Chapter 19

February 29, 2012 at 12:58 pm (The Truth)

Mack picked Nelle up from VGH and took her to Alpha for sushi. The ambiance allowed them to have a conversation without shouting across the table to be heard. Once they’d placed their orders and perused the quirky menus, Nelle told Mack about her day. It had started with her father showing up on her doorstep once again.

“For a man who was out of your life for the last twenty years, he’s really making up for lost time, isn’t he?” Mack said. He tried to keep his comment light, knowing that these meetings were bothering her.

“I told him he needed to back off and give me space.” Nelle had told her father that her decision to help his son was the right thing to do, but she wouldn’t have her father pressuring her to get the tests and the surgery, if it came to that. “I don’t want him back in my life, even for a short period of time. He’s not interested in me and I’ve realized that I’m not interested in him, either.”

Mack covered her hand with his. “If he comes around you again, call me. I can warn him away in an official capacity.”

Nelle nodded. “He works for Surrey Memorial Hospital in some sort of administrative role. I found that out when I went for the tests. One of the nurses used to work there and she knew him. Apparently he’s not much different toward the women he works with. None of us really registers in his mind.”

Mack’s attention trailed off as soon as Nelle mentioned the hospital. Amy Cronin had worked at Surrey Memorial Hospital and it appeared she had been abducted from there as well. And Nelle’s father had been around when Harris had taken Nelle home twenty years ago.

Nelle watched as Mack’s brain started to turn over an idea. She could see how he withdrew from the conversation. Given the intensity of his current case, she was surprised he could focus on anything else. And she wondered what she had said that triggered this.

“Amy Cronin, our second victim, worked at Surrey Memorial,” Mack said. Even given Nelle’s apparent disinterest in her father’s life, he wondered if she’d harbor some small seed of loyalty toward him. If he voiced what he was thinking, would he ruin what appeared to be the start of a promising relationship?

Mack explained that Amy’s brother, Matthew Cronin, was the sixth boy killed by the Surrey Slayer. He said how it appeared that this killer was picking female targets from the same families the original killer had chosen, only he was killing them in reverse order so far. He waited for her to make the connection.

“You think he’ll come for me,” Nelle whispered.

“I don’t want to think it, but I have to. To keep you safe, I have to think of every possibility. And that includes looking at people who were around then and are still around now.”

Nelle didn’t understand what he was trying to tell her. Her mind couldn’t quite follow the idea of the killer working his way toward her. Just because she was female and her brother had been killed? It didn’t seem logical, but then a serial killer wouldn’t think logically, would he?

“Tell me again about the last day you saw Harris,” Mack said. “Your father was there, right?”

The idea hit her like a truck. He thought her father could be involved. And the idea of it didn’t surprise her as much as she thought it ought to. She recalled that her father had seemed very happy when she’d brought Harris home. He’d waved and smiled and for the briefest of instants she’d thought maybe there was a chance her parents had patched things up. And then the moving truck had arrived.

“My father was there and I remember that he disappeared straight away, after I’d come into the house. He didn’t want to help us load anything into the truck.” Could her father have snuck out the back of the house and chased down Harris? She didn’t know her father well enough to hazard a guess.

Mack needed to check out Nelle’s father. He started to reach for his cell phone and then realized how tacky that would be. Not only because he was having dinner with Nelle, but because he would be calling to investigate her father while having dinner with her.

Nelle smiled as Mack shoved his phone back into his coat pocket. She knew that he wouldn’t step out and make the call while he was with her. And she knew that he wouldn’t enjoy his dinner because his mind would be elsewhere. “Go ahead,” she motioned toward his phone. “Neither of us will feel right if you waste time on dinner. The next girl might not have much time.”

Mack gave her a quick kiss in appreciation before stepping outside. He called Pike first, knowing he would be pouring over the case. Pike answered on the first ring and Mack filled him in on Nelle’s father. “He’s worked at Surrey Memorial for the past thirty years, according to the nurse Nelle talked to.”

“I’ll call the hospital to confirm. We’ll have to create a timeline to determine where he’s been during the times the girls were taken.” Pike talked through the points with Mack, knowing he wasn’t imparting anything new, but needing to get a handle on the enormous task of following Nelle’s father. Trying to determine his whereabouts twenty years ago would be difficult at best, but the case from twenty years ago wasn’t theirs. They had to focus on the killings that were happening now.

