Jesus Saves, Chapter Seventy

The room was quiet. The reporter looked at Michael sadly. The story had ended. Almost.

She looked away. “Do you still have a picture of the woman who called herself Misty?”

He nodded. “Of course. I even have my journal. The one recounting all my nightmares. I don’t know why I keep either one. I never look at them. Third Precinct should still have all the evidence from the case, though they might not want anyone to go through it…unless they are family.”

The reporter looked back at him. “Can I see the picture?”

He reached into his shirt pocket. “Of course.” He handed her the picture. “I am still looking for her family. If only to say I’m sorry for not getting in touch with them sooner. Perhaps this all could have been avoided had we just known who her family was.”

The reporter went pale. “My God!”

He looked over at her. “What is it?”

The reporter looked up at him from the picture. “This is my sister! She was raped in Seattle about ten years ago. She went to face her attacker and never returned home. We’d assumed that she had gotten closure.”

He looked over at her. “What was her name?”

She looked down. “Celeste Marie Hanover. She was born 1974, in Seattle, Washington.”

He looked away, saddened. “So her first name was Celeste. I should have known. Most first aliases seem to have the person’s real name at some level. Either a first of middle. Any idea why she might pick other names?”

She shook her head. “Not unless there were posters on the walls where she used the names for the first time.”

He nodded. “That could have been. It was New Orleans, after all. Everything is over the top there, and they love their movie posters. If you like, I can contact the precinct and have her exhumed and sent home, although she is buried next to the man she loved.”

The reporter shook her head. “No. Let her remain. Maybe I will stop in there and pick up any of her personal stuff that isn’t really important to the case. I mean, not evidence. Something we, as her family, can bury for closure.”

He nodded. “I will call.”

She looked over at him. “Any of the places she stayed still standing?”

He smiled sadly. “Dom’s house and maybe Nelson’s house. But the condos burned down shortly after her death. Some say arson, I say that the ghosts of those she killed there wanted to erase the place from memory. You can believe however you like, but after what I have been through, I can only believe it to be this way.”

She smiled. “I will take your word for it. You knew how the place felt.”

He looked down. “It was haunted, yes. A very cold and disturbing place. And a presence was there. Dark and hateful. Almost malicious.”

A silence grew between them. She got up to leave. He looked up at her. “Before you leave, can you tell me a little more about your sister? How was she before she was attacked?”

She turned away. “She was a nice person, Mr. Sherman. She had never been in trouble with the law. It wasn’t until after she was attacked and had left to do as her therapist had instructed her, that we began receiving disturbing reports that she had gotten in bad with the law in a few cities.”

He sat up. “Like where, exactly?”

She turned back to him. “Reno. San Francisco. San Diego. She followed him everywhere just trying to get closure.

“We tried to talk her out of it, of course, but her therapist had too much of a hold. He told her that the only way to put it all behind her was to face the one who had done it and tell him how much he had ruined her life. Along the way, she got mixed up with the Mafia and ended up In New Orleans.”

He nodded. “Sometimes, professionals aren’t as professional as they want their clients to think. I know. I was subject to someone similar. My wife left me because of it all. My children rarely come to see me, and I don’t blame them. I screwed up their lives after it was all said and done.”

She put her hand on his shoulder. “I am sorry to hear that. They’ll come back someday. I have faith in them.”

He smiled up at her. “What can you tell me about the tattoo she had on her left shoulder?”

She glanced down. “Jesus Saves?” He nodded. She giggled. “It was a teenage bet. I bet her that she wouldn’t get a tat. If she lost, she would pay me $25. If she won, I was to get a tattoo of similar motif.” She pulled the strap of her dress over just enough for him to make out the almost invisible cross. “Our parents were strict. Despised worldly things almost to the point of being overbearing. They hated tattoos most of all. And piercings. Even of the ears. We were a couple of rebellious teens. Close enough in age that we could almost pass as twins.

“Mom went ballistic when we got the tattoos. Dad would have beat us half to death if she hadn’t stepped in and reminded him that he had once been our age. From that point on, we were no longer his favorites.

“When she got raped, he tried to place the blame on her. The way she dressed. The way she walked. The way she supposedly flirted.

“But he had it wrong. Celeste always dressed conservatively. Nothing above the knee. Hell. half the time, it wasn’t above the ankle. And always long sleeved and not very figure-flattering.

