Addison tried to settle into her bed, but her big down comforter was causing her to sweat uncomfortably. When she tried to take it off a chill ran down her spine and goose bumps covered her flesh. She tossed and turned, but no position could make her drift off to the point where she had to get out of bed. A dirty feeling had washed over her the second she stepped into her apartment. Her second shower of the day hadn’t helped. Cleaning the entire apartment top to bottom hadn’t helped either. In a final act of desperation, she threw her hair into a loose ponytail and practically ran down to her car and finally felt slight release.
She rested her head against the steering wheel, “please baby, you can do this.” She tentatively turned the key in the ignition and finally heard the engine turn over. Her car pulled into a parking space before she really knew where she wanted to go. The street was familiar even though she hadn’t been back in a long time. The sidewalk was still littered with discarded cigarettes and needles along with the regular trash. Cars rolled slowly by the girls who stood beneath the yellow haze of the street lights.
Her eyes stayed averted to the sidewalk below her feet until she got to the place they were leading her, but when she looked up the area was deserted. She spared a glance down the alley behind her, but there was nothing, no one around. Addison’s body spun in a slow circle. She wasn’t sure what to do now that she was here.
“Hun, can I help you with something?” her small black skirt was barely being held together by what was obviously a hand stich and her midriff was bared despite the cool temperature. The bleached blonde of her hair was being overtaken by the black of her roots. The fresh look of her face made Addison want to look away, this young girl reminding her so much of herself that it was hard to take.
“No, I’m sorry. I think I was looking for someone, but she’s not here.” Addison glanced around again, mostly to avoid looking at this girl.
“Do you know her name? I might be able to help you.” Addison took a step back from her and wanted to get out of there, but the girl took a step closer and placed an hand on her arm, “I’m sorry, I don’t mean to freak you out or invade on your personal space. I just… someone like you shouldn’t be out here. It’s –it’s late.”
Addison’s stance loosened a little and she gave the young girl a small smile, “thanks for your concern, but I’m fine. What’s your name?”
“Maria.” She shuffled and played with the torn hem of her t-shirt.
“Hi Maria, I’m Addison. The woman I’m looking for, she would be in her upper 40s. Dark brown hair. She’s been here forever, her name is Donna.”
“Donna? Donna’s not here anymore. She’s been gone for about a year.”
Addison closed her eyes and grasped her lip between her teeth, “please say she moved to the suburbs and is living a happy life?”
“I’m not actually sure. One day she was here and the next she just… she just wasn’t.” Maria looked past Addison’s shoulder then grasped her hands uncomfortably. “Look… just please get out of here, it’s not safe, not for you.”
Before Addison could stop her, Maria was walking away and a voice from behind her was calling out to her. “Sophie? Sophie!”
She wheeled around after hearing the name that she hadn’t heard in almost a decade and frowned when it settled on his face, “Smith, what a pleasant surprise.”
He slithered over to her until she could feel his breath on her face. A hand rose to her cheek and he gently slid two fingers over her cheek. “If it’s possible, you look even better.”
“And, if it’s possible, you are even creepier.” She took a large step back and hardened her glare, “what happened to Donna?”
He shook his head, “you’re still sticking your nose into things that you shouldn’t be.”
“Why shouldn’t I be sticking my nose in this? What’s going on? I haven’t seen one person I recognize on this street, and as much as I wish it was the case, I highly doubt that every one of them has moved on to bigger and better things.”
“You might have been off the streets for a while, but I know you remember how it is. It’s dangerous out here… it’s been getting worse since you left. The new girls seem to be okay, other than the overdoses and the normal beatings –”
“Have I mentioned how much I miss this place?”
“You were never like them though, everyone knew you wouldn’t be here forever.”
Tears welled up in Addison’s eyes, a surprising reaction even to herself, “have any of the bodies been found? Are they investigating this? Does anyone even know?”
“Are you kidding? You know the cops around here. Unless they’re arresting one of us they don’t give a shit about us.”
