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After the Evil – A Jake Roberts Novel (Book 1)
After the Evil – A Jake Roberts Novel (Book 1)
Cary Allen Stone
Thriller
Yes - full manuscript is available


Tormented detective Jake Roberts just killed a suspect in a firefight. Behind the ski mask was a sixteen-year-old girl. Cop-shop policy requires a visit to the precinct shrink after a shooting. Leaving the session in anger, Jake passes a beautiful woman entering the doctor’s office. Later that day, the shrink, Dr. Thaddeus Abrams, is murdered. The kill is the work of a prolific serial killer that FBI profiler Mika Scott is obsessed to capture. She arrives to lead the investigation. She was once Jake’s partner. She was also his lover. Tensions are running high. Jake is sent to question the doctor’s clients. He comes face-to-face with the beautiful woman he passed in the office earlier, a flight attendant named Lori Powers. Jake falls for her. They become a hot item right up until Jake discovers Lori is the serial killer. Lori runs. Mika and Jake pursue her. The once cold trail is on fire. Will they get there in time? Lori is within a fingertips reach.

Chapter 1

AFTER THE EVIL
A Jake Roberts Novel
Cary Allen Stone

© 2008 Cary Allen Stone
Revised 2015
ISBN-13: 978-1495413865
ISBN-10: 1495413861
ASIN: B013H3U81M
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrievable system, or transmitted by any means without written permission of the author.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination, or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
“Cary Allen Stone is a brilliant writer of psychological thrillers and murder mysteries. He writes with a keen eye for detail-the graphic violence is chillingly realistic. He delivers a taut, darkly introspective, cunning and well-executed plot by leaning towards the fallible side of his characters. He understands the criminal mind avoiding the stereotypes that dominate crime thrillers. There is a good balance of chemistry and conflict, good and evil that fans will find enthralling. His characters become embedded in our psyches and the pace of his unraveling of his thriller is a ride not easily forgotten. Cary Allen Stone is an important name to watch. This is one superb crime writer!”
--Grady Harp, Amazon Hall of Fame Top 100 Reviewervine Voice
To Tyler for all of her love
1
After she placed the duct tape over his mouth, it became very difficult to make out some of his words. “No” was muffled, but reasonably understandable. “Don’t” didn’t sound quite right, but she got the idea. She mimicked his muted pleas pretending to feel his fear and pain. It was the end of Father Anthony Moralli.
He began his last day on earth on an airliner. His destination was a resort-gambling oasis, which coincidently included a well-stocked pond of young females. He was on what he liked to call a “personal pilgrimage.” The expedition had nothing to do with religion. Anthony simply wanted to, no needed to, get laid. To accomplish the task, it required leaving the confines of his parish to maintain the façade of his vocation.
Father Anthony loved the whole religion thing—the ceremonies, hearing confessions, and especially saving lost souls. He planned to start saving his soul right after saving all of the others. After years of religious studies and training, he concluded it was beyond his comprehension to truly understand God, so he simply preached the commandments, and left the rest to God. What Anthony really understood were the basic physical needs of a man. He struggled with his vow of celibacy, finding it to be in direct conflict with his deep and firm conviction, that sex was a gift from God. To abstain, he believed, was a slap to the Creator’s face. The “Love thy neighbor” commandment was his favorite, and he took every opportunity to apply it to his life. Of course, that did not include molesting boys like some of his classmates in the seminary. He boarded the flight sans white collar, and slumped into his assigned seat by the window, in the emergency exit aisle.
A good-looking man with dark, wavy hair and olive complexion, Anthony gave his best Elvis smile whenever women smiled at him. His deep-set, dark eyes suggested compassion, mixed with forgiveness. They also hinted at a touch of mischievous intent. In airline terminology, it was easy for the good father to make his connection. Certain a nap during the flight would pay benefits later that evening, Anthony closed his eyes, and quickly drifted off to sleep. While he napped, the handsome, incognito stranger tempted female “parishioners” inside the Church of the Holy Aircraft Cabin. The older women sighed and relinquished the temptation then placed a gentle hand over their husbands’. A few of the younger, adventurous women on board, felt up to the challenge, each waited for his nap to end.
Lori first noticed Anthony, as he searched for a place for his Reebok carry-on bag in the overhead bin. She made her way around the other passengers, and offered to help him. It was one of her duties as a flight attendant. Safety was her first concern. Passenger comfort was another. She carefully choreographed every move. As her uniform dress rose up along with his bag to be stowed, Anthony smiled. Lori’s compelling cyan-hued eyes, Angelina lips, and cascading California blond hair, held Anthony’s attention. Everything about her confirmed the Creator was truly a master artisan. Drawing stares was commonplace for Lori. The women envied her stunning looks, while the men behaved like schoolboys. Manifested passenger, Anthony Moralli, held Lori’s attention. He seemed different than the others, she thought.
* * *
She playfully protested while he fondled her, as if they were in the back seat of a ’56 Chevy, at a drive-in movie. Passengers in various stages of maturity, who stood near them, stared with disgust. Any children present were oblivious to their sordid adult behavior. They were distracted by all of the other things associated with flying and airport security.
“I don’t care. I want some Susan Johnson right now,” Nick said.
With feigned indignation, she corrected him.
“I believe, as recently as two days ago, it changed to Mrs. Nicholas Parker.”
He covered by teasing.
“I forgot.”
Susan’s arms dropped to her sides, and she frowned. She wasn’t finding his brand of humor very funny. Cognizant of her distress, he pressed two fingers to her lips as he pulled her close. They ended with an embrace, and a passionate kiss. When their lips separated, Nick obsessed.
“Susan, I need you. I can’t live without you, you know that.”
The embrace, the kiss, and the sentimental words, accomplished what he wanted She melted in his arms.
“Nick, I love you so much, you’re everything to me--you’re my life.”
Holding his face with both hands, she kissed him again. He stroked her shoulders, and let his hands slip down to fondle her spandex-smooth behind. A worried look appeared in her brown eyes.
“Be safe my love, and come back to me,” Susan said.
He reassured her with a promise. Nick was the consummate sincerity machine, and had the uncanny ability to charm his female victims, better than any of his contemporaries. The other travelers, observing the two lovers, rolled their eyes and groaned. Finally, the captain released his grasp on her, and turned to reach into the back seat of his oversized Lincoln Navigator SUV. He gathered his flight and overnight bags, and placed them curbside.
After a final caress, Susan stepped back to take one last adoring look at him. She blew him a tender kiss goodbye. Although she would have liked to stay longer, she was already late picking up her daughter from school. Nick pantomimed catching the flying kiss with his hand, and pressed it to his lips. She pivoted, and after an awkward climb into the driver’s seat, cranked over the engine. The Bose CD player blasted out her favorite rap song. He hated rap music, but tolerated it enough to appease her. She gave him a doting smile and a brisk wave goodbye. Knowing how much he cherished his toys, Susan concentrated on her driving, and was extra careful with the SUV.
With a pathetic pout on his face, he stood at the curb, like a little boy being dropped off at camp. His fingers slowly, and sequentially fluttered in the air, to emphasize his displeasure at having to fly off without her. Nick watched her drive away.
As she made the turn at the end of the terminal to exit the airport grounds, he quickly turned to look in the opposite direction. It wasn’t too long before a Yellow Cab pulled up alongside him and parked. The back door sprang open. A pair of firm, long and proportioned legs extended from out of the back seat of the taxi. Although she was petite, the heels made her at least four inches taller. Her tight blouse accentuated her artificially inflated breasts. The plaid skirt was snug, and scarcely enough cloth to cover her dignity. Nick had met the barely above-legal-age woman at a club, when Susan was out of town visiting relatives.
“Hey, babe,” Nick said.
The other travelers, who had witnessed his earlier carrying-on, rolled their eyes knowing his new wife had just driven off moments ago. They became furious when he scrutinized the young woman from head to toe, as if evaluating the purchase of a slave. It was understood she would play that role later in the evening, to satisfy just one more of his sexual perversions.
“Oh Nick, you look so hot in your uniform. I’m getting wet just looking at you,” Tricia said.
She squealed delightfully. Tricia knew how the game was played, and was adept at using suggestive sexual innuendos, having lost her innocence when she was an even younger girl. Nick was a successful airline pilot wanting to play. Tricia wanted out of her boring town. She also desired to have his upper-level income spent lavishly on her. She knew that meant he would tug hard on her leash, before she reaped the reward. Putting out, to get out was fine with her, even if it meant humping a man twice her age. Besides, age didn’t matter to a generation who believed sex was solely for pleasure, and a lifetime of commitment wasn’t as important, as financial security. As Nick snuggled with Tricia, he sensed the men standing nearby were enjoying their own filthy fantasies. Nick devilishly grinned, knowing their women were growing more nervous by the second. The performance reached a climax, when the captain gathered his baggage on wheels, and Trisha held out her small overnight bag for him to take.
“I packed all of your favorite things,” Tricia said.
With a broad smile, Nick added the undersized bag to his. He reached out to take her hand, and they walked into the terminal together. Nick wasn’t sure he could hold off until their destination. The fierce animal desires he had for her, pulled at him. He thought they might find a quiet place to use. Then again, he cherished sexual tension as an integral part of the chase, so he decided to simmer, rather than boil over. The men standing curbside watched her provocative gait, and sighed right up until the automatic doors closed behind the old guy and his juvenile date.
* * *
Soft fingertips lightly stroked his forehead. He blinked trying to clear his vision. His head was throbbing. He could barely make out the shape of a face. He thought the facial features resembled a woman smiling at him with one of those after-great-sex smiles. He struggled to remember who she might be. He couldn’t focus. The room appeared to be underwater, as if the ship had overturned at sea. Nothing made sense. The last thing he remembered was becoming extremely drained and drifting off.
Where...how...who was...
There was something restricting the movement of his arms and legs.
Name is...name is...is...
The face with the smile that floated past him reappeared, he couldn’t remember. Blaring in the background, he heard lyrics and hammering of heavy metal music. He recognized The Cult.
It’s the way that you feel
It’s the truth in your eye
Cause you’re up against the world
And still you rise
Holly? Jean? No, Lori, The flight...
What was holding him? He passed out again, until he heard the words that shocked him back into reality.
“Poor Father Anthony. That is it, isn’t it--Father Anthony?”
The effects of the drug had given Lori more than enough time to secure him, and search through his wallet.
“Lori, what’s going on?”
He slurred the words. As he tugged against the ropes, it hit him.
“You know?” he said.
She bowed her head.
“I want to confess my sins, Father. Will you hear my confession? I want you to absolve my sins, and forgive me,” Lori said.
“What is wrong with you?”
His head fell back onto the pillow. He tried to compose himself, but he jerked back up again with anger and revulsion.
“Are you insane?”
