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Eye of the Beholder

By NightOwl22

Romance / Thriller

Chapter 1

I keep on hearing the police have caught me but they won’t fix me just yet. I laugh when they look so clever and talk about being on the right track. My knife's so nice and sharp I want to get back to work right away if I get a chance. Good Luck. Catch me if you can. 

SI10 Headquarters, Friday 9:30pm

Harriet Makepeace tiredly entered the SI10 office building shortly after half past nine. It wasn’t that she had been enjoying her evening in the least at the time she had been summoned there. She was not overly fond of dates in general, and she rarely felt at ease having an intimate chat with a stranger in a candle lit environment. But it had been a long week, and any sort of inane conversation, whatever might take her mind away from arrest reports and the endless red tape of a solved case, was welcome.
She'd met Roger Cornwall a couple of weekends ago while visiting her father at Winfield Hall. Harry had seen him several times before at charity auctions and other similar events, but had never been formally introduced. He was a handsome young Lord, whose boyish good looks and powerful presence had intrigued her from the moment she first set eyes on him. Now, sitting across from him at L'Altelier, one of London's most exclusive restaurants, she languidly stirred the cold avocado soup in front of her while she tried to focus on what he was saying. Turned out, he was extremely well spoken, had graduated top of his class from Oxford after majoring in political science, and was soon to become one of the youngest members of Parliament. He had a bright future ahead of him, an impeccable pedigree and the personality of a door knob, Harry concluded.
Perhaps dinner with the chap had not been the best idea after all. She fought the urge to glance at her watch every five minutes and appear interested in what he was saying, but the truth was her heart wasn't in it, and the evening felt like it would never come to an end. Even the ride back to her house seemed eternal. How could a Jaguar D-Type maintain a speed of under 15 km/hr for so long without stalling? Harry was relieved beyond words to hear the persistent ringing of the telephone as Lord Cornwall accompanied her to the door. She excused herself a little too quickly with a clumsy apology and a bleak smile, grateful for the perfect justification to avoid what would have been a very awkward good night kiss.
Twenty minutes later she was at her desk, happy to be in a place as comfortable and familiar as the office. She had just enough time to change into a white, straight laced skirt and a cropped blue sweater, although she could've really used a long, hot shower to wash away the disappointment of the evening. She swivelled her chair to face the tired-looking group as they patiently awaited Chief Superintendent Gordon Spikings' briefing.

Strangely enough, her partner was nowhere to be seen. He was normally first in line when big cases were afoot, and she had a feeling this one was particularly important, or Spikings wouldn't have gathered the entire SI10 team at this late hour on a Friday. Of course! That explained…
He must be off on a date, Harry thought sourly.  If that's what one would even label his raunchy rendez-vous with women.
Almost on cue with her facetious assessment, James Dempsey strolled into the office wearing the same trousers and sweater he had on when they had left the office earlier. Except now he was sporting a noticeable 5 o'clock shadow. He exchanged a few words with some of the boys who immediately burst into a fit of laughter and walked around her desk to lean, arms folded, against a tall filing cabinet in that cocky way that annoyed her so much. Did he have to constantly flaunt his "yankeeness" in such a manner?
"Hiya, Princess!" he drawled, noisily chewing on gum. "Sorry your steamy Friday bath got cut short."
He had pronounced "bath" with an overly exaggerated British accent. Harry pretended to ignore the comment and deliberately uncapped a ball pen, trying hard not to give him the satisfaction of showing her aggravation.
"O' course," he continued as he sent a crooked smile her way, "we could always go back to your place when we're done here. I'd be happy to soap your back."
His voice had turned to velvet and dripped with sensuality. Harry shifted, avoiding eye contact, and started doodling on a piece of paper.
"Not that it is any of your business, Dempsey, but I was actually pulled from a very pleasant evening to be here for this briefing," she said flatly.
"Hot date, ha?" Dempsey winced, clicking his tongue in reproach. "Guess it's Prince Charmin' who's takin' the cold shower as we speak." 
Harry set her jaw and counted to ten under her breath. She was clenching the pen so tightly her knuckles had turned white. Perhaps it was the horrible week they’d just wrapped up, perhaps it was the tension of a date gone wrong, but he was getting on her nerves more than usual tonight. What was worse, he seemed to be enjoying himself more than usual as well. She glanced at him from the corner of her eye and caught him smirking.
"May I have your attention please?" Spikings said over the dull roar of the small crowd. "An hour ago, the dismembered body of a young boy was found in the cellar of a townhouse in Lambeth. Forensics is working on the identity of the child, as well as the time and cause of death. All evidence seems to indicate that it might be Anthony Midgley, who was reported missing five days ago. According to the family, he never made it home from school on Monday."
Spikings nodded at Chad Jarvis, who handed each person in the office a black and white head-shot of the missing boy. Harry swallowed hard and examined the photograph carefully. Innocent bright eyes looked back through thick lashes, and a broad smile was framed by a retainer that accentuated smallish, crooked teeth. Something tightened inside Harry's chest. They were far and few between, but cases involving children always took a heavy toll on all of them. Bad timing for this one. The energy levels at the office were low.

