By Beth ©
FBI Files (Ezra, Seven)
Notes: Please read the other FBI stories before this one, those will help explain a bit about the guys’ pasts. This isn’t meant to be a light read; it does deal with a very sensitive subject and should be read as such. It is estimated that a woman is raped/sexually abused every 2 minutes in the United States alone. Know your rights, your surroundings, and follow your gut instincts!
Please send comments and suggestions to email@example.com
Special thanks: To Yolande, for catching those errors and asking those fantastic questions!
The school had at one time been a peaceful place. Now, police officers and FBI agents walked the grounds searching for anything that could lead them to a killer. Most of the students had been released, sent home to cope with the incident…all but a few had made arrangements to come back. Statements had been made and orders for more had been taken, nobody was allowed to leave the country, and nobody wanted to be accused of a crime they didn’t commit.
A search warrant had been executed and each and every room was being investigated.
The school’s administration officers were willingly speaking with police and the FBI, wanting only to solve the mystery.
Buck knew he was a suspect. He didn’t have an alibi for his whereabouts, other than his duty of walking the halls and checking the out buildings. He’d been the one to find her. He knew what to expect, but it didn’t make it any easier.
JD looked out the window toward the large yard while Buck finished up his hundredth statement. The kid couldn’t help but wonder how the perpetrator had gotten into the school and out so fast. He knew his friend was a good cop…he was a great cop, and yet he managed to get by Buck. How?
“How old is this place?” JD asked, running his fingers along the brick wall.
Officer Daniels shrugged and closed his notebook. “Hundred years or more,” he assumed. He looked toward Buck. “I know you know the routine, but make sure you don’t leave the area without someone at the station knowing where you’re going.” He headed toward the door. “Whoever this bastard is, we’ll find him.”
Buck nodded and then ran his fingers through his hair as Daniels headed out. “What are you thinkin’ about, kid?”
“If this place is old enough…maybe there’re underground tunnels, like the old opium dens from way back.”
“Already checked,” Josiah answered, stepping into the room. “There’s nothing like that in the areas around here.”
“Where’s Nathan?” JD asked, moving away from the window and toward the center of the room.
“At the lab,” Josiah replied, looking critically at Buck. “What about Chris?”
“He’s upstairs searching a few rooms.” Buck stood up and headed out of the room. “You comin’?” he called back, while heading up to find Chris.
Josiah shrugged and followed. “How’s he doing?” He looked toward JD who walked beside him.
JD chewed on the inside of his cheek, searching for the right answer. “He blames himself for that girl’s death. Officer Daniels has pretty much eliminated him as a suspect, but even the idea’s enough to send him through the roof.”
“Buck knows the system, and he knows procedure.”
“Don’t make it any easier, Josiah.”
Buck, JD, and Josiah entered the room Chris was searching. Nothing was out of place. The bed had been perfectly made, shoes rested at the end of the footboard. A quilt was draped over the back of a chair, and a desk covered in books written in brail rested on a small, but adequate, desk.
“Found this in her sock drawer,” Chris said, tossing the small blue container to Josiah who caught it.
“Diaphragm?” he questioned. “I didn’t think she was seeing anyone.”
Chris raised an eyebrow and continued through the bottom drawer of Abigail’s dresser. “A couple officers are going to gather her belongings and take it to her parents.” He sighed, not finding anything else of value. “I think we should find out who her…partner was.”
“Maybe it’s old,” JD put in, trying to think logically.
“Just because she has—had, a diaphragm doesn’t mean she had a boyfriend,” Buck replied, sending Chris a knowing look.
“She’s not exactly in the kind of place for casual sex,” JD argued, speaking of her in present tense.
Josiah tossed the item back to Chris who slipped it into an evidence bag; there wasn’t any reason to put it in the boxes going to her parents. Why tarnish her reputation?
“We’ll ask Ezra about it when we see him,” Chris said, stretching his back.
“Why can’t we research it?” Buck snapped, getting defensive.
“We can, and we will, but I want to get Ezra’s gut instincts so we’re not out chasing dead-end leads.” Chris frowned, looking hard at Wilmington.
“We didn’t chase down dead-end leads when he wasn’t here,” Buck recanted, growing more agitated.
“Josiah, why don’t you and JD head out to the car and wait for us,” Chris said, walking toward the door as the two men left. He then shut the door. “What in the hell am I going to do with you?” anger lined every word he spoke.
“I’m the only suspect in this case—if you haven’t noticed?!”
“We’re on the hunt for a rapist, Buck….and knowing you’re not it, I want you to pull your head out of your ass and get to work. Stop fighting us on this case!”
“I’m not fightin’ anyone!”
“Bullshit, Buck! You’re walkin’ around like a rookie wishin’ for a lead to follow.” Chris ran his fingers through his hair. “I know you’re hurtin’ and I know you need some answers, but you’re not going to get any by getting pissed off at Ezra or the rest of us.” He paused and shook his head. “We all want to know what happened…and given the time…we’ll find out.”
Buck rubbed his forehead and nodded in acceptance. “I’ll get my head together.”
“Good,” Chris replied, opening the door. “We need all of us working together to find this bastard.”
The 24-hour diner rested on the edge of town. An open sign flashed in the window as truckers and travelers stopped at the gas pumps for refills. Grease spots marred the parking lot with trails of tire skids. The standing garbage can/ash tray was overflowing next to the restaurant door. Cigarette butts had been stomped out, but not discarded properly. Beer advertisements hung precariously in the windows, and an old ‘missing dog’ sign had fallen to the floor and floated toward a table.
Ezra and Vin entered the diner with the hopes of talking to Mandy Shelly and grabbing a quick meal. An older woman came forward wearing black slacks and a light blue shirt. Her gray hair was pulled back away from her wizened face. A thin gold necklace with a heart shaped locket hung around her neck, matching earrings dangled from her ears.
“Two?” she asked, grabbing a couple of menus.
Ezra nodded in confirmation and followed. “Is Mandy working today?” he asked, knowing she was, but wanting to move past the ‘whys’.
“She’s on her break…she’ll be back in,” she paused to think about it, “... in a few minutes.” She tossed the menus on the table and stood back as both men took a seat. “You want somthin’ to drink?”
“Water,” Vin answered, looking around the colorful place.
“Coffee,” Ezra replied, pulling his jacket out from beneath him.
“I’ll give you two boys time to look over our menus.” She turned and walked away, stopping at another table to take some dirty plates into the back.
“Haven’t been in a place like this since I was a kid,” Vin said, leaning forward. “Bet you can get finger steaks here.” He opened his menu and took a look. “Yep, deep fried in beer batter—think I’ll try some.” He smiled.
Ezra, not as easily impressed, wanted something simple…something safe to eat. He pulled out his pocket-sized notebook and looked at a few of the annotations he’d made while on the drive there.
“I’m Mandy,” the young woman said, setting Ezra’s coffee in front of him after Vin had pointed toward him. She then handed Vin his water. “What can I do for you?” Her smile was sincere, but her life had been hard and it showed.