Her jagged reaction, to his interrogatory outburst, caused a quick reevaluation of his options. His head fell back again as his mind raced. There wasn’t any way out of the tight spot he was in. He had to be repentant, and negotiate.
“Lori, what do you want from me? You want the truth? Okay, it’s true--I’m a priest. I don’t have any excuse for my actions, except to say, I’m just a frail human like all men, and I sin, too.”
He studied her face to see if he was getting through. She bit at her lower lip, while contemplating his answer then she smiled, and slid her index finger from his forehead down to his lips, where they rested for a moment.
I really enjoyed kissing you.
Her finger continued down, and stopped at his genitals. She massaged him softly. He glanced down at what she was doing, and squirmed.
Its just some weird sexual game she plays.
He tried an end run.
“Did you like it? We could do it again, make love again. Just untie me.”
Lori smiled deprecatingly.
“Now Father, we never did make love. And as far as untying you, you know I can’t do that.”
“Untie me, goddammit,” Anthony said.
“Oh my, thou shall not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain. You’re just like that little pope of yours, and the archbishops, and bishops--the pious hierarchy, so holy when you want to be, and so arrogant with authority. Priests think they have all the answers and can tell the rest of us how to live.”
Anthony turned away, ashamed. He shifted, trying his best to distance himself from her.
This can’t be happening.
“This is some kind of a joke, right?”
He couldn’t conceal his fear.
“Father, I can assure you this is no joke.”
Lori looked off into the distance.
“Do you believe in life after death?”
Her eyebrows rose. Lori focused on him waiting for his answer.
You are a handsome man.
“Of course, I do.”
Her gaze left his as she looked down, and watched her fingertips dance around his manhood. She posed another theological question.
“If heaven is such a heavenly place, why does everyone want to take an eternity to get there?”
He had to think about that one. He often thought that heaven must be a small place out of necessity, and hell enormous. After all, there were far more of the damned, than there were saved in the world.
“Is evil the same in every religion Father, or is evil different from one religion to the next?”
She stared at him.
“Father Anthony, you aren’t a very good person.”
His answer was sarcastic.
“Even Jesus wasn’t loved by everyone.”
“You are not Jesus, Father Anthony.”
Bowing her head, she made a request.
“I want you to hear my confession.”
Reaching over to the nightstand, she grasped the roll of duct tape. Tearing off a small piece, she ceremoniously placed it over his mouth, while his head thrashed violently from side to side. As hard as he possibly could, he struggled to free himself.
Lori started confessing.
“Father, like yourself, I have taken the Lord thy God’s name in vain. I have not honored my mother or my father. And I am about to break the commandment—Thou shall not kill.”
She looked deeply into his wide, terrified eyes.
“Bless me Father, for I must sin again.”
Anthony perspired profusely. His pounding chest heaved. Tears fell down the sacrificial lamb’s face. With his eyes closed tight, he hastily prayed for God’s forgiveness of his sins. When he opened them again, he saw the raised, shimmering blade of the knife. He tensed and shook violently. He screamed from behind the tape sealing his lips. The good father felt the first, but because of the shock infiltrating his body, not the rest of the repeated punctures to his torso. If Anthony’s God were truly merciful, He, or She, would gift Anthony, on his deathbed with the painless “golden hour.” Another heartbeat passed.
His eyes rolled back and disappeared. Had a heart monitor been attached to him it would have revealed a complete cessation of all cardiac function, with flat brain wave tracing. It would have confirmed that Father Anthony Moralli had left for the next life. Then with the artistry of a gourmet chef, she dragged the blade down his chest, and severed his genitals. A massive river of blood spilled from the wound between his legs. She held the organ up, while more blood drained down from her hand to her bent elbow. It made a muted thud when she dropped it onto him.
To complete the act, Lori stabbed him one last time, directly into his heart, and withdrew her hand. The knife stood erect, like a tombstone protruding from his unmoving chest. Father Anthony mouthed his last words behind the duct tape during the brief seconds he had left, but she never heard them. She had no idea he had forgiven her. She walked to the foot of the bed where she sat down on a chair facing him. While staring at the corpse, she became lost in an out-of-body experience that took her mind along for the ride. Her fingers roamed until she found the special place between her legs. The face of her dead husband appeared over Anthony’s, and spoke to her.
That’s right baby. Daddy loves you.
“Did I do it right, daddy? Like you taught me, daddy?”
You’re daddy’s little girl.
She recited while matching the rhythm of her hand.
“Daddy loves me, daddy loves me, daddy...loves...me
Why daddy, daddy it hurts. Please stop, daddy, no more, daddy. Mommy, make him stop!”
Like every time before, she could not reach a climax, and the rapid motion of her hand ceased. Lori awoke from the dream and became mechanical. From the bathroom, she retrieved a white washcloth. Returning to the bed, she soaked a corner of the cloth into the puddle of blood between Anthony’s thighs. She climbed over him to the headboard, and wrote crimson letters on the wall--Anthony.
She retrieved her things, including the CD from the stereo. She was careful to leave the room clean, with no way to connect her to the murder. Nobody knew she was with him. She took one more look before leaving quietly. It was just before midnight when Lori returned to her layover hotel. She showered then climbed into bed and fell asleep. Her alarm clock woke her, and within an hour, she met with her crew in the hotel lobby. Like an apparition, she would completely disappear without a trace. The early flight departure gave her the distance that would prevent her capture. Like all of the other murders she had committed, this one would confound and mystify investigators.
As her flight departed into the early-morning haze, she contemplated what she needed to do when she got back home. She would stop by the food store for groceries. Renting a movie was an option. She had to water the plants, and there were bills to pay. She also thought about the man who had beaten her and who sexually abused their young daughter on the pretext of love.
* * *
The odor drew the first witness to the gruesome crime scene. She reported the repugnant smell to the front desk. When the manager arrived, he knocked heavily on the cottage door. Not receiving a response, he announced “Manager” and went inside. After a few short steps, he saw all he needed to see, and radioed the front office to call the police. The girl with the halter-top, and tight denim shorts, looking on from the doorway, let out a terrifying, chilling scream. Her boyfriend ran to join her. Both stood frozen and gawked at the twisted carcass with the severely contorted expression.
While the three of them waited for the police, they debated going back inside to see if the victim was still alive. Finally, the brave manager told the two lovers to stand back while he checked for a pulse. Forcing himself to go back in, he made his way to the bed. Just as he was about to touch the discolored wrist, the feel of a hand on his arm nearly sent him into cardiac arrest. A Kevlar-vested female officer, behaving in typical maximum-threat fashion, quickly herded him and the other two witnesses away to safety. With her laser-sight illuminated, she tightened her grip on her weapon, and held it in front of her as she searched the premises.
Blues and reds flashed in rapid succession against the drizzle and overcast. The entire cottage was illuminated in white light as more emergency personnel arrived. The first responders were soaked in adrenaline as they performed their duties. The discovery of the dead man was contagious. News trucks with painted station logos arrived, and extended their antennas high into the night sky for satellite feeds. Reporters descended on the scene like vultures with their outstretched, hideous wings. They went to work on the carcass using blood to sell valuable advertising space. The first reporter on the scene, desperately seeking network recognition, spewed directly into the camera lens the earliest details as investigators relayed them.
...The victim, a Caucasian male, was stabbed repeatedly, and castrated. Although unconfirmed, this reporter has been told by sources close to the investigation, that the victim is a Catholic priest. Just moments ago, Bishop Archibald, from the Mother of Soul’s parish here in Gulfport, has administered last rites...

It was riveting television. “Reality” death always held a captive audience. The news stations played the gruesome scene repeatedly, albeit with parental warnings. Jurisdiction of the crime scene, a treasured pearl of law enforcement, passed from the Gulfport locals to Special Agent Mika Scott, when she and her Evidence Response Team arrived from Quantico a few hours later.
* * *
After waiting for over an hour, I recline on the couch, but shift into several uncomfortable positions. I can’t sit still. I hate having to surrender my thoughts and my emotions to him. God forbid I say something that causes him to take me off the streets. I would leave, except the department's policy requires all cops involved in a shooting, have to see the shrink.
“I watched as the Molotov cocktail flew in an arc and crashed through the stained glass window. Jesus the Shepherd was at the center of the window only moments before.”
I feel like I’m suffocating, cornered. The place and surroundings couldn’t help, but make you feel flawed as a human being.
“The Molotov cocktail rolled across the sacristy floor spitting yellow and orange flames. Heavy, coal-colored, swirling smoke billowed out. Nothing could be done, while the blaze burned the house of God to the ground. Then the dark angel responsible, as if receiving an order directly from Satan, began the last barrage. The weapon discharged, and my windshield exploded. Shards of glass and debris flew all around me. I dropped to the pavement.”
After a long swallow from the glass of water on the end table, the rest of my nightmare slips out.
Easy Jake, don’t talk about anger in front of the man.
“One of the 'cop killer’ round struck Sergeant Peterson a few yards away from me. I couldn’t get to him. I was pinned down then I took a hit. I didn’t feel it at first, the burn. I returned fire. My first round shattered the larynx, and the perp’s arms extended as if begging to be crucified. My second round tore open the chest. The black, fatigue-clad body danced beneath the yellowish glow of the fluorescent streetlights. It stood like a statue, before finally collapsing to the pavement. My bullet-riddled radiator hissed. Stepping through the blood, I cautiously approached and kicked away the weapon. I took out my 'cuffs, but the body appeared lifeless. My still hot Glock dropped to my side. It was over.”
Trying to alleviate the pains and stress in my body, I shift again. He sits quietly, hands clasped together, and gives me time to get it all out.
“The paramedic removed the ski mask, and her auburn hair limply cascaded down. Her face had a horrified look that said an angry God was already passing sentence. Her lips quivered, and I thought she was trying to speak. I dropped down to hear, but I only felt her last breath touch my face.”
I blink as the corners of my eyes begin to tear.
“Rapid cerebral replays of the shooting and heavy doses of guilt have dogged me since. She was just a kid.”
Abrams allows my words to hang in the air. His unnerving silence makes me squirm and twitch. Is he waiting for me to collapse? He asks a simple question with a calm voice.
“Can you go on, or would you like to stop here?”
That really cranks me off, so I blast back.
“Hey, tell me what I’m supposed to do here, what I’m supposed to say, tell me how I’m supposed to heal.”
Abrams answers with a calm, compassionate tone.
“Jake, it doesn’t work that way. You had physical trauma from the gunshot, and the doctor prescribed a pill for the pain, but what’s in your head cannot be cured with a pill.”
Dr. Thaddeus Abrams, mid-forties, is wearing his trademark heavy-rimmed, black eyeglasses. He is soft-spoken and polite. In addition to his own practice, he is included in the department’s payroll. A shooter like me is supposed to attend therapy once a week. Those who work through their pain can regain their life and career. If the scars are too deep sometimes, recovery is impossible then it will be just a matter of time before their prolonged misery ends in suicide. I’m not going to be counted among the lost.
