Whisper softly or you're dead

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Chapter eleven.

No-one can be as good as me!

An anonymous caller asked to speak urgently to the officer in charge the next morning.

‘‘I can’t stay on the phone long. He might hear me,’’ the woman whispered panicking.

‘‘Can you give me a contact number we can reach you on please, Ma’am?’’ asked the administrator, scared the woman would vanish before he could get Chase.

‘‘No, you cannot ring me later or he will find out. I need to speak to the officer now!’’ They dragged Chase out of an interview room and Defoe listened on the other phone.

‘‘Keep her talking.’’ They were trying to trace the call before she hung up.

‘‘How can I help you Ma’am?’’ asked Chase gently.

The woman gulped and started nervously. ‘‘I know the man who killed those girls. I want to stop him, but I am scared he will find out it is me who phoned you and come after me if you don’t catch him.’’

‘‘We will keep your identity secret,’’ said Chase.

‘‘You said that to others in the past and they were dealt with.’’

‘‘Not me Ma’am. That is another precinct. Who is the man you are referring to?’’

‘‘I can’t tell you over the phone. I must meet you somewhere he doesn’t know about.’’

‘‘You choose the location and I will be there,’’ promised Chase, trying to reassure this terrified woman.

‘‘The hut by the western side of the Mountsalon Lake is quiet. No-one goes there. I will meet you there at 6 o’clock this evening but no-one else may come.’’

‘‘I promise you I will be on my own, but I need to know you are genuine and how to recognise you. Give me your name.’’

‘‘Jean. I am not telling you anything else about myself until he has been caught.’’

‘‘What is his name Jean?’’

‘‘Michael. I must go now.’’ She rang off. Chase cursed violently and turned to Defoe. ‘‘Do you think she was genuine or a nutter?’’ She hadn’t been on the phone long enough for them to get more than the district she was phoning from.

‘‘She sounded terrified but until we talk to her we cannot know for sure.’’

Chase put his coat on. ‘‘I had better get going.’’ He put a tracking device on himself and a mike.

‘‘I will follow but keep well away until you say you need me.’’ He didn’t feel comfortable with that call. There was no reason to doubt her authenticity, but something didn’’t ring true. He was going to find out what it was.

It was no good! He had shot the animal neatly through its head, a small hole bursting the skull like a cannon-ball with the velocity of the powerful rifle he used. He picked the animal up but gained no satisfaction from the kill. It was not the same as killing a man. His granddaddy, a Vietnam vet had let him hunt with him and he had told him stories of killing the ‘congs’. He had vicariously lapped it up; the thrill from watching the last blood drip out of a body and the eyes lose their sparkle as a dullness inhabited them. He could not join the military and his mom and dad had moved from the hills to this town. He was lost here amongst the slick suited professionals who looked down on him.

He had made mates with friends who were as lost as him, searching for something their families could not supply; an excitement and bloodlust, only the death of something could reach inside of him. He needed acceptance, to belong. They let him join but he had to prove he was worthy of them, do something the ordinary Joe would or could not do.

He drove home in his beat-up truck. He could barely afford the gas money and it wasn’t insured. He made immediately for his room, his refuge. He no longer cared for his woman. She no longer respected him. He saw the fear in her eyes when she entered his room. The photos on the walls were his life. He wanted a woman like these girls, intelligent, sophisticated and beautiful. He sought them in the bars, but they rejected him time after time. They wanted sophisticated wealthy guys, not a loser like him. That is why he had to get even with them, make them apologise and beg for forgiveness. Only a woman begging for mercy filled him with pleasure, that exhilaration and power he searched for.

He had to go and find that next woman. He had seen her in the bar and would find her again and make her his own. He needed her like he needed oxygen to breathe. Jean didn’t understand. He had admitted what he was, why he needed his trips away to satisfy his urges; quench the thirst that made him dry inside. He feared she would leave him soon and he would be alone again. He had to stop her leaving. She might tell on him.

