All that remains, p.26
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       All That Remains, p.26
 

           Patricia Cornwell

  They had been lovers. This linked them to the other murdered couples and made the "Mr. Goodbar" theory that much more implausible, and I pointed this out to Anna.

  "I agree with you," she said.

  "They were last seen in the Anchor Bar and Grill. Did Jill ever mention this place to you?"

  "Not by name. But she mentioned a bar they occasionally went to, a place where they talked. Sometimes they went to out-of-the-way restaurants where people would not know them. Sometimes they went on drives. Generally, these excursions occurred when they were in the midst of emotionally charged discussions about their relationship."

  "If they were having one of these discussions that Friday night at the Anchor, they were probably upset, one or the other possibly feeling rejected, angry," I said. "Is it possible either Jill or Elizabeth might have gone through the motions of picking up a man, flirting, to jerk the other around?"

  "I can't say that's impossible," Anna said. "But it would surprise me a great deal. I never got the impression that Jill or Elizabeth played games with each other. I'm more inclined to suspect that when they were talking that night, the conversation was very intense and they were probably unaware of their surroundings, focused only on each other."

  "Anyone observing them might have overheard."

  "That is the risk if one has personal discussions in public, and I had mentioned this to Jill."

  "If she were so paranoid about anyone suspecting, then why did she take the risk?"

  "Her resolve was not strong, Kay."

  Anna reached for her wine. "When she and Elizabeth were alone, it was too easy to slip back into intimacy. Hugging, comforting, crying, and no decisions were made."

  That sounded familiar. When Mark and I had discussions either at his place or mine, inevitably we ended up in bed. Afterward, one of us would leave, and the problems were still there.

  "Anna, did you ever consider that their relationship might have been connected to what happened to them?"

  I asked.

  "If anything, their relationship made it seem all the more unusual. I should think that a woman alone in a bar looking to be picked up is in much greater danger than two women together who are not interested in drawing attention to themselves."

  "Let's return to the subject of their habits and routines," I said.

  "They lived in the same apartment complex but did not live together, and again, this was for the sake of appearances. But it was convenient. They could lead their separate lives, and then get together late at night at Jill's apartment. Jill preferred to be in her own place. I remember her telling me that if her family or other people repeatedly tried to call her late at night and she was never home, there would have been questions."

  She paused, thinking. "Jill and Elizabeth also exercised, were very fit. Running, I think, but they didn't always do this together."

  "Where did they run?"

  "I believe there was a park near where they lived."

  "Anything else? Theaters, shops, malls they may have frequented?"

  "Nothing comes to mind."

  "What does your intuition tell you? What did it tell you at the time?"

  "I felt that Jill and Elizabeth were having a stressful conversation in the bar. They probably wanted to be left alone and would have resented an intrusion."

  "Then what?"

  "Clearly they encountered their killer at some point that evening."

  "Can you imagine how that might have happened?"

  "It has always been my opinion it was someone they knew, or at least were well enough acquainted with so that they had no reason not to trust him. Unless they were abducted at gunpoint by one or more persons, either in the bar's parking lot or somewhere else they might have gone."

  "What if a stranger had approached them in the bar's parking lot, asked them for a lift somewhere, claimed to have car trouble... ?"

  She was already shaking her head. "It is inconsistent with my impressions of them. Again, unless it was someone with whom they were acquainted."

  "And if the killer was impersonating a police officer, perhaps pulled them over for a routine traffic stop?"

  "That's another matter. I suppose even you and I might be vulnerable to that."

  Anna was looking tired, so I thanked her for dinner and her time. I knew our conversation was difficult for her. I wondered how I would feel were I in her position.

  Minutes after I walked through my front door, the phone rang.

  "One last thing that I remember but probably does not matter," Anna said. "Jill mentioned something about the two of them working crossword puzzles when they wanted to stay in, just the two of them, on Sunday mornings, for example. Insignificant, perhaps. But a routine, something they did together."

  "A book of puzzles? Or the ones in the newspapers?"

  "I don't know. But Jill did read a variety of newspapers, Kay. She usually had something with her to read while waiting for her appointment. The Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post."

  I thanked her again and said next time it was my turn o cook. Then I called Marino.

  "Two women were murdered in James City County eight years ago," I went straight to the point. "It's possible there's a connection. Do you know Detective Montana out there?"

  "Yeah. I've met him."

  "We need to get with him, review the cases. Can he keep his mouth shut?"

  "Hell if I know," Marino said.

  Montana looked like his name, big, rawboned, with hazy blue eyes set in a rugged, honest face topped by thick gray hair. His accent was that of a native Virginian, his conversation peppered with "yes, ma am's. The following afternoon he, Marino, and I met at my home, where we were ensured privacy and no interruptions.