Ezra pulled out his badge and introduced himself and Vin. “Can we ask you a few questions?”
“About what?” she asked, loosening the collar on her light blue shirt. Apparently the uniforms didn’t fit everyone the same. Her blonde hair had been pulled up and secured in a loose bun behind her head. Small gold earrings decorated her ears, and a long scar ran from her nose to her hairline, across her left cheek. Her green eyes were striking, but her abundance of makeup took away from her natural beauty.
“We’d like to ask you about the incident from a couple of years ago,” Ezra answered. He looked up and noticed Vin moving uncomfortably in his seat.
Mandy grabbed a chair and pulled it up to the table. “Told the cops everythin’ back when it happened—hell, that was almost three years ago, but I’ll tell you whatever you want to know.” She seated herself in the chair and pulled out a cigarette, knowing nobody would try and stop her. “It’s my one bad habit.” She lit the end and took a short puff.
“You don’t remember anything about the perpetrator?” Ezra asked, leaning back in the booth, awaiting an answer.
Mandy shook her head. “He smoked…smelt like he’d been living in an ashtray all his life.” She looked at the long white stick between her fingers. “That’s when I started up—figure I couldn’t stop imagining the smell, so I made sure I was really smellin’ it….keeps me from climbin’ the walls at night.”
She took a deep breath and began, “I was out joggin’…can you see me now, probably couldn’t sprint a block.” She looked angrily at the cigarette and then put it out on the table. “Thought I’d take a shortcut home, you know, say I’d run a mile but really only did three quarters, somthin’ like that. Not that anyone would care, but you know, kind of like lyin’ to myself. I knew when I headed out through the park I was takin’ a chance. Ever since high school there were rumors about that place, never thought much of it though, ‘til I was there. Guess I should have followed my gut instincts and just went my normal way.” She shrugged and crossed her arms over her chest. “He jumped me from behind, covered my face with a bag of some kind…thought it was a pillowcase or somethin’, but I still ain’t sure. I tried pushin’ him off, but couldn’t…still can’t figure out why…” she paused, remembering the time, she shivered suddenly and continued, “He told me he’d kill me if I screamed—so I didn’t. He did what he wanted to and rushed off.”
“What were the rumors?” Ezra questioned.
“When I was in high school it was just one of those things...don’t run in the park after dark, don’t drink soda with explosive candy, don’t eat watermelon seeds...you know—urban legends.”
“Did he take the pillowcase?” Ezra asked, changing the subject.
“No,” Mandy shook her head. “I didn’t exactly take it with me when I reported it—when the police went back, it was gone.”
Vin nodded, admiring her strength.
“Whoever this bastard is, he’s big. I’m not a weak woman, hell, I can fight with the big boys…so he’s got to be heavy into somethin’…drugs maybe, hell, even some kind of Special Forces—you know the kind…the guys that can kill a man with their pinky.” She rubbed her knees and leaned forward. “You think it’s the same SOB that killed Abby?”
“You knew her?” Vin asked, holding the base of his water glass.
“Went to school together, she was a rich bitch and I was…” she paused, looking around, “…well, here I am. She was a tough ol’ broad and she knew how to get things—not all of it was legal, but she was good at gettin’ away with shit.” She leaned back and crossed her legs. “We all knew she’d been raped before, though, nobody talked about it. It was one of those ‘unsaid’ things, but she told me one time that if a man ever tried anything with her, she’d kill him first.”
“Was there a particular ‘him’?” Ezra asked, knowing there probably wasn’t, but just making sure.
“She meant anyone with a dick,” Mandy replied.
“So she wasn’t sexually active?” Vin questioned.
Many chuckled: “She loved sex, but she hated men.” She paused and took a deep breath. “My guess? She was doin’ a teacher and things got out of hand. If there’s a rapist runnin’ around these parts, he ain’t goin’ to go searchin’ for her, not when she’d give it to him just for askin’.” She stood up and grabbed the back of the chair. “I’ve got to get back to work, but if you find the guy who raped me, let me know, I’ll testify against him.” She put the chair back and headed toward the cash register.
“That was interestin’,” Vin commented, taking a long drink from his glass of water. “What now?”
“Can we eat first?”
JD, frustrated with the lack of new information, ran a hand through his black hair. He consciously reminded himself that he’d have to get a haircut before returning to Washington. “I don’t get it,” he snapped, looking up at the pictures on the wall. He glanced at Josiah and Nathan who seemed to be reading the same reports they’d all read, only for the hundredth time. Chris stood leaning against the wall, deep in thought. Buck had crashed on the small sofa in the office, which wasn’t a bad thing because he needed the sleep, but they weren’t any closer to solving the case.
The kid walked to the bulletin board and looked at the images of all 14 women, including Abigail Jorden. As a kid he’d loved puzzles, he’d loved putting things back together, challenging the normal way of thinking. That’s why he’d decided on law enforcement as a career. It challenged his line of thinking, using a computer to solve crime…like solving a large puzzle.
“I think there’re two men,” JD said, looking at the pictures like he would a hard drive.
“What?” Chris asked, standing up straight.
JD, careful to keep the order of the victims right, moved the pictures into two rows. Row A was the brunettes, row B became the blondes. “Two perps, that’s why we haven’t been able to get a handle on him. The one who started it all likes brunettes, and the other likes blondes…it’s like they’re competing or something.”
“He could be right,” Josiah surmised, seeing the logic in JD’s insight. “What about Jill Parker?”
“She’d dyed her hair red three days before the rape,” JD replied, “so I’ve posted her as a blonde—her natural hair color.”
Vin sighed, stepping into the office. He shrugged when everyone looked for Ezra. “He’s at the hotel puttin’ together a profile.”
“What’s he think?” JD asked.
“Wouldn’t tell me, but I’d be willin’ to guess he’ll have it done by mornin’.”
“JD’s come to the conclusion that there’re two perps, not just one,” Nathan said, rubbing his face with his hand, trying to breathe new life into it. The long hours were getting to him.
Vin shrugged: “I don’t know. Ezra an’ I must ‘ave talked to four victims today and none of ‘em had much to say, at least in my opinion, but Ezra’s on some kind of a roll.” He moved toward the table and grabbed a handful of potato chips. “Told him to take a shower and shave…he was startin’ to look like the backside of a bull.”
“He’s pushing himself too hard,” Josiah said with a shake of his head.
Buck sat up and leaned back onto the sofa. “If there are two perps…how do we single them out?” He leaned forward and rested his elbows on his knees.
“Just like we would with one,” Chris answered, stepping up to the bulletin board. “If there are two…the next victim will be a brunette.” He looked at the acceleration of violence with each victim. “If they’re competing with one another…” he took a deep breath, “…she’ll end up dead as well.”
Ezra stepped out of the shower feeling refreshed. He dried himself off and slipped into some comfortable jeans and a sweatshirt. He pulled his socks onto his feet and then rubbed a towel through his hair, getting it as dry as possible before hanging it on the rack and moving toward the mirror. He wiped the fog away with his hand and took a good look at himself. Vin had been right, he looked horrid. Quickly, he smothered his jaw, chin, and above his upper lip with some shaving cream.
