He saw a light blink on the top floor, and figured that was where Bayer had taken the two girls. Probably their flat.
He watched the brownstone from two until close to four. He couldn't take his eyes away. While he waited he imagined dozens of scenarios that might have brought Famine here. He wondered if the others were in Washington, too. Or was Famine acting alone? Was he playing The Four Horsemen right now?
Shafer waited and waited for Bayer to come out of the brownstone. But he didn't come down, and Shafer grew more impatient and worried and angry. He fidgeted. His breathing became labored. He had lurid, paranoid fantasies about what Bayer might have done up there. Had he killed the two girls? Taken their identification? Was this a trap? He thought so. What else could it be?
Still no George Bayer.
Shafer couldn't stand it any longer. He climbed out of the Jaguar. He stood on the street and stared up at the windows of the flat. He wondered if he, too, were being watched. He sensed a trap, wondered if he should flee.
Christ, where the hell was Bayer? What game was Famine playing? Was there a back way out of the building? If so, why had he left the taxi as evidence? Evidence! Damn him!
But then he saw Bayer finally leave the building. He quickly crossed S Street, got into the cab, and drove away.
Shafer decided to go upstairs. He jogged over to the building and found the wooden front door unlocked. He hurried up the steep, winding stairs. He had a flashlight in one hand, turned it on. His semiautomatic was in the other.
Shafer made his way to the fourth floor. He immediately knew which of the two flats was the right one. A poster for Mary J. Blige's What's the 411 album was on the splintered and scarred door to his right. The girls lived here.
He turned the handle and carefully pushed the door open. He pointed his gun inside, ready.
One of the young girls came out of the bathroom wearing a fluffy black towel on her head, nothing else. She was a hot number with pert little titties. Christ, Famine must have paid for it. What a fool! What a wanker!
'Who the hell are you? What are you doing in here?' the girl shouted angrily.
'I'm Death.' he grinned, and announced, 'I'm here for you and your pretty friend.'
Chapter Twenty-Seven I had gotten home from the John Doe murder scene at a little past three in the morning. I went to bed, but set my alarm for six thirty. I managed to get myself up before the kids went off to school.
'Somebody was out very, very, very late last night.' Jannie started her teasing before I had made it all the way downstairs and into the kitchen. I continued down and found she and Damon in the breakfast nook with Nana.
'Somebody sure looks like they had a late night.' Nana said from her customary cat-bird seat.
'Somebody's cruising for a bruising,' I said to quiet them. 'Now, there's something important I need to tell you before you head out to school.'
'Watch our manners. Always pay attention in class, even if the teacher's boring. Lead with our left if it ever comes to a fight in the school yard.' Jannie offered with a wink.
I rolled my eyes. 'What I was going to say,' 1 said, 'is that you should be especially nice to Ms. Johnson today. You see, last night, Christine said that she'd marry me. I guess that means she's marrying all of us.'
At that point, everything became hugging and loud celebrating in the kitchen. The kids got chocolate milk and bacon grease all over me. I'd never seen Nana happier. And I felt exactly the same. Probably even better than they did.
I eventually made it to work that morning. I had made some progress on the John Doe homicide, and early on Tuesday morning I learned that the man whose body had been dumped on Alabama Avenue was a thirty-four-year-old research analyst named Franklin Odenkirk. He worked at the Library of Congress for the Congressional Research Service.
We didn't release the news to the press, but I did inform Chief Pittman's office as soon as I knew. Pittman would find out anyway.
Once I had a name for the victim, information came quickly and, as it usually is, it was sad. Odenkirk was married and had three small children. He had taken a late flight back from New York that evening, where he'd given a talk at the Rockefeller Institute. The plane landed on time and he deboarded at National around ten. What happened to him after that was a mystery.
For the remainder of Thursday and Friday, I was busy with the murder case. I visited the Library of Congress, and went to the newest structure, the James Madison Building, on Independence Avenue. I talked to nearly a dozen of Frank Odenkirk's coworkers.
They were courteous and cooperative and I was told repeatedly that Odenkirk, while haughty at times, was generally well-liked. He wasn't known to use drugs or drink to excess; wasn't known to gamble either. He was faithful to his wife. He hadn't been involved in a serious argument at the office for as long as he'd been there.