“I, on the other hand, dressed like a little slut. Hell. I will admit that I was what I dressed as. I was the trouble maker. The one who goaded. The one always making bets and pushing.

“I grew up rather rapidly after she was raped. I suddenly saw what happened to someone when they were abused and realized that I was inviting the same. I graduated high school, swore I would find Celeste, and would take care of her.

“then, we stopped receiving word about her about ten years ago. Around the time she disappeared in New Orleans. Mom and dad gave up hope and believed that she had been killed. I never gave up. Mom died three years ago. Dad, a year this September. I am the only family she would have had left. And my husband. Now, we are the only family who can bury her memory and gain closure.”

Her tears glistened, even in the darkened room. He bowed his head. “I am sorry. If it helps, we did put out a search for er family at the beginning of the case. Before the murders started. And even before the last round of murders. We got no answer. She remained a mystery to us.”

She nodded. “I know. I saw the fliers. But I didn’t recognize her then. She looked so different.”

She turned and walked out, leaving him staring after her. As she went down his front steps, she passed Reilly and Danforth who stared after her. Had they just seen a ghost? Or had their eyes just played tricks on them?

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Jesus Saves, Chapter Sixty-Nine

Justin was awakened by the realization that he was being stripped. He tried to move, but he couldn’t. As feeling began to creep back into his body, he felt her climbing on top of him. He slid his hand under the pillow and instinctively grasped the handle of his gun.

Opening his eyes, his gaze was met by the knife that hovered above him. Ah, Shit! Groggily, he swung the gun out. He had cocked it under the pillow, unconsciously. He raised it chest-level as the knife swung down and pulled the trigger just as he felt the blade bite into his chest. His attacker collapsed on top of him.

He knew he was mortally wounded. His friends wouldn’t reach him in time. At least he would get to see Evangeline. He smiled as he slipped into darkness.

***

His three would-be rescuers heard the shot. Michael staggered back, suddenly weak. Reilly braced him and they continued up the stairs.They had to reach their friend.

They had no idea which apartment he was in. Nor where the second man had been put. But they knew he was in one of them. Michael motioned without a sound.

Reilly and Danforth chose a side of the hall and began breaking in the doors. Each time, they were greeted by emptiness. Going two rooms at a time, they searched vainly until they came to her own apartment. Though it was empty, they found her keys. The master set to every apartment. They would make searching a lot easier.

In the next room, they found him. He’d already died, the knife still sticking out of his chest. She lay on top of him, as if she had been having sex with him. Her hand still clutched the knife as she lay there. Caught in the act.

One bullet had ended the case. One bullet had stopped the murders. It was over. She had claimed one more of their own as a victim, but he had taken her down with him.

Michael turned away. “Get the teams up here. Find the other victim. We’ll want to search every inch of this complex for any clue not already in our possession.”

Reilly looked at him. “We have a ton of new clues out in both dumpsters.”

“And maybe some down in the basement as well,” Danforth agreed.

Michael looked at his friends. “We’ll let the teams bag and tag.”

The two officers nodded. Michael left the complex. He’d had enough. In a few days, after he had his reports done, he was going to leave the force. There was no tomorrow for Justin and it was his fault. He’d allowed his friend to be the bait.

And their killer had taken the bait. Or had there been more to it? Suddenly, he was tired. He felt old. Too old for his age.

He headed home. He had to make up time with Arlene. And the kids. Then, they would have to figure out how to explain to Justin’s kids why their daddy wasn’t ever coming home. God, that was going to be painful.

***

A week later, the precinct held a policeman’s funeral for Justin. They buried him a hero. And rightfully so. He had died in the line of duty. Michael only wished that he had also died that night.

But he hadn’t. And life would never be the same. Though the nightmares had ceased, He still had the guilt. The guilt of not having been the one to take it for the team. the guilt of not knowing that he had been sending his friend to his death.

Had they known the full extent of what they had been dealing with, perhaps things would have been different. But they had no clue what they had been up against until it was too late. It hadn’t hit Michael until days later, after the whole thing was done. He doubted that Reilly or Danforth had ever realized. It didn’t matter by then.

Each of the survivors were given citations for valor, but Michael felt as if it was empty. He hadn’t been valiant. Hell. He hadn’t been brave at all. Nor had he been a hero.

He had simply followed a hunch and been two seconds too late to save the only lives that mattered. He shook his head. Nothing made sense anymore. Nothing mattered. Well, almost nothing.