  Montana must have depleted his annual film budget on Jill and Elizabeth's case, for covering my kitchen table were photographs of their bodies at the scene, the Volkswagen abandoned at the Palm Leaf Motel, the Anchor Bar and Grill, and, remarkably, of every room inside the women's apartments, including pantries and closets. He had a briefcase bulging with notes, maps, interview transcriptions, diagrams, evidence inventories, logs of telephone tips. There is something to be said for detectives who rarely have homicides in their jurisdictions. Cases like these come along once or twice in their careers, and they work them meticulously.

  "The cemetery is right next to the church."

  He moved a photograph closer to me.

  "It looks quite old," I said, admiring weathered brick and slate.

  "It is and it isn't. Was built in the seventeen-hundreds, did all right until maybe twenty years ago, when bad wiring did it in. I remember seeing the smoke, was on patrol, thought one of my neighbor's farmhouses was burning. Some historical society took an interest. It's supposed to look just like it used to inside and out.

  "You get to it by this secondary road right here" - he tapped another photograph - "which is less than two miles west of Route Sixty and about four miles west of the Anchor Bar, where the girls were last seen alive the night before."

  "Who discovered the bodies?"

  Marino asked, eyes roaming the photograph spread.

  "A custodian who worked for the church. He came in Saturday morning to clean up, get things ready for Sunday. Says he had just pulled in when he spotted what looked like two people sleeping in the grass about twenty feet inside the cemetery's front gate. The bodies were visible from the church parking lot. Doesn't seem whoever did it was concerned about anybody finding them."

  "Am I to assume there was no activity at the church that Friday night?"

  I asked.

  "No, ma'am. It was locked up tight, nothing going on."

  "Does the church ever have activities scheduled for Friday nights?"

  "They do on occasion. Sometimes the youth groups get together on Friday nights. Sometimes there's choir practice, things like that. The point is, if you selected this cemetery in advance to kill someone, it wouldn't make a whole lot of sense. There's no guarantee the church would be dese
rted, not on any night of the week. That's one of the reasons I figured from the start that the murders were random, the girls just met up with someone, maybe in the bar. There isn't much about these cases to make me think the homicides were carefully planned."

  "The killer was armed," I reminded Montana. "He had a knife and a handgun."

  "The world's full of folks carrying knives, guns in their cars or even on their person," he said matter-of-factly.

  I collected the photographs of the bodies in situ and began to study them carefully.

  The women were less than a yard from each other, lying in the grass between two tilting granite headstones. Elizabeth was facedown, legs slightly spread, left arm under her stomach, right arm straight and by her side. Slender, with short brown hair, she was dressed in jeans and a white pullover sweater stained dark red around the neck. In another photograph, her body had been turned over, the front of her sweater soaked with blood, eyes the dull stare of the dead. The cut to her throat was shallow, the gunshot wound to her neck not immediately incapacitating, I recalled from her autopsy report. It was the stab wound to her chest that had been lethal.

  Jill's injuries had been much more mutilating. She was on her back, face so streaked by dried blood that I could not tell what she had looked like in life, except that she had short black hair and a straight, pretty nose. Like her companion, she was slender. She was dressed in jeans and a pale yellow cotton shirt, bloody, un-tucked, and ripped open to her waist, exposing multiple stab wounds, several of which had gone through her brassiere. There were deep cuts to her forearms and hands. The cut to her neck was shallow and probably inflicted when she was already dead or almost dead.

  The photographs were invaluable for one critical reason. They revealed something that I had not been able to determine from any of the newspaper clippings or reports I had reviewed in their cases on file in my office.

  I glanced at Marino and our eyes met.

  I turned to Montana. "What happened to their shoes?"

  14

  You know, it's interesting you should mention that," Montana replied. "I never have come up with a good explanation for why the girls took their shoes off, unless they were inside the motel, got dressed when it was time to leave, and didn't bother. We found their shoes and socks inside the Volkswagen."

  "Was it warm that night?"

  Marino asked.

  "It was. All the same, I would have expected them to put their shoes back on when they got dressed."

  "We don't know for a fact they ever went inside a motel room," I reminded Montana.

  "You're right about that," he agreed.

  I wondered if Montana had read the series in the Post, which had mentioned that shoes and socks were missing in the other murder cases. If he had, it did not seem he had made the connection yet.

  "Did you have much contact with the reporter Abby Turnbull when she was covering Jill's and Elizabeth's murders?"

  I asked him.

  "The woman followed me like tin cans tied to a dog's tail. Everywhere I went, there she was."

  "Do you recall if you told her that Jill and Elizabeth were barefoot? Did you ever show Abby the scene photographs?"

