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Retribution, p.16
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       Retribution, p.16

           Jilliane Hoffman

  She had twenty-one days from the date of his arrest to get Bantling indicted for first-degree murder by the grand jury. That meant she had to interview all the witnesses and get their statements and prepare a grand jury memo for Tigler’s Chief Assistant, Martin Yars. Yars was the only prosecutor in the entire office who presented cases before the grand jury. And it would be Yars who would then seek the indictment on Bantling, probably with Dominick Falconetti’s testimony, as the lead investigator on the case. And the grand jury only met on Wednesdays. Today was already Thursday. That gave her only two Wednesdays to work with. If she couldn’t get before the grand jury by then, she would have to at least file a felony Information – a sworn document of charges – for second-degree murder within twenty-one days. Then she’d indict him on first degree when Yars could take it to the grand jury. And to do that, she still needed to take the sworn testimony of all the necessary witnesses in the case, those who could supply the facts to support the charge of murder. In either event, twenty-one days was the magic number and it wasn’t much time at all.

  Tick-tock, tick-tock goes the clock.

  She slugged down the rest of her Dunkin’ Donuts coffee, and rubbed her temples with her fingers. Her head was pounding again. She needed to make a decision on how she was going to proceed. On if she was going to proceed. Time was a major factor here, and she wouldn’t be able to just ‘mull it all over’ for a few days. All the cops had to be brought in, their testimony taken, and that would, at the least, take a few days to arrange and complete.

  She looked down at her watch. It was already 9:30. She picked up her purse and sunglasses and hurried out the door, past the secretarial pool and a sulking Marisol, today clothed head-to-toe in purple Lycra.

  She vowed to make a decision, one way or the other.

  After she got back.


  The two-story small house on Almeria Road in Coral Gables, an affluent Miami suburb, was pretty. An old Spanish style, probably built sixty or seventy years ago, it was perfectly square, the stucco painted a deep, spicy-brown mustard yellow with an orange S-barrel tiled roof. Beautiful flowers, bursting in colors of white, red, and yellow, filled terra-cotta flower boxes that hung suspended from every windowsill, and full flower beds lined the brick walkway to the rounded brown oak door with the wrought-iron handles. It certainly didn’t look like a psychiatrist’s office. A small sign hung next to the door, just above the terra-cotta mailbox. It read GREGORY CHAMBERS, M.D.

  C.J. opened the door and stepped inside. The waiting room was done in Mexican tile, the décor a light yellow and pale blue. Peaceful, calming colors. Large palms fanned out in each of the four corners of the room, and rich, leather chairs lined the two walls. Magazines of every sort were spread out on the beautiful, oversized mahogany table, and Sarah Brightman sang Franz Schubert’s ‘Ave Maria’ softly overhead. Peaceful, calming music. Let’s not get the rich loonies too excited, too anxious, on their visit to the nice doctor.

  The secretary, Estelle Rivero, was seated behind the pale yellow wall that separated the sane from the ‘needs help’ section. Through the small glass window, she could see the top tufts of Estelle’s autumn-sunrise-colored red hair that was teased at least three inches off the top of her head.

  There was no one else in the waiting room. C.J. tapped gently on the metal bell that sat outside the window. A light ding rang out, and Estelle slid open the glass and smiled through fireball red lips.

  ‘Hello, Ms Townsend! How are you today?’

  I thought the office staff wasn’t supposed to ask that question without a doctor in the room.

  ‘Fine, Estelle. How are you?’

  Estelle stood up. Her hair cleared the window but her chin didn’t. She stood about five foot one.

  ‘You look good, Ms Townsend. I saw you on the news last night. That is a sick man, no? What he did to those poor women?’ She shook her head.

  More than you know, Estelle. More than you know.

  ‘Yes, he’s definitely disturbed.’ C.J. shifted, her heels clicked on the Mexican tile. Estelle brought both her wrinkly hands, complete with two-inch bright nails, up to her cheeks and shook her head. On every finger was a gold bauble. ‘It’s terrible. Such beautiful girls. Beautiful girls. He looks so normal, too. Like such a nice-looking, decent man. You can never tell about someone.’ She leaned forward and lowered her voice to a whisper. ‘I hope you put him away, Ms Townsend. Where he can’t hurt any more women.’