He turned in his letter of resignation, then began cleaning out his desk. As he did, memories flooded in with every scrap of paper, every object. Memories that hurt, no matter how funny they had been at the time. They hurt because his friend and partner was no longer there to joke with. Justin was gone. Nothing would bring him back.

He stuck them all in a single box. When he was done, he took his badge and his gun and turned them in. He wouldn’t be needing them anymore. He was done. Even though he wasn’t technically off the force for another couple weeks, he took his one leave of absence. It would help him heal.

He took his box out to his car. Setting it on the hood, he turned back around and took one last look at what had been his second home for almost ten years. He opened the passenger door and sat down. Putting his head in his hands, he began to cry. For Justin. For Evangeline. For all the victims. Most of all, for Justin’s children. And the killer as well.

After a few minutes, he rose and wiped the tears from his eyes. Grabbing the box, he sat it on the seat, then closed the door. He went around to the driver’s side. Opening the door, he got in and started his car. Closing the door and putting on his seat belt, he drove home.

***

Reilly and Danforth stood before the chief. Reilly was first to speak. “Sir, We wish to leave the force. For us, it ended when we lost Justin. And now, without Mike, we are nothing. Mike knew where to look and for what. We merely carried out his instructions.”

The chief looked at Danforth. “Do you feel the same way?”

Danforth nodded. “Yes sir. You can replace a team, but to try to replace individuals from a team and have it work as smoothly is asking for trouble. Besides. This case ate us all alive. We were all used up before it ended, and all have suffered because of it. Even Justin was going to retire after this case.”

The chief nodded. “I know. He submitted his resignation the day of his death.”

Jesus Saves, Chapter Sixty-Eight

Reilly opened the first trash bin. The unmistakable odor of rotten blood hit his nostrils and made him want to retch. He flashed his light into it, half expecting to find a body. But did not.

Instead, it seemed to be filled with bloody towels. And bloody dresses. Behind the second stood mattresses, both sides slit open as if a knife had been stabbed into them several times. It was too dark to tell if the stains could still be seen, But he reckoned that they were still evident.

He hit the button on his shoulder mic. “Mike. It’s all here. I would like to move inside and check things out. Like the basement and some of the empty apartments, if possible.”

Michael’s voice came across the talkie. “Go ahead. But be quick.”

He nodded to Danforth. They headed around to the front of the first building of the complex. Entering, they made the decision to check out the second in similar fashion. A quick once over. Something unnoticeable.

They only hoped that they would be finished before she returned. They didn’t want to be inside the building when she returned. They wanted to be back inside their car by then.

Reilly looked over at his friend. “Remember. Quick. Don’t take too long. We can’t afford to get caught in here.”

Danforth nodded. “Affirmative.”

Upon entering, Both felt a cold chill. Almost as if there was an unwelcoming presence there. Reilly suppressed the urge to run out and call the whole search off. They had to know. They had to know what happened to the super and the maintenance man.

They tried every door. All were locked. No need to search them, yet. Not without cause.

The door leading to the basement was unlocked. Almost as if it was still in use by someone. Was she doing her own maintenance? If so, where had she learned to do so?

As they descended the stairs, they saw the blood splatters. Somebody had went down these stairs with blood on them. Either they had been wounded, or they had been the killer. It looked as if they had fell down the stairs, though. That would have made them wounded. Badly.

***

Michael watched as Justin and another man exited the pub with their suspect. They went to a car parked on the street not far from the pub and got in. They turned around and headed back toward the complex.

He picked up the receiver to his CB and hit the squelch. “Reilly. Get your asses out of the building. They’re headed your way. Justin is compromised. Be ready to pursue into the building, but hold back so she doesn’t know that you’re there. I am on my way.”

He waited for the car to be several blocks away before he turned his own car around and headed for the complex. He only hoped that Reilly and Danforth were already out and back in their car. Last thing he needed was to spark her suspicion.

“Copy that,” came Reilly’s reply after what seemed an eternity, “on our way out the back.”

He knew it would take them a three-block walk to get to their car. Perhaps it was best they didn’t see Justin in the condition he was in. But then, they all would get a view when they moved in.

He drove as fast as he could. He had to help his friend. He had to make sure Justin lived for his kids. If he did not, he would never forgive himself.

Why wouldn’t his car move any faster? Damn. It was like he was going in slow motion. Everything seemed to have slowed down. But why?