Nelle waited for Mack to return. Their food arrived and she decided to dig in. She was hungry and had no idea how long Mack would be. She unconsciously tried to help Mack by trying to remember if her father had appeared back in her life while one of the women was being taken. She had no way of knowing how long the killer had held onto the women, but she knew that Mack’s mother had already been killed before she’d run into her father that first time.

How could her father have done this? The first boy killed had been her brother. She had only been eight when Scott had died and she couldn’t remember what their family life had been like before he’d been killed, but she thought that her father had been very happy. She couldn’t resolve the idea of him killing his son in her head. All he’d ever wanted once his son was gone, was another son.

Had he stolen those other boys in the hopes of replacing the son he’d lost? But why kill his son in the first place? Had it been an accident? She knew so little of what had happened to the boys, aside from what she’d seen on the internet. Could the cops tell if one death had been an accident and the others had been carried out to muddy the evidence on the first one?

Nelle gave up and focused her attention on her graphic novel idea. She’d considered a couple of rewrites and began plotting them in her head as she ate her sashimi. The design of her main characters had prompted the rewrites, but she’d have to sell her publisher on them before she could go ahead with it. First though, she’d lay it all out and see if the ideas worked. Then, if she liked them better than the current story, she’d have to go to New York to talk to her editor. Changes of this magnitude were best seen to in person.

Mack came back to their table twenty minutes later. Nelle was almost finished eating, so she slowed down and managed to finish only a few bites ahead of him. She assumed he would drive her home and then make an excuse to head out. Nelle didn’t want to nag him and she didn’t quite know where their relationship was going. A few nights of incredible sex didn’t give her the right to dictate his life to him. She didn’t think she ever wanted that right.

Mack parked his SUV in front of her apartment and came around to her door. He followed her into the lobby, but took her hands before she could call the elevator. “I need to put a few more hours into this case tonight,” he said.

Nelle was pleasantly surprised that he’d been honest with her. He’d done it before, but honesty wasn’t something she was used to. She nodded and said that she understood.

“I’d like to come by later, but I don’t know how late I’ll be.” It was already nearing eight o’clock and he figured he’d be at it another three hours at least.

“Come by. If my light is on, I’m awake. If the light is off, call me anyway.” Nelle kissed him and then called for the elevator.

Mack waited until it closed before exiting the building and driving to Pike’s house. To save time, and since he’d already known of Pike’s tendency to work from home, Mack had already made a copy of everything he had on the Surrey Slayer killings and given it to him.

Pike had a whiteboard set up and notes already scrawled across it. The coffee pot was bubbling and he’d run across the street for donuts. After his healthy dinner at Alpha, Mack thought the donuts were the perfect dessert.

“How did Nelle take it?” Pike asked.

“She didn’t say much,” Mack said. She’d been damn difficult to read. Her emotions were a little out of whack, all things considered, but she’d asked him over anyway. He couldn’t tell if she meant it, or if it was something to say. If her light was off and he called anyway, would she ignore the phone? Once she’d had time to think about what he was doing now, would she be offended that Mack considered the man who had sired her to be a serial killer? That her father had been capable of killing his son?

“Is this going to cause problems for you?”

“Probably,” Mack admitted. He couldn’t see any way around it, without compromising his case. He wouldn’t do that for anyone. He knew that Nelle would never ask that of him, but he also knew that police work in general, and his type of police work in particular, intruded upon every part of a cop’s life. There was no getting away from it. But when the case directly involved the woman he was dating, both because she was a potential victim and because her father was a serious candidate for their prime suspect, he didn’t have the option of avoiding the topic. It would become the only thing they could discuss until it destroyed the relationship simply because they had nothing else in common.

Or if he proved that her father had killed her brother and his, as well as having committed the latest killings, and he had to take the man down, could she separate Mack the cop from Mack the boyfriend? That was a tall order from anyone, he knew.

“Don’t give up on it yet,” Pike said.

Mack snapped back to the present. Pike had been watching him turn thoughts over in his head and he could see the misery begin to etch itself in the lines on Mack’s forehead. He could tell that his partner had it bad for Nelle and it didn’t really surprise him that it had happened so quickly. Pike hoped that Nelle had a spine of steel. She’d need it to get through this case in one piece.


