Something doesn’t feel quite right.
Defoe felt uncomfortable. His instincts honed in combat told him something was not quite right. Kate was calm on the surface, but something was needling her. She was not letting him in; still pushing him away, which hurt him more than he could ever have imagined. He had to build her trust in himself. He was also a loner, self-reliant, trusting and befriending only a few friends and his cousins. He had watched his mother suffer vilification by the so-called good Christian neighbours. He understood the need to protect oneself from interfering mischief makers; that belief, one was only safe if one kept one’s secrets and hopes to oneself.
Kate was a hard nut to crack but she was slowly mellowing, warming up and opening up to him. He wanted to introduce her to his noisy Catholic cousins and friends; for them to embrace her in their warmth and genuine friendship. Vacations on the small-holding owned by Josh’s granddad had restored the discipline and love he had lost when his dad had died. Daniel, Josh’s granddad was a great male role model; an irascible, charismatic character with rough edges sharpened by experience but a gentleman at heart.
His cousins, as wild and rough as himself, had been encouraged to join the military, to drive that adrenalin in the right direction, instead of stealing cars like many young men in the city and ending up on the wrong side of the law. Josh’s grandma had provided the warmth and love when his grandma died, and his mom was too busy earning a living at the big house she was forced to work in to survive.
Kate would love his cousins and Daniel. She would relax and show her real self, to develop as he had done without risks or humiliation. He just had to get her to commit to some weekends away with him.
Kate woke up with a start. A crunch on the gravel, a rustle of the bushes, a rattle of the gate; quiet, gentle sounds usually, but eerie when they were unexpected and uninvited. The beach path skirted her apartment and runner and dog walkers used it but not at two a.m. An insomniac? Someone walking to forget a lover or a lost one? An uneasy silence hinted the person was still there, watching? Then a movement and quick footsteps as if he was swiftly moving away, possibly to avoid detection.
She shook herself. This was stupid. She had lived here comfortably for two years. The new locks and security system were fitted as per Defoe’s instructions. Yet there was a feeling of unease; slowly insinuating itself into her psyche, destroying her peace and well-being. This hidden enemy within had slowly invaded her being since the conference, when that woman had stared at her as if she was a specimen under a microscope, a nothing to be disposed of at the will of a stronger more powerful being. If eyes were the window to the soul she had felt raped by the stare, her will being drained, the cobalt eyes penetrating and searching for answers.
Normally a cheerful and positive person, she had tried to rid herself of this cloak of melancholy but had snapped at Defoe when he had asked what was wrong. Her job required working long hours. She had become a workaholic; to stave off the loneliness, forget the hurt of parental rejection and then her lover’s betrayal.
Now Defoe had come into her life, steadily rebuilding her trust in people again, bringing sunshine into her life with his placid good nature and a love of the ridiculous. She had started new hobbies, finding she had new talents among the group of women in the local art groups. She was exhibiting her art and making new friends who cared not if her father owned a Fortune 500 corporation.
She shook herself, told herself to grow a backbone. No-one was going to destroy her new-found happiness. Her instincts told her something was not quite right. She would ask Cradley to send an officer to scout the path and check if someone was watching her and act if necessary. No-one was going to stop her pursuing a normal life. Kate Masters was going to enjoy life again.
Kate came in to Defoe’s office; she was excited. ‘‘Something at last. One of our perps is Rhesus negative. There can’t be many medics in this area with that blood group. We got a limited DNA profile from the hair ball that Cherry pulled out as well.’’
‘‘I could kiss you,’’ said Defoe.
‘‘Later,’’ she said.
‘‘I always keep my promises,’’ she replied, looking at him seductively from under her eyelashes.
‘‘I’ll keep you to that.’’
‘‘Any idea how this all fits in with this doctor who was murdered?’’
‘‘He was no ordinary plastic surgeon. He was a decent guy who cared for his patients. Some were suffering psychologically before they went to him and had the appropriate surgery. His work is regarded as so controversial because he specialises in transgender surgery. He carries out and funds some of the ops himself, but he won’t operate if the person is a danger to himself or society or is considered psychologically unfit for the op. That may be why he had so much stick from the religious right?’’
‘‘That is right. You ought to have been at this conference I went to recently. The righteous right was really banging their drum and one women looked so mad she walked out of the seminar and didn’t come back. A more sanctimonious crowd I have yet to encounter.’’