Three blocks away, he saw his friends round the corner of the complex as she led their friend and the other man into the first building. They had seen Justin. Damn.

Michael prayed that they would not rush in too quickly. Too emotionally. They didn’t need any accidents. Rashness led to accidents.

He watched as Reilly gently held Danforth back. It was almost as if to say, not yet. Danforth seemed to understand, and stayed beside Reilly. The two stopped just short of the doors. and waited for Michael.

Michael parked and got out. Crossing the street, he met his friends at the door. They looked at him. He led them back inside the building.

They could see that he had gone pale. Reilly looked at him questioningly. “You alright, boss?”

Michael smiled. “I’m fine. Let’s try the elevators. I doubt she stayed on this floor. she might take them to the floor where her apartment is. But not into her own apartment.”

Danforth pushed the ‘up’ button. And they waited. When the doors didn’t open when they should have, Michael and Reilly pried them open. What they found astounded them.

The cables had been cut. Michael shook his head. Had to give it to her, she was resourceful. Maybe she knew they were on to her. Maybe she intended to kill herself after this last round.

There were a million possibilities. He looked at his friends. “We take the stairs.”

They scrambled for the stairs. They had to reach their friend before he became another one of her victims. There were four children who counted on them. They couldn’t let those young’uns down.

***

She led Justin into the bedrooms of one of the empty apartments next to hers. She led the other young gentleman to another nearby room. Up until that point, he felt fine. But once in the room, he was suddenly overcome by a bout of exhaustion. Abnormally deep exhaustion. He suspected that he’d been drugged, but had no way of proving it. He thought back on the evening.

“Gimme a soda,” he’d told the bartender, I’m on duty.

“Gotcha pullin’ duty, eh?” came the reply, as the bartender had filled his request.

He’d watched their suspect settle at the end of the bar. That had been unusual. Every time before, they had been told that she requested a table. Why had she decided to sit at the bar? What had changed?

He had sat there, pondering this as he sipped on his soda. He’d set the empty glass on the bar. The bartender had come by with another full glass.

“From the lady at the other end of the bar.”

“No alcohol tonight, sorry.” He’d replied.

The bartender had looked at him. “It’s non-alcoholic. It’ll make you the envy of all the men here tonight. She doesn’t buy unless she’s interested in you.”

It had to have been the drink, he thought, as he got overly tired. Perhaps she was able to slip something into it without the bartender seeing. And then, there was something about her perfume. That peppermint was very hypnotic. And the way she danced!

It had almost been as if she had been weaving a spell! He sat down on the bed. He needed to rest a minute. Shake the cobwebs out. He slipped his gun under the pillow just in case. Then, darkness consumed him.

Jesus Saves, Chapter Sixty-Seven

Justin arrived home around six. As he got things ready, He thought about everything he needed to do. He needed to have Arlene babysit his kids. If things went well, this would be the last time he would have to do this. If not, well…he hated to think of the what-ifs.

He dialed Michael’s home number and waited until there was an answer. “Arlene? dis is Justin. C’n you look after my chillun for de evening? Yes. We got de go-ahead on the case. Yes. It’ll be an all-niter, I t’ink. Jus’ depends if we catch ‘er. Merci, ma amie. I owe you.”

He hung up. The kids were already at Michael’s house, so there wasn’t any need to worry. they were in good hands. Arlene had been like a second mother to them anyway.

He laid his cell phone down and began to get ready to take a shower. He needed to smell the part, not just look it. He laid out his best casual suit and shirt. No need to get all formal. He just had to look sexy enough to draw attention. He smiled.

Stripping down to boxers and under shirt, he slipped into the bathroom. Fifteen minutes later, he emerged, a towel wrapped about his waist. He quickly dressed and splashed on a little cologne. He smiled. He was going to knock all the beautiful ladies over. He only hoped that he looked good enough to draw their suspect.

Once this was over, he was going to leave the force. This case had cost him too much. He didn’t want to lose everything else. He wanted to be around for his children.

He sat down for a moment and put his head in his hands. He took a deep breath and then got up. He had a job to do. He rehearsed every line. Which would be the best?

***

Misty called the cab company. “Can you send James around?”

She always asked for him personally. He knew the best clubs in the city. She watched out the window for him, as he drew near, she picked up her purse, keys, and left the apartment. She got into the elevator and went to the lobby. Walking out the front door, she went to his cab and got in.

