At that moment, Sheriff Valenti came through, looking haggard and worried, and Alex was right behind him. “Something’s happened,” he said.
Liz looked from Valenti to Alex. “What?”
Max could see the strained expression on Liz’s face and went to stand behind her. He put his hands on her upper arms reassuringly, preparing for bad news.
“What’s going on, Sheriff?” Max asked.
“There have been two more murders,” Jim said, looking at Liz, “and one of them was exactly like in your dream.”
Liz was stunned.
“What?” Max asked. “What do you mean it’s like her dream?”
“There are only a few alleys with walls at the end like Liz described,” Jim explained, “so I went and checked them.” He turned to her. “There was one, just like you said, with a broken phone booth lying on its side, and an oil drum that had obviously had a recent fire in it. And just past it I found a body.”
Liz was shaking her head, and Jim continued. “She was wearing a red leather jacket. It looks like she’s been there a few days. Maybe even longer than the first body we found.”
“And it’s the same killer?” Liz asked softly.
Valenti nodded. “Looks like it. She was raped and killed with a blow to the head.”
“Who was it?” Liz said.
“Her name was Alicia Young. She was a tourist from Kansas.”
Liz shook her head again. “But why did I dream about her murder? I couldn’t have known her.”
“And the other murder?” Max asked.
“It happened last night,” Jim said. “A recent grad from Goddard High, Tina Gonzales. She was at the haunted house you went to, and got separated from her friends. She was also raped, and then beaten to death.”
Liz gasped. “I knew he was there.”
The Sheriff held out a file toward Liz. “You’re connected to this somehow,” he said. “I brought in photos of all the victims to see if you recognize them, or maybe you’ll get another vision or something.”
Liz swallowed hard, nodding. She’d wanted her dream to mean something, but it was so real, and now two more girls were dead.
She took the folder the Sheriff had, and opened it slowly, dreading what she might see inside.
Max pressed his body to hers, rubbing her back supportively.
Liz was glad to have him there. Everything seemed so much easier with him around.
She sighed in relief when she saw the pictures. Somehow she was expecting to see photos of the girls after they were dead, but these were recent snapshots.
Putting her hand on each one, she studied the faces carefully. She’d never seen the first girl, or the second, but she recognized the third one instantly.
Touching the photo, she looked up at the Sheriff. “I know her. I served her here a few days ago.”
Jim glanced at the photo. “That’s Alicia,” he said. “The girl you had the dream about.”
“That explains why you had a connection to her,” Max said softly.
Liz nodded as tears gathered in her eyes. “I can’t believe she’s dead,” she said. “I was just talking to her. She said she was on her way to L.A.”
Closing the folder, she handed it back to the Sheriff. “She’s the only one I recognize.”
He nodded. “I hate to ask, but have you had any other dreams about this?”
“Well,” Liz said, ”I did have another dream last night, that the killer came into my room and touched me.”
It was the first Max had heard of it. “What else happened?” he asked apprehensively.
“Nothing,” she said. “He just left.”
“So it wasn’t like the other dream,” Max said, relieved.
“I don’t know,” Liz admitted. “I thought it was real when I woke up, but my window was still locked.” She sighed. “I know it sounds crazy,” she said.
She shook her head. “And I felt like I was being watched when I was at school, and it made me think the killer could be a student or a teacher. And maybe they even worked at the haunted house too.”
Valenti nodded. “We’re already checking out the employees of the haunted house, and checking the students and staff at the high school is a good idea too.”
He paused. “Have you noticed anyone acting suspiciously? Someone talking to you, or looking at you a lot?”
“No,” Liz said, “nothing like that. But I talk to lots of people at school. I’ve known most of them all my life.”
“Think about it tonight,” Jim said, “and see if you can remember anything else. Any leads might help us.”
He rubbed his face in a tired gesture. “We usually only have ten or so murders in a year. With four murders in a week, we’ll have the State Police and FBI here any day. I’ll keep you out of their investigation as long as I can.”
The door to the dining room opened, and Liz’s co-worker, Tammy, came in with a box. Smiling she held it out to Liz. “Another present from your admirer,” she said.
Liz took the box with a tired sigh. “Thanks.”
Max frowned, but he had bigger things to worry about than some guy who had a crush on Liz.
Tammy went back through the door and Liz waited for her to be out of sight to open it. Certainly there were more pressing issues, but she wanted to take her mind off the murders if only for a moment.
This box was dark blue with dancing skeletons on it. Her name was written across the corner, and it was tied with a black bow, just like the others she’d received.
Max took the Sheriff aside while Liz was distracted. “I didn’t want to say anything in front of Liz,” he said, “but all of the murdered girls look just like her, small, dark hair and eyes.”
Jim nodded. “I know.”
“She could be in danger,” Max said. “That dream she had. The killer might come after her because she’s his type.”
Jim’s jaw clenched. “It’s possible.” He glanced at Liz. “I think we should listen to her instincts about this. She thought the killer was at the haunted house, and now one of the victims was there. I’m checking out all the employees as we speak. Maybe we’ll get lucky and catch this guy before he kills again.”