He couldn’t help but shake his head when he thought about how far he’d come…or how far he’d let himself go. There had been a time in his life when he’d never had been caught with wrinkles in his clothing, or coffee stains on his shirts—but that time was gone. He didn’t have the time he’d once had for himself…not when children were missing, young girls being kidnapped, or women and men suffering at the hands of some monster. Ezra maintained his physical appearance, running in the mornings, visiting the gym when he could—but for the most part, his life had become his job…and his job had become his life.
Ezra shook himself out of his moment of reverie and concentrated and thought about the case before him.
He knew, through years of study and hundreds of interviews that a woman who’d been raped had the opportunity to become one of two things, a survivor or to remain a victim. Neither was a choice he would want to make. It was the one thing in their lives they could control, with the right amount of help. The perpetrator couldn’t decide that for them.
Ezra washed his face free of the remaining shaving cream and headed into the hotel room. His computer rested on the table and sheets of papers were scatted on the bed, floor, and chairs. He knew the man he was after…not by his looks, but by his personality. So much of it had become clear while talking to the women who’d met him in the most unfortunate of situations, but they’d told him enough. He wouldn’t put the finishing touches on the profile until late tomorrow, after he’d finished speaking with the rest of the victims, and survivors.
Chris entered the police station and headed toward the room being used as his headquarters. The rest of his men would follow, and they’d spend another day searching for their perps. Hopefully, they’d find him before he killed again.
“Are you Agent Larabee?” a woman asked, stepping up, as Chris was about to enter his temporary office.
“Yes,” he answered.
“My name’s Irene May. I started the rape center here in town,” she paused and looked hard at Chris, “…I was number nine,” she said flatly. “I understand there’s an Agent Standish who’s been asking some questions to some of the other survivors?”
“Yes,” Chris answered honestly. “Can I help you with something?”
“We’ve all come down here to talk with Agent Standish…as a group.” Her eyes were strong, like an old cop’s who’d seen too much during his time on the force. Her brown hair had been pulled back into a ponytail, and her face lacked any makeup. Though she was plain in looks, her determination made up for it. “We all want to make a difference here.” Her voice was strong, and unwilling to back down.
Chris nodded and smiled: “He’s on his way here now.” He looked toward the group of women sitting in the waiting area of the station. “There’s a room back here you’ll all be more comfortable in.”
“Thank you,” Irene replied, motioning for the others to follow her.
Ezra entered the police station with the intention of relaying his profile to Chris and the others. He knew he’d be late, having stopped for a cup of coffee, and sorting out a few last minute details. With his files in one hand, and his coffee in the other, he headed toward the office.
“You’ve got company,” Vin said, tossing a couple of empty packets of sugar into the garbage can. He stirred his coffee and walked slowly toward Standish. “Seems all the victims are wantin’ to talk to you.” He tested the coffee, making sure it wasn’t going to burn his mouth. “Chris sent Nathan and Buck to collect all the county records on juvenile crimes.” He walked with Ezra toward the room where the women were waiting. “JD thinks there’re two perps. Is he right?”
“He’s on the right track,” Ezra answered, entering the room. He looked around, seeing Mandy, Jill, and the others he’d spoken with. They all looked stronger together. “I’m Ezra Standish.”
Irene stood up and shook his hand. “I know about the two-way mirrors,” she said flatly, “you might as well invite them in—we have nothing to hide...or be embarrassed about.”
Ezra turned toward the mirror and raised his eyebrows, before grabbing a chair. Chris, Josiah, JD, and Vin all entered and took a seat, not wanting to be a bother, but wanting to know what was happening.
Irene returned to her own seat and began, knowing she was the one to start it. “I asked everyone here because we want to help.” She was honest, and looking for answers, just like the rest of them.
Ezra tossed his file to the floor and leaned forward in his chair. He folded his fingers together after resting his elbows on his knees. “Tell me your stories.” There was an honesty in his voice that seemed calming, almost hypnotic—as though he knew exactly how it would feel to bare such a burden as the women sitting before of him.
The rapes were similar in manner, but every story was different. While some had trouble completing them, someone held her hand, squeezed her shoulders, or encouraged her with empowering words. The rapes had grown more violent from one victim to the next, but that didn’t matter, not to the woman who’d lived it. They were here now, making a stand, and mending those wounds.
“My son was in the car,” Norma said, wiping a tear from her cheek. “I’d just stopped to get a soda.” She looked up, her eyes full of confusion. “I just wanted a soda... I left the store and was heading to my car when he grabbed me from behind. He covered my mouth with his hand...and he carried me to an alley. I didn’t see him…” she sighed, taking a break, “…he covered my head…I could smell the cigarette smoke on him…I hate that smell.” She leaned back in her seat and shrugged.
Jill Parker reached out and squeezed Norma’s hand.
“It’s like a reoccurring nightmare, only when you’re old enough to know it’s only a nightmare…your life has passed you by.” Luanne watched the tile on the floor, unwilling to meet anyone’s eyes. “I kept thinking that if I didn’t do exactly want he wanted me to, he’d kill me.” She rubbed her arm, trying to get some warmth into it. “He told me to struggle—so I did,” she wiped her eyes, “then he forced himself on me—I wasn’t ready for him.” She didn’t cry...she didn’t have the energy or she was just too tired to admit the need.
Josiah looked down, he’d seen the medical reports, he knew the details, but reading it on paper and hearing it from the victim was two different things.
“I can’t go anywhere, knowing he might be there,” Luanne continued, keeping her eyes on the floor. “I used to do things…I used to take my children to school.... I used to let my husband touch me...”
“Men have it easy,” Irene said, crossing her legs and leaning back in her seat. “It’s easy for you to sit there—all of you, and be sympathetic, but you don’t understand it. You’ll go home to your wives and girlfriends, give them a hug and be thankful nothing like this had ever happened to them, or maybe you’ll be more sympathetic if it had…but you’ll never truly understand it.”
“Men get raped as well, Mrs. May,” Josiah said, not from experience, but from knowing those who had been.
Irene nodded: “Yes, they do, but tell me how it feels to have your vagina stretched so tight it tears…then we’ll talk. Men don’t normally have the submissive role during sex…not unless they’re into that kinky shit, but that doesn’t apply here because that’s a ‘choice’ people make. Rape isn’t a choice. As women, we’re expected to go home and pick up where we left off. If we’re lucky enough to have a husband who’s understanding and patient, we may eventually enjoy the burden of sex again—but we’ll never stop thinking about the rape…the loss of control…being dominated—being humiliated.” She looked them all up and down. “We will go the rest of our lives with the knowledge that we ‘can’ be forced under someone else’s control—you still have the optimism and the knowledge of believing you could stop something like this from happening.” She’d never been an activist, but circumstance had made her one. She reached into her back pocket and pulled out a slip of paper. “We all came together as victims, and as such, came up with some things we didn’t think was important, or was too personal to tell the officers after we were interviewed.”