She had not noticed the police car across the street or the unmarked car behind it. She wasn’t looking for them. She had only one thing on her mind. Well, two. Sex and dancing.

James looked back at her through the mirror. “Where to tonight, madam?”

She smiled. She liked how he called her madam. “The French Quarter, James. Lonely Hearts I believe.”

He smiled. “You got it.”

They drove on in silence. twenty minutes later, he was in front of the pub. She nodded. “Thank you, James.” She handed him the fare, plus a large tip.

He looked at the wad of bills in surprise. “Th-thank you, madam.”

She turned away. “You’re welcome, James. I won’t be needing you anymore tonight. Have a great night.”

He watched her walk away. Man, she knew how to make herself irresistible! After she disappeared, he pulled away from the curb and drove off.
He was surprised as a policeman pulled him over three blocks away and took him in for questioning.

***

“She just went into the pub a block from your apartment, Justin,” Michael said into his phone, “it’s showtime. OK. Will have your back. Yes. I have Reilly and Danforth watching her complex. I had Officer Malachi take the cabby into custody.”

He watched as Justin came out of the door to the stairs that led to his apartment. He watched his friend do a fairly good impression of John Travolta’s swagger from Saturday Night Fever as he walked down the sidewalk. He couldn’t help but smile. Justin was going to milk this for all it was worth. Damn showoff.

“Sir,” Malachi’s voice came crackling over the CB, “The cabby checked out. He only takes her one way every night, never both ways. He has never seen any of the victims. at least not with our suspect. And his logs put him anywhere from six blocks to six miles from the clubs or any of the scenes. In fact, he is off before midnight and with his wife and children before the night is over. She is usually his last fare.”

Michael now saw the connection with the victims and the dumping of their vehicles, if they weren’t killed at their homes. They couldn’t be connected with the scene of actual death. That meant that the scenes had to be found. Somehow.

He picked up his CB and pressed the Squelch. “Reilly. Danforth.” He waited.

Reilly answered. “We’re here.”

He pressed the button again. “While you are waiting for her return, go search the dumpsters. I know we don’t have the warrants to do so, but do it anyway. This is not an official search. It is simply to satisfy a hunch.”

Reilly automatically knew what the hunch was. “OK. No collection, just a look-see. I think I know what you are thinking. We’ll note everything we find there.”

Michael smiled, satisfied. “Thank you.”

***

Reilly nudged his partner. “Danforth. Get a couple pairs of latex gloves. We have some dumpster diving to do.”

Danforth looked over and grinned. “Will we need rifles to fend off the over-sized city-bred rats and roaches?”

Reilly chuckled. “We might. Never know. All I know is we are looking for something. Anything.”

Danforth nodded. “Any unofficial evidence that links our suspect with the murders.”

Reilly looked over at his friend. “Really. You must be psychic. You got all that out of his instructions?”

Danforth nodded. “Why else would he ask us to do unofficial dumpster diving while the suspect was away?”

Reilly got out of the car. “Then let’s get to it, shall we?”

Danforth followed suit. “Let’s do.”

As they walked over to the parking lot of the complex, Reilly looked over at his partner. “How long you think we got?”

Danforth shrugged. “Maybe an hour, maybe four. Why?”

Reilly looked away. “I was thinkin’ that if we found what I think Mike thinks we’ll find, we’ll want to explore her complex as well.”

Jesus Saves, Chapter Sixty-Six

Divers had located at least six cars. All within six hours, and all within thirty feet of each others. All had bodies in them. The first was Dominic. His Thunderbird was unmistakeable. The others just fell into line according to who was missing. Every man who’d gone missing from the condo complex. About thirty men in all, some of whom had never been reported missing.

The number was about right, though. There was about thirty apartments to the complex, not counting Morgan’s. Seemed Morgan was the only man she hadn’t killed in the complex. But two men were still missing. The super and the Maintenance man. Where were their bodies?

Justin ran his hand over his face. He had never seen so many bodies. Only one body had no wounds. Argyle. The oldest from the condos. He had apparently died of natural causes, stealing at least one actual victim from her.

Then, they came upon a new body. This one was chained to a motorcycle. His eyes had been gouged out and his tongue removed. Along with something far more obvious.

They had found Sam Black. Or what was left of him. Justin shook his head. Poor bastard.

Michael arrived just in time to see Sam’s body pulled out of the river. “Damn!