“The missing person’s report indicates he’s eleven years old, blond hair, blue eyes,” Spikings continued reading off the folder he was holding. “Five two, one hundred and fourteen pounds at his last check-up. There is a small birthmark below his left shoulder blade in the shape of a pear. According to his teachers, he is a happy child, a good student and a great football player—a midfielder for the school team. He was last seen leaving the school premises at about half past three last Monday. He goes to the French Lycée in South Kensington.” Spikings waved a dismissive hand in Dempsey’s direction adding, “An expensive French school in an affluent area of town to you, Lieutenant.”
Makepeace couldn’t help to inwardly cringe at her boss’ use of the present tense. She raised her gaze to her partner, hoping to find in him the strength that she was lacking at the moment, but Dempsey didn't meet her eyes. He continued leaning against the filing cabinet, perfectly still, observing the photograph with a grim expression, his usual smugness replaced by something different, something darker.
"Dempsey! Makepeace!" Harry turned to Spikings, mildly shocked at the sound of her name. "You will be heading this one. Go down to Lambeth and talk to forensics. They should be there by now. The area has already been sealed off by city police. Judging by the MO, it is very likely we are dealing with a serial killer. I realize that is an early assumption, and hope the death toll doesn’t climb beyond one body. Of course, you know as well as I do that if this is in fact the handy work of a serial killer, there’s a good chance another potential victim is in danger as we speak, which is why… " Spikings' frown deepened, his voice raising a notch, "Am I boring you, Lieutenant?!"
The Governor's harshness made Dempsey's head snap up, and rendered the office into stark silence. Dempsey blinked as if coming out of a deep trance. Makepeace rolled her eyes, half expecting the usual snarky remark, but none came forth. Instead, he mumbled what sounded like a half-hearted apology as he ran the palm of his hand across his unshaven jaw and, with a small nod, prompted Spikings to continue.

"Our division was called in given the nature of the case. We’ll have three shifts working around the clock here in headquarters. Any and all information on this case must be filtered through me before it gets disseminated. Are we clear? If this monster strikes again, we'll have the type of media frenzy I'd much rather like to avoid, not to mention another tragic death on our hands." Spikings let out a deep sigh. "Any questions so far?"

There was an extended silence broken only by the cry of a distant siren coming from the street below. The world outside had turned a bit darker, crueller than usual—or so it felt. It was Dempsey who asked the first question, his voice deep, all traces of jolliness vanished.
"Did the killer leave anything at the scene?" 

"You mean fibres or prints?"

“No. I mean something of a more personal nature. An object, a note, a signature of some sort…"
"Nothing as far as the boys in blue could tell us. They were the first ones at the scene," said Spikings. "That's why I need you to comb the place, and try to come up with some evidence, anything, that might give us a glimpse into the killer's mind.”

The mood in the room was gloomy as everybody quietly studied the picture of the missing child.

“Anything else?” Spikings asked panning the room with his eyes. “Alright, then. Everybody get to work!  I want to see a solid lead before Monday!”
The meeting was adjourned and the room broke into a quiet rumble of comments and murmurs. Makepeace grabbed her handbag and her coat, and turned around just in time to see her partner storming out of the office. She stood up quickly, pushing her chair aside in a rush, and sped out the room to catch up with Dempsey who was already halfway down the corridor on his way out the building.
"Dempsey!" she called after him, walking briskly. "I'm also on this case, you know? Dempsey!" She managed to grab his sleeve, pulling hard to force him to stop and face her. He turned around as if surprised to see her. Harry frowned, searching his eyes for an explanation.
"Are you all right?"
He shrugged. "Yeah, fine."
When that obviously didn't placate her concern, he let out a short chuckle and offered her a very unconvincing smile.
Harry knew him well enough to know there was something troubling him.

