Clues are not always what they appear.
‘‘Dead!’’ Mrs. Dayta shook with shock but managed to make it out of the building before vomiting on the sidewalk. Gathering her strength, she walked back in and stood over the remains of the pretty girl. She was positioned carefully, her arms beside her and her legs straight. She would have looked as if she were sleeping but for the fact her eyes were still open, glazed; her expression imbedded in the psyche of the onlooker.
She was terrified before she died. Blood ran over her neck into globules across the slashes over her chest, the railroad of pain the killer had left. What disgusted Mrs. Dayta was the rat bites that had disfigured her body and remaining organs. She checked her cell for reception and then rang the police. She felt sick again but held herself together until the police arrived and took her to the precinct for a coffee and her statement.
The murder was outside their jurisdiction, but Chase and Defoe went to the hall with the local officers, just in case the case had similarities to theirs. The young detective shook their hands and proceeded to go over the evidence he had already accumulated. Her blood was smeared across the walls. ‘‘God’s revenge on the sinner,’’ spelt the words on one. ‘‘He who ignores the word of God must pay the penalty!’’ glared out from the other.
‘‘Nutcase,’’ said Chase. ‘‘Religious nutcase! Like the one in Baltimore who had become infected by a prostitute and hated them all after that. Reminds me of Hitler.’’
‘‘Perhaps,’’ said Defoe. ‘‘This is the first time he has used religious words.’’
‘’Perhaps it isn’t the same guy. Perhaps we have a different U.N.S.U.B.’’
‘‘The parallels are there. The neck was slashed, the cause of death.’’ The only body parts that had been taken were the ears which accounted for the excess blood on the girl’s chest. The slashes resembled the markings in Mary Jane’s case; angry irrational slashes this time, reaching down her hips and thighs. The ears had been taken with the same care as before.
The pathologist opened a new lead. ‘‘The slashes were not done by the same person who sliced off the ear. They were done later, not much later but there was a space of time.’’
‘‘That’s odd. Doctor Masters said the original slashes were done by the same person as that who sliced off the hands. She needs to look at this body and see if the ears were cut by our suspect.’’
‘‘We can transfer the body, but she could come here and do her own investigation if she wishes.’’
‘‘I’ll ask her.’’ He turned to Defoe as they left the precinct. ‘‘Is it the same UNSUB or do we have two murderers on the loose?’’
‘‘It could be the same two people, but one has now decided to take part in the killing instead of merely enticing the girls. This could be the handiwork of Ms Sanders. She may now want to be a hands-on killer and collector herself.’’ He looked perplexed and anxious.
‘‘What’s eating you?’’
‘‘Things don’t fit. Why is the second person so angry now? Also, the time between the murders has shortened. He is accelerating and becoming more dangerous, intensifying his need to kill. Another one will be on the cards soon if we don’t find out something soon.’’
Kate agreed to visit the mortuary. An hour with the poor girl’s corpse answered her questions and she reported back to them that evening.
‘’The pathologist was thorough and knew his job. There were two different murderers. There were tiny traces of hair, some undyed hair and others highlighted left. Probably not enough to get DNA but the highlighted hair is very fine, and we think it could be from a female. The way the ears was cut off suggests it is our U.N.S.U.B.’’
‘Any reason why he took her ears?’’ asked Chase of Defoe.
‘‘Not a clue. Does the hair match the description of our female?’’
‘‘Mousey and highlighted, human but could be a wig. It is likely the other is the real hair of the slasher.’’
‘‘It is a start. Why was that person less careful than before?’’
‘‘May be less experienced, less medical knowledge of DNA or in a rush. How are you getting on with tracing the U.N.S.U.B.?’’
‘‘Still working on the records of the present and past medics around here. When we get this new girl’s identity and background it may give us more information to work with.’’
Defoe was rattled. He had watched the pathologist chatter with ease to Kate, showing more interest in her than professional curiosity warranted. His hackles rose. He wanted Kate. Chase was bad enough, always around, taking Kate’s smiles while he stood in the background watching.
She seemed to like this new guy and he had to admit he was strong competition. He had done a check on him and he seemed clean; a normal happy go lucky guy who liked baseball, swimming and dating. He was highly qualified and looking to rise high in the echelons of his profession. Loaded, due to his family trust fund.
‘A good catch,’’ as his mother would have said. ‘‘But not for Kate,’’ said Defoe’s inner self. She was his. He made up his mind, his natural stubbornness showing. He had waited long enough. It was time he made his move and asked her out for a date.
Kate was perplexed. The normally good-tempered Defoe scowled at her. He looked pissed, just like he had when Chase had ordered the cab for her. In her hand, she still held the cell number for David Backman the pathologist. He had asked her to ring when she was free to arrange a date.