Ben Ingledue sat at his desk typing up a report from a previous case. The inspector had told them they didn’t need to worry about their other cases, but Ben didn’t want to leave this one to someone else. All it needed was a little computer time to finalize the paperwork and then he could file it. Curcio was using the time to shave off a few seconds from his mile time. He wanted a seven minute mile, but consistently came in at ten seconds over. Ben told him it was the beer and donuts, but Curcio refused to believe that.

When his phone rang, Ben tucked it between his shoulder and his chin. “Ingledue,” he said.

“Officer Ingledue, this is Jason over at the Budget Rental on Terminal. You asked us to call you when that blue Ford Focus came back on the lot.”

“Yes, Jason,” Ingledue said, shifting his focus from his paperwork to the guy on the phone. “You said it wouldn’t be back for a couple of days.”

“Yeah, it was supposed to be out another two days, but the guy brought it back early. Seems he’d taken it to follow his wife to the island and he found her with some other guy. Was supposed to be some sort of solitary getaway and he wanted to surprise her.”

“That’s a hell of a surprise,” Ben said.

“No kidding. Anyway, the car is here on the lot. I’ll leave it off the ready list until after you come down to have a look at it.”

“Thanks, Jason. My partner and I will be down within the hour.”

Ben hung up and grabbed his coat. He sent Curcio a text telling him to meet in the underground. Curcio replied saying he’d just stepped out of the shower and would be ten minutes. Ben sat down and finished up the last few sentences of his report and gave it a quick read-through before filing it. Snagging his car keys off his desk, he headed for the stairwell and jogged down to the parking garage.

The rental agency was five minutes down the road. Ben parked in a visitor’s spot and they walked inside. Jason was with a customer and signaled that he’d be a minute. Curcio walked outside and scanned the lot for their vehicle. Walking around the side of the building, he found the car in line to head into the automatic car wash. Sprinting over, he rapped on the driver’s door.

“Do not wash this car,” he said to the startled driver. Curcio held up his badge and asked the guy to park the car next to theirs, in the visitor parking area. Still a little wary, the rental employee did as he was asked, handing the keys to Curcio and jogging over to the office.

Ben exited with Jason beside him, apologizing for the mixup with the car. Ben assured him that it was fine and moved to the back of the car where Curcio, his hands covered with surgical gloves, already had the trunk open. Ben pulled a pair of gloves from his pocket and grabbed his flashlight from his trunk. Aiming the beam into the trunk, he concentrated on the edges of the carpet, where fibers tended to collect.

Mack’s drawing didn’t show his mother covered in plastic, but there was some left at the scene. Ben assumed that the killer had put the plastic in the trunk first and then placed Mack’s mother on it. Leaning over the lip of the trunk, he focused the light on the front wall. Slowly panning the light over the interior, he paused when he noticed a small speck of tissue stuck to metal bolt.

Ben retrieved his evidence kit from the trunk and removed a pair of tweezers. He handed a plastic bag to Curcio and leaned back into the trunk. With the flashlight’s help, he found the clump of tissue and picked it up. Placing the tweezers into the plastic bag, he dropped the item. Several pieces of hair came with the tissue, along with what at first glance appeared to be dried blood.

Curcio continued the examination while Ben labeled the bag. Several stains in the trunk caught his eye. They were small, but dark. Curcio requested Ben’s can of luminol and sprayed each spot. Flashing light on each spot showed nothing for two of them, but the third spot nearest the back of the trunk glowed.

“We’ve got a blood stain back here,” Curcio announced.

“Ok, let’s get this car impounded so the crime scene guys can have a look.” Ben called it in while Curcio explained to Jason that they were taking the car. A police tow truck arrived ten minutes later and loaded up the car. Following it back to the yard, Ben handed his sample over to the lab and requested that it and the blood in the trunk be typed ASAP. Even with a rush, Ben knew they could be waiting several days for results.

Jason had given Curcio the rental information for the man who had booked the car during the time Mack’s mother had been killed. A Robert D. Karpinski had rented the car the day before the killing and had returned it the morning after the body had been discovered. Curcio ran the name and the credit card used. After several hours, he determined that both the name and the card were fakes.

Jason at the rental agency had said they only keep video surveillance from the past 72 hours, so any footage of Karpinski returning the car would be long gone. The car hadn’t been washed between Karpinski’s rental and the trip to Nanaimo. Any prints on the car would have to be analyzed. Ben and Curcio returned to the rental agency to fingerprint Jason, the guy who’d been about to wash the car and anyone else they figured could have come into contact with the car recently.