  I asked, for Abby was too smart to have forgotten a detail like that, especially since it was so important now.

  Montana said without pause, "I talked to her, but no, ma'am. I never did show her these pictures. Was right careful what I said, too. You read what was in the papers, didn't you?"

  "I've seen some of the articles."

  "Nothing in there about the way the girls were dressed, about Jill's shirt being torn, their shoes and socks off."

  So Abby didn't know, I thought, relieved.

  "I notice from the autopsy photographs that both women had ligature marks around their wrists," I said. "Did you recover whatever might have been used to bind them?"

  "No, ma'am."

  "Then apparently he removed the ligatures after killing them," I said.

  "He was right careful. We didn't find any cartridge cases, no weapon, nothing he might have used to tie them up. No seminal fluid. So it doesn't appear he got around to raping them, or if he did, no way to tell. And both were fully clothed. Now, as far as this girl's blouse being ripped" - he reached for a photograph of Jill "that might have happened when he was struggling with her."

  "Did you recover any buttons at the scene?"

  "Several. In the grass near her body."

  "What about cigarette butts?"

  Montana began calmly looking through his paperwork. "No cigarette butts."

  He paused, pulling out a report. "Tell you what we did find, though. A lighter, a nice silver one."

  "Where?"

  Marino asked.

  "Maybe fifteen feet from where the bodies were. As you can see, an iron fence surrounds the cemetery. You enter through this gate."

  He was showing us another photograph. "The lighter was in the grass, five, six feet inside the gate. One of these expensive, slim lighters shaped like an ink pen, the kind people use to light pipes."

  "Was it in working order?"

  Marino asked.

  "Worked just fine, polished up real nice," Montana recalled. "I'm pretty sure it didn't belong to either of the girls. They didn't smoke, and no one I talked to remembered seeing either one of them with a lighter like that. Maybe it fell out of the killer's pocket, no way to know. Could have been anybody who lost it, maybe someone out there a day or two earlier sightseeing. You know how folks like to wander in old cemeteries looking at the graves."

  "Was this lighter checked for prints?"

  Marino asked.

  "The surface wasn't good for that. The silver's engraved with these crisscrosses, like you see with some of these fancy silver fountain pens."

  He stared off thoughtfully. "The thing probably cost a hundred bucks."

  "Do you still have the lighter and the buttons you found out there?"

  I asked.

  "I've got all the evidence from these cases. Always hoped we might solve them someday."

  Montana didn't hope it half as much as I did, and it wasn't until after he left some time later that Marino and I began to discuss what was really on our minds.

  "It's the same damn bastard," Marino said, his expression incredulous. "The damn squirrel made them take their shoes off just like he done with the other couples. To slow them down when he led them off to wherever it was he planned to kill them."

  "Which wasn't the cemetery," I said. "I don't believe that was the spot he had selected."

  "Yo. I think he took on more than he could handle with those two. They weren't cooperating or something went down that freaked him out - maybe having to do with the blood in the back of the Volkswagen. So he made them pull over at the earliest opportunity, which just happened to be a dark, deserted church with a cemetery. You got a map of Virginia handy?"

  I went back to my office and found one. Marino spread it open on the kitchen table and studied it for a long moment.

  "Take a look," he said, his face intense. "The turnoff for the church is right here on Route Sixty, about two miles before you get to the road leading to the wooded area where Jim Freeman and Bonnie Smyth were killed five, six years later. I'm saying we drove right past the damn road leading to the church where the two women was whacked when we went to see Mr. Joyce the other day."

  "Good God," I muttered. "I wonder - "

  "Yeah, I'm wondering, too," Marino interrupted. "Maybe the squirrel was out there casing the woods, selecting the right spot when Dammit surprised him. He shoots the dog. About a month later, he's abducted his first set of victims, Jill and Elizabeth. He intends to force them to drive him to this wooded area, but things get out of control. He ends the trip early. Or maybe he's confused, rattled, and tells Jill or Elizabeth the wrong road to turn off on. Next thing, he sees this church and now he's really freaked, realizes they didn't turn where they were supposed to. He may not have even known where the hell they were."

  I trie
d to envision it. One of the women was driving and the other was in the front passenger's seat, the killer in the back holding a gun on them. What had happened to cause him to lose so much blood? Had he accidentally shot himself? That was highly unlikely. Had he cut himself with his knife? Maybe, but again, it was hard for me to imagine. The blood inside the car, I had noted from Montana's photographs, seemed to begin with drips on the back of the passenger's headrest. There were also drips on the back of the seat with a lot of. blood on the floor mat. This placed the killer directly behind the passenger's seat, leaning forward. Was his head or face bleeding? A nosebleed? I proposed this to Marino.

 
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