Logic cannot explain everything.
At last, Defoe thought. The killer’s latest victim was on the table but this one might reveal some answers. A pretty seventeen-year old blond, she had had her arms and legs dismembered like the others, but they had been stolen leaving her feet, hands and torso. The only good things from the police’s point of view was that she had fought the assailant for her life. The assailment had left dreadful bruises on her cheek and had cut her but in doing so might have left some remains of his/her DNA on the victim.
Cherry had hurt her kidnapper and some DNA was hidden behind her fingernails. They had been scraped and cleaned but there still might be enough to find the U.N.S.U.B. Cherry’s teeth also had minute remains of flesh between them, invisible to the naked eye, which couldn’t be removed easily. Hair torn out had been trapped in the seat mechanism and contained a tiny blob of blood. The kidnapper must be worried now. He must know they now had some evidence.
They interviewed the young man who sat there, his face drained of all colour. He looked younger than his eighteen years. He kept repeating over and over, ‘‘I don’t believe it. Why her? She was so sweet and kind.’’ He looked up at the cynical world wise cops in front of him.
‘‘She wanted to get a job, so she could pay her way through college and help her family with the fees. She was so talented!’’ The local rag had filled a page with photos of the art pieces she had painted, designed as an obituary to the young High School girl.
‘‘If you want to help nail her murderer you must tell us all you know about her last movements and anything else that might be relevant.’’ The older man was passed a piece of paper. The boy’s alibi was watertight. He had been in the wood-yard working all afternoon and evening and specifically at the time of death.
‘‘All I know is she was going to buy her Mom’s groceries and then go to the art shop for some reduced priced water pencils. The lady there is fond of her and tries to save her the excess stock that can’t be sold. She knows Cherry’s parents can’t give her too much money for art supplies. Cherry could have produced better art if she had had the right materials, but she did the best she could with what she could afford.’’ He sobbed, as if he hated to think of the girl he had been fond of struggling to manage.
Young love, thought Cradley. He would hate to be that young again. This kid had only met her twice but had been really smitten. The girl had been the same. She had told her mom he was smashing, and a real gentleman and the boy’s college tutors had said the same.
‘‘Did she mention an artist or agent?’’
‘‘No, I know the rumour, but she said nothing about them. She must have met the woman in the art shop.’’
‘‘All right Son. That is all you can help us with now, but we will tell you as soon as we find the perpetrator of this vicious crime.’’
‘’She didn’‘t deserve to be mutilated. She had lovely legs. Why would he want her legs and arms?’’
‘‘We don’t know that yet.’‘ Cradley didn’t tell him that the killer was a collector. The newspaper editors had kept some of the gorier details of the recent murders out of the papers to avoid frightening the public and out of respect for the victims’ families. Cherry’s parents had met him and told him the truth. They liked the lad and had seen he was suffering nearly as much as them.
Chase had already interviewed the art shop owner. ’’She worried me, targeting Cherry. She came in straight to that rack where Cherry was standing and within a minute she had showed her a poster. It wasn’t one of mine. I didn’t know the artist although she was supposed to be living locally. She must have slipped it into the rack for Cherry to notice.
‘‘She knew exactly which button to push. Cherry was an outstanding artist who needed a break.’’ She fished a card from out of her capacious pocket. ‘‘Here is her name, Madeline Lomax. I didn’t see her face, but she wore a flowing flame and turquoise silk dress and had long blond hair. And very modern leather sandals matched with flame painted toenails. I could see over and under the rack. When she saw me coming over she left quickly. I only got a back view.’’
‘‘She wore gloves I suppose.’’
‘‘I think they matched her purse. I saw a flame coloured leather item on her arm as she walked out of the shop.’’
‘‘Tall and reasonably slim. Very flat chested.’’
It was a start. The woman would probably have changed her hair colour and contacts, but it was probably the same woman who had kidnapped Louise and there might be some parallels they could trace.