Improbable Cause

Chapter Seven: Down to the Wire

"So this guy seriously believes he's committing the same crime over and over, but he can't remember he's done it before?" Falacci asked incredulously.

"It's looking more and more that way," Eames replied. "Unfortunately, even in his addled state, he seems to know that he needs to avoid capture. He's left enough that convicting him once he's caught is pretty much a sure thing, but not enough for us to find him."

"Hang on a minute," Logan said suddenly. "Run the whole thing down for me. Assuming you're assuming his pattern on these murders matches what the original victim, the survivor, told you -"

"We are," Eames confirmed.

"What happens between the kidnapping and the murder?"

"He drives around for a bit, finds a secluded spot to pull over, pulls her out of the car, rapes her, throws her in the trunk, then drives around some more, stopping every so often to rape her and beat her."

"Does he take her out of the trunk for that?"

"Yes, at least he did in the 1954 case. What are you getting at?"

"If he believes he's committing the same crime over and over again, he has no reason to change anything to avoid capture, because as far as he knows, this is the first time he's gone through this pattern. Since every abduction and every body dump has been in New York City, it's safe to assume he stays in or near the city through the whole thing. His dump sites may not be exactly the same, but what if some of the secluded locations are? Maybe we can trace some of his pattern, anticipate where he's going to be before he gets there."

"The dirt," Eames said, catching on suddenly. "He takes her out of the trunk, throws her to the ground, she gets dirt on her. Lab can analyze it, maybe they can narrow down a few locations for us."

Logan nodded. "Exactly."

"I need to fill Goren in. Let's head on down to the crime scene."

"You two go." Logan stood up. "I'll head down to the lab and the ME, there's a few people I know down there from my time at the 2-7 who still owe me favors. Between that and the fact that a woman's life hangs in the balance, I can get them to rush the analysis."

"Good," Eames said. "Go."

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"Hey!" Goren called out, seeing his partner and the redheaded woman headed towards him. "You guys misplace Logan?"

Eames laughed a little. "He's at the lab. He had a hunch." She quickly filled her partner in. "What've you got?"

"Not a whole lot." He gestured around. "No signs of a struggle, but if the pattern follows what Mrs. Pierce told you, I wouldn't expect to see any. A gun to the back of her head wouldn't leave a lot of signs. Logan's lead is a lot more promising; good on him for thinking of it."

"Ross has an APB out on her car, every patrol officer out there knows to look for it and stop it on sight," Falacci added. "But if we don't find it before it's too late, he'll ditch the car and we'll be back to square one. Not only will we have another dead woman, but we'll lose every little lead we have that even might help us catch him. You have a timeline?"

Eames nodded. "If his pattern holds, we have about a thirty-six hour window from right now in which we can assume Theresa Braddock is alive and he's driving around with her in the car. After that we have about five or six hours of time in which we can't be certain if she's alive or dead. Once we pass the forty-two hour mark, we have to assume he's killed her. Add another hour for him to ditch the car if he kills her at the outside of that, and then we're basically back to square one, like you said."

Goren nodded. "In other words, no time to waste."

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Logan was marking up a a large map of New York with a dry-erase marker when the other three detectives got in. As they approached him, he set down the red marker he'd been using and the file he'd been holding, picked up a green marker and another file, and began marking again.

"Decorating for Christmas?" Eames teased.

Logan smiled for a moment before turning back to the file. "Got the lab reports back on the three most recent victims - they're running the others as we speak. Red is Caitlyn Marcus, green is Lisa Anderson, and," he added, switching again for a black marker and another file, "black is Yvonne Miller."

"It looks like there are four spots in common," Goren said as the other detective finished marking the board.

"That's what I got," Logan agreed. "The lab couldn't be definitive on the timeline or the order, so our best bet is to cover all four."

"Agreed," Ross said from the doorway. "I want one of you at each of the sites."

"I've got Inwood Park," Eames offered. "I grew up out there, I know every inch of that place."

