Jonathan and Lehman sat at the table. Lehman was anxious and kept fiddling with his phone. Jonathan was stoic with no emotion showing. They looked up when Brass and Russell entered the room and sat down across from them. Russell sat a fat folder on the table next to his cup of tea.
“What the hell is taking so long? We’ve been in this room for six hours!” Lehman bellowed.
“We were waiting for one of our C.S.I. to get back from Texas. She paid a visit to Jonathan’s old property near Paris, Texas.”
Jonathan didn’t react.
“To get the body count of the women found buried on the property.”
“Wait. I’m confused. Are you trying to press murder charges for another state?”
“Oh. No. We’re working jointly with other states including South Carolina, Kentucky, and Texas. They will be pursing their own charges when we’re done with him. In this state, your client is being charged with six counts of first degree murder and seven counts of kidnapping, torture, and sexual assault.”
Russell fished out an aerial photograph that he sat in front of Jonathan and Lehman.
“Recognize this place, Jonathan?”
Jonathan shook his head.
“You don’t recognize your family farm near Rolling Hills, South Carolina? The farm where you grew up? Where your brother drowned when you were fifteen? Where your mother allegedly shot herself when you were seventeen? And where, when you were twenty-one, your father died from a fall off the barn roof? That property must be cursed with all those deaths.”
Jonathan stared at him.
“Regardless, the South Carolina State Patrol went out there and found some graves. They had dogs in them and the autopsies indicate they were starved to death. Is that where your fascination with starving things began, Jonathan?”
“You don’t have to talk. That will make this virtual field trip go quicker.” Russell pulled out another aerial photograph. “You sold the family farm and moved to this farm, just outside of Lexington, Kentucky?” Russell tapped the photograph. “You lived there four years. All the State Police found were more dead dogs and chimpanzees, which were likely starved to death. Then you moved someplace even more remote in Kentucky.” He placed another aerial photograph on the table.
The door opened and Nick entered. He stood against the wall behind Brass and Russell, watching Jonathan glare at him. Russell patted the photographs with his fingers, getting Jonathan’s attention.
“The chimpanzees could have belonged to anyone!”
“These chimps had microchips that led us back to who purchased them, which was your client here. So, Jonathan, were they your experiments before or after the woman died?”
“On this Kentucky property the State Police found twelve graves with chimpanzees and five with human remains. They were all women who had been buried in red dresses and fake pearl necklaces.”
Jonathan remained mute. Russell laid out the aerials from Texas.
“Then you moved to Paris, Texas where you continued starving women to death for twelve years. Surely you recognize this place, Jonathan. Here’s the hacienda – a beautiful home, really. And the stables. And look, look here, a fruit tree grove. My C.S.I. tells me the fruit was just ripening when she went out to document the bodies found on that property – in silk red dresses and real pearl and silver necklaces. See them here? All these spots with flags on them? They’re your victims, Jonathan.”
Jonathan remained focused on Russell.
“But then… Something changed. You sold that place in Texas and moved to Missoula, Montana. That’s where the pattern altered. For one, you had your first run-in with the law. You were charged with stalking Natalie Greer. You lived there for only seven months and left around the same time Natalie did. Your vineyard is just outside the limit of the restraining order - give or take. On the other side of the mountain, is Natalie Greer’s house.”
“So are you charging my client with murder or with a past stalking charge?”
“Murder,” Brass answered, “D.B. tell them what you found that was really interesting in Jonathan’s bedroom.” Brass nodded with a smile. “I find this the best part. A real deal sealer.”
“It was fascinating. You had a dozen red silk dresses and Mother of Pearl necklaces, just like the ones the six Red Janes were found in. The dress fabric tells us nothing, but those beautiful, expensive pearl necklaces tell us everything. See, pearls grown in oysters from the same family or in same oyster beds have very distinct compositions, just like DNA. The ones we found in your room match the ones on the six women you dumped like trash.”
“Six women?” Jonathan questioned.
“It wasn’t me. I didn’t kill any of these women.”
Nick chuckled, walking around the table to stand next to Jonathan. Russell and Brass both faked surprise.
“Nick. He doesn’t get it,” Brass said.
“No he doesn’t.”
“What? What don’t we get?” Lehman haughtily demanded.
“Jonathan was expecting us to say seven Red Jane Does. You were expecting us to count Natalie Greer, the woman you stalked from Missoula to Las Vegas, weren’t you? She was supposed to be number seven, wasn’t she?”
