The Attic forum: Group Story #2: CHASE
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|Welcome to our second group story: CHASE.
Here are the writers and the order in which they will write:
Each writer will have 2 full days to complete his/her segment.
Writers, if you need to pass your turn please let us know so that the next writer on the list will know to pick it up and move on.
We hope you enjoy the story, feel free to comment on this comment thread:
|CHASE ⓒ 2010
Chase Williams watched. He stood, straight backed, head held high, hands clenched, eyes wide open. If one looked closely, a glimmer of a tear followed the crease in his jaw. He stood, still as stone, and very nearly as gray.
This was not going to be the end of his world. No. His world would go on until he took the life of the one who had destroyed his. He did not listen as his pastor said the final prayer.
His coal black eyes shifted from side to side. The breeze ruffled his sun lightened brown hair. The glint of the sun reflecting off the memorial stones caused him to squint. He lifted his hand and found his sunglasses in the inside pocket of the navy blue suit jacket, the same suit he’d worn to his wedding. They’d help, the glasses would, in more ways than one. Let his audience think what they wanted, and let his eyes wander and tear. It didn’t matter anymore.
It was hard to believe he’d just celebrated his 33rd birthday with Jenn last weekend. They’d partied until Jenn begged to go home. She was in her 5th month, and the pregnancy had slowed her down a little, but not enough to keep her from enjoying the fizzy grape juice the server kept pouring and the matching party hats they both wore. The server had taken pictures of them, and Jenn had stayed up long enough to upload them to their computer. She’d even emailed them to all their friends, with the message: “Life begins at 33!” and included the announcement that they were finally pregnant.
The irony wasn’t lost on Chase. Jenn hadn’t even made it to 30.
They’d spent the next day, a long slow Sunday, watching old movies on TV. Jenn curled up next to him on the sofa and they nibbled cold pizza through the afternoon, Chase resting his hand on Jenn’s slightly rounded belly.
Monday came and Chase left early to go to the Jeffersontown precinct, where he and the other two investigators met every Monday morning to review the cases they were working on. Jenn was getting ready for her day at the salon she owned, she’d said she had two perms scheduled, but would have the afternoon free. She’d asked if he would meet her at the children’s shop at Oxmoor Mall. She’d seen a wonderful round crib that she knew their baby girl was going to love. Chase asked her how she knew Baby Girl would love a round crib, and Jenn had patted her rounded belly and said with a grin: “She told me so.”
Chase and Jenn were high school sweethearts. They met when he was a senior football star and she was a freshman cheerleader. Surprisingly enough they did not meet at a sports event, they met when Chase was elected Student Council president and Jenn was elected class representative. They dated occasionally that year, but Chase graduated and went on to the University of Louisville on an academic scholarship with his heart set on a law degree.
They continued to date occasionally, and as Chase finished law school, Jenn completed a hair styling course in Louisville. Both of them loved their career choices, and both decided to remain in the Louisville area just as easily as they decided to build a life together.
Looking down now as the men lowered the casket into the dark ground, Chase couldn’t remember a time before Jenn. The tears continued to trickle down the creases in his face. He grabbed hold of his thoughts and dragged them back to the question that crowded his mind like a heavy mountain. Who killed Jenn and the baby she carried?
He’d broadened his law career by joining the precinct, becoming the youngest lead detective in Jefferson County. He thought at the time that it was the best way to help his community, he wanted to always be one of the good guys. He loved his job, but had it lead to Jenn’s death? He wasn’t working on such a tough case at the moment, and certainly nothing that involved Jenn. A detective only solves a crime, he doesn’t dole out punishment, he doesn’t put a man directly behind bars. Why was Jenn killed?
Chase felt a light touch on his arm, he turned to see the long blond hair of Jenn’s best friend, Layla.
“Chase, I’m heartbroken, I loved her, too, you know. “
“I know, Layla, I know you did. You were a good friend to her.”
“Chase, do you have anybody with you this afternoon? You don’t need to be alone. Would you like to join me at the club? Our friends will be there, most have already left now, and it’s time for us to leave too.”
Chase looked around the cemetery, realizing now that only he and Layla remained. He had not planned to be alone, he’d planned to get back to his office and see what his detectives had found. Jenn had been shot in the head from behind as she entered her salon. Her first client had found her. Chase’s coworkers had scoured the building for evidence that might lead to her killer, but Chase needed to talk with them. It had only been two days, but a lot of evidence can be collected in that time. He needed some time with his men.
“Sorry, Layla, but I need to get back to the office now. You go on and enjoy your afternoon,” Chase said as he turned to walk down to his car. He was glad he’d chosen the spot on the hill beneath the maple tree. It was one of the most peaceful spots in the cemetery. Jenn would have loved the beauty that surrounded her.
As he walked away, Layla took one last look at the burial spot, leaned over to pluck a dark red rose from the blanket of roses that lay at the foot of Jen’s grave, then turned her blue eyes in Chase’s direction. She dropped the rose as she walked away, a single tear glistened in the sunlight on her cheek.
As he drove to the office, Chase thought of the funerals of his parents some time ago. He was an only child and their deaths had hurt his heart, but he’d had Jenn to share the pain. Jenn was an only child, too, one who had never known her dad, but had been raised by her mom and her grandmother. Neither of them was living now, so Chase was without immediate family. Jenn had been his whole world. He drove on toward his office, tears gone, determination taking their place. Why would anyone kill his Jenn?
He entered the unusually quiet precinct building.
“No messages,” said Robyn at the front desk. “I’m so sorry, Chase, so very sorry.”
Quiet followed him back to his tiny cubicle of an office. He sat at his desk, held the framed picture of a laughing Jenn. He put his head in his hands.
“Hey Chase,” said his best friend, Rory, “ You doin’ OK?”
“Yeah, just fine, Roar, just fine. Found anything yet?”
“Not much, Chase. We know the bullet’s path, we know it was a straight shot, and we know Jenn never felt fear or pain.”
“But clues, Roar, clues…..did you find any evidence, anything, a hair, a footprint, anything?”
“Nothing at all, man, only the fact that the trajectory of the bullet was straight, from back to front. That’s all we know for sure.”
“But what’s not so sure? What? Tell me?” demanded Chase.
“I told you all I can tell you, Chase. That’s all I know. It was a straight, clean shot. There is no other evidence,” said Rory.
Again, Chase gripped his hands in his head, his eyes on the face of his love, Jenn.
“I’ll find the killer, Rory, I WILL find the killer.”
|It was late when Chase, emotionally drained and exhausted, got home. Walking in the door he was overwhelmed by the empty rooms still carrying her scent. Her ghost? "Nah," he thought, "no such thing. No way, no how!" But. What was that sound?
The fridge was just as empty as when he last looked that morning, before the funeral. Food that should have been thrown out days ago sat on the same shelves, in the same bags, just getting older. Chase decided he could do something to feel accomplished and he set about cleaning, dumping containers, tossing bags of veggies spoiling in the crisper. The thought that Jenn had chosen, paid for and carried them home in her arms made him want to keep them forever. While he considered this dilemma he broke down into spasms of tears.
"What right does anyone have to kill Jenn?" he sobbed. "What twisted mind would want to hurt her?" It made no sense at all.
In his anger and grief he missed the first two rings of the phone. He caught it on the third. Still shaky he managed a rough, "Hello."
"Chase, it’s Layla. You OK?"
Annoyed, yet in a way relieved, he relaxed a bit and took a deep breath. Before answering he splashed cold water on his face….
"Chase, Chase are you there? What’s wrong?"
"I’m Ok, Layla…just needed to dry my hands," he said. He really didn’t want her to know he had broken down. He didn’t want anyone to know how weak and vulnerable he really felt.
"Can I do anything for you, Chase? Can I help in any way?" she asked, in a friendly, warm tone. "Of course, you probably just want to be alone……"
"Yes, Layla, I just want to be alone. I know you hurt too, but right now I have to pull myself through this. Thanks." And he hung up the receiver, gently.
Grabbing a cold beer, he walked to the den. Their den. No, his den. There was no more their, just his. With Schumann playing softly on NPR, he was amazed at his ‘aloneness’ and how totally isolated and detached he felt. His emotions, senses, tolerances for temperature and sound had completely vanished and he watched himself with amusement as he gazed numbly at his hands holding the cold can of beer he couldn’t even feel.
"I have to get myself together," Chase mumbled to himself, "I simply can’t fall apart like this. I have to make this right, I have to find Jenn’s killer. I need to find out why this horrible thing happened."
Suddenly Chase found himself thinking about the time before he and Jenn were married, before they ‘cemented’ their commitment to each other, when there would be long periods of no contact. Jenn had joined with Volunteer Group working with poverty-ridden sectors in East Los Angeles, working with the kids to get them off the streets and into social learning groups/structures. Jenn would be away for months and really unable to communicate the poverty and deprivation she was trying to work within. She was working with the kids, and with pregnant mothers who were victims of domestic violence and abuse. She was surround by a rough crowd, speaking a language she didn’t and within a culture she was not part of.
Grasping the memories and trying to wring from them some solace, he thought of Molly, Jenn’s loving Irish Setter who, after waiting months for her mistress to come home, was hit by a car the day she arrived. To watch Jenn and Molly running in the morning was a beautiful sight to behold, their matching shade of red hair glowing in the early morning sun. It took Jenn a long time to get over Molly’s’ death and, if the truth be known, she never really did get over it. Now Chase wondered…two beautiful creatures taken by ugly circumstances. Why?
The sight shocked him as he looked at the clock – it was late. The table full of beer bottles told him he had been having a lonely party of anguish and self pity.
"Hell," he thought, "I’ve got to get some sleep", and he downed the sleep aide given to him by the Department’s doctor.
He heard Jenn’s voice as he sat up in the tall grass, laughing and singing and the happy bark of a dog. Molly! Oh, my gosh, there they go, running thru the forest…"Wait, wait," he cried, as he stood up and started to follow them. "Wait, Oh please wait for me….wait….wait…" He couldn’t run. He could only stumble, reaching for them as they disappeared.
He woke up on the floor, his legs caught in the crumpled sheets. There was no Jenn. There was no Molly. There was only Chase in a cold, silent dark house. Alone, with only the chalky taste in his mouth to remind him he had eaten no dinner, drank too many beers and stupidly took a pill to sleep.
Stumbling around the bedroom, he became aware of Jenn’s clothes and belongings that were there, waiting for her to come home. Papers, books, jewelry, pictures of the two of them together…the pain started once again in his heart; that 35 thousand ton weight pulling at his soul.
"I simply don’t think I can do this….I can’t. I…… "
Leap. The net will appear.
|Rory kept asking “Chase, how are you doing?”
“Well, you don't look okay, pal, and you know you can talk to me. You should talk to me. You can't keep holding everything in, and it's affecting your job performance. Let's take a day off and go fishing. Being out on the lake always relaxes you, and you've been tied in a knot for a month now. You've gotta let it out, man, or you'll have ulcers soon.”
Two days later they were out on the lake, fishing. Just the two of them. Chase started to relax and talk. “Man, it's been tough. I can't get used to being alone. I smell her perfume, see her jewelery on the dresser, everything is like she just walked out the door and will be back in a few minutes. I start to get dressed and there are her clothes in the closet. I start to ask her something and then realize she isn't there to answer. Walking into the empty house.....” he paused, swallowed hard, adjusted this fishing pole, and just shook his head. Rory waited, saying nothing. “I never did anything this hard in my life”.
Rory and Chase didn't catch any fish that day, but it really didn't matter. They alternately talked and were silent, and it was a good day, the best Chase had had since the day his lovely young wife and their unborn child had been taken from him in an instant. The investigation was continuing, but so far had produced almost nothing. Chase understood that he was not permitted to work on the case, being too close emotionally. That was standard procedure, nothing personal.
So far it appeared that it might be a random crime, maybe a case of mistaken identity, or maybe some gang initiation thing. Talk on the street had not included the subject according to police informants who were gang insiders. Someone from her days of working with street people in LA might have a grudge. There just wasn't much evidence, and those who were aware that someone had been killed did not see anything that would help, they just heard a shot, and most thought it was a car backfiring since there was only one bang. An empty bullet casing had been found in a doorway across the street, the caliber matched the bullet. How could somebody be shot in broad daylight in the business district, and nobody see anything? Sometimes clues take a long time to surface. Maybe there was a witness who was afraid to talk, not wanting to be involved. Chase slammed his fist into his other hand. “Doggone it, Rory, if somebody saw it, they ARE involved!”
By the end of the day, Chase felt more relaxed than he had in weeks, and when the two men went to their own homes, Chase was sure that he would handle being alone just a bit better. That was until he opened the door and started to tell her that he was home. “Honey.......” he realized again that there was no Honey, and never would be again. Well, at least the day on the lake had helped for a while, and it was better than drinking a six-pack alone every evening.
“Chase, you've got to pull yourself together”. Lately he had been saying that a lot. Would it ever get easier?
Albert hadn't been out of the state mental hospital long. Lacking money, he went home to his widowed mother's house, and found that she had turned his bedroom into a sewing room, and his sister's bedroom into a work area for the various crafts that occupied her time in these later years. So, thinking it would be a very temporary situation, he said no problem and slept on the couch. The living room was pleasant to him, with dark curtains that kept the room private. His mother seldom used it anymore, and he felt comforted by the old grand piano. His friend the piano, strong and silent, never asking anything of him, never chastising him, always there. He remembered playing under that piano as a child and even taking naps under it. When he was sad or upset, he would hide there.
Trying to adjust to life again after 2 years in that very abnormal place with all those disturbed people wasn't easy. He'd looked for a job but when asked about the long period of unemployment, he had a hard time explaining. Jobs were scarce and somebody else always got the job. His Doctor had prescribed pills to help him cope with the ups and downs of life outside of the hospital, and he felt okay, so when the bottles were empty he didn't go back to the Doctor to get another prescription. It didn't take long before dark thoughts returned and he heard voices again. When that happened he mostly retreated into his own private hideout and spent the days and nights there.
It was a safe place unless the doorbell rang and his mother answered and made excuses to her friends for why she couldn't ask them in. The painter's drop-cloth over the grand piano wasn't much protection from the nosy one who tried to see past his mother. Most of the time his mother left him alone, only asking him at mealtime if he would come up to the table to eat with her since she didn't like eating alone. Usually he said no, and she would hand him his plate. When she asked if he needed to see the Doctor and get more pills, he said no. She got the same response concerning his lack of a job and failure to seek one after the first few weeks. Often he felt like a child again, hiding under the giant grand where it was safe and dark. The drapes behind it were only opened when his mother chose to play the piano, so that the sunlight wouldn't cause the wood to discolor. She didn't play it much any more, never when he was under it, and so it had become his private refuge.