Justin looked over at his friend. “We foun’ mos’ o’ dem. Mebbe dere be udders, mais, we have no clue.”

Michael shook his head. “Unless there are other newbies to join ol’ Sam, here, I doubt it. If we find anything else it’ll be missing vehicles from the Torkelsen case. Remember, Or current killer only hides those victims she kills in her own territory. Not the ones she kills in their homes. Seems Sam, here, is the latest.”

Reilly appeared. “What took you so long?”

Michael looked at him. “I had a lead to run down. Besides. The chief called me back to HQ. We have our Surveillance writ. That means we stake out the clubs. Anyone up for undercover?”

Justin smiled. “I be. I keep tellin’ ya dat. I don’ have nothin’ better t’ do.”

Michael took a deep breath, Lady’s warning still fresh in his mind. “OK, but be careful. No drinking while in the clubs. Never can tell what she does to get a hold on a man.”

Michael’s cell rang. He answered. Shock came into his eyes as he listened. Danforth was the first to notice, but held his peace. Michael hung up.

What is it?” Danforth inquired.

Michael was pale. “They just found two more victims. A couple more college boys. They’re waiting for us at the address. We are to wrap this up and head straight over.”

Justin looked at his friend. “We done.”

***

She was getting ready for another night on the town. Tonight it would be back at the French Quarter. She liked to keep it fresh. It was easier to get new men if she hit a different club each night.

She looked at her wardrobe. She needed to go shopping. Quite a few of her dresses had vanished. Most of those were her favorites. And her shoes. She was running out of shoes.

Was someone stealing her clothes? If so, why? Were they trying to cause her trouble? Or were they merely trying to get her attention?

If it was the last, they had definitely gained her attention. If she caught them, she would have to deal with them. She didn’t like thieves. They were one of the worst things in life.

She knew. A thief had stolen her beloved Morgan away in the most permanent way. At some point in her past, someone had stolen her memories. Her previous life.

She picked out a dress. A shower was in order. Slipping out of her clothes, she headed for the bathroom. She would finish getting ready after she was done.

***

Michael held a handkerchief over his nose and mouth. The stench was so bad, he knew without a doubt that the body had been here a while. Long enough for decomposition to begin in full. They might not get any clues on these two.

And this was just the first new scene. Three more had been reported and needed to be investigated. Each one had been reported due to the stench coming from the house. And now, he could see why.

He looked at the CSI in charge of the scene. “When you’re done here, would you bag and tag the other scenes? We need to go start surveillance. This has to end.”

The CSI nodded. “Sure. We’ll do the best we can. I will send someone over to each scene to mark it off with tape.”

Michael put a hand on her shoulder. “Thanks. I owe you big for this.”

She smiled. “Just catch this psycho. If you do, you’ll be all paid up. Otherwise it’ll be owing me a beer.”

Michael knew that the last comment was more jest than serious. No one ever really expected a beer. They tended to believe that the case would get solved and things would return to normal, no matter how difficult it seemed to be.

He smiled back. “Budweiser? or Miller?”

She shook her head. “Local micro-brew.”

He chuckled. “You’re on.”

He turned and left the scene. Outside, he was joined by Justin and the others. Reilly looked over at him, expectantly. So did Danforth.

He looked at Justin. “Ready to go under cover?”

the Cajun grinned. “Oui.”

He smiled. “Then go get dressed like you’re on the prowl for some woman flesh, Tiger. Time to put on your lady-killer act. But no drinking on the job. You can only have Shirley Temples or the other virgin drinks. Nothing with alcohol. Not until we are done.”

Reilly looked at Michael. “What about us?”

Michael looked at him. “Call HQ. Get as many beat officers as you can. We need to watch every club in this city. find out which one she goes into and send Justin in as our bait. We should have two per car as backup. You two will be with me watching her apartment. I will follow her to the club. You will stay there. ”

Reilly and Danforth nodded. Their instructions were clear. They were on a stakeout. They finally had a suspect and were going to be watching her every move.

Jesus Saves, Chapter Sixty-Five

The foot print could not be used for identifying the killer. But there had been fingerprints on a glass. And the screwdrivers that had been used as pegs in the dissection. Still, they were having trouble matching them to any known felon.

Michael had a hunch, though. It had been in the back of his mind since the beginning of the second year after the last of the original killings. He went to the chief with it.