“I can’t erase what happened to you Jake. It will always be in your memory. All I can do is to try and help you find some closure and that’s going to take time.”
I know what I have to, but I don’t want to talk to him anymore. As I make my way toward the office door, I turn to face the eminent psychiatrist. The words I thought would come out don’t, so I close the door behind me.
“Jake?”
The receptionist behind the glass window in the waiting room makes a gallant effort to corner me for another appointment. Faces look up from their magazines, as I hurry my escape. I feel exposed. I can’t reach for the doorknob fast enough, but instead the door opens in my face.
An extraordinarily attractive woman enters. She holds everyone’s attention. We stare at her as if she were a model strutting down the runway at a fashion show. She seems unaffected by the gawking. We make eye contact and she smiles, but in my jammed up state of mind I can’t smile back. Along my journey down the long, empty corridor I think about her. Walking out of the building into the stabbing sunlight that temporarily blinds me, I think about her. As the freezer chill of the air-conditioned offices dissipates rapidly in the heat, I think about her. When I open the door to my apartment I realize she is the only other thing I have thought about, in my bruised and crippled psyche, since killing that girl.
* * *
There was no resemblance to the other hard-core patients in the office. After checking in with the receptionist, she found an empty seat, and sat straight up with her purse neatly placed on her lap. Her breathtaking eyes stared straight ahead, and didn’t acknowledge anyone in the waiting room. She didn’t read any of the old and torn magazines. Instead Lori replayed in her mind, the entire visit she made to the cemetery before her appointment to see Dr. Abrams. Whenever she returned from a flight, she made sure she went to see her daughter Emily. In her daydream, she saw herself walking past the many headstones along the manicured lawn. She arrived at the one that rested above her daughter’s grave. Her fingers lightly stroked the name on the marble then cleared the grave of fallen leaves and debris. She replaced the bouquet in the holder with freshly cut wildflowers.
“Hi baby, mommy’s here.”
I missed you mommy.
“I missed you too, honey.”
Lori’s head tilted to one side and was followed by a sigh. Soft tears trickled down her cheeks as the anguish of Emily’s passing returned. After years, it still hurt. As all parents do when preceded in death by their children, she mourned the loss with heartbreak, sadness, and overwhelming guilt.
Where did you go mommy?
Wiping away tears, Lori tried to sound upbeat.
“I had a flight to Gulfport baby, just an overnight. We got back early this morning. I unpacked and came right over to see you.”
Did you have fun mommy?
“It was okay, it wasn’t fun, just okay.”
Lori changed the subject.
“Did you remember yesterday was my birthday?”
Oh yes mommy, Happy Birthday to you!
The child’s voice sang the birthday song. Lori’s dire expression turned to a half-hearted smile, as she touched her daughter’s headstone. It had changed from a piece of granite, to her young daughter’s face.
I wish I could have celebrated it with you,
“I know baby, I know. You look so beautiful Emily, so beautiful.”
I love you mommy.
“I love you too, baby.”
Mourners at a nearby gravesite looked in her direction, but she quickly turned away from their curious stares. Without looking up again, she spread a small blanket on the lawn next to the grave. The recently mowed grass had a sweet scent. She sat down and brought her legs up beneath her chin. She wrapped her arms around them to hold them in. With her chin resting on her knees, she stared at a small beetle making its way through the grass then she heard the other voice.
Don’t be fooled into believing that luck got you this far and will take you the rest of the way. Many have stood before a magistrate because of such flawed thought.
“I know, I know,” Lori said.
Don’t take that attitude with me.
The voice was demeaning and punishing. She hated the voice, and would have done anything to make it stop. She whispered like a scolded child.
You listen to me. No one cares about you, but me.
“I won’t disappoint you.”
Lori was apologetic having heard the lectures before.
You have to follow the rules.
“Yes I know, no records. Don’t leave anything behind. Don’t attract attention. Know the geography. And alcohol is a truth serum--I got it.”
Well if it’s all so clear then what did you think you were doing in Gulfport.
“He was an authority figure just like the rest--”
Lori wanted to argue, but she knew it was useless.
Murder is as empowering as it is compelling.
After that, Lori didn’t hear the voices. The other mourners had all gone, and she was sitting alone in the cemetery shading her eyes from the bright, unrelenting sun. Before she left, she took one more look at her daughter’s name on the headstone. Then another voice, an unfamiliar voice, interrupted her daydream.
“Ms. Powers, the doctor will see you now.”
* * *
Terrorism had hit home, and was on everyone’s mind. Outside the terminal, airport traffic officers ordered the towing of unattended cars no longer permitted to park curbside. As Captain Parker walked briskly out of the terminal, and into the noonday sun, the last thing on his mind was terrorism. Nick was much more concerned about unintentionally revealing any evidence the sweet, young Tricia had left behind. She had kissed him goodbye only minutes before with a heavy smear of lipstick then headed out the opposite side of the terminal. He wasn’t sure he had gotten it all off. He rapidly surveyed the roadway to his left and right searching for the new Mrs. Parker, but she wasn’t in sight.
Trisha had a wonderful two days in Los Angeles. Nick bought her expensive gifts, and took her to dinner at an exclusive restaurant. She screwed his brains out in return, which made them even she figured. The next time he called though, she planned to tell him to drop dead, unless there was nothing else to do in town.
Seeing his new bride, Nick waved as if she was the only woman on earth. She pulled up in the macho SUV and stopped at his feet. He liked it when women deferred to him. He expected them to treat him like God. After all, pilots thought they were. Mrs. Parker leapt out of the car, and rushed toward him, throwing her entire perfect body into him causing the air to burst out of his lungs.
“Oh baby, I’ve missed you so much,” Susan said.
“It feels like a millennium since I’ve been able to hold you,” Nick said.
He knew what to say, to get what he wanted.
“I’ve got to have you right now, Susan.”
It fascinated Nick how easily women fell for his smooth talk and lies. They were willing to do just about anything to have someone to call their own. They would clean, cook, iron and even squeeze out babies, for love. What was even more amazing, he thought, was they couldn’t see it, didn’t get it. To him, love was a fabricated concept created simply for a man to justify the fulfillment of a biological need to release millions of microscopic, aggressive sperm. A woman was nothing more than a late-night depository.
“Where’s Wendy?”
Parker asked knowing that Susan’s young daughter was an object of his degenerate affection. Susan made up a story because she knew Wendy detested him, but she could never figure out why. He would constantly spoil Wendy with lavish gifts that often made Susan jealous. She found his constant concern about Wendy’s well being reassuring, and believed that Nick was the perfect father figure for her.
“Home, she had homework to finish. You know how kids are.”
Nick’s face exhibited contrived concern
“Is everything all right with her?”
“Yeah, she’s fine, just a young girl trying to figure out the big world. It’s not easy you know.”
Seeing Parker in uniform, a traffic officer approached and reprimanded him.
“Captain you need to move it along, sir. The rules apply to everyone.”
“Sorry officer, you’re absolutely right, and we’re moving it.”
Nick’s apologetic tone saved him. He detested it when those he considered his inferiors, the lower rung, told him what to do. He didn’t take direction. He gave it. Nick opened the passenger door for Susan, and she slid her long legs inside so he got a good look. He grinned, and closed her door. Tossing his flight and overnight bags in the back, he gave a small wave to the impertinent officer. He thought about berating the man, but decided he was too exhausted after the weekend with Tricia.
I owe you one officer.
The Navigator cranked over, and Captain Nick Parker drove home with the woman he presumably loved, to the stepdaughter he wanted to make love to, later.
* * *
The magnificent mansion he shared with Mrs. Abrams made up for having to tolerate her incessant whining. An expansive estate, it was too much for two people. A brand new Bentley was parked in the curved driveway. The thought of having children was not even a consideration, because of the great imposition it would place on their own spoiled lives. Thaddeus Abrams loved his career, and all of the benefits that came with it. He especially loved when clients, such as the troubled, but stunning, Lori Powers stared helplessly into his eyes seeking compassion, comfort, and understanding. Life was good for the good doctor, and nothing was going to interfere with his happiness.
“So how are you, Lori?”
Abrams had a knack for sounding concerned, which was why he was so successful in his line of work. He was a master at giving the impression he cared about your miserable life. With Lori, he found his career to be particularly rewarding.
“It hasn’t been a very good week,” Lori said.
“Let me see, according to my notes, we were discussing your family history during your last visit. Why don’t you pick it up from there?”
He looked over the tops of his reading glasses at her. She closed her eyes and thought. The moment she felt prepared, and comfortable, organized, she began. Abrams gave a slight nod.
“I remember the very first time he slithered into my bed. He wanted me. I was too young, too trusting to protest, to say no.”
Her mood turned sullen. Abrams missed most everything she said after that. He just wanted to get her talking, so he could look into her captivating eyes, and listen to her smoky voice. Whenever she turned away, he would sneak a peek at her breasts and legs. Her first statement sent him drifting off into another fantasy daydream about her.
She stood in the garden below in the black French-cut bikini that was his favorite.
“Daddy was like a...”
He drifted into Fantasyland.
She lit candles inside the darkened room, and extinguished the match with a soft, sensual whisper. Romantic melodies filled the background as she nudged him onto his back on the bed. With a naughty, teasing expression, she took her hair up, and let it fall wildly over her soft shoulders. Her bikini fell to the floor.
“Mother didn’t have the courage to say no to him. When I turned to her, she turned away from me.”
He caught just a piece of that statement.
She straddled him provocatively and playfully, traced his naked body with her fingertips. Kissing his face and neck, she reached down between his legs.
“Dr. Abrams?” Lori said.
She had the impression Abrams missed the last few pages of her life story. He jerked back into reality, and recovered smoothly by asking a question.
“Who was he?”
“Who was who?”
“Go back to the part about 'I was too trusting.’ Were you referring to your father?”
“I was referring to my ex-husband, doctor.”
Abrams took a moment to think, while he wrote notes on his legal pad. She appeared to be confused about episodes between her father, and her ex-husband. The husband was missing, wasn’t he? Perhaps the trauma of her daughter’s suicide was affecting her memory. He couldn’t quite put a finger in it.
“I’m sorry Lori, please continue.”
Although relieved he had escaped detection, Abrams knew that he had missed something important. He had to listen closer, and find the underlying cause of it. As she pulled a tissue from the box on the table next to her chair, the doctor leaned forward in his chair. Certain he was listening this time. Lori continued with the rest of her story.
“I remember a night. It was raining very hard, thunder, and lightning. We were parked on a hilltop surrounded by dense woods. The leaves on the trees partially obscured the moon and stars. I had an overbearing feeling something evil was present. Lying back on the upholstery, sweating, frightened, with my legs spread, he entered me. I wanted to scream, but he wouldn’t let me. Finally, he finished.”