"Good," Ross said immediately. "Goren, you're from Canarsie, right? Take that one. Logan -"

"East River Park," he replied. "I come from the Lower East Side."

"And I catch whatever's left," Falacci surmised. "That's what I get for not being a native." She said it matter-of-factly, making it clear that this didn't bother her, while glancing at the map to determine her destination. "Prospect Park it is."

"Let's go." Eames said grimly.

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Eames' heart almost stopped when the white car pulled into the park. In the time it took her to reach for the radio, one of the officers had already confirmed the plate number.

"Attention all units," she said into the wide-band police frequency, "this is Eames. We have a visual on the victim's car. Stand by."

"Do you want us to stop the car?" one of the uniformed officers asked over the radio.

"No! Not unless he tries to leave the park. If he sticks to his pattern, he'll come to a stop and get out of the car; we'll apprehend him once he's out. Stay back for now, the last thing we need to do is spook him. And call EMS, have them get a unit out here right away. If the pattern holds, Theresa Braddock is still alive, but she may be in bad shape."

"He's stopping," one of the officers replied.

"Wait," Eames said tensely. "Let him get out and close the door. We don't want him trying to get back in and flee."

"Door's opening, suspect is exiting the vehicle."

"Stand by."

"Suspect is closing the car door."

"Now!" She shut the radio off, grabbed it, and jumped out of the command trailer.

It was over in a matter of moments. Penobscott did try to run when he first saw the officers, but he was surrounded and he was tackled before he'd made it five yards. Three officers disarmed and cuffed him.

Eames was there by the time they got him back up to his knees. "Keys," she said, a little breathless from the sprint, hurriedly pulling on a pair of latex gloves. "I need the car keys."

One of the officers reached into Penobscott's pocket and tossed them to her. She ran to the car and unlocked the trunk, which popped open automatically.

A woman lay there, a woman whose picture had been in the back of all their minds for the past day, beaten and bloody but unmistakably alive, her terrified eyes fixed on the detective. Eames let out a breath she hadn't realized she was holding. "It's okay. We're the police. You're going to be all right." She clicked the radio back on. "Be advised, suspect is in custody. Kidnap victim Theresa Braddock has been located, she is alive. Advise EMS that she is conscious and alert but injured, multiple blunt-force injuries."

Ross' voice came over the radio. "Copy that, Detective. Well done."

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"Is it bad that I'd like to just punch him in the face to wipe that self-important smirk off it?" Falacci asked irritably.

Logan shook his head, for once in complete agreement with his somewhat hotheaded partner. "He's a bully, used to just getting what he wants by shoving everyone else around. I can't stand people like that."

"Like the guy you punched?" Falacci suggested a little cheekily.

"To start with." He really had no intention of going into his personal history. It was bad enough one of his now-former partners had picked up on it within a week of meeting him and let him know what she'd discovered by telling a suspect all about it. He'd forgiven her for that, but he wasn't eager to have his own painful past brought out in the interrogation room again, and Falacci was impulsive enough that he couldn't be sure she wouldn't do it.

Fortunately, Goren showed up at that moment, trailed by his own petite partner. "We have enough evidence, but I'd like to get it from his own mouth too. I think I know how we can break him," he offered. "Here's what I'm thinking..."

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"Five murders and one attempted murder," Falacci said, slamming the files down. "You're going away for life for this. You're just lucky New York's gotten rid of the death penalty."

Eames laughed derisively. "Really, I doubt it'd matter. What are you, eighty something? By the time they got through all the appeals and hearings, he'd be dead anyway. Just throw him in a cell and let nature take its course."

Now Falacci laughed too. "She's right, of course. Y'know, I'm surprised you were even able to rape those women. You take a few pills to help you along the way?"

Penobscott glared at her. "I'll have you know, little lady, that this body is legendary." He leaned back self-assuredly. "Interested in trying it out? I'm sure we could arrange something."

"Oh, please," Falacci retorted. "Even if I didn't have any other prospects, I'd never sink to doing it with an old, broken-down shell like you."

Eames laughed again. "She's got that right, that's for sure. What did it take our guys, a minute to take you down? I don't have to settle for someone so pathetic."