He stood before the chief. “Sir, I know that we can’t go on hunches all the time. still, I can’t help but wonder about the missing cars. What if we were to search every waterway in and around the city for the missing vehicles?”

The chief looked at him. “Why did it take you so long to come to me with this? I would have sent you out years ago if you had asked.”

Michael shook his head. “I don’t know. I have been mulling it around in the back of my mind for some time. Along with the possible idea that we have been looking in the wrong place for our killer. What if she isn’t a registered felon? What if she isn’t in the national database? What if she is in a medical database, though?”

The chief nodded. “You may be right. I will get you the OK to search all waterways. Anything else?”

Michael nodded. “But it is too early to ask.”

The chief cocked his head. “Try me.”

Michael looked away. “Remember, it is only a hunch. I want to start surveillance on the Jane Doe from the rape case that started this whole nightmare. I believe that she now still calls herself Misty Le Grue. NO search warrants, yet. Just a writ allowing surveillance.”

the chief smiled. His star was finally showing his hand. He had a suspect. He wanted to watch that suspect. “I’ll see what I can do.”

Michael felt tons lighter. “Thank you, sir.”

The chief grinned. “Don’t thank me yet. I haven’t gotten you anything.”

Michael turned and left the office. Soon, He hoped, they could find out what was really going on. Maybe then, they could put this nightmare to an end. Perhaps then, life could go back to normal.

***

By noon, Michael had his writ for searching all the waterways. he sent Justin, Reilly and Danforth ahead to supervise the searches. He had them start with the river. While they searched, He headed to the French Quarter to see the priestess.

She smiled as he entered her shop. “How can I help you, Detective?”

He looked at her. “Five nights ago, you contacted me. You said we both know who is behind these killings. I have a hunch, but hunches are not fact. they are theories based on minimal clues.”

She nodded. “I know. But I gave you a clue Back when my dear friend Morgan Le Grue was still alive. I also gave him the same clue. And I still believe that he was the key to why these were not going on for four years. But like you, I could not prove it. And I let it lay until I saw you during Mardi Gras.”

He looked away. “I think I know who is doing it. I think I have known since it started, but didn’t have enough proof to end it.”

She nodded, knowingly. “Who do you think it is?”

He looked back at her. “Misty.”

By the look on her face, he knew he was right. He looked down. Now he knew for sure. But how would they bring her in?

She brought him out of his thoughts. “But that isn’t all that is bothering you.”

He shook his head. “No.”

She took his hand. “What else?”

He looked back up. “I have been having nightmares. Or maybe they’re night terrors. I am not sure. I have never had them before.”

She let go of his hand. “Have you kept record?”

He nodded. “Yes.”

She looked into his eyes. “Did you bring any with you?”

He smiled sadly. “I brought them all.”

He reached into a bag and procured a spiral notebook. He handed it to her. Taking it, she opened it and began to read. On the third page, she looked up. There was shock in her eyes.

She took a deep breath. “My God!” she whispered. “She linked with you.”

It was his turn to be shocked. “But how?”

She looked down at the page. “If the killer is Misty, then the moment you first helped her.”

He was in shock. “But why has it waited until now to open? And how the hell do I get the damn thing to shut? It’s ruining my life and my health.”

She shook her head. “Perhaps, she was still too broken to link during her first killings. I don’t know. Now, after having been loved, she is undoubtedly stronger and more willful. Even if she isn’t able to remember what she has done or to whom.

“Did she, by chance, leave a sort of diary the first time?” The question seemed odd to Michael.

He nodded. “Yes.”

She was now staring at him. “what were they written in?”

He looked over at her, the realization finally dawning on him. “The victims’ blood. They didn’t start until after Nelson. They ended Just after Misty married Morgan.”

She nodded. “he was with her from their wedding day on. They went to Bali for their honeymoon. After that, he took her everywhere.”

He finally saw the pattern. “And the killings stopped.”

She smiled sadly. “Only by solving this case will you ever get free of her. I fear that she is going to take an unexpected victim with her, though. Someone very close to you. Be careful.”

He looked at her. “So there is nothing you can do to help me?””

She shook her head. “Nothing legal, no. I can give you a natural sleep aid, non-habit forming, of course. And very legal. But beyond that, I can do nothing. Not without risking harm to you.”

Jesus Saves, Chapter Sixty-Four

Mardi Gras was swiftly approaching again. For five years, the case had been cold. On what would have been the sixth, it began anew. Now, they were heading into the seventh year.