He was with the Education and Public Welfare Division and spent long days in the spectacular Main Reading Room. There was no apparent motive for his murder, which was what I feared. The killing roughly paralleled the Jane Does so far, but of course the chief of detectives didn't want to hear it. There was no Jane Doe killer, according to him. Why? Because he didn't want to shift dozens of detectives to Southeast and begin an extensive investigation on the basis of my instincts and gut feelings. I had heard Pittman joke that Southeast wasn't part of his city.
Before I left the Madison Building I was compelled to stop and see the Main Reading Room once again. It was newly renovated and I hadn't been there since the work had been done.
I sat at a reader's table and stared up at the amazing dome high over my head. Around the room were stained-glass representations of the seals of forty-eight states; also bronze statues of figures, including Michelangelo, Plato, Shakespeare, Edward Gibbon, and Homer. I could imagine poor Frank Odenkirk doing his work here, and it bothered me. Why had he been killed? Had it been the Weasel?
The death was a terrible shock to everyone who had worked with him, and a couple of Odenkirk's coworkers broke down while talking to me about his murder.
I wasn't looking forward to interviewing Mrs. Odenkirk, but I drove out 295 and 210 to Forest Heights late on Friday afternoon. Chris Odenkirk was home with her mother, and also her husband's parents, who had flown in from Briarcliff Manor in Westchester County, New York. They told me the same story as the people at the Library of Congress. No one in the family knew of anyone who might want to harm Frank. He was a loving father, a supportive husband, a thoughtful son and son-in-law.
At the Odenkirk home, I learned that the deceased had been wearing a green seersucker suit when he left home, his business meeting in New York had run over, and he was nearly two hours late getting to LaGuardia Airport. He generally took a cab home from the airport in Washington because so many flights arrived late.
Even before I went to the house in Forest Heights I had two detectives sent out to the airport. They showed around pictures of Odenkirk, interviewed airline personnel, shopworkers, porters, taxi dispatchers, and cabdrivers.
Around six I went over to the medical examiner's office to hear the results of the autopsy. All the photos and sketches from the crime scene were laid out. The autopsy had run about two and a half hours. Every cavity of Frank Odenkirk's body had been swabbed and scraped and his brain had been removed.
I talked to the medical examiner while she finished up with Odenkirk at about six thirty. Her name was Angelina Torres, and I'd known her for years. We had both started in our jobs at about the same time. Angelina was a tick under five feet and probably weighed around ninety pounds soaking wet.
'Long day, Alex?' she asked. 'You look used and abused.'
'Long one for you too, Angelina. You look good though. Short, but good.'
She nodded, grinned, then stretched her small, slight arms up over her head. She let out a low groan that approximated the way I felt, too.
'Any surprises for me?' I asked, after allowing her to stretch in peace and moan her little heart out.
I hadn't expected anything, but she had some news. 'One surprise.' Angelina said. 'He was sodomized after he died. Someone had sex with him, Alex. Our killer seems to swing both ways.'
Chapter Twenty-Eight On the drive home that evening, I needed a break from the murder case. I thought about Christine, and that was much better, easier on the frontal lobe. I even switched off my beeper. I didn't want any distractions for ten or fifteen minutes.
Even though she hadn't talked about it recently, she still felt my job was too dangerous. The trouble was, she was absolutely right. I sometimes worried about leaving Damon and Jannie alone in the world, and now Christine as well. As I drove along the familiar streets of Southeast near Fifth, I considered whether I could actually leave police work. I'd been thinking about going into private practice and working as a psychologist, but I hadn't done anything to make it happen. It probably meant that I didn't really want to do it.
Nana was sitting on the front porch when I arrived home at around seven thirty. She looked peeved, an expression of hers that I know all too well. She can still make me feel like I'm nine or ten years old and she's the one with all the answers.
'Where are the kids?' I called out as soon as I opened the car door and climbed out. A fractured BaI'man and Robin kite was still up in a tree in the yard and I was annoyed at myself for not getting it down a couple of weeks ago.
'I shackled them to the sink and they're doing the dishes,' Nana said.
'Sorry about missing dinner.' I told her.