“It’s easier to speak with someone who’s been through it,” Norma added.
“We all are or have been athletes,” Irene started, “so it wouldn’t have been that easy to take us down…not like he did. We all figure he’s at least six foot. We know he smokes—”
“Something unfiltered…the smell is too strong and his breath was—”
“Toxic,” Beverly added. She sat behind the others, slightly hidden from view. Her long brown hair had been cut short…almost cropped. Glasses hid her eyes, and a heavy turtleneck sweater disguised her elegant figure. “He had rough hands.”
“Yeah,” someone else added, “Like you’d expect on a construction worker.”
“His voice was deep, but when he talked it was like he was trying to disguise it,” Jill said, trying to think of every detail. “And he hummed—a strange tune, I never could figure out what it was.”
Another woman agreed, and then three more followed.
Luanne furrowed her brow and rubbed her eyes. Ezra watched her, feeling as though she knew something, but was afraid to say it. He looked toward Irene and watched her get to her feet. She walked toward him and handed him the paper.
“There aren’t any names on this, just small things like you’ve just heard, but we all agree on them.”
“Thank you for coming in,” Ezra said, getting to his feet, he took the paper.
They all stood up and headed for the door. Luanne stopped in front of Ezra and smiled shyly. She waited until the others left the room so she could speak with him alone. Chris, Josiah, Vin, and JD followed them—knowing the woman needed to talk to Ezra alone. They thanked the women for coming in and for making a difference.
“Are you going to be okay to drive yourself home?” Ezra asked, making sure the door was open. He didn’t want her feeling confined. He moved back in front of her.
Luanne nodded and looked up at him, meeting his eyes for the first time. “When I was eleven I was raped by a boy in school. Ricky Taylor. He forced me down outside the school cafeteria and pulled my dress up over my head and ripped my panties off.” She shook when she spoke, as though the memory was still too close. “I screamed and tried to fight him, but he was just too strong. It was the fighting that he liked. Before he could take me he ejaculated onto my leg…he was so angry he…” she wiped her eyes, angry for not being stronger, angry for remaining his victim, and angry because it had happened again. “He used his hand… This time…it was almost the same.” She looked hard at Ezra. “Find Ricky Taylor.”
“Did you tell anyone else about this?” Ezra asked, trying to keep contact with her eyes, but she was quickly looking away.
“Abby knew,” she said, before rapidly leaving the room.
Ezra picked up his file off the floor and headed into the other room, where he found the others talking quietly. “Learn anything?” he asked, looking at the bulletin board and how it had been changed.
“Yeah,” JD admitted, “I’m never letting Casey out of my sight again.” He slumped back in his chair. “Wouldn’t it be just as devastating for a man as it is for a woman—being raped?”
“Some say it’s worse for a man,” Josiah said, looking toward the kid, knowing he’d taken everything those women had said to heart.
“It’s equal,” Ezra pointed out, “by saying one is worse than the other you’re humiliating the other into believing their claim is less valued. You simply can’t do that. Granted, men are sexually assaulted and abused in this country…but not nearly at the rate women are.” He took a seat and ran his fingers through his hair. “We need to find a Ricky Taylor,” he said, changing the subject.
Vin stood up: “I’ll do it.” He was out the door before anyone could object.
“What about the profile?” Chris asked, wanting to get to the bottom of the case.
Ezra stood up: “He’s an anger rapist. He feels justified in his actions because of his extreme hatred of women. He didn’t have a positive male role model as a child. His mother had abusive relationships with men—either through prostitution or other means. He’s educated…some college; I wouldn’t expect him to have graduated. He’s smart, smarter than most and he knows what he’s doing. Most serial killers and rapists get arrogant, tempting the police, wanting—challenging the police to catch him, but this one…he doesn’t want to get caught. He raped and murdered Abigail Jorden in her room and moved her to the hall—posed her, and waited for the police to find her—knowing they—Buck would find her. I believe he waited until the confusion started before he escaped. With 250 students on the property, nobody would have taken notice of one man walking away from the scene. He likes what he’s doing, and he wants to keep doing it. He knows the system and he’s using it to the best of his ability—”
“So,” JD interrupted, “you don’t think it’s two perps?”
“No,” Ezra replied, “but you had a valid idea. The man we’re dealing with wants us to think there’re two of them out there, but there isn’t. He’s toying with us, knowing that if he does get caught, he’ll be able to act the role of the abused child—possibly play the ‘multiple personality card’—which means we have to prove he’s not criminally insane, but he’s smarter than most. I don’t believe he meant to kill Abigail Jorden—but if he’s pushed…he’ll kill again, and he may kill for the pleasure of it. I believe he’s ex-military…probably discharged within the past 5 to 8 years, before the rapes started. My guess…he was discharged due to emotional problems…an inability to focus on his tasks…he almost certainly applied for Special Forces and was denied. He’s married, with a child…at least one.”
“What about his hands?” Josiah asked.
“He works with his hands, but not as a career…that would be beneath him.”
“Ricky Taylor aka Ricky Moore owns a biker bar outside of town,” Vin said, flashing the piece of paper he’d pulled from the system as he walked into the room.
“Who is he?” JD questioned.
“A suspect,” Ezra replied, grabbing his coat.
“According to who?” Chris asked, wanting to get a better idea of who they were going after.
“One of his victims,” Ezra answered.
“JD,” Chris said, grabbing his jacket. “Find out everything you can on him…check into a possible military background. If you find one…let us know ASAP.” He slipped on his coat. “Vin, you come with Ezra and I…Josiah, I want you to go through every minute detail of those women’s lives—find out how many of them knew Abigail Jorden.”
“They all did,” Ezra answered knowingly.
“Find it on paper,” Chris relayed. “If this guy really is this smart—I want all our asses covered.”
“Someone should try and research the S&M groups in the area…find the underground suppliers. Our perp is pissed off and he’s going to have more than one way to satisfy his cravings. Talk to local prostitutes; find out if they’ve had any Johns asking for violent sex…maybe bondage. If this guy is as busy as I think he is…there’re bound to be a few women out there that haven’t come forward, and prostitutes are less likely to because of their profession.”
“We’ll be busy,” Josiah said, taking a deep breath.
Butch’s Biker Bar was located just north of the 231 exit entering into town. There wasn’t much to it, seemingly cramped between two large oak trees. A row of colorful Harleys were parked out front: choppers, hogs, and sportsters. A Budweiser sign flashed in the window…the ‘d’ flashing as though it were ready to burn out. The open sign on the door hung awkwardly to the left.
They knew once they walked in that they’d stick out like a fly on a white wedding cake. It wouldn’t take much to figure them as cops…at this point they didn’t care.
Chris entered first, taking a quick look around before heading toward the bar. Ezra and Vin followed. The heavy aroma of smoke had been immersed into everything…the wood, patrons, and even the pool tables that sat undisturbed near the back.
Bikers looked up when the door had opened and watched with predatory eyes as the three individuals walked up to the bar. They continued with their conversations and beer.
