Improbable Cause

Chapter Two: The Template

"Same guy?"

Goren looked over his shoulder from where he was crouched on the ground, examining the body. "Looks that way," he told his partner. "And we're down to eight days between victims."

"If the same timeline holds for this one, that means six days between when he killed the last victim and when he snatched this one." They'd established that all the victims had gone missing about two days before the bodies were found.

Goren nodded. "We started with almost three weeks between when one body was found and the next woman went missing. We're on victim number five and we're down to under a week. Whoever this guy is, he's escalating and fast."

"Victim have ID?"

"Caitlyn Marcus," one of the CSU techs offered. "Thirty-one. And we found this."

Eames took the card he was holding out. "A card from a battered women's shelter."

"Those places usually have private security," Goren commented. "If someone has been stalking her, it's possible someone saw him hanging around."

"God, let's hope. Who knows how long we have before he takes his next victim?"

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"You okay?" Eames asked her partner as he sat in the passenger's seat, deep in concentration.

"I can't figure this guy out," Goren replied softly. "We should have caught him by now. He's careless. He's left DNA in all the victims and he even got caught on an ATM security camera kidnapping one, for God's sake. And yet, he's a ghost. We can't get so much as a whiff of a lead on who he is or how to catch him. None of the victims are connected to each other in any way, except that they all have similar physical characteristics."

"Don't most serial killers choose their victims at apparent random?" she pointed out.

"In all the time I've worked on the police force, and all the time before that I spent studying with Declan, I've never come across a serial killer who was so sloppy. Not to mention, this guy has no distinctive signature. It doesn't make sense. Nothing about this case makes sense."

"We're here." Eames pulled into a parking space and clipped her badge to her jacket. "Come on, let's do the interview. You can wrack your brain for the missing clues later."

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The receptionist led them to an office and tapped on the door. "Police. They're here about Caitlyn Marcus."

"Send them in," a woman's voice replied.

Goren and Eames had shown the photo from the third victim's abduction, the one where the perpetrator had been caught on ATM camera, to every security guard on duty. No one remembered seeing him. They weren't hopeful that the shelter administrator would know more, but they couldn't afford to make any assumptions.

The woman inside the office was in her early fifties by the looks of her, sitting on the couch. She stood when they came in. "Detectives. I'm Alaina McIntyre."

"Detective Robert Goren, and my partner Detective Alex Eames."

"Have you been aware of any issues with Caitlyn lately?" Eames asked.

"Everyone who lives at this shelter has issues," she replied. "But Caitlyn in particular, no. She left her husband almost a year ago, and it's been months since he came looking for her or tried to send her something. We were hopeful that we could transition her out of the shelter in the next month or two."

"Her husband came looking for her?" Eames pressed.

"If I called the police every time that happened, I'd never have time to do anything else," she replied. "I know it seems strange to you, but abusers can do what they do because they find ways to convince women not to leave or to come back time and time again. Short of what happened to Caitlyn, the worst days of this job are the days when we lose a resident back to an abusive home. Caitlyn stayed. She even managed to get up the courage to go to court and get a restraining order. He tried to come by anyway, but after he spent a few nights in jail for violating the order, he gave up."

"Have you ever seen this man around?" Goren asked, pulling the photo from his binder.

They'd expected her to give the same regretful shake of her head as the countless guards they'd shown the photo to. Instead, she looked for a few seconds and her jaw dropped. "My God."

"You have seen him?" Eames asked, feeling her heart quicken. Could we finally have caught a break?

"Not around here. Hang on." She pulled open her desk drawer and began digging through some papers. "Got it." She stood back up. "Here."

What she pushed into his hand was a photo that had clearly been ripped in half and taped back together. Goren was as shocked as the woman had been when he got a look. "Eames, look at this."

She stepped up next to him and he held it down so she could see without straining. The photo depicted two people, and Eames instantly knew what had hit her partner. "That woman fits the victim profile to a T," she said in shock. "And the man - if he put on about forty years..."

"Fifty-five."

Both detectives turned to look at her. "What?"

"That picture was taken in 1952. It's from my mother's first wedding."

"This man is...your father?" Goren asked, his voice heavy with something Eames couldn't identify.

"No," she said firmly. "My mother divorced Donald after three months because he abused her. Two years later, he tracked her down and tried to kill her." Her voice went soft. "I didn't know about any of this until one day when I was helping my mom clean. She found that picture and just fell apart. Ripped it in half and then fell on the floor crying. I had to get my dad to calm her down. I was sixteen. Once she calmed down, they told me about Donald. I hadn't even know she was married before Dad."

"You saved the picture?" Goren asked curiously.

She nodded. "I hid it from my mother. For her, all it was was a reminder of the worst day of her life. But after I heard what happened to her, I decided I wanted to spend my life helping people who'd been through what she had. I keep the picture to remind myself of why I do this."

Goren flipped his binder open. "What was your mother's name?"

"Margaret Houlihan." She spelled the last name. As he wrote it down, Eames saw a light go on in his eyes.

"And where did the crime take place?"

"Maine. Portland area."

"Date?"

"September 14th, 1954."

"Thank you, Mrs. McIntyre," he said, closing the binder again. "We'll be in touch."

"Detectives?"

They turned back. "Yes?"

"Please catch this man. He never paid for what he did to her; at least make him pay for Caitlyn and the others."

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"Portland, Maine PD faxed this over," Ross informed the partners as they walked into the squad room, holding a stack of papers. "Why are we looking into a fifty-three-year-old case from a different jurisdiction?"

Goren took the file, glancing through the case summary, and then began to read aloud in explanation. "Victim Margaret Houlihan was abducted at gunpoint from the parking lot of the Crabapple Cove clinic, forced into her own car. Two days later she was brought into the emergency room at Portland General Hospital with six gunshot wounds. According to Lisa and Carl Garrison, she flagged their car down from the side of the road. She told Mrs. Garrison her name and that she'd been shot before becoming incoherent. When she regained consciousness after surgery, she identified her attacker as US Army Lieutenant Colonel Donald Penobscott."

"A witness today identified the man in the ATM photo as the same man," Eames picked up. "We may be looking at another victim of the same streak."

"Fifty years ago, with no crimes between now and then?" Ross still seemed skeptical. "In any case, there's no mention of a rape in the file."

"Doesn't necessarily mean it didn't happen," she countered. "At the time this happened, women had every reason not to report rape. For a rape victim, this case would have been better than most because the perp would still go down for something. It was a different time."

"Yes," Goren said suddenly. "It was a different time."

"I can hear you thinking, Detective," Ross pressed. "What is it?"

"Something that was bothering me earlier." He began to pace. "What you said about fifty years between the crimes - what if he doesn't realize it's been fifty years? He'd have to be almost eighty by now; what if he's losing his memory? He is being careful not to be caught, just by the standards of a different time, a time before security cameras and DNA matching. And the lack of signature - in his mind, he's not committing a series of crimes, he's committing the same crime over and over again." He tapped the file in his hand. "This is the template. Fifty years or no, we need to start here. Talk to anyone involved with this case who's still alive." His face grew grim. "That includes the victim."

"You really think that's a good idea?" Ross' face was grim too. "For her, that was fifty years ago. Do we really have to dredge all that up again?"

"Unfortunately, I think we have to," Eames replied. "Goren's right. ATM camera aside, she's the only living witness who can place him at the scene of any one of those crimes."

"I may know someone," Goren offered softly. "Someone who can help smooth the way in."

*~*~*~*

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