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Archive for October, 2017

After  I published Against All Odds I have started on my next book a detective story.  I’ve titled it Beyond Redemption. Today I finished the third chapter of the novel, and I felt good about that   So, to celebrate I’ll post the first chapter unedited and all for your enjoyment.  To keep me working steadily on the book I’ll post other chapters down the road.  Please enjoy.

Beyond Redemption

Chapter 1: A Murder Victim in the Park

The cellphone on the nightstand had only rung softly for a few moments when Vanessa reached for it.  She listened to the caller briefly and replied, “Give me three seconds.”  She looked over at William glad he was a sound sleeper.  For a moment she watched him sleep peacefully.  His lips had formed a faint smile.  She blew him a kiss and hurried to the living room to take the call.  Forty minutes later she drove her Buick out of the driveway.

She had showered and dressed quickly before she had stopped for a minute at Adrian’s bed.  Slowly she had bent down to kiss his forehead and had whispered, “Love you.”  He’ll be two in three weeks she had thought, as she had hurried from the room. She had left a short note for William telling him she would call him later and had hurried to the garage.

Her thoughts remained with her child and her husband for a few more minutes, and the brother or sister they would give Adrian in six months, as she continued to drive into the city.  It had rained for a short time after midnight before it had cleared, but the streets were still wet.  She cast a glance at the full moon illuminating the night sky.  The sight of it caused her to shift her thinking to the call from headquarters.  “Another murder during this phase of the moon,” she whispered.  “This one makes four in five months.”  She shook her head recalling the three other incidents and thought of the similarities she had noted investigating those three slayings.

Some of these resemblances had become quickly apparent to her. All the three victims were known to the police for drug related offenses.  They were single men in their early twentieth or early thirties.  The cause of death in each case on first inspection was thought to the long, sharp hairpin with a black imitation diamond at its top stuck expertly through the heart.  Later it was discovered that these men had been drugged and asphyxiated.  Each of the victims had taken a call from someone phoning from a public telephone, according to their cellphones.  As for other clues that might identify the killer, to this day they had found nothing substantial.  All the bodies were found late at night or early in the morning in a secluded area away from nearby traffic but had been killed at a different place.  How the full moon fit into the mix was anybody’s guess, although Vanessa felt there was a reason.

The similarities had also convinced her each of the three homicides had been carefully planned.  It appeared to her they all had to be carefully executed as well.  All three cases were open and active, and she was determined to solve each of these cases.  She had continued investigating all three, and became convinced they were the work of one individual.  Her investigations had shown the three victims had died of asphyxiation after being rendered helpless, and the point of the pin into the heart, she was sure, was the perpetrator’s calling card.  Vanessa had also concluded this individual had a degree of expert knowledge about the human body.  In each case the pin had passed through the aortic valve.  Vanessa shuttered thinking a person could commit such heinous acts.

Dawn had not announced the new day when she drove into Central Park and pulled to a stop in the space to which the police officer standing in front of the cordoned off area had pointed.  She noticed two squat cars and an undercover vehicle some distance away. Vanessa did not know the officer and showed him her badge before she ducked under the tape.  Walking quickly toward the four other officers she saw searching the area in an arc around a body, she briefly greeted them as she reached them.

Claire Kinson her assistant detective stepped toward her and said, “Sorry to rob you of your sleep, Vanessa.  I was sure you wanted to see this before the body is taken to the lab.”  She turned to the two policemen who had stopped in their search for clues and introduced Vanessa to them.  “Detective Haldersen will oversee the investigation,” she said to them.

Vanessa had taken in the scene as she had approached. Now she let her eyes slowly sweep over the immediate area around the body draped over the guardrail in front of the small pond beyond it.  When her sight rested on the lifeless form of the young man a feeling of pity mixed with anger at the perpetrator touched her.  In the two years during which she had investigated criminal cases that had involved loss of life she had not gotten used to seeing a murder victim.

“Who found him?” she asked turning to Claire.

