Slave to Love(9)

By: Nikita Black

She was doing her best to look unaffected and professional as she booted up. The only thing giving away her nervousness was the way her eyes darted around, never settling on any one thing. He rooted in the bag for a small vial of mentholated gel.

“Hold still.” He dolloped a generous fingerful and held onto her chin, spreading it above the delicate bow of her lips. They parted a fraction and she stared at him from behind a lock of stray hair stuck in the brim of her baseball cap, but didn't say a word. With any luck the gel would at least keep her conscious.

“You'll do fine,” he assured her, wishing he was that certain, then handed her a pair of latex gloves before he could do something really stupid like brush that stray lock of hair behind her ear.

“Detective-In-Charge,” he said, flashing his badge to the uniform posted at the top of the stairs, where they were directed to the back bedroom on the left. Pausing at the door, he donned his gloves, pulled out his mini tape recorder, pushed the record button and stepped carefully into the room. Déjà vu swept over him.

Behind him, he heard Caroline's short gasp.

He made a quick survey, left to right, knowing even before he looked what he would see. They were definitely dealing with the same killer. “Who was the first on the scene?” he called over his shoulder and past the forensics guys awaiting his release of the room back to FIS.

“I was, Detective.” An officer stepped out from behind them.

“Come on up here.” Recognizing the seasoned patrolman, Mick knew Brady Washington would have scrupulously maintained the integrity of the scene until FIS got there. “Talk to me, Brady.”

“Got the call at eight-twenty,” Washington said, consulting his notes. “Victims are Glenn Berg and Wendy Tailor. The neighbor, Mrs, uh, Connie Slocum, was coming for her usual Monday breakfast date with Tailor, and when Tailor didn't answer she let herself in using a key they keep under a flower pot by the door.”

“You check that?”

“Yep. Still there.” He snapped his notebook shut.

“She found the bodies?”

Brady nodded. “Tailor had her exercise bike up in the spare bedroom and sometimes lost track of time. Neighbor went up to check on her. Found them both dead and called 9-1-1. Officer Brown and I arrived at eight-twenty-nine—” Mick pursed his lips in approval of their speed “—and searched the premises. Doors and windows locked. No sign of forced entry.”

“Neighbor touch anything?”

“No, sir. Not that she remembered. Ran down to the kitchen to use the phone. That's where Denny and me found her.”

“Okay, thanks. Send a copy of your notes to my office, will you, Brady?”

“Sure thing, Detective.”

Beside him, Caroline's gaze had fastened on the victims, and she was looking rather peaked. But then, he'd expected that. She wouldn't be human, otherwise. He turned his attention to the bodies.

“Male and female victim,” he droned into the recorder. Both FIS and the Coroner would have already done this, but Mick habitually recorded his own impressions and then compared all three sets. Everyone saw things differently. And there was something bothering him. Something he couldn’t put his finger on. The Teddie Killer was careful, and at this point predictable. But there was still something...

Never mind. It would come to him.

“Approximately mid-thirties,” Mick continued. He looked carefully at the floor before venturing closer to the bed and the chair sitting at the foot of it.

“One set of heel scrape marks on the carpet. No other visible foot prints. No overt signs of struggle from either victim,” he recited. “No visible implements or weapons. Male's clothes are neatly folded over the footboard.

“Female lying on her back on the bed with hands laced over her stomach, legs together. Ligature marks and some bruising on the wrists and ankles but no sign of the restraints. Eyes closed, some petechial hemorrhaging around them. Narrow red ligature mark across her throat. Light bruises on hips rounding to the buttocks. Wearing a white Teddie and nothing else—” He bent low, checking under the body. “Probably put on her post-mortem. White bedcovers clean and smooth. No blood on female victim or bed. Appears to be a similar pose to previous female victims.”

He glanced back at Caroline. She was still staring at the remains of Wendy Tailor, biting furiously at her bottom lip. He figured once he started in on the man he had three minutes tops before she lost it.

Sucking down a breath, he walked back to the chair, forcing himself to confront the very darkest deed in the sick arsenal of man. “Male victim, nude, seated in a chair at the foot of the bed, to the right and facing it. No visible bruising, no restraints. The chair was probably brought up from the dining room,” he stated, recognizing the open ladder-back style. “Stabbed once in the back, on the left side looking from behind.” Right in the heart.