November 1st

The day after Halloween, Kelly rose early. Looking out the window, she noticed the clouds had blown away, and it looked as if it would develop into a beautiful day. Grabbing her sweatsuit, she changed quickly to take a short run before getting ready for work.

Pacing herself, Kelly started south on her block. She cut over to the beach at Park Road, and ran along the beach path in front of the hotels. Thirty minutes later, she slowed to a walk along the path near the pier to cool down. She glanced up to watch the seagulls circle the end of the pier. She smiled at how peaceful it was so early in the morning with just the sound of the birds and the waves gently rolling in on the sandy shore. As she looked down to check her watch, her attention was caught by a bright colorful yellow and red object under the pier. Kelly narrowed her eyes and stared at what looked like a pile of clothes.

Curiosity overcame her, and stepping over the low stone barrier dividing the walkway from the sand, she headed in that direction for a closer look. When she was within a few yards of the object, Kelly suddenly realized what was in front of her.

"Oh god, oh god . . . oh god!" she whispered, putting a shaky hand over her mouth to keep down the nauseated feeling, as she backed away from the gruesome scene. The heap of color was a mutilated woman in a yellow silk dress covered in blood. Her face was partially covered by a yellow feathered half-mask. Kelly looked around to see if anyone was near to call, but found she was alone. The resort hotel, up on a knoll facing the beach, looked quiet after their noisy Halloween party last night. The girl must have been at the party, Kelly surmised. She probably came out here with someone . . . someone who did this. The same one who killed all the others? Kelly shivered at the thought, then looked around again. Spying a pay phone near the entrance to the pier, she quickly ran to it.

She reached in her fanny pack for some change. Thankful she had brought it with her. Trembling, she dialed the police and asked to be put through to Detective Knight.

Sam was going through the papers on his desk, waiting to be relieved of his shift. After the long, busy night of answering calls about revelers unable to handle their liquor, getting violent with people and causing property damage, he was tired . . . tired of the long hours of trying to track down the serial killer, along with all the routine investigations.

"We definitely need to hire more help around here," he muttered, reaching for his phone as it rang again.

"Detective Knight" he said, blandly. Sam became alarmed and gripped the receiver tightly when he heard the distress in Kelly's voice.

While she told him what had happened, he wished he was there with her to calm her down . . . hold her . . . protect her.

"Stay by the phone, Kelly. Don't go near the body. I'm on my way. And Kelly? Stay alert, if you see anyone," Hanging up the receiver, he yelled to Charlie and headed for the door.

Kelly was relieved after talking to Sam, but still shaken up from finding the body. She glanced around the area, and then over to the heap of yellow and red under the pier pilings, hoping Sam would be here soon. Automatically she checked her watch for the time, to make sure she wasn't late for work. Then it dawned on her. Damn! I'm a reporter, for God's sake! Here I am . . . first at a crime scene and haven't called it in!

Taking a deep breath, she dialed Jay's number to get him over here with the equipment. When she hung up the receiver to wait, she had time to think, and felt uneasy about continuing the job of being a reporter. This was not what she wanted out of life and knew she would have to make plans for a career change. To stand at a distance at a crime scene, talking into a microphone, repeating the observations of witnesses, was somehow detached from the reality of the situation. Now . . . now after seeing a gruesome, bloody outcome of a vicious murder, before being blocked by police keeping everyone at a distance, Kelly knew it would be hard to remain a dispassionate bystander in the future.

Sam pulled up to the curb and saw the relief on Kelly's face as he stepped out of his car. She looks like a lost soul on this deserted beach, he thought compassionately, as he headed toward her.

Kelly pointed toward the body and he glanced in that direction, then scanned the area as he walked. When he was almost to where Kelly stood, he heard the sound of another vehicle. Thinking it was Charlie or the Medical crew, Sam didn't turn around until he heard someone call Kelly's name. Looking over his shoulder, he cursed at seeing the Channel 12 Van, and angrily looked back at her.

"Couldn't resist the scoop for TV, I see. I guess I should be grateful to get here first, before your buddy with the camera traipsed over the crime scene," he sneered. With a jerk of his thumb toward Jay walking up to them, he added, "Make sure you keep that asshole at a distance."

All thoughts of comforting Kelly had faded as Sam headed for the body, and he did not see the pained look on her face from his snide remark.

