Whisper softly or you're dead

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Chapter six.

Memories can strangle a man.

Kate opened the body bag and looked at the mess before her. Her eyes widened at the state of the head where the hair had been. In its place was a line; globules of congealed blood tracing the place where the skin had been detached. Some red hairs stuck to the girl’s clothes proclaiming her previous hair colour.

A neat cut had slit the throat and the blood had been neatly drained as if it was a ritual killing. The death was clean. No other part of her body was slashed nor mutilated like the other bodies. The scalping was clearly the object of the exercise. The girl had not suffered in any way.

The police were lucky. The body should have been dragged under by the boulders it had been weighted with and would have been difficult to find. It was not covered in anything to protect it from the water. It would have deteriorated quickly if the boulder had not wedged itself on a shelf and it had not been found by a diver who was diving in that stretch of water.

In its state, the body could offer clues as to when the girl had been murdered and where. She began to work, and Chase and Defoe came to watch.

‘‘That damn U.N.S.U.B. has washed away most of the evidence. He must have put her on plastic first, but the same type of knife was used to detach the scalp as cut the throat. A scalpel I think.’’

‘‘What was the object?’’

‘‘Not mutilation. One clean cut at the throat and the scalp was then neatly detached. The throat drained of blood as in a ritual killing or he might have wanted to reduce the mess and get away faster.’’

Defoe thought ritual slaughter was designed to ensure the animal was pure and clean for eating. The purification had become part of religious symbolism. Did this man want pure victims, innocent virgins? Both young women were virgins. This murder reinforced his belief that Mrs Linton’s death was incidental. She had merely been in the way. The slashing had been to put him off the track of the killer’s real motives.

One thing the killer didn’t know was they had his voice. Mary Jane had secretly recorded her last words to the killer on her phone. Defoe listened to his last words. He had disguised his voice, rasping out his words in a gruff whisper, barely able to be heard.

The men left and Defoe arriving at the precinct sat down. His last FBI computer search had found twenty victims within a 200-mile radius, but he narrowed his search now. He wanted deaths of virgins with body parts removed within a 100 miles’ radius during the last ten years. Much better, he thought when he gained the data. Only five this time. All within a fifty-mile radius. Why had the U.N.S.U.B. chosen this area if at all? And three of the deaths went back five years. What had made him start again? Was he out of the area during this time?

He contacted other police regions to warn them they might have similar murders in their area and to try to spot some similarities. Did this guy move for his job or had he come back to complete his work? The new dimension was the woman. Slim and raven haired with expensive designer clothes, shoes and jewellery. And the card was professionally printed. Were the man and woman working together? Were they sexual partners or brother and sister?

Kate had some luck. Despite the killer using plastic he could not emulate an operating theatre and some dust had stuck in the girl’s bloody scalp as he dragged her from the place he murdered her. It was a minute amount, a miracle it had not been washed away, but it was traceable to an area around the lake. Cradley sent police agents to search the area around the lake for hidden caves or huts where the murder could have been committed.

Defoe felt optimistic although he felt there was something missing or wrong in their analysis. He still did not have any DNA of the killer to compare it with the suspects they were interviewing. They had interviewed a few men who were convicted for alleged abuse of women but they all had alibis for the times the women were murdered.

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