“I guess you’re right. Listen, I am going to pay Slug a visit. It wasn’t completely terrible seeing you.” She took a step, but Smith grabbed her arm.
“If you’re around later –”
“I said it wasn’t terrible to see you, not that I want to go on a date with you.”
“Not for a date. I have someone that you should talk to. If you’re still around, meet me at the diner around 1:30.”
Addison glanced down at her watch, “fine, if I’m still around I’ll drop by.”
With that she turned and walked down the same alley she had glanced down earlier. She stopped under a fire escape and jumped to grab the end of the latter and pulled it down. The latter was unstable and it had been a while since she had climbed it, but she steadied herself once she reached the third platform. There was cardboard covering the dingy window in front of her, but she lifted her fist and knocked hard five times. For a while there was nothing, then she heard a shuffling and finally saw the window sliding open.
“Swanny, is that you?”
“It’s me, Slug, will you let me in? I’m freezing my butt off!” He stepped back and Addison ducked to climb in.
“Not that you’re not always welcome, but what are you doing here?”
“I just needed to get out of the house and I ended up here. I haven’t seen you in a while anyway. How are you?”
“Not as good as you it seems. I’m sure I should have even let you in the window. Are you just here gathering intel to take back to your bosses at the FBI. They are the people we’ve been working against our entire lives, but they wave a little money in your face and you decide you can go to the dark side?”
“Slug, I know how it looks, but it’s not like that. It’s not about the money. The resources alone, you wouldn’t believe. The FBI has access to all sorts of information that you can’t even imagine. There are serial killers out there that you and I could have never even imagined. And not all of the people there are stuffy, some of them are actually… sort of, alright.”
“Oh no, you’ve totally been taken over. They’ve brainwashed you. I need to put together a decompression chamber or something, start a deprogramming sequence.” She threw him a glare and he chuckled, “alright, alright. As long as you haven’t given up your crusade against all evil in the world and this…place is helping you and you never ever tell them anything about me, then I guess we’re cool.”
“Well, that’s good because I need your help.” She flashed an innocent smile his way.
“I thought I wouldn’t even be able to imagine the kind of resources they have.” He quoted back to her.
“They’re obviously nothing compared to you. Plus, I need a reason to come visit.”
He silently shuffled over to his table. Every surface was covered in computer parts and wires. He thrust himself in the chair and readied his hands over the keys, “who are we looking into today?”
“I actually don’t know, that’s what I’m trying to figure out.” She sat down beside him, “the case just doesn’t make sense to me. There is something missing. We have no idea what started him down this road, no clue who his earlier victims are, just a couple from Florida and I think one from Texas, but even those ones are fairly inconsistent. The ones in Florida were I think 14 and 15. The Texas girl was older around 19. Then the ones around here were 20 and 22, then he takes two years off and comes back to kill a 25 year old. It’s all over the place, but all the girls are seemingly the same found naked in the bathroom, short brown hair, pretty girls who were all alone at the time.”
Slug was typing furiously as she spoke, but that was something she was used to, “so, you are talking about this Tri-way killer? He isn’t mentioned in a lot of news outlets, but his stuff is crazy, he has a lot of rage inside him… it almost reminds me of…” he trailed off as he caught Addison’s eye.
“I know, but it’s not possible.”
“Do you want to search for more like this? We try to see where he started.”
“No I want you to search younger victims. He keeps targeting older and older victims, maybe as he grows his taste in maturing with him.”
“I’m sorry, you just want me to search every child murder in the United States? As sad as it is, that’s going to be a lot of results.”
“Start with stabbings. I can’t find this guys fetish, it’s not underwear, it’s not feet, it might just be the stabbing that gets him off. If that’s the case he probably would have started there. And isolate it to Kansas.”
Slug finally stopped typing at that and looked at her, “Kansas, are you sure, Swanny?”
“Yeah, I just have a feeling about this guy, you know. I would say keep it between 15 and twenty years ago. It’s going to be low risk youths, homeless, group homes, stuff like that. Everyone starts somewhere. This guy hasn’t always been perfect, he made a mistake somewhere down the line and I have to find it.”
