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Authors: Max Allan Collins

Criminal Minds

BOOK: Criminal Minds
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Published by New American Library, a division of
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First published by Obsidian, an imprint of New American Library,
a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
First Printing, May 2008
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eISBN : 978-1-4406-3075-0

I would like to acknowledge my assistant on this work, coplotter/researcher Matthew V. Clemens. Further acknowledgments appear at the conclusion of this novel.
In memory of criminalist Frank Louis Tarasi III, who helped put the puzzle pieces together.
April 17 Oak Park, Illinois
pril showers bring May flowers,
Connie told herself as she studied the red smear that (courtesy of The Weather Channel) seemed centered not just over Illinois or Chicago or even Oak Park, but their very house.
Her reassurance rang hollow because she also knew April showers, here in the Midwest, could bring lightning, hail, and high winds. Much as she loved the two towering oaks in the front yard, they concerned her in thunderstorms (like the one going on just beyond the bedroom windows): the trees’ sheltering presence could be cleaved by lightning into crashing timber.
And tornado season wasn’t that far away either.
Connie, watching the wall-mounted TV from her bed, would have been shocked to learn that many of her friends and family considered her an inveterate worrywart. She had tried hard not to be one, but her parents had been worriers, never able to enjoy anything, always waiting for the other shoe to drop, and never in a good way.
To her parents, children of the Depression that they’d been, God had it in for them and would watch for any sign of happiness so He could pounce and deliver a good old-fashioned dose of misfortune.
She had vowed not to live her life that way and, at first, she hadn’t; but now, with kids of her own, the trait seemed to come bubbling to the surface out of her DNA.
And what was there to worry about, really, in the comfortable brick house that offered, as Bob Dylan put it, shelter from the storm? Smack in the middle of the Frank Lloyd Wright historic district, their ranch-style home may not have not been designed by the great architect, but it fit right in with those that Wright and his Prairie Style cohorts had created.
Set sideways on its Linden Avenue lot, the house had a picture window in the family room that faced out toward the street on the west end. The rest of the house stretched toward the back of the lot, with a dining room, kitchen, three bedrooms and two baths. Off the north side, stood a tall, detached two-car garage more like a carriage house, with her husband’s locked work space upstairs.
Connie—a tall, slender, lovely brunette, forty, with high, sharp cheekbones, an aquiline nose, and full lips—lay on top of the covers wearing a pair of her husband’s gym shorts and a blue Cubs T-shirt. Her brown eyes were wide set and bright and her short hair didn’t look like she had been sleeping on it, though she had been until the call that came fifteen minutes ago, ordering her husband in to work in the middle of the night. And the middle of the storm.
The crawl on the TV and the superimposed map said the area was under a severe thunderstorm alert and she wondered if she should wake the boys and take them to the basement for safety’s sake. No sirens had sent her scurrying, but the threat was there.
Kevin and Kyle were thirteen and eleven respectively, and tomorrow was a school day, and of course she wanted them to get their sleep. She had sent them to bed at their normal time—ten—and now, glancing at the clock in the corner of the TV screen, she noted that not quite two hours had passed.
Outside, a lightning flash startled her, the nearly instantaneous thunderclap making her jump a little. Goose bumps crawled up her arms as she looked toward the curtained windows and the darkness beyond. She got under the covers. The TV and a dim light from the master bathroom, where her husband had the door ajar, provided the only illumination.
‘‘It’s not like you’re with the power company,’’ she said, trying not to sound like a raving bitch. ‘‘The world doesn’t
you to go out. . . .’’
‘‘But my boss does,’’ he said from the bathroom. ‘‘This is that dirty job that somebody’s got to do that you hear so much about.’’
‘‘I suppose,’’ she said. ‘‘But does it always have to be you?’’
‘‘If they want it done right, it does.’’
He strode out into the bedroom now, in black Reeboks, black jeans, and a black T-shirt, still every bit as boyishly handsome as when she’d met him twenty years ago. His curly brown hair seemed to beg for her fingers to run through it and those green eyes seemed to be able to look right into her soul and read her every thought.