Defoe had rudely interrupted their conversation by snapping tersely, ‘‘We need to be back at the precinct and are you ready?’’ He had seemed abnormally stressed for him. Giving Backman a dark look from narrowed eyes he had shepherded her to the door and out to the car.
‘Watch out Defoe! Where is the race?’’
‘‘I have evidence to survey unless you want to take a cab back on your own.’’
‘‘No, I had nearly finished. Just exchanging professional details with Doctor Backman there.’’
‘‘Professional details,’’ he enquired knitting his brow. ‘‘He showed more than a professional interest in you,’’ he muttered. He could have bit his tongue out. He normally never suffered jealousy or showed his feelings in that way. She looked at him wide eyed. He was mad with her and Backman and was containing his anger badly.
‘‘It is my business who I give my number to,’’ she snapped. ‘‘Who are you to dictate who I go out with?’’ she snapped.
‘‘You need to take care of yourself. You are important to our investigation,’’ he ground out.
‘‘Well I am quite capable of taking care of myself, thank you,’’ she said shutting the door to her office and taking out Backman’s card. Defoe could see her read the card through her window. He turned away cursing to himself, ‘‘Damned woman’’. He had waited too long, and she would now be fodder for that smooth medic. He would have to wait his turn and he wasn’t a patient man where women he desired were concerned.
Backman was delighted she had called and asked her to dinner the following evening. She asked him to meet her at the restaurant they intended to go to. She had changed in her office and was carefully negotiating the stairs in her high heels when she heard someone above her. She looked up and there was Defoe standing above her watching her descend the stairs.
Why did it have to be him watching me go out on a date? She had changed into a pretty dress which was low necked and skimmed her tanned thighs. The restaurant Backman had chosen was expensive and in an up-market area of their town. He was clearly trying to impress her. She compared him with Defoe who relaxed after work in the nearby casual down market Chinese restaurant with its glass topped Formica tables. He didn’t seem to need or care to show off. He was older than Backman who was about her age and still had to forge his way through his difficult profession and make a name for himself.
‘‘Going somewhere nice?’’ asked Defoe, pursuing her quickly down the stairs until he was level with her. He smiled that gentle smile at her, warming her insides more than it ought to do. She was nearly thirty for God’s sake and should be able to resist that ‘aw shucks Ma’am’ smile.
‘‘Rentman’s, with Backman. I need to move, or I’ll be late. That last autopsy was more complicated than I thought.’’
‘‘Very nice,’’ he said. ‘‘I was there last week.’’ He thought she looked interested and to satisfy her curiosity, he said, ‘‘For business not social reasons.’’ She shrugged and said, ‘‘I’ll compare opinions with you then.’’
‘‘The sea bass is divine. I’ll walk you to your car,’’ gently guiding her with a hand on her back. The gentle pressure of his fingers through her thin silk dress sent shivers down her back and she was glad to get to her vehicle. Taking the keys from her fingers, he opened the door and let her sit in.
‘Take good care of yourself. You have my number.’’
‘‘Why would I need it?’’ she asked curious.
‘‘Girls don’t always know what a man is like until he gets her on her own.’’ He shut the door and waited for her to pull away.
‘‘Damn the man.’’ He was so secretive and enigmatic. Did he know something about Backman that she ought to know? If he had his way, a man would have to give a pint of blood and bile before she could go out with him. She felt uneasy now and wondered if she had been sensible. She pulled herself together and was determined to enjoy herself despite that interfering man.
Defoe felt a heel. She could go out with any man she wanted. He just thought she was too vulnerable and naïve for Backman who looked as if he had experienced his fair share of women in his short life. He reminded him of himself when he was a young marine, chasing skirts as if his life depended on it; looking for the next easy lay, no conscience to be pricked. He had matured and respected women now, but Backman looked as if he was still immature despite his age and responsible job.
Kate entered the restaurant. She was guided to the table by the hostess. It was as exclusive as she had imagined. She was glad she had dressed up and put her hair in a glamorous sophisticated upsweep which would even impress her mother if she was there. A beautiful single diamond drop pendant and earring set completed the simple but sophisticated look. She had seen Defoe’s eyes widen in appreciation for a moment. He has been impressed. Something in his eyes and body language suggested he wanted to say something but he had said nothing more to her since that verbal tussle over Backman exchanging cards with her.
Backman was waiting for her, dressed to the nines in a dark suit and white dress shirt, looking like he could be a front cover for GQ. Killer blue eyes, a tan and black hair; he looked like the devil incarnate until he smiled and then a dimple appeared, making him look like the boy next door instead of the city boy he had appeared a moment ago.