“I think you mean I have to find it.”
“I mean we have to find it.” At that she stood up and walked to the counter where a clear liquid was sitting in the bottle, “I’m sorry, since when are you drinking vodka? Are you on a diet or something?”
“No, there was a mix up with the delivery, I’m just out of everything else, sorry.”
She pulled a mug from the cabinet and poured herself a generous amount, “maybe you should go out and get your own stuff. You were doing so well before I left.”
“Can we not get into all that right now, Swan? I’m on a serious roll here.” He didn’t even turn to look at her when she sat down and took a sip of the vodka. “okay, this is what I have take a look.”
Addison scanned the articles he had pulled up. The first one was the brutal stabbing of a six year old little boy. She shook her head, “I don’t think he would have strayed as far as to kill a little boy. I think it’s always been the girls.” Slug nodded, typed a little more into the search box and narrowed down some of the articles. The next one was an Asian little girl, but Addison quickly vetoed that and the next was a girl from a wealthy family. There had been a huge search for her that ended with a volunteer finding her body. She shook her head again and took a deeper pull from her mug. These were not images that Addison wanted dancing through her head; she was already having troubles sleeping.
Slug swiped the article down and turned the monitor towards her so she could read it. This one was about a little girl, nine years old found naked in a wooded area. She had been stabbed many times, but none of them was a killing blow, she had ended up bleeding to death. Addison pursed her lips when she read this, it was a horrible way to die. Even though she was found naked, there was no sign of sexual trauma which is rare for a victim like this. Police had never even found out the little girl’s name; she had been buried in an unmarked grave in a local cemetery.
“This is it.” Addison said quietly, almost to herself although she knew Slug had heard her. “It’s a terrible story, but this has to be him.”
“That, and it just…” she trailed off as her eyes caught something in the picture. It was of the crime scene all roped off by tape and evidence markers, but even in the grainy black and white newspaper photo it was unmistakeable, “is that peat moss?”
Slug zoomed in on the photo, but it only served to make it more pixelated, “it would make sense. She was found in a wooded area. Why, does that have some significance?”
“Yes, very much,” Addison pulled out her phone to give Rossum a call, but when she did she saw the time. “Shit, I’m going to be late. Do me a favour, Slug, run this crime through the national database and send me anything that comes up, will you?” With that, she kissed his cheek and ducked out the window again.
The small diner was the only one on the block and she spotted Smith right away. She took her seat across from him and lifted one of her eyebrows, “so, what exactly is it that you needed me to see? It’s certainly not that the diner has had a makeover.”
The lone waitress caught her eye and glared, but Addison simply shrugged her shoulder. Smith looked up at her, then to the door and he heard the bells chime, “ah, here she is now.”
Addison turned her body to look at the girl entering the diner. Her fake red hair was swept up into a low bun. She wore a crème turtleneck and black skinny jeans. Sunglasses covered her eyes, despite the dark skies, but Addison knew they were a dark brown. She whipped around and glared at Smith, “really? This is who I am waiting to see?”
“Nice to see you too, Sophie, or whatever the hell it is you are going by these days.”
“What are you doing here Angela?” Addison practically snarled.
“Smith asked me to come, even though he knows I don’t come here anymore. Apparently you are coming around here asking some questions again. Why bother, Sophie, you left this place, you got out. Why not just leave it alone?”
“Because people are disappearing. Just because everyone avoids this place, doesn’t mean these people don’t exist. They don’t deserve this.”
Angela slid her glasses off her face and looked down to her lap. When she spoke it was a whisper, “he tried to take me.”
Addison ducked her head to catch Angela’s eye, “he tried? How did you get away?”
“I don’t know if you’re going to want to hear this.”
“Of course I want to hear this.”