She dabbed the tissue in the corner of each eye then she squeezed the tissue tight in her clenched fist.
“Then his hand raised, and came down as if it were a knife.”
Lori shook. Abrams flinched, and was surprised by his own reaction.
“Too young to comprehend the purpose of being struck, my baby cried as she sucked in her first seconds of life. She was so beautiful, my Emily. I was just fourteen.”
Abrams still couldn’t put it all together, and it bothered him. Before he could ask another question, Lori spoke.
“I have a recurring dream. I’m alone, no one else is left in the world, except me.”
Abrams made the elusive connection between the father and the missing ex-husband, the daughter’s suicide, the beatings, and the sexual abuse. He heard similar references from other clients he had treated over the years. He scribbled on his notepad and tore off the page then reached forward, holding the page between the two of them. Lori took it and read what he had written. It was an address.
“Unfortunately Lori, our time is up and as you know I have a few more patients waiting outside. I think we have made some real progress here today, in fact, so much so I need for you to continue this session later this evening at my home.”
He pointed at the page.
“That’s the address.”
“I don’t understand, Dr. Abrams.”
He moved closer to her and exuded compassion.
“I believe we’ve made a major breakthrough today, and it is imperative that we discuss this further, before you leave on another flight.”
Lori considered the option Abrams presented, but wasn’t quite sure how that meshed with her revelations. As patients do, she trusted her medical practitioner. Taking the address he gave her, she stored it in her purse, and nodded. He desperately tried to appear reserved and controlled, while she stood and walked out of the office.
She was perfect.
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Chapter 2

2
After the shooting, and subsequent investigation by Internal Affairs, I was exhausted. I crashed into one of those comatose-like sleeps. Since then, I just lay in bed for hours staring at the ceiling. Abrams said the depression is a normal reaction to what happened, and it would eventually subside. My apartment isn’t far from the precinct. The neighborhood is nondescript, middle-class, what I could afford on my salary. There aren’t any gated communities here. The nearest one would be lock-up inside the precinct.
The place is small, crowded with worn furniture, and has the comfortable ambiance of a bachelor pad. Being the dedicated cop that I am, I never used to spend much time here. Now, I hide inside the cave. On the porch, newspapers are piled up from the newspaper carrier who could care less. The mailman curses every time he has to jam more mail into my overflowing mailbox. The priest from Saint Dominic’s stops by, but I don’t feel holy. Over the years, I have seen stabbings, domestic violence, abuse cases, gunshot wounds—you name it. None of that damaged my head as bad as shooting that girl. The doctor prescribed Hydrocodone for the hole in my arm. I have taken much more than needed to stop the pain.
In days past, I used to take better care of myself considering the line of work I’m in. I ate right, worked out in the gym, got plenty of sunshine, and lived a relatively healthy lifestyle. My fellow law enforcement officers joked about it all the time, but found my efforts to be admirable. Now that’s all gone and it’s just my pills and me. Abrams isn’t much help. Psychiatrists are a waste of time anyway. There was a time when I thought...hoped...God would jump in, and send an angel to save me. I’m sure He, or She, figured out I was going straight to hell anyway so why waste a perfectly good angel. I’m just going to have to deal with the bad juju single-handedly.
“JAKE, HEY JAKE! OPEN THE DOOR!”
The banging stops when I open the door. Harmon Blackwell, homicide detective and partner, bends down and picks up the morning’s paper out of all the others, which he nonchalantly kicks off to the side of the porch. He storms in throwing the newspaper at me. It falls to the floor as I turn toward the bedroom. My arm hurts.
Where did I put that prescription bottle with the child-resistant cover?
Finding it, I shake out another pill. A sip of Jack Daniels helps the little bomber go down easier.
“If you’re here for some talk-therapy--”
“No, I can see you’re too screwed up for that.”
“And stop taking those damn pills, man, what’s the matter with you?”
He doesn’t approve of my helpers. Harmon can kick my butt, without breaking a sweat. He likes it. You should see him on the street. “What did you say? What? Come here, I’m talking to you!” That’s Harmon. He lightened up a little when he got his detective shield. Homicide hasn’t been the same since. Harmon grabs my arm, the one attached to the bottle of pills.
“Jesus, Harmon.”
I flinch because he squeezes hard. Whenever Harmon is near, I take the name of his Savior in vain. His moms taught Fred to never disrespect Jesus, or the church. He knows from several years on the street together, I have serious theological issues. He religiously corrects me about it.
“The old man wants you back at work, let’s go.”
He presses harder on my sore arm and I forcefully push him away.
“I’m on medical leave. That means you, and he, have to leave me alone.”
My butt falls into my Lazy Boy. With my eyes closed, I kick back and slip into a dark hole. For some strange reason, probably because I had blasphemed, I think about the nuns back in the orphanage who raised me from the crib. They’re the reason why I’m so dedicated. I remember they taught me I could accomplish anything, if I just tried.
“Get your sorry, white butt up and let’s go.”
He’s becoming more threatening than before, but he’s going to have to improve in the tact category, before he ever has a chance at moving up the crime fighter career ladder. While he speaks, I think about the girl, until she is replaced by whether or not, I think I could handle my job professionally ever again. He takes another look at me in the dim light.
“Roberts, are you listening to me? Man, you look like hell.”
“Thank you for your support.”
I try to be as gracious as possible about the intent of his criticism. He shakes his head to emphasize his very strong feelings about it.
“Those pills are going to screw you up good.”
“Don’t you mean screw me up bad?”
“And it’s red butt. How many times must I tell you? How long have we been partners?”
“Red, white, I really don’t care, Jake, Fairchild told me to bring you back pronto Tonto, so let’s go.”
“Screw him.”
“Screw him?”
Harmon’s reaction, the mocking laugh, and “say what?” face, is classic.
“Yeah, screw him. It’s just another example of the white man, and the black man, keeping the red man down.”
I have no idea where that came from.
“Hey Geronimo, you need to give it a rest. Why don’t you dig deep down into your inner man, and get back to respectable?”
“I’m feeling like I’m already six feet down, just waiting for someone to cover me with dirt, and here you are with a shovelful.”
I lean back, close my eyes again and think.
She was just a kid.
The next thing I know, I shout it.
“SHE WAS JUST A KID!”
“That kid put a hole in your arm. A few more inches and she would have put you in a hole.”
“She would have done me a favor.”
I fight back. I need sympathy, and I have no one else to get it from. I’m counting on Harmon to pull me up. The others talk about how lucky I was, but I’m not so sure. Harmon softens his tone for a moment, and asks a curious question.
“Did you cry?”
Tough guy Harmon never asked me that before. He obviously wants to know how it feels in case it ever happens to him. I can’t answer. We just look at each other. Finally, to break the awkward silence, I comment that scientists believe the universe is permeated with dark matter. It’s a thing Harmon and I do when things get confused. We read science articles constantly. It helps to keep us sane.
“Are you talking from my neighborhood?” he says.
“The string theory says that tension strands fill the entire universe and vibrate. The resonating creates life. It could be part of the dark matter.”
“The entropy theory says there is a degree of disorder in all systems.”
I shrug.
“Second Law of Thermodynamics, everything tends toward a greater disorder.”
“Yeah, that’s where we come in as professional lawmen. Hey man, we got to go, or the old man’s going to have my butt,” Harmon says.
He signals he is done playing, but I still need to play.
“Aristotle, flat universe with the earth at the center; Copernicus, 1514, the sun is at the center of the very same universe; Christensen, 1676, light travels at a constant speed; Hubble, 1929, the galaxy is moving away; Hawking, the universe is here for us.”
“Fairchild, today, get Roberts back to work,” Harmon said.
“I can’t.”
“Yes, you can.”
“She was just a kid, man.”
“Are you coming, Crazy Horse?”
He miss quotes the words of the great warrior.
“It is a good day to kick your ass. It is a good day to see Fairchild before he comes looking for you.”
“I’m not ready.”
I love Harmon Blackwell. He is there for me with no limits, or barriers. As he stands, he blocks whatever sunlight is shining through the shaded front windows. He looks interesting backlit. He leaves through the front door knowing it’s better to leave me alone for now. He’s gone before I can make another smartass remark. After the door closes, I see my Glock lying beside me on the table. How easy it would be to end the pain.
* * *
Her instincts told her to stay alert. She had an uneasy feeling in the pit of her stomach as she rang the bell, and waited for someone to answer the door. Behind her, an incredibly intense, one-of-a-kind sunset faded from the horizon. A smiling and anxious, Thaddeus Abrams briskly opened one of the carved-glass, double doors. His greeting was warmhearted. She returned a shy hello. He invited her in. As she stepped inside, the smell of freshly cut flowers, and burning scented candles filled the foyer.
Admiring the incredible craftsmanship that went into the construction of his home, Lori thought it was obvious a woman had designed, and decorated, the detailed interior of the residence. A man, however, had strongly influenced the exterior of the mansion, with its manicured lawn, stone and wrought iron work, and the steeply pitched roof. A visitor was given the overpowering impression of success and power.
Lori felt uncomfortable and suspicious. Men, she had learned, could not be trusted. She hoped it wasn’t the case with Dr. Abrams, because he was the best at what he did, and she desperately needed his help. It just seemed odd that he needed to address her issues under less than clinical conditions. When he took her hands and held them for too long, the red flags went up in her mind.
“Maybe, this isn’t the right time.”
Lori pulled her hands free.
Abrams spoke in his professional tone.
“No, Lori, this is the right time. There are no distractions, or time constraints, like at the office. I often see patients here. I just need to find my notes.”
Leading her into the den, he pointed to a leather sofa.
“Please.”
She remained standing.
“Where is Mrs. Abrams?”
The familiar sensual, sultry tone of Lori’s voice was missing.
“Mrs. Abrams...is out.”
He paged through his found notes.
“She does a great deal of charity work for the American Cancer Society, as Vice-Chairperson, very devoted.”
“I’m not sure I want to do this, not here.”
Lori said it with a nervous undertone. Hearing she wanted to bail out, Abrams knew he had to make it clear why she had to stay. His next statement was more direct and to the point. He looked into her eyes.
“I know Lori. I’ve been in the psychiatry business a very long time, and have heard more than my share of the dark sides of people to know there’s a dark side to you.”
Startled by the remark, her eyebrows crushed in tight, and she felt a tremor in her hands.
How could he know? What does he want?
Maybe, she thought, he didn’t really know jack, and just wanted to frighten her into bed. Swirling the expensive scotch in his glass, he waited. Her denial didn’t come. When she turned away, he spoke, while he searched for a book on the shelf.
“Your choice of words, your expressions, history—it all suggests murderer to someone who watches, and listens to them for a living. I’m supposed to cure them, but you know, and I know, there is no cure, right Lori? No, once that line has been crossed, and in spite of some well-intentioned statements of regret and remorse, a murderer always looks forward to killing again. It’s the control, domination, and the godlike decision-making that make it so enticing, so addicting. Wouldn’t you agree, Lori?”
