Chapter 27

February 29, 2012 at 1:45 pm (The Truth)

Pike drove back to the precinct while Mack put a call in to Hilbert.

“We need everything we can get on the death of Steven Fishman. Eric told me to look for him, but his brother William said that Steven died when he was seven.”

“I’ll look into it. If he isn’t dead, where the hell has he been all this time?” Hilbert asked.

“No idea, but he’s not in any of the photos inside the Fishman home, not after the age of seven.”

“So either you’re chasing a ghost who died over twenty years ago or you’re chasing a man who has been in hiding for twenty years.”

“Yeah, neither one is a thrilling prospect,” Mack said. If Steven was alive, he had gotten very good at hiding. AC Fishman would have helped him with that at the start, but Steven would be almost thirty years old. He’d have been doing his own hiding once he came of age. Had he been killing all that time, Mack wondered? If so, he’d gotten good at it. He’d practiced hiding bodies just as efficiently as he’d hidden himself.

If Steven wasn’t alive, if he’d actually died twenty-odd years ago, then Mack didn’t know who he was supposed to look for. Eric had sounded quite sincere about him looking for Steven. In his state, Mack didn’t think he’d have done anything to screw with the investigation. Eric had been shot in the back. He’d been leaving his father’s study. Whatever AC Fishman had called him in for, Eric had obviously said no. And, as much as Eric wanted to lead the task force, he’d never purposely sabotaged their investigative efforts. He was too good a cop for that.

It was certainly possible that the pain from his injury had led him to misinterpret the information that he’d learned. Walking into that study and discovering that his father was the Surrey Slayer must have been devastating for Eric. Seeing his mother lying on the kitchen floor, bleeding out, wouldn’t have been a walk in the park, either. All of that emotion bashing around in his head could have allowed him to misconstrue some of the details.

So, if not Steven, then who was Mack looking for? He’d have to get back to the conference room and put all of the details up on the board to see what fit. He needed some time to go over everything and he needed to declutter his own mind.

“I’ll start putting it together when I’m back at HQ,” Mack said.

“I’ll have the details from that case file by the time you get here,” Hilbert promised.

***

“Can you see anything else?” Ben asked Hannah. “Any details that would help us pinpoint the location he’s using?”

Hannah called up the image she’d been given and studied it. She could only get a vague impression of the room they were in. It appeared to be quite large and empty. A new image flashed inside her mind and the view had sharpened to a much smaller field of view. She could see the mattress much closer and she could see blood. He’d started to cut her.

Hannah conveyed what she could, worried that Nelle would be hurt badly before anything she saw would become useful. With the killer already inside the room and with no windows to offer any view, Hannah couldn’t tell what type of building surrounded the killer’s workspace. She stared at Ben and the misery was there in her eyes.

Ben stepped up and wrapped an arm around her shoulders. “You’ve been very helpful, Hannah. We have to go, but if you recall anything that you think might help, call me or call Mack.” Ben handed her his card and guided her from the room. Curcio locked the door behind them and they headed for the underground parking. Ben called Mack while Curcio navigated his way out of the parking garage and into the light.

“Mack, your sister had a vision of Nelle. The killer has her.”

Mack felt his heart jump into his throat. “Is she sure?” he asked. He hoped to God Hannah had been incorrect in interpreting what she was seeing. Maybe she saw what could be coming, rather than what was already happening.

“She seemed quite sure,” Ben said. “Curcio and I are heading over to a warehouse complex we think the killer might be using. It’s based in part off your last vision. The one you wrote on the whiteboard.” Ben explained what he and Curcio had concluded and gave Mack the address for the complex.

“We’re on our way,” Mack said. He gave Pike the address and called the inspector. He updated Hilbert on the new information he’d received from Ben. “We’re going straight to the warehouse. If Hannah is right, Nelle won’t have much time.”

“I’ll mobilize some units and have them meet you two blocks away. In the meantime, I’ve got the file on Steven Fishman. It says he was gored by an elk and the coroner confirmed that the wound was similar to that of an attack by an older elk. He did make mention that it seemed odd there was only the one wound, but he didn’t question too closely since it was a cop’s kid.”

“So there was a body produced,” Mack said.

“Yes, produced, autopsied and buried. Whoever you’re looking for, it isn’t Steven Fishman.”

