Read The Devil's Closet Online

Authors: Stacy Dittrich

Tags: #Fiction, #General, #Mystery & Detective, #Thrillers, #Suspense, #Psychological, #Women Sleuths, #Police Procedural

The Devil's Closet

BOOK: The Devil's Closet
5.31Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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STACY
DITTRICH
THE
DEVIL’S
CLOSET
LEISURE BOOKS
NEW YORK CITY
For Amy, Polly, and the others
Taking another deep breath, I opened my eyes and looked down at the small child on the ground. Grotesque didn’t describe it properly. Bizarre? Maybe. Horrific— definitely. Hanna Parker lay on her back with her arms crossed in front, as if she were laid out for viewing at a wake. Her body was by no means disfigured or in bad shape. As a matter of fact, I couldn’t see any signs of injury. The first thing I noticed was the red ribbon tied in a bow around her neck.

Hanna Parker was made up to look like a doll. Her face had been painted white, with red circles on her cheeks and a heavy amount of pink eye shadow over her closed eyes. Black eyelashes had been drawn to give them a more dramatic effect, and her lips were colored bright red. It looked like her hair had even been curled. A red bow, mirroring the one around her neck, sat prominently atop her head. The killer had even brushed off and smoothed out her clothes.

“Oh, dear God in heaven,” I murmured, putting my hands over my mouth.

Hanna’s fingernails had also been painted bright red, but that wasn’t what drew my attention. It was the object under her hand…

“I want to apologize to my family for putting them through this, for going against community standards.”
—The Doll Man
“The last thing Polly saw before she died was Richard Allen Davis’s eyes. The last thing Richard Allen Davis will see is my eyes, I hope.”
—Marc Klaas
,
father of murder victim Polly Klaas
TABLE OF CONTENTS
September 12, 1985
Staring at the light invading from under the door, six-year-old Anna Kovinski wondered how long it would be until she could see her mommy and daddy again. The bad man told her earlier that if she was good and didn’t make any noise, he would take her home. Anna pulled her knees close to her chest and hugged them tight. Wearing only her underwear, she wanted to get warm. The dark room was cold and damp. There were others in here with her. She could see the shapes of their heads, but they never moved. Regardless, Anna was comforted knowing she wasn’t alone, and sometimes she talked to the others. Although they never answered her, it made the long hours go by easier. She couldn’t remember how long she’d been here; it seemed like a long, long time. The day the bad man took her away from her family was a day she thought about a lot.
She was just walking her dog back and forth in front of the house, like she was supposed to. She wasn’t allowed to go any farther. Mommy yelled at her to come inside because she was on the phone, but Anna didn’t listen. She would’ve gone inside, but the bad man pulled up in his car with that cute puppy and asked Anna if she wanted to pet it. When she reached out to pet the puppy, the bad man grabbed her arm and pulled her into the car. It all happened so fast. By the time she thought to scream, she was already inside the car and the bad man was pulling away. She had instinctively let go of the leash that held her dog, Pepper, and he went running away. Now sitting here in the dark room, Anna wondered if Pepper was lost out there somewhere. She shouldn’t have let go of him, but she couldn’t help it. She needed both hands to try to free herself from the bad man. Anna wondered if she would ever see Pepper again, and she began to silently cry. She missed him. She also missed her parents, and she was scared. More scared than she’d ever been in her six years of life.

She must have cried herself to sleep but then something woke her up—it was footsteps. It seemed that it had been days since she had seen the bad man, and now it sounded like he was coming again. Anna expected he had food for her. She was hungry and thirsty. She’d wet her pants several times. She prayed this wouldn’t make him angry.

As Anna heard the footsteps nearing the door, she scurried to the back of the small room, hiding so he wouldn’t see her. The door opened, and the light flooded in, fully illuminating Anna at the back of the closet. The bad man saw her immediately.

“Hello, Anna. Are you ready to play dress up?”

Present Day
“We’ve got an Amber Alert!”
I looked up from my desk just in time to see Captain Naomi Kincaid poke her head in my office, inform me of the alert, then turn to rush down the hallway. Head of the major crimes division of the Richland Metropolitan Police Department, nestled within the hills of Mansfield, Ohio, she was my boss and had just given an order. I needed to get to the street immediately. A missing-child alert is one of the most serious situations any law-enforcement officer can, and most likely will, encounter.