She didn’t reply.
“And who is to say what’s right and wrong? Who is to judge? Murder is often seen as a means of accomplishing the goals of a shared societal belief system, whether it’s war, abortion, or euthanasia. I think you get my point.”
After paging through the book he had retrieved from the bookshelf, he tossed it onto his rosewood desk. His glass was near empty, so he headed back to the bar. Lori knew she had to say something. She tried to do so as firmly and confidently as she could.
“So Dr. Abrams, what do you want?”
“A cold, calculated admission by default.”
Then he hammered at her.
“Let’s see, the direct approach, okay how’s this? You were sexually abused as a child. You didn’t know what to do. It was a family member you trusted and believed in. It was hard to justify that your own father could hurt you in such a way.”
He saw fire in her eyes.
Now that hit home.
He fired another round.
“Why did you let it continue? Why didn’t you tell someone? Why didn’t you tell your mother?”
I knew what was happening to Emily.
The painful memories took over her thoughts, but none of it was as Abrams said. Her father was a good man and had nothing to do with her traumas. It was her transposition of what her ex-husband did to Emily. Lori was furious, but held back biting hard on her lower lip.
Abrams, you’re a fool.
“You didn’t tell anyone, and all of the subsequent guilt, emotional scars and mental anguish, gave you countless reasons and excuses to kill.”
“You could never understand, and I’m not going to debate my life with you.”
In a businesslike tone, she asked again.
“So what do you want? To get laid—some kind of perverted sex act?”
A broad smile filled his face.
“Now Lori, I fully admit that in my office, while you poured your heart out, I had some of my most memorable fantasies. I thought about doing you on my desk. In fact, I want you right now, but first things first.”
He walked to the sofa and nonchalantly sat down. He motioned her to sit in the chair across from him. She took a seat as directed, not wanting to show any sign of aggressiveness. Instead, she wanted him to think she was completely vulnerable, and at his mercy.
“Aren’t you afraid to be alone with me?”
“Well, let’s think about that.”
He looked off into the distance.
“No, in fact, the thought of being alone with you excites me. It probably has something to do with my mundane and boring life as a psychiatrist.”
He sipped at the scotch.
“I’m even quite certain, while you have been listening to me, you have considered at least five different ways to kill me.”
Believing he was in control of another dangerous murderer, he rambled on, and speculated.
“All that needs to be resolved in your mind is would anybody know? Who else knew you were coming here, Mrs. Abrams? Is there a surveillance system inside this enormous house? Did you leave fingerprints on the glass, the door? There’s a lot to think about, and you haven’t had time to think it all through—my murder that is.”
“You still haven’t told me what you want. What am I supposed to do, drop to my knees, while you’re aroused with unsubstantiated suspicion?”
“Is sex all that flight attendants think about?”
The smirk disappeared from his face. He stared at her with a piercing, burning look. As clearly, and coldly, as he could, he spoke.
“I want you to kill Mrs. Abrams for me.”
It was finally out in the open. The unmistakable words came out of the respected, successful, and talented Dr. Thaddeus Abrams—a trusted pillar of society. How disappointing, she thought.
He’s insane.
To Abrams, Lori seemed confused and lost about his last statement. He wasn’t sure what to do, if she didn’t go along with his plan. He tensed until she spoke.
“If you’re right about me, and I’m capable of such dreadful behavior, what makes you think I would do such a thing to your wife--for you?”
Abrams smiled, relieved to hear the question. He leaned closer to her. His hand waved around the room.
“Because Lori, she’s the only thing that stands between you and me. You kill her, and all of this is yours. In return for doing away with the annoying, predatory, and domineering Mrs. Abrams—you will enjoy a lifetime of me, untold wealth, security, and free consultations.”
“You can’t walk the walk, so you want me to walk it for you. And in return for my cooperation, you’re going to let me share in your wealth?”
She pulled at her lower lip with an index finger. Once again, she was convinced men were nothing more than testosterone-loaded, perverted animals that would say and do whatever necessary, to get what they wanted. The others had paid dearly for their arrogance. One thing was clear in her mind. Another male control freak was going to die.
Abrams felt somewhat relieved. She was at least considering his diabolical plan. He needed to push her to close the deal. He wanted to make it clear he was in charge.
“Well not exactly share the wealth, more like use the wealth. You are correct. I can’t walk the walk. I don’t have to, because I have you. Now talking the talk I can do, down at police headquarters.”
He gave her time to consider his proposal. She paced the spacious room with its ornate, expensive décor. She pretended to give his scheme her undivided attention, while the clock ticked down in her head. As she studied the various displayed artifacts, a familiar voice spoke to her.
They’re all the same. He’s just one more shining example of how disgusting men really are. You know what to do. You have my blessing, and my permission.
Until then, she felt cornered, trapped, and caged. Now that she had permission, it would be easy. Men were predictable. A simple mood swing was all she needed. He was a better-than-average-looking man, with beautiful eyes. She knew she would actually enjoy playing him. Mentally she prepared to be convincing.
“You would want me. Do you mean that?”
How many times do I have to play this game?
“I offer you my heart, and my soul. After all, you and I are going to burn in hell together. Might as well enjoy ourselves in this life.”
He waited patiently for her to answer.
“You don’t even know me, nothing about my life except...”
She played her role perfectly.
“I knew all about Mrs. Abrams, the social register, family history, moods and sexual needs. We’ve been married for many years. Love had nothing to do with it. I married her for the money. I’ll be filthy rich when the insurance company pays off on her carcass.”
Abrams held out his empty glass for her to refill. Deferring to him, she took it and approached the bar. He continued.
“I’m not looking for love. I’m in it purely for the money, and the pleasure it brings me--us.”
She decided to take the chance no one knew she was there. It didn’t make sense he would have told anyone she would be there, or be crazy enough to record the conversation. Abrams was still blustering when she dropped the pill into his glass. He took the replenished, tainted drink from her as she queried him.
“What assurances do I have, that after the fact, I will actually be sharing all of this opulence with you?”
She thumbed through his CD collection while waiting for his answer. She was astonished to find her favorite, The Cult— Beyond Good and Evil. Bocelli had long since ended, and she replaced his music with hers. She pressed number three and play.
Thaddeus believed he had convinced her to kill his wife. He was feeling safe, and secure, but a little light-headed.
“You don’t get assurances. You simply have to trust me.”
He slurred the last two words. As he finished his drink, Lori watched his small head take control. She walked over to him and knelt down at his feet. With perfection, she played the role of seductress.
“After the evil, I feel release, freedom. It feels good, better than sex.”
She paused to let his imagination run wild.
“Daddy taught me. He taught me how to be a bad little girl. Do you want to see? Just thinking about it makes me so hot.”
He felt invincible as he watched her stroke his thighs. He controlled her, and she was going to give him everything he ever dreamed of. The room spun around once, twice then out of control. He blacked out, returned in a haze, and blacked out again. When he briefly came to, he tried pushing her away, but the push was limp. Fighting her was pointless. He lost advantage. His arms flailed in random directions, but it was too late. The special evening Dr. Abrams had planned with Lori was over. His last breath included a death rattle. “Thaddeus” was written with his blood on the wall. Before she left, she made sure the room was clean. They found him lying in a pool of his own blood. His severed cock was lying beneath the bloody blade protruding from his heart. Lori had to kill “daddy” again. She succeeded, but still she didn’t climax.
She made the call to 9-1-1 immediately after she found him. A shocked and horrified Mrs. Anna Abrams, barely heard the sirens, or noticed the police officers rushing in. It would be a while until she was not considered the prime suspect, but it was less than an hour since Lori had gone. Ironically, it would be much later when Anna would collect a substantial sum from the insurance company.
His eyes fixed and open, Dr. Abrams became the star of the macabre crime scene. Newton was right. A body at rest tended to stay at rest. The phrase was uttered by at least one of the investigators, sometime during the evening. Most of the personnel present at the investigation knew the doctor, but not one understood why he, of all people, would be the victim of a homicide. At 11:42 P.M., the Medical Examiner pronounced Thaddeus Abrams officially dead.
Edward Fairchild surveyed the crime scene.
“Where is he?”
“Still out on medical leave, Ed,” Harmon said.
“I don’t care. Drag him if you have to.”
It wasn’t that Fairchild was a heartless man. He simply needed the best investigator the department had. Harmon walked off to a less chaotic area, and pretended to make the call on his cell phone. He pretended, because he knew Jake wouldn’t pick up.
Jurisdiction once again passed from local to federal, when Agent Mika Scott arrived. The fact that the victim’s name was written in blood was the reason. To the FBI agents assigned to the case, the murderer had become known as the “Who’s Your Daddy” killer.
* * *
My torn bathrobe open, unshaved, hunched over and drooping like a Neanderthal, I’m pathetic in my current state of existence. Nudged by some unknown force, I reach down, and pick up the morning paper. Flicking it open, I see what I missed while comatose. Rubbing my eyes harder doesn’t help to clear them. The effects of the sleeping pills linger.
Newspapers have always been full of bad news. The big world outside was forever coming apart. There is enough on my plate, with my own little world crumbling, that I can do without reading the paper, but a particular sensational headline clears my cloudy vision.
Local Psychiatrist Murdered
Dr. Thaddeus Abrams, prominent local psychiatrist, was found murdered by his wife Anna. Special Agent Mika Scott with the Federal Bureau of Investigation was quoted as saying


Ouch, I didn’t like Abrams much as a person, or a shrink, but he was all I had. The article spews the grisly details. My hand slaps my forehead. In my first flashback, she had just arrived at the precinct as a new officer with a ton of spirit, fearlessness, and attitude. She wanted desperately to make the world right. She was never at a loss for words when defending her beliefs. My second flashback was of an incredible intimate moment we shared. Mika was completely unafraid to expose her sensuality and passion. She cherished romance, loving, and being a woman. I loved with her, but I’m a man. I was afraid to take the next step and it cost me.
* * *
Mika hadn’t seen her previous boss since she left for Quantico, and a career with the feds. His hair, since then, had thinned and turned completely white. His familiar political smile still blinded. His cobalt-blue eyes still mesmerized her. Fifty, but built like a burly, young Turk, Ed acknowledged his protĂ©gĂ© inside CID—the Criminal Investigation Division, with a warm hug.
“You look wonderful, Special Agent Scott.”
Fairchild’s reputation for fairness was legendary on the force. As long as you paid attention to your safety and well-being on the street, and followed Fairchild’s rules, everything was fine. If you made a mistake and admitted it, he would back you up all the way. If you didn’t confess your sin, Ed made sure you were in Hell. He made you an example. It was rare anyone repeated the same mistake.