Mack arrived at the warehouse complex ten minutes later. His units followed him inside the gated complex, their lights and sirens off. Mack didn’t want to waste precious time stopping two blocks away to formulate a plan. Nelle didn’t have that kind of time. With five units, two men to a car, and Ben and Curcio, he had fourteen men to search twenty-one buildings. The manager had been called in, but he was unable to provide keys for ease of entry. Each unit was individually owned and the locks were the responsibility of the owner.

The building manager did provide him with a set of bolt cutters for any unit he wanted to enter. Curcio ran back to his squad car and pulled another set of cutters from his trunk. A quick check of the remaining cars produced only one more set of bolt cutters. Mack split the group into three and gave them each seven units to check.

“Cut the lock quietly and open the door as silently as possible. We need to take him by surprise so that he doesn’t have time to kill the hostage.” He handed Pike the cutters and started on their first warehouse.

***

Nelle’s legs were on fire. The endorphins that rushed to the scene of a wound and helped to blunt the pain had already worn off. She couldn’t say how many cuts he’d placed on her body. He had started with her left thigh and she thought the knife had sliced her from knee to hip. She couldn’t see how deep the cuts were.

She worried that when he started on her belly, he’d be cutting right through her skin and muscle. She didn’t want to think about the damage being done to her. She could only pray that Mack would get there in time to stop it. So far, her abductor hadn’t tried to rape her, but she knew that was coming. Mack hadn’t shied away from telling her some of those details. She didn’t know if ignorance would have helped her now or not.

Steven was bathing in her blood. He hadn’t started a tremendous flow, but each of the cuts was deep enough that they wouldn’t seal up right away. That would spoil his fun. His hands were slippery with her blood. He wanted to drink it in. He reveled in the tiny whimpers she couldn’t quite mask. His cuts were small still and she wasn’t in hysterics yet. He got a little giddy just thinking about the pain he was going to bring her.

“I think it’s time,” he whispered.

Nelle’s eyes widened in panic and she shook her head frantically.

“No, my dear, it’s not time to end it. We have many more hours to go before I’ll do that. Perhaps even many days to go. But I need to hear you scream.” He raised the knife over his head and brought it down with a vicious thrust.

***

Mack’s team went through their first three units quickly. They were completely empty. The fourth unit was packed to the rafters with boxes. Pike started to haul some out in an effort to see behind them to the rest of the unit. After removing a dozen or so boxes in a row, he was able to view the rest of the warehouse and determined that it was just as filled with crap.

“Not the one,” he said. They closed the door and moved to the next unit. Before Pike could snap the lock, he noticed light coming from underneath the unit next door. He motioned toward it and Mack nodded his head. Pike stepped up to it and swiftly snapped the lock. Pulling it from the door, he backed away and allowed Mack to swing the door open.

A single bulb lit the interior of the unit. It was enough for Mack to see the back of a man at the far end. He was kneeling before a mattress. An agonized scream reached their ears. Gun raised, Mack strode inside, the rest of his team behind him. Fanning out, they moved quickly over the large distance, closing in on their target.

“Freeze!” Mack yelled. He ran forward, prepared to shoot. He yelled instructions meant to confuse his target, but he saw that it was having no effect. As he watched the knife rise into the air, Mack fired four times. Each shot hit centre of mass. The knife clattered to the ground and Mack grabbed the man before he could pitch forward. He dragged the body away and looked down at Nelle.

Pike called on his radio for an ambulance. He pulled his vest off and wrenched the shirt from his body. Passing it to Mack, he caught the agonized expression on his face as Mack attempted to staunch the bleeding. The killer had stabbed her in the side, just above her hip. Blood flowed freely, soaking the mattress beneath her.

“Jesus, it’s Danny Fishman,” Ben said, looking down at the body Mack had tossed aside. The remaining teams had come running when Mack’s team had first opened the door. Pike had warned them over the radio that they’d located the suspect’s warehouse.

Mack didn’t care who it was. He didn’t like Nelle’s colour and he couldn’t get the bleeding to stop. Somewhere in his mind he knew that the paramedics would have better luck with that and that Nelle would need major surgery, but he still tried to fix her. She’d passed out from the pain and wasn’t aware that her nightmare was over.

