"The victim was discovered at 4:35 AM Friday morning. She was wrapped in a turquoise chiffon stall and wearing matching heels. The body had been arranged to appear draped around these large metal pipes. Old gas lines still run through this area. Our witness, who says he thought she was still alive, pulled her down. Her make-up does appear to give her a life-like appearance." Janise Morrison was concise and professional in everything she did. Her job as Medical Examiner was no exception. With a short-stacked bob, starched brown dress shirt and tan glasses pushing high against her face she appeared as she would have been if she rose at her normal time.
"Her body appears to be entirely covered in these carvings, starting at her hair line and traveling to her feet. Judging by blood pooling, these marks were made either immediately after death or just before. Her body was unfortunately washed down removing the majority of the blood from the cuts, which makes it harder to determine when they were made without an autopsy. Initial inspection leads me to believe these cuts were made with a non-serrated surgical grade blade. Her neck is broken, which will most likely be the cause of death. There is some bruising around her ankles and wrists consistent with restraints. Other than that, there are no other marks of struggle." Janise pushed her glasses further up her nose with the tip of her pen and rested back on her haunches, looking up at the detective on call.
"Do you lean towards the cuts being made post mortem?" Eric Vaughn would be considered the exact opposite of Janise. His collar was turned up on one side, a day late five o'clock shadow covered his jaw and his sandy hair was tousled across his forehead. He stared at the young woman lying in front of him and felt a growing anxiety as each detail sounded more and more familiar.
"If they were, it was very soon after death. We are looking at a time of death between 12 and 3 pm Thursday."
"It must take a good amount of time to make this many marks on a person. I would guess he took his time with this one." Clover County didn't see many deaths and even less murders. Unfortunately, this was now the second girl they'd found in the last six months and if his instincts were correct, she wouldn't be the last.
"Thank Janise, call me when her autopsy is done?"
"Will do." Janise capped her pen placing it in her pocket and started making arrangements for transportation.
Vaughn looked up to see Rudy Flores duck under the police tape and amble towards him. Always the last to the party, Rudy was a good partner in spite of his languid appearance. Though sometimes Vaughn did get tired of repeating all the details to his tardy partner. Vaughn noticed his shirt buttons were crooked and he had a large stain on his pocket. At least one of them had their morning coffee.
"What we got Vaughn?”
"Eighteen year old college student. She was found hanging from those pipes, covered from head to toes in carvings."
"God, another one. Don’t tell me it’s the same guy."
"Yeah. She was staged the same, posed against the pipes wearing a shawl and heels. He applied her make-up so well this time the guy who discovered her said he almost tried CPR. Morrison is willing to give us first dibs on an autopsy so hopefully we'll get a little more from this one.” Vaughn tried to decide how much he should tell his partner. "We're going to have to work fast. I'm sure the Bureau will be all over this when word gets out."
Vaughn rubbed is forehead and pressed against his eyes. A migraine was already starting to pound against his face. His lack of coffee didn't help.
"You're looking a little more worn around the edges then usual partner. You got something more then we’re sharing in the report? I know that ugly mug of yours when something’s bumping around your head."
Vaughn glared at Flores from the corner of his eye and kept walking towards the crime scene tape. “Rudy, you remember the Portrait Murders like 10 years ago?"
"Of course, only serial killer this town ever saw, with that last girl in Sloatsburg. Freak posed all of his victims like they were models after he raped and killed them."
"Yeah, well he made one mistake and maybe we can use it now."
"Mistake? He murders seven girls and is never caught. I'm not seeing a mistake other than the fact that he's a sick twisted son of a bitch."
"Yeah, well there were some things that were off the report then too. The Portrait case was one of my first. We found the last girl in the College campus woods. She had put up a good fight. Even kicked the bastard in the balls and ran. Once he caught up to her though, she said he beat her until she couldn't fight anymore."
"I read all the articles on that case. None of this was in the papers."
"Yeah, this one is confidential. She was real messed up by the time security found her. She said he told her he was going to teach her a lesson before he started “work” on her. We thought his plan was to take her to a second location, but she managed to make enough noise to call attention from some fellow students who called security."
"God Vaughn. She was reported dead. Are you saying she lived? That happened almost ten years ago."
"Ten years exactly on November 1st. and yeah, she lived. Except, there was something else that we left out of the reports. The Portrait Killer sliced a calling card into the thigh of the victims while they were still alive. The cuts looked very similar to the ones being done to the last two girls."
"It's only a matter of time before the papers put these cases together. They’re going to have a field day when they realize The Surgeon might also be The Portrait Killer. How could we hide our only witness for this long?"
"It was the only way to keep her safe. We knew when we caught the guy she was our only living witness and he would never let her stay that way. She was put into witness protection immediately. Her reports were locked, but now I've had months of calls to make just to get permission to consider her."
Vaughn was already calculating how long it would take to actually track down this woman and it was way to long for the timeline. The surgeon would already be looking for his next victim.