Always in the dark recesses of his mind there was the red haired girl who had turned him down when he asked her to go to a movie with him in high school. It had taken him months to gather the courage to ask her. He'd been so crushed he had never again spoken to her or ever gathered the courage to ask any other girl for a date, and then summer came and he hadn't known where she had gone.
Without a job or any other responsibility, one day just morphed into another. He spent most of his time sleeping, and sometimes would wake during the night, slip quietly out the door and walk around the neighborhood, retreating behind bushes or garbage cans when a car came past. Police cars especially bothered him, police were unpredictable, asking him questions about where he lived or why he was out on the street at 3am. Yet, until or unless they arrested him for some crime, he tolerated them and became quite adept at staying out of their sight. Dogs were the biggest problem, they followed him and barked, making it harder for him to hide, so he sat on the curb in some dark shadow and made friends with the dogs, but was always watchful for those cars. Before daylight he would be back under the piano. He seldom used the couch now, preferring the comfort of his cave. It was mostly a peaceful existence, apart from the hide and seek game with the police.
Eventually he became so good at the hide and seek game that he thought he was invisible and therefore could go out in the daytime seeking the right opportunities. Red was his target color. Young, female, alone, red hair. Beyond that he didn't care, they had all rejected him. Finding the pistol while snooping through his late father's things in the garage had served to put his thoughts into action. He and his father had done some target practicing, and Albert was a good shot. He had tried to enlist in the Army to become a sharpshooter, but was turned down because of his mental problems.
Seeking to help her son find a job, and not knowing what else to do since he wouldn't talk to her, his mother gave him the daily paper to read and went back to her sewing room or outside to tend her gardens, it was all she could do. Strange as it was, she thought it was good to have some other soul in the house, even if he was a bit different. ***
Of all the things I've lost, I miss my mind the most.
More ramblings at http://thegatheringplacehome.myfastforum.org/forum54.php
|Cheri Heart sat in front of the lighted mirror and put the finishing touches of her stage make-up on before pulling on the auburn wig and adding the contacts that would change her blue eyes to a bright green. Being an exotic dancer paid well but she certainly didn't want anyone from Louisville to recognize her. She had two years left of pre-med classes and she had to save up enough money to carry her through the remainder of her education during those two years. After that she knew that the grueling hours of classes, study time and then her internship would force her to live frugally off her savings and scholarship money.
Cheri wasn't her real name. She was really Judy Thompson and her goal was to be a pediatrician. No one would take her serious if they discovered she was paying her way by dancing in this sleazy dump. Using an eyebrow pencil she added a few freckles across the bridge of her nose. No one would recognize her like this, not that the patrons would be looking at her face.
She was ready to go on stage when she remembered that she had left the window down on her car and it was supposed to rain later. She went out the back door to the employees parking lot and rolled up the window on her little Honda Civic. Turning back to the door she stopped suddenly, stood still for a second and then crumbled to the pavement.
She was dead before her body hit the ground. One shot through the back of her head and exiting between her eyes. There was no one else in the parking lot. Across the alley there was the sound of clicking as someone walked slowly away and a slight whiff of Chanel number Five in the air.
Chase picked up the phone on the first ring. "Chase here"
He heard Rory's voice on the other end of the line. "Chase, there has been a second killing. Same M.O. The victim was a young woman in her mid twenties wearing a red wig. Shot once in the back of the head from across an alley."
Chase felt his legs go weak and grabbed a kitchen chair to steady himself.
"Chase?" Rory asked, "are you OK? Chase?"
"Uh, yes, I'm here. Where did it happen? When?" Chase asked.
"About 30 minutes ago. She was a dancer at the Tip Top Club over on East Market Street. They found a single casing and it is the same caliber as the one they found with Jenn." Rory paused. "Chase, I am breaking the rules telling you this but it is going to be hitting the news and I wanted to tell you first."
"Yeah, thanks Rory. Look, I know you can't feed me too much information but I want this guy caught. I want him dead..."
"We all do Chase. You hang in there. We are going to get him."
"Thanks for the call Rory" Chase set the phone back on the cradle and sank into the kitchen chair he had been holding onto for support. His head was pounding and he felt the anger and frustration building inside him until he thought he would explode. "Jenn, oh Jenn. I don't know if I can go on without you." He pounded his fist onto the table so hard that the cup he had left there earlier bounced onto the floor and shattered.
Staring at the sharp pieces of broken china he sat holding his head between his hands and sobbed. He didn't hear the knocking at the door or Layla setting a casserole on the porch swing with a note before she gave up and left.
|Layla smiled to herself as she walked back to her car; she got in, cranked the ignition and drove down the street. She pulled in front of her Aunt Sarah's house; she noticed the curtains on the big picture window were still drawn. Poor Aunt Sarah, she thought to herself, she was such a nice lady, she had not hesitated when the courts asked her to take in Layla and her brother after her parent's deaths. She was good to them, even though as Layla's father's sister, she was their only living relative.
Layla's brother really didn't remember their parents, it was easier that way. He called Aunt Sarah "mom" and that was fine too. Sarah didn't deserve this, but then again, Layla didn't deserve the lot she'd been given in life either, although she was doing everything in her power to change that lot.
She opened the door that was never locked, and waited for her eyes to adjust from the brightness of the sun to the darkened room.
Aunt Sarah came from the kitchen when she heard the door open, "Layla, sweetheart, thank you for coming! I so need to get to the grocery store, I'm about out of everything, and well, you know I just don't like to leave him alone for very long."
Layla smiled at her Aunt, "I'm happy to help Aunt Sarah, you just take all the time you need, we'll be fine here."
Layla walked to the window and watched Aunt Sarah pull away from the house. She opened the drapes that kept the room in darkness and pulled the painter's cloth from the piano. She opened the lid, sat and began to play Beethoven.
He stood behind her, watching her play, allowing the music to embrace him until he began to sway with the music. When she stopped playing and turned to face him, he said,
"It is believed that Beethoven was not completely deaf until around 1814."
Layla smiled at her brother, "When did he write Moonlight Sonata?" She asked.
Albert began to sway again, "In the fall of 1826 Beethoven caught a serious cold, which developed into pneumonia. He died on March 26, 1827."
Layla said, "We need to talk." Albert stopped, frozen where he was. "Did you go out last night?" She asked.
"Look Albert, you need to be careful when you're out. You're not invisible."
Albert looked at Layla "You told me to make them pay."
Layla straightened, "Yes I did. I just want you to be careful."
Albert turned and crawled back under the piano. He called out, "Curtains!" Layla draped the painters cloth back over the piano and sat to read while she waited on Aunt Sarah to return. She had ordered another book on Autism Spectrum Disorders from Amazon. They were helpful when it came to Albert. The medicines they had him on in the hospital made him someone he was not, so when he came home, she encouraged him to stop taking the medication. Albert had always listened to her, even when they were kids, so it was easy to plant seeds in Albert's fertile mind, and remind him of the red head and her rejection years ago. It was also easy to leave her father's police issue Smith and Wesson where he could find it. What Albert did with the information she gave him was of no concern to her, he wasn't responsible for his actions, and neither was she, no matter what they might be.
Chase and Rory were beyond busy at the police department, in the weeks following Jenn's murder, in addition to Judy Thomas, two other girls were murdered, both red-heads, close to the same age, and all alone somewhere late at night.
Jessica Smithson was a registered nurse at Jewish Hospital. She was walking home after pulling extra after her shift ended. Tellie Johnson was sitting on a bench outside the bus station at 7th and Jefferson, waiting for her transfer to Nashville. From what they could tell, she knew no one in Louisville, she came from a small town in Eastern Kentucky, no doubt seeking to make it big in Nashville as evidenced by the guitar she carried with her.
They hesitated to use the words "Serial Killer" in association with the murders, but everyone in the police department feared that was what was happening. The police chief had allowed Chase to help with the cases from headquarters, he felt he was too emotionally vested to be much help on the street, and he had plenty of work to keep him busy; the triple murder trial of Lloyd Hammond was finally coming up.
The trial had been postponed last year because the prosecution's key witness, Troya Sheckles had been shot point blank while sitting in Shelby Park. Even though Hammond was behind bars at the time, everyone knew he was behind it, but they could not prove it.
Since Chase was the first officer Troya talked to, he was required to testify on behalf of what she told him. Troya told Chase that Hammond's goons held her at gunpoint while Hammond shot and killed her boyfriend. She told Chase and her attorneys she feared for her life and didn't want to testify against him, but a Judge convinced her to, and a month later she was dead.
Chase wondered sometimes when the peaceful city he grew up in had disappeared.
Chase had his head buried in paperwork when Robyn came to his office door and knocked lightly on the frame, Chase looked up, Robyn was holding a business card.
"What's up Robyn?" Chase asked.
Robyn looked at the card, "A Vivianna Grossi from U of L is at the front desk asking to see you." she said.
A smile spread across Chase's face, Robyn noted the first smile she had seen cross his face in weeks. "Well I'll be!" Chase exclaimed, "She's one of my old Professors Robyn, I had her for Criminology and Deviant Behavior."
Robyn looked surprised, "She doesn't look old Chase, maybe forty tops."
Chase laughed, "Figure of speech Rob, bring her on back."
"Dr. Grassi, what a pleasant surprise!" Chase said as she entered his office.
Vivianna smiled broadly at Chase, "It's good to see you too, Chase, and please, call me Vivianna."
Chase gestured to a chair, "What can I do for you?" He asked.
"Chase, first of all, my deepest condolences on the loss of your wife. I was so sorry to read about it in the paper. I was out of town at the time, or I would have paid my respects then."
Vivianna smiled, "The other reason I'm here, well, I wanted to talk to you about the recent homicides and some past homicides as well." She said.
Chase was interested, "Oh? What have you got Dr. Grassi, err Vivianna?" he asked.
Vivianna took a folder out of the messenger bag still on her shoulder and handed it to Chase. "Obviously we've been talking about the cases in class. We did some comparisons and analysis, and came up with some interesting bits of information."
Chase leafed through the folder a few minutes, "You think we have more than one killer on our hands?" He asked.
Vivianna nodded, "Sadly, yes. We took into account all of the murders in Jefferson County the past ten years. Some interesting patterns emerged, and well, it's all in the report. The latest string of murders have some similarities, but, there are nine murders all unsolved, that are eerily similar. They show deviant tendencies probably perpetrated by the same person."
Rory had entered Chase's office when Vivianna began speaking, Chase handed the folder to him, "I certainly appreciate it." He said as he introduced the two. Rory noted how thorough the professor had been and asked, "Do you think you could come up with a profile for us?"
Vivianna seemed to consider this for a moment. "There are others much more qualified to do profiling." She said.
Rory nodded, "But, can you?" He asked.
Vivianna nodded, "I'll see what I can do."
Lance threw down the newspaper, disgusted. These amateurs were trying to mimic him, perhaps he would find out who they were and teach them a thing or two. That sounded like a good idea to him, he could show them how a true artist performed. After the Hammond executions the cops had been on high alert, which made it difficult for him to accomplish everything he needed to, so he decided to wait them out, and he had.
Things had just started to cool down again, then this genius killed three women nearly in a row. How stupid could they be? Too much, in too short of a period of time always made the cops assume a serial killer was on the loose. Idiot. Lance Hensley was not a serial killer, he was a death artist, each death more perfect than the one before. Before he benched himself he was up to number eleven, and not once, not even for a second had anyone in the past nine years thought any of those deaths were anything more than random acts of violence. They never even noticed they all had red hair.
|Bill and Maxine Williams made an unlikely couple. Bill was a long distance truck driver. He was coarse and not well educated. His love of professional wrestling was notorious among their friends. He had a perpetual look of someone with a three-day growth of beard and a beer gut that he refused to hide behind anything other than a dingy white tee shirt. Bill’s always-greasy black hair was kept combed straight back to reveal his receding hairline and the scar he got from a fight with a couple of rednecks over a football game.
Maxine was a thin woman, polite and reserved. She worked part-time in the children’s section of the community library. She was a favorite of all the younger children as she acted out the parts of the books she’d read to them. Wednesday was ‘story day’ and Maxine always came prepared with funny hats or glasses to help flesh out the characters she portrayed for her audience. Chase was her biggest fan. He’d sit and watch his mother transform into ‘Chicken Little’ or ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ right before his eyes.
Bill and Maxine’s common love was the theater. Of the precious few days in the month Bill was home, they’d try to spend at least one of them at the Actors Theater up in Louisville. Maxine would get tickets for whichever play came to town the days Bill would be home. She had two evening dresses, one black and one red. Bill had a gun-metal grey pin-striped tuxedo that he’d sport on their evenings out. Chase would watch as his father went from gear jamming cowboy trucker to dashing man of the evening, shaven and his large belly hidden behind the cummerbund of his tuxedo. His mother would transform from a mousy housewife into an elegant lady in her black sequined evening gown and 4 inch heels.
They saw all the great off-Broadway shows, Glengarry Glen Ross, One for the Road, Prelude to a Kiss. One summer evening in 2001, after Chase’s sophomore year in college, Bill and Maxine were returning from seeing Private Eyes. It was a ‘play within a play’ that tricked the audience repeatedly in much the same way Stoppard’s ‘The Real Thing’ had done in a play they’d seen twenty years earlier. On the way home they talked about how much they liked the twists and turns and the deception the playwright foisted on the audience. Distracted with their lively banter, Bill ran a red light and they were broad-sided by a semi truck driven by one of his co-workers. They were both killed instantly.
A devastated Chase had to identify the mangled remains of both his parents. The deputy who worked the accident thought someone had stolen Bill’s ID, not recognizing the dapper gentleman as the beer drinking trucker he knew.
The image of his parents’ lifeless bodies never left young Chase Williams. With no one to blame for the accident except the father he loved, Chase buried himself in his studies. Jenn was there to console Chase just as he’d been there for her when her grandmother died and the way he’d be there for her later that year when her mother passed unexpectedly.
Sitting at his desk, caught up in all the memories of the death he’d experienced in his still young life, he didn’t notice the teenaged boy who stood in front of him.
“Officer Williams….are you officer Williams” asked the obviously scared young man?
“Detective Williams” Chase corrected. “How can I help you?”
“They told me I should talk to you. I’m the one that found that girl this morning.”
“What’s your name son, and which girl are you talking about?”
“Name’s Eli, detective. It’s the girl that got shot this morning, or last night, whatever...... I found her this morning. The lady at the desk said your partner was working the case but since he’s not here, that you could take my story.”
“Sure, I can take your statement. Tell me what you found.”
“Well it’s like I told the cops this morning, I was walking to my job over at the auto parts store. I cut through that alley over behind the movie house and that’s when I seen her. She was just laying there with her head on her purse. I wondered why she picked that spot to lay down. It’s still a little cold in the morning you know, and I couldn’t figure out why she was wearing a short sleeved dress on a morning like this. Then I saw her face and the blood….. and I knew she was dead.” The boy began to shake and tears welled up in his eyes.
