Beta Read by Susanne and Danae
Written for PetFly by Lawrence Frank
internal thought in italics
“I wanted to leave at the two-minute warning. We were up 20 points, but you had to stay till the end,” Jim Ellison said. He couldn’t believe the traffic they were stuck in.
“Who cares, man. We won. Whoo!” Blair Sandburg replied, bouncing in the truck seat.
Just then the radio crackled to life. “Code 2-4, Victor 12. 609 there now -- screaming woman. 3328 Anthol Street, Apartment B. Reporting party at location.”
“One-Zebra-One, show me handling the call,” Jim said into the radio as he turned on his lights and siren and pulled around the traffic jam.
“What's a 609, anyway?” Blair asked.
“A prowler,” Jim somberly replied.
When they arrived at the apartment, Jim and Blair entered through the open front door. They were being cautious, because they didn’t know if the perpetrator would still be there.
“Police! Anybody home?” Jim called out. Walking to the stairs he called out again, “Hello?” His sentinel hearing picked up the sound of water dripping. He followed the sound to the bathroom. There was a beautiful dark haired woman drowned in the bathtub with a yellow scarf around her neck. Her eyes were wide open and vacant. Her mouth was open in what appeared to be a silent scream.
“Oh... Oh, man.” Jim turned at the sound of his young friend’s voice. Sandburg was almost as pale as the dead woman was. He felt sorry for the kid as Blair turned and dashed out of the room.
The next evening found Simon, Jim and Carolyn in Simon’s office going over the files for the latest murder victim. This was fast becoming a serial murder case.
“Is there any chance this victim was strangled?” Simon asked hopefully.
“No. The medical examiner reports no signs of trauma to her neck. Hemorrhages in her lungs indicate drowning,” Carolyn replied as she studied the report in her hand.
“What about sexual assault?” Simon tried.
“No,” Carolyn said shaking her head.
“Check this out. Susan Frasier was dead at least 12 hours before Sandburg and I found her,” Jim supplied reading from his own file.
“Then who the hell made the 911 call?” Simon looked exasperated.
Jim shrugged. “Got me.”
Simon sighed. “All right, look, your report says that her picture frames were empty, jewelry box rifled, garments removed from her closet...” Simon ticked off the list of items he remembered.
Jim nodded his agreement. “Trophies from the kill.”
Simon was getting a headache. “It's the same M.O. -- yellow scarves, trophies, drowned in the bathtub. Third victim in three months.”
Scanning his case folder, Jim started reading the identity of another victim, “Adam Walker -- age 36, known dope dealer, confined to a wheelchair.”
Carolyn followed suit with her own file. “Billy Bright -- age 20, underground musician.”
“No witnesses, no suspects.” Simon’s headache was getting worse by the minute. “All right, look, until we get more information on this I want a total media blackout. Right now, we don't even have a profile on our killer. Let's not scare the hell out of everybody. The last thing we want on our hands is a panicked city.”
Blair gazed up into the eyes of the woman lying on top of him. The candles he had strategically placed around the loft reflected in them. Reaching up he tucked a loose strand of hair behind her ear. “You’re so beautiful.”
“Took you long enough to notice.” Christine snuggled with a smile to Blair’s warm body under her.
“I'm noticing now, huh?” He covered her lips with his and slowly kissed her.
Christine moaned into the kiss, “Mmm...”
Suddenly Blair stiffened and broke away. He blinked his eyes, trying to get the images out of his head, but every time he closed his eyes, all he could see was Susan Frasier drowned in her bathtub.
Noticing Blair’s distress Christine asked, “What is it? Did I do something…?”
Blair tried to cover his discomfort. “No. No. It's just, uh...” he stammered.
“Just what?” Christine questioned.
Trying to think of how to express his morbid thoughts he stuttered out, “Um... See, the other night I, uh... There was this woman and she...”
Christine pulled back from him angrily. “Look, are you seeing someone else?”
“No,” he exclaimed.
“Yeah, right.” Christine got up and picked up her dress from the chair she had laid it on. How do I always pick the assholes she thought to herself as she got dressed. “Who was it, an ex-girlfriend? I knew this relationship was a mistake.” She grabbed her purse and walked toward the door.
Blair sighed. This was not going well at all. “Chris, wait.” Blair sat up on the couch. “You don't understand. She was dead. She was murdered -- drowned in her tub, and ... it was awful. Her mouth was open. It looked like she was screaming and her eyes, man... I'll never forget those eyes.” Blair hung his head and ran his hand through his hair, shivering at the remembered images.
Christine watched the tremors run through Blair’s body. She felt horrible for thinking the worst of him. He really seemed like a nice guy. Going back to the couch, she sat down next to him. “That must have been horrible for you.”
Blair shook his head. “I... I didn't even know her.” He looked back up at Christine with eyes pleading for understanding. “Can you imagine what it would be like if it was someone I knew, cared about?”
Just then the front door opened forcefully, only to be stopped by the chain lock. Startled, they both looked up.
Comprehension dawned on Blair as he realized who was at the door. “Uh, Jim.” He walked to the door to unhook the chain and let his friend and roommate in.
