Sam heaved a weary sigh and set his coffee cup down on the desk. The past few months had taken a toll on the whole department, thanks to the civic leaders of Quainte and their inept planning for the tourist season. The police force was overworked and understaffed to handle the rise in crime this year.
After checking the telephone message slips, Sam picked up an envelope from his in-basket. The sealed envelope was a plain, standard size with "Detective Knight" printed on its surface.
"Charlie! Who put this on my desk?" Sam asked the detective across the room.
"Sorry, Sam . . . don't know," Detective Charles Brandon shrugged apologetically. "I just got off the phone. Ask Ben. He's the only one here besides us at this time of night."
Sam pulled out his chair, sat down, and opened the envelope. He unfolded the sheet of paper.
"Damn! That's all we need!" Sam exclaimed.
"What Sam?" Charlie asked, startled at the outburst.
"A warning. It looks like we're about to have an outbreak of murder," he sighed in resignation, tossing the note down on his desk.
Charlie walked over to Sam's desk, and picked up the note.
"You're right Sam . . . looks like we're in for one hell-of-a-mess!" Charlie said in disgust, putting down the note. He watched Sam punch the intercom button to the desk sergeant.There once was a man named Jack.Clue #1
They say that he had quite a knack
To slay all the ladies,
And send them to Hades,
In pieces that fit in a sack.
"Ben, did you put an envelope on my desk?" Sam said, speaking into the intercom.
"Yeah Sam, I did," replied the voice on the intercom.
"Who gave it to you?" Sam asked.
"I don't know where it came from, Sam. I was arguing with a lady reporter, and when she left, it was laying on the corner of my desk, so I put it on yours. Anything wrong?" asked Sergeant Ben Rafferty.
"What did the reporter want, what was her name, and who else was in there with you?" Sam inquired, ignoring Ben's questions.
"She was here about that police abuse charge against Officer Hadley. That reporter . . . what's her name . . . Channel 12 . . . good-looking blond . . . you know . . . the one that's always at the crime scenes," he answered.
Sam lowered his head, put his hand over his eyes, and exhaled a low moan.
"Kelly Daye," he muttered.
"Yeah Sam, that's the one," Ben agreed.
"Who else? Who else was here?" Sam asked.
"Uh . . . the cameraman that came with her, and another man, a tourist. Wanted to report his wallet stolen. Had his wife and son with him. I guess you can count Steve from the coffee shop. He delivered my sandwich just about the same time. Oh yeah, and the photo mart guy stopped by on his way home to report a car still parked in front of his shop for the past two days. I guess that's all."
Sam sighed, "Thanks, Ben. Let me know if you remember anything else . . . it's important."
"Sure Sam," Ben answered before Sam disconnected, as the other phone began to ring. Charlie picked it up.
"Detective Brandon," he said, then listened solemnly to the person calling. Picking up a pen and pulling paper in front of him, he began writing.
"On our way," Charlie said. Hanging up the phone, he looked over at Sam.
"I believe that was the answer to your clue number one," he said grimly.
Charlie pulled the car next to another police car, in the parking lot of the brick commercial building on the corner of Sandpiper Way and Lime Street. Part of the street in front of the building had been blocked off around the crime area with orange rubber cones.
"Whatever happened to our nice quiet town?" Charlie asked, rubbing his chin, feeling the stubble of whiskers growing back again so soon. He wished the hair on his head would have grown like the whiskers, as he looked enviously at Sam's healthy head of brown wavy hair. Charlie had lost his hair when he was thirty-five, and now at forty-three he was still regretting it. No one would dare tease him though. He figured he was bigger than anybody else on the force. Six-foot four and still as muscular as when he played defense on his high school football team.
"Hell, I wish I knew. It's become a nightmare this past year with all the transients from God knows where hanging about. You'd think all the thieves on the west coast came here for the new gold rush," Sam answered in disgust.