“What can I get ya?” the bartender asked, tossing his rag into the sink at the far end of the bar. He turned and looked at his newest patrons. A bright red bandanna was wrapped around his head, hiding his oncoming baldness. His upper lip was covered with a handlebar mustache. His broken nose sat in a crooked manner down his face…the tip coming close to touching his lip. He wore a studded leather jacket with an old Harley Davidson tee shirt beneath.
“Are you Ricky Taylor aka Ricky Moore?” Chris asked, taking a seat with the intention of staying awhile and getting some answers.
“Yeah, but I changed my name all legal like 6 years ago,” came the reply. “You boys cops?”
“Yeah,” Chris responded in the same tone that Taylor had. “We need to ask you a few questions.”
“Shoot,” Ricky said, leaning against the bar, making a point to not show his fear.
“Where were you four nights ago between the hours of 9 and 11pm?” Chris continued, not bothering with the political correctness the FBI warranted.
“I was with my ol’ lady. Tonya!” he yelled, turning his head toward the door behind him.
A woman stepped out, wearing an old tee shirt and skintight blue jeans. Her long black hair had been pulled up into a ponytail and her face was covered in heavy makeup. “What?” she asked, moving toward the sink to wash her hands. “I’ve got work to do.”
“Where was I four nights ago?”
She furrowed her brow a moment. “You were with me…watchin’ that show…Stargate, you know, the one on Sci-fi.” Tonya placed a hand on her hip. “This about that girl that was murdered?” she asked outright...she wasn’t a fool.
“You knew her?” Chris asked, wanting to draw the attention from Abigail to Ricky Taylor.
“No,” Ricky replied. “Didn’t even know Dayton had a blind school…much less blind people.” He smiled while he talked, as though he didn’t care. “Heard the rape was pretty brutal?” There was more humor in his tone.
“Have you ever raped anyone before?” Ezra asked, just to see his reaction.
Ricky stood up straight and shook his head. His humor and lighthearted attitude disappeared. “Listen,” he sighed, “I did my time for what I did in the past—you ain’t got no right comin’ in here and accusin’ me of a crime I didn’t have anythin’ to do with.” He looked at his wife and then toward the back where the bikers sat…trying not to draw attention. “What I’m involved in ain’t got nothin’ to do with what’s been goin’ on.”
“What are you involved in?” Ezra pushed, having an idea.
“Ricky specializes in knots,” Tonya said with a roll of her eyes. “You know, for the underground clubs around here—anywhere really. It’s all legal—consenting adults, nobody gets hurt.”
“Has anyone ever gone too far?” Ezra asked, feeling as though they may have a break.
Ricky shook his head: “Everyone involved has to sign a contract.”
“Everyone?” Vin interrupted.
“Everyone,” Tonya answered. “I started the local group…we meet every Thursday night.”
“Has anyone ever been denied?” Ezra asked.
Tonya nodded and disappeared into the office and returned with a small file. “This is a list of everyone that’s been denied, or gone beyond what we consider safe.” She handed the file to Chris. “Some of these people are well known members of the community and something like this could be devastating to their careers.”
“So out of the kindness of your hearts you keep the information quiet?” Vin asked, a hint of skepticism in his voice.
“We’ve never had trouble with getting bank loans, if that’s what you’re implying?” Tonya replied bitterly.
“Do any of the people in that file stick out in your minds?” Ezra asked, slipping his hands into his pocket.
Ricky shrugged his shoulders, wanting to move the conversation elsewhere.
Tonya sighed: “Mark Raven,” she said, with a tip of her head. “He likes the hardcore stuff.”
Ezra nodded. “Will both of you be in the area in case we need to speak with you again?”
“We’re here everyday,” Ricky said.
“Good,” Chris bit, not at all impressed with their willingness to help—or their chosen lifestyle. He turned, with file in hand, and headed out to the vehicle. Vin and Ezra soon followed.
Josiah realized why Chris had wanted Buck to go with Nathan. It was difficult enough talking with women who spent their entire lives giving themselves away. Prostitution wasn’t a choice these women wanted to make. Most had been forced into it because of unforeseen circumstances. If it wasn’t drugs they were addicted to, it was alcohol. Some were as young as thirteen, though they looked many years older, few were older than 30.
Not only was prostitution hard on the body, it was 100 times harder on the mind. They suffered from paranoia, to depression…and they didn’t have any way of treating themselves, except for the use of illegal drugs. It was easy to stand back and watch and ‘think’ it would be easy just to get a regular job, but for someone who’d only known the street, it was like asking them to cure cancer. They didn’t want to be there, but like most women, they were survivors.
Josiah had asked an officer from the precinct to give him a lift to the local hangouts. Lars Black had been with the police department for 19 years, and he’d loved every minute of it. He was a formidable cop, with a shaved head, a tattoo of a lion on his shoulder, and the ability to bench-press 200 pounds.
“I’ll introduce you to April first,” Lars said, turning his blinker on as he took a left in his police cruiser. “She’s been on the streets the longest…almost 10 years.”
“How many of the girls do you know?” Josiah asked.
“All of them,” Lars answered. “When I started out, I thought they’d all be the same. Women selling sex for drugs, rent money, or who-knows-what-else—didn’t think I’d ever see their side of things. Then, one afternoon I respond to a call involving a DB. Turns out the woman—or girl—she was 17, had been murdered in her bed...sliced to hell. She was a prostitute who’d brought the wrong John home.” He shrugged and turned another corner. “I found her son locked up in the closet…four year old kid.”
“What happened to him?”
“I called my wife Annie, and we both decided to adopt him. That’s when I decided to do something about the prostitution problem. Toby’s mother had been sexually abused since the age of three by her father…come to find out, most women on the streets have been abused in some way.” He pulled the car to a stop and turned off the engine. “A lot of the women I work with are still on the streets. My main focus is to keep them safe…not change their lives…if they want that; I’ll go out of my way to help them.” He stared Josiah down, letting him know he wouldn’t be bullied by the FBI, and he wouldn’t change his ways because he bent the law a little.
“I want that too,” Josiah admitted, slipping out of the vehicle.
“April,” Officer Black said, motioning her over to the car.
“Officer Lars,” she replied, adjusting her skirt, trying to make it appear longer than it was.
“I’m not here about that,” he said, knowing how she’d be feeling. He turned and motioned for Josiah to step forward. “April, this is Special Agent Sanchez with the FBI, he wants to ask you a few questions.”
“He ain’t gonna get me into trouble is he?”
“No, ma’am,” Josiah answered, casually leaning against the squad car. He took in her appearance, thanking God that Buck wasn’t here. April appeared to be coming down off a trip of some sort…probably meth. She was way too thin, looking almost anorexic. Her eyes, covered in eye shadow and mascara were sunken and hollow. Her outfit or lack there of, was minimal. Despite the chill in the air, she wore a light blue tee shirt—no bra and a denim mini skirt. Her black nylons had runs in them, and her red cowboy boots looked to have been dug out of a dumpster.