Liz’s gasp of horror and the sound of the box hitting the floor made them spin toward her.
“What’s wrong?” Max asked, going to her.
Her face was white and she was shaking.
Alex bent down, picking up the box and its contents. There was another bouquet of suckers, tied with a black ribbon, a card, and a leather dog collar with studs on it, attached to a long leash.
Looking at the card, Alex’s face hardened, and he held out the note for Max and Valenti to see.
If I had a choice
She'd be on my prick
Instantly Max was enraged. He took Liz in his arms, hugging her tightly.
Jim reached for the suckers. “Who sent these to you?”
“She doesn’t know,” Max answered for her. “She’s been getting them the last few days. We thought they were from a secret admirer. Every time there’s been a note, but this is the first one like that.”
“We just figured out that the lines are from the song, Lollipop,” Alex said. “But whoever is sending the notes is changing the lyrics to make them personal.”
Jim held up the bunch of suckers. “At each murder scene, we’ve found a sucker just like these.”
“What?” Liz asked. “The murderer’s been sending the suckers?”
“We don’t know that,” Jim assured her. “It could just be a coincidence.”
“You don’t think so,” Max said, perceptively.
“He was on my balcony,” Liz said numbly.
“What?” Max asked, hearing it for the first time. “When?”
“Did you see him?” Jim asked at the same time.
Liz shook her head. “Last night sometime, he left flowers and more suckers on my balcony.”
“You could be in danger,” Jim said. “We’ve got to tell your parents right away, and I’ll put a deputy outside your house.”
“And I’m staying here,” Max said fiercely. “I’ll keep you safe.”
While Sheriff Valenti went to talk to Jeff and Nancy Parker, Max and Alex went with Liz into her room.
Max walked to her windows, holding his hand out. “I can make this glass shatterproof, so nothing can break through it, and fix your locks so no one can get them open from the outside.”
Liz shivered. “Good,” she said, still feeling numb.
As she watched him pass his hand over each window, her mind was churning. She wanted Max to stay and make her feel safe, but at the same time it wasn’t a good idea. He’d figured out so much of the truth about her and Kyle, and he said he still loved her.
But how was that possible? She assumed Future Max disappeared because Max had stopped loving her, but now she knew that wasn’t the case. So what had changed? And was it enough?
No matter what, she shouldn’t be with Max. But how was she going to convince him of that now?
At that moment Liz’s parents came into her room, hugging her tightly.
“It’s going to be okay,” Nancy promised.
“We won’t let this guy anywhere near you,” Jeff said.
Valenti went to the windows, checking them.
Max caught his eye and nodded.
“These windows are nice and secure,” Jim said, “no one is getting through there without smashing them, but we should check the balcony.”
“I have a security cover for the ladder,” Jeff said. “We haven’t put it on so we could use it as a fire escape, but I’ll get it now.”
He was back in moments, and he, Max and the Sheriff locked it in place.
“I’m sure you’ll be safe,” Jim said reassuringly. “The other girls got separated from their friends, and you’re not alone.”
Liz felt like she was suddenly living in a fortress, but she knew it was for her protection.
She just wondered how long it was going to take to catch the murderer.
Liz quickly put on her waitress uniform, already late for her shift. She was adjusting her antenna when Maria burst into the back room.
Rushing to her, Maria embraced her best friend tightly. “Are you okay?” she asked, and then answered her own question. “No, of course you’re not with a psycho after you. But we’ll keep you safe,” she promised, releasing her. “Your parents, the Sheriff, and Max would never let anything happen to you.”
Maria rushed on. “And I’m really sorry about not believing your dreams. Wow, you were exactly right. I can’t believe you saw,” she lowered her voice to a whisper, looking around to see that no one was listening, “the murder.”
“It all seems so surreal,” Liz said, “like it happened to someone else. This whole situation is like something out of a movie.”
“And you’ve had other dreams you can’t remember,” Maria said. “What if you dreamed the other murders?”
“There’s no way to know,” Liz said. “I’ve tried to remember, but I just can’t.”
“What about Max?” Maria suggested. “Maybe he could connect with you and help you remember.”
Liz shook her head. “I can’t let Max connect with me. He might see something about,” she lowered her voice to a whisper, “about the other Max.”
“But if it could help save a life...” Maria started.
Liz cut her off. “I’m trying to save all of us. The whole world. And there is no way to know if I had that dream before, during, or after the murder. So we don’t know if seeing the other dreams would help at all.”
“But it might,” Maria argued. “Maybe you would see the killer, or who the next victim is. You could just tell Max the truth…”
“No,” Liz said emphatically. “He can’t know. Ever. The other Max made that clear. It could ruin everything.”
Maria nodded, taking in Liz’s words, and decided for now to let the subject drop. “I can’t believe your parents aren’t freaking out more.”
“They freaked out plenty last night,” she said. “They didn’t want me going to school or working until this is over,” Liz said. “But I would go crazy just sitting upstairs, locked away. I finally got them to agree that I would be okay inside the Crashdown.”