He took Mika under his wing when she arrived fresh out of the academy. It was his intention to protect her from the wolves. She was as attractive, as the day she first arrived for duty in a wholesome, didn’t-need-makeup kind of way. Most of her contemporaries found her to be a hardened, clawed feline, until they got to know her. Ed just thought she was determined and feisty.
She mouthed a humble “thank you” and then was caught off guard by the change in his demeanor and tone.
“And just what the hell do you think you’re doing pulling jurisdiction over my people, My guys are more than capable of solving this case,” Ed said.
“Besides why so much interest in a local murder from the FBI?”
She tried to ease the blow, but wasn’t about to be steamrolled either.
“Ed, have you been following this on CNN? The M.O. is the same in every case. The victims are prominent, powerful, authoritative men from congressmen, to Catholic priests, and now a psychiatrist. Our killer is off and running. The murders are coming closer together. I have a string of murders that cross state lines. That’s why the FBI is involved.”
Harmon, with a case file tucked under his arm, interrupted their meeting when he saw her. Harmon was a big man. With a single hand, he could crush the skull of a human being. He liked to say that he had a Rice Krispie punch. Snap--the head goes back. Crackle--the facial bones crack. Pop--down he goes never to come back. He affectionately raised Mika off her feet in a big bear hug. After placing her back on the earth, he looked her up and down. She was Jake’s partner before him.
“Mika, you’re looking good momma. What are you doing here? Come back to steal my boy away?”
The three former compatriots laughed aloud, each reliving cherished memories in their own thoughts. As the laughter ceased, an uneasy silence surrounded them.
“How is he?” Mika said.
Blackwell and Fairchild exchanged quick looks. It didn’t require great intelligence to know something wasn’t right. Harmon did his best to answer.
“Good...yeah, good...well, maybe not good, but—okay. I mean, well maybe not okay, I mean.”
He sounded like Mr. Kimble tripping over his thoughts in the television show, Green Acres. He saw the concern grow in her face.
“He took a hard fall. It’s not been pretty, but you know Jake, he’ll pull through.”
Fairchild interrupted Harmon.
“Did you make the call?
“No answer. I’m going there right after this. I’ll give it my personal, face-to-face sir, and report back with said subject with all due haste. In fact, I’m out of here.”
Harmon rotated in the opposite direction, but didn’t leave until he gave Mika another workplace squeeze.
“Later, baby.”
Fairchild watched Mika watch Harmon head down the corridor. When she turned back toward him, he just shrugged.
“Come on, Mika, I’ve got a lot of work to do if I have to baby sit the FBI.”
She looked back down the corridor.
“Right, there’s a lot of work to do.”
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Chapter 3

3
The medical examiner, a gremlin of a man in his early sixties, was anxious to explain the special nuances of performing an autopsy to his newest assistant. The enthusiastic young student hung on every syllable as if his career depended on it. It did.
“You can hear what they’re saying if you know how to listen,” Moss said.
“A forensic pathologist is a physician trained in criminal investigation. Are you writing this down?”
Few of the other medical professionals there paid any attention to the gremlin anymore. He craved the spotlight, so they let him break in the new ones. The clinical and dire setting of the morgue caused Dr. Moss to do his best to keep it as upbeat as could, to take the edge off. The tiled room was Antarctica, with extra-bright lights in the ceiling. The two of them wore Plexiglas visors. The chemical smell, the discoloration of the human skin, and the fact a man had been murdered was just some of the gruesome details they had to deal with.
As he spoke into the microphone hanging over the cold, dead man lying on the even colder stainless steel examination table, a recording of his findings was made. For some stupid reason, the man would mimic a Gestapo voice then he would lean over the cadaver’s mouth as if the dead could answer.
“How are you feeling today, a little achy, muscles stiff? Got a little gas?”
He thought he was hilarious. With scalpel in hand, Dr. Moss proceeded with the “Y” incision. He recited the exact location of the incision he was making.
“Left shoulder, drag, split the nips, raise, and right shoulder.”
It sounded like a workout video, or dance instructions. Moss glanced at his new recruit to see if he was still standing. Most observers fainted, or dropped to the floor to puke. From the right shoulder, he started another deep incision that continued straight down toward the genitals. In this case, the victim’s genitals were missing from their original location, and lying in a plastic bag at the end of the table. The assistant followed closely with his nose noting the escaping gas from the body cavity wasn’t as strong as it should have been. When queried about it, Moss explained the open wound had allowed most of the gases to escape at the crime scene.
Moss also explained the difference between a slash, and stab knife attack. The student simply looked on and didn’t seem fazed at all. Moss figured he’d surely get to him when he reached in with both hands and popped the victim’s brain out later. If the “Y” incision didn’t get them, popping brain always did. Moss waited for a laugh when he said he might take the man’s larger organ home to surprise his wife. None came. Dr. Moss could only hope his next assistant had a sense of humor. The job was tough enough without one.
“What do you think God would say about what we’re doing?” the student said.
Dr. Moss stopped, held the scalpel straight up, and considered the question. Then he let loose.
“There is no God. I couldn’t do what I do, if I believed there was. People do horrible things to each other all of the time. Nothing stops them. If there was a loving, all-knowing, merciful God, why would He allow that?”
The student considered Moss’s answer. He wisely let it go. Their visors met.
“You’re right, doctor, there is no God.”
The future pathologist nodded toward the forensic pathologist who wasn’t quite sure if the assistant was for real, or just jerking him. It didn’t matter. It was time to get back to the gruesome task he had started. A murderer was running loose on the outside. Moss needed to finish the autopsy. After the “Y” incision, Moss began sectioning the organs. Tissue color and stomach contents were next. A ladle was used to scoop out the contents of the stomach. Plain brown paper bags wrapped around both hands were removed. The CST’s had bagged them to preserve fingerprints, and any other evidence present beneath the fingernails. There didn’t appear to be any defensive wounds. Moss made a special note.
Identification in this particular case was not in question. Dr. Moss knew Thaddeus Abrams personally. Moss agreed that dental x-rays for identification would be overkill, but he still planned to have the forensic odontologist make an impression. He thought that statement was hysterical, so he laughed. The student just nodded.
Well into his first autopsy, Moss’s assistant mentally prepared himself for what was coming next. He had heard it was dreadful, but it would not compare to what he witnessed. Moss moved to the head of the table. A body was a body, but a face was different. Less than twenty-four hours earlier, words had come out of the mouth, and thoughts circulated in the dead man’s head. The smile on his face distinguished the man from others. After making an incision along the curvature of Abrams’s hairline, Moss folded back the face. With the electric saw elevated, he buzzed through the skull. A fine white dust filtered up into the surrounding airspace. It was similar to working on a home project in the garage. Archaic as it seemed, Moss chiseled away the skullcap. It made a popping sound and flew up. The assistant caught it inflight. Out came Abrams’s brain and Moss held it up to the light as if he had delivered a child.
The student felt like retching, but needed the job. He remained standing. He also wondered if there were any last thoughts trapped inside the exposed brain. Completing the autopsy, Moss and the new kid labeled the blood, saliva and semen samples. DNA would be analyzed. All Thomas Moss had to do was write the report, which would cross the desk of his impatient and easily annoyed boss. The demands of the position made the coroner a man who wouldn’t hesitate for a second to impale anyone who approached him at the wrong time, with shoddy work.
* * *
The cacophony outside Ed’s office door included scratching computer printers, humming computer terminals, ringing telephones, and fax machines. The “homelesscide” were there too--homicide detectives with no home lives because they were dedicated. They scurried from desk to desk, while conspiring to stop the bad boys. The third-floor residence of the homicide division was chaotic. It always was. Ed loved everything about it. He was the glue that held it all together. Framed over his desk were the words “Myth of Full Enforcement.” They were in bold red letters. It was a constant reminder to him that not all of the law was applied equally to everybody, and in spite of all of the efforts of the good guys, some of the bad boys would get away. It was ugly and dirty out there on the street, but he did his best to make it all work. He shouted from his office door. Heads rose and it got quiet fast.
“People. I want you to go out of the box on this one, beyond basic police work. Above all, keep your heads. Do not, I repeat, do not jeopardize this investigation in any way. This is part of a federal investigation, and I don’t want this department to look incompetent in front of the feds.
He paused.
“Also, most of us knew Dr. Abrams. He’s been a friend of this department for years. He has been there for many of us when we needed him. For that, and for the sake of his wife, Anna, I want this perp found and brought to justice. Now you all have work to do. I want all detectives in briefing room A in ten minutes.”
They scattered like ants with their heads down, each multitasking. All detectives within earshot of Fairchild’s command hustled to the briefing room. Special Agent Mika Scott stood outside room A’s doorway. Ed joined her there. Fairchild marveled to her.
“The place has filled up since you left, with energetic, aggressive females proving they can do the same job as a man.”
“Do you have a problem with that?” Mika said.
“Should I?”
He thought about it a moment then shrugged. “The complaining is the same.”
Beneath the bright, buzzing, fluorescent ceiling lights, Fairchild asked her if she thought it was quite a climb to the third floor. He was referring to the floor they were on, and the elevator that the architect neglected to add because the city refused to pay for it. She didn’t care about the elevator.
“It’s a tougher climb into a man’s world.”
“Get anything out of the National Crime Database?” Ed said.
“I checked right before I came up. Nothing we didn’t already have.”
“You can start without me. I’ve got some calls to make.”
Ed watched his subordinates file past then disappeared into his office. Mika walked confidently into the briefing room. Another FBI agent followed her in and quickly took a seat after closing the door behind him. The male detectives in attendance noted Mika’s striking features and strut. One whispered to another.
“Monumental pair of credentials.”
“And an amazing pair of qualifications.”
The rest surmised she was sharp, intelligent and prepared. Taking the hint from the second agent, everyone sat down and stopped talking.
“Good morning. My name is Mika Scott. I’m a special agent and profiler with the FBI. I even worked right here for Captain Fairchild at one time.”
She added a stern warning.
“If any of you harbor any 'misogyny’ keep it to yourselves. For those of you with a limited vocabulary, that means a hatred of women as a group. We have something far more important to deal with than gender squabbles.”
She looked at each of them to reinforce her point.
“We want to apprehend a serial killer before he kills again.”
Both female detectives present gave a thumbs-up.
“Our most conservative estimates state that murder is on the rise across the nation. Serial killing, in particular, is becoming a national pastime. Humans are natural predators. Up until recently that predatory nature has been controlled, and kept in check by law, religion and television. Our over-entertained society seems bored with simulated death. Now there are calls for televised reality executions on death row.”
She paged through her notes.
“Background, you should know. Serial killers come from all occupations. You would suspect they are psychotic, or deranged, and some are, but mostly they are your everyday variety human, with a significantly low score in the feelings and compassion categories. Some of them actually believe what they are doing is normal and justified. I see a hand.”
A male detective had an observation he wanted cleared up.
“You seem highly emotional about this case, Agent Scott.”
