“It’s me,” Maggie responded.
“We got another one.”
“Damn it. Where?”
As Maggie gave directions, Lucas pulled a suit, shirt and tie from his well-ordered wardrobe.
“I’ll be there in twenty,” he told her.
Lucas returned to the bathroom to shave quickly. He glanced in the mirror and noticed eyes bloodshot from lack of sleep. He shrugged. What did it matter? Running fingers through his hair, he took a few deep breaths in preparation for what he was about to face. He threw on his clothes and, after a tedious ride in the lift, jumped into his unmarked car.
As he drove, images of the day he thought successfully put behind him, until last week, returned with a vengeance. The visions came night and day now. He shoved himself back to reality. He needed to concentrate. During his twelve years as a cop, he’d seen it all, and he dealt with it before pushing the memories aside. Some were harder than others, but he emerged mostly unscathed, until now.
This case was different. It affected him.
Lucas parked next to his partner’s car and as he climbed out the humidity warmed his cold limbs. The oppressive heat would get worse as the day progressed. Maggie leaned against her car, waiting. When she spotted him, her athletic frame strode over, expression grim. Even with a scowl, she was a stunner. With her short blonde hair and penetrating blue eyes, she didn’t look like your average cop. Her physique and angular features turned heads.
“Definitely the same?’ Lucas asked.
A long forgotten yet familiar lump surfaced in Lucas’ throat as they flashed their badges at the taped-off scene. An officer directed them towards the dank alleyway in the rear, undetectable from the road. The stink of rotting garbage assaulted them as they turned the corner.
The victim laid face-up, naked and brutalised. She appeared to be in her mid-twenties and he could see she had been beautiful, as the first victim once was. Her wrists and ankles were lacerated as though she had been bound and at her throat was a gaping smile. The absence of blood implied she was murdered elsewhere. Purple and yellow bruises speckled her body, indicating days of abuse, and her face was battered and swollen. Lucas saw fear frozen in her unseeing eyes.
Across her chest the words RICH BITCH were slashed in red-light and dark. The varying degrees of colour and congealment indicated the wounds were inflicted over time. Another pretty young woman tortured and left in a dirty alley behind a warehouse, as if she meant nothing. It would not feel like nothing to the people who loved her. Lucas knew this first-hand. Bile rose in his throat. What kind of sick bastard could inflict this horror?
The Medical Examiner arrived as techs walked the grid collecting evidence and taking photos.
David Walker was in his late forties. A short, squat man with pointed features and thinning hair, his compassionate nature complemented his thoroughness. His knees creaked as he knelt beside her.
“The chest wounds and cause of death appear consistent with the last victim,” he began. “Ligature marks on the wrists and ankles too.”
“Similar dump site as the last one,” Lucas said.
“Yes, all too familiar.” Maggie shook her head. “Any ID again, Dave?”
“Can you help me roll her over?”
Crouching, Lucas slipped on latex gloves from his pocket and helped turn the body from back to side. He held her in place as Dave examined the victim, took her temperature and checked for an identity document beneath her. Lucas swallowed against the lump wedged in his throat; handling dead victims never got easier.
“Yes, here it is,” Dave said. He passed the ID to Maggie’s now gloved hand.
“Kate Miller,” Maggie read. She bagged it.
“Thanks, Dave.” Lucas turned to Maggie. “Same MO.”
Lucas helped ease the body back again and tore off his gloves as he stood.
“Let’s go,” he said. “See if we can work out what these two have in common.”