With a practiced eye, Sam observed everything surrounding the body as he stood a few feet away. The murder must have happened after the water receded from high tide last night, he mused. The sand was still packed and smooth in the area, except for a hasty attempt to wipe out footprints when the killer left. Sam frowned in contemplation as his eyes moved over the body, looking for a note. The chances of finding one seemed slim as he doubted the crime was committed by the serial killer. In fact, everything about this killing was different. The wounds were caused by a frenzied slashing, and the body had bruises as if beaten before the knife wounds. Possibly raped, from the condition of the torn dress. None of these were found on the other victims.

"Charlie will be here shortly. He's looking for witnesses," said George, the M.E., as he walked passed Sam. He pulled on a pair of surgical gloves and knelt beside the body. "But, as deserted as this beach is, I doubt he'll find anyone. It looks like the whole area decided to sleep late this morning."

"Well, George, seeing it's only 6:45, I doubt if others would think it was late," Sam said. "Before you begin your inspection, check for a note from our killer."

George had removed the mask from the woman's face, giving him a better view of the bruises on her cheek, then looked up at Sam and shook his head, "There's not going to be one . . . this is not our man's style, although it was probably meant to copy him."

"I didn't think so. Christ! I hope we're not swamped with copycat killers. We can't handle the ones we have! Let alone the media blitz that follows," Sam grumbled, looking over to where Kelly stood. He watched as she reached up to remove the band holding her hair, then fluffed it out while her cameraman positioned her in line with the crime scene. San wondered what it would be like to run his fingers through the silky strands of Kelly's hair. Hair! Sam's eyes widened and he abruptly looked again at the body. George was carefully lifting the woman's head to check the back of it for wounds, but what caught Sam's attention, was the color of her hair . . . the same shade and length as Kelly's.

He stood behind George and observed the victim with a critical eye, noticing how closely she resembled Kelly . . . not only the hair, but her shape and size. With the mask covering most of her face, she could easily have been mistaken for Kelly.

Sam looked over at Kelly, now speaking into the mike in front of the camera, reporting on the latest homicide in this small resort town. Behind her, a police officer was putting up the yellow crime tape, blocking off the immediate area surrounding the victim.

Seeing Charlie across the street, speaking to a shopkeeper just opening his store, Sam headed in that direction.

"This is Kelly Daye reporting from the beach at Quainte," Kelly said, then waited till Jay gave her the sign. She walked toward him, leaned down and put the mike with his equipment.

"God, Jay, I can't believe I was the one to find this latest victim of the serial killer!" she said with a shudder.

"I'm not so sure it was the killer this time. I bet it was a copycat killing," he answered as he packed up his equipment and headed to the van.

"Wait! What do you mean? You think this wasn't the same?" Kelly asked. She looked back over her shoulder at the crime scene, then scurried after him to the van.

Jay shrugged. "Just a hunch, that's all."

"Good lord! It's bad enough with one vicious killer. I can't imagine a small town like this surviving any more than that!"

"Cheer up, Kelly," Jay said, smiling at her. "At least, this keeps you working. Think how dull your job would be if you didn't have the killings to make it interesting. Besides, haven't you noticed how famous you've become? I bet you get more fan mail than the other chicks in the newsroom."

"Yeah, Jay. Famous. I could do without that kind of fame. If it wasn't for that rotten trick you pulled by letting them air that scene in the yellow dress, I wouldn't be swamped with all these wanna-be Romeos writing and sending flowers."

"But it got the public attention, didn't it? At least it improved the ratings for the station," he smirked, then looking at his watch.

"Speaking of station, don't you think you should go home and change so you won't be late for work?"

"Damn!" Kelly said, glancing at her own watch. "Well, at least they know I have an excuse for being late . . . it's all on film," she said, pointing to his camcorder. Giving him a quick wave, Kelly jogged off toward her street.

"So you think it was a case of mistaken identity, Sam?" Charlie asked, as he watched Kelly leave.

Sam and Charlie were waiting for George to finish up and cart the body off, so they could move in closer and do their own investigation of the crime area.

"I'm willing to bet on it. It's hard not to notice the resemblance between the victim and our reporter friend," Sam said, with an inward shudder at the thought.

"I think the murder was accidental. He probably just meant to rape her, and things got out of hand. The guy panicked, so he made it look as if it was our killer."

"Well, you didn't find a note anywhere around the body . . . unless it's being delivered to our office and we haven't received it yet," Charlie mused.

More media representatives gathered outside the blocked off area, lining up their reporters and cameras with the crime scene as a backdrop for their evening news.

The day shift detectives arrived and worked their way past the reporters, dodging the questions hurled at them.

