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Retribution, p.20
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       Retribution, p.20

           Jilliane Hoffman
 

  She toyed for a moment, though, with the idea of calling him back, to hear his voice, to maybe have one more grasp at the incredibly warm feeling she had experienced by the door two nights ago. But she dismissed the idea as quickly as it had come. Her decision to go forward on Cupid came with consequences. She knew that, accepted that.

  Nevertheless, she had to talk to him eventually, to regain the ground of professionalism and to go forward on this case. As she was figuring out just how to accomplish this, the phone rang.

  ‘State Attorney’s Office. ASA Townsend.’

  ‘Bonjour, Madame Prosecutor.’

  It was Christine Frederick.

  ‘Christine? How are you?’ C.J. was not even going to attempt hello in French. Everyone concerned would be better off if she didn’t.

  It didn’t matter. The voice spoke back to her in perfect English, with just a hint of a German accent. ‘C. J. Townsend! Well, hello there! How are things in your sunny part of the world?’

  ‘Sunny. How about you?’

  ‘I always said if I was going to be a criminal, C.J., I would be a criminal in Florida. It is always so sunny and warm. Things here are good! I cannot complain. It’s not too sunny, though. It has been raining a lot in the city.’

  ‘You don’t want to be a criminal in Florida, Christine. Stay put on the Riviera where the international criminals are at least rich and the food is – what’s that word I learned in high-school French class? Magnifique?’

  Christine laughed. ‘Très bien, mon amie!Very good! I got your message from yesterday. Is this a good time to talk to you?’

  ‘Yes, it is. Thanks for calling me back so quickly. I need your help with something, if I might ask. I don’t want to go through Washington just yet, though, on it. I don’t want anything official.’

  ‘Sure, C.J. What can I help you out with?’

  ‘I need you to run an MO through Interpol and see if anything comes up. We’ve got a possible serial rapist here in Miami who has extensive travels outside the U.S., mainly to poor South American countries. Also Mexico, and the Philippines. I need to know if you have anything that matches up.’

  ‘What have you got?’

  ‘He’s a white male in his early forties. Uses a mask. He seems to prefer a clown face or an alien face, but he may use some other Halloween figure-type latex mask. Breaks into usually first-floor apartments and targets young women who live alone. He seems to stalk them for a while before he acts. His weapon of choice is a knife, and he forcibly ties down his victims in most instances.’ She took a breath and continued in what sounded, at least in her own head, to be a calm, steady voice. ‘We also have evidence that he is a sadist. He likes to torture. We have a few girls who were cut up pretty badly, physically disfigured on their breasts and in the vaginal area.’

  She could hear Christine jotting down notes on the other side of the phone line. ‘Is that it?’ she asked.

  ‘Yes. Look back over the past decade. In fact, begin with 1990. He started traveling right around then.’

  ‘How about DNA?’

  ‘No. Nothing. No prints, semen, hair. He leaves a squeaky-clean scene.’

  ‘Do you have a subject name for me?’

  ‘I’ve already run his name through Interpol. I’m trying something new. Do me a favor and run it through without his name. Let’s just look for similarities.’

  ‘Okay. Will do. What South American countries are we looking at?’

  C.J. picked up the photocopy of Bantling’s passport and started reading off countries. ‘Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina.’

  ‘Okay. Then you said the Philippines and Mexico. Do you want me to try anywhere else?’

  ‘Yeah. Look at Malaysia and India.’

  ‘You got it. I’ll call you back when I’ve got something.’

  ‘Thanks, Christine. Let me give you my cell number in case you find something out this weekend. 954-346-7793’

  ‘You bet. Hey, whatever happened to that guy who killed his family while on vacation on Miami Beach? The one we found in Germany?’

  ‘He got the death penalty.’

  ‘Oh.’

  She hung up the phone and thought about Dominick’s message last night. She needed to know what she was in for with Joe Neilson at the Medical Examiner’s. So she picked up the phone and called Manny on his Nextel, hoping that Dominick wasn’t in the room with him.

  ‘Counselor! Buenos días! Where were you yesterday? We missed you at the Medical Examiner’s.’

  ‘Hey, Manny. Are you at the task force yet?’