Chase was at the hut at 5.55, ready and waiting, standing outside his car in full view of the woman. His doors were open, so she could see he was alone. A car did not arrive, but he saw a woman walking up the road, head down, shoulders hunched and dragging her feet. She looked lonely, passive and vulnerable; like some of the victims would have seemed if he had spoken to them before they had died. His killer knew how to pick them. Isolated and often friendless, they were easy pickings.

He waited for her to reach him and held up his badge for her to read carefully. She looked reassured but turned around as if scouting the area around her for an assailant.

‘‘I am Detective Raymond Chase, Ma’am. You wanted to tell me about a man called Michael. We can drive to somewhere safer if you want.’’

‘‘No, no! I must be gone soon.’’ She turned around again as if the man could be behind the trees watching her, eyes glazed with terror. ‘‘He killed the four girls.’’

‘’What is his name Ma’’am? ‘’persisted Chase. ‘‘We will arrest him, and you will be safe. Did he give you that bruise?’’ Her neck was black and blue as if she had been nearly strangled. Defoe listening in was puzzled. Their main killer was a clean killer, almost to the point of being antiseptic in his method of murdering the girls. No unnecessary violence or blood after the first killing.

‘‘Yes, I refused to help him distract the girls after I guessed what he had done.’’ She sighed ‘‘His name is Michael Drayton. He lives with me in 45 Restrat Way.’’ She looked more relaxed, as if a burden had been taken off her shoulders.

‘‘Your name is?’’

‘‘Jean Terton.’’

‘‘You say you guessed what he has done. How do you know he murdered the girls?’’ She began to shake.

‘’He came back to the apartment covered in blood, his face scratched, and he burnt his clothes refusing to allow me to wash them. He admitted he had done the murders to me. He wanted to rape them, but he is impotent and became angry when he couldn’‘t manage it.’’

Chase thought he should get them away from the danger she clearly thought was lurking around there.

‘‘One more question. When was this?’’

‘‘After the fourth murder. Look,’‘ she said. ‘’ I must go. I am going to visit my sister in New York until you have him under lock and key. He threatened to kill me if I told the police anything. I think I could be next anyway.’’

‘‘We can put you under protective custody.’’

‘‘No, I want to get away from here. Start a new life.’’ Chase wondered if she was entirely innocent or had she been the woman who had distracted the girls before this Michael had murdered them. If she vanished now they might not find her again.

‘‘I am afraid you cannot leave this town Ma’am, but I will ensure your house is watched until Michael is caught.’’ She saw he was implacable. She would have to try to lose him on the way home and leave for New York without her belongings. Her safety was more important than material things. They could be replaced.

‘‘Is Michael at work?’’

‘‘No, he doesn’t work. He can’t,’ she explained. ‘‘He isn’t well enough.’’ Defoe listened in. Bad vibes or not this guy had to be questioned. Chase followed her car back to her apartment. She could not shake him off. Defoe and a team of officers were searching her apartment, but Michael was not there.

‘‘Where could he be, Jean?’’ asked Chase softly. She looked out of the window into the distance. He touched her arm gently, but she flinched as if he had woken her from a dream. This woman was divorced from reality most of the time.

‘‘He is after another one,’’ she said. ‘‘Look in the box room. He wants to preserve their memories.’’ Defoe opened the door, unsurprised to see articles and photos of the girls on a wall with exact dates of their death written beside them. A shrine.

‘‘Looks like we could have our man,’’ said Chase.

‘‘Possibly. Let’s collect the evidence first and look at it back at the precinct.’’ There were weapons also and dirty blood-stained gloves. He was a messy killer.

‘‘Jean where could he be?’’ asked Defoe. They needed to find this crackpot before he could hurt anyone, whether or not he was their particular murderer. This obsession with dead mutilated women and bloody clothes and weapons indicated a warped personality that might need psychiatric help even if he wasn’t a murderer.