Tell that to your children.' Nana said, frowning up a storm. She's about as subtle as a hurricane. 'You better tell them right now. Your friend Sampson called a little earlier. So did your compatriot Jerome Thurman. There's been more murders, Alex. I used the plural noun, just in case you didn't notice. Sampson is waiting for you at the so-called crime scene. Two bodies over in Shaw near Howard University, of all places. Two more young black girls are dead. It won't stop, will it? It never stops in Southeast.'
No, it never does.
Chapter Twenty-Nine The homicide scene was an old crumbling brownstone in a bad section of S Street in Shaw. A lot of college kids and also young professionals live in the up-and-down, mostly middle-class neighborhood. Lately, prostitution has become a problem there. According to Sampson, the two dead girls were both prostitutes who occasionally worked in the neighborhood but mostly over in Retworth.
A single squad car and an EMS truck were parked at the homicide scene. A uniformed patrolman was posted on the front stoop, and he seemed intent on keeping intruders out. He was young, baby-faced, with smooth butterscotch skin. I didn't know him, so I flashed my detective's shield.
'Detective Cross.' He grunted. I sensed that he'd heard of me.
'What do we have so far?' I asked, before I went inside and trudged up four steep flights. 'What do you hear, Officer?'
'Two girls dead upstairs. Both pros, apparently. One of them lived in the building. Murders were called in anonymously. Maybe a neighbor, maybe the pimp. They're sixteen, seventeen, maybe younger. Too bad. They didn't deserve this.'
I nodded, took a deep breath, and then quickly climbed up steep, winding, creaking stairs to the fourth floor. Prostitutes make for difficult police investigations, and I wondered if the Weasel knew that. On average, a hooker out of Fletworth might turn a dozen or more tricks a night, and that's a lot of forensic evidence, just on her body.
The door to apartment 4A was wide open and I could see inside. It was an efficiency - one large room, kitchenette, bath. A fluffy white area rug lay between two daybeds. A lava lamp was undulating green blobs next to several dildos.
Sampson was crouched on the far side of one daybed. He looked like an NBA power forward searching the floor for a missing contact lens.
I walked into a small, untidy room that smelled of incense, peach blossom fragrance, greasy food. A bright red and yellow McDonald's container of fries was open on the couch.
Dirty clothes covered the chairs: bike shorts, short-shorts, Karl Kani urban clothes. At least a dozen bottles of nail polish, remover, files, and cotton balls lay on the floor. There was a heavy, cloying smell of fruity perfume.
I went around the bed to look at the victims. Two very young women, both naked from the waist down. The Weasel had been here -1 could feel it.
The girls were lying one on top of the other, looking like lovers. They looked as if they were having sex on the floor.
One girl wore a blue tank top, the other had on black lingerie. They both had on 'slides', stacked bath sandals that are popular nowadays. Most of the Jane Does had been left naked, but unlike many of the others, we would be able to identify these two fairly easily.
'No actual ID for either girl.' Sampson said, without looking up from his work.
'One of them rents the apartment, though,' I told him.
He nodded. 'Probably pays cash. She's in a cash business.'
Sampson was wearing latex rubber gloves and he was bent down close to the two women.
'The killer wore gloves,' Sampson said, still without looking up at me. 'Don't seem to be fingerprints anywhere. Thats what the techie says. First look-through. They both were shot, Alex. Single shot to the forehead.'
I was still looking around the room, collecting information, letting the details of the murder scene flow over me. I noticed an array of hair products: Soft Sheen, Care Free Curl, styling gel, several wigs. On top of one of the wigs was a green army garrison cap with stripes. It's commonly called a 'cunt cap' among military personnel because it's effective for picking up women, especially in the South. There was also a pager.
The girls were young and pretty. They had skinny little legs, small, bony feet, silver toe rings that looked like they came from the same shop. Their discarded clothes amounted to insignificant little bundles on the bloodied hardwood floor.
In one comer of the small room, there were vestiges of brief childhoods: a lotto game, a stuffed blue bear that was threadbare and looked about as old as the girls, a Barbie doll, a ouija board.
'Take a good look, Alex. It gets weirder and weirder. Our Weasel is starting to freak out.'