  Where h’’s going Estelle, except for maybe Lizzie Borden, women won’t have to worry anymore.

  ‘I’ll do my best, Estelle. Is Dr Chambers in?’

  She looked flustered. ‘Oh – yes, yes. He’s expecting you. Please go right on in.’ The door buzzed and the ‘needs help’ crossed over into the world of the sane. At the end of the hall, Gregory Chambers’s office door sat open. C.J. could see his figure hunched over the huge mahogany desk. He looked up with a smile as she approached, her heels clicking softly on the tile.

  ‘C.J.! Good to see you. Come in, come in.’

  The office was painted a robin’s-egg light blue. A blue-and-yellow floral-print valance decorated the top of the two floor-to-ceiling round windows. Wooden blinds let soft slivers of sunlight into the room, spilling in neat stripes across the Berber carpet and comfortable blue leather wing-backed chairs.

  ‘Hello, Dr Chambers. I like what you’ve done with the office. It looks nice.’ She stood just inside the doorway.

  ‘Thanks. We had it redone about three months ago, I guess. It’s been a while since you’ve been here, C.J.’

  ‘Yes. Yes. I’ve been busy.’

  There was a brief pause, and then he stood up and came out from behind the great desk. ‘Well, please. Come in,’ he said, closing the door behind her. ‘Have a seat.’

  He motioned for her to sit in one of the wing-backed chairs and he sat across from her in the other, leaning slightly forward with his elbows on his knees, his hands clasped in front of him. It was all very casual, so informal; C J. was not sure if he was like that with all his patients, or if she was special, given their long-term relationship. Greg Chambers always made her feel as if her problems with the world were nothing that could not be handled.

  ‘I see they arrested a suspect in the Cupid murders. I caught a bit of the hearing on the eleven-o’clock news last night. Good job, C.J.’

  ‘Thanks. Thanks. We’ve still got a long way to go, though.’

  ‘Is this guy the real McCoy?’

  She shifted in the chair and crossed her legs. ‘It looks like it. If Anna Prado’s body in the trunk wasn’t enough, from what they found at his house last night, there’s no doubt.’

  ‘Really? Well, best of luck on that.’ His blue eyes searched hers. ‘I know it’s a real stress case, with all the media attention and all.’ His voice raised slightly when he said ‘all’ as if it were a question, and she knew he was giving her an opening.

  She nodded, and focused on her lap. It had been several months since she had sat in this chair. After so many years it was time to see if all the counseling had actually worked, if the chick could fly, if she could handle it alone in the world – make it past the memories that kept trying to pull her back to where she had just been. In this endeavor, with excuses of too much work and too little time, she had slowed her scheduled biweekly appointments to an occasional visit, finally stopping altogether in the spring. Now here she was back again knocking on his door for help.

  ‘Are you trying it with anyone else from your office?’ He sounded like her father, concerned that she wasn’t eating right or getting enough sleep.

  ‘No. Just me so far, unless Jerry Tigler appoints someone else.’

  ‘Who’s the lead, Dom Falconetti?’

  ‘Yes. And Manny Alvarez with the City.’

  ‘I know Manny. Great detective. I worked with him on a quadruple homicide in Liberty City a couple of years back. I believe I met Agent Falconetti at the Forensics conference in Orlando last year

  Greg Chambers’s black hair was sprinkled with gray, but it was a vibrant, shiny gray, and it accentuated his kind blue eyes, and added some character to his otherwise plain-looking face. The unavoidable march of time had feathered deep wrinkles across his brow and out from his eyes, but they also helped to distinguish him, and C.J. guessed that he was probably a better-looking man in his late forties than he had been in his teens or his twenties. Then she thought of her own tired lines reflected back in the mirror yesterday. Men aged so much better than women. It wasn’t fair.

  ‘You’ve got me more than a little worried, C.J. I could tell from your voice last night that something was wrong. What’s up?’

  C.J. shifted her legs again and recrossed them. Her mouth was dry. ‘Well, it’s actually about the Cupid case.’

  ‘Oh. Do you need some professional advice?’