‘‘What did she look like?’’ Defoe’s antennae twitched. A medic who was angry because of bigotry. A doctor killed because he might have rejected a patient who was not suitable for surgery in a clinic that specialised in transgender ops. A letter possibly wrung out of the man to get permission for the op to go ahead. The puzzle was beginning to fit together.
‘‘Tall slim, very unfeminine to the point where she was trying to look more masculine than nature intended.’’
‘‘Hair and eye colour?’’
‘‘Blond cut in a crew cut. Made her look severe. I think her eyes were a spectacular blue, but she hid them under horned-rimmed glasses and they looked beady. What bearing does she have on the case?’’
‘‘Humour me. Slim you said. How slim?’’
‘‘Not stacked. Very flat chested.’’
‘‘Mastectomy. Has she had a mastectomy?’’
‘‘Very possibly.’’ She wrinkled her nose. ‘‘You think she could be the medic who wanted the gender change.’’
‘‘Possibly, but where does the man fit in? If you find the hair sample proves he had Rhesus positive blood he might be a relation.’’
‘‘It is difficult without a hair bulb. DNA is almost impossible to find with shed hairs. We really need the hair root. I examined the hairs from the warehouse. One is possibly female; a mouse haired woman and the other is possibly male and dark brown haired.’’
‘‘I’m setting admin on to find out who the woman was.’’ He looked at Kate. Something else was troubling her. She was nibbling her lip as if something was on her mind.
‘’Spill the beans. Something is on your mind. You’‘re not leaving this office until you have told me.’’
‘‘Oh, what is the penalty if I don’t spill?’’ she mocked.
‘‘This will be our bedroom until you give in and I have the right to persuade you in any way I want.’’
She blinked. He was becoming more blatant and confident each day with her. He knew what he wanted from her and was determined to persuade her to be his woman.
‘‘I had better tell you then.’’ He didn’t look disappointed. He knew he could not blackmail her into his life. She was too independent.
‘‘She put the wind up me. Before she stormed out of the room she stopped by my chair and looked at me. Really looked at me as if she was undressing me and staring into my soul. I felt naked, dirty. She nodded as if she had made up her mind about something; me in fact and then left.’’
He said nothing, absorbing what she had said. It was worse than he had thought. This woman could be looking for her next victim and matching them up for size and colour. Why would she look at Kate? What was so distinctive about her that would make her choose her as her next victim? She was gorgeous but there were women more beautiful with better figures than hers.
’’There is more. When I collected my car, I thought I was being watched. I turned around but couldn’t see anything, but I still felt I was being followed. I couldn’’t get home fast enough. I believed I was imagining it but now I’‘m not so sure.’’
‘‘You should have told me before,’’ he said tersely.
‘‘You are not my keeper.’’
‘‘You may have ignored a lead. In my role as profiler I am entitled to know. From now on you need to safeguard your security. Have a bodyguard.’’
‘‘I think you are being melodramatic.’’
‘‘Bear with me. There are too many coincidences in this case to ignore the evidence. Move in with a friend and ask Cradley to get an officer to take you to and from work. It will not be for long. My instincts tell me that this guy is getting close to ending his quest. He will kill his next few victims and be satisfied or he will fall into our hands.’’
‘’I’‘ll think about it.’
‘‘Don’t think too long or you could be dead,’’ he replied brutally. ‘‘Killers like procrastinators. It makes their job easier.’’
‘‘Break it to me gently Doctor!’’ she said wryly. She had always like his direct manner of shooting from the hip, but he was frightening her. Since she had been attacked she was always looking behind her and needed reassurance rather than brutality.
‘‘When we get the killer, we can lower our guard,’’ he said. He wanted her to feel frightened, so she took more care of her safety.
‘‘There is something else,’’ she admitted, watching his good-humoured countenance change again to a scowl. ‘‘I heard something outside my gate. It was as if someone was watching my apartment and trying to open the gate. It could be nothing, just an insomniac but I told Cradley and he is investigating the situation.’’
‘‘Thank God you informed him,’’ said Defoe tersely. At last she was showing some sense, acting cautiously.
