Here’s a short excerpt from And the Devil Walks Away, due out November 10. Currently available for preorder at $2.99, regular price $6.99.
“Why don’t we get to why you asked me here?” Helen said as she silently thought, so I can tell you to go to hell.
“Fair enough.” Benson leaned back in his chair, glanced at his lawyer for a moment, then turned his full attention back to Helen.
“I called you because I need some expertise in a particular field.”
“And that field is?”
“Isn’t it obvious?” He spread out his hands as far as the shackles permitted.
“I’m not exactly what you’d call an expert.”
“Don’t be so modest, detective. And yes, I’m going to refer to you in that way, even with the disgraceful actions of your former employers.”
“No way,” Helen said. “Just call me by my name.”
Benson shrugged. “If you insist, though, I think you’re selling yourself a little short.”
“And I don’t see why you consider me some sort of expert. I was just a homicide detective. Not even that by the end.”
“Seriously now, Miss Lipscomb. I’m sure you’d concede that I’m something of an authority in the area myself, though not…” He spread his arms out and jangled the chains. “…the most successful of the type. And I’m here to tell you that you can count on one hand the number of law enforcement who have single-handedly brought down one serial killer, let alone two.”
“There wasn’t anything single-handed in either case,” Helen said. Benson waved his hand to the side, as if brushing away a gnat. “False modesty aside, I figure you have the requisite skills to pursue the investigation I want undertaken. Not to mention that I’ll pay you a sizeable amount for the job.”
“I don’t think so, Mr. Benson. I am kind of low on funds at the moment, but I don’t see any amount you could offer that would make me willing to go about working for you. If conventional wisdom is even close to correct, you’re on the hook for even more than the three killings they have convicted you of. If for no other reason than that, I just don’t see myself working for you. Sorry, but you’ll have to find yourself another gopher.”
“If your mind was so made up from the beginning, why even come? And why not at least hear me out?”
“I guess I came because I had nothing better to do. I just wrapped up something in Colorado, a state I hear you know well, and was heading back this direction, anyway. As far as hearing you out, let’s just say that I’ve barely been in front of you for five minutes and my skin’s already crawling. So why don’t we chalk all this up to a mistake and go our separate ways?”
Standing up, Helen turned to Conroy, who’d been silent through the entire conversation. “I assume you’ll send me a check for the five thousand. Your office has my address in—”
“Detective Lipscomb,” Benson interjected, his voice taking on a sharper tone.
Helen paused at the door and turned back to him.
“What?” She wanted to be done with the man and didn’t even bother correcting him.
“I think you’re working under something of a misconception,” Benson said. “You’re correct. The authorities suspect me of more slayings than they’ve convicted me of, though even they can’t guess the actual number. But I don’t want you to work to prove my innocence. My guilt has been pretty much firmly established, at least in the three cases that have brought me to death row. Considering all the death sentences I currently face, wouldn’t you agree that would be pretty much a waste of your time and my money to attempt to prove otherwise?”
Helen frowned and glanced at Conroy, whose face remained impassive, before turning back to Benson. “Then what do you want out of me?” she asked.
Benson smiled, but the expression had no warmth. “I want you to prove that I’m guilty,” he said in a flat, calm tone. “Guilty of those murders they haven’t yet pinned on me.”
“Excuse me?” Helen was sure she looked as baffled as she felt.
“I thought that was fairly clear,” Benson said. “Someone’s out there taking credit for my work, and I want you to put a stop to it. If I have anything to say about it, no one’s going to get the credit for my work but me.”