"There was also a book that talked about his crimes at the same time that he was losing control of his home life and his compliance job," Edward said.
"And a television show loosely based on him came out."
"So you're saying that it could be a law-abiding family man here in the area that's suddenly gone back to his old hobby?" Tyburn asked.
"Other than BTK, I'm not sure anyone has ever gone inactive for even a decade and then resurfaced, without a jail term in between," I said.
"Not two decades, no, but there are others that have married and started a family and stopped for a while," Edward asked.
"Why would a family make them stop killing?" Olaf asked.
"For some it seems to be about control; they can be responsible for their families and in control of that, so they don't feel the need to control strangers in the ritual of their killing," Edward said.
I took the next part as if it was a conversational ball that he had passed to me. "For others it's almost like they're bored, so they kill. If their lives are full and busy enough in a positive way, not a stressful way, they don't seem to feel the compulsion to kill as often. If their lives become too stressful in a bad way, they seem to use murder as a way to release the stress."
"You make it sound like it's exercise or sex, or even a hobby," Dalton said.
"If it's the only way they can have sex, then they're less likely to take long cooling-off periods," Edward said.
"The ones that take the longest cooling-off periods are the ones that seem able to have regular relationships with a wife, kids, et cetera," I said.
"I thought the sexual serial killers felt a compulsion like an addict," Dalton said.
"Even addicts can go into recovery," Olaf said, "if they want other things in their life badly enough."
It took almost everything I had not to look at him as he said it. If he was looking at me, I didn't want to know. If I looked at him and then he looked at me, I didn't want to see it. I looked out at the sunlight on the ocean that stretched out and out, so that the road was like a pale ribbon running across brilliant blue cloth.
"Most addicts don't rape and kill women," Edward said.
"Does it really matter what someone is addicted to, if they are willing to fight the addiction?" Olaf asked.
"Do you really think a twelve-step program would work for a serial killer?" Dalton asked.
Bernardo asked, "You said that the first woman that died twenty years ago had a fight with her boyfriend."
"Yes," Tyburn said.
"Did the other two women have fights with their husbands?"
"None of them were married. The first one was traveling with her longtime boyfriend on vacation. The second was a local girl that had a reputation for sleeping around. The third woman was the oldest of the three victims; she was divorced and just starting to date again."
"Were they all sexually active but unmarried?" Bernardo asked.
"Denny wasn't here with a boyfriend," I said.
"She doesn't even know how to flirt well, because she's cried on Donna's shoulder more than once about how she just doesn't understand anything about dating or relationships. She wants a relationship, but sex puzzled her. There is no way that she fit into a victim profile that needed her to sleep around casually," Edward said.
"It may be my fault," Bernardo said.
I just had to turn my head to look at him. "How could it be your fault?" I asked.
"Denny saw Bettina leaving my room with the other bridesmaids in their wedding. She and I talked in the hallway about how she wished she could enjoy casual sex like Bettina obviously had."
"Was she hitting on you?" I asked.
Bernardo looked up at me, smoothing his hand down the side of my hip. I don't think it was on purpose, more a nervous gesture. "Not exactly. She was more asking why she wasn't more like other women. She was seeing a therapist about her lack of sexual drive."
"I didn't even know that," Edward said, "and she's Donna's best friend. How do you know that and Donna doesn't?"
None of us protested that Donna would have kept Denny's secret. I think we were all pretty sure she'd have shared it with her husband-to-be, if not more people. "I wouldn't normally share any of this, but if it's important later and I don't share it . . . I'd rather apologize to Denny about breaking her confidence than keep it and get her killed because I didn't share it."
"Share what?" I asked.
"She's in her forties; she wants a permanent relationship, a husband or at least a live-in boyfriend. She dates just fine up to a point, but she wants companionship, not a lover, and most men won't settle for that."
"You and Denny never dated each other. How do you know all this?" Edward asked.
"She wanted a weekend with me, just sex, no strings. She just wanted to be with someone that was supposed to be a skilled lover and see if it made a difference. She said if I was half as good as I looked . . . Anyway, I agreed."
Edward was sort of softly glaring at him. "She's a beautiful woman; of course you agreed."
"Her therapist approved the weekend as an experiment."
"Are you honestly telling me that you went to therapy with Denny?" Edward asked.
