TRIUMPH OVER EVIL

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Chapter 30

Detective Perez had arrived at her desk early, to restudy the evidence of the Harris case. One among many she and Detective Andretta had to solve. Morning sickness when she first woke caused her to change her mind about seeing her practitioner. Inundated with work, and time restriction she used as her excuse. With a backlog of cases in need of investigating, some deemed more important than others, she came to realise it would only be a matter of time before the Harris case was relegated to low priority.

The evidence is inconclusive for a laying a charge, and the blood sample tests only show Katherine’s blood type. Unfortunately, the small amount of semen the doctors collected proved contaminated. Bruno was ruthless, but he was also methodical. I’ll catch you, and I don’t care how long it takes. I know it’s you, she thought, as she re-read the evidence. This guy is so lucky! I cannot believe he’s covered all his tracks. He can’t have! I’ve spoken to him, and he isn’t that intelligent. Have we missed something? What have we overlooked? We need to break his uncle’s alibi. How?

JM’s observations of the apartment came to mind. I wonder if he may have missed something … something not obvious. Maybe Barbara Harris should have been the one. If Bruno took a souvenir, he’d take something belonging to Katherine or her.

Startled, she sat upright. That’s it!I am dumb! It’s been sitting in front of us all the time. He took a souvenir, but what? Doctor Harris said, nothing’s missing! I think he’s wrong. I can’t wait for Michael to arrive. Barbara Harris has to do an inspection, but convincing her to enter the apartment won’t be easy.

What will happen when she sees her daughter’s blood? She’ll probably go crazy. It would send any mother crazy. I wouldn’t like it.

She rang JM, but when his cell phone crossed to his answering service, she rang the hospital. “Good morning, this is Detective Sergeant Perez. Could I be put through to the floor for Katherine Harris, please?”

“ICU!” a nurse said.

“I’d like to speak to Doctor Harris if he’s available?”

“Oh . . . he left about twenty minutes ago.”

“Could I talk to Mrs. Harris? It’s urgent.”

“I’ll go and find her. I shouldn’t be long.”

“Good morning, Mrs. Harris. I’m sorry to disturb you, but Detective Perez wants you on the phone. You can take the call at the desk.”

“Okay.”

Barbara picked up the phone. “Good morning, Detective Perez. You wanted to speak to me?”

“Good morning, Mrs. Harris. I need to make sure Doctor Harris doesn’t touch anything in the apartment. I need to go there. Do you know where he is?”

“He didn’t say, but he intimated he was having the locks changed to the building and apartments. May I ask why you need him?”

“I have a theory, and that’s all it is, but I think the intruder may have taken a souvenir from your apartment … something belonging to either you or Katherine. Your husband did an inspection with us earlier. He was under the impression nothing was taken. I think the intruder took something belonging to either you or Katherine, but what exactly, I don’t know. It’s imperative Doctor Harris doesn’t allow anyone in until another inspection is done. I also need something from you, but I realise it will be difficult. I need you to come to the apartment with me, to see if anything’s been stolen.”

Barbara remained silent.

“Mrs. Harris?”

“I heard you.”

“Do you think you could do what I ask? You do realize I wouldn’t be asking if it wasn’t important? Bruno has an alibi, but I know it’s false. It appears as though we won’t be able to break it without something substantive in the way of evidence, such as something stolen from your apartment. If we can find it in his possession, we’ll be able to place him in your apartment at the time of the crime. From the information supplied earlier by you and JM, he was only in the living room on his visit. If you feel you are not up to going I fully understand, but if you’re like me and want to catch him, then we need more evidence. It’s that simple.” Detective Perez was in desperate need of her assistance.

Going to her apartment right at that moment, where her daughter and Sophia had suffered, wasn’t a journey Barbara wanted to embark on.

She requires my knowledge of the apartment’s contents, but how do I tell her I really do not want to go!

“What makes you so sure he took something belonging to us?” She was trying to find an excuse for not returning.

“As I said, I’ve got this feeling he took something. Sometimes a criminal will take an item as a souvenir of their crime, something they will covet. I put Bruno in that category. I can’t say anymore. It’s just a hunch, and sometimes they solve crimes.”

“I don’t like it … but I’ll do it,” Barbara replied, but she still wasn’t convinced she could enter the building. “If I can’t go in, please don’t persist.”

“Mrs. Harris, thank you. Would you mind if I come and pick you up?”

“When?”

“Now.”

“I’ll wait for you outside.”

I’m leaving now.”

Barbara leaned forward and replaced the phone back onto its cradle. “Could you please pass a message on to my husband when he returns? I had to go to my apartment with Detective Perez?”

She noted Barbara’s request

They greeted each other at the hospital entrance, but Barbara was still apprehensive. With traffic slow, each had time to consider the tortuous assignment ahead.

As Barbara subliminally watched buildings float pass, her mind was elsewhere. Her thoughts were of Katherine’s violent and traumatic nightmare.

“Is it possible he may have taken something from Sophia’s apartment?”