Claire cleared her throat briefly then said.  “Front desk got a call at 2:47 this morning from a female saying her boyfriend and she had pulled into the park’s parking lot to say good night, but she had refused to give their names claiming they didn’t want others close to them to know of their meeting.  Roberta called me and wanted to contact you.  I told her I would have a look and then call you, if I thought you needed to be in on this matter from the outset.  Harry and I did a walk-through, after we checked for signs of life.  Without touching anything Brent found the hairpin with a black pearl stuck in his chest.  I told two of the boys to secure a large area for us and pointed out where I wanted them to place markers.  There may well be tire marks on this pavement we might want to photograph.”

“Hm, let’s see if we can trace the call and find some names.  Does this appear to be the primary crime scene in your estimation, Claire?”

“It looks that way to me.  We’ll have a better idea about this once we know the time of death and are sure about what killed him.  It has the marks of the other killings we’re investigating, but we must rule out the possibility of a copycat act.  Those three unsolved cases you’re working on have been in the news day and night, and there are those loose canons out there who would do anything to gain some notoriety.”

For a moment Vanessa surveyed her assistant and thought about Claire’s comments.  She had expected a brief answer to the question about the crime scene.  It appeared to her briefly Claire had tried to belittle her by pointing to standard procedures any detective would know.  She was sure she had heard her stress the words you and unsolved like a challenge to her.  Vanessa was tempted to ask her what her problem was.  She had taken those unsolved cases over from Claire not long ago.  She had headed for the two years back on the force the theft and burglary division and had an excellent track record there.  The Chief had transferred her to homicide to lead that division.  Claire and she now worked on the unsolved cases together, but she decided against pointing these things out to stay focused on the case before them.  “You can continue with your sweep of the area,” was all she said to Claire.

She surveyed the position of the body draped over the two-foot-high guardrail.  It suggested to her the body was dumped out from a car driven parallel and close to the railing.  Since dead men don’t drive, the body had been in the passenger seat, she thought.  For a moment she tried to visualize someone unloading it from the trunk of a vehicle or back of a SUV.  Both those possibilities would mean the crime had been committed elsewhere.

Turning to one of the officers she said, “Tommy, please take photographs of the man where he is from many angles including a couple from above, and keep all vehicles from driving anywhere near this guardrail.  In the first light of the new day she noticed how young the man looked.  It evoked a new feeling of pity in her.

She walked closer to the corpse.  There she made a note of the left arm stuck partly under his body making his hand visible from where she stood.  His right arm hung over the rail and almost touched the grass on the other side.  “Whoever placed him here stood on his right side to do this,” she whispered.

She continued to scrutinize the ground immediately around the body, placed markers from his left side to about twenty feet beyond his right side and about six feet in front of the body.  Before she stepped over the railing at the markers on the far-right side, she told Tommy not to let anyone step into the area she had marked off until they had a chance to examine the entire area carefully in daylight and had taken all the photographs she wanted.  Turning to Tommy again she asked if they had found any identification on the man.  He in turn told her they had not checked for identification yet thinking it more important to secure the area first.

She considered the position of the body again and once more felt pity tugging at her.  Stooping low she examined the ground below the upper part of the body.  Something in the grass below the hand drew her attention.  In the beam of her flashlight she saw a few bunched-up strands of black hair below the hand.  It appeared to her that they had fallen from his hand held slightly open by rigor mortise.  Taking tweezers from her coat pocket she carefully placed them into a plastic bag she had taken out with the tweezers.  When she focused the light beam on the hand, she noticed a hair of the same color stuck between the index and middle fingers.  Something else she saw interested her, a bloodstain on the tip of the thumb and the index finger.

Daylight had replaced dawn when the coroner arrived.  Vanessa spoke to him briefly before he began his investigation.  As the medical examiner he would try to determine the cause and time of death, information Vanessa was hoping to receive quickly.  She turned back to examining a faint tire impression she had discovered to run parallel to the guardrail.  Only three and a quarter of an inch of the tire’s width she saw clearly imprinted on a patch of dry soil that she guessed might have fallen off the vehicle before the tire ran over it.  If that’s the case it had to be the rear tire, she thought, and given its nearness to the rail most likely on the passenger side.  She called Tommy Powers and instructed him to take photographs and measurements of the imprint.  “And Tommy, please bag some of that dry soil.  I want the lab to analyze it.  I didn’t find any soil elsewhere in this parking lot.  This might be useful to us. It might have fallen off a vehicle that had driven in here with the body sometimes during the night.”