“I’ll be right back,” Officer Black said, patting Josiah on the shoulder before heading across the street.
April watched him go. “What do you want?” she asked, turning her eyes to the big man.
“I want to ask you a few questions.” He stood up. “Have any of your Johns asked you for anything…unusual?”
April shook her head: “Honey, I got one that likes to suck my toes…he pays me fifty bucks to do it. You’re going to have to be more specific when it comes to unusual.”
“Has anyone asked you to fight them during sex?” Josiah was blunt, but he wanted—needed answers.
April tapped the toe of her boot on the pavement. “There’s this one John…likes to patrol late at night—one, two o’clock in the mornin’.” She pointed down the road toward the entrance of the park, and then shoved her hands into her pockets. “He pays real well, so must of us girls go to him only when we need the cash real bad—I mean REAL bad.” She nervously crossed her arms in front of her chest. “He likes the kinky shit….” She looked up as Officer Black came back across the street with a Styrofoam container in his hand. “Look,” she whispered, not wanting Lars to hear, “You’ll want to talk to Candy…she’s a regular of his…she can tell you all the dirty details.”
“I got you some soup,” Lars said, handing the woman the container. “I want you to drink it.”
“You’re too damn soft to be out here, Lars,” April said with a half smile. “Thank you.” She twisted the lid off and took a whiff of the aroma. “Is this about all the girls that have been gettin’ raped?”
“Yeah,” Josiah replied honestly.
“Talk to Candy.”
“Candy’s dead, April,” Lars said, with a grimace on his face.
“No,” April chuckled, “I just saw her two days ago.”
“She overdosed under the Tarison Bridge last night.”
“Shit,” April sighed, “thought for sure she was goin’ to make it.” She ran her fingers through her straggly blonde hair and shook her head. “The John you’ll want to talk to comes out every two or three nights. He’s a big guy…maybe your size,” he nodded toward Josiah, “brownish blonde hair…never could get a good look at his eyes. He likes the weird shit. Candy told me once that he liked to tie her up and just watch her struggle to get loose, then he’d pay her and be on his way. Other times…”
“You don’t know his name?” Josiah asked, just wanting to be sure.
April shook her head. “We,” she spoke of the women like her, “don’t get…emotionally…involved. The men who seek us out usually want one thing—what their wives won’t give them, or the ability to act out those dirty little secrets.” She took a sip of the soup, enjoying the warmth it provided.
“Is there a number where we can reach you at?” Josiah asked.
“Lars knows where I’m at,” April replied, glancing up and down the street.
“You going to be okay?” Lars asked her.
She smiled and nodded. “I’ll be fine.”
Josiah nodded and pulled out a card. “If you need anything, see something unusual—or if that John comes by…don’t hesitate to give me a call.”
She took the card and nodded. “I hope you find him,” she said, turning to head back to her corner.
“Be careful,” Lars called out before slipping into his vehicle.
Josiah followed and looked at his watch. “Let’s get back.”
I got a certain little girl she’s on my mind
No doubt about she looks so fine
She’s the best girl that I ever had
Sometimes she’s gonna make me feel so bad
I thought I heard her callin’ my name now
He had a child like face, and he reminded mothers of their sons, wives of their loves that got away, and girlfriends of their first crush. He’d never had trouble with women…they seemed to flock to him…like groupies did to rock stars. His good looks defied his true nature. Standing over six foot two, his muscular frame only heightened his sexual appeal…and he used it to his advantage.
He smiled as he passed her on the walkway, just enough to let her know she wasn’t displeasing to the eye. She glanced at him, but didn’t get a good enough look to draw attention. She worked day in and day out with hundreds of people, most coming in and out of her office…what was one extra face? She wore black sweatpants and a tee shirt. Her brown hair had been pulled up into a ponytail, exposing the feminine features of her face.
She drove a blue Honda, lived alone, and had a large screen TV in her bedroom. Her house was small, but paid for, and she liked to talk about her dog Princes. He smiled, remembering how she’d gone on about that damn poodle and her barking habits—she’d even talked about her boyfriend, how he’d left her once he’d found out about her pregnancy…funny what people would chat about with complete strangers.
Strange that she’d come onto him before, and chose now to ignore him.
He liked the athletic type…the ones that were a challenge to keep down. She was small enough to give him a good fight, while unable to fight him off. It was easy getting to them, forcing them to do what he wanted. He couldn’t help but chuckle. He turned suddenly, and watched as she finished unwrapping her power-bar next to the garbage can. She took a couple of steps, anticipating the walk home and shrugged her shoulders. He wasn’t sure if she knew he was behind her, or if maybe she’d made a decision about something.
She turned down an alley, and stopped, feeling a chill run down her back. She knew she was taking a chance, but she wanted to get home sooner…maybe watch some TV or soak in a hot tub. The rapes she’d heard about happened to other people, not to her. She was too smart, too strong, and frankly…not the type of girl a rapist would go after. She started down the alley, having talked herself out of taking the main road.
She heard his footfalls before a hand grabbed her around her waist and mouth. She struggled, kicking out with her legs and pulling at her assailant’s arms. Nothing seemed to help. Her only focus was getting free. She could smell the cigarette smoke and her heart raced faster. She knew what was going to happen, and she knew in her gut she couldn’t stop it. He pushed her up against the building’s exterior and covered her head. She felt it tighten around her neck and for a moment she panicked by pushing out with her arms and legs.
“Don’t make me kill you,” he grunted, sounding like a big bear.
She stilled, wanting only to survive. He could take her body…but could she save her own life?
He tossed her to the ground and covered her with his body, forcing his legs between her thighs. “Fight me,” he ordered, pushing her hands above her head. “Just a little struggle.” His words were impotent, like someone begging for a ride...but his strength was...phenomenal—terrifying.
“Please don’t,” she pleaded, grunting as her sweats were torn from her hips.
She’s got lovin’ like
Only took one touch of her hand
To blow my mind and I’m in so deep
That I can’t eat and I can’t sleep
I thought I heard her callin’ my name now
She broke my heart but I love her just the same now
I need her lovin’ and I’m not to blame now...
John Myers was not an overly intelligent man. He struggled with women, jobs, and his bank account. Wanting more than he could ever afford, he forced his life around himself rather than living it. He exited the gas station with a six-pack of beer in one hand and a bag of pork rinds in the other. Every cell of his body seemed on fire, and nothing would put it out.
He walked to his old beat-up pick up truck and slipped inside. He wanted something, anything that would fix that need that rested deep inside his belly. “Bitch!” he yelled, slapping the steering wheel. He threw the truck into gear and gunned the engine. Within seconds he was out of the parking lot and headed down the road.
He saw her walking alone toward the park. Her ass looked good in jeans...too good. He slowed his truck down and watched her. The way her hips swayed, the slow gentle movements of her hair against her shoulders made his revenge grow. She was a little thick through the waist, but that didn’t bother him...he just needed a good piece of ass to make him feel like a man again.