Penobscott's face went bright red. "Shut your mouth!"

"Oh, getting defensive, are we?" Eames taunted. "I think I hit a nerve."

"Looks that way," Falacci agreed.

The door burst open at that moment and Goren stood there. "What the hell are you two doing here?" he asked in the practiced accent Eames vividly remembered him using to annoy a bad cop years earlier. "Eames, I told you I was taking this one! What, you think you just get to walk all over me whenever the hell you feel like it?"

Eames spun on her heel to face him. "I'm the senior partner here, remember? That means I make the decisions, not you."

"How could I not remember, you only say so three times a day!" he said indignantly. "You just have to remind me that you're in charge every time I turn around! Doesn't stop me from getting stuck watching your back and having to go in first on every raid because you're too small and weak to look out for yourself."

"Screw you, Goren." Eames stormed out, slamming the door behind her.

"And they're so sensitive too," Goren commented. "Got to constantly watch your mouth or you might hurt their precious feelings."

"You know what?" Falacci said irritably. "What Eames said. Screw you."

He scoffed as she went for the door herself. "Just because your own partner babies you, don't expect me to."

She just barely managed to contain a laugh until she got into the observation room. "Damn, you guys didn't tell me Goren should practically be on Broadway. If I hadn't known that was an act..."

"Sorry about those two," Goren was saying to Penobscott on the other side of the glass. "The seniority's gone to my partner's head, and it doesn't help that Logan lets Falacci walk all over him, making her feel like she can run the world, and Eames feeds off that."

"I've known a few women like that," Penobscott replied. "Just don't know their place."

"Really?" It sounded interested, but Eames could recognize that Goren was pushing Penobscott without the suspect being aware of it.

"Yep. Married one too."

"Wow. Sucks for you, huh?"

"You're telling me. She was an army brat, and I thought, someone who grew up with the army, she'd know about rules and the chain of command and submitting to authority. Unfortunately, the Army had decided it was a good idea to gift nurses with officers' ranks on the same system as men's, and they made her a Major because she was supervising the nurses. Went to her head, let me tell you. Even though I was a Lieutenant Colonel, she thought she could order me around. Donald, get in the car now. Donald, we're going shopping. Donald, this is all your fault." He made a disgusted noise in the back of his throat. "And then when I couldn't take it anymore and I tried to get away, she decides she's had enough and files for divorce, and if I don't go along with it, she'll claim infidelity and smear me. What exactly was I supposed to do? She wouldn't leave her precious post to come live with me, was I supposed to be celibate for months at a time until she deigned to grace me with her presence? And it wasn't like she was a perfect angel! I got a letter she wrote to another man, for God's sake!"

"Did she really...?" Logan asked Eames as Goren continued to prod the older man to vent.

The blonde detective smirked a little. "She did it on purpose. He sent her a letter meant for another woman, so she wrote up a letter as if it were for another man and mailed it to him."

Falacci whistled under her breath. "Gutsy. Especially if she knew he was an abuser."

"She admitted it was probably stupid, but she was just angry and reacting like she would have to anyone else."

"Hey," Logan said softly. "She had that right. Expecting a victim to walk on eggshells to avoid provoking an abuser is just dumping the responsibility for that abuse onto the one person whose fault it isn't."

Both women turned to look at him, Eames' expression full of sympathy while Falacci just looked surprised. He turned back to face the window, uncomfortable with the attention. "Okay. My turn."

Falacci turned to Eames as her partner left the room. "That was...unexpected. You know something I don't?"

"You'll have to ask him about that," she replied shortly, just as the door to the interrogation room swung open. "Showtime."

"Get started without me?" Logan asked.

"This isn't your case," Goren replied coldly. "Or your partner's either, so you can tell her to lay off."

"Now who thinks they rule the world?" Logan retorted. "I think you hate women because you look at them and see your own failings."

"Which of us had to start back at rookie level after being a cop for more than ten years?" Goren retorted.