She had searched for evidence for nearly three hours before she had felt satisfied she had not overlooked any clue.  Claire, Harry, Tommy and Brent Hooper had arrived at the scene before she had come.  They would also soon wrap up their work she knew.  She made careful notes of everything she had found that she had thought might be important to the investigation.  When she had completed that task, the coroner stopped by.  He informed her he had decided to do an autopsy and likely would order an inquest.  He told her he would call her later in the morning to let her know the approximate time of death as he turned to go to his vehicle.  She thanked him and returned to finish making notes of her findings.

“I’ll get Claire to wrap up here,” she said to Tommy who had come to ask if there was something else she wanted him to do.  “You can finish what you were doing and give Claire a hand, if she needs you.”

She walked to where Claire and Brent stood talking.  “Please wrap up here,” she told Claire.  “Make sure we have plenty pictures of the body and its position here.  “I’ll arrange for the body to be picked up and then head to the office.”  Her thoughts were still on the young man whose body lay draped across the railing like a discarded and forgotten doll.

“Can we talk about our findings?” Claire asked hoping to find out what evidence Vanessa might have gathered.

“Did you find anything that points to a killer?” Vanessa questioned.  She felt a deep urge to find that killer who seemed to enjoy destroying a life.  Claire’s question remained unanswered, lost in the turmoil in Vanessa’s mind.  Instead she said, “We have to catch this monster quickly.  My guess is this won’t be his last victim.

Claire surveyed Vanessa for a moment before she replied, “Nothing substantial.”

“Sometimes nothing substantial solves the case.  Come to my office once we’re all back at the office, right after lunch at the latest, and we’ll put our findings together,” Vanessa said, turned and excused herself.

Claire stared after her until Vanessa had almost reached her car.  Then she called Tommy and Brent to meet with her.  “She was rather curt,” she grumbled.  “I wonder what’s got to her?  Thinking of Vanessa for a moment longer a vision of William’s smiling face entered her thoughts.  “I’ll have to get her to ask me over to their place again,” she murmured under her breath.  “That man of hers is something special.  I wonder how she was able to snare him.”

Brent had observed her as he approached, “A cappuccino for your thoughts,” he said grinning at her.  “You look pleased about something.  I hope your thoughts were of me.”

“I was just thinking about stopping for coffee latte.  You can buy me one, Brent.  “I can use a few minutes to forget this and think about more pleasant things.”

Vanessa decided to stop for a bite of breakfast at a diner she passed on the way to the office.  After seating herself she dialed William’s cell phone.  “Good morning, sweetheart,” she said when he answered.  “Did you miss me this morning?”

“I miss you every second of the day when you’re not with me.  Did you know that every time I look at you I say to myself, “Will, what did you do to deserve to have the most beautiful woman in the world agree to be your wife?  I missed you when I found you gone this morning when I woke up.  Hopefully you weren’t called out to deal with something unpleasant, and that you’re having a good morning.  I had a fantastic breakfast with our boy and reluctantly dropped him off at Marvelous’ house.  You should have seen his face when he had finished his waffle.  His whole face had enjoyed the syrup and whipping cream from ear to ear.”

Vanessa giggled imagining how Adrian had enjoyed eating breakfast.  “Why did you drop him off reluctantly, William?” she asked.  “Your sister loves him.  And her two girls dote on him.  Adrian loves them all too.”

“Oh, I know all that, but I would have liked to have taken him to Jimmy’s place and taught him to play pool on my way to Harmony One,” he teased.

She laughed.  “I love how you can take my cloudy and dark days and turn them to clear skies and sunshine.  I love you.  What’s on your agenda today?”