He sped up and passed her, noticing that she wasn’t paying attention to anything—particularly him. He pulled his truck into a parking space and slipped out. He grabbed a beer and guzzled it, not bothering to cover his mouth as he burped. He grabbed an old work shirt he’d left on the seat of his vehicle and then took up a position—a nice little place...he wouldn’t be seen, and he wouldn’t be expected. Kind of like the guy who’d been having a bout of fun in the papers—what did he use...a pillowcase? John didn’t care...he just wanted to pull something he’d never done before...maybe get lucky in the process.
She turned the corner and came toward him...not bothering to look up at him. He could see now, the headset on her ears and the disk player attached to her jeans. Maybe she liked the hard shit...Metallica or better yet, ACDC. He waited until she took a few steps passed him before he reacted. He pulled his shirt over her face and choked her with the sleeve, making sure she couldn’t scream out. He thought about things like this...fanaticized about them, but he never had the opportunity until now.
“Don’t scream,” he ordered, shoving her between a garbage bin and the warehouse wall. He forced her hands to her sides and weighed her down with his size.
She did as she was ordered. “Wait,” she pleaded. “I have a pair of handcuffs in my car.” The words came out of her mouth, and she honestly thought someone else had spoken them. “I know of a place we can go.”
His mind always knew it would turn out like this...she wanted him. He let up on her hands and waited. “And…?”
She had an idea of what he wanted, but she’d never partaken in anything like this. “I know how to play this game.” She hoped he took her word, if he knew how scared she really was.... her quick thinking might backfire. She wanted a chance to get away and she’d do anything in her power to do it.
“Get up,” he said, pulling her to her feet.
She heard him unzip his pants and she wanted to rush down the street, hoping that a cop might spot her, but she wouldn’t take the chance.
“Have you done anything like this before?” he asked, his voice at a higher octave, as though he were excited.
Her heart raced in her chest as she debated in her mind the right answer. “Yes,” she said with a shaky voice.
He reached out and grasped her right breast. “Do you know where 8th and Mission meet—the old warehouse?”
“Yeah,” she replied, noting he’d removed his hand.
“Meet me there tomorrow night.” He couldn’t help but smile. “Bring your cuffs.”
She furrowed her brow and waited, wondering what was happening. She heard footsteps trotting away and then an engine start, but she didn’t remove the shirt covering her head. “Hello?” she asked softly, praying he wouldn’t be there.
When nobody answered, she bravely removed the shirt and looked around…making sure it wasn’t a trap. She then rushed down the alley and into the nearest gas station. “Somebody just tried to rape me!” she cried, falling to the floor, realizing how close she’d come to losing her life.
“So we substitute a Vice cop in her place!” Buck snapped, wanting the perpetrator so bad he shook.
“And get the case thrown out of court due to entrapment?” Chris pushed, tossing the file he’d been reading through onto the table. “Sit down!” he ordered, looking at his agent. “We’ll get this guy, and we’ll get him good, but not if you try and cut corners.”
“He’ll be there; it’s just a matter of getting him to react to—”
“We need a confession without coercion,” Josiah said, running his fingers through his graying hair.
“What about the DNA evidence found under Abigail Jorden’s fingernails?” Ezra asked, looking toward Nathan.
“Nothing came of it,” Nathan said, raising his eyebrows in regret. “It was a mixture of dirt, and wood….”
“Shit!” Buck snapped, getting to his feet. “What in the hell are we doin’ here?!”
“I say we pick this guy up at the scene tomorrow night and bring him in for questioning—hold him on attempt and make him sweat until his attorney bails him out. At least then we can put the fear of God into him.” Vin shrugged his shoulders; it was a good idea and one that had been used time and time again.
Ezra sighed and then took a deep breath. What he had to say wasn’t going to make any of them happy. “I don’t think it’s him—”
“Buck, sit down and shut up!” Chris snapped. “Why?” he asked, looking hard at Ezra.
“It’s common knowledge that a pillowcase or something like it was used during the other rapes in the area—it wouldn’t be a surprise for someone who’d been thinking about acting out a fantasy of this kind, do it, and then blame it on the actual predator. The man we’re after wouldn’t have stopped—this guy,” he spoke of the attempt of late, “he’s pissed at his girlfriend and wants to take it out on someone. He’s young, and without a doubt, inept. More than likely he won’t even show up tomorrow—the news will get out about another rape attempt and he’ll suddenly change his ways. We won’t hear from him again.”
“How do you know?” JD asked, feeling incompetent when it came to Ezra’s job.
“A rapist’s intent is to humiliate, dominate, control someone—force them into doing something they don’t want to do. This guy stopped—”
“Why’d he unzip his pants?” Nathan questioned.
“He was zipping them back up,” Ezra answered. “He knew he was in too deep before she started bargaining with him.”
Buck kicked a chair across the room.
“Did that help?” JD asked with a hint of skepticism.
“Yeah!” Buck replied with vengeance.
“Buck, sit down, and the rest of you get out of here!” Chris snapped, his anger boiling over his level of tolerance.
Ezra stood up and headed for the door. “Has anyone checked out Mark Raven?” He turned and looked at Chris.
“Nobody by that name lives in this town, or even this fuckin’ state!” Chris replied, tired of the dead ends, and bad leads.
Ezra nodded and closed the door behind him.
Chris put his hands on his hips and took a deep breath. He couldn’t meet Buck’s eyes, at least not yet. The room had dropped in volume, and only the sounds of phones ringing and people shuffling around could be heard within the hollow walls...somehow it didn’t seem like enough.
“I’m pulling you off this case,” Chris said, looking up and meeting Buck’s eyes. “I can’t keep a leash on you while we’re tryin’ to catch this guy.”
“I can handle this job!” Buck protested.
“You haven’t proven it to me, Buck. You’re flying off the handle every time someone gets a lead, you second guess everything Ezra says, and you won’t stay out of Josiah’s or my hair.”
“I want to solve this thing and if this is a crime—”
“You’re not going to solve it by pushing everything we’ve worked for aside!” Chris had enough. “If you don’t get your head together I’ll transfer you.”
Buck chuckled as though Chris were joking. “And rip the team apart?”
“You’re doin’ that on your own,” Chris replied, grabbing his coat. “What happened to Abigail Jorden could have happened to any of us.” He turned and looked hard at Buck. “You’re getting too damn personal...these women are not like your mother.”
“Fuck you, Larabee!” Buck snapped, getting to his feet. “How dare you bring her into this?”
“I didn’t, Buck!” Chris bit back, standing up straight and ready to defend himself. “I need you on this case, but I won’t let you jeopardize it because you have a few hang-ups. Whoever this guy is...he’ll keep doing it and he won’t stop—not unless we do it for him. And let me tell you, we’ll find him—even if I have to search every house in this shit-hole town—and I won’t let you get in the way of that because you can’t control your emotions.”
“You’d really fire me?”
“If it were to come down to firing you or finding this guy...? I’d fire you—in a heartbeat.” Chris opened the door.
“We used to be friends,” Buck admitted, feeling his world fall out from under him.