"I'm not saying I'm perfect," Logan said evenly, "but the difference is, I know how to accept it. You want to be perfect and when you can't get it, you make yourself feel perfect by attacking anyone you see as weaker. Namely, women."

"Oh, please." Goren rolled his eyes. "Let's see one of them actually pull their own weight and then we'll talk about them being equals."

"Just because your version of pulling their own weight equals having to do twice as much as a man just to get the same level of respect, that doesn't mean mine has to."

Penobscott scoffed now. "No wonder this guy's the senior detective," he said, indicating Goren. "He knows how to defend his place in the world. He was right, you've let them walk all over you." He scrutinized Logan for a minute. "I bet it was your mother. What was she, some kind of domineering control freak? Shoved you down from day one?"

It was clearly just meant as a barb, throwing everything at the wall to see what stuck, but Logan couldn't stop his reaction anyway. He doesn't know, he reminded himself forcefully. He couldn't know. Don't let him see that he struck a nerve. He forced a mask of composure back onto his face. "So a guy can't respect women without being some kind of whipped dog? Nice to know you've got such a broad, open-minded view of the world." He glanced distastefully over Penobscott. "You're no better than him. So you're pissed at your ex. What are you going to do about it, sit around and moan? Your feelings of superiority mean nothing if they don't consist of anything but playing the wounded warrior."

"Oh, for God's sake," Goren said frustratedly. "Just because you can't see it doesn't mean he hasn't done something." He turned on Penobscott. "Come on, tell him. You did something, right?"

Penobscott leaned forward towards them. "You really want to know?"

"Come on," Goren pushed. "Shut this guy up."

"I was doing something when your guys stopped me." He leaned even further forwards. "I don't know what you guys did with the car I was driving, but check the trunk. She's there. My ex-wife."

"She's in the trunk," Logan repeated.

"Yep. I've spent the past day reminding her who's boss. Unfortunately, I'll have to kill her when this is all over, or she'll go back to putting out for every guy she meets. But she'll go out knowing who's boss."

"Music to my ears," Goren replied, standing up suddenly. "Logan, you want to do the honors?"

"What - what are you talking about?" Penobscott asked.

"You just confessed to kidnapping and attempted murder in front of two cops," Logan told him, pulling his cuffs from his pocket. "And now, you're under arrest."

Penobscott looked frantically to Goren as Logan cuffed him. "But you...you believe in what I did!"

"That's the problem with guys like you," Goren said, shaking his head. "You think the default for men is thinking the same way you do. It's almost too easy to convince you of that."

Two uniformed officers came in to walk the man to lockup, tailed by Eames and Falacci. "That was beautiful," Eames said as Penobscott was escorted out. "He never even saw it coming."

"Sorry about that stuff I said about you - both of you," Goren said, staring at his shoes.

"Hey," Eames assured him quickly. "We both know you didn't mean it. A tactic is a tactic, and it worked."

"Hey Logan," Falacci asked, turning to her partner. "You okay?"

Goren and Eames shared a concerned look. They'd both been aware of the other detective who was leaning back against the wall, trembling from sheer stress as he released the iron grip he'd had to keep on his reactions while they were interviewing Penobscott, but they'd known enough to keep quiet and let him deal with it.

"Fine," he ground out, clearly trying to slow his breathing.

Ross walked in at that moment, forestalling any further conversation on the subject. "So now we have DNA, witnesses, and a partial confession. Nice work."

"DNA's confirmed?" Goren asked eagerly.

"Just got the lab report." He held out the file in his hand. "Also, the hospital called. Theresa Braddock is ready to talk. Goren, Eames -"

"Actually," Goren interrupted gently, "I'd like to make a couple of calls - the Pierces, the administrator at Caitlyn Marcus' shelter, Dr. Freedman - just let them know we caught him. Eames, why don't you take Logan? It's thanks to him and his idea about running lab tests on the dirt from the other bodies that she's alive to talk to us at all."

Ross looked a little taken aback but seemed to quickly decide this wasn't worth arguing over. "Okay."

*~*~*~*

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