All the Time in the World: the mystery of the Lancelot Murders

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Chapter 3: The Hunt Begins

Patrick smiled despite himself when he entered the office at the sight of Trinity’s impatience. Her back was turned, but he could already hear her accusing him of making her wait. He sidled up to her, noticing despite himself that she was wearing her hair differently.

Clearing his throat, he broke the silence. “What happened to the ponytail?”

“Patrick, you’re finally here,” she grumbled. “And there’s the box - what ponytail?”

He gestured to her hair. “You don’t usually wear your hair down.”

“Oh,” she said, flustered. “You noticed?”

“I’m a detective,” he laughed. “I’d have to turn in my badge if I didn’t notice a change as obvious as this. It looks good.”

“Thanks,” she said. For a moment, she seemed unsure, and Patrick cursed himself - he knew how bad Trinity was at taking compliments. “Now show me the box,” she said, turning to snap some latex gloves on.

She took the box from him eagerly, cutting the duct tape carefully to reveal the contents within.

“Sharon said it was clothes,” he said.

“Sharon?”

The receptionist,” Patrick said, but Trinity was no longer listening. He watched as she took out a lacy bralette, turning it over in her hands. “They’re second-hand,” she murmured.

“What?” Patrick asked, confused. “What do you mean?”

“Take a look yourself,” she said, tossing the bra at him. “Where is the tag?” Diving back into the box, she pulled out a long shimmering cocktail dress.

“That’s a deep-V,” he said, gesturing to the front. “So he shopped for her?”

“How did Sharon know it was clothes?” Trinity asked.

“A note came with it,” Patrick said. “Sadly, she threw it away.”

“That’s alright,” Trinity said absentmindedly. “This is pretty helpful.” Pushing some files off the desk, she arranged the four articles of clothing on the table. “Check the box to see if I missed anything?”

Sifting blindly below the packing peanuts, Patrick pulled out a polaroid.

“Patrick,” Trinity repeated, “did you find anything?”

Wordlessly, he handed her the polaroid. It was of a young woman, her face sort of blurred in the low-light, lounging on a bed in lingerie. Her long dark hair was swept to one side, her fair skin stark against the dark background.

“That’s not Anita,” Trinity said.

Patrick nodded. “But he seems to think it is.” He pointed at the note on the bottom - u r so gorgeous baby.

“He sent Anita the lingerie set in the photo,” Trinity said, pointing at the clothes on the table.

Patrick rubbed his temples. “So, the timeline. He starts stalking her, sends her presents, sends her clothes worn by someone else, then proceeds to murder her in her apartment when she doesn’t start wearing the clothes he sent her?”

“I don’t know,” she said. “But this polaroid is a good lead. Let’s figure out who this woman is.” She paused.

Noticing her hesitation, Patrick cocked his head. “What’re you thinking about?”

“I think we may have a serial killer on our hands.”

He turned to her. “What makes you say that?”

“The woman in the polaroid. And the note.”

“The note?”

“The one Hunt found lodged in Anita’s throat. You were the only one for me. Past tense - were. He’s moving on.”

********

Patrick poured himself a robust cup of coffee from his thermos. It had been four days since he and Trinity had sent the evidence from the box to Forensics. The results were a mixed bag. The polaroid was too blurry for the woman in the photo to be identified. Handwriting on the polaroid appeared to be a match with the note that was found in Anita, but other than that, there were no other leads. The clothes had all been washed, and while they appeared to have a bit of wear and tear, there was no DNA evidence to bring them any closer to a suspect, though it did seem to back up Trinity’s theory that the clothes were used.

More cases were piling in each day, and the pressure was on to make a break in Anita’s case. He’d already been chastised by the department head for not keeping up with other work.

Trinity slid into the chair next to his. “What’s up, partner?”

He grumbled in return.

“Don’t be so upset,” she said. “We’re going to find something.”

“How can I not be upset, Trinity? We have no new leads. We have nothing. The girl is still dead, and he might be out there killing someone else.”

She was impossibly calm. “If he kills someone else, we’ll have more clues. Focus on the silver lining. He’s bound to mess up.”

He scoffed. “One hell of a silver lining. You’re heartless.”

She rolled her eyes. “Do we know how he got into her apartment yet?”

“The CCTV installed outside her hallway was under repair at the time. Only five people other than building residents were seen getting off at her floor that day, based on the cameras in the elevator. Maintenance workers, her Tinder date, cleaners.”

“He could’ve taken the stairwell.”

He nodded. “A cleaning lady reported seeing a white man of medium height and build throwing the clock in the dumpster - she didn’t catch his face, and didn’t think much of it.”

“Sounds like the man the receptionist told you about,” Trinity said. “At least his appearance matches.”

“Maybe what we need to do is to scout all the coffee shops,” he joked.

“What?”

“He found Anita in a coffee shop,” Patrick said. “Remember? Sharon’s story of their ‘meet-cute’ in a coffee shop?”

Trinity turned to him. “That might just be it,” she said.

“You can’t be serious,” he said. “There are a dozen coffee shops in this area alone. It would be like searching for a needle in a haystack.”