  ‘Are you kidding? I just got up maybe twenty minutes ago. I’m in my car heading down Eighth in Little Havana, looking for my morning shot.’

  ‘You sound like a junkie needing his fix, Manny. If that Café Cubano crap doesn’t wake you up, nothing will.’

  ‘Tell me about it. It’s gotten to the point where I can’t even think without it.’

  ‘I’m about to call Neilson, but I wanted to speak with you first and find out what happened down there yesterday.’

  ‘Have you talked to Dom yet? I think he was looking for you yesterday.’

  A tinge of guilt ran through her, and she felt her face go hot. What had Dominick said to him about their relationship? About the other night? ‘ No. Not yet. I’ll try to catch up with him later.’

  ‘Oh. Well, Neilson – who is a mother-fucking freak, if you ask me. Pardon my French, Counselor – Neilson says that Prado had been shot up with haloperidol. He found decent amounts of it in her system.’

  ‘Haloperidol?’

  ‘Yeah, the brand name is Haldol.’

  ‘Isn’t that what Dominick said Bantling had a prescription for? That he found in the search of the house?’

  ‘That’s right, Counselor. Fucking psycho laid us a neat brick path right back to his door, didn’t he?’ She could hear loud Latin music in the background and a ton of voices chattering in what sounded like a rushed mixture of both Spanish and English. Manny was obviously on foot now, because C.J. could hear him huffing as he walked.

  ‘Where are you, Manny?’

  ‘I told you. I’m getting a shot.’ In the background she heard him say, ‘Me puede dar dos cafecitos.’ Then he spoke back into the phone. ‘Actually I’m getting two shots. It’s gonna be a long day. I need to look my best.’

  The Nextels were clear. Too clear. She actually listened to him gulp down both shots, and then he let out an ‘Aahh’ and began huffing his way back to the car, she assumed. The Latin music faded away.

  ‘So they found Haldol in Prado’s blood. Why would he have done that? What effect would that drug have had on her?’ she asked. ‘Did Neilson tell you?’

  ‘It’s a depressant. It quiets the crazies. Docs give it to mentally ill people who are having a psychotic episode. It relaxes them, subdues them. In fact, Neilson the Super Sleuth thinks Cupid used it to relax her right out the door of Level.’

  ‘And you don’t agree?’

  ‘No, I agree. I think he may be on to something, especially if this Haldol would have the same effect as a Roofie or Liquid X. We’ve seen some crazy shit go down with those date-rape drugs. In front of lots of witnesses, too. Girls snuck out of clubs, practically unconscious. Fucked so many times even their grandchildren won’t be virgins, and then they wake up in some roach hotel like Sleeping Beauty not remembering a thing and asking, “Where am I?” to the pervert that raped ‘em.

  ‘It’s not that I don’t agree with him, Counselor. He just gives me the creeps with all that twitchin’ that he does. His fucking eyes keep blinking.’

  ‘Yes. I think he may have a medical condition.’

  ‘He’s still fuckin’ weird, if you ask me. I didn’t even tell you the good part – Neilson is happy as shit about this, too – he found this other drug in her system. Seems she had to be hooked up to an IV because that’s the only way to dose it. Probably was still hooked up with this crap flowing through her veins when she died. It’s called Mivacron. That’s the brand name,
anyway. Have you ever heard of it before?’

  ‘No.’

  ‘Me neither. Stuff is a muscle relaxant, but it doesn’t knock you out; it only paralyzes you. And here’s the kicker: It has no effect on pain. You can still feel everything – but you just can’t move. How’s that for some sick shit? Neilson says she was hooked up to that crap when Cupid cracked her chest and cut out her heart. Says he found evidence her eyelids had been taped open so she could watch him while he did it.’

  C.J. could not say anything. A scene flashed in her head. Bantling had made her open her eyes and watch him as he sliced the knife across her breast. Her hand rushed protectively to her chest, and she remembered the intense pain that had flooded her brain, the scream that she heard over and over again, but only in her head. She felt dizzy, as if she would vomit. The two cups of coffee that she had drunk that morning churned in her stomach, and she quickly sat back in her chair.

  There was a long silence before Manny piped back up. ‘Counselor? You there?’