‘‘Choose what you like, or I can recommend something and then I’ll choose the wine.’’ He ordered aperitifs.
‘‘I hear the sea bass is divine.’’
‘‘You know someone who eats here?’’
‘‘Yes, Doctor Defoe,’’ she said innocently and saw his eyes narrow.
‘‘Oh, that guy who was interested in you at the precinct. Have you dated him?’’
‘‘No, not at all and he is just interested in my well-being.’’
Male competitiveness reared its ugly head. ‘‘The only thing Defoe is interested in is getting you in his bed.’’ She looked shocked. ‘‘Sorry, it takes a man to recognise another. Now Chase is not interested at all which surprises me given how lovely you are.’’ Kate felt this conversation was leading down an uncomfortable path.
‘‘Do you come here often?’’ she said trying to change the subject.
‘‘About once a month. Have you chosen?’’
‘‘The scallops and the sea bass.’’ The server came to take their dish. The girl gave him particular attention, virtually ignoring her.
Well trained I don’t think. The girl was practically leaning over him, showing her wares in a dress she was barely wearing. She virtually ignored Kate after she took her order quickly but sashayed away slowly giving him a taste for her curves. He unglued his eyes and concentrated on Kate, but she was already wised up to the sort of guy he was. If he came here every month, she reckoned he changed his dates like his clothes, with regularity.
He had brought her to impress her, but she didn’t care about that. He pussyfooted over choosing the wine, discussing the vintages until she wished he would just choose one of the damned whites and get on with it. Her dad had a cellar of vintage wines and she could have chosen one in the blink of an eye, but he enjoyed showing off his knowledge to her.
His background was Yale, his mom a doctor and his dad a lawyer turned judge. He had not had to work through college and had a neat trust fund which had bought him a condo and paid for his cars and holiday home. He enjoyed the social scene his mom and dad were part of. The small town he worked in was ok for now, but he liked life in the big cities. He enjoyed his job and he wanted to become a first-rate pathologist and run a larger team and later a whole dept. The police in these hick towns tended to have tunnel vision and he wanted to work with more ambitious and like-minded individuals.
Puffed up and self-centred, he was the epitome of many guys she had dated before. He barely asked what she liked and droned on about his holidays and his holiday home. They had little in common. He was sports and car mad and liked to watch games most nights and go to Indie races at the weekends; the little woman watching while he joked with his mates.
She was glad she had left the precinct late. By ten thirty she had learnt his life story and had had enough and wanted to go home. He had bored her rigid. She had to be polite because she might have to work with him again. She looked at her watch and hoped he could take a hint.
‘‘Very. I was up at six to prepare a body and worked until seven this evening. I must be in the precinct at eight o’clock tomorrow for a case conference.’’
‘‘I thought you didn’t work police hours.’’
‘’I don’t, but these latest murders are making extra work for the police and I must be up to date with the paperwork and examinations. The officers have barely had any days off for weeks and I have to work at their pace.’’
‘‘Perhaps a job in a clinic would suit you better. Hours to suit yourself?’’
‘‘I love my job and do it well.’’ She guessed at his implied criticism. She a woman could not take the pressure like a man could. He had made remarks all evening about the jobs women were good at.
He was as bad as the cops who had underrated her when she had joined the precinct, a naïve young medic straight out of the hospital where she had trained. They had soon learnt she was as tough as steel and had regretted taunting her. She felt like telling Backman to take his suggestions and stuff them where the sun didn’t shine.
Instead, she plastered a smile on her face and said, ‘‘I like living in this town and enjoy working with these cops. I don’t want to work in the big city. I feel at home here.’’ His frowned. He had thought she was the girl from the big city who appreciated sophisticated things and the night life of a city. Perhaps she was the wrong girl for him.
He called for the cheque and said, ‘‘Perhaps we can go to a bar for one drink and then I’ll get you home.’’ She sighed but agreed. One drink and then she could get away from him. He was harmless; just a big-headed jock who had thought he could impress her with good food and wine.
She let him guide her to the bar, next door. It was a bar guys took their girls to; subdued lighting, small tables and dark corners, just right for dating. Her heart sank. She realised she had only gone on this date to aggravate Defoe and show him she could date whom she pleased. Childish, irresponsible; she was going to hurt Backman by refusing another date.
Backman ordered beer for him and a cocktail for her. He had already consumed most of the two bottles of wine they had drunk with dinner. If he carried on like this, he would be stone drunk soon. His hand covered hers and he placed it on her leg stroking her bare thigh. She was now on high alert and decided she would take a cab home.