“Sandburg, what the hell's going on?” Jim questioned angrily as he waited for Blair to unlock the door. When the door was open, he walked through and continued his tirade, “What are you doing with the front...?” Before he could complete his question, he noticed Christine sitting on the couch. Nodding his head slightly he introduced himself, “Hello, there. I'm Jim Ellison. I live here.”
Blair caught the glare that Jim sent his way as the detective headed for the kitchen. Remembering his manners, Blair introduced his newest girlfriend, “Uh, Jim, this is Christine Hong. Chris, this is Jim, my roommate.”
Christine was confused. “I thought you said you lived alone.”
“No. I said we'd be alone. He was supposed to be working tonight,” Blair stated with the slightest bit of anger himself.
Christine got up and collected her coat. “You know, maybe we should just call it a night. Things are getting way too complicated here.”
Almost whining, Blair said, “Come on, Chris, you said... let me explain.”
“I'll call you tomorrow,” she said with a smile in her voice. She kissed Blair goodnight and left.
“Bye.” Blair watched her leave and then shut the door. “Great. Thanks a lot, Jim.”
Jim watched as Blair flopped down on the couch like a petulant child. Like it’s my fault he didn’t get lucky. Yeah, right. “I'm just not used to knocking at my own front door.”
Blair sighed resignedly, “I'm sorry I snapped.” He laid his head back against the couch. “It doesn't matter. This whole night was a disaster anyway. I couldn't stop thinking about Susan Frasier.”
Jim felt bad for his young friend, but he was going to have to learn now instead of later. “Murder victims tend to get the best of us. You got to learn to separate yourself.”
Blair couldn’t believe what he was hearing. How could Jim think that way? “Oh, yeah, Right. Just check my humanity at the door?”
For the first time Jim felt this was his chance to be the teacher. “Whatever it takes to stay present.” He leaned against the support post next to the counter. “What if the killer had still been at the scene, hmm? If your emotions are in the way, you're useless, potentially dangerous. Now, if you're going to hang with cops, you got to learn to do the right thing 'cause your life, and the lives of many others are going to depend on it.”
Blair realized that at least part of what Jim was saying was right. Reluctantly he nodded his head in agreement. He just didn’t know if he could be as detached as he needed to be.
The next morning, as Jim was coming back from an errand down the street from the P.D., a reporter and a camera crew caught him.
“Detective Ellison, Don Hass, KCDE News. What can you tell us about the murder victim you found Tuesday night?”
Jim grimaced. This was becoming a nightmare. “So much for the blackout.”
The reporter continued his questioning ruthlessly, “My sources say it could be the work of a serial killer.”
Jim clenched his jaw and replied, “Since your sources seem to have all the answers, why don't you go ask them?”
“Detective Ellison, what about the murder victim's 911 tapes? Are you going to be releasing them anytime soon?”
Jim stared hard at the reporter. If looks could kill, Jim would have had to arrest himself. He turned on his heel and entered the P.D.
The reporter turned and faced the camera. “Don Hass, here, reporting live from outside the Cascade police building.”
A few hours later Jim went to see Carolyn down in the forensics lab.
When he entered the lab he smiled. One of the things he had always liked about her was that she couldn’t keep away from all the high tech toys.
He settled himself on a chair next to the machine she was currently playing with. “What do you have for me?”
She turned and smiled at him. “This is a new machine we just got that can analyze voices. I’ve been trying to see if there was a clue here that would help us find the killer. This is the 911 call made from Susan Frasier's phone the night she was killed,” Carolyn explained as she pushed a button.
The emergency operator could be heard answering the call. “Emergency 911.”
“Help! Help! There's a man here. He's trying to get in. Please, help me! Help me!” a terrified woman’s voice pleaded.
“And this is her answering machine message.”
“Hi, everybody, its Susan. If I could come to the phone, I would, but since I can't, I won't, so please leave a message, and if you don't, I won't call you back.”
Carolyn had a hopeless look on her face. “The 911 call is so distorted, it's almost impossible to tell if it's the same voice.”
Jim was silent for a moment, his brow furrowed. “Play the 911 call one more time.”
“Help! Help! There's a man here. He's trying to get in. Please, help me! Help me! Oh, my god! Oh, my god! Here he comes!” There was a scream. “Oh, no, he's trying to get in!”
Jim looked at Carolyn confidently and said, “Those are two different voices.”
She looked at Jim incredulously. “How can you be so sure?”
Ok hotshot, how are you going to explain this one, Jim thought. He had that ‘deer in the headlight’ look on his face. “I... I can just tell. They are.”
Before he had to explain any further Simon came into the lab carrying a newspaper. “Hey, have you seen this?” He handed Jim the paper. “I have every news wire in the world wanting a statement. We got a leak here somewhere, Jim, and we got to plug it. Now, who else knows all the details besides us?”
“Just Sandburg,” Jim replied, handing the paper to Carolyn. Somehow he knew that the anthropologist would be the captain’s target concerning the leak.