An ambulance screamed into the lot. Two men hustled in with a backboard, not wanting to take any extra time maneuvering the gurney. They wasted little time getting Nelle patched up enough for transport before they loaded her into the ambulance and raced for the hospital.

Mack wanted to go with her, but he had to process the scene. He stared down at Danny Fishman for the first time since he’d entered the warehouse. He couldn’t get his brain to focus on the work. He kept seeing Nelle, bleeding from a wound in her belly.

Pike suggested that Mack was needed at the hospital. He motioned one of the officers over and told him to drive Mack. Mack shouldn’t be driving under the circumstances. He promised that he’d come to the hospital once they’d finished up at the warehouse.

Mack finally agreed and allowed himself to be escorted from the building. They arrived at the hospital ten minutes after Nelle was brought in. Mack flashed his badge and asked for an update. The nurse didn’t have much, but she motioned toward the surgical unit that Nelle had been admitted to. Mack peered in the window and watched as the doctors worked to save Nelle.

Mack was still there an hour later when Bill Tatum stormed into the hospital. He tore a strip off the nurse working the front desk, demanding to know where Nelle was. When she gestured toward Mack, Tatum’s eyes narrowed.

“What the hell are you doing here?” Tatum demanded.

“I could ask the same of you, but I’m sure I can already guess. Nelle is in there, fighting for her life, and you’re only here to ask about her kidney, aren’t you?”

“She was scheduled to have the surgery hours ago and I was only just informed that it didn’t happen. What the hell happened?” Tatum demanded. He still hadn’t bothered to look into the room.

Mack gave Tatum a few details, leaving out any mention of the Surrey Slayer. He told how Nelle had been captured and tortured and how she’d received a major injury. Throughout his recitation, he saw that no emotion passed over Tatum’s face. Reading the mind, Mack could only sense annoyance that his daughter had managed to screw up his plans. Mack gritted his teeth to keep from biting Tatum’s head off.

“They’re operating on her,” Tatum said. “They can remove the kidney at the same time. I’m going to get the doctor’s attention.” Tatum pushed the door open and stepped inside. A nurse rushed over and all but shoved him back out the door. When Tatum demanded that the surgeon speak with him, he was summarily dismissed and the door was shut firmly behind him.

Mack smirked at Tatum’s unsuccessful attempt to control the situation. “You’ll have to wait for Nelle to recover from this surgery. And then you’ll have to abide by any decision she makes regarding the kidney donation.”

“My son doesn’t have that much time!” Tatum growled.

“I’m sorry for him,” Mack said, “but my concern is Nelle.”

Tatum muttered something that sounded like worthless female under his breath. Mack assumed he was referring to Nelle, though he could have been referring to women in general. Tatum showed no appreciation for anyone, including his own daughter. The longer Mack stood there allowing Tatum’s thoughts to filter through his mind, the more he realized that Nelle was lucky she hadn’t spent any longer in this man’s company when she was growing up.

Mack leaned against the wall across from Nelle’s operating room. He was waiting for the doctor to come out and give them Nelle’s prognosis. Pike arrived several hours later and took up a position next to him. Tatum loitered in the hallway a little further down.

When the doctor finally emerged from the room, Tatum pounced. He got right into the doctor’s face and demanded to know why the kidney removal wasn’t being incorporated into the rest of the surgery.

Dr. Gow stared at Tatum for a moment, surprised at the question. He’d been informed that Nelle had been scheduled for the surgery earlier that day. Her surgeon had been contacted over the phone and had vetoed the extraction. After that, Gow had proceeded with the necessary work involved with patching up the gaping hole in Nelle’s side.

“Mr. Tatum, first off let me tell you that your daughter has suffered major trauma. We’ve succeeded in stopping the bleeding and have determined that none of her major organs have been affected by the knife wound. I’m sure you’re happy to hear that her chances of surviving this injury are very good.”

Pike snorted out a laugh, ignoring the glare that Tatum sent his way.

“Secondly, let me also inform you that we contacted her surgeon and it was determined that the extraction could not be completed.”

“Why not?” Tatum demanded.