I sighed and bent down to see what Sampson had discovered. The smaller, and perhaps the younger of the two gjrls was lying on top. The girl underneath was on her back. Her glazed brown eyes stared straight up at a broken light fixture in the ceiling, as if she had seen something terrible up there.
The girl on top had been positioned with her face, actually her mouth, tilted down into the other girl's crotch.
'Killer played real cute games with them after they were dead,' Sampson said. 'Move the one on top a little. Lift her head, Alex. You see it?'
I saw it. A completely new MO for the Jane Does, at least the ones I knew about. The phrase 'stuck on each other' ran through my mind. I wondered if that was the killer's 'message'. The girl on top was connected to the one underneath - by her tongue.
Sampson sighed and said,'! think her tongue is stapled inside the other girl. I'm pretty sure thats it, Alex. The Weasel stapled them together.'
I looked at the two girls and shook my head. 'I don't think so. A staple, even a surgical one, would come apart on the tongue's surface... Crazy glue would work.'
Chapter Thirty The killer was working faster so I had to do the same. The two dead girls didn't remain Jane Does for very long. I had their names before the ten o'clock news that night. I continued to ignore the explicit orders of the chief of detectives and to investigate what I felt like.
Early the next morning, Sampson and I met at Stamford, the high school that Tori Glover and Marion Cardinal had attended. The murdered girls were seventeen and fourteen years old.
The memory of the homicide scene had left me with a queasy, sick feeling that wouldn't go away. I kept thinking, Christine is right. Get out of this, do something else. It's time.
The principal at Stamford was a small, frail-looking red-haired woman named Robin Schwartz. Her resource officer, Nathan Kemp, had gotten together some students who knew the victims. He had set aside a couple of classrooms for Sampson, Jerome Thurman, and me to use for interviews. Jerome would work in one room, Sampson and me in the other.
Summer school was still in session and Stamford was busy as a mall on a Saturday. We passed the cafeteria on the way there and it was packed at ten thirty. No empty seats anywhere. The room reeked of French fries, the same greasy smell that was in me girl's apartment.
A few kids were making noise, but they were mostly well-behaved. The music of Wu Tang and Jodeci leaked from earphones. The school seemed to be well-run and orderly. Between classes a few boys and girls embraced tenderly, with loosely locked pinkies and the gentlest brushes of cheeks.
'These were not bad girls.' Nathan Kemp told us as we walked. 'I think you'll hear that from other students. Tori dropped out last semester, but her home life was the main reason. Marion was an honor student at Stamford. I'm telling you, guys, these were not bad girls.'
Sampson, Thurman, and I spent the rest of the morning with the kids. We learned that Tori and Marion were popular all right. They were loyal to their friends, funny, usually fun to be around. Marion was described as 'blazing', which meant she was great. Tori was 'buggin' sometimes', which meant she could be a little crazy. Most of the kids hadn't known that the girls were tricking in Petworth, but Tori Glover was said to always have money.
One particular interview would stick in my mind for a while. Evita Cardinal was a senior at Stamford, and also a cousin of Marion's. She wore white athletic pants and a purple stretchy top. A pair of black-rimmed, yellow-tinted sunglasses were propped on top of her head.
She started to cry her eyes out as soon as she sat down across the desk from me.
'I'm real sorry about Marion.' I said, and I was. We just want to catch whoever did this terrible thing. Detective Sampson and I both live nearby in Southeast. My kids go to the Sojourner Truth School.'
The girl looked at me. Her eyes were red-rimmed and wary. 'You won't catch nobody,' she finally said. It was the prevailing attitude in the neighborhood, and it happened to be mostly true. Sampson and I weren't even supposed to be here. I had told my secretary I was out working the murder of Frank Odenkirk. A few other detectives were covering for us.
'How long have Tori and Marion been working in Petworth? Do you know any other girls from school who work over there?'
Evita shook her head. 'Tori was the one working the street in Petworth. Not Marion. My cousin was a good person. They both were. Marion was my little doggie,' Evita said, and the tears came flowing again.
'Marion was there with Tori.' I told her what I knew to be the truth. 'We talked to people who saw her on Princeton Place that night.'
The cousin glared at me. 'You don't know what you're talkin'about, Mister Detective. You're wrong. You ain't got the straight.'