“I have to deal with something that has come up unexpectedly this morning.  We will have to discuss it tonight.”  But Vanessa’s curiosity had peaked, and she pleaded with him to give her at least an idea what had come up unexpectedly.  There were not many things he could deny his wife.  “I had a visit from a corporation’s vice-president who came to tell me his company is interested in purchasing our five Harmony stores, both businesses and properties.  He told me his company would be willing to offer us twenty-two million.  He left us a document detailing that offer.  You’ll see it tonight.”

“Are you teasing me again, or is this on the level?”

“I’m not joking, sweetheart.  I have started to do some research into this corporation and have called Parker Rundle in Seattle.  He sold his wholesale company to them a year ago.”

Vanessa had no idea what the stores were worth and was about to ask William, if the offer was tempting to him, when the waitress arrived with her breakfast. They said goodbye shortly after this and soon her thoughts turned again to the murder she wanted desperately to solve.

The morning’s vision of the young man draped over that guardrail had touched a cord in her heart.  He looked so young and innocent, she thought.  What bad decisions did he make to be the victim of this targeted hit.  She guessed it likely had something to do with drug trafficking, but he didn’t fit the stereotype.  His dress was modest.  He had no weapons on him.  They had no mugshot of him down at the station, but it was mostly a gut feeling that caused her to think he was not connected to a gang or was involved in a criminal activity.

She shook her head and sighed.  I’m not going to leave a stone unturned until I find that killer, she thought.  First, we’ll determine if this murder was committed by the same person who is responsible for the other three in our jurisdiction.  She sat up strait finishing that thought.  Two things struck her.  She and her team had exclusively concentrated their search on males.  So far they had also not checked on other jurisdictions countrywide.  “We have to broaden our search,” she whispered, “and I’ll have that hair and bloodstain analyzed.  It didn’t look like there was a cut on his hand.  I want to find out from where that blood came.  With any luck we’ll find it’ll belong to the killer.  That kind of clue won’t help us a great deal in the early stages of our investigation, but every bit of evidence will help us proof our findings.”

She drove slowly to the station.  Her mind remained focused on all she had observed and found at the murder scene, as she steered her unmarked car through the increasing traffic.  She parked quickly when she had arrived at the station and walked briskly up the stairs.  She greeted her friend Kimberly at the front desk and asked her to let Claire know she hoped to be in her office now for a few hours.

Kimberly told her that Claire had not come in yet and said, “There was a call for you from the East Coast from a detective.  He said he was investigating a homicide in Boston.  The fellow said he had several questions he wanted to ask you about a case he had heard you are working on, and asked that you call him back.  Not knowing when you would be in I told him I would give you his request as soon as you were in your office.  I placed a note with his name and phone number on your desk.”

Vanessa thanked her and asked if Lee, her son’s earache had improved.  She entered her office and closed the door a moment later.  Reading the note Kimberly had left on her desk she decided to call Boston after she had contacted the lab and left instructions there.  Her call to Glenda at the lab had taken longer than she had anticipated, and she had barely hung up when Kimberly put through another call.  She drummed her fingers on her desk wanting to make that call to Boston, but this caller made her stand up strait.

“I know,” she heard the caller whisper and laugh low in a forced way.  The voice had Vanessa’s attention as much as its words and the laugh.  It appeared disguised as if spoken through cupped hands or with something stuffed in the mouth.  Before she could reply she heard the two words and laugh repeated and the phone go dead.

Vanessa hurried to Kimberly, “Did that caller say who it was?” she asked.

“No, he or she only asked for you.  For a second I had thought I recognized that voice, but suddenly it sounded different and kind of demanding.  When I asked who it was the caller said to hurry, and then I heard nothing else.  It was as if the phone had been left in an empty room.  The whole thing gave me the creeps.”

With her brow furrowed Vanessa asked Kimberly to see if the call can be traced and returned to her office.  She wondered what kept Claire, but she recalled telling her to meet with her after lunch.  She scolded herself for thinking her partner had taken her time to come and meet with her.  Once more she thought about the call from the detective who had left his name and number and wondered what he wanted to know.