  ‘Yeah, Manny. I’m just thinking,’ she said, her voice a soft whisper. Her head was hung between her knees as she tried to get the blood flow back into her brain, to rush the images out of her mind that she could no longer bear to witness. She needed to toughen up, to be stronger. She was determined to get through this.

  ‘I thought I might have lost you there for a sec. Neilson thinks Prado wasn’t the only one he did it to, either. He’s redoing tox screens on the other nine girls, now that he knows what he’s looking for. He might even have some of the results back later today. Dom was going to call in if he didn’t hear from him by four. You should get with him.’

  She sat back up in the chair. The feeling of dizziness had passed.

  ‘I’ll call Neilson myself. I want to look at Prado’s body. We might need to exhume the others, the ones that weren’t cremated. I also need you to get me the doctor information on Bantling’s Haldol prescription. I want to find out who was treating him and for what.’

  ‘Eddie Bowman called the doc yesterday. Name is Fineberg, I think, or Feinstine. Something like that. Doc told Bowman to pound sand without a warrant. Wouldn’t even acknowledge if Bantling was his patient. Doctor-freak privilege. “Oh no, Detective, I can’t tell you how many women my client has killed because that wouldn’t be right! People should be able to discuss these things with their therapist without the fear that they might actually have to go to jail for cutting out a beautiful girl’s heart.”’

  ‘Alright, then. Get me the info and I’ll start the warrant.’

  There was a long pause. C.J. heard Manny puffing away on his cigarette, with the whiz of traffic going by his car window. Finally he spoke again.

  ‘We sure nailed one sick fuck, didn’t we?’

  ‘Yeah, we sure did, Manny,’ she said quietly.

  ‘Well it’s up to you now, Counselor. You better do the right thing by us all and fry this motherfucker.’

  36

  She gave herself a quick pep talk at her desk in her compact mirror and headed over to court to handle a small matter on a case that was set for motions next Friday. She needed to get a tight grip on her emotions if she was going to continue this prosecution. Dr Chambers was right – she probably would be seeing and hearing things on a daily basis that would cause torturous flashbacks to June 30, 1988. She already had, and each one had been a sucker punch in the stomach. The worst nightmares had already returned. What else was in store for her if she didn’t control herself? Another complete breakdown? Another padded room and more psychotherapy?

  It was all about control. She needed to remain in control. Control her feelings, control her emotions, keep everything in check, but be prepared for anything. Don’t let him beat you this time. Don’t let him win.

  After court she headed over to the ME’s to meet with Neilson and see Anna Prado’s body again. She had seen it on the night Anna was found, but needed to look at the injection sites herself, see where he had run the intravenous line in her vein. She was going to be buried on Monday, and the family wanted her wake to be held on Saturday and Sunday, so this would be her last opportunity before they sent the body to the funeral home.

  Manny was right. Neilson was way too enthusiastic about his job. He hopped and twitched about the room, excitedly showing C.J. the injection sites on her buttocks, and the blown veins in her ankle and right arm, then, finally, where the line had took, allowing the Mivacron to run into her system, paralyzing her body before death.

  Neilson had used the pictures that he had taken during the autopsies of the other nine victims, to locate suspicious markings that he believed were again consistent with injection sites on at least four of the bodies. The preliminary toxicology tests for haloperidol were in on six of the victims, and all were positive. The mivacurium chloride tests would take a few more days.

  The living like to console themselves with the idea that when someone dies and leaves this world, his or her soul is finally ‘at peace’. Maybe it was a coping mechanism, a way for people to avoid the cold reality that death brings, but C.J., for one, didn’t believe any of it. Not that she was an atheist – she believed in God and a better place and went to church on most Sundays. But about death, she knew better than to believe people were at peace, particularly those who had died a premature, violent death, who had been robbed of life in a cruel manner, without warning. They were not at peace. They would never be at peace, always wondering why they had to leave when the thief who had stolen their life, in most instances, still got to walk the earth and kiss his mother and see his family. And now, today, it was Anna Prado’s turn to see the mortician, make ready for the final party. She lay on that cold metal gurney with dried black blood in her hair, and eyelashes ripped from her lids, her chest sewn back together with black thread, the color of life drained from her face, and all C.J. could think of was how incredibly sad she looked. Sad and terrified. There would be no peace for her.