Hell's Kitchen, New York City, 1960

"You think they'll show?"
Sean Dempsey was crouching behind the dilapidated wall of an old building on Eastern 34th. He was blond and skinny, yet taller than most other eleven year old boys in the hood. His overalls were torn at the knee by an earlier fall that, to his chagrin, had cost him a spot among the most popular Irish gang west of the Hudson. Better luck next time. His own brother had been initiated when he was a year younger than him, and now was a well-respected member. Sean figured he’d come here to prove his courage, to show them he was worthy. Now, looking at the deserted street, he doubted it had been such a good idea after all.

He squinted at the sun, shading his deep blue eyes from the offending rays by using his hand as a visor, and turning to his older brother, he whispered:

"Hey, Jimmy! Maybe we shoulda got Gino."

"Nah! He's Italian. He's got no beef with'em."
James Dempsey surveyed the deserted street deep in thought. As children of mixed ethnicity in a melting pot such as New York, they had both been influenced by two separate worlds their entire life. Their Irish father hadn't been much of a role model. He hadn't been much of anything, in fact, as he spent most of the time either at the manufacturing plant in Brooklyn, or at the local bar. As for their mother, second generation Italian, James had probably inherited his thick dark hair and Roman nose from her side of the family; a stark contrast to his younger brother, fact that hadn’t gone amiss by the sharpest-edged tongues in the neighborhood.
In any case, James figured it had been his fists and not so much his surname that had struck a chord with "The Westies", one of the most notorious Irish gangs in Hell's Kitchen. At thirteen, he had already earned his leather jacket, being able to fight as well, or at least as viciously, as most of the older members, which had pleasantly surprised Jake Coonan, their leader. Coonan enjoyed how unsuspecting rivals underestimated his natural skill and agility. It was all about the element of surprise at first. Now everybody knew to be cautious around young Jim.
"Don't be such a girl, Sean," James teased.

He was growing tired of his little brother following him around like a lap dog, but he hadn’t had the chance to ditch him all day, and now he was stuck with him.  Seeing the sheer panic in his brother’s eyes, he added with a lopsided smile: "’Sides, with 'The Capeman’ behind bars, 'The Vampires’ are just a bunch o'pussies.”

"We're still outnumbered," Sean said nervously. "And Hernandez don't strike me as the listenin' type. More like the 'I'll f*ckin' drive my pointy umbrella down your throat and watch you die' type. C'mon, Jimmy! Let's split. Dad’ll be mad as hell if we’re late for dinner."
A rustling sound coming from inside the deserted building made them both jump. James' heart began thumping so loudly it threatened to leap right out of his chest. He started walking warily toward the dilapidated entrance, careful not to trip over the broken bricks scattered throughout the unkempt yard. It was a scorching summer day, and the intense humidity made the air all the more asphyxiating, although James wasn't entirely sure that was the reason he was drenched in sweat at the moment. He took a deep breath and kept moving toward the building. Tall, dried weeds crunched noisily with every step he took.
"Hernandez?" he called, surprised by the stillness of his own voice.
"The hell are you doin'?!" Sean squeaked, his panic blatant.
James swallowed hard. His throat felt like sand paper. "Hernandez, that you?"
He walked into the building and the temperature dropped by several degrees. It was damp, and stank of urine and decay. He could hear his brother’s desperate whispers from the outside, but he chose to ignore them, stepping deeper into the darkness. He wished he had a flashlight on him, as his eyes hadn't yet gotten used to the semidarkness. He squinted and the next step he took had him tripping over a metal pipe sticking out of the ground. He quickly grabbed onto a ledge to prevent the fall and cut his hand on a shard from a broken window. He gasped in pain and muttered a nasty curse as he felt the sticky wetness from the gash in his palm drip down his wrist. He was using the hem of his t-shirt to soak up the blood when a sinister shadow suddenly engulfed him from behind.
At that instant, the world spun out of focus, then darkness.

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