“Well, could it be him?” Carolyn asked, looking at the headline. “I mean, he is new at this. Maybe he doesn't understand. It…” she continued, but was cut off by Jim’s stern voice.
“He understands fine.”
Simon sighed. He knew Jim liked the kid, hell for the most part he did too, but, someone was leaking information and he had to find out who. “Well, just have a talk with him, just in case.” Quickly changing the subject he asked, “All right, what do you guys got?”
“The 911 caller's our killer,” Jim stated.
“We'll have to run a voiceprint analysis to verify that,” Carolyn countered. How could Jim think he knew for a fact that the caller was the killer? He had started acting so strange ever since that Sandburg kid had been following him around. But she had to admit he had been right so far.
“With Susan Frasier dead it's our only possibility,” Jim told his two friends.
“Which means the killer we're looking for is a woman,” Simon added.
It was threatening to rain when Jim and Blair got out of the truck at the church where Susan Frasier’s funeral would take place. “She could be in an open casket. You going to be okay with that?” Jim asked Blair as they walked across the street to the church.
Blair sighed, “Yeah. Yeah, I'll be fine, really.”
“Serial killers often like to stay around, hang out, and admire their work, sometimes even taunt you to catch them, so stay alert,” he told Blair. This was their first real chance at a lead in these murders.
There was a line of reporters waiting to interview anybody they thought interesting for the nightly news at the front of the church.
“Just keep moving.” Jim guided Blair ahead. The reporters were converging on him even as he spoke.
Don Hass, the reporter who had stopped Jim in front of the precinct, stuck a microphone in Jim’s face. “Detective Ellison? My sources report that it was actually the killer who placed the victim's 911 call. Any comment?”
“Yeah. I'm late for church,” Jim ground out before pushing his way on into the building. He had to figure out how they were getting their information.
Jim took a seat in the balcony so he could see everyone coming to the service. If the killer did show up here today, then he would be able to see her from there. Blair stayed with the rest of the mourners at Jim’s request. The detective listened to the minister give the eulogy as he scanned the crowd for suspects.
“Let your light shine forth that thou may glorify our father who art in heaven for God has blessed thee, forever thy throne. Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall dwell in the kingdom of God forever. Blessed are they, who hunger for righteousness, for they shall be filled with thy love. From everlasting and to everlasting. Amen.”
The group of people assembled all bowed their heads and said, “Amen.”
The minister added, “I invite you to approach our dear departed so that she may make her final journey in peace.”
As the minister finished his speech and people began to walk to the casket to view the deceased, Jim focused in with his sentinel sight and saw a woman dressed in black, with a yellow scarf.
Jim watched as the woman walked up to the casket. Blair also spotted the woman. He wanted to make sure Jim saw her, but he didn’t want to scare her off. He figured he’d take a chance and see if Jim could hear him, glancing up he softly spoke, “Jim I sure hope you’re listening man. There’s a woman at the casket with a yellow scarf. Do you think that’s her?”
Unfortunately, Jim didn’t seem to hear him, but the sentinel’s gaze was locked on the suspect.
The woman must have felt like she was being watched, because she turned and looked directly at the balcony. Jim was so focused on her that he almost didn’t react when she turned and left the church quickly. The next thing he knew he was racing down the stairs after her.
The group of reporters had resigned themselves to waiting outside of the church until the end of the service. Suddenly, a woman dressed in a black dress with a veil over her face came running out of the side door like she was being chased.
“What the hell?” Don Hass the reporter blurted when he saw the woman running from the church. “Roll the camera. Get some footage of this. Lady! Keep it rolling. Keep on the car. Stay with it. Keep rolling.”
Jim burst out of the church at a dead run. He realized that the woman had made it to her car and he immediately headed for his truck. Just as he reached the middle of the road she came roaring by. Jim had to jump to the side to avoid being run down. He quickly jumped into his truck and took off after her.
Blair pushed his way through the excited mourners and out of the church just in time to see Jim speeding off after the woman. “Damn it!” he scolded himself as he sat down on the front steps. He should be in the truck with Jim. What if the Sentinel zoned during the chase? He sent up a silent prayer that Jim would be ok.
During the church ceremony it had started to rain and now the roads were slick. It took all Jim could do to keep his truck under control. He felt like he chased the woman all over town. She was a nut, having no regard for innocent bystanders or property. Driving on the sidewalk, running traffic lights, and at one point even barreling through a chain link fence. As hard as he tried though, Jim just couldn’t seem to pull up along side her. It would have helped if she weren’t driving a Jaguar, using the advantage on him in both horsepower and handling.
Finally, the woman pulled to a stop on a bridge. The traffic was backed up and she had no place to go. He smiled to himself. He had her now. Suddenly that smile faltered as he watched the woman exit the car and run to the railing.
Jim jumped out of the truck, drew his gun and headed toward the suspect. “Police! Hold it right there!”
He watched in astonishment as she threw a leg over the railing and climbed out onto the ledge of the bridge. Before he could reach her, she jumped. He spotted her yellow scarf by the railing and bent down to pick it up. Leaning over the edge he looked into the swirling water far below. So much for that.