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Authors: Carolyn Arnold

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BOOK: Silent Graves
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Chapter 40

 

The apartment was a one bedroom in the east end of town. It was modest, and bulky furniture filled the space. The only artwork on the wall was a black-framed photograph of the victim and a smiling blond woman. A wilted plant sat on a side table—its dirt, dry dust.

Rideout hadn’t arrived, but a couple investigators collected what evidence they could and took photographs. Detective Hanes was getting updated by another detective while we were left to stare at the dead body.

The victim was male and had already been identified as Andy Gray. He was single, in his early twenties, and had been in good physical shape. Blood from two bullet holes to his chest soaked his white t-shirt. He lay on his back on the living room floor, his head settled to the right. His eyes were open, yet the spark of life—extinguished.

A Chinese man introduced himself as Jimmy Chow, and filled us in on the details. “Two slugs, looks like .22 caliber. Gun type that fired the bullets will be determined by ballistics. Based on the damage, the shooter was only a few feet away from our victim, as indicated by the stippling around the entry wounds. Bullet number one would have done the job. Number two seems to have been insurance.”

“There was mention of another missing woman? Our unsub hasn’t killed a man before or at least that we know. How does this involve us?” Paige stood over the victim, her arms crossed rigidly, like they were back at the station. The buttons on her blouse strained with the stance, pulled at the neckline, and exposed the top curve of her breasts. She must have sensed I noticed as she straightened her arms and placed them on her hips.

Hanes walked into the room, obviously overhearing Paige. “Her name is Monica Rice. Neighboring tenants say she and the vic,” he pointed the tip of a pencil toward the dead body, “were close. She was here at least a few times a week. Patrol was sent to her apartment. No one was there, and, when they went inside, they found evidence of a struggle in the bedroom, along with some blood. So far, neighbors are saying they didn’t see or hear anything out of the ordinary.”

A smile touched Jack’s eyes, but the expression didn’t form. The detective had impressed him. He turned his attention to the vic. I followed his lead and studied the body with an eye for something the unsub may have left behind. There was usually something, whether intended or not.

Statistically, it’s said that most violent criminals subconsciously want to get caught, and, as was the case with our unsub, he killed to be freed of the impulse that compelled him. He may have taken this action to taunt us, to show that he was superior, but, in actuality, he may really be framing himself. I shared these thoughts with the team.

“The unsub is coming apart. If Monica is missing, this is three women he took in the span of a week and a half. He usually takes one every two months. He is bound to slip up and soon.”

“An act of arrogance,” Jack added.

“We believe his day-to-day life, which may have been relatively normal up until recently, is likely falling apart or has,” Paige said. “We need to follow up on where the employment records stand. Even if we got the ones from Fitness Guru and started there.”

Jack picked up on her thought. “We need to see if Keyes has let anyone go recently or if someone is close to being let go.”

“And what about him?” I asked. “What does he tell us?”

Officer Stenson came toward us, bypassing the investigator in charge of the scene.

He noticed and rushed over. He placed a flat palm on Stenson’s chest. “You have to get out of this room.”

“I have information on—”

“Great. Tell us from outside of the crime scene.” The investigator in charge was in his late twenties and under six feet tall. His stature was trim but soft. He was naturally a lightweight and didn’t work at it with diligent exercise.

Stenson looked past the man to Jack, but didn’t say anything.

“Can I talk to you for a moment?” Hanes asked Stenson, but it was more of a directive.

“What do you think you’re doing?”

“Trying to find this guy. You’re too busy sucking up to the FBI agents. They’re too busy talking it to death.” Stenson ran his fingers through his hair. “Listen, we have to stop this guy. He has taken three women in recent days—that’s three families without a loved one. If we don’t do something, he’s going to get off.” He gestured into the apartment. “Now he’s killing men. What next?”

“What do you know that you’re not sharing with us? I need to know the answer to that. Now.”

“You’re kidding me.”

“No, I’m not.”

Stenson drew in a deep breath. “It’s only a hunch I have. I’m not ready to share it.”

“You were just going to tell us.”

“Yes, I was.”