‘‘He has a hut in the clearing in the forest behind the lake where he keeps his camping things. He practises shooting there as well. He was rejected by the army and still likes to hunt things. He has too much energy to burn up whilst he doesn’t work.’’ Chase called the precinct to send a team to hunt the man in the forest.

‘‘Why doesn’t he work?’’

‘‘I don’t know. He won’t discuss it with me. He got an insurance payment and some food stamps which just about pays his share of the rent and food, but he resents being broke all the time.’’

‘‘I want this man’s records sent to me,’‘ said Defoe, still looking through the evidence in the room. He knew of a few men who regularly shot in that clearing. Most were men’s’ men, merely needing to release their excessive testosterone after pursuing boring factory or office jobs.

The others, the police had their careful eye on. These men were on the knife edge of sanity, looking for trouble which could erupt anytime they felt insulted or rejected. On the rare occasion they exploded blood was spilt, a neighbour or partner shot. He suspected that this Michael could be in this latter group and vented his anger indiscriminately on young women. They must find this man and intervene before more blood was shed.

‘‘For your own safety we need you to give a statement at the precinct, Jean. You will then be given protection when you come back here.’’ Passive and unresisting she went with an agent. Chase received a call saying his men were positioned by the hut and a car had drawn up by it. A man had got out and opened the far side car door. He roughly half-pulled a young woman out of the vehicle. Resisting she punched him but he punched her back. She held her face in her hands sobbing, trying to wipe her bleeding nose. She no longer resisted him, and he pulled her out to the door.

‘‘Move bitch!’’ he muttered as she dragged her feet. ’‘I saw you laughing at me in the ice-cream parlour.’’

‘‘I was laughing at a joke my friend had made, not at you,’’ she tried to explain.

‘‘She was laughing at me, at my face. You laughed at me the other night at the bar when I asked you out.’’

She remembered him tentatively asking her out and she had laughed drunkenly and said no thanks and ignored him; not wanting to date a man so much older than herself and so shabbily dressed. It was her friend who had laughed at him and called him a loser, but he would not care. He had stared at her for a moment and walked off, not coming back to the bar again that night. The bartender had said, ‘‘Avoid that one. He lives with a woman but tries to pick other girls up.’’

‘‘What happened to his face?’’ The left-side of his face was wrinkled and scarred, and his eye looked half shut. Once handsome he now looked sinister.

‘‘He was involved in some kind of industrial accident. He doesn’t work now and has a chip on his shoulder although he could work if he tried. He persuaded some soft doc he couldn’t work as it would stress him too much and lives on his insurance pay-out.’’

‘‘It matters not now,’’ he said. ’You’ll pay for laughing at me and do what I want.

‘‘Get in!’’ he said pushing to the back of the hut where there was a small bed. She fell on the bed and cowered. He loomed over her and handcuffed her to the bedhead. He placed a rifle near to her head. Dressed in military fatigues and pumped out, he looked mean and hard, the epitome of the heroes he tried to emulate. Inside though he was weak, scared of what a woman thought of him, unwilling to face the world that had dealt him a harsh blow.

She gasped, ‘‘Don’t hurt me.’’ He put the gun down and touched her hair holding it tight as she cowered away from him. ‘‘I won’t hurt you if you cooperate with me.’’

‘‘I will do anything you say. Don’t hurt me please!’’ she begged. Defoe and Chase were outside the hut, crouched under the open window.

‘‘We need a negotiator,’’ said Defoe.

‘‘One is on his way, but he may not get here in time.’’

The man pulled out a knife and cut the buttons off her shirt slowly and deliberately, slicing delicately through her skin as it bled slowly down her midriff. She gasped in pain and then he put the knife to her throat and made her lift her head.

‘‘Careful Baby. I want to hear you beg me to let you live.’’ She nodded, her throat too dry to talk. He slid the knife away an inch.

‘‘I am thirsty as well,’’ Leaning over her he poured himself a whisky and her some water. He took a swig himself and then held the glass to her lips. Her hands were trembling too much to hold the tumbler.