Thinking about nightmares, Sam believed his personal life had been one for the last three years, until Melanie, his flirtatious, alcoholic wife was killed in an auto accident eight months ago. The car she was in had just made an illegal turn out of a motel driveway when it was broadsided by a sixteen-wheeler. The couple in the car had an alcohol level way over the limit. It turned out that the man killed with Melanie was her married employer, and they had been registered together at the motel. Sam knew Melanie had been lying to him whenever she was late coming home from work, but he hadn't cared. Their arguments over her drinking had grown more frequent over the months before she died, and he wasn't at all surprised she was cheating on him. At thirty-six he was now free of the hassles of married life, and vowed he was going to stay that way. He hasn't much time for socializing anyhow, with the hours he kept. His only pleasure since her death was buying the midnight-blue Porsche. A car he had dreamed of owning since he learned to drive.
Sam spotted the reporter heading for him as he opened the passengers'
door on his side.
"How the hell did she get here so fast?" he growled.
"She was at the precinct tonight, remember? Probably heard the call on her way past this area . . . it's close to our station," Charlie answered. "Take it easy, Sam, you'll just give her more for her TV news. You know how she loves to get your attention."
"Detective Knight! Can you tell us what happened?" Kelly asked, holding the microphone out in front of her as she came up to Sam.
"You know as much as I do, I just got here," he answered gruffly, as he sidestepped past her and bumped into the cameraman.
"Watch it!" growled Jay, Kelly's cameraman, as he stumbled backwards balancing the camcorder.
"Yeah . . . well, quit crowding me and you wouldn't get hurt," Sam snapped back as he glared at the man. He thought the guy looked to be about his own age, maybe a little older, medium build with brown eyes, brown hair, mustache, and a short trimmed beard. Sam hadn't liked him since he first started filming all the incidents when he and Kelly would meet. The look he would give Sam, with that smirk behind that beard, made Sam feel he was always laughing at him.
Charlie, standing on the side, grunted and shook his head at Sam's dilemma. Sam still muttering under his breath, caught up with him and they continued on to where the police officer was standing guard at the crime scene. Nodding to the officer, he continued to the building's east wall, next to a narrow freight alley, where another officer stood by the body.
"So, what have we got?" Sam asked, slipping on a pair of surgical gloves.
"A slasher . . . sliced her up really bad," the officer answered.
Sam moved in closer. The face wasn't marred, and the woman looked to be in her forties, nice looking, with a little too much make up, and dyed reddish-orange hair. Her body was slashed through the clothes, with blood covering her from shoulder to knees. Her throat was cut almost clean through.
"Any I.D. on her?" Sam asked, as he slowly walked around the body, avoiding the puddles of blood.
"Yeah . . . her purse was untouched . . . everything still in it. Wasn't theft. Jewelry still on her. No driver's license, just State I.D., in the name of Polly Nicholls. Age forty-two. The address is on Crestview Drive," he answered, handing the bagged items to Charlie.
Sam nodded, then looked over at the medical examiner, walking slowly toward them with his shoulders slouched and head down.
"Get any sleep yet, George?" Sam asked.
George Hopkins, an easy-going man of fifty-eight, had lived in Quainte all his life. He had been the town's one and only medical examiner, a coroner, and crime lab technician for the past twenty-six years, but crimes had skyrocketed, along with progress, in his quiet town. George had one assistant, and had advertised for another. He was hoping someone would answer the ad soon.
"Not yet. I just finished with the two kids killed in that gang fight last night, and before that, it was the male tourist who had been robbed and beaten to death by an unknown assailant," George answered, walking up to this latest victim. "What a mess! I swear, if this keeps up, I'm putting in for an early retirement!"
"We'll leave you to your work, George, and this officer will keep that reporter away . . . right?" Sam said, looking pointedly at the young rookie. The police department had recently hired a few new recruits, and this was one of them. He didn't look older than twenty-two. Sam had been watching out of the corner of his eye, as the recruit gawked at the sexy reporter.
"If I so much as hear one word on the news about what type of murder we have here, you will no longer be working for our department. Is that clear? That . . . female will try to wrap you around her little finger and tie you up in a cute little bow, but you are not going to let her, are you?" Sam said, narrowing his green eyes and staring at the officer.