“Her body has undergone too much trauma. Excising a kidney would have been too hard on her. We had a hell of a time just getting her stable.” Gow ignored Tatum’s further questioning and turned to Mack and Pike. “She has numerous small lesions that are being treated and then she’ll be moved to intensive care. I don’t expect her to come out of the anesthesia for several more hours and then we’ll have her heavily sedated.”

Mack shook the doctor’s hand and thanked him for taking such good care of Nelle. The doctor nodded and walked down the hall, Tatum trailing after him. Mack stepped back up to the window and stared in at Nelle. She still looked pale, but the monitors next to her all beeped the way he thought they ought to.

He turned away and looked at Pike. “I don’t know if I should stay or if I should come back in a few hours.”

“She’s not going to be awake for a long time yet. You should go home and get some rest. And make sure you shave so you don’t scare her when she does open her eyes.”

Mack grinned and shook his head. He knew that Pike was right. He wasn’t any good to Nelle now, but the thought of trying to sleep didn’t appeal. “Where’s Eric?” he asked.

“Intensive care, same as his mother. Prognosis on both is guarded, at best. We won’t get to talk to them until tomorrow at the earliest.” Pike dragged Mack away from Nelle’s door. After a few steps, Mack decided there was nothing more he could do at the hospital. Pike dropped him off at home and suggested that he try and get some sleep. Neither one expected him to accomplish that.

Mack called his sister and told her that Nelle had been wounded, but she was safe now. He thanked her for giving them the warning. Her vision had been correct. He chatted with her for a few minutes and then he called his father.

“It’s over,” he said. Mack knew that the psychiatrists would have preferred that Danny had lived so they could reach inside his brain, but Mack was happier knowing that the man paid the ultimate price for the horrors he’d committed. He felt the families of the other victims would feel the same way. Mack talked to his father for a while before hanging up and trudging upstairs. He took a hot shower and then he crawled into bed, expecting to stare at the ceiling for a while. He slipped into a deep sleep and didn’t move once.

He awoke six hours later when his internal clock said it had reached maximum sleep capacity. His clock didn’t seem to care that it was only five in the morning. Mack showered and dressed and got into his car. He was several hours early for regular visiting hours, but knew his badge would get him in. The drive to the hospital was quick. There wasn’t a large amount of traffic on the road.

Mack checked in with the front desk, asking if they’d had any trouble in the night. Mack learned that Nelle’s anesthesia had worn off, but they were still keeping her heavily sedated. She hadn’t woken up yet. They’d moved her to a bed in ICU. Eric Fishman was awake and his mother was in a coma. And Bill Tatum had attempted to circumvent Nelle’s surgeon by bringing in an expert surgeon from the US to do the kidney donation.

“Jesus, why wasn’t I called?” Mack asked.

“There was no need, Detective. Your partner was here the whole night. He told Tatum, in no uncertain terms, that Nelle was not undergoing any more surgeries.”

Mack smiled, thinking about the terms Pike might have used to convince Tatum he was serious. “Where is Pike?”

“He left to check on Dr. Kovel”

Christ, Mack thought, he’d forgotten that Kovel was in the hospital, too. “How’s she doing?”

“She’s recovering nicely. Still sedated, but not as heavily as the others. She was moved out of the ICU yesterday.” The nurse smiled at Mack. “It’s been a busy week for you guys, hasn’t it, Detective?”

“Yes it has. Thankfully, it’s over.” Mack thanked her for the update and walked down to the Intensive Care Unit. Nelle was in a room with only one other person. Eric Fishman was in the room next to her and Mrs. Fishman was a little further down the hall, in an isolation suite.

Nelle’s eyes were closed and her sleep seemed restful. He assumed that was mostly because of the drugs. Her colour was too pale and she looked so fragile lying there. Mack pulled a chair up to the bed and held her hand. He looked into her mind, but the drugs were keeping her thoughts hazy. He thought, under the circumstances, that that might be a good thing.

Pike found him a half hour later.

“I’m surprised I got you out of here for this long,” Pike said, pulling up a chair and leaning back. He looked exhausted and Mack suggested he go get some rest, but Pike just grunted. “We’ll have to go in and clean up the mess soon.”

Mack knew it was true, but he didn’t want to think about it. Nelle wouldn’t be aware of his presence today. Mack glanced at Pike and saw that he’d already fallen asleep. Mack settled more comfortably in his chair and allowed his mind to relax. The mystery of Danny Fishman swirled around in his brain and he shoved it aside. He’d have to spend enough time on that later. He didn’t want to worry about it now.

