned, the killer remains at large.” Egypt took pride in the accompanying footage, which had been acted out by her crew and two neighborhood boys who’d been recruited to ride their bikes into the desert and point at the spots where body parts had been found. She had to admit, using those kids had been a stroke of genius. The film crew had done a fantastic job. Sometimes making you believe something gruesome hid just off camera could be even more frightening than letting you see it.
“Why does this case continue to baffle the local sheriff, a skilled investigator and former head of a large California police force? Perhaps he has a hidden agenda, a personal reason for allowing a killer to run free.” Next came Melanie being escorted from her house by the two deputies. Egypt laughed as she superimposed video—taken by the cell phone of one of her assistants—of Sheriff Bryan chatting with Melanie, his body language more suited to dating than investigating. “And we cannot ignore rumors that Sheriff Bryan also dragged his feet investigating the disappearance of poor little Riley.”
Egypt cut to aerial footage of Rubicon Ranch. Before moving in, she’d paid a small fortune for a helicopter ride, but the results were worth it. She was briefly distracted as she caught a movement out of the corner of her eye, then realized the air conditioning had come on, causing the draperies to stir.
“So Morris Sinclair has paid the final price for his degenerate life. Now that his neighbors are freed of him, will they speak now that they’re not being blackmailed or frightened into silence? Yes, they will all speak, but one person, in particular, must be heard. Morris’s killer.”
Egypt examined archived files, searching for the right one, one that would end the film and simultaneously end her years of hiding in disgrace. At that moment she realized she was more than willing to pay any price to exact a very public revenge on Morris Sinclair.
Egypt never got the chance to select a file. Before she could turn in response to the noise behind her, two strong hands grabbed her by the neck and pulled her up out of her chair. She squirmed in the struggle and the hands came free. Time somehow slowed as her brain registered the sounds of her editing deck crashing to the floor, and her chair spinning away to crash against the wall. Then something swept her legs out from under her and she fell backwards on to the tile floor. Two hands reached toward her face. The last thing she saw before she passed out was a scarred wrist.