"Y..yes sir . . . I mean n-no sir . . . she will not get a word out of me, and yes I will keep her at a distance," the officer stammered.
"What's your name?" Sam asked.
"Richie . . . I mean Officer Richard Tremwell, Sir," he said stiffly.
"Well, Tremwell, I better not hear your name mentioned on the news. Now tell me, did you see any witnesses in the vicinity?" Sam said in a more moderate tone, as he removed the gloves.
"Only the bartender that found the body. He had closed up his bar on Pelican Way, and was passing by here on his way home. He ran back to his bar and called from there. It's in the next block. He said he'll wait there for anyone who wants to question him. He didn't want to get near the body again. I have his name and address," Tremwell said, showing Sam his notepad. Sam copied the information and handed it back to him.
"Okay, Tremwell, thanks . . . and sorry if I sounded rough on you . . . but that woman will stop at nothing to get a story. She may look like an angel, but don't believe it, she'll spin you into her web before you can blink an eye," Sam said, with a pat on the officer's shoulder before he walked away.
Sam really didn't know Kelly Daye that well personally, except for constantly running into her at every crime scene. The first time he had noticed her was about four months ago. She had accidentally bumped into the yellow tape blocking off the area, and ended up with it twisted around her ankles. He felt sorry for her, knowing she must be new at the job, and helped her to get untangled. She had asked him questions while he was helping her, and without thinking he answered them. The next thing he knew, he was on the nightly news making an ass of himself being interviewed by this sexy broad in a miniskirt, while he was kneeling at her feet untwisting the yellow tape from around her shapely ankle he held in his hand. She balanced herself with one hand on his shoulder, while holding the microphone in her other hand above his head, out of his view. They still ribbed him about that at police headquarters.
Since then, she seemed to have taken it for granted he was a pushover, and at every crime scene, she was there with her microphone in his face. He had to admit she was the prettiest woman he had ever seen, and when he had been in such close vicinity to her smooth, shapely legs, while untangling her from that tape, he did feel as if he could have stayed there caressing that ankle of hers a while longer. But since his marriage, and what he had just been through, he didn't trust being involved with any woman one iota.
Sitting in the van parked down the street, Kelly watched as the detectives pulled away.
"Follow them, Jay," Kelly said eagerly, as the cameraman put the van into gear.
They followed at a distance as the detectives turned north on Lemon Road, then made a left turn on Pelican Way, pulling up in front of an unlit bar.
Jay turned off his lights and pulled to the curb a half-block away. As Kelly started to open the door, he put a hand on her arm.
"Let's wait here, and when they leave, you can interview the person inside. No doubt only one person is in there since it's closed, and whoever it is must know about the murder," Jay suggested.
"Right. No use jumping in and upsetting the detective again. What would I do without you Jay?" Kelly asked.
"You'd have missed all those good film shots for one thing," he laughed.
"Maybe . . . but some I could have done without!" she answered resentfully, slumping back in her seat to wait. She had to admit though, Jay had been a great help to her since she started working. He had always steered her in the right direction to get a scoop on the other networks. Her career as a reporter was advancing at a rapid pace according to the fan mail she received . . . even though most of it was to comment on her looks.
Sam and Charlie entered the bar, pausing until their eyes grew accustomed to the dim lighting. They saw the bartender sitting hunched over the bar with a glass in his hand.
"Jack Rhodes?" Sam called, walking into the room.
The bartender turned on the stool and waved them over to the bar.
"Yeah, that's me,"
"You reported the discovery of the body this evening, Sir?" Sam inquired, as Charlie took out his notepad to write down the information.
"Much to my regret . . . I did. I wish I had never gone that way home. Oh God! She was such a mess . . . blood all over!" he said, covering his eyes.
"Did you happen to know the woman?" Sam asked, watching the distraught man. He was tall, lean, and looked like he survived on nothing but booze and cigarettes. His skin was sallow, and wrinkled, even though he must not have been much more than forty.
"Yes, yes . . . she comes . . . came in here a lot. She was in earlier this evening . . . maybe about ten or so. Her name is Polly . . . Polly something . . . I don't know her last name," said Rhodes, finished his drink, then lighting another cigarette.