Chase walked around his desk and put his arm around the lad. “Just have a seat Eli. Take your time. Would you like a bottle of water?”
“Yessir, thank you officer.”
“Detec….O.K. wait right here for a minute Eli.”
Eli drank half the bottle of water and began to calm down. “I saw that hole in her head. It was almost the size of a quarter and it was right up between her eyebrows. It made me sick. I threw up my breakfast and just started crying like I was a baby. She was so pretty. She’s got hair the color of my momma’s. She says it’s strawberry blond, you know, kinda light red. Why would someone kill her Mr. Williams?”
“Did you see anyone else Eli?”
“No, the alley’s wide open right there and there’s nothing in it except that one dumpster behind the restaurant and I had walked right past that. No sir, nobody was there except her.”
“Do you want me to take you home Eli?”
“No off…..urr Detective. I’ve gotta go to work. I saving up for a car you know.”***
|Lance was at his computer when he heard his significant other come into the house. It was the click of her high heeled shoes that alerted him to her presence in his office. He didn’t bother to turn around.
“Lance, we need to talk.”
“I’m writing, can’t it wait?”
“No, it can’t wait. And you’ve written nothing for more than a year. Our dear Detective Williams and his partner have given me an assignment.”
“You’ve been talking to Williams? Have you lost your mind? Whatever possessed you to talk to Williams? What did you tell him? What?”
Lance was out of his chair and in her face before Viv could utter a word.
“Stop right there, Lance, you knew this was part of the plan. You said you needed inside information. You said your book was stalled, you said you could not write another word until you knew whether or not this latest killing had finally been linked to your precious murder series. Let me tell you, my dear partner, I’m tired of watching you sit here day after day with nothing to prove your existence except wadded up sheets of paper strewn all over my house! Yes! I’ve been talking to Williams.”
Lance bristled. It wasn’t his choice to live in ‘her’ house. It could have been their house if she’d consented to marry him when he asked her years ago. But there had been no marriage to the high and mighty Vivianna Grassi. It might ruin her image as Dr. Grassi, professor extraordinaire. Instead of knocking her senseless as one of the characters in the books he wrote would have done, he inhaled deeply and relaxed his clenched hands.
“Viv,” he began.
“It’s Vivianna, how many times will you bring up that old name again? It’s Vivianna, Lance!”
“All right, Vivianna, all right. Just tell me what Williams said.”
“He didn’t say much. His partner only asked that I compile a profile on the killer. I think I have enough experience and information to do that.”
“Did he mention my books?”
“No Lance. He did not mention your books. You are the only one who seems to think your books are important enough for a killer to copy. That was your plan, not mine. It was your idea to see if anyone would read your books and react to them.“
“My books are important, Viv….Vivianna. They are important. I have a readership, I’ve sold thousands of copies. And you know very well that every one of these murders has been a copy of the very words I’ve written, right down to every single red haired corpse. My murders are artistic, very artistic. You’ve read the displayed body descriptions. The killer cannot copy my artistic expertise when it comes to displaying bodies. Whoever he is, he has no sense of artistic value. So, you don’t think he got it, you don’t think he realized the killer is copying my murders?”
“Not only didn’t he get it, Lance, but I also suggested that there is most likely more than one killer. That suggestion alone should assure you that no one has or ever will link your book to the killings.”
Lance was a good writer. He was proud of his work, and laying low after the Hammonds situation was not good for his ego. But it seemed to him that with every killing, someone could conceivably link it to his book. The killings matched his descriptions of every murder he’d described, right down to the directions the bullets took. Of course all his stories included a red headed female victim with a bullet between her eyes. It didn’t matter which direction the bullet came from, front or back. It ended up right between her eyes. His ego had grown with every book he’d sold, and his was a popular name in the world of mystery readers. Only Viv could talk him down from his egotistic pedestal.
“Lance, I’ve told you and told you, those who read your books aren’t going to see the parallel between your fiction and the newspapers’ reality. They won’t connect the two. You simply aren’t yet a household word, Lance.”
Deflated, Lance sat back down at his computer.
“But eventually they will, Lance. I have an idea. I’ll make your name a household word with this profile. “
“Viv, you can’t. You can’t mention my name. They’ll think I am the murderer, they’ll think I’m behind the killings!”
“No Lance, the killings match your words. You only provided the words, not the action. We both know that, don’t we? Just leave it to me, you don’t have to worry about a thing.”
She draped her arm across his shoulders, and Lance leaned back against her.
“Thanks, Viv. I knew you wouldn’t let me down.”
Layla left, and Albert was fidgeting in his dungeon beneath the drop cloth covered piano. He always fidgeted after Layla paid a visit. His fidgets consisted of the Autistic rhythm, rocking, back and forth, back and forth. Images danced within his mind. Red images, faces, red images, faces, red, faces, red, hair, red hair, redhair, redhair, and he rocked to the rhythm of the images.
Hours passed, he did not know it. He was stuck inside the security of the rocking images. In the distance, he heard a voice. “Good night, Albert, sleep well.”
Briefly, his mom’s face registered, and though his rocking continued, the red haired images were replaced by that of his mom. He lost his rhythm, he stilled. He needed his red haired images.
He had them in the box. He’d get the box. He knew where the box was, he knew how to retrieve the red haired images. In his room. Beneath his bed.
Stiffly he shuffled to his bedroom and as if an old man, he stooped and reached beneath his bed. The video camera, his prized possession, was within easy reach. He attached the cord to the camera, he attached the other end to his small color TV. He pushed the play button on both.
The images whizzed by, so quickly he could barely see them, then they slowed, and he came to the ninth image. His eyes lingered on the flickering screen. The girl on the park bench. The guitar. Guitar. Mark Knopfler and Chet Atkins, release date, October 9, 1990. Chet Atkins died. Atkins died. Died. Gone.
The images continued until he saw the film he made much earlier that morning. He watched the alley behind the movie house come into view, the dumpster, then very slowly, from his hidden spot in the old shadowed doorway, his camera focused on the girl. Her red hair was spread over the purse that pillowed her head. She looked as if she were sleeping. The camera held steady, Albert could hold a position for hours. But he rocked as he watched the video.
Suddenly, a young boy walked into the alley, a teenager on his early way to somewhere. Albert’s eye followed his steps. The boy stumbled a little when he glanced at the red haired girl sleeping on her purse, he stopped, coughed, then coughed again. He took a step or two forward.
“Hey,” he whispered, Albert could see his lips move on the film. “Hey,” just a little louder.
The boy touched her foot with his toe. “Hey, m’am, hey!”
“Hey,” Albert whispered. “Hey.”
The boy walked closer and leaned over her, then Albert watched as the boy startled, stepped back, was sick, then cried. Albert was particularly interested in the boy’s tears, and watched as those teenage tears filled his screen. Albert was very good with that video camera.
|How she hated that name! It was bad enough growing up poor but growing up poor with a name like ‘Viv’ just turned her stomach. She could hear, in her mind, her grandmother calling her from the outhouse “Viv, I need more newpaper”. Ugh.
“I have risen above Viv”, she gloated, “I’m not Vivi Grassing any more. I am Vivianna Grassi. DOCTOR Vivianna Grassi, and you better remember that.”
As she languished in her hot sudsy tub, she thought of poor Lance; poor narcissistic, egomaniacal, stupid Lance who couldn’t do anything in life on his own. But, she chuckled softly to herself, “he’s good looking, has a great body and the stamina of a thoroughbred in bed and that’s all I want from him. He will do my bidding, he always has and he always will. Hell, he couldn’t write anything if it weren’t for me.”
“Power. It is all about Power and Control,” she mused, “it is so sweet to contemplate, nurture and finally exhault in…. poor Lance. He thinks he is the mastermind behind these murders he writes about… HA!!! If he only knew, right down to the red hair!!!”
“Even the police detectives think they are bright! HA! Get them to come up with an obvious answer and they think they’re Einsteins. If it weren’t for the fact that most of them learned profiling and tracking deviant behavior from me, they would be still pounding the streets looking for drug deals to bust.” Vivianna knew her power over them…attach a PhD to a pitbull and he could become Mayor! “So, girlfriend, now all you have to do is show them some serious profiling stats, give the perps long scientific names to describe their behavior and you are on the team. They will come to you with every little nuance and you can pass it on to Lance and he will finish his book. He’ll win prizes, get rich and famous and we can both leave this southern backwater of a town for…. for…. wherever we want to!!!”
“Vivianna, Vivianna…are you OK?” Lance was calling her from downstairs. “It’s too quiet up there.”
“Not to worry, dear,” she called back, “why don’t you come up here with a drink and we’ll plan about tomorrow when I get back to them.”
If it weren’t for his job, Rory would be fishing all day from dawn ‘til dusk. He loved being on the lake, rain or shine. Just him and his boat. After long tense days at work, especially with Chase in such a state over Jenn’s murder, the hours he spent alone were precious to him. “ No wonder I can’t find a woman, he thought, no one out here takes a Nordstrom’s Card and it’s kinda rough life for most. Sure wish I could share this, tho’. Maybe I should look harder. Man, that Dr. chick was good looking but…OOOOeeee, high maintenance.”
Rory took another pull on his glass of water and stared across the sea of desks. There was Chase, talking on the phone to someone. “He looks so bad, so tired. This is so hard on him, not being with me on Jenn’s murder, not knowing. I wish I could talk more freely to him, but the Chief said not to…not to get him too involved…but he can follow up on the other murders. Weird those murders – all of them. No rhymes no reasons. No suspects. All women. All shot with the same firearm, execution style. No common thread; a hairdresser, a pole dancer and a passerby. At one point he had a glimmer of a thought about redhair, but, one of them was wearing a wig. She really was blond. So…nothing there….”
“Hey, Chase, it’s time to close shop. Wanna go out for a burger or something?”, Rory called. “I’m meeting the guys for a little poker later, you want to come?”
“Thanks, Ror, I just don’t feel like it. I think I’ll go home and feel sorry for myself…think about all that’s gone on, try to get some sleep.”
“Cool, Guy, Rory called back, “See you in the morning”.
Chase grabbed his jacket and slinging it over his shoulder, headed out to the parking lot. Robyn was just ahead of him, walking in the same direction.
“Hey, Robyn, how’s it going”, he asked, “going home so late?”
“Hey Chase. Yeah, had to type up some reports due tomorrow. Man, this rash of murders really has…. Oh, dear, I’m sorry, Chase, she said softly, “I totally forgot….”
‘Don’t worry, Robyn, I understand. There have been more murders than usual for this time of year…I wonder what’s going on. What do you think about them?” Chase asked, hoping she wouldn’t want to talk about Jenn.
“Well,” Robyn stopped and adjusted her scarf as she thought about it, “They appear to be connected, but I can’t find the thread. Shot the same way, left alone to be found by someone, no apparent motive in any of them… Makes it worrisome to be out alone. You think there IS a connection?”
“Not a clue,” Chase said. “My former professor who came by today is going to do some profiling for us. She has some ideas and we’re anxious to hear what they are. Hopefully they’ll give us something to follow thru on. As it stands, we have nothing. Zip. Nada.” ***
Leap. The net will appear.
|“Viv, Viv, get up, you'll be late for school”. Was that the second or third time she'd heard that this morning? Whatever, she was tired of it, so she got up. She looked in the mirror, her red hair a tangled mess, wrinkles from the pillow covered one side of her face. Why had she been the only one in the whole family with red hair? She hated it. Her classmates teased her about having a different father from her siblings, said her mother was a whore. That made her really mad. The boys called her Red, she hated that, too. It seemed that just the way she looked made her a target. When she reached puberty she discovered that the same boys who teased her and called her Red, didn't care how she looked when she was in the back seat. And so she learned to provide favors to them to keep them from teasing her. That made her unhappy life more bearable. The girls, who hadn't cared about her hair color, now called her a whore. They were all snobs anyhow, what did she care what the girls called her? She called them the same things right back. At least the boys had stopped calling her Red.
The prettiest girl in school had black hair. Viv admired everything about that girl, and tried to imitate her. And so, when Viv left home, she dyed her hair black. The dye job made her appear to be an entirely different person, maybe Italian. And so she decided her new name should sound Italian. She even had it changed legally, an important step in removing herself from her family ties. Lance had no clue that she was not who she appeared to be, and frequent touch ups at the beauty shop kept the red roots from showing. She'd told him she was really blond, ugly, dishwater blond, and rather than bleach it like so many did, she had chosen black. Heavy eye makeup hid the red lashes and eyebrows sufficiently. She smiled to herself, Lance didn't look at eyes, he preferred other parts of her body.
Rory had changed his mind several times about the importance of the hair color in these recent murders. Jenn had flaming red hair, the dancer was wearing a wig of a much less intense color, but still red, and under the light near her car it would have looked different from how it appeared in the dance area. So far that was the only common thing about these recent murders. The girl with the guitar, red hair again. And the girl in the alley, also red hair. Rory and the other detective just couldn't find anything else except that they were all killed in the same way with the same gun. Did somebody out there have a grudge against women with red hair, or who appeared to have red hair? A killer wouldn't be likely to know if hair color was real, or even if the hair was the victim's own hair.
Maybe the killer of the dancer might have only seen her when she was outside rolling up the car windows, and hadn't known she was wearing a wig. Or maybe he was one of the customers who watched her dance. Maybe she had refused him and he wanted revenge. And what about the others? Maybe the killer was just an opportunist, not knowing any of his victims.
Was red hair a coincidence or something in somebody's plan? Did the killer have a script, or were these just random crimes of opportunity? Who knows what a sicko would be thinking, except some specialist in deviant behavior? Dr. Grassi's profile might give them some direction. He hoped it would be written and delivered quickly, before another murder took place.
Albert was out often, going farther from home, occasionally not coming home until well after daylight when his mother was already busy with her projects. Usually his mother did not try to wake him during the day, but only knew he was awake if she saw him on his way too or from the bathroom as he passed by her sewing room door, or if he was looking for something to eat sometime after noon. He'd never been a breakfast eater or an early riser. Sarah never heard him and didn't know he was going out at night, and never heard him go out or come back into the house.
Sarah had a big sewing project that needed more space. She wanted to move everything out of the bedroom turned sewing room. The weather was nice, the weekend was coming, and it was time to have a garage sale. While cleaning out the room, she found boxes under the bed, boxes that had been there for years. She carried the boxes to the garage, and had her neighbor help her with the bed and chest of drawers because she didn't want to bother Albert. She never knew if he was sleeping. Open shelving and stackable bins would be better for her supply of materials than the drawers in the chest, so she had decided to sell it, too. The old relic of a tape recorder, vinyl records, a record player and speakers, a few books, an old instamatic camera, a small color tv, a video camera and other miscellaneous items were marked for sale at bargain prices and placed on the table in front of the garage door. The room looked twice as large without the furniture. Money from the sale of the items would buy the new storage units and the yardage for another quilt.