‘’A dance, darling?’’ he suggested and pulled her on to the dance floor before she could resist. Dancing as closely to her as decency would allow he made sure she knew he was aroused and swerved rather than guided her around the partners. She allowed him two more dances. At least he did not grope her leg or ass on the dance floor. He was too careful remaining standing up.
‘‘I would like to go now,’’ she said quietly to him, guiding him to their seats.
‘‘Aw, Honey, I was just getting to enjoy myself. We were heating up out there.’’ He leaned forward to take a kiss. She pulled back embarrassed.
‘‘I would like to go home now,’’ she repeated and started to get up. He jumped up and started to pull her on to the floor again. He was stopped, a heavy hand on his shoulder.
‘‘The Lady wants to go home,’’ said a familiar voice. A quiet voice said something in his ear. Backman took several steps back quickly.
‘‘Sorry Honey, I’ll order you a cab then.’’
‘‘Forget it. There is already one outside.’’
Kate had already thrown some bills on the table to pay for the drinks and tip. She walked out with Defoe who guided her to the cab.
‘‘I asked the hostess to find him a cab and get him home as well. Neither of you are fit for driving.’’
‘’Thanks for intervening. I didn’‘t want to embarrass either of us,’’ she admitted.
‘‘You’re welcome,’’ he said curtly. He had waited outside the restaurant for them to go to the bar and then watched them. He had felt like letting her deal with the jerk herself, but he had decided that could be embarrassing and dangerous for her, so he had intervened.
A few extra calls to some police officers earlier on had given him the information he required. Backman was a jerk but a harmless jerk unless he had drunk too much. He could not hold his alcohol. He would not harm Kate but would embarrass them both and he shouldn’t drink and drive her home.
‘‘How did you know I was here?’’
‘‘I knew you wouldn’t want a late night after today’s early start and waited only 30 minutes near the restaurant. This bar is only a few minutes away and I knew he would come here. It is one of his haunts and I have seen him here when I have drunk here myself with girlfriends.’’
So, he had come to protect her. He wasn’t admitting that but nor was he denying it. He was clearly interested in her but wouldn’t come out with it directly. He was a puzzle; a maddening, irritating man. She was determined to put him on the spot.
‘‘What did you say to him to make him let me leave so quickly?’’ He smiled ruefully and thought his words over carefully. How to admit what he had said without her thinking badly of him and guessing how he felt about her?
‘‘Only that I would rearrange his features if he didn’t leave you alone and stay away from you,’’ he said, rather ashamed of himself. ‘‘He probably won’t remember anything of what I said in the morning. He has a reputation for being unable to take his drink but won’t learn from his mistakes. He was drinking another cocktail when we left.’’
‘‘Civilised,’’ she said sarcastically; the sophisticated Doctor Defoe, offering to punch the fellow’s face in astonished her. She thought he avoided conflict. The petrified look on Backman’s face reminded her that Defoe could be as vicious as the next man if he was goaded and he had the musculature to back it up. She was reassessing the man. He was not the man she had been used to working with. He was a more challenging man.
‘‘A threat of violence is often more effective than real violence, especially when one is dealing with a drunken fool like Backman.’’ He stopped at the cab and said, ‘‘I was a military policeman in the Marines and dealt with many a drunk. Backman is not a mean drunk. He would not hurt a woman deliberately, but he could drive dangerously or get into a fight with another man; a dangerous guy for a woman to be with.’’
‘‘I would not have ridden home with him. I intended to get a cab.’’
He wasn’t going to argue with her. She was pleased and cross with him for rescuing her. She was humiliated and hated being beholden to him. She was too independent and proud for her own good. It was too bad that he had decided he would have her in his bed. When she had cooled down a bit he would ask her for a date, before any other jerk got in first and asked her out.
Kate was pissed. He didn’t say it, but she knew he wanted to say, ‘‘I told you so.’’ She should have gone again to the precinct and had a coffee with Backman before agreeing to date him. She would soon have sized him up for the big-headed show-off that he was.
He shut the cab door behind her and stood, a silent man who knew his worth and didn’t frighten easily. He entered the bar and went to Backman. He paid the man’s bill and said, ‘‘Pal, there is a cab waiting for you.’’
He put his arm around the sleepy man’s shoulders and pulled him through the bar to the cab and shoved him in. He knew the cab driver and paid him enough to make sure Backman would surface tomorrow in his condo safely. Finished being the Lone Ranger he found his bike and drove home to sleep, dreaming of a petite woman whose eyes sparked green fire when he told her what to do. She was buried in his psyche and he couldn’t do a thing to eradicate her.