“I think I know why he stole the clock,” she said.

“Are you going to tell me?”

Her lips quirked into a sly smile. “I’ll let you try to figure it out first,” she said.

He laughed. “You’re bluffing,” he said. “But let’s get back to it - what do you mean coffee shops?”

Trinity stood up abruptly. “Let’s get coffee,” she said.

“Now?”

“Right now,” she said.

Patrick took a glance at his half-full thermos, then back at her, weighing his options. “Alright,” he said, a broad grin breaking across his face, “but only if you’re paying.”

She tossed him a glance over her shoulder, already halfway to the door. “What are you waiting for?”

********

“So, why are we going to a coffee shop that is 1.5 hours away from our office when there was one five minutes away?” Patrick asked.

“What’s wrong? Don’t like the company?” She teased.

“Your words, not mine,” he joked. He took a glance at the GPS. “Seems like we’re going to the Starbucks across from Anita’s office building,” he said.

“That’s right,” Trinity said.

“Are we going to this in the hopes that the killer will be sitting, waiting in the coffee shop he found Anita in? We don’t even know if this is the same coffee shop that Anita went to.”

Trinity sighed. “It’s a hunch, Patrick,” she said. “Do you ever get those?”

“Yeah... but I don’t act on them if a hunch is all I have,” he said.

Trinity shook her head. “Anita’s boss told us that she worked around the clock, never late, always on time. Jenna said that Anita stuck to her routines, would go to the local coffee shop or cafe to talk sometimes. ”

“I see,” Patrick said, “So we’re here to scope out all the local coffee shops and cafes? And your hunch is that Starbucks the killer met Anita in is the same local coffee shop she frequented?”

“Yes,” Trinity said. “Why?”

“Oh, I assumed you wanted to keep me caffeinated.”

She laughed. “If I ever take you out on a coffee date,” she said, her lips curling into a small smile, “you’ll know.”

Before Patrick could respond, they had pulled into an open parking space, and she was out of the car. Trinity unplugged her phone and pointed to the Starbucks ahead. “Here’s our first spot,” she said. “There are two more Starbucks within a half-hour radius by foot from her work building, but this is the closest one.”

Patrick nodded. “Sounds like a plan,” he said. “I’ll follow your lead.”

Trinity marched up to the counter. “I’ll have the…” her eyes squinted at the board behind the barista, “the iced caramel cloud macchiato.” She turned to Patrick. “What do you want?”

“I’ll have the cold brew,” he said. “Make it large.”

“Make them both venti,” she said, turning back to the barista.

“And what’s your name?”

“Guinevere,” she said. “That’s G-U-I-N-E-V-E-R-E.” Then she turned to Patrick. “Let’s go find a place to sit.”

After they had settled, he turned to her quizzically. “You know they’ll misspell that name for sure, right? I had a cousin called Violet and they called her Blue.”

“A sacrifice I’m willing to make,” Trinity laughed.

He cocked an eyebrow. “You do realize that this is completely insane? You think Lancelot will just be sitting here?”

She nodded. “He might not be here today, or tomorrow, but I am sure he will wind back up here. It’s where he found Anita. It’s probably where he found the girl in the polaroid.”

Patrick shook his head in frustration. “This is just guesswork,” he said. “The only woman we know that he met here was Anita, and you can’t establish a pattern with just one victim. And don’t tell me that this is one of your hunches again, Trinity - you know how I feel about them.”

“Don’t ask and I won’t tell,” she snapped.

“Iced caramel cloud macchiato and a cold brew for Jimmy!” The barista’s voice rang out over the cafe.

“Told ya,” Patrick chortled. “He didn’t even try.”

Trinity rolled her eyes and returned with the drinks, settling his cold brew down with a bump so the drink sloshed over the sides of the cup. “Oops,” she said.

“So,” Patrick said. “I notice there are security cameras here; one by the entrance and one behind the counter. We could ask to look at their tapes, see if we can spot any interactions Anita had here.”

“Alright,” she said. “I’m going to take a breather; do you want to get those tapes?”

“You’re not coming?”

“No,” she said. “I think I need to be by myself for a bit.” She got up, drink in hand. “I’ll meet you outside,” she said, and left before he could respond.

********

It was surprisingly cool for July, and Trinity found herself regretting her chosen drink as she stood outside, waiting for Patrick to get the security tapes. Quickly, she held her drink up to the window, snapping a quick photo of her now half-empty macchiato. Frowning, she adjusted her position and took another. “Perfect,” she murmured.

Sipping the last half of her drink, she mulled over the case. The difficulty with this one, she reasoned, was that it would be a while before his next victim. He needed to find her - organically - and court her, a process that, judging from what they know about Anita, took at least four months. She knew that Patrick was right in calling her hunch ‘guesswork’; she had no real reason to believe he would find his next love here.

Love? she thought, disgustedly. Not his next love, his next victim.