Several days later, a man walked into the police department carrying the camera. He told the desk Sargent that he had bought it at a garage sale and found some disturbing pictures on it. The Sargent called for a detective who was working on some vice cases and expected to see child porn. Instead what he saw was a murder victim with a guitar on a park bench, and later a man in a sloppy black jacket with something heavy in one pocket, running out of an alley, getting into a car and driving away. Near the end of the tape in full color, at close range was the latest murder victim with a purse under her head, and the teenage boy just discovering her body. Other detectives were called to see it. This was good evidence, but who had filmed it and why?
The man who had bought the camera had bought items at several garage sales, and while he couldn't tell them exactly where the house was, he did remember the large planters overflowing with red, white and blue flowers at the end of the driveway next to the sidewalk. And he was pretty sure the house was gray. One of the detectives found a copy of Friday's paper in the trash, looked in the section under garage sales, and found one that listed bedroom furniture and cameras. The man thought that was the one. And so the detectives had an address. Rory went to the house to talk to the occupant, a lady who said she had a garage sale last weekend and sold her son's old video camera.
“And where is your son? I'd like to talk to him”.
Sarah hesitated, then said “He's under the piano in the living room”
“Under the piano?”
“Yes, he feels more comfortable there. I'll see if he is awake.” Somehow Sarah felt comfortable saying that to the detective when she had never allowed herself to say anything about her mentally unbalanced 'son' to her friends. She returned a few minutes later saying that Albert didn't want to talk to any policeman. Rory knew they had a mentally disturbed subject, and not knowing if the man was armed or would be a danger, he called for backup, requesting an officer who could negotiate with Albert, and hopefully avoid violence. After all, they only wanted to talk to him.
While Rory waited for the police psychologist to arrive at the scene, he talked to Sarah about her son and his mental problems. She told him that Albert was actually her nephew, and that she had cared for him since the death of his parents; she told that Albert had been in a mental hospital, and that he had been in and out of them for years. No he wasn't working, no he was not taking medication, and no, he was not a violent boy, just kind of mixed up. Sarah felt quite at ease talking about her son, she thought of him as her own, it was as if she had kept it bottled up for a long time and was finally glad to let it out. Rory asked her if Albert knew that she had sold the video camera. No, she hadn't told him.
“Is that important?”
“Maybe. He might be upset”.
“Because we believe that he had been using it.”
“Oh, no, it has been in a box under the bed in my sewing room for years, nobody has used it. Albert hardly ever comes out from under the piano”.
“Do you own a gun?”
“Does your husband own one?”
“My husband died many years ago. I put all his things in boxes in the garage. I couldn't bear to dispose of his clothing and things, so I put them away in the garage. It's been years, and I know it's silly, but I feel better just having his things here.”
“Including a gun? Maybe a pistol?”
“Does Albert know how to shoot the gun?”
“Oh, yes, his own father taught him even though I didn't think it was a good idea. I've always been afraid of guns."
Of all the things I've lost, I miss my mind the most.
More ramblings at http://thegatheringplacehome.myfastforum.org/forum54.php
|Rory was pacing about the garage with Sarah when the backup finally arrived with the department's psychologist. Sarah was getting flustered and frightened because she could not find her late brother's Smith and Wesson hand gun. She knew she had put it into the same box as his military service records. That had been the last time she had looked at the horrid thing. Now this nice police detective was obviously thinking her Albert had the gun and had hurt someone...impossible! Albert was no maniac that went around shooting people. She knew that with every fiber of her being.
The psychologist sat Sarah down in a chair and sat facing her. He asked her to tell him about Albert; what were his usual symptoms? Was he considered high functioning and did he take any medications, who was his doctor? How was his behavior over the last few weeks; anything different, or did he seem agitated?
Sarah tried to answer him honestly and calmly. This man was a doctor and he would be able to help, she had a lot of faith in doctors.
"Albert was young when he was diagnosed with autism," Sarah explained. "They say he possibly suffers from Bipolar disorder, and he doesn’t like taking medications."
He had stopped taking his medications again and she really didn't blame him, they left him almost catatonic. Why didn't anyone hire him? He just needed a chance to prove what a great artist he could be. His ability to focus on details, his lack of any interest in social gossip would make him a wonderful addition to any film crew. As a cameraman he would always give them first rate footage...maybe she was wrong to sell the camera. But she didn't know he had been using it. When would he have had the time? He never went anywhere
After an hour the doctor got up and walked to the front door. As he opened it, Layla's car screeched to a stop at the curb. "Aunt Sarah?, what is going on? Why are the police here? Where is Albert?"
Layla tried to run up the steps to the house but an officer stopped her and the man who was about to go inside turned around and offered her his hand. "You must be Layla? I am Dr. George Teplar. We need to talk with your brother."
"Why?" Layla demanded. "He will be afraid to talk to you. Can't you just leave him alone? He isn't hurting anyone by sleeping under the piano....just leave him alone!"
Rory came up to stand behind Layla. He knew her. They had danced at the last Christmas party Jenn and Chase hosted. Jenn had been trying to play matchmaker between the two of them. He put his hand on her shoulder and said "Layla, we have to talk to Albert, it is important. Do you know if he has a gun? We don't want anyone to get hurt today."
"Then let me go in first. Albert will talk to me and I can get him to come out if you will just stay in the entry. If you try to go into the living room he will panic because he does not know you. He does have our father's old hand gun but it is not loaded. He has never had any bullets for it and he helped me fill the barrel with cement. That thing is heavy but harmless. It is his security blanket. He remembers learning to shoot it with Dad and keeps saying that guns kill people and that Daddy said that bad people who use guns to hurt each other have to be made to pay."
Layla continued, "He wants to find our parent's killers and make them pay, but he wants to be a good guy, that is why we fixed the gun so it can never do something bad. Albert has a very strong sense of right and wrong, he wants to find justice and make the bad guys pay. He is afraid of the police, but only because they use guns."
Layla went on, "If you won't let me go in, call Chase. He knows Chase, and would talk to him because he knows that Chase wants to stop the bad guys too."
Rory thought about that for a second and then called the chief, he just hoped he could convince the Chief to allow Chase to help. In his heart he knew it was true, Chase could do something here that no one else could. They couldn't let Layla go inside and the psychologist was nodding his head. He too knew that Chase was their best chance to get Albert out without incident, if Chase was in any shape to deal with this. He figured the Chief would have to talk with Chase before he could agree to signing off on it.
Rory realized if Albert had taken the pictures on that video, he could have clues to catch the killer or killers. Oddly enough, the fact that Albert was autistic would make him the perfect witness. His attention to detail and sequential view of things no one would be able to confuse or twist. Albert would only state facts and those facts would remain constant and unwavering under any cross examination. Rory thought, maybe Albert would get his wish; maybe Albert could help make the bad guys pay.
The Chief had briefed Chase at the precinct, so Chase knew what his job was when he arrived on the scene. Layla seemed relieved when he arrived, and asked him to speak in very literal and direct terms to Albert. Chase assured her he would be careful and direct when he spoke to Albert.
When Chase entered the house, he walked to the piano, squatted down and lifted the drape covering it.
"Hey Albert, do you know me?" He asked.
"Hello, Chase." Albert said.
"Hey buddy, do you mind if I ask you some questions?" Chase asked.
Albert flatly said, "No."
"Do you know why there are so many people here?" He asked.
Albert answered, "No."
Chase paused to think about how to say what he needed to say. "We know that you used your video camera to film some of the murders that have happened lately."
Albert did not answer, Chase thought, of course he would not answer, he had not asked a question. He went on, "Albert, when you were filming did you see who killed the girls?"
"No." Was Albert's response.
Chase continued, "Did you ever see anyone else around the girls?"
Albert responded, "Yes."
Chase sighed, now, maybe he was getting somewhere. "Did you take a picture?"
Albert stared at the bottom of the piano. "She is on the movie and I made her in my book, to make them pay. He saw her and he cried."
“Albert, can you show me the book and the movie?" Chase asked.
"I don't cry." was Albert's response.
Chase sighed, "Albert, can I look at your movies?"
“Movies need the camera to play." Albert answered.
"Albert, do you have other movies of the bad guys?" he asked.
“Fourteen movies." Albert answered. "Fourteen movies to make her pay." he added.
Chase felt his heart race, fourteen movies? Could Albert really have more videos of the killer? Was the killer a Lady?
Chase took a chance, "Albert, where is your book and the movies?"
Albert pushed himself out from under the piano and got up. He went to the sofa and pulled off the cushions, then shoved his hand down into the space underneath. When he pulled his hand out he was holding a small tin box that rattled. Then he reached in again and came out with a paper tablet with curled edges.
Chase slid out from under the piano and stood leaning on it. His knees felt like water. "Can I look at them Albert?" he asked.
Albert opened the box, put it on the piano in front of Chase then ducked back under the piano and pulled the cloth down to hide himself.
The box contained fourteen small video tapes. Would those tapes really have the killers faces? Had Albert actually witnessed and filmed the killings? OH GOD, Was Jenn on these tapes? Chase picked up the tablet. It was filled with colored pencil drawings. The first was of a Smith and Wesson .38 with a 3 inch barrel. The gun on the floor was a 5 inch barrel.
Chase flipped to the next page and caught his breath as he stared at a picture of Vivianna? What could she have to do with Albert?
Layla was walking up and down the sidewalk in front of the house. Her normally pale skin looked chalky and her eyes were filled with pain. She needed to be in there with Albert. He needed her.
Since their parents had been gunned down in a robbery she had taken care of Albert. Sarah did her best with him but it was Layla that watched over him. In high school, Jenn had always been there to give her moral support and a shoulder to cry on. Layla felt guilty that she had often felt jealous of Jenn. Jenn’s life was easy. Everyone liked Jenn. Chase had married Jenn. Layla had loved Chase since eighth grade, and he fell for Jenn the first time they met. Now Jenn was gone and she was still alive but still Chase could think of nothing but Jenn.
Vivianna twined her long legs around Lance and whispered in his ear. "I'm sorry darling, I have to admit that that Hammond guy they have on trial for the first murders must have been trying to duplicate the murders in your first books. How else could he have known to pose the bodies the way he did? Even shooting them so that the hole was centered on the forehead to look like a bindi. He was trying to show they were his brides just like the killer in your books... I will explain all that in my profile. These latest killings...They do seem to be poor copy cat versions of the previous killings."
Vivianna continued, "There is no way the same person is responsible for the recent killings. This new killer is just a blood thirsty murderer who lacks finesse. You will be famous and I will be celebrated as the profiler that helped stop a serial killer and a death artist. This killer had a sinister hatred for red hair."
She would describe him as a religious fanatic, probably in his thirties, who held the old belief that red hair was a sign of devil worship and having been touched by Satan. A Psycho who heard God telling him to kill the evil witches. Vivianna shivered.
Lance sighed contentedly, at last, Viv was finally seeing the truth about his books. She was finally understanding how important his books are and what a talented writer he is. He turned over and drew her close. He was going to make her love him. She would be begging him to marry her, and he just might do it...if she begged hard enough.
|Layla peered down at Albert.
“Albert, it is okay, please come out here…" she nudged the heavy canvas curtain with her shoe. Looking back over her shoulder, she saw Chase still standing outside, talking with Aunt Sarah and Dr. Teplar.
“They took my stuff” , Albert complained , his voice sounding tight and muffled.
Layla knelt down and pulled the curtain back a bit and spoke softly. “ Albert, you know it is going to be a little hard now for you to go out, and I want you to promise me you will stay in for awhile. Albert, Come on, come out of there, it’s too dark in there for me to see you.”
She stood back up and tapped her foot, waiting for him to comply. She backed away as he crawled out and slowly stood up, his head hanging down and and nodding as he mumbled.
“They took my stuff, now I have nothing.
.how can I make them Pay if I don’t have my stuff?”
Layla pulled her brother into her arms and he stood stiffly as she attempted to hug him. “ I will get you another camera, okay?”
He mumbled something back to her and she pushed him back and looked up at him. "Promise me you will not go out until this police stuff is over with? “
Albert held his head down as he swayed side to side, in his rocking motion she had become used to. Sighing , she went over to the window and pulled the heavy drape back a bit and peeked out. “ I wonder what Chase is talking to Rory about now?” she thought. Layla felt nervous.
She glanced back at her brother, “They weren’t going to let me come back in to see you.. I was very worried about you, Albert.”
Albert looked at her, still rocking himself. He needed to go back to the safe place of his, the dark and secluded space. Layla walked over to him quickly and once again attempted to hug him. “it will be okay, I promise.. “ her voice trailed off weakly as she felt tears of fear swell in her eyes. She felt him break free of her as he retreated back to his little hiding spot, under the piano.
Sarah felt relieved as the doctor and Chase assured her it would be okay for Albert to stay home until it was time for questioning and evaluation tests.
“We will, of course, ask you to not let him leave the city or go anywhere without accompaniment, can we depend upon you for that?”
Layla had come outside as she heard the last of the conversation. She stood beside her aunt and answered for her,” "Of course we will comply, anything to make this easy on my brother and be of help to you.”
She put her arms around her aunt's shoulders and Aunt Sarah smiled with a look of relief at Layla.
“Here’s my card if you need to call me” stated Dr.Teplar.
Layla looked at Rory and Chase, “So.. now what?”
Chase was anxious to get the tapes and sketch pad back to the department for further review and possible clues. He wanted to see if there were more drawings or film of Vivianna, all he could think about now was seeing that sketch of her in that sketch pad.
“ I am heading back to the department, I will contact you later, okay Layla?”
Layla nodded her head and answered “Please let us know what is going on.”
She couldn’t help but worry what they would find in those tapes.
Aunt Sarah turned toward the steps to go back inside and smiled at Dr.Teplar,” Thank you so much.”
Dr Teplar nodded at Sarah. “ Remember to call me if you need any help with Albert.”
Aunt Sarah went back inside, and Layla stood there with Rory as Chase and the Doctor drove off.
Rory looked at his watch. “Almost time to call it a day, Layla. Are you going to be okay here?” He looked at her and noticed the worry in her eyes.
“I just want this all to end” she replied. “ I can’t stand the thought of the police thinking Albert has done something bad, He is not a bad person.”
Rory looked up at the house and then back at Layla. “ You want to grab a bite to eat in a little bit?”
He thought it might help to get her away from the house and hoped she would agree to dinner. He also wanted the murders to be solved and hoped for her sake that her brother was not involved in anything more than being the witness.
Layla sat across from Rory and remembered the time they danced together at Chase and Jenn's party, it seemed so long ago, now.
"Do you think they will find who killed Jenn?" She asked Rory. Rory nodded while he looked around for a waitress or waiter. He held up his hand and waved one over to the table before he answered her.