Our chance, thought Defoe. The man had put down his weapons. A push through the window with the revolver and their assailant was down with a bullet in his shooting arm and his leg. He howled in pain, but the officers were on him in a trice and Defoe held the young girl in his arms until she stopped shaking. A female officer soon arrived and took her to be examined at the precinct.

‘‘Just in time. He may have intended to frighten and roughen her up a little, but I am not sure. He has charges for assault but not on women, merely fights in bars. If we dig deeper, we may find he has cautions for something else.’’

‘‘Let’s get back and find out what he has to say after he has seen the medics. Now he has been captured Jean may tell us more.’’

‘‘I don’t trust that woman. She may be more involved than she admits.’’

‘‘Don’t know. It may be a case of coercive control. She seemed in a daze, unnaturally passive and scared of saying anything. Could be a case of abuse.’’

Michael was seen to by the medics and brought in to the precinct for interviewing. The bullets had grazed him causing pain but causing little injury. They needed to find out if he had kidnapped other young women. He looked scared shitless. Chance didn’t care. He had made his victim suffer much worse.

He sat sullenly refusing to answer any questions until Chase showed him the photos they had taken off his bedroom wall.

‘‘The bitch. She shopped me!’’ he snarled.

‘‘Another informer told us about your room,’’ said Chase, wanting to protect Jean from this vile man’s vengeance should he ever get out of jail or manage to inform his cronies about Jean’s statement.

‘‘No, one else knew about that room. It must have been her. It matters not. The photos are all that matters. They deserved to die. They were all whores. Like that girl I met in the bar, flaunting herself to anyone who was there.’’

Tired of this, Chase began to question him about his whereabouts the nights of the three murders. He had no alibi. Jean had said he wasn’t in their apartment at the time of the deaths. He seemed proud of kidnapping the young woman and boasted what he would have done with her if they had not intervened. He would not have killed her but disfigured her as a punishment for laughing at his facial injuries. He wouldn’t specify what he would have done with her after that.

There were other photos of girls in a bad way as if they had been assaulted or killed. Chase recognised some of them from newspaper articles and FBI reports. They went back twenty years and the girls were killed across four states. Did he admire other killers and was he a copy-cat killer?

At about three o’clock that morning he caved in and admitted he had murdered the four young women. He also admitted to murdering some other women out of state. Chase would have to inform the other police districts and try to link these killings with those of the other poor women. After charging him they went to bed, but Defoe was still puzzled. This killer was messy, disorganised and emotional. He was of limited intellect and his medical records showed he had failed the entrance tests to the army because he was suffering from schizophrenia. He had been signed off by his doctor but had not collected his medicine for three months. Jean had said his behaviour had changed recently and he was more erratic, taking offence easily and blowing up over nothing. She in turn was dosed up with tranquilisers to counter stress which explained her dazed state.

Unlike Michael she had an alibi the days the victims were murdered. She fitted the physical description of the woman who had distracted the girls, being tall and having muscular arms. She had accompanied Michael to his gym. There the resemblance ended. She was working shifts when the female suspect had accosted the girls. She was clean unless she helped Michael in other ways. Defoe thought she wasn’t bright enough to be his assistant nor a good enough actress. They needed to look for another woman to fit this role.

Michael would not tell them where he hid his weapons or boat. His hut provided no clues. Jean could add no more. They were stumped. The blood on his gloves and knives was from animals not humans. He was having them on or imagining his guilt. He mentioned being in the papers. He wanted the glory of being famous in the eyes of the public.

‘‘Interview him again,’’ demanded Defoe impatiently. ‘‘I think we have the wrong man and we can’t afford to waste more time while the real killer is on the loose. I don’t care what the newspapers and TV reporters think. They want easy answers. We need the truth.’’ Chase agreed and sent for the man.

They waited an hour and then a shocked looking officer knocked and explained apologetically, ‘‘I am sorry Detective Chase, but the suspect was found dead in his cell an hour ago.’’

‘‘Shit, how?’’

‘‘We don’t know. It looks like natural causes, a heart attack. He was very stressed, and we had him on suicide watch.’’