Claire Kinson had been assigned to her four months earlier.  She had not been new to the force, but had worked in homicide in this jurisdiction for over a year after coming from a unit in the east of the country.  Despite trying to make friends with her Vanessa had realised they had not grown closer.  Vanessa had invited Claire to her home for dinner twice hoping to start to get to know her better and feel more comfortable around her. but if anything, those dinners had created more distance between them.  Claire’s eyes looked at the world with a coldness that Vanessa found unnatural.  Claire’s demeanor around Vanessa at times also appeared guarded and defensive, occasionally even offensive to her.

She sighed.  I must make more of an effort to befriend her and get to know her better, Vanessa thought.  I really know very little about her.  Who knows what demons have tormented her in her life.  She has never mentions anyone she is close to.  My impressions of her maybe totally wrong, and I must not judge her.  I certainly have no reason to be critical of the job she has done since she had become my assistant.  Her ability to think through and analyze complex problems is excellent.  She seems to get along with most of the people at the station.  I hope she doesn’t resent that I was given the lead in the section over her.

For a few moments Vanessa remained seated in her chair quietly trying to clear her mind in preparation for her call to Boston.  She had to wait for several minutes for the detective to take her call, after the receptionist had told her she would connect her to his office.  Subconsciously, she drummer the fingers of her right hand on her desk’s top trying to keep her mind from straying back to the scene in the park.

“Darren Whitestone here,” she heard a man’s voice finally say.  He briefly referred to his official identification then told her why he had called.  “I had opened a cold case a few months ago and had been investigation it without making much headway, when I learned of a case in your area that sounded like a carbon copy of what I have here,” he said.

He went on to speak of a young man who had been on their radar as a dealer who was murdered and found dumped in a wooded area away from traffic.  “He had a needle with a black imitation diamond stuck in his heart,” he went on to say.

Vanessa told him of the cases she was investigating and asked, “Did his time of death by any chance coincide with the full moon?”

After a moment of silence, the detective replied that this was the case.  “I had not placed any significance on that fact.  Is that significant in the cases you are investigating?” he asked and wanted to know more specifically what she made of it.  He thanked her for pointing this out to him.  “This might indeed help us narrow our search,” he added.

“It is a fact in all three of our cases.  As of this morning we have a new case to solve, a case identical to the other three,” Vanessa told him.  She asked him about witnesses, the cause of death and several other questions of interest to her.

They agreed it appeared they were looking for the same individual who had committed these crimes.  They spoke for another fifteen minutes and agreed to stay in touch with each other before they hung up.

It had only occurred to Vanessa this day that there might be cases in other parts of the country that were committed by the same individual she tried to find.  “It’s another item I must check out,” she said.  “It is possible there are other cases in this country and maybe abroad that were committed by this monster.”

She looked at her watch to find that much of the morning had slipped away.  The few leads and clues they had gathered trying to solve these recent cases brought to her mind her last assignment with her mentor in police work.  I wonder what Casey is up to these days, she thought.  She had worked with Casey before she had met William, and on his suggestion gone undercover to catch a jewel thief.  Casey had suspected that thief to be William, the man with whom she would fall in love while helping Casey solve those high-profile cases of the jewel thief who had left no clues only a calling card.

Casey had taught her much.  He had worked as a policeman for many years, had a sharp mind and had keen insight into human and criminal behavior.  She was tempted to call him just to run things by him and see what his thoughts were.  “He may need a little excitement.  Retirement must have some dull moments,” she giggled.

She had quit the force after that undercover operation, married William, completed her last year of coursework in law and had gone to work as a lawyer with a large law firm.  But she had found the work she had been often given to do boring and had soon begun to miss police work.  With William’s blessing she had returned to the force a year later with the theft and burglary division, the division Casey had led before his retirement.

She still knew Casey’s family home telephone number by heart and quickly dialed the number.  A smile formed on her face when, after she had greeted him, she heard his familiar voice say, “Hello princess.  How is my girl today?”

 

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