“That’s just it,” Chris paused, “we still are...but you seemed to have forgotten that.” He turned and left.
Buck’s face expressed every emotion he was feeling: depression, fear, and extreme failure. He ran his fingers through his hair and slumped back into a chair. How had things gotten so out of control? At one time, he’d been the logical one—the one who had his head on straight and asked everyone to think clearly. What happened?
Buck was still unclear at what had happened between them. At one time they’d been attached at the hip—partners in crime as they say. But things had changed...maybe it all started when Steven came around...maybe it changed when he died. Buck didn’t even want to think about Mary...the affair between her and Chris.
Fate had a strange way of working things out.
Buck leaned forward and rested his face in his hands. He couldn’t look at the images on the wall anymore...it was a reminder of what he’d failed to do. He jumped when he heard a knock on the door and looked up, only to find JD.
“You all right?” JD asked, leaning against the doorframe.
“Been better,” Buck replied, sitting up straight. “Everybody hear?”
“Enough—but not everything,” JD answered honestly.
Buck nodded and leaned back.
“There’s been another one, Buck,” JD said softly, almost a whisper. “Garbage men found her this morning.”
Buck nodded and sighed, placing his face in his hands. “I’ll be out in a minute.”
The scene had even the most hardened cops becoming ill. The area had been taped off and the crime scene investigation team was collecting evidence. The coroner stood by, ready to take the body back to the morgue and find out what really killed her.
Ezra stood off to the side, looking intently at the body, the way she was positioned, the pillowcase covering her head...the bloodstains on her skin. The killed had resigned as a serial rapist—he’d now become a murderer. As gruesome as it was, Ezra had seen worse.
Vin covered his mouth and captured Ezra’s attention with a wave of his hand, he then motioned the profiler over. “Both garbage men were taken to the hospital and treated for shock.” He’d lowered his hand, but his eyes still refused to look at the body.
“Her parents?” Ezra asked.
“Josiah and Officer Daniels went to talk with them.” Vin glanced over and noted the coroner moving under the security tape with his gurney. Nathan soon followed, unwilling to allow any physical evidence to be lost. “What do you think?”
“I think I fucked up,” Ezra answered honestly. He moved past Vin and headed toward a nearby squad car.
Vin shook his head and turned, unwilling to watch the scene before him take place. Somehow, the world seemed larger...and he felt like an ant lost in a pile of twigs.
Ezra stood alone in the office at his own request. The others had gone back to the motel to get some rest. Chris had ordered it. They needed a fresh start in the morning; from there they’d pick up new ideas and new leads. A few officers remained in the police station, most finishing up their paperwork and waiting for the night crew to come in.
Frustrated, Ezra pushed the pile of files out onto the table top, scattering them in all directions. He then rubbed his brow, trying to think of where he’d gone wrong. He knew in his gut that the profile was right...but how come the perpetrator seemed to disappear? Every lead had led them to a dead end.
Fifteen victims...and two were dead. It was easy to stand back and look in through the class case. Suggestions were always made by those unwilling to follow through with the legwork. Everyone had an idea, but nobody really wanted to separate fact from fiction.
Abigail Jorden had been the first. She’d fought, unwilling to allow anyone to force something she didn’t want on her. It had cost her life. Cindy Rhymes had been the last one...
Ezra sighed and then collapsed back into a chair. He grabbed the piece of paper given to him by the Taylors, listing names of those unwelcome in the underground world of abnormal sexual behavior.
What was normal? Ezra asked himself. Who made that decision?
Raven was listed 8th on the list. A simple, too active, was the only reason listed for his notice of rejection. Ezra put the list in a file and started to organize the mess he’d made. He started out with his own notes...speculations and assessments of an invisible man. He sorted out the pictures and made piles out of them, and then, he sorted police reports, interviews, and medical statements. He reread them all, looking for anything that was missed the first time around.
“I can understand someone robbin’ a bank if they were desperate. I can even see a person killin’ another human bein’ because they had to—to protect themselves... but...I don’t understand rape. I never have.”
Ezra turned and watched as Buck entered the room and took a seat at the table.
“Why do they do it?”
“I can’t answer that, Buck,” Ezra replied, closing the folder he’d been organizing. “Nobody can.”
“But you know who he is—the kind of person he is?”
Ezra took a deep breath and nodded, too tired to argue the point.
“Why don’t you think its Ricky Taylor?” Buck asked, trying to make sense of out things.
“Our man...has served in the military—I’d bet my career on it. Ricky Taylor never did.”
“But he’s a convicted rapist,” Buck argued.
“There’re nine convicted sex offenders in this town and surrounding areas, Buck...he’s just one of them.”
“What about puttin’ an undercover officer out on April’s block...maybe she can pick our John out and then we can pick him up—”
“Officers are already positioned, Buck...there are more at the warehouse on 8th and Mission from the offence from last night.”
Buck sighed and leaned back in his seat. “What about this Mark Raven?” he said.
“He doesn’t exist...at least on paper.” Ezra stopped and looked at him. “What if his name’s a typo?” The thought came to him like a tidal wave. “Maybe an anagram or a homonym?”
“What do you mean...a typo—and what in the hell is an anagram?”
“People in this country lose more money and lose more cases in courts of law because of typos. Periods in the wrong place...the misspelling of a name, or place...a comma behind the fourth zero and not the third.” Ezra stood up and grabbed a couple of phone books. He tossed one in front of Buck. “Look for Mark Raven...or anything similar.”
“Thinkin’ outside the box aren’t you, Ezra?” Buck commented.
“I was born outside that box, Buck,” the profiler said with a smile.
Vin pushed his empty plate away from the edge of the table and leaned back in the booth. He looked at Chris, noting his exhaustion. “You goin’ to fire Buck?”
Chris smiled and shook his head. “Couldn’t fire him if I wanted to,” there was humor in his tone. “Buck’s a lot like me...” he sighed and rested his elbows on the table, “...sometimes he thinks to damn much when he should be doin’ his job.”
“Think he’ll be all right?”
“Eventually,” Chris replied. “I’ve known Buck a long time. He’s a fighter, and once he gets his head together he’ll be just fine.”
“What about this case?” Vin sighed, finishing off his coke. “Will we find him?”
Chris shrugged his shoulders. “We’d better.”
“Does it get easier?” Vin asked, thinking about the body he’d seen...knowing that he couldn’t stop it all from happening...and no matter how hard he tried, his best would never be good enough.
Chris looked hard at his friend, a young man with more integrity than himself. “No,” he answered honestly.
Vin nodded and looked out the window toward the night sky. “I always thought that bein’ a cop was a good thing—a way for me to prevent crime...but you can’t prevent it...can you?”
“Not all of it.”
“Then why do we do it?”
“Can you imagine a world without us?” Chris leaned forward and ran a hand through his blonde hair.
“But why do we do it?”
“Because we can…and because,” he sighed, “I like knowing I can make a difference...even if it’s just a small one.” Chris leaned forward and ran a hand through his blonde hair. “We’ll catch him.”