“Yes, I am. I’ve been with the families of the victims--all of them. They want closure. Our killer is increasing his activity. The various crime scenes I’ve ben to, suggest sadistic tendencies with sexual overtones. I want this one stopped and put away.”
Another agent slipped into the room and stood off to the side deferring to Mika. He was holding some papers. She smiled at him then studied the detective’s faces for reactions.
“Statistically, eighty-five percent are male; eighty-two percent Caucasian; fifteen percent are African-American; a mere two-point-five Hispanic and the remainder is Native American or Asian. They’re normally between the ages of twenty-two and fifty years old. Eighty-seven percent are loners. It’s rare to find one that is McNaughten Rule insane.”
Ed spots me as he leaves the briefing room, and makes his way toward his office. I just entered through the double doors at the end of the corridor. He waves me over. Along the way, I say hello to several of my peers before reaching his doorway. The grip of his handshake is firm. Some guys feel the need to turn it up hard to establish control early on, but not Ed. His eyes are those of a professional hunter and warrior--eyes that see you in a crowded stadium. They were eyes that noted every characteristic, scar and tattoo. Standing before him, you could almost see the mental notes he was writing in perfect penmanship.
“Roberts, you’re abusing the payroll.”
“Stealing is a necessary form of survival. Steal a little, all of the time. Steal a lot, and do the time.”
“You’re a lawman,” Ed said.
He isn’t quiet during all of this. Most of the department is listening in on our private talk. Using well-chosen words from his body language, Fairchild sits on the edge of his desk and towers over me. There is no doubt he is in command. I take it all in, the sights, the sounds and the smoke from his cigar.
“Did you got your act together yet?”
It’s clear to me that my tactic of blatant disrespect, isn’t working and wearing him down like I thought it would. I'm no longer too proud to try for sympathy, so I go for the man’s heart.
“I can’t seem to shake the nightmares, feel like I’m on my seventh, eighth and maybe even my ninth wind. She was a kid, Ed.”
He puffs and the smoke rises and disperses into the fluorescent lights.
“So were the two jerk-off kids from Columbine, what did they have? Semiautomatics and Uzis! Fuck her. You play hard, you die hard.”
Fairchild’s been around. I’m not going to get anywhere with him. He gets off the edge of his desk, and does an end run back to his high-backed leather chair, where he positions himself for more intimidation of me. He leans forward.
“I want you on this case. I need a problem solver with initiative.”
“What you’re asking of me is hard.”
“Yes it is, but it’s the hard that matters.”
He stares me down. He prepares to hit me with the next punch.
“You’ll be working with Mika.”
“That’s impossible, we still have issues.”
“Get over it.”
I think about her. I always felt at peace when I was with her. She knows all of my secrets, weaknesses. She understands my inner, whining child. Mika somehow knows how to heal me. She is calm water to my battling raging seas. I need her more than ever.
Fairchild interrupts my thoughts.
“Don’t you have something more important to do besides harass an old man?”
I fight back the word no. Ed shuffles papers on his desk. I ask meekly as I get up and head for the door.
“Where is she?”
“Briefing room A, remember where it is? Glad to have you back, Jake. You’re one of the best. I need you, son.”
Whatever small amount of pride I have left begins ever so slightly to grow. I leave without saying another word. Without signaling, I cut into an open lane in the hallway’s rush hour traffic. Taking the off ramp to the briefing room, I feel as if I had been gone more than just a few days. As the door to the briefing room opens, everybody looks to see who is brainless enough to show up late. I take a seat in the back, close to the door as I can get. After my butt is in the chair, Mika restarts the briefing. I can only hope she notices the sentimental look in my eyes.
“Our serial killer is geographically transient, like a Theodore Bundy, or Henry Lee Lucas. He’s intelligent, and has kept us guessing. He’s done his homework. He is familiar with our methods and tactics. The crime scenes are clean, antiseptic actually. Two things tie them all together. One, the victim’s first name is written above the head in the victim’s blood. Two, the victim’s genitalia is castrated.”
A hand is seen in the front row.
“Castrated?”
He made a notation on his legal pad as he spoke. He’s new to homicide. He believes it was the perfect time to establish a rapport with Mika. Besides, Mika is hot, and he wanted to hear her say more about the victim’s genitals in her sexy voice.
“Can you expand on that, Agent Scott?”
Having spent a great deal of her career among the lower animals of the species, well aware of how juvenile they become whenever sex was the subject, Mika answered unnerved.
“The perp cuts off the victim’s dick, detective.”
She waited, knowing what was coming next.
“Thank you, Agent Scott. Would it be true then our perp is not only a murderer, but a homosexual as well?”
“Very possible, detective. Do you have any special insight to offer us about such tendencies?”
She was clearly the top seed in the match. The paralyzed detective was left without a witty retort. The rest of the group proceeded to harass him with conjecture, catcalls, and whistles. After they settled down, Mika drove home the more gruesome details for our digestion.
“Our perpetrator appears to be motivated by anger, hate, and a desire to dominate. It’s likely he experienced physical, or sexual abuse early on in his life, and is seeking revenge for it. Usually serial killers are control freaks, just like most of you.”
That one did not go over well, but she wasn’t interested in their affection as much as their respect. She softened the blow.
“Well, like all of us.”
Their startled faces smoothed out.
“The murders are brutal and savage. He inflicts psychological punishments along with physical punishments. The victim struggles and our boy gets off on it.”
She scanned the room.
“Any more questions?”
I know better, I really do, but I can’t stop. It’s like a joke that rumbles around inside your head and has to be let out. I raise my hand. She has no choice, but to call on me.
“Yes detective?”
“Did they teach you all of that in Quantico?”
I ask with a perfect touch of sarcasm. She gives me the arctic stare. Fortunately for me, Fairchild walks in and interrupts with his usual philosophical speech regarding incarceration.
“And none of them ever finds Jesus, or has a change of heart, until they are in the slammer and somebody’s wife.”
He is the Chief, so he gets applause and thumbs up.
“Yeah, yeah, you have a copy of all the current data in those files in front of you. Get out there and make me proud.”
* * *
She floated with her eyes closed. Her toes protruded from the calm water like two miniature periscopes. Her outstretched arms waved slightly. There was no one else around. The water was warm and soothing. All she wanted was to float on her back down stream forever. She was completely relaxed, more relaxed than she had been for quite some time. The feel of the water wasn’t right. It felt more like oil, or syrup.
She opened her eyes to look at it and saw she was floating in a sea of blood. Startled, Lori awoke from her deep sleep, and quickly looked at the red digital numbers of the alarm clock on the nightstand. They said it was 3:23 A.M.
Where am I?
The room was dark, except for some light coming from the street through the crack in the curtains. It was a common occurrence for someone who traveled as much as a flight attendant. Often crews experience a momentary loss in space and time. Cities and hotels, dates and time zones, become a blur.
Oh yeah, Philadelphia.
Lori thought about the dream of floating in blood. She knew the psychological ramifications of it. It was amazing how the subconscious worked. Knowing it would be difficult to fall back to sleep again until her 5:00 A.M. wake-up call, she decided to read. The only thing available was a magazine she had found left behind by a passenger on her flight.
The magazine, MAXIM, had an article about bizarre murders. Lori used the article as a source of reference, or comparison, to see how far she had gone over the edge. She had read right before nodding off to sleep.
Erzebet Bathory, Hungarian countess, killed 600 girls, bathed in their blood, and then had her servants lick her clean.
Gilles de Rais, French protector of Joan of Arc, killed 800 boys and then performed necrophilia acts on their bodies.
Roman rulers had wild animals ravage humans, while the empress Messalina would masturbate. From previous research, she learned that ritual killing was performed in order to consume the better human qualities of the dead. What wasn’t clear was whether the bad qualities were swallowed, along with the good. She laughed aloud when she read about revenge murder. The husband had put his wife in the oven, and baked her. When the police arrived, he was found laughing hysterically. She thought about her abusive ex-husband.
* * *
The look on her face told me I was in deep trouble. The pointed toe and lean on the hip punctuated by the crossed arms. Yeah, I was going to get it good. I was going on trial right there in the hallway in front of my peers. Legal counsel would not be provided. Contrite sounded like a good approach right now, a good suggestion.
“Good to see you, Mika. Harmon told me you were here.”
It feels like I’m ten years old again. Inside my cranium, I watch the stream of words forming into sentences then slide toward my mouth. Each of them is carefully scrutinized by some kind of verbal-quality-assurance mini-Jake. Then the motion picture of one particular night we shared begins. The opening credits warn me about the rating.
Her thrusts made the wind spill from my lungs. Her contractions were powerful.
Establishing some common ground by rebuilding on our past relationship might have helped, but she sensed it coming, and her eyes said not to go there. What I should do is fall on my knees to the hallway floor and beg her for forgiveness. I decide to drop the personal and go with the practical.
“Look, I believe we can still work together, we’re professionals. And, I think we’re still friends.”
I take my shot. Shifting her weight, she rotates to a more controlling stance. Her raised eyebrows scrunches down and rest over a serious face. She looks stunning in her business suit.
Stop it, Jake,
“Did you have to belittle me in front of them?”
The level of anger in her voice is deafening, but the words are a forced whisper through grit teeth. A strong retort would help, but the basic male grunt comes out.
“Huh?”
“I have a job to do, and it doesn’t help one damn bit for you to walk in late and make wiseass remarks.”
The best thing would be to take the high road and apologize. The worst is to disregard my inner sensitive female, and let my testosterone speak for me.
“Why did you leave, Mika?”
I reject the high road. I use a tactic I learned long ago, probably as long ago as in a classroom with the nuns. If asked a difficult question, buy time by asking a question. I also want to hear her answer, again. Mika’s eyebrows crunch and she gives me an “I gave you a chance” expression. She answers with an annoying, rising inflection used by teenage girls.
“Because Jake, you had a significant issue with commitment.”
It worked. I use it on Fairchild and it always works. It worked on the street during investigations. My briefing room behavior is now the furthest thing from her mind.
“And don’t try that ask-a-question nonsense with me--I know you.”
On the outside, I simply raise both eyes. On the inside, the bells and whistles look like an arcade.
Run, Jake, run.
“Well what do you expect from a poor Native American boy from a poverty-stricken reservation?”
“Please, are you still using that?”
Turn it up, Jake.
“I guess it started in the orphanage--the commitment thing.”
My smile disappears as my head droops.
“When you start out alone, you don’t think anyone really cares.”
Slowly look up at her, Jake.
“I cared, my parents cared. You just couldn’t see it.”
Her tone is less caustic this time. As a detective, I detect a shift toward sympathetic understanding. I push the envelope.
“You were lucky to have parents, someone to teach you about commitment.”
Mika considers for a moment. Her head twists a little to the side, and her eyes glance down at her conservative 9Wests. Guilt has its good points. A look away enhances the moment.