There was something about clocks, she thought. Why would he take that clock in Anita’s apartment, when it was so large and unwieldy? She closed her eyes, letting herself settle back into the recesses of her mind, picturing the moment. Here it was, the living room, the bodies. He was surprisingly numb after killing Anita, but he had to - he could tell she hated him and he had done it all wrong. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. She wasn’t supposed to have anyone else, and she’d gone and found another man - how could he have fallen for a whore? But she was his soulmate, and he had killed her, and now he had to fix the mess he had made. Makeup, to bring back the color in her face; clothes, to bring her back some dignity; the sheet, to cover up his mistake. The stabbing had been done in anger, but the rest was done in remorse.

“Trinity,” Patrick said. “What’re you thinking about?”

“The clock,” she said. “I have a hunch about why he threw the clock away, but I’m not sure.”

“I don’t get it. Then why didn’t he throw her watch away?” Patrick asked, his brow furrowed. “There’s no way he missed it, he spent so much time with her corpse.”

Her eyes grew wide. “Who has the watch?”

“It’s at the precinct,” he said. “I don’t think they found any prints on the watch.”

“I need to see it,” Trinity said. As an afterthought, she added, “Did you get the tapes?”

“The manager says they wipe the tapes at the start of every month,” Patrick replied. “So they were last wiped ten days ago. We found her body almost two weeks ago, and Hunt said they had been in the apartment for at least two days, given the life stage of the maggots found on both bodies, the state of decay, and the lack of rigor mortis present.” The look of disappointment on his face was evident. “I ask for a copy anyway,” he continued. “Let’s see if anyone kept visiting.”

She nodded. “And let’s go see that watch.”

He smiled bemusedly. “You think that’s going to be a lead?”

“Yes,” she said. “Don’t ever bet against me, Patrick, you know you’ll lose.”

“Too bad you’re not as good at parallel parking as you are at hunches,” he teased.

The drive back was quiet; Patrick had offered to drive this time, and as she slipped her now empty cup into the cupholder she stared in silence out the window, watching the trees and streets slip and fade into the rich hues of pink and purple that colored the darkening sky.

“Thinking about the case again?”

She turned back to face him. His steely eyes were focused on the road, but a slant of sun had hit one side of his face, drawing out the contours of his face and bringing to the fore his stubborn jawline and rugged cheekbones.

“No,” she lied. “Are you?”

“I tend not to dwell on cases once the workday ends,” he said. “I learned a while back it was better for my mental health.”

“Smart of you.”

“So if you’re not thinking about Lancelot, what were you thinking?”

“Life,” Trinity responded vaguely. “Love. Poor Anita.”

“Do you think he loved her?” Patrick asked.

“I think he believed he loved her,” she said, “and sometimes that’s the same thing.”

“Is it?”

“I’m not trying to romanticize what he did,” Trinity emphasized. “But he bought into his idea of love so much that it drove all his actions with Anita. A meet-cute in a cafe, sending her presents and flowers and surprises - isn’t that what we’re told love is?”

He shook his head. “You can’t blame the media for this - the blame sits squarely on his shoulders.”

“I’m not saying the media is at fault for this, but you can’t deny that a lot of his actions are reflective of what we’ve been taught romancing is. It’s problematic that Sharon found his actions sweet and love story material when it was terrifying to be on the receiving end of it.” Noticing his clenched jaw, she stopped. “You disagree.”

“No,” he responded. “I just think that there are merits to those old-fashioned norms of romance, I suppose. For instance, going out and meeting someone organically, as opposed to using Tinder or OkCupid. Of course, it is wrong when the feelings aren’t reciprocated. But a part of me thinks it isn’t wrong for the media to tout that romantic ideal - it’s the prioritization of real, human connection over virtual, fleeting connections.”

“I see where you’re coming from,” Trinity said. “I definitely didn’t think you had such strong opinions on this, though.” She shot him a sly smile. “I don’t suppose you have anything to share?”

He coughed, a little abashed. “It’s the romantic in me, I guess,” he said, finally. “Want me to drop you off at your place?”

“Seeing as it’s my car,” she laughed, “I think we should drop you off first.”

“Right,” he said, a flush creeping across his cheeks. “I forgot,” he muttered.

They drove for the rest of the way in silence. “For something that was advertised as not-a-coffee-date, it turned out to be quite a coffee date,” he joked as he pulled up into his driveway. “Trinity?”

She was fast asleep, curled up on one side in the passenger seat. He smiled despite himself as he watched her shift her position, causing loose strands from her ponytail to fall over her ears, framing her heart-shaped face.

“Patrick?” Her voice groggy, Trinity blinked her eyes open. “Are we here?”

Quickly averting his eyes, he nodded. “I can’t believe you fell asleep,” he said, recovering quickly. “It’s not even that late - you must be getting old.”

“If you must know,” she shot back, “I am exhausted from carrying this team.”

“Har-har,” he laughed sarcastically. “I liked you better asleep.” Unbuckling his seatbelt, he hopped out of the car. “See you tomorrow, partner.”

She rolled her eyes. “See you tomorrow,” she said, jumping into the driver’s seat.

He watched her go, before he realized he had accidentally taken her still-unfinished drink out of the car. Iced caramel cloud macchiato, he remembered - who knew she had a sweet tooth? Raising it to his lips, he took a sip, then spat it out. “God,” he said. “That’s way too much sugar.”

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