“I don’t know,” Maria teased, “some time off would be great.”
She motioned into the café with a jerk of her head. “Of course you have the entire alien mafia out there to keep you safe.”
Liz looked through the window, already knowing Max and Alex were there. In the booth with them were also Tess, Isabel and Kyle, while Michael was working in the kitchen.
Nodding, Liz said, “Not to mention the Sheriff’s department, State Police, and probably the FBI.”
“I know,” Maria said. “This could be bad. What if they start to suspect something, um, otherworldly?”
“No,” Liz said confidently. “There’s no reason for them to think about anything other than the murderer. I’m sure the police and the regular FBI think Roswell is just a big joke, like the rest of the world.”
“Well,” Maria said, adjusting her antenna, “I hope you’re right. But anyway, it’s time to feed the starving masses.”
After the Crashdown closed, Max waited outside on Liz’s balcony until her parents went to bed, and then Liz lifted her window, letting him inside.
“Are you sure you’re not going to get in trouble?” she whispered anxiously. “What if your parents find out you’re gone?”
“I told them I was going to Michael’s,” he said softly. “Anyway, I would risk getting grounded for a year to make sure you were safe.”
Liz smiled. “Thank you.”
“I love you,” Max said sincerely. “There isn’t anything I wouldn’t do for you.”
“But Max,” she started to argue.
He held up a hand, cutting her off. “Please, can we not talk about Tess tonight.”
Liz grinned and nodded. “Sure.”
Max sighed. He wasn’t going to do this, but now with the killer after Liz, he felt he had to.
“Liz,” he started awkwardly, “I’ve been thinking, maybe, if you want, I could connect with you, and try to see if I can get anything more from your dreams. Maybe you saw the killer’s face and just don’t remember, or something.”
She gasped, looking alarmed, and Max quickly added. “Or we could get Isabel to dream walk you, and see if you have another dream.”
Liz couldn’t let Max or Isabel connect with her, but she didn’t have a reason she could give him. She was hoping if she stalled she could think of something.
“I don’t know,” Liz said finally, looking down at the floor. “I’ll think about it, okay?”
He nodded, and they stood in an uncomfortable silence for a moment.
Immediately Max knew she was scared to let him see her, and he thought he knew what she was hiding.
Liz turned away from Max’s intense gaze. It was like he could see right through her. She just wanted to go to bed and forget the conversation ever took place. And even though she didn’t want him to ask any more questions, she was really glad he was there. She never felt so safe as when she was in his arms, and there was nothing she wanted more than to share her bed with him and be held all night. But she knew it wasn’t right.
It would be like telling him they could get back together.
Going to her closet, she got out a sleeping bag for him. “You don’t mind taking the floor, do you? It’s just if my parents happened to come in, you might not get out alive if we were in bed together.”
Max smiled. “Sure, the floor is fine.”
They took turns in the bathroom, and then Liz settled in her bed, while Max pulled the curtains closed and checked the locks. When he was satisfied it was secure, he got into the sleeping bag next to the bed.
After everything that had happened, he’d nearly forgotten the conversation they had earlier, but now it came rushing back to him, and the strange things she said started tumbling around in his head.
“What did you mean earlier when you said something changed?” he asked.
“Hmmm?” Liz hummed, distracted.
Max propped up on one elbow. “You said, I must have fallen out of love with you because something changed. What did you mean?”
“Nothing,” she said quickly.
His brow creased. Obviously she didn’t want to talk about it. “It wasn’t nothing,” he persisted. “You were upset, and you said something changed.”
He sat up, looking at her. “What is going on, Liz? Why all the lies? Why did you pretend to sleep with Kyle?” He shook his head. “You seem desperate for me to forget about you and be with Tess, when I know you still love me.”
Liz swallowed hard as tears gathered in her eyes. She honestly didn’t know what to say. Her eyes darted around the room as she tried desperately tried to think of any excuse.
“Max, Tess is your future,” she said, grasping at the first thing to come to her mind. “She’s your wife. And the faster you let go of me, the less painful it will be for both of us.”
“No,” Max said, shaking his head. “That’s not it. You’re scared. More scared than I’ve ever seen you, and I can’t help you if I don’t know what’s going on.”
Tears spilled down her cheeks as she sat up. “Max, please don’t ask me about this,” she begged. “That’s why I set you up to see me with Kyle, so I wouldn’t have to explain. You’d hate me and that would be the end of it.”
Max got up and sat next to her on the bed, putting his hand on her back. “I don’t know why you’re doing this, but I could never hate you, and I’ll never forget you. I was so hurt, practically destroyed after I saw you with Kyle, but that’s because still I love you. How could I even think about being with Tess or anyone else after what we shared?”
Reaching out, she pulled him into a tight hug, loving the feel of him against her. She buried her head into his chest.
Max stroked her hair, “Let me in, Liz. Whatever it is we can work through it together.”
“I don’t know what to do,” she whispered miserably.
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