“My parents have always been there for me.”
She’s almost apologetic. She glances from face to face, as strangers pass us in the corridor, until her eyes lock on mine. I lightly brush her hand.
“Life has a way of punishing us for our mistakes. For the past few years, being without you has punished me. It’s been just me, and me.”
I feel bad about making her feel guilty. I didn’t mean to drive the conversation into this turn. I just went into survival mode, because I’m swinging in the wind. Mika’s voice is gentle and low when she speaks.
“Harmon told me about the girl.”
She takes my hand.
“You did what you had to, but just the same, I’m sorry. If there’s anything I can, well...”
Swallowing hard, I sheepishly continue the attack.
“Listen, I was way out of line in there, and I apologize. It really is good to see you.”
The words I should have used earlier spill out.
“Truth is Jake, I’ve missed you, too.”
Silence, thought, a look, and a dramatic pause pass by.
“But you must understand, I’ve been chasing this guy and I’m obsessed with caging him. Maybe after he’s caught...”
Maybe?
* * *
Mika never exaggerates. What she says is exactly what she means. She also has that uncanny, womanly way of seeing even microscopic details, like picking out a flaw in a diamond. Men can’t do that and miss the details. A man is only cognizant of the big picture after the billboard falls on him. I’m not good at much, but I know details better than most, and I really am good at my job. At least Fairchild thinks so.
“His simplicity clouds his complexity,” Mika says.
My curiosity compels me to ask.
“How do you know the killer’s a male?”
I need to start at the beginning, so I can get a grip on what we are dealing with. For me, I need to place things in a logical order, or into an equation, so I can solve the problem. It’s why Harmon and I fool with science. Cold, hard facts fill in the empty spaces in the equations and timelines.
“A woman couldn’t do this,” Mika says.
She looks at the people, places, and cars going by, but focuses on some metaphysical nothingness beyond them.
“P-M-S?”
I offer it in order to understand. Mika smirks without looking at me.
“That’s how you men see us, don’t you?”
Levity takes the pressure off for me. One minute I’m analyzing blood and guts, and the next I’m doing one-liners on the corpse. It’s the same when I’m in a hospital, or a funeral parlor. The gravity of death brings out a nervous anxiety I have. Abrams probably knows the reason, but he is in no condition to explain it. What I do know is you can only wallow in human suffering for so long before you became cynical, sarcastic--and a comedian. Unless, you killed a girl whose entire life was ahead of her.
We walk past the activity at the front desk where officers move in random directions in search of truth and justice. We push through the main doors of the house and head toward the parking garage. Along the way Mika describes the details of the “Who’s Your Daddy” case. I hang on every word deciphering, and sifting through her suppositions and intuitions about the killer. I guess she did learn a lot in Quantico. She is the expert now. I can learn a lot from her, if I don’t let my ego get in the way. The screeching tires of his unmarked car announce the arrival of Harmon who coincidently severs our path.
“I’m driving, get in.”
Without hesitation, we both grab a door handle and climb in. Mika’s briefing goes uninterrupted, and I pretend not to hear Harmon’s rants.
“I hate when he drives. Man can’t see a stop sign, or a pedestrian. I can’t tell you how close we’ve come to running over everybody in this city, at one time, or another.”
Detective Blackwell is large, and even larger in his opinions, but he is my partner. His abrupt arrival is replaced by a very conservative drive through the crime-breathing back streets. He knows a shortcut as we head toward Abrams’s mansion. Some of the graffiti on the buildings is quite artistic. I recognize some of the tags from my days chasing gangs.
I just saw Abrams two days ago.
“We should have gone the other way. This 'hood’ has never even heard the word 'po-lees’ because the police won’t come in here.”
Harmon was maladjusted to our current location, but he had a reason to be. He knew these streets better than any other cop, because grew up here. While Harmon is concerned, I know he likes to check the working girls in their tight, short skirts and five-inch heels.
“Oh momma, would you look at that?”
His head swings like a gate in the wind.
Mika could care less about the streetwalkers. Ignoring Harmon, she sounds frustrated.
“He’s one step ahead of us all the time.”
“Why do you say that?”
“Each of the crimes scenes, all ten, eleven now, was spotless. Not one single fingerprint has been lifted, except for those that should have been at the scene. There has not been a drop of saliva, semen, or DNA. There are never any witnesses. All that’s ever left behind is that hideous scrawl of victim’s names above the deceased. It creeps me out whenever I see it. Burglary and robbery are never a factor. All jewels, except for the family jewels, are where they should be.”
Mika starts pointing out directions for Harmon, and I start thinking more about the case.
“Why Abrams? What’s the connection? Is there a personal ad for lonely hearts? Was he kinky, perverted, something none of us picked up on over the years?”
As we drive up and into the driveway, I can see he lived well. The residence looks more like a posh hotel. Every house looks huge to a man who lives in a one-bedroom apartment. We aren’t even in the suburbs. Abrams liked to live among the natives and relatively close to the precinct. Mika said a congressman, a union leader, and a priest were some of the characters on the victim list. There did not seem to be a common thread, except for the authority thing. This is going to be interesting, and a challenge.
“Did we get anything helpful back from the 'eternal care unit’?”
A common reference made by investigators, rather than ICU. The difference being, in the Eternal Care Unit, you’re a heartbeat away from setting foot in the next place.
“I think Moss is still digging, at the morgue.”
“The report isn’t due out until later today,” Mika says.
No one is home now. Anna Abrams can’t bear to sleep there. The crime scene has been deserted, since the night of the crime. I missed the initial investigation. The only things left are the insects, the rancid smell, the bloodstains, and the revulsion. I take out my digital recorder and start making entries. I hate using a notepad, because my handwriting is poor to doctor-type unreadable. Besides my arm still has a bullet hole through it and it hurts to write.
The only difference between this scene and the others is the fact the victim was discovered early on. Mrs. Abrams arrived home from her charity function within an hour of his death. Because the time of death is relatively easy to determine in this case, there isn’t any need for an entomologist to “bug” the corpse. Insects typically discovered the body before anyone else did. Depending on whether lice, mosquitoes or maggots got there first, they deposit their eggs in the eyes. The larvae, depending on their state of maturation, can give an exact time of death. Sometimes we get lucky if the mosquitoes get there first and are still in the area. It’s possible to snare them. Often times they carry the DNA of both the victim and killer after the bites. This murder happened inside, so there is little chance of that.
Mika is right, “antiseptic” is a good word for it. The disheveled, trashed, disorganized mess you usually expect to find isn’t here. There are dried bloodstains on the floor. The splatters are the right distance from Abrams. No doors were jimmied, and no windows had been broken. I have to believe Abrams knew his assailant. Fingerprint dust covers everything. No trace evidence such as fragments, filaments, or fibers, was found by the techs. This guy is knowledgeable and talented in the techniques of slaughter. The photos are back at the precinct. Of course, the area is already contaminated. The uniforms, EMS, investigators and even Mrs. Abrams have trampled through here. I wish I had gotten out here sooner.
Mika stands in one corner and takes in the panoramic view. She has been here before for second and third looks. Sometimes what you just don’t see the first time, becomes painfully obvious the next.
“Looks empty without a body, I’m going to walk around outside and work my way in. There might be something between here and there, you never know.”
Harmon walks out into the hallway.
“Who had access?”
The words are meant for my recorder, but Mika answers, while pacing out the room for some reason.
“The wife, there aren’t any children. Closest relative is in Bloomington.”
She thinks she sees something, but it turns out to be nothing.
“The doctor wasn’t particularly friendly with the neighbors. He and Mrs. A traveled mostly outside of the immediate neighborhood, and its inhabitants. There weren’t any fights, or arguments, just no contact.”
“Clean, huh? Not much to work with, maybe Harmon will find something,” Mika says.
Any evidence, however minute, helps. Evidence doesn’t lie. The problem with it is. It can be misleading if your interpretation of what it is trying to tell you is wrong. This case is definitely going to take all of my stamina, because of the lack of leads. It’s going to take street smarts and intuition I have accumulated over the years. I speak into my recorder.
“Don’t look for what’s there. Look for what should be there.”
The sound of heavy footsteps signals Harmon’s return. He glances first at me then at Mika.
“I didn’t see a thing.”
“Did you dumpster dive?”
“First place I looked, nothing.”
“What a surprise.”
The sarcasm in Mika’s voice betrays her normally cool exterior.
“You want to run through it?”
Harmon and I join in an affirmative nod. Mika runs through it all hoping that some minute detail has been overlooked.
“Abrams, Thaddeus, psychiatrist, age forty-six, Caucasian male, married to Anna. Case number: CR 897-4453. Address is here, six foot even, one hundred ninety pounds, brown hair, green eyes and small scar on right elbow. Victim found by spouse who has been eliminated as a suspect. Head facing northwest, face up, feet to the south and southwest, hands and feet secured as previous victims.”
Harmon rolls his dark eyes and scrunches his face when she says the part about the castration. I can feel a phantom wound between my legs as well.
The first forty-eight hours are critical to a homicide investigation. I’m standing here at the forty-ninth.
* * *
It’s been three days since Abrams’s murder. As an insider, and a man considered one of their own, Abrams is talked about in the precinct with affection and honor. There are outpourings of sympathy for Anna. How could anyone know his soul was thrashing and burning in the flames of hell at this very moment?
My two partners drop me off at my apartment just after our visit to the mansion. It’s late and I’m exhausted. I’m having trouble keeping my eyes open. My troublesome nightmares, return to duty, and seeing Mika again, all in one day has drained me. I can’t decide what beat me up worse. The pain in my arm is still there, but not as bad. My little helpers are easily accessible and a cold beer helps. Sometimes, being alone can be too quiet. As I recline on my couch, I think about getting my television repaired, but most of the shows suck anyway. I never shop from home, never cared about the Middle East, or the fabricated lives of movie stars, and I definitely don’t care about over-paid ballplayers. There are always the depressing news channels, but I deal with real life. I get all the entertainment I need on the streets.
On the end table, beneath my Glock, is a vacation brochure that reads:
“A small, rural town in Central Florida, Cassadaga attracts thousands of visitors each year for one unique reason. It’s a camp and winter retreat for spiritualists... Current activities in the camp include psychic applications of: palmistry, Tarot reading, astrology, and numerology, past life regression, dream analysis, spiritual counseling and soul healing.”
Maybe a psychic can tell me who killed Abrams. I toss the brochure into the stack of old newspapers headed for the Waste Management dumpster. I’m anticipating, which nightmare will haunt and punish me, when I lay my head on my pillow. I hate waking up in a cold sweat in a dark room. I force my eyes to stay open but they fight me and win. In the middle of the night, a nightmare, once again, takes center stage.
The auburn-haired girl with the swastika carved in her forehead stares at me as she does every night. She asks me the same question, “Who gave you the right to kill me?”
I never have an answer for her.
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