"Then she was a regular patron of yours?" Sam asked.
"I guess you could say that. Only it's been recent . . . just this week. She could be a tourist, but I think she's a hooker. Probably got run out of her last hangout . . . maybe tryin' a new spot. Buys one drink, then coaxes someone into buyin' the next . . . and so on . . . danced sometimes to the juke box if someone asked her, then later she would always walk out with one of 'em in tow."
"Did you see whom she left with tonight?" Sam asked.
"Naw . . . it was busy . . . lots of tourists, since it's been so hot the past month . . . hell, next thing I knew . . . she had left." Rhodes hand shook as he refilled his glass. "Maybe the murderer was right here tonight . . . sittin' at my bar!"
Sam said that was probably true, then thanked him for his help, and they left to check out the victim's apartment.
The drive to her apartment took about fifteen minutes. She lived in an older section of the town, where the hotels and motels had been renovated to apartment buildings.
Charlie pulled into the parking area's visitor section, which was conveniently located near the managers' apartment.
"Let's check her apartment first to see if she had a roommate or husband living with her," Sam said, as they started across the lot. He glanced up at the building, and was not impressed. Every time he made a trip out here, the building had deteriorated to a new level. Apparently the management lacked an interest in keeping the place in good condition. The grass had dried up, but that might be due to the extensive use of children. Their toys were scattered around the doorsteps.
They sidestepped a tricycle and stepped over a toy truck as they made their way up the outer stairway to unit 208 on the second floor. The curtains were closed, and they rang the bell. Waited a few minutes, listening, but did not hear any movement inside the apartment. No lights were on in any of the other units. Probably because it was the middle of the night. They headed for the manager's unit.
After ringing the bell several times, they heard the shuffling feet and the grumbling, then the porch light brightened the area, illuminating the torn screen door. Sam thought that explained why the rest of the place was in bad shape, if he didn't bother repairing his own screen. The door opened an inch against a security chain.
"What'd you want?" a woman growled in a hoarse voice.
"Police," Sam said, holding his badge up to the door. "It's about one of your tenants," he said.
The chain was lifted off and the door opened. The heavy set woman was in her fifties, wrapped in a flowered-print cotton robe. She did not look pleased at being roused out of bed for a tenant.
"The tenant in unit 208 has been murdered . . . is someone living there with her?" Charlie asked. He felt he should take over the questioning of this woman standing so defiantly with her hands on her hips. He was a lot bigger than she was . . . well, taller anyway.
"Nope..lived alone. Dead huh? Well, she didn't strike me as one to be choosy in her men."
"Did she have many male visitors?" Charlie asked.
"Only late at night, I would see her staggering up the steps with a man . . . not always the same one . . . so you can just about guess how she made a living. She sure didn't go to any regular job . . . not the way she dressed . . . but that was none of my business as long as she paid the rent."
"How long has she lived here?"
"Just this past week, she moved in, tho' her rent has been paid three weeks ago. I guess I don't have to worry about her deposit being refunded now . . . unless the man comes and asks for it," she shrugged.
"It was rented for her by a man two weeks before she came here. Said he was doing her a favor, since she didn't live near here . . . was picking out a place for her . . . so's all she had to do was move in. He paid cash, first month's rent and deposit. I gave him the receipt and a key to give to her, so she would know what unit she got . . . he said she would be arriving late and wouldn't have to disturb me."
"Did he give you his name?"
"Didn't ask . . . just asked what the tenant's name was to put on the receipt. She was supposed to fill out the rental lease when she got here . . . took it to read and hadn't returned it to me yet."
"Do you remember what he looked like?"
"Well . . . he was dressed casual, you know, like the tourists. Not too tall, wore a baseball cap and mirrored sunglasses."
"Did he ever come around again after she moved in?"
"Didn't notice. I got better things to do besides watching over what everyone else is doing."
Sam muttered under his breath about probably watching the soaps. Charlie glanced at him in agreement.
"We need access to her unit to investigate, you're going to have to open it . . . now," Charlie commanded.