Their orders taken and the waitress gone off to the kitchen, Rory continued with the conversation.
" Chase isn't supposed to be involved in this particular case, because of Jenn, but I know he is very intent on following it as closely as possible. He probably is a bit more involved than the Chief wants him to be, and I know it is hard for him."
He looked at Layla with interest. "So, Albert has been shooting films of people at night then?" He looked at her as if she knew everything Albert did. "Does he share them with you? Did you know he was doing that?"
Layla felt like she was being interrogated right off the bat, and she drew back, defensively.
" Are you asking me off the record as a friend, or on the record as if I was in the interrogation room?" Great, Layla thought to herself, now what was she suppose to say?
" No, uh No." He stuttered, embarrassed at his barrage of questions. He reddened and searched for the right words carefully before he continued..
"Layla you have to forgive me, I did not intend to ask you those questions like that, it is instinct. Actually ,it is a trained instinct , which is no excuse, but still the question stands.. "
He held his hands out palm up as he finished... " I am just curious is all"
He sat back and wished he had just stuck with the dinner offer instead of turning it into a twenty question session. "Why is she so defensive?" he asked himself. He reminded himself that Albert was her brother and they had had some bad times in their lives.
She sipped her water and chewed the lemon peel, wondering why she had agreed to this dinner offer. " what is he going to do now, take me in?" she asked herself.
She looked at him with narrowed eyes and said," Your curiosity is rude, and in answer to your question, yes, I knew he went out with the camera, he was a camera man on a crew for a brief time, his dream job, as my aunt has already told you, and he still feels like that is what he supposed to do." She tossed the chewed lemon wedge into the butter plate, disgusted.
Rory was shocked at her reaction, and thought they would get along better than this. His shock grew into outright surprise when she stood up, grabbed her purse and threw her napkin down in front of him. " If you want to ask me any more questions, Officer, get a warrant."
As she stomped off, Rory wondered what she was so afraid he would find out.
Remember: You get what you give in Life,so be careful of what you are giving!
|Chase groped for the phone in the darkness, he looked at the display on his clock, it said 3:15 a.m.. He groggily answered "Williams."
He heard Rory's voice on the other end, "Hey man, rise and shine, Chief said to call you in on this one."
Rory's words slowly registered with Chase. "What? Another murder?"
Rory sighed into the phone, "It's like Charlie Manson has been paroled and taken up residence in Louisville."
"Where is this one?" Chase asked.
"Out at Iroquois Park, close to Papa John Stadium." Rory answered.
"Same M.O.?" Asked Chase.
"The vic is a woman, not sure how she fits with the others, though." Answered Rory
Chase heard him take a deep breath on the other end, "What Rory?" he asked.
"Chase, the vic, it's the professor you know, Vivianna Grassi." Rory answered.
"Oh geez, you're kidding?" Chase answered, then thinking aloud he said, "She's got some guy she lives with. I can't remember his name, she only mentioned him in passing."
"Yeah, Lance Hensley. A student found her while he was out on a late night run, and he filled us in. A black and white went over, found Mr. Hensley sound asleep on the couch. He has a rock solid alibi, he was at Churchill Downs for the night races, got hammered, and took a taxi home around one a.m.. He didn't even know Vivianna was not at home." Rory said.
Chase was already pulling on his jeans as he listened to Rory. "I'll be there in twenty minutes." he said as he hung up the phone.
A few days after Albert had been questioned, Dr. Teplar arrived at Sarah's home just as the sun was beginning to peek over the horizon. She was surprised to see him, "Doctor I thought you were going to call me when you scheduled your questioning time with Albert."
Dr. Teplar nodded, "Yes, we will when we have questions ready for Albert, I promise. I'm here because I was able to get Albert's medical records and while looking at them I noted some of the drugs he was taking, and called a friend of mine who works with the Kentucky Autism Training Center, based at U of L. He's a medical doctor who has been working with Autistic children for years, and is well known in the field."
Sarah stood holding the door, not sure whether she should let him in or not.
"Dr. Teplar continued, "When I told him what medications Albert was previously taking, he said it was no surprise he was catatonic. He said not everyone with an autism spectrum disorder has identical symptoms, and even two people with identical symptoms may not be treated with the same pharmaceuticals. He would like to come out and meet Albert, if you agree, he'd like to help."
Sarah was surprised, "Well, I suppose that would be alright, but, Albert has been going to Dr. Ramsey since he was a baby. He's a good man, and a good doctor."
Dr. Teplar nodded, "Yes, I know Dr. Ramsey, and you're right, he is a good doctor, but, Dr. Ramsey is a General Practitioner. He has done the best he can for Albert, but, don't you think Albert deserves to see someone who is an expert in autism spectrum disorders? He can still go to Dr. Ramsey for other medical needs, I'm not asking you to leave Dr. Ramsey's care, I'm asking you to allow Dr. Benton to try to help Albert too."
Sarah stood wringing her hands, "Well, I suppose that would be alright." She finally said.
Dr. Teplar smiled, he found her attractive, and reminded himself to stick to business. "If you don't mind, I'll bring him by later this morning, around eleven."
Sarah nodded, Dr. Teplar turned, went back to his car and drove away. Sarah noted he did not drive one of those fancy cars she usually saw doctor's driving. He was driving a plain silver sedan that matched his hair. She wondered how old he was, he looked close to her age. "Oh stop it Sarah, you have no business wondering how old an attractive man is at a time like this." She said to herself.
Layla looked at the clock on the wall, she had a little time before she needed to get over to Sarah's. Apparently Dr. Teplar had taken it upon himself to consult another doctor about Albert. There was no way she was going to let this other doctor meet with Albert without her presence. It figured, she had been staying at Aunt Sarah's since the police questioned Albert, she wanted to make sure Albert did not go out at night, so she had slept with him, guarding him. She had gotten up early this morning, and come home to soak in her tub and de-stress herself a little in her own home before going back to Sarah's house.
Layla thought back to when her parent's had first received Albert's diagnosis, he was three, she was seven, almost eight. Albert had been a normal happy and carefree little boy until he went in for his three-year well-check to receive his booster shots. Albert changed overnight-- his smile disappeared, his speech regressed, he seemed withdrawn and not like the little boy he was. When her parents took him back to the doctor, he simply said Albert was autistic, and their lives were never the same.
Layla had always adored her parents, she knew they loved her, even if they were very strict. Her father was a music professor at U of L, and her mom was a high school music teacher. They started teaching Layla to play the piano before she could walk, and she had loved all the attention her parents gave her, she learned to play the piano as easily as she learned to walk and talk. It was second nature to her, and she basked in the attention she got from her parents until it was apparent that the piano was all they wanted Layla to do. She wanted to take gymnastics, they were afraid she would sprain her wrists, she wanted to play softball, they were afraid she would get a concussion. Everything Layla asked to do, they had a reason why she could not do it, and each reason had something to do with the piano.
When Albert was diagnosed in the spectrum, it gave Layla a bit of a reprieve, while she still had to practice playing for several hours each day, her parent's time was consumed with Albert and what they could do for him. Her mother quit teaching to stay home with Albert, and because she still wanted to teach, she started giving private lessons.
When her mother began giving private lessons is when Layla first met Chase. His mother wanted him to learn to play the piano, and though Chase would have rather been out playing baseball, he came to his twice weekly lessons prepared and practiced, and he really wasn't too bad of a player either, even though he didn't like it much.
Chase was one of her first students, and Layla noticed something different about him early on. Most of the kids her mother taught ignored Albert during the time they were in their home, they seemed afraid of him. Chase wasn't like most of them, Chase was always conscientious about Albert, making sure he was nice to Albert and tried to talk to Albert, even though Albert was a lot younger than Chase, he was always kind to him, and never treated him like he was different from any other little kid he knew. Chase stopped taking lessons right before he entered high school, but any time he saw Albert he was always kind to him, even if he was surrounded with his own friends.
Of course, Chase was always kind to Layla too, although he never paid as much attention to Layla as he did to Albert. Layla had always believed that Chase wouldn't have noticed Jenn if she had not been her friend. Jenn and Layla were freshmen, and Chase was a Senior, early in that school year, Chase saw Layla and came over to speak to her and ask about Albert. He took one look at Jenn, and never looked back. It wasn't that Layla resented Jenn, she just never thought it was fair, but Jenn had been such a good friend to her, and helped her so much she tried not to think about it a lot.
Jenn spent a lot of time at Layla's house, which Layla was thankful for. Over the years, after her mother stopped working and Albert was as "normal" as was possible for him to be, her father spent more and more time at U of L, and when he was home, he hovered over Layla. He wanted her to go to Julliard like he had, and where her Aunt Sarah still was an adjunct when she wasn't touring. Layla's mom wanted her to go to U of L so she could stay home and have as little disruption to Albert's routine as possible. Layla's father had argued it wasn't fair to Layla to have her college choice hinged on Albert's routine, and Layla had agreed with him in principal, though she didn't want to go to Julliard either. College for Layla was still a few years away, yet it became a very sore subject and the cause of a lot of arguments with her parents.
The arguments changed Layla's Junior year of high school and became less about Layla and more about her father's absence from their home and what he was doing in all the time he was away. One night Layla heard a name thrown out, Vivianna Grassi, who was a teaching assistant while she was working on her doctoral degree at the University. It seemed Vivianna had taken a Music Theory class as an elective, she and Layla's father had started a relationship shortly thereafter, and he had fallen in love. The affair had been going on for several years, he was tired of the charade, and wanted a divorce.
Layla's mom had cried, screamed, begged, pleaded and threatened. It seemed to have worked for a little while, her father was home more, and earlier, and there had been no more mention of a divorce. A few months later, however, her father had not come home for dinner, and she could tell her mother was upset. She kept looking at the clock, calling his office, and a couple of other numbers, and couldn't find him. She asked Layla to get Albert into bed while she cleaned the kitchen. Layla did as she asked. A few hours later, Layla was lying in her bed, waiting and listening for her father to come home. He finally did just after midnight, and she drifted to sleep around four a.m. to the sound of her parent's arguing.
The following morning, they went to school, much as they always did, her mother tried to be as normal as possible, though Layla could tell neither of her parent's had slept. That afternoon, when Layla got home, she found her parents in their bedroom, dead. Her father had been shot in the heart, and her mother, the side of the head, was laying near him, gun still in her hand.
Layla pushed the grisly scene from her mind, and quickly set about to save her mother's name and father's reputation. She got a pan, filled it with dish-soap and washed her mother's hands and arms to remove any trace of gunpowder residue. Layla couldn't let her parents die like this, her father's name would be ruined, and her mother would be seen as a psychotic scorned wife, Layla could not let that happen.
After she was sure her mother's hands were clean, she went through the room, pulled out drawers and upended them, she did the same in the formal living room and dining room, careful to allow the parts of the house they used the most look as normal as possible. She took some of her mother's jewelry, opened a register vent in the kitchen, and tossed the jewelry in, never to be seen again. She went to the laundry room, unlocked the door to the outside, and left it open. She then carefully took the gun her mother had used, cleaned it, and returned it to her father's study and put it in it's case, silently thankful that her father had been adamant that both she and Albert learn to shoot and properly care for a gun.
When Albert arrived home, she gave him his regular snack of a grilled cheese sandwich in the kitchen, then asked him if he wanted to take his video camera to the park, something they did when they arrived home, and their mother was still out, caught in traffic or at the grocery, which was not often, because their mother was usually meticulous about keeping Albert's routine. Once in a while it did happen, and taking Albert out to allow him to use his video camera was a tactic Layla used to avoid Albert having what her mother referred to as "a melt-down."
When they returned home, Layla took Albert to the family room, and he started going through his footage. She called both of her mother's friends and asked if her mother was there, then she called U of L and asked for her father's extension. The secretary in the music department told Layla he had called in that morning and canceled his classes citing that he had a migraine. Layla thanked her, hung up the phone, and went up-stairs. She opened her parent's bedroom door and screamed. She went back downstairs, checked on Albert to see he was trans-like with his video camera. She went to the kitchen and called the police.
The police decided, because of Layla's careful actions, that someone had broken in to rob them, and their parents came home, caught them in the act and paid with their lives. There was barely an investigation. Even though Layla was seventeen, it was decided it would be for the best for Aunt Sarah to stop touring, and return to her home in Louisville. Layla and Albert would move in with Aunt Sarah until Layla was finished with college and could decide what she wanted to do with the house, and with Albert.
Like many musicians, her father was practically a genius with numbers and he played the stock market like it was a piano. Because of that Albert and Layla each had a trust fund that would provide for them well into old age. Layla knew all of this because she went through every single scrap of paper in her father's study. She knew her Aunt Sarah had entrusted most of her money to her father as well, and in return he had also made her a wealthy woman.
She also knew that the affair with Vivianna Grassi had been on again off again, mostly on, for nearly ten years. Her father had been careful, she gave him that. Layla had found just a few things from Vivianna, but one thing in particular had fascinated her, apparently Vivianna was a natural red-head, and her father preferred her natural color to the dark dye she used. In one note, she had promised her father after he married her, that she would change her hair back to the "god-awful" red he was so fond of.
Sarah had arranged for her brother's home to be cleaned, and the bedroom where they died was cleaned, then gutted and re-decorated, just in case Layla decided she wanted to sell it. Layla had kept the house, it was the house she still lived in, and even though Aunt Sarah had been appointed her guardian at seventeen, most nights she had slept in her own home. She even took Albert there sometimes to spend the night, but by then he was used to his routine with Aunt Sarah, and he wasn't as comfortable in the house he had grown up in as he was there.
Albert really did not understand, he knew his parents were gone, but the rest of it he was oblivious to. When he finally asked Layla when mom was coming home, Layla told him she was not, and she told him Vivianna Grassi was to blame. She told him all red headed women were evil, and they should all be made to pay.
After that, Albert became obsessed with videotaping red-heads. It didn't matter to him whether they were young, old, male or female, if they had red hair, he taped them. He carried the video camera like a toddler would carry a blanket always filming, always on the lookout for a red head. It had gotten him in trouble in school a few times, and it seemed any girl that Albert took an interest in had red hair. Most had been kind to him, but one who had moved in, did not know Albert or his idiosyncrasies, and when he tried to tape her, she took it the wrong way and told him to go "screw" himself, and Albert, being literal told her that was physically impossible, and if she indeed wanted him to do that, he would need her assistance.
Layla laughed, Aunt Sarah had spent the better part of the afternoon in the principal's office over that one. Because of the incident, Albert's camera had been banned from the school, and Albert, who had been doing so well, continued to digress and move backward. Dr. Ramsey had changed his medication, and Layla had not seen her brother the same since.