  Therein lay the problem. In addition to being her off-again, on-again psychiatrist for the past ten years, Gregory Chambers was also a professional colleague. As a criminal forensic psychiatrist he regularly assisted the State Attorney’s Office and the police departments on violent-crime cases. On dozens of occasions he had testified for her office as an expert in complicated murder and domestic-violence cases, where the core issue that needed to be explained to the jury was simply, why? Why do men do the evil that they do? The same characteristics that made him easy to talk to as a psychiatrist also made him easy to listen to as an expert. With his soft face, easygoing smile, and extensive, impressive credentials, Gregory Chambers would explain the unfathomable in layman’s terms: Grown men prey sexually on innocent children because they are paedophiles; boyfriends hunt their girlfriends down with AK-47S because they are psychopaths; mothers kill their children because they are bipolar; teenagers gun down their classmates in cold blood because of a borderline personality disorder.

  His diagnoses were always right on target. The police trusted him, respected him, as did the private community. Which, of course, explained his thriving private practice in posh Coral Gables at $300 an hour; when you’re rich, you can afford to be crazy. C.J. fortunately got the law-enforcement discount. He had never testified in one of C.J.’s trials. She was always careful to draw a line, so there would never be a conflict in court. She had given tutorials by his side at law-enforcement conferences and seminars, and had sought his professional opinion off the record in some of her own cases. In those roles, he was both her colleague and her friend, and she recalled how she had addressed him in those instances as simply Greg.

  Today, however, he was Dr Chambers.

  ‘No. I’m not seeking your expert opinion. I wouldn’t have called you at nine o’clock at night if I needed that.’ She smiled weakly.

  ‘I appreciate that, but others have not been as courteous, C.J. Jack Lester has called me at one A.M. before.’ He smiled a knowing smile. ‘And I don’t mind a bit.’

  Jack Lester was also a Major Crimes prosecutor. C.J. despised him.

  ‘Jack Lester is a pompous, arrogant jerk. And you should have hung up on him. I would have.’

  He laughed. ‘I’ll keep that in mind for the next time, and I’m sure there’ll be a next time.’ His face grew serious again. ‘If it’s not my professional expert opinion, then…’ His voice trailed off in a question mark.

  Again, she shifted in her seat. The seconds ticked off in her head.

  When she spoke, her voice was barely a whisper. ‘You know why I started coming here. You know why I see you… as a patient.’

  He nodded. ‘Is it the nightmares? Are they back again?’

  ‘No, I’m afraid it’s worse than the nightmares.’ She looked desperately around the room, and then ran both hands through her hair. God, she needed a cigarette.

  He frowned. ‘What is it, then?’

  ‘He’s back this time,’ she whispered, her voice shattering. ‘But this time it’s for real. He’s real. William Bantling is the one. Cupid! He’s the one!’

  Dr Chambers shook his head, as if he didn’t understand what she was saying.

  She shook her head, and the tears that she had held back for as long as she could began to stream down now from her eyes. ‘Do you understand what I’m telling you? Cupid is the one! He’s the man that raped me! He’s the Clown!’


  Dr Chambers stiffened, then slowly exhaled the breath he had been holding and said simply, in a calm voice, ‘What makes you think that, C.J.?’ He was a psychiatrist, and his job was to take things in stride.

  ‘His voice in court. I knew his voice the second he started yelling at Judge Katz.’ She was sobbing, but trying to stop. He reached across his desk for a tissue, and grabbed the whole box.

  ‘Here, here. Take a tissue.’ He sat back now in his wing-backed chair, his hand covering his mouth, pulling down on his chin. ‘Are you sure, C.J.?’

  ‘Yes. I’m positive. You can’t hear a voice in your head for twelve years and not recognize it when it’s spoken again. Besides, I saw the scar.’

  ‘The one on his arm?’

  ‘Yes. Right above the wrist, while he was pulling on Lourdes Rubio in the courtroom.’ She finally looked at him. Her eyes were filled with tears and desperation. ‘It’s him. I know it. What I don’t know is what I should do.’