They drove to the most recent renter’s house and asked if he’d be willing to have his prints taken to eliminate him from the list. Ben endured the pathetic whining as the man told him his sob story. He’d had the uncharitable thought that if the man whined like that all the time, Ben could understand why the wife had gone off to the island looking for someone else. But he’d kept his thoughts to himself and printed the man.

He handed the print cards to the lab and returned to the office. Mack and Pike weren’t scheduled to be in first thing. They’d left a message about attending an interview in Surrey. Ben considered adding an addendum to Pike’s list in the conference room, but decided to sit on the evidence until they returned. Watching Eric nose around in the conference room only solidified that decision.

Eric and Gatts had completed their list of cars and came up empty-handed. A quick look in the conference room confirmed that the list was pretty much a bust. A couple of outstanding cars were unlikely to make much difference. He saw Ben and Curcio sitting at their desks. If they’d uncovered any great piece of evidence, they’d have announced it.

The inspector’s office door was open, so he rapped on the door jam and walked in. The inspector was talking on the phone but motioned for Eric to have a seat. Once his call was concluded, Hilbert asked Eric how the investigation was going.

“Sir, I think this hunt for the car is a waste of time. The list is almost complete and nothing useful has been found.”

“Almost complete isn’t complete, Eric.” When Eric frowned, Hilbert sighed. “I know you’re having a difficult time with the idea of Mack having a vision that showed him the evidence. You think it’s a load of bullshit, am I right?”

“With all due respect, sir, it’s the dumbest thing I’ve heard in a long time. He watched a movie in his head and it showed him the killer placing his mom in the trunk of a car? He just happened to pause that video long enough to see the partial plate? It’s ludicrous.”

Hilbert leaned back in his chair and studied Fishman. He was a good detective. He followed protocol. He closed cases. He didn’t have a hair trigger temper. He was friendly enough with the other officers, but he didn’t socialize with them often. Hilbert realized he had no idea what Eric did to relax.

He would admit to no one that it had taken all of his open-mindedness to let Mack run with his vision theory. He knew about Mack’s voodoo and assumed that the visions worked along the same lines. Just because he didn’t understand it, didn’t mean it couldn’t be perfectly legit. And if the damn visions could help them nail a serial killer, then he’d be the first person to tell the world about them.

“Why do you want to lead this task force so badly?” Hilbert asked.

Eric jerked back in surprise. He’d never specifically said he’d wanted to lead it, but of course he had wanted it. He should have known that Hilbert would have sussed that out. “Sir, I’m concerned that Mack can’t be objective. These visions he’s having. It sounds like he’s under tremendous pressure and if he’s left to continue, he could crack.”

“That’s an evasion, Detective,” Hilbert said, sternly. “I asked why you want to lead this task force.” When Eric remained quiet, Hilbert placed his elbows on the desk. “I’m concerned about your motives, Eric. There’s a very real connection between this case and the one from twenty years ago that your father worked on. A case that has never been solved. I have to wonder if you want to solve this case, or if you want to solve that one.”

“I want to solve this one and, if possible, help close that one, sir,” Eric admitted.

“To stick it to your old man?” Hilbert asked.

Eric didn’t answer, but heat flashed in his eyes. He didn’t like talking about his father. He didn’t want anything to do with the man and he certainly didn’t want his father influencing any decisions the inspector made. But, if Eric was honest with himself, he could admit that the idea of closing his father’s old case before he could would give him some small satisfaction.

“Eric, whether you lead the task force or not, you’re still a part of the process of solving the case. When we solve it, if it helps determine who the Surrey Slayer is, you’ll be a part of that, too. The head of the task force can’t do the job alone. I don’t expect it of Mack and I wouldn’t expect it of you if I’d placed you as the head.”

Eric’s shoulders slumped. He knew the inspector had no intention of removing Mack from the team. “But these visions, sir,” Eric muttered.

Hilbert smiled at the detective. “I know it sounds pretty farfetched, but I’m willing to see if they produce anything useful. Mack is a smart detective and he’s under more strain than he ever has been before, but I have faith in him to see the job through.”

Eric nodded and prepared to leave.

“Eric, let’s keep these visions in house for now. There’s no point adding to Mack’s burden by letting the media get a hold of this.”

“Yes, sir,” Eric agreed and walked out of the office.


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