That had been seven years ago, so maybe seeing a new doctor might not be such a bad thing, maybe they would be able to regulate the medicine to bring Albert back to his version of normal. Layla looked at the clock on the mantle, it was nearly ten, time to go back to Aunt Sarah's and hope this doctor actually knew what he was doing.
The detective team each took turns poring over all the video tapes they confiscated from Albert. The tapes were, at first, quite professional, then they turned a little weird. Each part of the victim was taped in close-up. The victims face, then even tighter, on the nose, the eyes, the hole just at the top of the bridge of each of their noses. Albert shot the video as a forensic photographer would have with a still camera.
The detectives watched together, they watched separately, they discussed all they saw and they still didn't put together any evidence that would solve the crimes they had on tape. All they had were pictures of a crime scene. On a couple of occasions there were other people in the frame. Once when Eli Wilkes, the teenage boy that found the Smithson girl, was taped crying and throwing up. And again when there was, what appeared to be a woman in the frame, but it was impossible to identify her. She was wearing a scarf over her head and apparently tied below her chin. Her face was obscured and out of focus as Albert wasn't taping her.
The most interesting part was that there was NO tape of Jenn's murder. Rory debated whether he should mention that to Chase. Finally he decided it'd do no good to say anything and told the rest of the team to keep it amongst themselves. If Chase asked him, he'd come up with something or just change the subject.
"Rory, it's the 9-1-1 operator. You'd better take this." Rory heard Robyn say over the speaker on his desk phone.
Rory picked up the receiver and said in his most intimidating cop voice, "Detective Metcalf, how can I help you?"
"Rory, this is Madge over at dispatch. I just took a call on a shooting victim over near the Medical Center. I dispatched black and whites, but it sounds like the same M.O. as the others you've been working on. I thought I'd let you know."
"Thanks Madge. What's the address?"
"They didn't give an address…. just that it's under the I-65 down on South Brook. It's right beside St. Mary's Healthcare."
"OK Madge. I know right where it is. Anything else I should know?"
"Just that the caller said the 'vic' had pretty red hair."
"So what's up partner? What do we have" Chase queried?
"It's another shooting, bro.”
"Well, is this one anyone we know?"
"Don’t know yet. Let's roll."
Chase had been out of his mind for the past couple of weeks. He needed to get back to his regular job. He understood department policy as it concerned working on a case that involved one of your relatives, but this had become ridiculous. He was a homicide detective. He needed to occupy his mind with his work. Sitting at his desk with a picture of Jenn staring back at him all day wasn’t doing him any good.
Officially they hadn't declared these murders to be the work of a serial killer, so the F.B.I. hadn’t been alerted. He hoped the chief would keep this in-house long enough to solve it. He never liked sharing an investigation with the Feebs.
They sped across town in silence from the ‘Metro’ station over to Jewish Hospital/St. Mary’s. The forensic team was already there when they arrived. The scene was much the same as the others had been, a young woman in an alleyway, in her late twenties, pretty, nicely dressed, and red hair. The exit wound was just millimeters from the exact location as all the others.
Chase stood with a stunned look on his face looking down over the lifeless corpse that resembled his beautiful Jenn. He fought back the memory as he knew a break in his composure would land him back at the desk, or worse, on leave from his duties altogether.
“What caliber do you think it is, Rory?”
“My guess would be a .38 Smith and Wesson.” Rory stated wryly.
“Is that what the others have been?”
“Yeah, that’s what we’ve been seeing lately.”
“Is that what Jenn’s murder weapon was?”
“Careful Chase, we’re on a slippery slope already. Let’s just stay focused on the case before us.”
Rory Metcalf was a natural as a cop. He was a police cadet in high school, kept his hair clipped close and his nose clean unlike most teenage boys. He never strayed. He never got a tattoo. He never smoked pot. Rory was the picture of Middle America. His dad was an accountant for a law firm and his stay-at-home mom was always there when he got home from school. She was the typical ‘Kool-Aid’ mom that was happy to have a half dozen of Rory’s friends over anytime. The rules were strict, but the rewards were plentiful.
Rory had an older sister and a younger brother. Each of them had rooms full of books and games. There was only one television in the ample house and it was reserved for watching only the programs that Ruth and Bennie Metcalf approved. On Saturday morning, before 10 am, they were allowed to watch cartoons or play video games. After that they were expected to play basketball on the back drive or go to the neighborhood tennis courts for a match. Physical fitness was not just encouraged, it was required.
Immediately after high school, Rory committed his first act of individualism. He went against his parents’ wishes for him to go to college and joined the Marine Corps. He went through boot camp at Parris Island, South Carolina. Then it was on to MP training and off for a tour in Bosnia where he helped to train local police. Next he was stationed in Okinawa for two years where he rose to the rank of staff sergeant in nearly record time. Everyone around him expected him to re-enlist and stay for life. But Rory only used the Marine Corps to get the training he needed and to pass the time until he turned twenty one. That was Louisville PD’s age requirement.
He was twenty two when he was discharged and came immediately back to Louisville and applied with the Police Department. After passing all the written and oral board tests, he was accepted into the 23 week police academy, necessary even though he’d been a military cop for nearly four years. Rory didn’t mind. He knew what he wanted and the academy wasn’t nearly as tough as Marine boot camp had been.
On his first assignment, he was partnered with Lawton Merck, a twenty seven year veteran of the Department and just three years away from retirement. He learned much from the older man. Rory wasn’t the typical rookie as he’d already served as a cop in the Corps. Lawton Merck was former military himself, so he had a genuine respect for his young partner. They were together for Lawton’s last three years.
After Merck’s retirement, Rory made application to move to detective. It was denied at first and he was partnered with another beat cop for a time, but it wasn’t a good match. Rory had two more partners over the next two and a half years until his detective application was accepted and he was assigned to the detective squad. Like most new detectives, he was assigned to petty thefts cases such as automobile break-ins, and home burglaries.
In his third year he was teamed with another young detective on a home invasion. Chase Williams was a little more aggressive and probably a little more reckless than the steadfast Rory Metcalf, but they worked together very well. A young woman came home from shopping to find her home broken into and ransacked. Her husband had left on a business trip while she was out, so she was alone and very frightened.
Chase calmed her and told her they’d find who did this to her. In the course of the investigation, Rory found a small blood spatter on the garage floor. During canvassing of the neighborhood, it was discovered that the neighbors saw the young woman’s husband leaving with a man in the car with him.
A check of the airline revealed that he had caught his flight and his car was found in the parking garage. Chase noticed the blood on the rear bumper. Forcing the trunk open, they discovered the young man’s body in the trunk and airport video revealed that the man who took his seat on the flight was an ex-con with a record of violent home invasions. This bit of detective work gave Rory and Chase all the notoriety they needed to get assigned to homicide, a move they both wanted.
Chase was the one who got the unenviable task of telling the young widow that her husband had been killed. He went to see her often during the investigation to check on her and tell her as much as he could about what was going on. Usually it was nothing more than “we’re on his trail” or “we’ll have him in custody soon.”
After the case was solved, Chase went by her house once more to tell her she would soon be able to get some closure. They talked for a couple of hours. She told him she didn’t know what she was going to do. She didn’t have a job and had gotten married right out of high school. She didn’t have any real skills other than answering the phone as a candy striper at the hospital. Chase knew of a receptionist position at the Metro division desk that was opening. He told Robyn of it and put in a good word for her. She was hired and had been there since. Chase Williams had become Robyn’s hero in many ways.***
Layla woke to the sound of loud knocking on her door. She glanced at her bedside clock, her eyes straining, her heart pounding. The noise had scared her.
It wasn’t all that early, 8 o’clock, but her worries about Albert had kept her awake, and it had been the wee hours of the morning before she had calmed down enough to sleep last night. She barely pushed the curtain aside, looking directly below to see whose car might be in her driveway.
Chase. It was Chase, and lord, she looked a fright. Deep dark shadows lay beneath eyes that seemed to not want to stay open. And the ragged T shirt she wore had certainly seen better days. What on earth was he doing at her home at 8 in the morning?
She grabbed the only thing she could find, an old robe that she’d had since high school. The once white chenille was gray, and very nearly threadbare in spots. She grabbed a scrunchy from the counter in her bathroom, pulled her long hair back into a ponytail, splashed a dab of water on her face, then headed quickly for the stairs that would take her right to the front door. She felt a little lightheaded and grabbed for the rail with her left hand. Lord, she was groggy.
Barefoot toes peeked out from beneath the old chenille robe, it was too late to do a thing about it. Chase had already heard the click of the door lock as she released it.
“Layla, good morning,” Chase began. “I‘m so sorry to bother you at this hour, but it’s the only time I had today. I really need to talk with you. You didn’t answer your phone, and I got a little worried that you might…”
“Chase, what’s wrong, it isn’t Albert, is it? He is OK, tell me he’s OK, Chase…”
“Albert’s fine, Layla. I just needed to run some things by you, things that only you would know the answers to.”
“Coffee, I need coffee, Chase. Would you like a cup of coffee. Nevermind if you do or not, I need a cup, and you might as well have some with me. I can’t even think without my first cup of coffee.”
Chase followed her into the kitchen where she carefully measured enough coffee for four cups. She tightened the belt to her robe and turned to find Chase already seated in her breakfast nook. He had a notebook and pen in his hand.
“Don’t start on me, Chase. I had enough of Rory’s interrogation in the guise of friendship. I don’t want any of that from you!”
“Don’t worry, Layla. This is unofficial. But I need to talk. Layla, I can’t sleep, can’t eat, can’t get my mind off Jenn’s killer. I’ll find him if it kills me, and I think somehow perhaps Albert might know more than he realizes. I only want to talk with you about Albert. Please, Layla. Help me.”
Layla took a deep breath, straightened her shoulders, and said, “Chase, what do you want me to say? Albert would never kill!!! You already know that. HE WOULD NOT KILL.”
Chase jumped to his feet, started toward Layla, then turned suddenly as if to leave. Then he stopped.
“Layla, if you ever cared about Jenn, if you ever cared a bit about your best friend, then help me now.” He turned again and faced her. “Please Layla, talk with me about Albert. Just tell me, Layla, does Albert have access to another gun?”
Layla paled visibly, turned quickly and grabbed one cup from the cupboard. Chase watched. Slowly she stretched her arm up and grabbed another.
Silence. With stiff motions and a shaky hand she managed to pour steaming coffee into one cup, then the other. She handed one to Chase, sloshing it over the rim, seeming to not notice, and then sat at the table. Her face was paler, the dark circles beneath her eyes even darker now. She stared at the coffee in front of her.
“She killed them. She killed them. SHE KILLED THEM!! She murdered them as surely as if she pulled the trigger,” Layla screamed. “She didn’t deserve to live, and I had to cover it up, she killed them, but I covered for them, Chase, you don’t understand, SHE KILLED THEM.” With her scream she flung her cup of coffee to the table. It shattered but Layla never noticed.
“Layla, who are you talking about? Who was killed? What did you cover? Tell me, calm down and tell me, you aren’t making any sense! Layla….LAYLA?”
Layla slumped in her seat, her head back, her eyes closed, her hands limp at her sides. Chase moved toward her, grabbed her wrist to check her pulse, patted her face, but there was no response, just a faint fluttery pulse beat. He grabbed his cell phone from his pocket and called for emergency help.
With EMS on the way, Chase stood close by with one hand still on Layla’s wrist, the pulse seemed to become stronger. His other hand again held the phone to his ear.
“Williams here, get me Robyn, please…”
“Chase, this is Robyn. What’s up?”
“Rob, I’m at Layla’s and she’s suddenly passed out, probably from stress. But I’ve called Medics and they’re on their way. I need you to check my schedule and cancel whatever’s on it this morning, then let Rory know what’s going on. I’ll go with her to Jewish Emergency, see what the docs say, and I need Rory to meet me there. Chances are she’s just fainted, maybe she hasn’t eaten, heaven knows she’s been under a lot of pressure. Anyway, let Rory know what’s going on, and head him in this direction. I’ll keep you in the loop. Medics are here now, talk later. Thanks, Rob!”
“Wait, Chase, what happened, what…?” Robyn dropped the phone, Chase had hung up. She sat at her desk thinking for a minute as Rory appeared.
“Was that Chase? Where is he, he isn’t usually this late getting in.”
“That was weird, Rory. He said he was at Layla’s. Isn’t that the woman who’s a sister to the strange man with the video camera? Wasn’t she Jenn’s friend?”
“Ummm, yeah, you’re right. What’d he say about her?”
“Nothing really, just that you need to meet him at the emergency room at Jewish right now.”
“Jewish, right. On my way.”
Robyn watched as he rushed through the door.
She knew exactly who Layla was…that little snippet who called Chase every chance she got. And every time she got one of Layla’s calls, Robyn made sure Chase wasn’t available to talk. Yes, she knew very well who Layla was. And she knew who Layla’s demented brother was, too.
Robyn glanced around her office. No one was there, Rory had closed the door behind him. Casually she opened the bottom drawer of her desk.
She’d been around long enough that no one questioned anything she did. It had been easy enough to ‘help’ when they brought in the tin of videos Albert had taken. She’d helped sort them into chronological order. On that first day they’d brought the tin in as evidence, they were merely interested in the videos. No one had closely examined the bottom of the tin. Robyn noticed, though.
It was one of those decorative tins that cigars or tobacco came in. There was a rim around the bottom matching the rim created by the lid around the top. The bottom was flat, merely the silver color of the metal, but the top was covered in a painted design. Robyn realized the bottom of the tin was also a lid, but she kept her mouth shut. A lid disguised as a rim. Clever. At one time this antique tin’s base had held cigarette papers, maybe matches, she suspected, but now it held something much more valuable, and much more damaging.
The videos were under lock and key in the evidence room, so was the tablet. The tin they had been stored in was behind the files in Robyn’s desk drawer. But not for long. Once they had their hands on the videos and the tablet, the detectives had not given another thought to the tin.
She had decided to change purses recently, for a couple of reasons. She’d carried that black leather shoulder bag all winter long, and with the weather warming, it was time for a change. She’d found the new one at a little boutique on Bardstown Road a month or so ago. It was of woven fabric, and far lighter but roomier than the old black leather purse had been. It had compartments, zippers, and best of all, it held her newspaper and a magazine or two, with plenty of room to spare. There was also the fact that it was hobo style, slouchy, and nothing inside would show up as an outline on the outside, unless one counted the newspaper and magazine that peeped out of one open corner of the draw-stringed top.
For weeks now, Robyn had carried the large new purse, empty except for her slimline wallet, her keys, and the ever present newspaper and magazine. Her cell phone fit into the tiny pocket on the outside of the handbag. That left a lot of room in the bottom. The purse didn't appear empty when it hung from her shoulder, but it was.
With no one anywhere near her, Robyn lowered her purse and slipped the two small videos from the tin into it. The tin was replaced in the bottom file drawer of her desk. She hung her purse casually from the same hook as her jacket just to the side of her desk.