Nick leaned in and Jonathan couldn’t hide that the C.S.I. being so close made him uncomfortable, but not nervous.
“Let’s recap events since the night you decided she had to die. You took her out of that dingy cell and sat her down at the dining table. Someone knocked and you left to go get the food you intended on using to murder her. Natalie got up and walked over to the terrarium you kept your Brazilian Wandering Spider. She made it bite her because Natalie knew that enough venom could paralyze her, making her appear dead to you.”
Jonathan slowly looked at Nick. Nick leaned in some more.
“But she wasn’t dead, Jonathan, and you did exactly what she wanted you to do. You dumped her and she survived to tell us about you.”
Jonathan couldn’t mask his surprise. “That’s a lie.”
Lehman ordered his client, “Be quiet.”
Nick walked around to stand against the one-way window.
“That isn’t a lie. She’s alive. You’re going to jail for… Well, forever when all the other states get done with you.”
“As we’ve identified your victims and found their families, we’ve found that you became friends with all of your victims,” Nick told Jonathan. “But Natalie was different, wasn’t she? She saw you for the monster you really are. And when you wouldn’t go away, she filed stalking charges against you, she was protected by the same police she helped find people just like you, and you couldn’t get close to her. You had to have known it was a huge risk to follow her to Las Vegas, so why did you?”
He didn’t answer.
“I guess she wasn’t special. Just another woman to torture and kill.”
Nick headed for the door. He had better things to do than try to convince a serial killer to explain himself. He had evidence and reports to get in order, tests to verify, and a family to reunite.
“She loved her husband,” Jonathan said.
Nick stopped. He turned. Everyone stared at Jonathan.
“She loved her husband?” Russell asked.
Jonathan smiled. It was a sadistic smile of a serial killer remembering the pleasure of he had of torturing and killing women. The smile cheapened the words that followed. “She was full of love. She needed to be freed from that body so everyone could see that. She touched my hand once, before she went back to her husband. Before he turned her on me, before they all did. It was so soft. I can hear her soft voice and her laugh. You know, she tastes like a copper penny when you lick—”
Lehman snarled, “Stop talking, Jonathan. If you keep talking, I can’t help you.”
Jonathan looked at him, glanced at them, and turned his eyes to his hands on the table. The mask of the stoic actor, humanitarian, and America’s sweetheart, returned.
Russell stood, collected everything into his folder, and then leaned on the table.
“Do you know what your biggest mistake with Natalie was, Mister Massie?”
His eyes narrowed slightly as he looked up at Russell, but he didn’t answer.
“You underestimated her. Despite the hunger, the torture, the abuse, nothing could erase years of instinct. She knew how monsters like you ticked and she out smarted you. You chose poorly.”
Russell tapped the folder once on the table and left. Nick and Brass exchanged a look, and then Nick trotted to catch up to him. They walked in silent for several minutes, Nick staring at Russell.
He told Nick, “That last comment he made makes me think we may be able to build a stronger case if we have a forensic psychologist evaluate him.”
“You were taunting him, D.B.”
“I was not.”
“You were! You taunted him!”
“I wasn’t taunting. I just felt the need to point out Natalie was too smart. As the young people are saying, she was out of his league.”
Nick grinned. “You can call it a horse if you want to, D.B., but you were taunting him.”
“You know, I was thinking, when Natalie is better, maybe we could have her consult for us from time to time,” Nick suggested.
Russell didn’t reply, so Nick tried again.
“I mean, she did consult in Missoula, and everyone I’ve talked to raves about how good she was on the stand and that her knowledge of bugs was encyclopedic. Not to mention that despite everything that’s happened to her, she’s kept her sense of humor. Have you read the books and articles she’s written? She is a savant in entomology, D.B. Plus, she knows—”
Russell grinned and asked, “You think she’s cool, don’t you?”
“Yeah. Don’t you?”
“I think she’s endearing. I’m sure we can throw her some work from time to time. For now, though, you need to go put a family back together. They’ve been waiting for this day for a year.”
“You’ll finish preparing the case?”
“Yes. Take the morning. Natalie’ll appreciate it.”
The two parted at a hall.
“See ya tomorrow,” Nick called back. “Same crime time!”
Russell answered back, “Same crime channel.” He smiled, muttering to himself, “Maybe I was taunting… Just a little.”