The killer had stepped up her game. Two men a night were now her target. Each scene was more gruesome than the ones before. Michael was getting to where he couldn’t stomach it anymore. He hoped for an end.

Hell. He prayed for an end. Some sign. Some clue.

His nightmares grew worse. So much so, that he began sleeping on the sofa to protect Arlene. He didn’t want to harm her unintentionally. And, naturally, she understood.

In their seventeen years together, they had never slept separately. But he had never had nightmares, either. Or were these night terrors? He was unsure.

Even before he married, he had never had nightmares. Or even the possible night terrors. Hell. He had never had so much as a dream.

Now, he just wished they would end. Perhaps he had been given a clue as to how to get them to end. Could Lady help him? He had to find out.

Since he knew that there would be no Mardi Gras detail this year, primarily because of the case, he would have to figure out how to go and talk to the priestess. Maybe on a lunch break?

If he did, he would have to set up things for the others to do. Reilly and Danforth would be the hardest two…unless he were to have a break in the case and they found the evidence they needed for a surveillance stakeout. Then, he could set the duo to watching the killer in their car, while sending Justin for a warrant.

He only hoped it could be that easy. He hoped for a quick end to the case so that things could get back to normal. He hoped that they would all come out of this alive. But it had already claimed one life from their midst. It could very well claim more.

He shuddered to think of it. But it was a very real possibility. Someone, one of their own, could very well become a victim. Maybe indirectly. Maybe by her hand. Or they all could.

She already controlled their lives with every killing. She had their undivided attention and she knew it. She knew how to make them follow her every move. He put his head in his hands.

***

Sam Black was a part time bouncer. He had also served time. But that had been long ago. Still, he saw women now much the way he did then. As playthings. Toys. Sex objects.

And he had been watching her for some time now. He could trace her body in the air from memory. Yes, he had been stalking her. But harmlessly. Sure, he planned on getting her attention. Claiming her as his. But not until he knew every one of her secrets.

Was she married? Did she already have a boyfriend? A lover? Or was she just a high end hooker like all the rest?

If she was married, he would cause a split. If she had a boyfriend or lover, he would take care of them as well. If she was a hooker, then he would buy her for himself from whoever was her pimp or madam. In any event, he would have her. He would possess her.

If she was none of the above, then he had an opening he could get into and talk her into being his. He grinned. She would love being a biker chick. He would see that she was.

He watched The Lonely Hearts Pub. Soon, she would be arriving with that stupid cabby. At least she was consistent. Unless the cabby was her pimp. But he doubted that. The guy looked too honest.

Misty had noticed Sam following her. He had followed her to each place she had gone each night. After an hour, he would leave. She knew her actions disgusted him. Still, it was her life. She didn’t care what he thought. He didn’t own her. No one did.

What the hell. Tonight, she would deal with him. Maybe if she did, he would leave her alone. She looked back from her seat in the cab. Yup, he was there.

“Any club’ll do, James,” She stated.

James looked back in the mirror. “Yes’m.”

He stopped the taxi. Club 86. Good. New territory. She’d never been here.

The bouncer let her in without question. She looked back to see if Sam had made it through the bouncer as well. He had. Good. She had plans for him.

She slid back to a secluded table, where she could watch the dancing for a while. She knew that she’d lost Sam, but not for long. She knew he would find her. She wanted him to.

“I have watched you for a long time,” He hissed, finally finding her, “an’ there’s just one thing I can’t figure out.”

She smiled innocently. “And that would be?”

He stared at her. “Are you taken?”

She looked over at him. “Would I be doing this if I were?”

“For all I know,” He responded sourly, “They all pay you for a night.”

She glared at him. “I am no hooker. I only want them for a night’s worth of fun. No more.”

He took a mental step back. “What about the ones you have feelings for?”

She looked away. “Don’t men like you ever read the newspaper? I lost the only man I will ever love a year ago. I don’t want to give my heart away. they would never stay anyway. Only one did, and he was taken from me.”

He sputtered. “I-I’m s-sorry. I d-didn’t mean anything by it. really.”

Her smile returned. “No matter. If you came to ask me to be anything more than a one night stand, then the answer is no. I don’t want anything more.”
He began to object. She held up her hand. “No. you cannot own me. No. You cannot make me yours. Just be happy I am willing to give you one night.”

He slumped, sulking. “Alright. Fair enough.”

She looked away. “Good. Do you dance?”