Whisper softly or you're dead

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Chapter twenty-three.

Guilt eats away at a man.

Chase felt tired and angry. He had been called in to give a blood sample for use in the Linton case. A little bird had tipped him that Defoe had recalled his file from the archive, Interfering bastard! His information was private, not for outsiders to chew over and spit out. He wanted no sympathy but now he feared Defoe suspected him because he was cautious when dealing with Britt. Cradley reassured him it was just routine. He had been the last person to see her in the day before her death.

He cursed Mary Jane. For a bright girl, she had behaved stupidly, immorally, taking a strange man’s lifts. Not the sort of behaviour he had expected from the woman who had been engaged to a born-again Christian. Getting into that car she had almost invited the man to approach her sexually. At her age, she ought to have known better and look where it had led her.

He had worked for the police investigating sexual assaults and visiting schools, explaining the dangers to young girls. Wearing revealing clothes and dancing intimately with young men at clubs only invited trouble but they ignored his advice. Many High School girls dressed like whores and had even tried to flirt with him, a respected member of the force!

He thought of Mary Jane. Under that quiet exterior had been a sexually frustrated woman hiding. She had stacks of romances and Victoria Secret’s catalogues. She had clearly been waiting for her Prince Charming to appear. She was not the shrinking violet she had made out.

He had interviewed her friend Susan. She had painted a picture of a girl who hated the confinement of her life and wanted to break free. She had had misgivings when she had been engaged to her fiancé as he had dictated how her life should be led, the clothes she wore and the friends she had met. She had hoped to make a new life when her mom died, and she could start university. A virgin she had been but a reluctant one; not the buttoned-up woman he had thought her to be.

He sighed. He would have to confront Defoe and explain his reasons for not arresting Britt. He damned Mary Jane to hell again, opening a can of worms and making him go over old ground again. He might have to go to that psychologist again if Defoe thought his past was hampering him doing his job.

He had burned up with anger when Britt had tried to force himself on Mary Jane. Her case dragged up memories of his sister’s case. She was totally different from Kathleen. Kathleen had been totally innocent and had never got into a car with a strange man. She had barely gone out with men and had taken their Mom’s warnings to heart. She was a good Catholic girl like his mother before her and yet she had attracted the wrong men. This is what he warned these young girls about, but his story didn’t matter to them. They thought they lived a charmed life. No bad men would harm them. How wrong they could be.

Insomnia dogged him, now he had that nosy profiler reminding him, stirring up memories best forgotten. He parked the car near the lake on his afternoon off, ever watchful, the same nightmares haunting his days that kept him awake at night. There were some things one could not forget. He needed to work the stress out of his system and spent hours pounding the lonely streets until dawn, getting two or three disturbed hours sleep. The gym and Jack Daniels were his best mates, helping rid himself of the sexual tension that threatened to burn him up inside.

No men at the precinct wanted his company. He put people off with his demeanour and scowl. He had met a friend and hoped this might turn out well this time. No more searching for the right ‘mate’ in dismal sordid clubs. His mother would die if she saw the way he had searched for his dates in the past. A committed Catholic like him she was desperate for him to bring home a girl and provide grandkids. He hated disappointing her and searched for the perfect ‘mate’ who might fill the empty hole in his gut that was consuming him. He knew it was a lost cause. His guilt was destroying him.

Kate met him for a drink. He was wound up so tight she thought he would explode. Talking to a friend who had no ulterior motive might make him get whatever was upsetting him off his chest. This case had brought all of them closer, the horror drawing them closer together to beat this sick mind who could perpetrate such evil.

He just sat looking at his drink, barely touching it. Kate touched his shoulder, a friendly gesture to bring him back to reality from that world he was entering in his psyche. She had seen good cops go under with the unnatural strain their job put them under. Working all hours when a vic was murdered, their family life and relationships went belly up, leaving them with few friends to talk with when their backs were to the wall.

‘’You did what you could to warn Mary Jane. This guy was after her whatever you might have done. It was sooner rather than later.’’

‘’I know but I still feel guilty,’’ Chase admitted for the first time to a person outside of his family. He was admitting more than a guilt about Mary Jane. Perhaps he should talk about the other things that were on his mind which dragged him back to the past and didn’t let him move on. The psychologist had said burying his guilt would only defer the need to confront it and talk about it in the future. She had been right. It was eating away at him, making it difficult to sleep.

Kate was non-judgemental. She had said she had made mistakes in relationships in the past and had difficulty moving on. Perhaps she might be his redemption.