  She skipped lunch, opting instead for a Coffee Coolada from Dunkin’ Donuts with extra whipped cream and another pack of Marlboros. Sequestered back in her closed office that afternoon, she opened the file that contained the six different newspaper articles that she had found and printed out late last night. She needed to know for sure what had happened to those cases. It was impossible to tell from a newspaper search alone. So she started in chronological order, picked up the phone, and called the Chicago P.D.

  ‘Records. Chicago P.D. Officer Rhonda Michaels.’

  ‘Hello, Officer Michaels. I’m a prosecutor in Miami with the Miami-Dade County State Attorney’s Office, and I’m hoping you can help me. I need some information on a rape that happened many years ago in your jurisdiction and was handled by your department. But I’m afraid I only have limited information –’

  ‘What’s the case number?’ Officer Michaels abruptly cut her off in a gruff, tired voice. She probably pulled hundreds of documents and records a day for people and she obviously wasn’t in the mood for engaging in conversation.

  ‘As I was saying, I don’t have that. Unfortunately, all the information I have is from an old newspaper article that ran in 1989.’

  ‘Do you have a suspect’s name?’

  ‘No. From the article it appears that a suspect was never identified. That’s my problem. I need to know a little more about this case, as it may relate to one that I am handling down here.’

  ‘Hmmm. No suspect name. Do you have a victim’s name? I may be able to search by that.’

  ‘No. Her name wasn’t in the paper.’

  ‘I don’t think I’m going to be able to help you, then.’ There was a short pause. ‘Do you have the date that it happened? An address? A detective’s name? What do you have?’

  ‘Yes, I have a date, September sixteenth, nineteen eighty-nine. The address is one-one-six-two Schiller. It doesn’t give an apartment number. It says here that detectives with the Chicago Police Department are investigating.’

  ‘Alright. That may be enough. Hold on. I have to
run something through a system and then do some checking. This may take a while.’

  Exactly twelve minutes later she came back on the line. She sounded nice again.

  ‘I’ve got it. The number on the police report is F8922234X. Three pages. The victim’s name was Wilma Barrett, twenty-nine. Raped and assaulted in her first-floor apartment, Apartment 1 A, it says. Is that what you are looking for?’

  ‘Yes. That must be it. Can you tell me whatever happened to that case? Was it ever solved?’

  ‘Hold on, let me take a look at the history. No. No, it was never solved. No arrests were made. The detective that was assigned to it was Brena, Dean Brena. He might still be around. Of course, there are thousands of officers with our department and I don’t know them all, and that was a long time ago. Do you want me to transfer you to Sex Crimes?’

  ‘Not right now. I first need to look at that police report to see if it is even related to the one I am handling here. Can you fax my office a copy?’

  ‘Sure can. It’ll probably take a couple of minutes, though. What’s your number?’

  C.J. gave her the number and dashed out to the fax machine to wait for it to come through. The secretarial pool, where both the fax machine and Marisol were located, was a maze of about ten desk units separated from each other by Formica half-wall partitions. It was located in the center of the Major Crimes Unit, surrounded on all sides by short hallways that ran to the window offices of the Major Crimes prosecutors, and a long hallway that ran out to the security access doors and the elevator bay.

  C.J. felt like the fat kid who shows up uninvited at a summer pool party in jeans and a parka. She knew she did not belong in the maze. The laughter and chat that had gone on unchecked just seconds before her presence was detected immediately ceased when she was spotted waiting at the fax machine. A silent alert rippled through the pool, and the laughter and chat were replaced by an uncomfortable silence.

  There existed within the State Attorney’s Office, as, she supposed, existed in other corporations and offices as well, an unspoken sort of social order among the workers. Administration socialized with administration, attorneys socialized with attorneys, and the secretaries, victim witness coordinators, and paralegals socialized with the secretaries, victim witness coordinators, and paralegals. Breaking ranks was not unheard of, but it certainly was uncommon and infrequent. And C.J. had three strikes against her. As an assistant chief, she was a member of administration, and, of course, as a prosecutor, she was an attorney. She was also Marisol’s boss and although that would drive any normal person perhaps to the bottle, Marisol was still a member of the pool and the wagons closed around her protectively just the same. So when C.J. entered the maze, the enemy was watching, and shoptalk just shut down as quickly as it had set up.

 
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