She decided to leave him to his bad humour. He was only angry because he cared for her. ‘‘I’m going to pass this DNA information on to Chase and his officers,’’ she said. Chase had rushed home to see his mom who had had a severe stroke. He had told his subordinates to contact him if they found anything useful.
‘‘I’ll leave it on his administrator’s desk and ask her to contact him urgently with the information.’’
She left him to read his data and dream of the things he would like to do with her which mainly included her in a large bed. It was no good denying it, he was stuck on this sassy-mouthed little vixen. He would have to take more cold showers.
She was surprised to see Karen Taylor sifting through papers on his administrator’s desk. She had seemed clean as her superior had asked her to take the form to Michael Drayton, but she had been taken off this case. Perhaps Chase had asked her to do a specific job for him.
Chase was happier. He had spent days at the hospital while his mom was on the point of death. She was now recovering, and he could sleep for the first time in days now he realised his lapse was not responsible for Mary Jane’s murder. He and Defoe both felt the death of the doctor and these women’s murders were interlinked.
He had arrived home. Still fuzzy headed from lack of sleep and stress he rang his subordinates who were working at the precinct. They could not find the name Michael Hilenko in any of the phone books or on the voting register. He didn’t exist. He must be going under a different name.
He did a search on his own computer. He didn’t exist. Chase could find a family of European immigrants who had sent their children to private school and then to famous universities, but no Michael. He had to find out more about this clinic as well. He knew it dealt with clients wanting plastic surgery. He needed later to look at the file Angie had sent him whilst he was busy visiting his Mom.
More women who wanted surgery to look like Barbie dolls if the botex didn’t work.
He called the clinic and the psychologists were absent, still at their damned conferences. Impatient with his lack of progress he decided to visit this Michael himself. The usual receptionist was on vacation. A damn temp answered his questions but she knew little about the patients.
‘‘Please may I have Michael Hilenko’s address and phone number?’’ Patient confidentiality barely applied now his surgeon was dead. ‘‘I couldn’t find him in the phone book.’’
She pulled out the details from the address file and read them to him over the phone. ‘‘This is his address and where he works. Dr M Hilenko at no 10, The Towers, Quayside. If you want more information about him the doctors will be available in the clinic tomorrow.’’
‘‘Thanks for being so cooperative.’’ The address was near to his favourite restaurant. If he interviewed this guy he could easily make dinner there. It would make a ghastly day better. He drove quickly to the expensive residential area. The address was for a condo. He noted on the door pad M Hilenko was a consultant surgeon. He had rung ahead and left a message. He rang the bell and was called in. The voice sounded rather muffled but he could just about make it out.
Riding the elevator, he thought, what a classy place this complex was. This doc must be making a mint to live here. He was buzzed in and entered through a small foyer where a lady sat. She smiled and held out her hand for him to shake.
‘’Mr Hilenko will see you in a minute Detective Chase. He has a patient with him now. He asked me to answer any questions I might be able to help you with. Please come into my office.’’
He followed her into her office, a plush room which overlooked the bay. It only contained a computer, desk and filing cabinets.
‘‘Doctor Hilenko likes things neat and hates clutter,’’ she said.
‘‘What line of work is Doctor Hilenko in?’’
‘‘Plastic surgery but specifically in reconstruction and skin grafts. He has helped many people restore their life after bad accidents harmed their faces and bodies.’’
‘‘Does he work in the local hospitals?’’
‘‘St Marys and, he works throughout the country if there is a serious case but that is only about once every two months.’’
‘‘Did he leave the area for any period in the last six years?’’
‘‘He worked in the hospital over the state border, James Grey it is called. He developed the burns unit there.’’ Chase knew of it and its reputation. Hilenko must be one hell of a surgeon to work and lead the burns unit there. Why would a man like that want to harm people? Despite his misgivings, he had to carry on and progress this case.
His Secretary, she hadn’‘t given him her name, offered him a cup of coffee. He saw her nails were rather bluntly cut like that of a man‘s. She was a distinctly unfeminine woman. She wore ugly horn-rimmed glasses behind which he saw a beautiful pair of cobalt eyes. Why she hid those eyes he didnt know. They were her best feature but she disguised them with her horrendous glasses.