“Perfect timing,” she thought. “What perfect timing. Thank you, Ms. Sleezy Layla. You will never know what a favor you’ve done.”
Robyn would take the videos home this very night, and she’d see for herself if there were anything incriminating on either of them. If not, they’d be easy enough to destroy, and if there were evidence on them, well, that would call for their destruction as well.
She wondered why the man Albert had not mentioned the two extra videos. He’d claimed to have filmed fourteen, and there were fourteen videos in the top of the tin. Why had he not mentioned the two extras that were hidden in the bottom. Robyn didn’t know, but she was going to find out.
|It was that time in the afternoon when, schedule permitting, Sarah made herself a cup of very strong tea with a splash of milk and a squirt of honey. She sat in the nook in her kitchen with her feet up on the footstool and let her guard down and relaxed. “Goodness’, she thought, “who would have thought all of this confusion and uproar just because of some old tapes. Why on earth would the police want them, anyway?”
As she sipped, her thoughts went back (as they always did) to when she toured the country as a renown concert pianist; her closet full of the beautiful long gowns she wore for her performances and the afternoons spent at Salons having her hair and nails done just right! She was the Star. She was favorably reviewed after every performance and received flowers even before she took to the stage.
“That was so long ago,” she mused. “Now look at me: alone. All of these years with Albert to take care of. No one to take care of ME. Layla doesn’t have time, she is so busy with her own life and with Albert.”
Sarah and her brother’s wife, Maddy, had been very close friends, almost like sisters. Their death brought Sarah’s world to a crashing halt: her career abandoned, her closest friend and brother dead and two young children in her charge. It was impossible to imagine! And, it happened so quickly. Maddy had confided in her one rainy afternoon and Sarah knew about her brother’s affairs and the anguish Maddy went thru. Sarah, being the oldest, had always known about her brothers’ Bi-polar condition, which hadn’t made him the easiest person to live with or around. In spite of it, and the affect it had on the kids, Maddy adored her husband. She practically worshipped him. Sarah still could not accept the fact they were dead, even though’ she had years raising Albert as proof!
Ah, yes”, she sighed, “Albert and Layla.” That girl had a way with Albert she was grateful for, but her other sides were selfish, self-centered, self-serving and controlling. It started when Maddy and Roger were killed and the kids began living with her. Roger’s obsession with guns, teaching that young boy and his sister how to handle and shoot guns. “I wonder what happened to those guns he had. It was that freedom with guns that ultimately got him and Maddy murdered.” Sarah had no idea how they were really killed as she, too, bought the cover-up.
Layla wondered if Chase bought her act. She thought the spell was pretty good, considering it was all impromptu and that she banged her elbow in the process and couldn’t react. Chase was getting too close now…’have to make them pay’…
We can’t stop now, she thought, we have only started. I’m finally making them see what I want, and they’re impressed. Just like in the murder mysteries!!! How brilliant! And those clowns are going to take all the credit! HA! I will show them…and my baby brother will be watching….and that slut thought she was going to take my daddy away? No way! Mommy made the first move and then I took over. If only she could have seen how well I did it. I was wonderful…they believed me hook line and sinker.
Sarah wondered what happened to Layla. She is young and beautiful but at the rate she is going what will she have? She has no friends since Jenn was killed and she is all about Albert. She seems to be happy, but there was a tight edgy feeling about her that Sarah could feel. It was as if she was detached, but Sarah could feel that Layla was totally in control. And angry.
Leap. The net will appear.
|Robyn was nervous as she put the first video into her player. If there were any real evidence on the tapes she would have to be careful. She couldn’t risk having the case lost because she tampered with the chain of evidence…but if she could use the information to solve the case without anyone discovering the tapes existed, then finally they would have to make her a detective.
Robyn had been assigned to a desk job right after she graduated from the academy and had put in for a transfer to every unit she could qualify for over the next four years. But they kept her chained to a desk and no one took her seriously. It was going to take something major to make them see her potential and give her a chance to really make a difference. Even the traffic control division would have been more useful than the desk.
She was frustrated and angry. Being pretty and blond did not mean she was incapable of real police work. They acted like she had an air valve hidden under her ponytail. Sure she had a soft voice and a tendency to blush, but that was not such a horrible thing. She could be tough and stern when she needed to be and she could shoot well enough to be a police sniper if they would just give her a chance. If she had wanted a desk job she would have attended secretarial classes instead of the police academy!
As the video began she concentrated her whole attention to it as the camera panned across a table laden with guns and a young boy sat breaking down and cleaning a Smith and Wesson. He said the name of each part as he laid it on the table. Then in perfect reverse order he picked up each piece, cleaned it and reassembled the gun. When it was finished he sat and stared at it as he swayed slowly back and forth. “The 3 1/2" barrel length on the Smith and Wesson model 27 was popular with FBI agents in the 1940s through the 1960s.” He said.
Then a woman’s voice was heard. “That was very good Albert. Now please clean the Smith and Wesson model 27.” The voice was familiar but she couldn’t put a name to it…it sounded like a teenager.
“We have Model 27 with 3 1/2", 4", 5", 6" and 8 3/8” barrels"
“Yes, Albert, that is correct. I meant the SW27 with the 5” barrel” The female responded.
The boy reached out and picked up a Smith and Wesson Model 27 with a 5” barrel. He stopped swaying and began to methodically break the gun down. “General George Patton carried an ivory handled Model 27 with a 3 1/2 inch barrel. General George Patton called the Model 27 his "killing gun.” The boy said. “Daddy said the Smith and Wesson Model 27 is the best Damn gun ever made”
“That is right Albert,” said the female voice. You are a very smart boy”
“We are going to make them pay.” Albert said in a flat voice.
“Yes, Albert, we are going to make them pay,” responded the female voice…also flat and void of emotion.
The tape continued as the boy cleaned, oiled and reassembled all five guns and then carefully placed each into a case which had a foam indentation exactly fitted to each piece. He closed the lid and a pair of slender white hands with soft pink polish reached across the table and snapped a padlock closed on the box.
There was something written on the box but the lighting was poor and Robyn could not make out the words. She removed the tape from the player and inserted the second tape.
There was now no doubt in her mind that the female teen voice belonged to Layla. That would mean this tape was taken back when Layla was still in High School. It also meant that Layla and Albert had 4 Smith and Wesson hand guns in addition to the one Chase had taken from Albert…the one that was plugged with concrete in the barrel and that had been registered to their dead father…. Where were those guns now? Had they also been registered? Could she find the registrations and use that as proof of their existence…enough to get them a search warrant? If she could do that and they found the guns she could slip the tin box and tapes into the evidence locker and seemingly discover them later…that would tie Layla and Albert to the guns no matter where they found them. They would have to search Sarah’s house and Layla’s.
As the second video began to play the phone rang. Robyn reached for the remote and stopped the tape before answering it.
|Lance hung up the phone as soon as he heard the voice start speaking. He slammed the receiver down hard, his hands shaking so bad he let the receiver fall off the phone.
He didn’t bother to correct it, and he didn’t care about anything now. His beloved Viv, was gone.
He could barely stand up, the grief he felt combined with the hang over he seemed to constantly have overwhelming his every minute of existence.
He slumped back at his desk, staring at his typed papers strewn around the room.
He brushed his hair back from his forehead as he felt the nausea wave over him again,
And he grabbed the trash can.
The police barely spent any time with him, almost dismissing him once he told them his where about the night Viv was killed. He sank back into his binge drinking, feeling sorry for himself and the loss of the woman he was deeply in love with, regretting the moments he had lost forever, wasted on the petty things they argued over. “Why?” he cried out loud, as he held his hands upwards, asking the ceiling.
Lance was forever regretting things he said or did or didn’t do. He wrote with a vengeance when he felt angry. His murders always seemed to calm him. He felt compelled to murder every woman in the same way, and it pained him to know that his beloved Viv was murdered just the way he described it would happen. “Who could be doing this? and why and how are they using my stories?” he asked him self over and over. He felt as if he had sentenced Viv to her sudden death. He grabbed the trash can again.
Viviana’s home was huge and ancient. He rambled around from room to room, trying to
Bring up memories of their moments together. He knew he could probably stay there since there was not anyone else that would be interested in the property. He wanted to call the Police department and ask questions, get information, take notes, find out what he normally would be hearing from Vivianna. Now with his inside person gone, he felt insecure, unsure, and at a loss for words to put on paper. He opened the door to her bedroom upstairs, wondering what he was going to do with all her stuff. She had no family that he knew of and he felt heavy with weariness over the thought of having to deal with everything. Her bed was half made as it was the day she left it. The police had opened a few drawers, looking for clues or evidence. They found nothing. He glanced up at the ceiling and saw a shadow of a shape in the ornate etched frosted glass nite shade that was dimly lit. “bugs” he thought to him self as he heaved himself down on her bed.
Lance thought about the recent murders and how they were exactly like his books and thought of the differences between them. Someone had copied him, yes, but someone had taken the woman he loved away from him, and he was very, very angry. Staring at the ceiling light, vowing to avenge his lost love, he had decided to team up with the police. In his instant decision, he had dialed the number, but then chickened out. Thinking of how he would go about this new plan of his, he drifted off to sleep.
Lance woke up in a sweaty daze. He had the shakes and a dry mouth. He needed a drink. All he could think about was Vivianna and her support and advice on his writings, and he felt close to a breakdown. When he met Vivianna, he was struggling, barely getting his books published, finding it hard to be self supportive. He felt like she was his light at the end of a long dark tunnel, bringing him home tidbits of facts and findings and details that inspired him to write. He was emotionally drained, but determined to find out what happened to her, help the police, and write a new book. He stared at himself in the mirror of the bathroom and splashed water on his face, knowing he needed a shave. Looking at himself was hard to do. He had prided himself on being the best murder artist, creating the perfect crimes and mysteries, and now he felt hopeless and empty of all ideas. He wished he had not gloated so much to her now. He didn't feel secure. He felt like he did when he first left home, alone, broke, and desperate.
Remember: You get what you give in Life,so be careful of what you are giving!
|Lance glanced up at the ceiling fixture again, he couldn't stand dirty ceiling fixtures, so he got a utility ladder from the hall closet stood on it and unscrewed the cap that held it in place. When he took the globe down, he noticed the square was actually an envelope folded in half. He unfolded it and recognized Vivianna's elegant writing across the front, "Lance" was all it said.
Lance tucked the envelope into his hip pocket and carefully replaced the globe noting that it did not need to be cleaned as he first thought. He stepped down from the ladder, grabbing the back of it to steady himself as he went, folded the ladder and put it back in its place in the hall closet. He glanced back into the room, grief overtook him as he quietly pulled it shut.
He returned to his study and pulled the envelope out of his pocket. On the top was Vivianna's Last Will and Testament, he glanced over it briefly, noting that Vivianna had indeed included him in her will. There were account numbers to various investments she held as well as the key to her safe deposit box at the bank, and a notarized letter that gave Lance her permission to access that box. She said that the deed to the house was there, as well as other important documents. Lance looked at the clock, he still had two hours before the bank closed, so he drove the few miles to the local bank where both he and Vivianna had done business for the last several years.
At the bank, once inside the room alone with the safe deposit box, Lance glanced through the contents, opened up his briefcase, put everything in it and returned home where he could read the documents privately. Lance put his briefcase on the kitchen table, got a glass of ice and a coke out of the fridge. He slowly poured Zaya over the ice then filled the glass with icy coke. He lifted the glass and took a sip. "Perfect." He thought.
As he glanced through the papers now strewn over the kitchen table, he noticed a sealed envelope addressed to Detective Chase Williams at the police department. The envelope was stamped several times "confidential" in red ink. Lance ignored the address and opened the envelope, inside he found a letter from Vivianna;
If you are reading this, then that means I am no longer alive.
If I died of natural causes, or in a car wreck, part of what I am about to tell you means nothing. If I was murdered, I'll tell you about someone you may want to investigate later in this letter.
I've done some things in my life I am not proud of, and I need to set the record straight. Almost ten years, I was involved in a relationship with Dr. Roger Sullivan. I loved him with all of my heart, unfortunately Dr. Sullivan was married and had two children. He refused to leave his family and marry me. I was overcome with grief, and in desperation I went to his home on the afternoon of May 12, 1999. I took chloroform I procured from U of L, and when I entered their home, I found his wife in their bedroom. I used the chloroform to render his wife unconscious, after which I tried to convince Roger to leave her. I told him I would kill her, and he would be free to marry me. He refused told me to get out of his life. In a rage of emotion and grief, I shot Roger in their bedroom. I then placed the gun in his wife's hand, placed her finger on the trigger, placed my finger over hers and shot her in the head. I placed letters I had written to Roger in his desk where they were sure to be found. My plan was for the homicide to look like a murder/suicide, and it would have worked with the evidence I placed at the scene. The Louisville PD would not have ordered a toxicology report, there would have been no reason to, it would have been an open and shut case.
However, when the bodies were discovered, someone had re-arranged the bodies, and made the scene look like a robbery gone bad. I am not sure who did this, that will be for you to find out. Good Luck Chase, you were always my star student. I am so sorry I am not who you thought I was.
Now, about my murder, yes, most likely I've been murdered. After Roger's death, I started dating a man who writes murder mysteries. Low budget (Lance grimaced) not really good murder mysteries. That said, he's actually a pretty decent guy when he's not drunk. So, I helped him with the logistics of the crime scenes in a few of his novels, and a couple of years later, while reading some trial transcripts for class, I noticed that a few murders around Louisville were identical to the murders staged in his books.
As time went on, I got every transcript from murders in Louisville, there was a pattern, someone was copying the scenes from his murders down to the positioning of the bodies. I wanted to contact you then, but we were both afraid that we would be considered suspects, and well, the guilt with Roger was always at the back of my mind.
There haven't been anymore murders recently, but for some reason, I have always felt that the murderer has a connection to me somehow, and that the murders were supposed to be a message to me. I do know with certainty, Lance did not commit them. We were rarely apart, except when I was at school. He's troubled by something in his past, but, he's not a murderer, he's a writer, and not even a very good one. I don't even know if he has a high school education. These murders required forethought, and my Lance lives in the here and now, always; that's what made me fall in love with him.
So, if you are reading this because I have been murdered, dig deep because most likely the person who killed me, also killed those other women based on Lance's books.
My theory is that the person doing the killing is my ex-husband. I married him young, I was just a teenager, and I wanted out of the house. No one knew I married him, not even my parents, they thought I just ran away. Once we were married, I stayed long enough to stash away a little money then I left him and changed my name. My own family doesn't know where I am, but nine years ago, he found me in Louisville, tried to extort money from me, and when he found out it I wouldn't give him any, he told me to watch my back, because one day when I least expected it, he'd be there and he'd kill me.