“It’s possible, but unlikely. He moved the television, but we suspect he was taking it to your apartment. You don’t have one, so he was probably going to settle in for the night. Thankfully, he was disturbed.”

Barbara envisaged Bruno sitting in her office, and lying. All this time he has been entwining me in his web. How gullible am I? Her hatred for him steeled her resolve to help with the investigation, his arrest, and hopefully his conviction.

“The sooner we do this, the better,” Detective Perez said, as they stood on the sidewalk in the snow. As they looked at the building, she had her hand on Barbara’s shoulder, as a sign of support.

Barbara could only nod. The churning within her stomach, and nausea, had begun.

I can’t let this get the better of me. She turned to face the detective. “I hope this is worth it. All I want to do is vomit.”

“We’ll never know if we keep standing here. If you want to change your mind, that’s fine, but it wouldn’t be right if he got away with what he did. Unfortunately, there’s only one way to find out if he’s taken anything.”

“Let’s go.” Barbara waved her hand in the direction of the building, ready to take on her demons.

It was not until she inserted the key into the lock did Barbara realize the front door was already unlocked. She hesitated with opening the door further. Detective Perez took it as sign to enter first. A man’s voice came from Barbara’s apartment.

Detective Perez eased her gun from its holster, then placed her left index finger to her mouth, to signal Barbara’s silence. Being wary, Barbara slowly stepped back, onto the stoop. Has Bruno come back? Her stomach churned wildly.

The detective climbed the staircase cautiously, quietly, then slowly pushed on the door with her gun. Sitting in the living room were two men; JM being one, and the other she had not seen before.

You can come up, Mrs. Harris. Doctor Harris is here.”

With the alleviation of stress, of having to enter the building, and thinking what lay ahead, Barbara did not know whether to laugh or cry. Knowing her husband was present was a completely different scenario. A huge weight extricated from her shoulders.

JM was listening to the locksmith when the apartment door opened.

“Detective Perez, what are you doing here?” He stood from where he sat and walked toward the door, but the sight of the gun intimidated him.

“I have Mrs. Harris with me.”

His wife’s name had surprised him. “What’s going on? Why’s Barbara here?” Concerned by his wife seeing the apartment in its present state, he walked out to the landing to stop her from entering. She was almost level with the landing.

“What’s happened? Why are you here? Has something happened to Katherine? Is she okay?” His wife’s unannounced presence was disturbing.

With Barbara now by her side, Detective Perez said, “I asked Mrs. Harris to come. I tried ringing your cell phone, but it went unanswered. I’m glad you’re here, though.”

Detective Perez reached out and took hold of the apartment door, but as she was closing it, JM asked, “Why are you shutting the door?”

“Let’s talk out here. It’d be better if we had some privacy.” She went on to explain her conjecture, then turned to face Barbara. “Don’t you agree?”

Barbara gave her husband a querying look. “It’s possible, isn’t it?”

“I have no idea why a criminal does what he or she does, so anything’s possible. I couldn’t remember everything in each room, so something could be missing. Right now, my only worry is you seeing the scene inside and becoming distressed. It isn’t pretty,” he said, as flicked his head toward the door. “It’s ugly and hideous; it could upset you. In fact, I’m almost sure you’ll be affected by what you’ll see.” He did not want his wife to venture into a possible mental nightmare. “But, if this is what you want, then I will support you.”

Initially, Barbara had convinced herself that by searching the apartment it was the correct thing to do, but was now having doubts.

Detective Perez looked at Barbara. “We need to apprehend the person who did this.” It was more than a statement; it had a command tone.

Barbara knew what she had to do. She looked at Detective Perez and nodded.

JM entered the apartment. “Could you change all the locks downstairs first? We have to do another search of our apartment. I’ll call you when we’re finished,” he asked the locksmith.

It was only after the locksmith descended the stairs did his wife and the detective enter the apartment.

Barbara approached Katherine’s room with trepidation, but her next action left the detective and him with a powerless feeling.

Although Barbara considered herself prepared for the horror, as soon as the bed came into view she pushed her husband aside, hurriedly, and ran to the bathroom to vomit.

I warned her about the ugliness she would encounter. Why wouldn’t she listen?

“We can come back another time,” Detective Perez said, as she stood in the bathroom’s doorway.

JM moved Detective Perez aside and assisted Barbara to her feet. She was kneeling over the toilet. Using a damp washcloth she wiped her face, then dried it with a hand towel. “Let’s get this over with,” she said, with determination.

“I’m want you walk around without any input from either JM or myself,” Detective Perez instructed her.

Barbara moved slowly around Katherine’s room, while trying not to look in the direction of the bed. Unfortunately, she was failing. The more she searched, the greater her desire to look. It was polarising.

“Is there anything missing?” Detective Perez needed Barbara to concentrate on the search, rather than the sight of the blood-soaked bed.

“Not that I can see. There’s a strong smell of bleach.”

“We think Bruno tried to remove any evidence. Would you like to look in your room?”