“You are being ridiculous. We share everything. That’s how it works as a detective. You speak everything, no matter how small, and hope something sticks.”

“It’s just something that I noticed with the pattern of the women he’s choosing.”

Hanes raised his brows.

“We’re thinking he was triggered by Leslie, right? I’ve been staring at these women for years now. I’ve been obsessed with their cases. I saw something there when no one else did.”

“All right, enough of the patting yourself on the back. Point.”

“They all have something similar to that initial victim. Sometimes it’s so small it would be easily overlooked in a pile of faces and names.”

“You’re sure the FBI doesn’t already know this? Whatever
this
is.”

Stenson nodded. “I’m not talking about facial or physical similarities.”

“What are you talking about then?”

“Nope. I refuse to say right now.”

“You’re out of here then. You show up at another one of my crime scenes, I’ll have you arrested for interfering with an investigation.”

“You kidding me? We’re friends. We can outsmart the FBI.”

“Your mind’s messed up Stenson.”

“Trent. You always call me by the first name.”

“Because we’re friends, I’m giving you this warning.”

Silence occupied the space between the two men until Stenson walked away.

“You are going to regret this,” he said over a shoulder.

I just regret not doing this sooner,
Hanes thought
.

The cause of death was textbook—two bullets to the chest but the circumstances were far from normal. The unsub was communicating with us, raising his stake of involvement and elevating his risk of being caught. It was apparent he didn’t see us as a viable threat. He saw himself as being above the FBI. No longer was he interested in pleasing the voices or the figure from which he sought approval.  He was interested in making a statement.

“There wasn’t a struggle, the lock wasn’t picked, and the vic was caught off guard,” Paige said.

“It’s possible the unsub followed him here, held a gun to his back, and, once inside, the vic turned around and got shot,” Zachery offered.

“Or maybe he simply knocked on the apartment door and got the vic to open up for him?”

Paige studied the victim. I could tell she assessed the distance from the door to where he lay on the floor.

The apartment entered into the living area, and the kitchen was off to the right.

Zachery held the framed photo in his hand, and I reached for it. I wasn’t expecting the obvious to hit me.

“Look at the arch of her brows, the way her eyes are inset. This could be a blond Leslie Keyes. Our unsub wanted the boyfriend out of the way so he could get to Monica. This kill wasn’t personal to him.”

“She does resemble Leslie Keyes, just blond hair instead. He was operating as a means to an end,” Paige picked up on my line of thought.

“He saw what he wanted, in this case, who, and wouldn’t let anything get in his way,” Zachery elaborated. “He targeted Monica Rice. Hair can be changed. He is after a surrogate. I think originally Leslie did something to deeply hurt him. She rejected him. Maybe she was going to leave him and stay with her husband. They had just started a family together.”

“He saw it as the ultimate betrayal. If he couldn’t have her, neither could Keyes.”

Zachery, wearing gloves, picked up the framed photograph. “Exactly, and, because of his background, being exposed to violence, rape, and murder at an impressionable age, this course of action resurfaced. Directed either by himself or by a voice he heard, he started up with meaningless abductions and killings. Leslie projected his past to the forefront. He hasn’t been looking specifically for Leslie in other women all these years, but he’s escalated. He never abducted at such a fast rate before either. Two in a week, now three, one already dead.”

“We don’t know how long he had the other women before he killed them,” I added.

“True, but I tend to believe he held them longer than a few days. He cared for them in his own way. He left their rings on when he buried them. He fed them. As stupid as it sounds, he respected them while stripping them of human dignitary.”

“So now he’s going after women who specifically remind him of Leslie. I didn’t think any of the other women were similar, except that they were all slender and petite,” Paige said.

Zachery looked at Jack. “This is his end game. He knows we’re going to stop him, and he wants one last chance to rebuild what he had with her.”

“Does that mean that Sydney Poole is already dead?” I asked.

“Very good chance. She was a woman who fell into his victimology. She had a husband who paid her little attention, had money, and she took care of herself. Monica is a surrogate for what he couldn’t hold onto.”

“You think that up until now he’s been acting on pure instinct?”

BOOK: Silent Graves
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