Her suit jacket had been left slightly open. She had no breasts to speak of. He wondered if she had suffered cancer and had had a mastectomy. Was she so enamoured of her boss because he had reconstructed her body for her? Despite her slim frame her arms were thick at the top and her slightly undone top showed a corded neck and some hair. All together she presented one of the most masculine women he had met beneath her slim facial features. Her suit was cut in a severe manner and she wore Oxford brogues, the sort his father wore.
She picked up the phone. ‘‘Mr Hilenko. Are you ready to talk with Detective Chase? Five minutes. I’ll send him through.’’ She got up. ‘‘I’ll go in and pick up some papers and he will call you in in five minutes.’’ She entered his room through another interconnecting door.
Chase checked his phone for missed calls. He had been waiting for a half an hour and was getting impatient. It was starting to get dark and rain had started pouring down. He would get drenched running to his car, the fitting end to a horrible day.
He heard on the intercom on the desk, ‘‘Please come in now Detective,’’ and he entered through the door to Hilenko’s office. It was dark, the figure sitting at the desk only barely outlined by a dimly lit desk lamp. He could only make out the outline of the body. The dark disguised the features of the man sitting there. He was not particularly tall for a man; slim, of average height with blondish hair, dressed in a dark suit.
‘‘Please sit down Detective Chase. You will forgive me not turning on the light but I have a virus and my eyes are sore.’’ Chase sat down but he felt uneasy. The man’s voice was rasping but high pitched at the same time, as if he was disguising his voice. Chase’s gun hand was at the ready; if his instincts proved correct and this man was the criminal they were after.
‘‘How can I help you, Detective?’’
‘‘You visited Dr Billingsworth at his office five days ago. What procedure did you want him to recommend you for?’’
‘‘You know he is an expert in transgender operations. I wanted to change my gender and he had to ok the process.’’
‘‘I believe his colleagues turned you down Doctor.’’
‘‘Ah but he overturned their decision Detective.’’
‘‘I thought it was procedure for more than one doctor to agree to the treatment.’’
‘‘He must have persuaded his colleagues the procedure was appropriate then.’’
‘’Where were you on the night of the 5th of October, Doctor?’’
‘‘Here, Ms Graham will vouch I was here until 4am. We were working on a report together.’’
‘‘So late. Unusual working hours for a secretary, Doctor,’’ replied Chase sceptically.
‘‘Ms Graham is more than a secretary and is a good friend who sleeps here when she works very late. We had a conference paper to work on together.’’
Chase handed him a piece of paper with the dates the other young women were murdered. ‘‘Please can you account for your movements on the days noted on this paper?’’
‘‘Let me look in my diary.’’ He perused it carefully as if not wanting to make any errors.
‘’Ah, the 12th, 21st and 25th. I was working here and the rest of the days I was on vacation, hiking in the wilderness in Yosemite. I have a cabin there.’’
‘‘Do you have anyone who will verify your alibi?’’
‘‘Only Ms Graham. She came with me to work with me on some papers. I worked on them in the evenings.’’
‘‘May I ask what relationship Ms Graham is to you?’’
‘‘Just a secretary and good friend.’’
‘‘We may need you to give a sample of DNA and blood Sir. Are you willing?’’
‘I’m very busy at the moment but next week will be possible.’’
‘‘I’m afraid it will have to be earlier than that Sir.’’ Chase now felt distinctly uneasy. This arrogant bastard was playing with him, trying to make him feel inferior. Chase felt like a rabbit in the glare of headlights. He could not see the man’s face but he was outlined by the light in the hall and his every feature was on display to the man. He felt naked under the glare of the hall light and this man’s stare.
‘‘We do not want to arrest you Sir or to issue a warrant compelling you to attend a session to give a sample,’’ he said, with just a hint of authority in his voice to make the man know who was in charge of this interview.
‘‘I’m sure that will not be necessary. Ms Graham will make an appointment for me.’’ He got up and said curtly, ‘‘I am very busy and must terminate the appointment now Detective Chase.’’
Chase was not prepared to be dismissed so summarily. He wanted to view this guy’s face in case he vanished before he was asked to give a sample. He had had no luck in getting a photo of him. It was if he didn’’t exist. No driving licence, social security number, nothing! All his instincts told him he was the man they were after but he didn’’t have enough on him to arrest him.
He went forward but Hilenko stood back against the window. ‘‘Go into my office and I will follow and ask Ms Graham to make that appointment.’’ Chase stood his ground.