'I'm listening to you, Evita. That's why I'm here.'
'Marion wasn't there to sell her body or like that. She was just afraid for Tori. She went to protection. She never did nothin' bad for money, and I know that for a fact.'
The girl started to sob again. 'My cousin was a good person, my best girlfriend. She was tryin' to just protect Tori and she got herself killed for it. The police won't do nothin'. You never come back here again after today. Never happen. You don't care about us. We're nothin'to nobody,' Evita Cardinal said, and that seemed to say it all.
Chapter Thirty-One We're nothin' to nobody. It was a horrifying and absolutely true statement, and it was at the deepest roots of the Jane Doe investigation, the search for the Weasel. It pretty well summed up George Pittman's cynical philosophy about the inner city. It was also the reason I was feeling tired and numb to the bone by six thirty that night. I believed that the Jane Doe murders were escalating.
On the other hand, I hadn't seen nearly enough of my own kids for the last few days, so I decided I'd better head home. On the way, I thought about Christine and calmed down immediately. Since the time I was a young boy, I've been having a recurring day-dream. I'm standing alone on a cold, barren planet. It's scary, but more than anything, it's lonely and unsettling. Then a woman comes up to me. We begin to hold hands, to embrace, and then everything is all right. That woman was Christine, and I had no idea how she had gotten out of my dreams and into the real world.
Nana, Damon, and Jannie were just leaving the house when I pulled up into the driveway. What was this? I wondered.
Wherever they were going, everybody was dolled up and looking especially nice. Nana and Jannie wore their best dresses and Damon had on a blue suit, white shirt and tie. Damon almost never wears what he calls his 'monkey' or 'funeral' suit.
'Where's everybody going?' I said as I climbed out of the old Porsche. 'What s going on? You all aren't moving out on me?'
'It s nothing,' Damon said, strangely evasive, eyes darting all over the front yard.
'Damon's in the Washington Boys' Choir at school!' Jannie proudly blurted out. 'He didn't want you to know until he made it for sure. Well, he made it. Damon's a chorister now.'
Her brother swatted her on the arm. Not hard, but enough to show he wasn't pleased with Jannie for telling his secret.
'Hey!' Jannie said, and put up her dukes like the little semipro boxer that she is becoming under my watchful eye.
'Hey, hey!' I said, and moved in like a big-time referee, like that guy Mills Lane, who does the big pro fights. 'No prizefighting outside the ring. You know the rules of the fight game. Now what's this about a choir?'
'Damon tried out for the Boys' Choir and he was selected, 'Nana said, and beamed gloriously as she looked over at Damon. 'He did it all by himself.'
'You sing, too?' I said, and beamed at him as well. 'My, my, my.'
'He could be in Boyz n Men, Daddy. Boyz II Boyz, maybe. He's smoo-ooth and silky. His voice is pure.'
'Is that so, Sister Soul?' I said to my baby girl.
'Zatso.' Jannie continued to prattle as she patted Damon on the back. I could tell she was incredibly proud of him. She was his biggest fan, even if he didn't realize it yet. Some day he would.
Damon finally couldn't hold back a big smile, then he shrugged it off. 'No big thing. I sing all right.'
'Thousands of other boys tried out,' Jannie said. 'It is a big thing, biggest in your small life, brother.'
'Hundreds,' Damon corrected her. 'Only hundreds of kids tried out. I guess I just got lucky.'
'Hundreds of thousands!' Jannie gushed, and scooted away before he swatted her like the little gnat she can be sometimes. 'And you were born lucky.'
'Can I come to the practice?' I asked. 'I'll be good. I'll be quiet. I won't embarrass anybody too much.'
'If you can spare the time.' Nana threw a neat jab. She sure doesn't need any boxing lessons from me. 'Your busy work schedule and all. If you can spare the time, come along with us.'
'Sure, Dad,' said Damon, finally.
So I came along.
Chapter Thirty-Two I happily walked the six short blocks to the Sojourner Truth School with Nana and the kids. I wasn't dressed up. They were in their finery, but it didn't matter. There was suddenly a bounce in my step. I took Nana's arm, and she smiled as I tucked her hand into the crook of my arm.