‘‘Is there something on your mind?’’ asked Kate. Chase was always fair to her and his fellow agents. He was thoughtful. Only cases dealing with the abuse or assault of women ever angered him. What was there in his past that made him react so differently when a woman was hurt? Most male police officers hated seeing a woman violated by a man, but this anger was different, so personal.

He turned to face her. ’’I had a kid sister Kathleen. We had a strong Catholic upbringing, strict and religious. She was a good kid. My mom made sure we protected her and she barely had any boyfriends until college. She avoided the bad guys who tried to hit on her, but I introduced her to a friend of mine three years older than her. Behind my back he tried to date her and wouldn’t take no for an answer. She didn’t tell me as it would have damaged our friendship.

’’One night he met her at college outside the library and offered her a lift home saying I would meet her at her room. Naively, she accepted it believing him, but he didn’t take her home. He stopped in a lonely park and beat her up when she refused to let him touch her up. She fought him, and he broke her neck. He dumped her in the pond, but DNA checks trapped him, and he is still in gaol.

’’I didn’t know his reputation. He had moved that year to our med school but I still feel guilty. I was in med school and had to treat a girl who had been assaulted. I couldn’t do it. She brought all my feelings back to me, so I changed my major and minors and studied law and brought my med skills to this work instead.

‘‘I get angry when a girl is hurt and that is why I didn’t caution Britt. I thought I might be overreacting.’’

‘‘You did what you believed was right in the circumstances. Have you found out if Britt had an alibi for the time of the murders?’’

‘‘We thought he had scarpered, but he has been working out of state. He is coming in today to give his statement.’’

‘‘Britt’s family are miles away in New York and he hasn’t had and doesn’t have any significant other.’’

‘‘You’re right. You should be a detective Doc. The U.N.S.U.B. is probably someone we don’t know. If I knew that I might feel a bit better.’’

’’I don’t think it is him. This killer plans the deaths to the last detail. Britt seems to be too impulsive, a dreamer. He may have issues, but the killer is a different kettle of fish. There is something deep inside his psyche drawing him to these women. I think Britt’s choice of women from his file seem more sporadic. He doesn’t select his women with a fine-tooth comb. Our killer takes ages to select and manipulate the situation to his advantage and the woman involved.

‘‘Drink up and go and investigate some more. Get that statement from Britt and find the real killer. That will be the best present you can give to Mary Jane.’’

He got up and patted her on her shoulder. Too bad he batted for the other team. Kate would otherwise have made a good lover and soul-mate. He would talk to the psychologist again and perhaps he could then move on; find a decent guy.

For the next few days Defoe concentrated on Sherylee. She had clearly suffered unlike the other girls, being sexually abused and being terrified and bitten by the rats. The U.S.U.B. had dug viciously into her throat according to the penetrations and blood globules there. His aim had been to torture her as well as killing her.

The murder was slow and tortuous as if the U.S.U.B. enjoyed torturing women, not the antiseptic clean quick killing of the other ones. The words on the wall implied retribution and punishment.

Had the U.N.S.U.B. expected a virgin and become angry when she was found to be pregnant? Too many questions to be answered. Defoe’s head ached when he thought of all the permutations he had to check. They were not sure even if it was the same man. It was rare for a serial killer of this type to change his modus operandi.

‘‘I wonder if he is just clever and enjoying jerking us around,’’ muttered Defoe in conference with Chase, Cradley and Kate. She looked at him and saw a man very competitive and wanting to be in control. He hated this perp taking control of their lives and making them dance to his move, like bloody puppets on a string. He was driving this show and there was nothing they could do about it unless they cracked the case and found out his identity.

They could only wait until the next girl died, carrying on sifting the evidence, putting the jigsaw puzzle together until all the pieces were collected. His fear was the collector would finish his collection and vanish, never to be found again. Kate empathised with him. She was more like him than she had known. She hated the thought of losing to this creep.

Britt had been traced and was ushered in. He sat down looking frightened. Even if he had not murdered the woman he might be in league with someone who had. Defoe wasn’t ruling him out of the equation yet. Chase came in and Britt moved nervously in his chair. The officer loomed over him and Defoe could almost smell Britt’s fear through the glass screen from where he was observing him.

Chase turned the recorder on and introduced himself and Britt and the time and date.

’Mr Britt, will you please tell us your movements between ten p.m. and three a.m. October the 5th “2014.

’After I spoke with you and you told me to leave town I went back home to the apartment I shared with a house mate and watched TV with him until 2 a.m. We watched a match and then I went to bed. I didn’’t leave my home until I went to work the next morning. He will testify to that.