She glared at him a moment, then lowered her eyes and sighed. Removing her hands from her hips, she turned away and said, "I'll get the key."
"You do have a way with the ladies," Sam chuckled, watching her disappear into the back room.
"It's all in the eyes . . . you gotta give'em that look," Charlie answered.
She came back and handed the key to Charlie.
"Just leave it in the apartment when you're done, and lock the door on your way out," she said, then closed her own door, ending the conversation.
Sam and Charlie made their way back up to unit 208, unlocked the door and flipped the wall switch. A light came on at a table lamp next to a studio couch. The room was untidy, with clothes discarded on the floor, and sparsely furnished with the bare necessities. It was a studio unit. The living/sleeping area, with a kitchen section divided from it by a counter, and a small bathroom.
Both men systematically set about the business of checking for anything that would lead to the discovery of who could have committed this gruesome murder.
"So, do you suppose this mysterious man was her pimp?" Charlie asked.
"Probably . . . setting her up in this new and prosperous resort town," Sam answered wryly.
They found the rental lease on the floor by the dresser. The tenants' information still not filled in or signed. No personal items found except make-up articles and clothing.
"That's odd that she wouldn't have any type of paper document . . . nothing from her previous address," Charlie said.
"Now that you mention it, she doesn't seem all that responsible, yet she took the time to have her I.D. changed to show this new address . . . and she's only been here a week," Sam mused.
"Which it's possible the I.D.'s a phony, made up by the pimp when he first rented the place," Charlie theorized.
"Yeah, maybe he didn't know what girl he was going to put here, so he just picked out a name, and added the picture of the one who finally showed up," Sam sighed, "Now we have to find out who our victim really is . . . I'm glad the department installed that new computer equipment this year."
After finally getting to bed at noon the next morning, Sam slept until almost six in the evening. He liked working the night shift, especially during the summer months with all the tourists and traffic clogging the streets during the day. His house was on Stoney Point Road, nestled on the side of the hill with a view of the ocean.
Sam listened to the message on his recorder that had come through while he was in the shower. The message was from Carl, the detective on day-shift. The coroner's report was in. Also, they had received the information on the girl's I.D. from her finger prints. He left both reports on Sam's desk.
After pouring a cup of coffee, Sam turned on the six o'clock news. He automatically clicked the remote to channel 12.
All of the major television networks had satellite stations in the nearby metropolis of Braxton, thirty miles north of Quainte, but for some reason Sam could not explain to himself, he preferred to watch how Kelly Daye would look each evening. When she would show up at the various crime scenes, he would not dare look in her direction, but here in the privacy of his home, he could look at that perfect figure and beautiful face, undisturbed.
When her segment came on, he nearly spilled the coffee in his lap. She was in the bar, interviewing Jack Rhodes, the bartender. He was saying the detectives had just left there before she came in, and Rhodes gave her a complete description of how he found the body, and what he knew about the victim.
"That bitch! She followed us!" he growled, as he glared at the screen, wishing he could strangle that pretty little neck.
By the time Sam reached his desk he had finally cooled down from his anger at Kelly. Picking up the reports, he flipped through the pages first for a quick look before settling back and reading them.
The coroner's opinion was that the murderer had first cut the woman's throat, and that death had been caused by the escape of blood from the left common carotid artery, and that the other wounds were inflicted after death. The throat had been cut from left to right.
The woman had been identified as Lillian Rossmore, age forty-two, originally from Kentucky. Last known address was in Los Angeles, no employment listed. Four arrests for prostitution. The picture attached showed a younger, nice looking woman with light brown hair and blue eyes in her early thirties. Sam thought she looked to have aged so much since then from hard living.
"What's the name of that investigator friend of yours in L.A.? Do you think we could get him to do some checking on this woman at her L.A. address?" Sam asked.
"Winston . . . sure, he's always looking for work. I'll give him a call and fax the info to him," Charlie said, reaching for the phone. "Just hope I don't get him out of bed. He's a bear when someone wakes him up out of a sound sleep!"
* * * *
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