Growing up in a family of police officers, I never thought to question any order from a commanding officer—something my father, a thirty-five-year veteran of the force, drilled into my head. But when it came to Naomi Kincaid, I had to bite my tongue. My uncles, Mike and Max, and my husband, Eric, were with the department. I’ve known nothing but the life of a police officer since I was a small child—it surrounded me and consumed the lives of my parents. I understood the risks of the life firsthand when my father’s youngest brother, Matt, was shot on the job in the late 1970s. He survived, but he had to leave the force on disability.

I hope the kid is asleep in her basement, and this is all a
mistake
, I thought as I grabbed the keys to my unmarked detective car and headed out the door. I’m CeeCee Gallagher, a court-certified, expert detective in the areas of juvenile sex crimes and homicides. The few times I’ve responded to an Amber Alert, my adrenaline has gone into overdrive. Any crime involving a child as a victim always turns my stomach. Having two small daughters of my own, I could never imagine worse anguish than that of a parent who fears her child has been brutalized, molested—or worse, murdered.

Jumping into my car and turning on the police radio, I could hear a partial description of the missing child. I grabbed the radio mic and interrupted several other officers talking.

“Seven twenty-seven” (my unit number) “to seven hundred,” (our communications center) “can you re-advise the description of the female?”

They relayed the information immediately. “Affirmative. Child is Hanna Parker, five years old. White female, approximately three feet, six inches tall, with blonde hair, wearing blue-jean shorts, a pink T-shirt with the words
Sesame Street
on the front, and yellow flip-flops.”

“Seven hundred, where was the child last seen?”

“The child was last seen approximately thirty minutes ago playing in the front yard of her residence. Location is 1414 Royal Oak Drive. Mother advised she went inside to answer the phone. Child was gone when she returned. No suspects or vehicle descriptions. Do you copy, seven twenty-seven?”

“Copy direct,” I answered. “Has the alert been issued in the media yet?”

“Negative.”

I wasn’t surprised. Although the Amber Alert was a good idea, it still had many glitches; specifically, the amount of time it takes to announce it to the public. We had to immediately determine it was an actual abduction, which was sometimes difficult and took time. Since there were no witnesses or suspects in the Hanna Parker disappearance, there was also the possibility that she simply wandered off. Regardless, we were to treat it as suspicious until we were proven wrong.

I tried not to panic over the current alert. The incident occurred on Royal Oak Drive in Royal Oak Estates. A wealthy, private allotment, their “major” crimes ordinarily consisted of arguments over property lines and cats in trees.

Turning into the allotment, I called our sex-offender registration clerk. I asked her to find the addresses of all the registered sex offenders living within a two-mile radius of the missing child’s house. Captain Kincaid should have already taken care of this, but in circumstances like these you can’t take anything for granted. Even though she had helped save my life a year ago, and got shot in the process, I still questioned her investigative skills. Naomi never had to work like the rest of us to get where she is. Bottom line is she’s a good test taker, and she aces the promotional tests. Common sense, however, has never been her strong suit. I was pleasantly relieved to find that Kincaid had indeed already put in the request.

There were probably twenty to thirty sex offenders within the two-mile radius of the child’s house, which would make the investigation extremely difficult.

Still not convinced this was an actual abduction and hoping for the best, I turned onto Royal Oak Drive. Uniformed officers and neighborhood residents were all over the place: in the front yards, backyards, sidewalks, garages, and on the street. They were searching houses, car trunks, and garage refrigerators and freezers. Police canines had their noses in the grass, sniffing around the house, attempting to find a track. Other officers were trying to find any witnesses in the neighborhood.

You couldn’t miss the house. There were about ten marked police cruisers in the driveway and street. Before I parked my car and got out, I could see Captain James Norris, head of the uniformed road patrol, standing on the front porch talking to several citizens. He saw me walking up the driveway.

“I’m glad you’re here, CeeCee. We’ve got nothing so far,” he said.