  Dr Chambers sat and thought for a long moment; C.J. used the pause to compose herself. Finally, he spoke. ‘Well, if it is him, then that is, in a sense, good news. You now know who he is, where he is. You can finally have some closure to all of this, after all these years. I’m sure a trial in New York will be tough, but –’

  She cut him off right there. ‘There’s not going to be a trial in New York.’

  ‘Now, C.J. After all you’ve been through for twelve years, you’re not willing to testify against this man? There is no reason to be ashamed. No reason to want to hide any longer. You’ve coached enough reluctant witnesses in your career to know –’

  She shook her head. ‘Oh, I would testify. I would. In a heartbeat. But there won’t be any trial because the statute of limitations has run – seven years ago. So, now do you understand? He can’t be tried for raping me, for trying to kill me, for, for… butchering me.’ Her arms were folded, her hands cupped around her elbows. She hunched her body lower, curling them now protectively over her lower abdomen. ‘He can’t be tried. No matter what.’

  Dr Chambers sat very still for a few moments, and blew out his breath very slowly through his hand, which still covered his mouth.

  ‘C.J., are you sure? Have you talked to the New York authorities?’

  ‘The original detectives on my case are retired and dead. It’s in Cold Case now. There was never any suspect, any arrest.’

  ‘Then how do you know you can’t go forward?’

  ‘I spoke with the Queens DA’s office, the Extraditions Unit, and a prosecutor told me. I should have thought about the statute of limitations before, but I… I just didn’t. It didn’t even cross my mind that when I finally found him, there would be nothing I could do. Nothing.’ The tears started falling again.

  There was another long silence in the room. For once, in the ten years she’d known him, Dr Chambers was actually speechless. Finally, he said in a low voice, ‘We’ll get you through this, C.J. It will be alright. What do you want to do now?’

  ‘That’s my problem. I don’t know. What do I want to do? I want to fry his ass. I want to send him to the death chamber. Not just for me, but for the eleven women he’s killed, and the countless other victims I’m sure he’s left out there in his wake. And I want to be the one to put him in that chair. Is that wrong?’

  ‘No,’ said Dr Chambers quietly. ‘It’s not wrong. It’s a feeling. A justified feeling.’

  ‘If I could, I would send him to New York. I would tell the world up there that he’s the fucking son of a bitch and then I would have put him away up there. I would have looked him in the eye and told him, “Fuck you, you bastard! You didn’t beat me! Say hello to your new roommates, for the next twenty year
s, because that’s the only piece of ass you’ll be seeing!”’ She looked up at Dr Chambers. Her eyes were pleading for an answer. ‘But I can’t do that now. What I’ve been waiting to do for twelve goddamn years. He even took that from me. He even took that from me …’

  ‘Well, there is always this case, C.J. He’s facing death in the murders of those women, isn’t he? It’s not looking like he’s going to walk away from this a free man.’

  ‘Yes, but that’s what I’m struggling with. I know that I can’t prosecute him, but if I tell Tigler, the whole office conflicts out, and then we get some neophyte from Ocala out of law school three years trucking down to try his first homicide. And I get to watch on the sidelines while somebody once again fucks this up for some reason and he walks!’

  Be assured, we are actively pursuing the investigation, Chloe. We hope to have a subject in custody soon. We appreciate your continued cooperation.

  ‘There has to be some solution. Maybe Tigler can get the Seventeenth or the Fifteenth to take it?’ The 17th Judicial Circuit was Broward County. The 15 th was Palm Beach.

  ‘Tigler has no say. It’s potluck, and I am not willing to take that chance. I just can’t. You know how complicated serials are. Especially with ten dead bodies and no confession or incriminating statement. And, we’ve really only got him so far on one. He hasn’t even been charged with the other nine murders. It’s easy to make a mistake. Too easy.’

  ‘I understand that, but I’m concerned about you. Very concerned. I know that you are strong, probably one of the strongest women I’ve ever met, but no one, no matter how strong her character or steady her conviction, should have to prosecute the person who has brutally attacked her. I think the issue is that you don’t want to let go.’

  ‘Maybe I don’t, until I am offered a viable solution. One that I can trust.’

  ‘How about passing it to another prosecutor in your office? What about Rose Harris? She’s good, and is very good at DNA and expert testimony.’

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