‘’And October the 12th 2014, the day Louise Greenman was kidnapped and murdered?’’

‘‘I visited my mother and sister in New York that weekend. I was there for a party all day long. I returned to my new apartment and job in New York two days later.’’

‘’October the 21st 2014, the day Cherry Gainsborough was killed.

‘‘I was playing tennis at a tournament all day and then ate with the other players and socialised with them until 1.p.m. and then went home.’’

‘’What about the 25th of October 2014?’’

‘‘Family christening. I stayed at my Cousins’ house all day and night except for when we went to the Church service.’’

He wrote down the numbers of those who would vouch for him and they were given to another cop to check his story. Chase was not satisfied and grilled him for an hour. Did he know Louise Greenman and her friends? Did he have any connections with the model agency the woman calling herself Cassandra Sanders was supposed to represent? Had he visited the club Sherylee frequented with her boyfriend?

‘’Come on Man!’’ pleaded Britt in a whining tone which grated on Defoe’s teeth. Where did they find these inadequate cowardly little shits? They crawled out of the woodwork during every investigation.

‘‘Officer, call me Officer,’’ snapped Chase keeping his temper under control.

‘‘Officer, what would I have to do with a modelling agency? Do I look like I would have connections with those arty types?’’ He had a point. He looked the stereotype of the conservative accountant in blazer and khakis and button-down shirt.

‘‘We’ll get back in touch with you Sir. You can go home but don’t leave the vicinity of your apartment or work unless you inform us first.’’

Defoe came into the room. ‘‘He looks clean.’’

‘‘He was wriggling but I think that was fear of being put back behind bars. You know what prisoners do to abusers. We dug deeper into his records and there was a case of alleged abuse against a minor, a kid of ten.’’

Chase went back home feeling this guy was innocent of killing or aiding and abetting the killer of Mary Jane. Kate was right. His actions would not have prevented her being murdered although it might have prevented another girl being harmed by Britt. So far there was no evidence he had hurt any of the other women since he had moved away. His actions, and his words were recorded for future reference. Britt knew this would happen and would need to keep his nose clean in the future.

Defoe read through the list admin had given him. He felt uncomfortable. Chase was on the list as an attendee of the medics’ graduation ball and he had attended the lecture on genetics that one of the dead girls had previously attended. He had been interviewed as he was one of the last people to see her alive. He was under suspicion. He had claimed to be in his apartment at the time of the murder of Charlie, but his alibi had proven to be false. He had been seen in a bar near to where she had been killed. He had given a statement but had resented intensely being questioned.

‘‘Detective Chase, you were seen in Yedrow’s Sports’ Bar a half an hour before Charlie was murdered.’’ Dane, the detective brought in from another region to fulfil protocol regarded the officer sternly. Chase stiffened, and his eyes went blank. He turned into the automaton Defoe had seen before when he appeared threatened.

‘‘You were not at home at the time of the murder as you previously stated, were you Detective?’’ Chase withdrew back into his chair.

‘‘Where were you Detective?’’

‘‘I was at the bar but only for a few minutes to collect some beer and then I went home,’’ muttered Chase.

‘‘On your own?’’ Chase hesitated for a minute and then said ‘‘Yes, quite alone.’’

‘‘We will follow this up Detective. You may go now. I hope you can find someone who saw you enter your apartment when you went home after collecting your beer.’’

Chase lifted himself up from the chair, his shoulders hunched as if he bore a burden he could not shake off. He nodded to Cradley who was listening in to the interview and walked out, not saying a word to his colleagues who were seated outside at their desks.

Kate got up to go after him, but Defoe caught her arm. He had listened behind the glass wall to the interview.

‘‘Leave him alone. He needs his space. He has issues he needs to deal with alone.’’ Chase was sending out mixed messages. His denial and coldness spelt out an inhumane detachment, as if the murder of the girl meant nothing to him. This contrasted with his diligence in his role as officer in-charge of the murders.

Defoe said to Dane, ‘‘Get Angie to find out who Chase was with, in the bar and if he went home alone. He may be protecting someone’s reputation.’’

‘‘I don’t believe Chase is the killer,’’ said Kate in private to Defoe.

‘‘He was certainly wriggling under questioning. Is Chase dating anyone at the moment?’’

‘‘Not to my knowledge. He has never dated whilst I have known him. He seems a loner, with few friends and girlfriends. He has only recently told me about his family.’’

‘‘Try to make him own up. He trusts you and he knows more than he is letting on.’’

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