Barbara was relieved to be leaving the room. It was once a room for resting, or where their daughter found enjoyment with her painting, but she now thought of it as Katherine’s suffering room. After walking into their bedroom, she quickly rummaged through the wardrobes for any missing clothing. Again, everything appeared, as it should. A quick look she gave into each opened dressing table drawer, before closing it. Again, everything appeared to be there. Although, when it came to checking her underwear drawer she hesitated. They’ve been moved.

“I think everything’s here. I will look in the bathroom. You never know.” She moved on, but she kept thinking of the touching of her underwear by someone other than herself, or her husband.

The bathroom showed no signs of missing items. After searching quickly through each of the other two bedrooms, she said, “I don’t know! Everything looks the same.” She was becoming exasperated.

The disintegrated violin, destroyed paintings, and mangled photos that lay strewn across the living room floor shocked Barbara.

“What type of person does this to another family?” Her mind was in a state of confusion as she tried to understand the intelligence of Bruno. “I thought I was getting to know him, but obviously not.”

A feeling of uncertainty forced her to re-enter her bedroom, and again faced her dressing table. She kept looking at her jewellery box. “Something’s not right, but I can’t explain it.” As she examined each piece of jewellery, she tried to remember where and when the purchasing occurred or it gift given. Everything was as it should be, but a feeling of doubt still gnawed at her.

“What’s wrong, Barbara? You appear puzzled.” Detective Perez asked, when she saw Barbara’s concerned look.

Barbara was motionless as she stared at the items.

“There’s something missing, but I can’t think what it is.” Suddenly, Barbara yelled, in a high pitched voice, “The perfume! He took my perfume. Why?

“Is it the same one as the one on your dresser?”

“Yes.”

“The question now is; did he just take something of yours and not Katherine? Whatever he took, my hunch was right . . . he wanted a souvenir. If he still has it we may be able to catch him.”

She was right all along. That’s why I am a dentist, and she’s a cop, JM thought.

“What brand is it?” Detective Perez asked.

“Chanel No5. It was still in a wrapped box. It was on top of the dressing table, next to the other bottle.”

Detective Perez raised the partially filled bottle of perfume to her nose.

“Are you sure it was a new bottle, in a sealed box?”

I’m positive!” Barbara said, adamantly.

Detective Perez was now convinced Bruno was Katherine’s rapist. She remembered the cellophane wrap lying on his kitchen floor.

“Please don’t touch this bottle. I’ll have it re-checked, hopefully he left his prints.”

“Is it possible he touched it?” Barbara asked.

“He may have. He could have taken the top off, to smell it. One never knows. I normally carry an evidence bag, but I don’t have one on me. I have one in the car; I’ll go and get it.”

“Let’s wait in the living room until she’s finished,” JM said, to his obviously nervous wife.

She followed him to the living room, but changed her mind about sitting on the couch. Instead, she went into the kitchen to sit at the table.

“Would you like a cup of coffee?”

Barbara’s mind was not within the walls of the apartment.

“Barbara . . . do you want a cup of coffee?”

“No thanks. Sorry. My mind was elsewhere.”

“What’s wrong?”

She looked at him with a vague expression. “The only way I can return here is if we throw everything out and start again.”

JM was uncertain as to her meaning of everything. “What do you mean? Are you saying furniture, rugs, that type of everything?”

“Yes.”

“I can understand you saying you want to dispose of beds, linen, yours and Katherine’s underwear, but everything? It doesn’t make sense!” He thought it a little extreme.

“He invaded our home, and not only did he violate Katherine and assault Sophia, he has left his foul touch on everything. He’s searched the bedroom drawers and probably touched our underwear. Only God knows what else? I’m not going to put on, sit on, lie on, or look at anything he’s been in contact with, and because I don’t know what he has or hasn’t touched, it’ll have to go.”

Still speechless, JM thought, she has a point.

***

Detective Perez returned to the bedroom and placed the open bottle of perfume in an evidence bag for forensics, before walking to the kitchen.

“Let’s hope this gives us what we’re after,” she said, as she held the evidence bag up for them to see. “I’d like to thank you both. We may now have something that will bring forward our inquiry, and for that, I’m grateful. Barbara, would you like a lift back to the hospital?” She refrained from mentioning the clear wrap.

“The locksmith will complete his work today, so there’s nothing stopping us from returning to the hospital together. Thanks for the offer, but could you keep me informed about the fingerprints on the bottle? I’d like to know.”

“I will.”

JM reached out and took Barbara by the hand. “Come on, let’s return to the hospital. I think we have had enough of here for one day. I will tell the locksmith we are leaving, and he can put the new keys in the mailbox. No-one can get at them.”

Barbara’s imagination would not stop rehashing thoughts of Bruno’s evil touch and foul stench having contaminated their apartment. Even though he was not physically present, Barbara thought of him as such. Her level of insecurity had heightened. Immediately on entering the car she placed her hand on JM’s arm, just as he was about to start the engine. Although she was looking directly ahead, she said in a matter of fact manner, “I’ll make a list.”

He did not reply. He knew it was pointless.

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