‘‘Get him seen to by Kate Masters. Ask her for the autopsy quickly please. This sounds too convenient. Did he have visitors? Could someone have passed him something?’’

‘‘I checked Sir, He had four visitors we are questioning.’’

Defoe came in. ‘‘His DNA results came in. They don’t match those of the killer. He wasn’t our man.’’ They were back to square one.

Michael smiled. His sources had warned him about the DNA results. The police were now back on his trail.

He had burned with righteous anger at first. He had exploded. ‘‘Damn it. Who the hell did he think he is?’’ he had exclaimed. He had read the paper outlining this ‘‘Michael’s’ ’confession. The editor had said now this man had confessed to all four murders the police could wrap the case up. How dare this imposter take the credit for the work he had done? All the preparation and care he had taken was executed for nothing. This mentally ill bumbler was ruining it for him.

When he had calmed down he had realised this could be turned to his advantage. If the police rested on their laurels he could finish his job much faster, before they could catch him. He had been given a breathing space for a while. He had guessed it would only be a few days. That interfering profiler and medic would guess this other Michael did not have the skills or intelligence to carry out his careful work. He was no artist, just a miserable copycat trying to emulate his master’s work. His friend at the precinct would inform him when Defoe had worked out they had the wrong man.

The imposter was now dead, good! He had been paid back for his insolence. Michael had used the time to plan his next capture and would execute his plan the next day if Madeline could help him. This woman who had been accused of helping the imposter would be dealt with as well when he had time.

Kate provided the results in record time. ‘‘He ingested poison, probably in a drink given to him. Someone wanted your suspect dead.’’

‘‘Why? He knew little. Most of what he said was the product of an over-active imagination and hallucinations.’’

‘‘Who knows? You are the profiler.’’

‘‘Thanks.’’ He left, determined to find out who had visited the cell and administered the poison. The poison was slow acting and there was a ten-hour space of time between the man taking the poison and his death. Four people were found to have visited him during this period; his lawyer and a precinct administrator, his social worker and one of his few friends.

The administrator came to him before he could call her. She was a quiet girl who often seemed to hang around Kate’s lab longer than was necessary when she came to deliver papers. She seemed to be non-descript in every way. Her height was medium and her eyes and hair a dirty mousey shade, highlighted badly. Her clothes seemed to hang on her. She spelt out mediocrity in every move. This rather dull sickly-looking girl seemed too apologetic, as if she blamed herself for the man’s death.

‘‘I am so sorry Detective Chase. I wish I had known he was ill. I might have been able to help him.’’

‘‘Why were you there?’’

‘‘I was asked by Mrs Dathe to get a form signed by him.’’ He dismissed her. She was often sent to the cells by her boss, but he would verify her statement with her manager. How would killing the man benefit her? He checked her background quickly. He drew a blank. She had no connections with the suspect in this state or where she had been born. He would keep an eye on her to see if she behaved suspiciously.

The lawyer was a strange chap who worked for weird people. He financed some of his clients out of his own money. He was a member of several right-wing groups and had defended abusers of women before. Chase could believe he would get killers out of jail if he supported their cause or agreed with their distorted views of life, but he would not kill the man even if he had asked for help to die.

The background checks on the social worker proved fruitless. The friend was a different kettle of fish. He shifted uneasily in his chair. He had only been a friend for a few weeks and admitted another person had asked him to visit Michael in jail. He would not give the identity of this person saying he feared retribution if that person found out he had told the police who he was helping.

This unnamed person had wanted Michael to give exact details about the manner in which the young women had died, what weapons he had used and how long they took to die. They only managed to squeeze out of him the facts that he was local, a professional and a shooter like Michael. When they followed this friend, he went to a hut which they later traced to an owner called Brian Tracey, a member of a militia force Michael had wanted to join but had been rejected. Tracey had moved out of the area two days ago and the police were trying to trace him. They wondered if he was the killer and Michael was helping or trying to copy him.

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