Evil Never Dies (Lizzy Gardner #6)

by T.R. Ragan


Lizzy Gardner Investigations had gone rogue.

While handling the usual skip-traces, missing persons searches, and workmen’s compensation cases, Hayley, Kitally, and Lizzy had handpicked six criminals who needed to be punished. The worst of the repeat offenders. The list included five men and one woman, all of whom had committed numerous crimes, including rape, stabbings, muggings, and assault and battery.

At the moment, Hayley stood over one of the men on their list. He couldn’t see her through the thick duct tape she’d wound around his head to cover his eyes.

But she could see him.

Owen Dunham was naked and blindfolded, and his hands and feet were each tied to a separate bedpost. He was a rapist. He was the number two man on their list of creepers living right here in Sacramento. The number one guy on their list was Wayne Bennett, but Lizzy was handling him.

Divide and conquer. That was the plan for now.

Following Owen around all night, watching him stagger from club to club, Hayley and Kitally had waited patiently before making their move. It was well past midnight when they followed him onto the freeway, then watched him weave through traffic and somehow make it back home without killing anyone.

By the time he stumbled through the door to his apartment, he was an easy target. They pushed him inside and sent him crashing to the floor. Kitally locked the door, and then they were both upon him, riding him as he thrashed about like a slimy beached fish until Hayley succeeded in injecting him with etorphine hydrochloride. Hopefully not enough to kill him, although Hayley wasn’t too worried either way.

Lucky for him, the drug appeared to be wearing off fast, which meant he wasn’t dead from an overdose. Dragging him through the apartment and getting him onto the bed had taken some work, but they’d managed.

“What’s going on? What are you doing?” he asked as he came to, wriggling beneath the tape and ties.

Ignoring him, Hayley told Kitally to get the knife ready. She could have done that ten minutes ago, but she wanted him to hear every word. She wanted him to sweat, to know what it was like to have zero control. And mostly she wanted him to know that something bad was about to happen.

Kitally began sharpening the blade, making certain he could hear the sound of metal scraping against metal.

Owen Dunham had raped twin girls. Eight years old. Open-and-shut case. He was linked to the sexual assault of five others, but for some reason prosecutors had only concentrated on the twins. Unlike most rapists, Owen spent ten years in prison. He was released two years early for good behavior.

It wasn’t long before he met a woman who happened to be the mother of a blonde, curly-haired six-year-old. She and her daughter lived in a trailer park. The woman could not believe her good fortune in finding such a wonderful man, and she swallowed his story about the reason for his prison sentence (unjustly accused by a vindictive ex-girlfriend after he broke up with her) hook, line, and sinker. Not only was he handsome, he helped her around the house and even did things for her, like change the oil in her car. For her birthday, he bought her an entire year of yoga classes because he knew how difficult raising a child could be for a single mother. He also offered to babysit. He wanted her to relax and have some time to herself.

But two months later, class was canceled unexpectedly and the woman came home to find her wonderful, too-good-to-be-true boyfriend raping her daughter.

The police were called.

The rapist took off before the sirens sounded in the distance. Investigators gathered facts and DNA samples. They took pictures and interviewed the child’s mother. The woman’s six-year-old daughter was subjected to all sorts of tests, lots of probing and prodding. Owen Dunham was ultimately arrested, but something happened along the way, and he was released on a technicality.

This time, he’d gotten away with his crime. Or so he thought.

“If you don’t let me go,” Owen growled, “I will hunt you down and make you wish you were never born.”

“I don’t think so,” Hayley told him. “After I’m done with you, you’re the one who’s going to wish you were never released from prison.”

“Wait a second. Is this some sort of birthday prank? Did my brother set this up? This is Larry’s doing, isn’t it?” Nervous laughter erupted. “I don’t know how much he paid you to do this, but undo the ties and I’ll double it. I’m asking nicely. The money is in my wallet, across the room in my top drawer.”

“I don’t want your money.”

His voice deepened. “What do you want, then?”

“We’re here to make sure justice is served.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Prison time didn’t teach you a thing.” Hayley drew in and released a long, frustrated breath. “And so now it’s up to me and my friend to do what they should have done in the first place.”

“I never touched those girls.”

“And which girls might you be referring to?”

He said nothing.

“More than one examiner determined that both of the Vicente girls were raped.”

“I’m not saying they weren’t, but it was their father who raped them, not me.”

“I wonder how it was that your DNA was found on the girls?”

“We were neighbors. He planted my sperm. Took used condoms right out of the garbage. It wasn’t me.”

“And what about the daughter of your latest girlfriend? Who raped her?”

“That woman is crazy. I met her once.”

“Well, I guess those pictures all over the news of you and the little girl at the park and the zoo were just the mother’s imagination.”

“Let me go right now,” he warned. “You’re starting to piss me off.”

Hayley looked at Kitally, who put down the sharpened knife, picked up the duct tape, ripped off one more piece, and taped his mouth shut.

“You’re not the only one who’s pissed off,” Hayley said. With every word out of his mouth, she’d felt the rage building within. She was so tired of assholes like him taking advantage of innocent young girls. Owen Dunham should have been left in prison where he belonged.

Muffled noises sounded beneath the tape as they both put on latex gloves. Hayley looked at Kitally. “Should we cut off his balls, or do you want to perform surgery to try to sterilize him instead?”

“Hell, yes, I’ll give it a try,” Kitally said, retrieving the knife. “Although I think castration might be the way to go.”