"Hi, guys. Now I can go home and get some shut eye," Charlie said.

"Not until you see the Captain. He wants us all in his office this morning . . . I suppose he had another run-in with the City Council," Carl said.

"Oh hell, another lecture," Sam answered wearily.

"This can't be our killer . . . it's too soon," Ray said. He watched as George and his assistant put the body into the van, while the police officers kept the reporters away from them.

"What do you mean, too soon?" Sam asked. "You know something we don't know?"

"Gee, Sam, weren't you paying attention when I gave you all those facts at the meeting?" Ray answered. "The next one is on November 9th, remember?"

"Shit! Eight days away. No wonder the Captain's antsy," Sam grumbled.

"We're not even close to finding him. Anyone turn up new leads?" Carl asked.

"I haven't made a dent in the ones stacked on my desk. Everybody, and his brother, swears he saw the guy in the photo, then it turns out wrong," Charlie answered, shaking his head.

"Yeah, and if he does kill again in eight days, we're going to be blasted again by the press and the community for not finding him. Of course, they'll overlook the fact that they refused to increase our budget to hire more help," Ray said wryly.

"If we're having a meeting, I need to finish some paperwork before going home," Charlie said wearily. He looked at the waiting reporters and turned to walk the beach path past the pier to the next block to avoid them.

Sam stepped over to where George was speaking quietly to the assistant at the back of his van.

"George, think you'll have anything for us soon?" he asked.

"I think it'll be just a matter of hours . . . we got some good prints. This was a very careless killer," George said.

"Good, let's hope he's still in the neighborhood and easy to find. Maybe we can put one murderer out of circulation quickly. See you later, George."

As he walked toward his car, Sam thought about Kelly. He was thankful she wasn't the victim. He wondered if it was really a case of mistaken identity, and who was the person Kelly believed stalked her? Shaking his head in disgust, he realized that with her popularity on TV, it could be just about anybody.

The Captain frowned as he listened to their report on the recent victim. He asked, "Are you sure it's a copycat killing? I don't think our council is going to like having more than one psycho running loose in this town."

"As Sherlock says," Carl nodded toward Ray, "it's too soon."

The phone rang on the Captain's desk and he swore as he reached for it, then muttered, "It better not be another damn complaint!"

"Captain Brodersen," he said into the speaker. He listened, frowning. The frown turned to astonishment, and he glanced over at Sam.

The four detectives looked at each other then all eyes focused on Sam, wondering who was on the other end of the phone line and what the conversation was about.

When the Captain hung up the phone, he sat silently for a moment, then cleared his throat before speaking.

"That was about the fingerprints found near the latest victim. We already have a match, since the fingerprints are on file with the county. They belong to one of our local firemen . . . Peter Linsley," the Captain said. He looked at Sam, remembering the trouble he had gone through when Linsley made a play for Sam's wife.

"Oh shit!" said Ray, followed by other expletives from Carl and Charlie.

Sam sat stunned at the news. He now knew for sure that it was meant to be Kelly, after that run in the other night at her house. The thought jolted him, and quickly built into anger.

"Let me bring him in, Captain," Sam said. The muscle in his jaws tightened when he thought of what he'd like to do to Linsley.

"I don't think that's a good idea, Sam. Besides, your shift ended. Ray and Carl will pick him up."

"Captain, I doubt if you know this, but Linsley has been pestering Kelly Daye recently. I found him drunk and bothering her when I passed by her house the other night. I had a patrol car escort Linsley home. Another thing, this latest victim resembled Kelly, and with the mask covering most of the face, I think Linsley thought it was her."

"Whoa, hold on a second, Sam. What were you doing driving past her house? Am I gonna get more complaints from the TV station about you?"

All eyes turned with interest in Sam's direction.

"It's a long story, Captain," he mumbled, shifting in his seat,  "And we should get that bastard into custody before he skips on us."

Sighing, the Captain looked at Carl and Ray. "You two get moving. Charlie, you and Sam get out of here and get some sleep. I might call you in early tonight. With this latest victim, it's a wonder we're not mobbed by the community for not stopping these murders sooner."

The shuffle of chairs filled the small office as the men rose to leave. Sam was halfway through the doorway when the Captain called him back.

"Just a reminder, Sam. Stay away from that female reporter's street unless you have a reason . . . a work-related reason. I have enough problems without that Blaney jerk calling me with complaints about you."

Sam nodded and turned toward the door.

"Right, Captain. Only for business reasons," he said over his shoulder.

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