Always a sexual being, Connie resisted the urge to pull him down onto the bed with her right now; images flickered through her mind of making love as lightning strobed through the bedroom windows. But her husband had been distant lately, and their lovemaking had become a regimented thing, not at all spontaneous, scheduled around times when the two boys were not at home.
Not that she thought, even for a moment, that things were bad between them. Despite his odd hours away, he was not having an affair; she was convinced of that—the only ‘‘other woman’’ was his job. Things were good now, they were comfortable with work and home, but when they had first met, things had been . . . well, they’d been perfect.
She’d been a model with the top agency in Chicago and he a photographer on the rise straddling the fashion and art worlds, already having had one successful gallery show and several big fashion magazine covers. When they met, the sparks had been instantaneous, two young attractive people making the kind of magic, both personally and professionally, that others could only dream about. They had fallen in bed, in love, and into a sort of muse/artist relationship that seemed to take his work to a new level. For two years, the work, the creativity, the money, the electricity of their sexual relationship, had flowed.
Then they got married, had their first child (Kevin), and, as in so many marriages she guessed, things had changed. Or, anyway, shifted.
Her husband was a good father, attentive and caring, but something had come unraveled in his professional life when Connie moved from muse to mother and stopped modeling to stay home with their son. Her husband began working with other models, but nothing really clicked. He seemed to lose the magic and the galleries lost interest and the big ticket clients in the fashion world (always a limited market in Chicago) moved on to the next hot prospect.
To his credit, he never seemed bitter and did not hold her responsible for him having to get what he called a ‘‘real’’ job, one that paid respectably and brought him genuine satisfaction as a photographer, with the only significant drawback that it sometimes caused him to have to leave in the middle of the night. They’d had their second son, Kyle, whom her husband adored; and theirs was, measured by any reasonable yardstick, a happy family life.
Even so, true to her nature, and like her parents, Connie spent a lot of time waiting for the other shoe to drop. . . .
Her husband crossed the room, bent down and hugged her to him and gave her a quick kiss.
‘‘Get some sleep,’’ he said into her ear.
She held him an extra moment. ‘‘I sleep better with you next to me.’’
He gave her another kiss. ‘‘That’ll be me, snuggling in next to you, before you know it.’’
He drew away and moved toward the door.
Pulling the blankets up to her throat, Connie said, ‘‘Don’t forget your raincoat.’’
‘‘Not likely,’’ he said with a grin, ‘‘in this.’’
‘‘And don’t forget I love you.’’
He said something that might have been, ‘‘I love you,’’ but she didn’t quite make it out. Then she heard the door close and he was gone.
Thunder rumbled and rain lashed the windows. She snapped off the TV and lay trembling. She began to cry. Not heaving sobs, just tiny self-pitying tears.
She’d been doing that a lot lately, and had no idea why.
April 17 Chicago Heights, Illinois
Adrienne Andrews (Addie to her friends), with only one more month until prom, was determined not to be a virgin when that magical night arrived. A lanky, pale-skinned, light-blue-eyed girl who wore her blonde hair short and shaggy, thin Addie was sure she would look better if she could only, please, Jesus, lose another five pounds off her hips. Tonight, she had hidden the offenders under loose-fitting jeans. Her black T-shirt had been tucked in when she left the house, but once out of sight of her folks, she had pulled it out and knotted it so that her tummy (and pierced belly button) showed.
Addie had a straight nose and a nice mouth despite rather thin lips, and her crooked smile could turn the heads of a lot of the boys, especially, thankfully, Benny Mendoza’s.
Like Addie, Benny was a senior at St. Vincent’s Catholic High School on Ashland, and he was a babe, a stone fox. Tonight, the Hispanic boy wore a White Sox home jersey with his jeans, white with black pin-stripes, the name of his favorite player, THOME, stenciled on the back above the number twenty-five.
BOOK: Criminal Minds
6.94Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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