“Is Coop here yet?” I asked, referring to Detective Jeff Cooper, my best friend in the bureau. Coop had also played an integral part in preventing my demise last year when he, along with Naomi and an FBI agent, shot my captors. There was something solid and comforting about Coop. His dark hair contrasted with his light complexion and blue eyes, and his stocky build was meant for the jeans and T-shirts he wore. The perfect class clown, he wore his emotions on his sleeve. There was never a question as to his opinions. His face said it all. You always knew where you stood.

“He’s inside with the mother. As you can imagine, she’s a wreck.”

“Any custody problems? Where’s the father?” I asked, scanning the front of the mammoth house before me.

“He’s on his way from Cleveland. He’s some bigwig eye surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic.”

“Hopefully, we find her before he gets here. I’m assuming the house was thoroughly searched, kitchen cabinets, dryer, laundry baskets, and all?” I already knew the answer since Captain Norris was here, but had to ask anyway.

“Of course.”

I watched as he got into his marked SUV and pulled away. I had to mentally prepare myself to go inside the house, knowing the mother was panic stricken. It took a conscious effort in situations like this to keep myself from appearing rattled.

Taking a deep breath, I opened the door and was barraged by screams and sobs emanating from the thirty something attractive blonde sitting on the couch in the living room. Several neighbors or family members were seated around her, and Coop was standing in the middle of the room. Undeniably, she needed to calm down before we could accomplish anything. I hated to be the bad guy, knowing the mother had every right to be out of control, but something had to be done. We were losing valuable time.

I walked directly to Corrine Parker, the mother, and knelt in front of her. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the dread on Coop’s face, aware I was going to do something but not knowing what. The woman didn’t seem to notice me until I grabbed her shoulders and gave them a slight shake.

“Mrs. Parker! Please. You need to try to calm down.”

She looked at me and let out a walloping scream, her spit spraying me in the face. I hated the thought of having to slap her in front of all these people. Instead, I grabbed her chin and forced her to look at me.

“Mrs. Parker, you need to compose yourself and focus. If you want to help Hanna, take a deep breath and look at me. Now.” My voice was soothing, but stern.

From the expressions on their faces, everyone near her was appalled at my actions, but I didn’t care. They weren’t my problem—finding Hanna Parker was.

Corrine Parker began to settle down, wiping her eyes, taking deep breaths, and using the tissue offered to blow her nose. It took several minutes before she finally looked at me and spoke.

“Do you want to tell me who the hell you are?”

She was agitated, but anger can be good sometimes. It takes one’s mind off their other emotions.

“Mrs. Parker, I’m Detective CeeCee Gallagher with the Richland Metropolitan Police Department, major crimes division. I apologize for being somewhat harsh, but we need you focused and thinking as clearly as possible. There are a lot of questions you might be able to answer that could help us find Hanna.”

She blew her nose again, grabbing another tissue to wipe off the black mascara that had run down her face.

“She just
vanished
!” Tears resurfaced, and it looked like she was going to lose it again, so I had to redirect her quickly.

“Mrs. Parker, tell me who you saw outside while you and Hanna were in the front yard before you went in to answer the phone.”

“I already told that captain—
nobody
! Nobody was around! No one mowing their grass, getting their mail, nothing! Melissa Brewer lives across the street and took her son to preschool, but that was like, maybe ten minutes before my phone rang.”

Coop was already on his way out the door to find Melissa Brewer. Next, I began to ask her about the days and weeks prior to today, and whether there were any suspicious cars, prank phone calls, or anything else unusual.

“No, nothing.” She hiccuped. “My husband is a doctor, an ophthalmologist, and I stay at home with Hanna.”

I moved on quickly. “Mrs. Parker, has your husband had any medical malpractice suits or denied worker’s compensation claims recently? Does he discuss those types of things with you?”

“Yes, he would, but I haven’t heard about anything. Nothing that would make someone so mad they would steal my child! He should be here soon, and you can ask him then.”

“Mrs. Parker, try to think of anything you can that will help. And please, stay here. Whatever you do, don’t leave. I’ll be back shortly.”

BOOK: The Devil's Closet
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