‘‘Please can we put on the light for a minute and ask Ms Graham to come in here and sort this out.’’
‘‘That will not be necessary,’’ said the man and moved forward to a filing cabinet pulling out a file.
‘‘There is a document that might help you Detective if you are looking for the killer of those poor girls.’’ He threw the document on to the edge of the desk and Chase bent down to pick them up. As he did, Hilenko drew out a gun and pointed it at him.
‘‘Sit down Detective,’’ he said pointing to Chase’s unoccupied chair.
Chase moved slowly and sat down, keeping his hands in the air. He was right. This guy was the nutcase they were after and he would bet his last dollar he had murdered the Head of the clinic. The man turned on the light. It was Ms Graham in the flesh. She had blond hair cut in a crew cut and wore the same suit. They had got it wrong. It was a woman wanting to become a man. The rejection by the head of the clinic had made her kill him.
‘‘Put your gun on the desk.’’ Chase obeyed opening his jacket so Hilenko could see he had no other gun. He then slid his hand into his pocket and turned on his phone to the loudest volume. While Hilenko was focused on his gun he placed it on the seat beside him, recording their conversation. It might not work but he might nail this woman even if he died.
‘‘You killed the Head of the Clinic.’’ It was a statement rather than a question.
‘‘He was denying me the right to a normal life. He could not understand I am trapped in this body. I could get the drugs illicitly and they were working but I needed a doctor to carry out the operation.’’
She sighed wearily and explained; this time in her own slightly higher pitched more feminine voice which seemed out of place with her masculine appearance.
‘‘I tried in other countries but they did this.’‘ She opened her shirt where she had had the mastectomy and revealed a deep scar running from where a nipple had been to where her pants’ waistband sat. The drugs explained a hairy chest and muscled neck and arms.
‘‘Why the girls? What did they do to you?’’
‘‘I want to make the perfect woman for Michael,’’ she said dreamily. She had entered a fantasy world, a world where there was a man who could find the perfect mate.
‘‘Why not find a woman or a man wanting to change into a woman?’’
‘‘Michael wants an untouched woman. He likes things hygienic, pure and clean. He cannot abide dirt. He is creating his own woman and I’m finding the elements for him to construct his masterpiece. We need one piece and then we are finished.’’
Virgins. All but two of the girls were virgins and those cases may have been done by another U.N.S.U.B. This woman suffered from OCD. He had guessed so from the offices which were stark and smelt violently of cleaning fluid. No papers nor personal items were on display. Hygiene and coldness were the hallmarks of this obsessed doctor. Kate had said the killer had left no traces on the body. He was obsessively clean.
‘‘Why did the psychologists reject you?’’ asked Chase interested. The longer he talked the more likely he could distract this woman and try to escape the fate she had planned for him.
The woman came out of her dream world. Her eyes glittered angrily.
‘‘They dug things up from my old school and workplaces. They described my behaviour as bullying and intimidating. They also said I could not maintain a mature loving relationship with a man or woman. I wanted them to fit into my world and to dominate them.’’ She tossed her head angrily.
‘‘Anyway, who else would want me now with these scars?’’
Chase realised she now had dual personalities fighting for control within her. When Michael took over Madeline probably didn’t know what he was doing or had done. She was probably confused and blocked the murders out of her memory, such was the ability of the mind to ignore the darker side of one’’s actions. She was Madeline, the daughter of the Hilenko immigrant family he had researched. Michael only existed in her mind which was why he could not find him in any official records.
‘That hypocrite told me to go back to the psychologists for treatment but later I overheard him saying I didn’t stand a chance of getting any help from him. I was too damaged. He led me on.’’ He clearly wanted to get rid of her from his office. Poor devil knew she would harass him until he gave in.
‘‘Why not try other clinics?’’
‘‘I had tried all the others. They rejected me at the initial stage and told me not to go back but he offered me help, raised my hopes. He said he had trained psychologists who could help people like me. He lied. He just wanted my money but he paid the price.’’
‘‘I know what I want and you are standing in my way Detective. But no longer!’’ She pulled the trigger three times, hitting him once in the forehead and twice in the chest. As he collapsed she hurriedly pulled a plastic sheet from out of a cupboard and unwrapped it beside him. He was too heavy to carry, a big muscled man. She would cut him up and dispose of him in several trips.