"Her therapist had diagnosed her as asexual. I didn't even know that was a possibility as a sexual orientation until she asked me to help her."
"Asexual, but Denny dated men--not a lot, but she dated. She was even engaged once."
"But all the relationships broke up over the fact that Denny was just not interested in sex," Bernardo said.
"You mean she was frigid?" Olaf asked.
"No, according to her therapist that's an outdated term. Denny could feel love and was a very caring person, but she had almost no interest at all in sex. She felt it was ruining her chances at a real relationship and didn't want to be alone forever. I understood that part; for very different reasons, I think I'll probably never marry either. I don't mind as much as Denny did, but I'm conflicted about it, a little."
"Why would she pick you of all of our male friends to confide in?" Edward asked.
"Why? Because I'm a womanizer and haven't had a serious relationship ever?"
"Yeah," Edward said, "there are friends of ours that would love to date her with serious intentions."
"That's why me," Bernardo said. "She didn't want to disappoint anyone else. It took a lot of courage for her to come to me like she did. I respected that."
"So you and Denny went to her therapist and got the doctor's blessing on a weekend of sex?" I asked.
"Something like that, yeah."
"You know, that's a new one on me," I said.
"Me, too," Bernardo said.
"How did the weekend go?" Dalton asked.
"She is a lovely person, but she does not enjoy sex, or maybe she just doesn't understand why everyone else does. She's not frigid. She's warm and caring and has this great laugh, but sex just isn't her . . . thing. Her therapist interviewed me afterward by myself and then with both Denny and me. We compared notes and we parted friends. I swore I'd never tell anyone. I hope we find her alive so she can be angry with me about it."
"Me, too," Dalton said, and she looked teary-eyed.
"Me, three," I said.
"When did all this happen?" Edward asked.
"Two years ago."
Edward shook his head and then clapped Bernardo on the shoulder. "I didn't notice a damn thing."
"Nor I," Olaf said, and they both sounded surprised.
"I'd never had a woman trust me with so much of themselves. I know it sounds weird, but I was more flattered that Denny trusted me with her secrets and her pain, than about the sex. I would never have told anyone if she hadn't been taken."
"But how does you sleeping with the missing woman once two years ago get her in trouble with our killer now?" Tyburn asked.
"We went to the hotel bar to have a drink and talk. We talked about how we both thought we'd never marry and wh
at that might mean for us. We talked about the weekend we had together in a public place where we could have been overheard." He looked at Edward. "The killer had to be there; it was the only time Denny could have been mistaken for slutty, because she wasn't like that. If the killer only takes women who sleep around, then I'm the reason that Bettina's dead, and the reason that Denny is missing."
He lowered his head, as if he didn't want them to see whatever was in his eyes, even though he was wearing sunglasses so none of us could see his eyes, not even me. I felt his shoulders tremble, his breath came out shaking, and I knew he was crying. Quietly, controlled, but still tears. I probably should have pretended not to notice, but I already had my arms around his neck with the ponytail of his hair sliding over my skin. He had me wrapped up close and safe in an intimacy that neither of us expected from each other, but then I hadn't expected the man I'd seen at the pool who had chosen Bettina out of the bikini-clad crowd to have been so careful of Denny, or to be crying over both of them now.
I wrapped my arms around his shoulders and put my head beside his and hugged him as close as I could. His arms wrapped around me and pulled me even closer, and then his shoulders began to shake. He made almost no noise as he cried, but the tears spilled around his dark glasses against my skin. Edward put his hand at the back of Bernardo's head, against his hair. Neither of them could have cried in each other's arms like this, but since I was there for it, they could touch each other, around the edges.
Olaf's arm stretched across the seat and touched Bernardo's shoulder. I glanced at him, more surprised by that than almost anything else.
Tyburn was on his phone telling someone on the other end to find out who had been in the hotel bar yesterday when Bernardo and Denny had their talk. He especially wanted to know staff. We might have just narrowed our suspect list down to a manageable number in the time we had left to find Denny alive. I prayed again that we would find her alive. I held Bernardo while his body shook with silent weeping. Edward kept his hand on his hair and finally leaned his forehead against my arm and Bernardo's face, so we both held him. Olaf kept his hand on Bernardo's shoulder through the rest of the drive.