My thought is that he committed the murders to try to frame Lance, if I had no man, then I would go back to him. I know it doesn't make sense, but the man is psychotic, and that is the way he thinks. Check him out, I'm sure he's still in the area here somewhere. His name is George Lamb and his social is 123-456-7890.
Good Luck Chase, I know what I did was wrong, I've lived with the guilt for fourteen years now.
Vivianna Grassi, Phd.
Lance ran his hands through his hair, then got up and poured his drink down the sink. He knew what he had to do now, he couldn't hide or pretend to be someone he was not any longer. He had to go back to real life, to being a real adult. He couldn't allow more people to be hurt because he was hiding in a bottle and behind the reckless character he had created for himself. Poor Vivianna, he must have created his character well if she thought he was a bumbling idiot. He regretted she never knew the real Lance.
She had been good for him. When he left Boston, he went to Pittsburgh and spent a few days with his Grandmother. When he left there, he planned to go to Houston to start over. It was so far away and different from Boston, he thought it would be easier. He drove from city to small town to city just making his way south. When he landed in Louisville, something about the city called to him, it was a sleepy little place, but he liked it.
It had been easy to lose his last name and just use his middle name; Lance Hensley Benton simply became Lance Hensley. The books had been easy enough to write, he had lived all of them. It was the last one he couldn't bring himself to write, Viv thought it was writer's block... Lance knew it was so much more than that.
He hadn't been ready to relive that last and final book, the series that was his life. When he met Viv, she was reeling from the relationship with Roger, no wonder she was upset he was gone, she had killed him.
He and Viv had met in a bar downtown, both drowning their sorrows in a bottomless bottle of Maker's Mark. Before they knew it, they were living together, and had their own version of happy. Lance knew now, they had been two people living separately together, and he wondered if either of them had been happy, or if they had just existed. It didn't really matter now, Viv was gone.
He went to his room, showered, shaved and dressed, then went to his closet. In the furthest corner on the top shelf, under a stack of old clothes there was a small wooden box--he didn't know if Viv had ever seen it, but assumed she had not or she would have said something to him. He blew the dust off the top of the box, opened it , glanced briefly at the picture of the person he was before, then took out his badge and slid it into his pocket.
When Lance arrived at the police station, the sights and smells assaulted his senses, for a moment he thought he was going to be sick. Robyn ever bright and cheerful turned on her best smile for him, "May I help you?" She asked.
Lance swallowed, there was no going back now. "I'm here to see Detective Williams."
Robyn smiled, "Of course, I'll see if he is able to see you."
Robyn got up and walked back to Chase's office. Chase was bent over a file studying, he told Robyn to send Lance back, and when Lance got there, Chase expressed his condolences over the loss of Vivianna.
Lance thanked him, and put the packet down on his desk. After Chase read Vivianna's letter, Lance told him that while Viv's guess at the murderer might be correct, Lance believed the murderer was someone from his past, and he wanted to help put him away for good. After listening to Lance's story, Chase called the Chief and asked Lance to repeat his story for him.
The Chief and Chase stepped into the hallway outside of Chase's office, The Chief looked at Chase and asked, "Do you believe him?" Chase nodded, "Oddly enough Chief, I do. The question is, do you?" Chase asked.
The chief looked at Chase, "I'm not sure what to believe at this point. Let me call Bryan Underwood over at the Louisville FBI office, I read that he was in the Boston office before he transferred here, if this guy is for real, he will know."
The Chief started to call for Robyn, then decided he would place the call and sit on hold himself if he had to. He dialed the number for the Louisville Division of the FBI, identified himself and asked for Assistant Special Agent in Charge Underwood. The receptionist at the FBI office did not want to put the call through, even though he was the Chief of Police of the city she was working in.
She transferred him to someone, who transferred him to someone else, and finally he got someone with an assistant before his title, he again asked to speak to the Assistant Special Agent in Charge, or the Agent in Charge, at this point he really did not care, he was getting frustrated, and it was showing in his voice. The voice at the other end of the line asked, "Sir, may I tell Special Agent Underwood what your call is regarding, he is more likely to take your call if he knows what it is about."
The Chief, exasperated by this point said, "Tell him I have some questions about someone he worked with in Boston, Lance Hensley Benton."
Almost immediately, Special Agent Bryan Underwood was on the line. "Chief Hargrove, how can I help you today?" Underwood asked.
The chief was surprised that he had gotten through as soon as he mentioned Lance's name. "Sir, I was wondering what you could tell me about Lance Hensley Benton. Mr. Benton is here at my department with evidence he found in an ongoing investigation. According to Mr. Benton, he worked with the Boston office of the FBI on one of the Evidence Response Teams."
Bryan Underwood laughed, he started to speak, but another laugh escaped before the words "That son of a gun." came out.
The chief was confused, "Excuse me, Special Agent?" He asked.
Special Agent Benton replied, "Chief, would you mind if I come over to your office? I don't think this is something we can discuss at length over the phone, and actually, I would like to see uh, Agent Benton again."
The Chief was surprised, "Certainly, that won't be a problem, so I guess his story is legit?" The chief asked.
Agent Underwood laughed again, "Chief, he is or was one of the foremost Forensic Specialists in the country, a hometown boy educated at Harvard. So, yes, he's legit. Is there a back door I can come through? I really would hate to come in the front, if there are any press hanging around and give them any unsubstantiated ideas, especially with these murders you have on your hands right now."
The Chief reddened, so the FBI was following his cases, and probably wondering why he had not enlisted their help yet. "Of course Special Agent, just come in the basement door at the corner of 6th Street and Congress Alley, I'll meet you at the door. I have a private conference room down in that wing we can use."
Agent Underwood thanked him and said he would be there in ten minutes. The Chief returned to Chase's office where Lance and Chase still sat. He picked up the phone, and dialed Robyn's extension. When she answered he said, "Robyn, Detectives Williams, Metcalf and I will be in a meeting. Hold all calls and visitors until I tell you otherwise please."
On the other end of the phone Robyn said, "Chief, it's almost five, do you want me to stay?"
The Chief responded, "No Robyn, you go on home, we're just going to brainstorm a bit, we may be here a while."
The Chief replaced the phone and said, "Chase, get Rory and meet me downstairs in the conference room. Bring all the files you've got and everything Mr. Benton has given you this afternoon. Mr. Benton, come with me please."
The Chief settled Lance in the conference room, and offered him a drink from the mini fridge in the room. Lance took a bottle of water, and the chief excused himself to wait for Special Agent Underwood. When Underwood arrived the Chief offered his hand, "Special Agent Underwood, it's a pleasure to meet you." He said. Agent Underwood took the Chief's hand and shook it, "Please, call me Bryan." He said. "Does Lance know I am coming here?" He asked.
The chief shook his head, "No, I didn't tell him, I wasn't sure you wanted me to. I know nothing about this guy other than he's a writer and he was living with our latest murder victim for the last several years. I was shocked to say the least when he came in with some things he found in his room-mate's safe deposit box, and told us he had worked with the FBI. I wasn't sure what to believe, that's why I called you."
Bryan laughed again, "Chief, I'll give you a brief history. Special Agent Benton was one of our best. He did serve for a long time on one of the Evidence Response Teams, but his assignment when he left Boston, was Assistant Special Agent in Charge, I'm not sure if you know how our ranking works, but he was second in command of the entire division. He was in charge of all eight of the Evidence Response Teams, and if rumors were true, was next in line to be Special Agent in Charge."
The Chief shook his head, "What happened?"
This time it was Underwood's turn to shake his head as he sighed. "It was bad. We had a killer we investigated when Benton was on one of the teams. Benton got close to catching him several times. At one particular crime scene, the perp was close enough to watch what was going on, and called Agent Benton and let him know. Benton talked to him at length about it, tried to talk him in, of course that didn't work, but, this perp took a liking to Benton, and started calling him after he committed a murder. Telling him where he would find the victim, how he had killed them, and how the agents would find the vic 'posed'."
"You're kidding?" Said the Chief.
"I wish I was." replied Agent Underwood. He continued, "Lance took each murder personally, he felt like he should have been able to stop him. He just knew that the perp had somehow messed up and left a bit of evidence that would lead us to him. That never happened, and Lance blamed himself each and every time."
"How many murders were there?" Asked the Chief.
Underwood replied, "Well, there were fifteen that we know of. Three of them happened before the perp started calling Lance, twelve happened after he started calling him."
The Chief shook his head, "He resigned because of this? I find that hard to believe."
Underwood shook his head, "He didn't resign Chief, he disappeared."
"What? Why would he do that? Because he couldn't solve a murder mystery?" The chief asked.
Underwood sighed, "It's a little more complicated and personal than just that." He continued, "Eleven times this guy called Lance, taunting him basically, because we could not catch him. He was right, he was so good, we couldn't catch him. The last time he called, he did much as he always did, he told Lance what he had done to the victims, what evidence he would find at the crime scene, and then he gave him the address."
The chief shook his head, "That is sick." he said.
Underwood nodded, "I agree, he is a sick individual, and we never figured out the fascination he had with Lance. Maybe if we had been able to, we could have caught him. That was how Lance felt, and why he blamed himself. The last time he called Lance, he told him he would stop the killing if Lance stopped looking for him."
The chief was shocked, "Benton agreed? He gave up his career because this guy told him he wouldn't kill anyone else?"
Underwood nodded, "He seems to have."
The chief, amazed asked, "Why."
Underwood sighed again. "Because the last address the perp gave Lance was Lance's own address; the victims were Lance's wife and daughter. After the funeral, Lance got in his car and left. We've not heard a word from him since that day. If he's bringing you evidence you can take it to the bank. If he has a theory on your murders here, you can bet that it is fairly solid if it was enough for him to reveal his identity to you."
Underwood continued, "Do you mind, can I speak with Lance now?" He asked.
The chief led Underwood to the conference room, and kept his eyes trained on Lance. As they entered the room, Lance had his head down with Chase and Rory looking at photos and the collection of evidence and reports they had thus far."
When Lance saw Underwood, he visibly paled. "Hey Bryan, I wasn't expecting to see you today." He said.
Bryan laughed, "Well, you can bet I didn't expect to see your ugly mug either."
The Chief pulled Rory and Chase into the hallway to fill them in, and to give Agent Underwood and Benton some privacy.
"How are you doing Lance?" Bryan asked.
Lance shrugged, "Day by day, minute by minute sometimes. I think the killer found me. I think he read my books, found me and duplicated the murders here trying to draw me out. I think he killed Viv to remind me what he is capable of. I have to help stop him Bryan. I have to."
Bryan nodded, "I will do everything I can to help you Lance... on one condition."
Lance shrugged, "What condition?" He asked.
Brian put his hand on his shoulder, "When this is over, you come back. You're too good to not be part of the FBI Lance. I think you know that, or you wouldn't be here right now."
Lance nodded, "Bring them back in here, Bryan. I think that Vivianna may have been right on a couple of counts. I think there is more than one killer at work here...from what I've read so far, I'd guess three. There is more at work here than copy-cat killings, and random acts of violence. The ones based on my book are obvious, the last three are random, I believe most likely related to each other, but not necessarily to the rest of the murders as a whole. There is one murder that does not fit with any of the other murders, Jenn Williams was murdered by someone she knew--not the detective, but someone else she was comfortable with and I'd even go so far as to say it was a woman.
|Fitting in here has been easy enough. None of my friends have any idea I’m the artist’s accomplice.
He’s just drinking and feeling sorry for himself now. Didn’t he realize I was going to get rid of his problem just as he directed? He’s acting as though it’s some kind of surprise. Maybe that’s just his way to divert suspicion away.
Back when we first moved to Louisville years ago, before his ‘problem’ came along. That little wench, did she think she could fool me with the black dye? When I first read that returned manuscript, the one he threw into the trash, I realized he wanted to be the director. I didn’t know where he’d lead after I got rid of the distractions in Boston. But Louisville has worked out nicely. The next one, that short story that was published in the newspaper insert, oh what a great one that was. We posed her like a ballerina. Then there were three more stories that he tossed without them ever being published. But they should have been published. He’s such a great director. I’m his pawn here, but I believe we’ve become a good team.
Now he doesn’t even finish writing anything. He just sits there at his keyboard, plinking out a few words before deleting them. If I could only talk to him again…..but that would ruin everything. We only have two left before we run out of stories. I’m sure he’ll be motivated again now that she’s gone. I’ll never forget the first one after she came. I posed her just the way he directed, except I folded all the fingers down on her left hand except the middle one. He must have known it was directed at her, the black-dyed redhead. That overbearing witch! I despised her. I’m so glad he gave me the pose for her.
The ally girl with the sleeping pose, now that wasn’t very original at all. I did mostly as directed, but he seemed to have lost imagination. I added a little spark of my own by putting her head on her purse, just like his little daughter. We’ve had some extravagant ones though. That one in Frankfort eight years ago, oh my, what an imagination he has. I had to haul that old toilet with me just so I could pose her throwing up with morning sickness.
And the teenager with the whiskey bottle pose…..I had to use bubble gum in the bottle’s neck to keep the whiskey from running out.
I wish I knew who the idiot was that pulled that stupid stunt with the cop’s wife. Did they really think that was an imaginative pose? It looked as though she just fell. I thought, at first, that maybe he did it himself, but I know he wouldn’t take my role from me. And who did that botched job over by the hospital. They couldn’t have thought they were actually copying us…..amateurish! Whoever it is must have a contact inside the police department. They know enough to make it look somewhat like our work, and there are things that aren’t in the news included in those two. But they’re not good enough to be our work.
My life would be such a bore without my role. Having a mundane job and living in this backwater town would drive me insane otherwise. Boston was getting to be dangerous. And without his direction, my poses were less imaginative than his. All the ones I wasted up there, not knowing how to pose them. Of course I was only fourteen when it all started. And he probably doesn’t even realize the first six were mine! Those were just schoolyard accidents that were never found out. I didn’t get much satisfaction from them. It was after that when I started posing them. The next three were exhilarating. Then we made contact. When I was able to conspire with him on the rest of the Boston poses, I really started to feel my art. When I think back on it, it was such good training for what we’re doing now.
But that fateful day while I was visiting Layla, it all came together. Layla never was much for taking a walk, but I talked her into it that morning and that’s when I saw him cussing the air and throwing out the manuscript. What was that he said? “They murdered my career just like I murdered the redhead” or something like that. I was almost afraid he’d taken my role as freeze and pose artist. That’s really all I’m doing…..I freeze life in place and pose it the way he wants it.
“Good morning Layla. How’s it going this morning?”
“A little hectic, I’m tired of all the cop activity, but I’m doing O.K.”
“So, are you ready for our morning walk?”
“Oh yes! A little fresh air and getting away from the craziness are definitely in order.”
“Where should we go today sweet girl, our usual route, or somewhere new?”
“How about somewhere new?”
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