Stroking Nelle’s hand, Mack watched the steady rise and fall of her breathing. The quiet of the hospital this early in the morning lulled him. With his mind relaxed and open, the images came easily. With Fishman shoved to the side, Ebersole crept in. Mack watched once again as Carlton Ebersole stood before his open knife case. He removed the knife that eventually killed him and took it to the desk.

After he’d examined it, Carlton turned when the door opened. Mack knew what was coming. His attention wasn’t on the knife this time. Instead, Mack focused his gaze on the windows. The angle of the windows didn’t reflect who was in the room. Mack could see Carlton’s back and he could see the door, but the killer had already come further into the room.

There was a flash in the window and Mack ordered his mind to stop. He was a little surprised when the vision actually did stop. The reflection in the window was a little blurry, but Mack saw enough to make a positive identification of the killer. Sitting up, Mack poked Pike in the arm.

“Time to go?” Pike asked.

“Time to close the Ebersole case,” Mack said. “You drive.”

Mack called Betz on his cell and found the officer awake and working on the case. Mack said he had some new information and needed to see how it stacked up against everything that they’d collected. Betz agreed to meet at the precinct in twenty minutes. Pike pulled up to the Starbucks around the corner from the precinct and Mack hustled out to get coffee and pastries.

Wanting the room, Mack and Pike settled in the conference room and waited for Betz to arrive. He showed up ten minutes later carrying a large file folder. Betz accepted the coffee with a nod of his head and opened his folder.

“Payton Ebersole killed Carlton, but I have no idea what the motive is. We’ll have to determine how to prove that,” Mack said.

“I may have a line on that,” Betz said. He rifled through his papers until he found printouts for various bank accounts. He settled them in front of Mack. “The money from the sale of the stolen knife had to go somewhere, so I requested the bank information for Klein and Payton Ebersole, as well as Monique Ebersole and Adriana Sutton.”

Betz explained how at first glance he’d thought that the trail went nowhere. After some thought, he’d checked to see if any of the women had bank accounts in their maiden names. “If they’d used a completely unique name, I’d have been screwed, but I guess they didn’t think it would ever come to this level of scrutiny.”

Betz pulled out another sheet of paper with a number circled in red ink. The amount was for $8.2Million and the bank account was for Payton Clarkson. “The money was wired in from an account in the Caymen Islands. No way to trace its source.”

Pike leaned his arms on the table and tapped a finger against the side of his coffee cup. “We can’t prove that she sold the knife. The money could have come from anywhere.”

“What’s the motive?” Mack asked.

“Money,” Betz said. “If Monique is convicted then Carlton’s estate will transfer to Klein Ebersole. One of the ladies from the party said that the man Payton left with was a very high profile divorce lawyer. She wouldn’t file until after the court ruled against Monique Ebersole and transferred control of the estate to Klein.”

“Or she’d get rid of Klein before it came to that, so he didn’t run through the money before she could divorce him,” Pike suggested.

“No, she’d have to wait,” Betz said. “If Klein died before the estate was transferred then it would go to a distant cousin.”

“We still have no concrete proof that she did it,” Mack said.

“I was wondering if we needed any,” Betz said. “I was thinking that if we could convince her that one of the servants saw her inside the house at the time of the murder, then maybe Payton would show her hand.”

“You want to set up one of the servants as bait,” Pike said. His finger tapped on the cup several times and then he nodded. “I like it. We can use extortion. The servants can say they’re worried about finding a new job and if they had a little money to tide them over, then they wouldn’t be so worried about it.”

“Yeah,” Mack said, picking up the ball where Pike had left it. “If the servant suggested that the money would be a nice start then Payton will know that the servant wouldn’t give up after one payment. She’ll either have to keep paying or do something about the situation.”

“Oldest trick in the book,” Betz said, “but it works.”

“You have someone in mind?” Mack asked.

“Yeah, the housekeeper lives in the house, so it’s possible she could have seen something. I’m sure we can convince her to make the call. We’ll just have to assure her that she won’t ever be left alone until Payton Ebersole is in custody.”

“Set it up,” Mack said. “Pike can help you with anything you need.”

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