The Brampton Kill Seekers meet every other Wednesday in the after-school program room of the local library. The walls are bright yellow and plastered with corkboards covered in colorful children’s artwork, notices for book sales, and volunteer opportunities. A giant rainbow arcs over a chalkboard with READING IS FUN written in perfect cursive.
The dozen members—“kill seekers”—sit in a circle, a mixed group of men and women, young and old, a variety of ethnicities. I get the impression I’m the only new person, and perhaps the first new person they’ve had since they formed a year earlier, because everyone keeps darting surreptitious looks my way. Even though they invited me, it feels like they’re waiting for me to stand and introduce myself. Hello, everyone. I’m Carrie Lawrence. My sister is missing and presumed dead and I survived a serial killer. Thanks for having me!
The whispering reaches an almost feverish height, and it becomes painfully obvious that the circle of chairs has fifteen seats and the only two that aren’t occupied are the ones on either side of me, making me the painfully conspicuous guest of honor. I’m doing my best to appear immersed in the contents of my phone, waiting for the meeting to begin and not making eye contact, but that’s entirely unsuccessful, and it’s a mercy when someone decides to break the tension by announcing, “You’re Carrie Lawrence.”
The room falls deathly silent, and I slowly raise my eyes, searching for the speaker. He wears a plaid shirt and a knitted cap and stares at me with something uncomfortably akin to awe. For some reason, he’s also the only person wearing a name tag: EMMETT.
“Yes,” I say, when the silence has gone on uncomfortably long. “I am.”
There’s more astonished murmuring, as though they hadn’t just been discussing me.
“I received your invitation,” I add tentatively. “And I read about your investigations. I share your questions, and I…seek the same answers.”
This is not exactly true, but the group is nodding sagely, so I think I’ve struck the right somber tone. Now that I’m making eye contact, I see that, like me, they all seem to have come straight from work for this seven o’clock meeting. There’s a woman in purple scrubs, a man in a business suit, and two teens in fast-food uniforms. What they all have in common is that they’re staring at me with an equal mix of fear and curiosity. They don’t want to be through what I’ve been through, but they want to know all about it. But that’s not what I’m here for. The Kill Seekers invited me because they want to know what really happened to my sister, Becca. I already know what happened; I just need to confirm it. I need to find the body.
“My sister is missing,” I say, knowing they’ll eat it up. It’s been five months since Becca’s disappearance and the man who took her died, but I’ve refused to give any interviews or answer questions. Until now. Sort of. “I don’t know…I don’t know if it was Footloose”—I do know; he sent me a picture—“but I, um, want to know. There are too many missing people in this city—”
Someone actually says, “Amen.”
“—and I want to help find them.”
Last fall, police found thirteen bodies buried in our local park, each missing a foot, and the press dubbed the killer “Footloose.” It was definitely him that took Becca, but I can’t tell anyone how I know this. I just need confirmation that she’s really, truly, forever gone.
The words earn me a round of applause that makes me flush with embarrassment. And perhaps shame, too, because I know that Becca was not an innocent victim. As far-fetched and impossible as it sounds, Brampton has been home to two serial killers. My sister was one of them, though her deadly deeds have never been discovered. And because she blackmailed me into helping her bury bodies for a decade, I know where too many of those missing people are. The only body I need to find, however, is Becca’s. I need proof she’s dead. Proof that horrible phase of my life is really over.
“Sorry I’m late.”
The Kill Seekers and I turn as a unit to see a man standing in the doorway, framed by a wall of paper flowers and streamers, a handmade sign reading WELCOME SPRING! dangling above. He’s tall and astonishingly handsome, with shaggy movie-star chestnut hair and cheekbones to match. It could be that he’s the only man I’ve ever seen who could successfully pull off a fake tan, his perfectly bronzed skin contrasting with his starched white button-up shirt.
Unlike everyone who’s in their work attire, it looks like he changed into what he thought “kill seekers” might wear: designer jeans, a camouflage jacket, and black work boots that I’d bet my life savings have never actually seen a day of work. A gold watch with diamonds glints on his wrist, and I know instinctively that he bought it from Becca. It takes a second to place him because I only saw him once before, when my sister introduced him as Nikk with two k’s. He manages an overpriced gourmet grocery store and was one of Becca’s best clients at the jewelry store, shelling out thousands of dollars on jewelry to apologize to his abused wife.
The Kill Seekers must have been expecting him, or at least hoping he’d show up, because his arrival changes the energy of the room. Emmett looks delighted and hustles over to greet him.
“You must be Emmett,” Nikk says, shaking his hand. “Thanks for the invite.”
I frown, wondering why both Nikk and I would have scored an invitation to this strange gathering. Surely he’s not that invested in the disappearance of his favorite jewelry salesperson.
“Of course, man. Anytime. Anytime.” Emmett pauses. “I mean, not…Like, not…”
But for an alleged wife beater, Nikk is gracious. “It’s cool; I get it.”
“Hey, everyone,” Emmett announces, like we’re not all watching. “As you know, this is Nikk Boulter. His wife, Lilly Fiennes, went missing three weeks ago.”