He went through the motions, knowing he would have to leave her. He finished the call. “Katie, I’m really sorry. Homicide, a particular nasty one. I’m needed.”
She shrugged her shoulders. “Bad timing, huh?”
He could see she was hiding her disappointment. “Katie, next time ok, that’s a promise.”
The mood was broken. She didn’t reply. He put her in a cab and told her he’d call her. She nodded. He called another cab. Downtown address...
“Mac, my initial opinion is that she was alive when her heart was forcibly extracted.”
Mac had donned surgical clothing over his casuals. As senior officer, he was overseeing the crime scene. One bedroom apartment downtown, separate kitchen and bathroom. Just a box, where she lived and died.
A neighbor had complained to the police about the noise. She couldn’t sleep. It was logged at 8:52, a low priority patrol call on a busy night. The Tex-Mex special churned in his stomach as he listened to the forensic report. It wasn’t pleasant, in fact nothing like he had witnessed before.
“How do you know that?”
The pathologist removed his glasses, and rubbed his face with a latex glove. “Trauma, mainly around the chest cavity. This lady suffered Mac. The person who did it is seriously bad news, but this is what eventually killed her.”
“You got a time on her death?”
The pathologist prodded the body with a gloved finger. “Our temperature checks match up. Still warm. Recent - this evening sometime.”
Mac tried not to think of the Tex-Mex. “Okay, I appreciate the early feedback. I’ll relay it up the line.”
Mac was dropped back at his apartment around dawn. He dumped his dirty clothes in the laundry; took a long hot shower, and had a short power nap, before calling Elmer. “It’s Mac. Bad news, buddy. We got a homicide here that fits your serial killer profile. Can you send me what you got, like yesterday?” Mac sipped his coffee. Black, no sugar.
“Mac, I haven’t got much. Like I said it’s pretty thin.”
“Yeah well it’s all information. The more we get the better right now. The chief is in ‘results mode’. He’s got all sorts of political pressure on him.” Elmer would be aware of the pressures. They came at every level: from the mayor’s office seeking public assurance from the captain, to the homicide detectives being pressed for results, and right down to street level where the beat cops faced young felons wielding knives and pistols.
“Okay Mac, with this one I’ll send a police courier. Keep the lid on it until you’re sure.”
Mac swilled the coffee around his cup. “Yeah, we’ll keep the media out of it as long as it takes. We don’t want mass hysteria.” Mac ended the call, and drained the cup. The patrol officer’s report was on the coffee table. He picked it up and read the key timings again. ‘At 10:47 Matt Denman, my partner, and myself Chuck Cabriole responded to a call at 17 Elm Street. The caller, Mrs James, said when she called two hours ago there was the TV blaring and screams coming from the apartment above her room. She pointed to the ceiling. It was quiet, apart from the TV, but we went up and checked it out. The door was open so I took a look inside, while Matt stood outside. I saw what was left of the body. I immediately called the precinct at 11:04.’
Mac read it again, and frowned. Nearly a two hour gap between the logged-in call and the patrol response.
Back at the precinct, Mac called in Chuck Cabriole. “Chuck, the call was logged in at 8:52. You responded at 10:47, according to your report. Is that correct?” Mac watched ‘Chunky’ Chuck Reynolds shuffle into a more comfortable position. They were sitting in a small interview room. The recorder was playing.
“Yeah, that’s right Mac. We had a 911 call out, and were driving downtown close to the complainant’s block, when the precinct called.” He wiped a hand across his forehead and tried to explain, “Mac, it was a real busy night and we got incidents every which place. Kids mainly.”
Mac waved his hand and pushed the water pitcher across the table. “Okay, I’m just checking the timings, is all. For the record.” He looked at his notes. “What did Mrs James tell you?”
Chuck filled his plastic cup and took a mouthful. “First of all, she complained about the delay and us waking her up just as she had gotten back to sleep. She said the TV was still playing, but there were also screams, muffled but really weird. That went on a while. A lot longer than could be a regular movie or something.” He took another gulp, and continued. “Maria, the victim, she said, kept herself to herself and was ordinary quiet.” He sat back. “That’s about it, I think.”
“You said the apartment door was open. Any thoughts on that?”
Chuck grimaced. “Matt and I talked about it. We think the killer wanted us to see what he’d done.”
“Why you think that?”
“The TV. It was playing a DVD recording. Motel 2.”
Chuck tossed the empty cup onto the table. “Hey Mac, where you been? This movie is all about crazies cutting up young women and killing them.”
“You know how many calls I get from crazies complaining about noisy neighbours,” said the desk clerk. “Maybe a dozen a night, and more when it’s hot.”
Mac waved his hand and leaned against the desk. “Okay, I’m just checking facts, is all. Can you remember what Mrs James said?”
The desk clerk chewed the end of her pen. Thinking. “Not really. As I said, we get a lot of calls.”
“Well that’s a dead end, then,” said Mac moving away.
“Hey,” she said, “Don’t you want to hear the tape I took?”
“Yeah, it’s like my memory is so bad, I keep track of the crazies so when some hot shot homicide detective asks questions, I got it taped.” She smiled. “You want it, say please.”
Mac listened to the ‘pretty please’ tape. It confirmed what he had been told. Maria Hopkins had been systematically tortured for at least one hour before being killed. Time of death, sometime after 9:00, but before the 911. A two hour window. Enough to play a movie through. The killer had taken a risk being in her apartment for that length of time, so he must either have been someone she knew. Unlikely. Or, he had met her someplace and found out that he wouldn’t be interrupted. Coffee house, maybe a singles bar. Yeah, the timing would fit. Early evening cocktails leading her on, then back to her place for a TV movie. Someone must have seen them together. It was time for him to work the bars.
He called Katie later. Tried to keep it quiet from the others. Told her he could drop by if she wanted to see him. She did. He went back to his apartment for a shower and change of clothes. Slapped on some Calvin Kline. At least he’d smell clean.
She opened the door in her housecoat. A sack-cloth with plenty of pockets. It went down to her knees. She invited him inside, and then showed him what was underneath. She laughed. “Our date got interrupted. Might as well pick up from there.”
Mac stared. Black lace, against her creamy-white skin suited her. Especially the little pink bows and ties. His face felt hot. “I wasn’t ...you know...angling...” He stopped as her lips found his. It was a long kiss. And then the rest. Just as he had imagined it to be. Perfect.
And then his cell phone rang to the tune of ‘Dixie’. He reached across her body, and looked at the display. “Shit.”
Katie moved her warmness away. Put on an icy enquiring look. “Work, huh?”
He nodded. The moment had gone.