“I talked about you.” Addison straightened her shoulders, but her eyes widened involuntarily. She was about to speak, but Angela cut her off, “he asked about you. It was about a year and a half ago, maybe more. It was just a normal night. A guy pulls up in this old, blue pick-up truck and I get in, just like normal. He drives off all silent, and I figure, no big deal, this is his first time, he’s a bit nervous. So, I put my hand on his leg, tried to relax him, but he freaked out, pulled off the road and held my hand in a death grip. He started going off on me about you and asking if I knew where you were or what you were doing. Then I saw it,” Angela’s voice faltered a bit at this, but Addison didn’t dare move a muscle, “he had a knife, a big one. So I thought… as much as I wish this wasn’t the first thought in my head, I thought, what would you do? So I talked to him. I told him I knew exactly where you were and I could take him to you. I told him that we were friends and I spoke to you all the time.
“While I was talking to him I directed him downtown, trying to get somewhere populated. Once I was in a place where there were plenty of people and cars around I waited until he pulled up to a red light, then I swung open the door and just ran. I heard him yell and cars honking, but I just kept running and running until I couldn’t run anymore. Then I hid for a few days. I guess I should be thanking you. If it weren’t for this guy I don’t think I ever would have worked up the courage to get out of here.”
Addison swallowed the lump that had gathered in her throat, “I’m so sorry that happened to you. Did you see what he looked like or get a license plate?”
“Aren’t you a little more concerned about why he was asking about you?”
“Why, can you answer that question?” Angela shook her head, “that’s what I thought. It was probably some guy that saw me and became attached. Now, did you see him?”
“It was dark. You know how these guys are. His face was always in a shadow. I can guess that he was about six foot, around that. He wore a baseball hat, normal clothes, jeans and a dark t-shirt. I think he had dark hair, a little bit of stubble maybe? To be honest, I’ve tried to put that night out of my head. It’s not something I like to think about.”
“I understand. Thank you for telling me that story, I know it can’t have been easy for you. If you don’t mind I’m going to write down my number and if you happen to remember anything else, could you maybe give me a call?” Addison wrote her cell number on the paper napkin in front of her and slid it across the table.
Angela slid it into her pocket and laughed, “it’s funny, just there, you sounded like a cop.”
“Why is that funny?”
“Because we all know how much you hate them.”
“Yes, well, they’ve never been very much help, have they? Anyway, it’s late, I should probably go.” Addison threw some bills on the table and stood, Smith stood with her.
“I’m going to walk you back to your car. It’s not safe here for you.”
“So people keep saying.” She jerked her head towards the door to tell him to get going then smiled at Angela, “I’m glad you got out Ange, I’m happy for you.”
She only nodded to acknowledge that she had even heard and put her sunglasses back on as she took a shaky sip of her coffee. Smith was waiting for her outside the doors and they had only walked a few feet when they heard the sirens and there was flashing lights in front of them. A tall man stepped out of the car and adjusted his uniform as he approached Smith and Addison, “well, well, well, what do we have here.”
Addison’s eyebrows furrowed in confusion, “I’m sorry I’m not too sure what you mean.”
“Ma’am, I’m gunna need you to place your hands behind your back.”
“Why, exactly?” Addison solidified her stance by putting her hand on her hip.
The officer pulled out his handcuffs and smiled, “that would be because I am arresting you.”
“Excuse me? For what?”
“Solicitation.” He said matter-of-factly as he turned Addison around, placed her head against his cruiser and tightened the metal around her wrists.
“Are you kidding me? Do I look like a fucking prostitute? I’m not sure if they taught you this before they sent you out here, but you need this little thing called evidence before you arrest someone.”
“We got a call, sweetheart, I’ve gotta bring you in. Besides that you are walking down the street with a known pimp, that doesn’t look good for you.”
“You know what does look good for me? I work with the FBI.” It was not something Addison wanted to advertise on this street, but it was the last card she had in her pocket. If she was booked she would have more questions to answer than those from a prostitution misunderstanding.
“Yeah, sure hunny, where’s your badge?” He opened the back door and placed a hand on her head as he pushed her inside.
“I don’t have a fucking badge, I’m freelance.” He shut the door in the middle of her sentence and walked around to get into the driver’s side. “I’m warning you right now, you’re going to regret this.”