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Leave a Whisper Bookcover

Leave A Whisper

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Chapter One - Entities Are Made
...to see is an option; to hear is benevolent...

Iridescent moonlight glistened over the blood-soaked ground, giving the appearance of red flames dancing like a fire burning out of control.

Leaning against an oak tree that majestically towered over the canvas of his work only a few feet away, he sat and thought about the things yet to do while gazing at her lovely body. He wasn't finished with her yet and he wanted to do more-- needed to do more.

Moonlight glimmered off her porcelain breasts that was drenched in blood and the residual sweat he'd left behind; like a dog that had marked his territory. She belongs to me now and I can do whatever I want, he smugly thought.

He fumbled with a crumpled pack of cigarettes and tried to light a crimped one. While trying to inhale, he realized it was snapped almost in half and carefully tried piecing it back together; pinching and holding it closed with a bloody finger as though it would magically mend itself. He took a pitiful excuse of a drag, zipped up his pants, and buckled his worn leather belt-- still gaping at her loveliness and the art work he planned finishing.

He silently reminisced while relishing how good she was. How really good-- she put up a good fight-- better than most.

He felt an erection beginning, and stroked himself through his bloody pants with a bloody hand. He smiled with writhed lips, exposing rotten teeth that clinched the dangling cigarette like a vice.

...Beauty is art yet unfinished,
waiting impatiently
to be blanketed in the warmth
of its profound delusion,
neatly woven from its own affliction...
Only the artist has eyes to see
his carefully crafted perfection...
Night skies poured out torrent rain, dumping heavy wet beads that beat down on the hood and top of her SUV with loud thumping and pinging sounds. Toni didn't think it would ever stop. Glossy streets mirrored the headlights of the cars turning into the glimmering shopping mall parking lot. She carefully squeezed her SUV into a parking space, sandwiching it between two cars but, managed enough room to barely open the driver side door. 

A woman's voice shrilled loudly through the resounding downpour. "Toni-- Toni Taft! Oh my God-- is it really you?"

Startled, Toni unwittingly dropped her purse and watched the contents scatter and roll, disappearing on the lustrous pavement. She clumsily tried to open her umbrella while standing in the rain and snagged  a spindle on her knit slacks. She didn't have time or patience for those kinds of  inconveniences and angrily fumbled with the umbrella until it finally burst open with a loud 'whoosh' sound.

She glanced toward the direction of the voice, hesitant to respond. She didn't recognize the woman and immediately clicked the keyless car fob, locking the SUV doors. Instinctively, she positioned her finger on the trigger of the pepper-spray canister that dangled from her key chain; a reaction that had quickly become second nature like the many other safety precautions she'd been taught in self-defense classes. She wished she'd bought the stun gun they had recommended-- then mentally put it on the top of her to-do list.

Toni wasn't in any mood for interruptions to her tight schedule that had already been full of inconveniences. It was a quarter to eight and she was the guest speaker at a charity dinner which would start in two hours. Her clothes were drenched-- hairspray-tainted rain saturated her blond hair and tricked down her face creating mascara-smeared eyes that burned. She felt like a wet raccoon and abandoned all hope of staying dry-- let alone, presentable enough to go into the store, but she had no choice but go as is.

Crouching down to retrieve the contents of her purse, Toni kept her finger on the trigger of the pepper-spray cylinder and laid the umbrella down beside her. She picked up a sparkling jeweled lipstick tube while scavenging the glistening pavement for the rest of the spilled items, returning each to their rightful places in her purse. Satisfied she'd found everything, she glanced over at the woman.

"Do I know you?" she asked, searching inside her purse for a dry tissue.

"No-- but I know you! Who doesn't? -- You used to be in the news almost all the time," the woman answered.

Not responding, Toni continued searching for a tissue and heard the sound of the woman‘s high heels echoing a sharp click-clacking sound on the pavement as she approached.

No sooner than the woman was within six feet of Toni, she began rattling on and on. "I hoped I would eventually find you but never dreamed I'd run in to you like this! I've tried finding your phone number so I could call you, but its like you're non-existent. Oh, I apologize. I forgot to introduce myself. My name is Erma-- Erma Bartlow. Maybe you've heard my name before. If I could just have a-- "

Toni quickly interrupted. "Look, I really don't have time to talk and answer questions or to give an autograph right now-- especially not in this rain."

Toni didn't have any tolerance for people who wanted psychic answers to their personal problems, financial futures, or love lives. And especially no tolerance for crazed fans-- particularly ones that stalked her. Thinking that was the end of it, she stood up and quickly walked away while awkwardly groping with her umbrella and purse. She was thankful there were other people and other cars driving into the parking lot-- and especially thankful and relieved the lot provided ample LED lighting every twenty-five feet.

Toni continued toward the store then abruptly stopped. She turned around, looked at the woman, then added a final footnote. "I'm sorry," she told her, pivoting back around toward the store.

"Wait a minute, please-- just a moment of your time," the woman yelled.

Toni stopped in mid-stride and turned around to face her. 

"Look, Ms. Taft," the woman continued, "I don't want your autograph... I need your help--  I just need to talk with you about -- well,-- it's about my daughter," she plead in a higher-pitched voice. "I need answers about what happened to her. I need closure-- Please."

Something in the sound of Mrs. Bartow's voice induced an eerie feeling in the pit of her stomach and produced an electrical sensation that roamed inside her body, quickly finding its way outward and creeping over her skin. She'd felt that same feeling before in the past when she had talked to victims' families. She could clearly see the woman's eyes and the intense pain ingrained within them-- they were a crystallized blue, like ice in its metamorphosing stage from liquid to solid-- and were as pleading as the sound of her voice.

Toni broke her first rule of not trusting strangers, but intuitively sensed Mrs. Bartow's deeply profound pain. "All right," she blurted, "but not out here in this rain. We can talk inside my car where it's dry-- but only for a few minutes. That's the best I can offer you right now."

Mrs. Bartlow anxiously followed. Her facial expression and body posture more relaxed, as if content for any small amount of time granted her.

Toni finally made it to the charity dinner later than she'd planned. She thought it'd be unbearable; instead it was surprisingly pleasant seeing old friends and former associates again. But she wasn't able to stop thinking about the conversation with Mrs. Bartlow, which made it difficult to concentrate while giving her speech.

It was after midnight and Toni felt relieved to finally be home and that the rain had stopped. Even though she was tired, it was a perfect time to take a bottle of wine outside and sit on her porch swing. She wanted to relax in quiet solitude and sip some wine to warmly calm herself, while absorbing the tranquility of the night.

Willow trees bowed, tickling the ground with their delicate leafy tips as moonlight danced over the wet grass, sparkling in unison to the stars above, leaving its signature as if a masterpiece. Adjacent rooftops puffed and billowed their ashen smoke, each forming unique clouds of its own design. The neighboring dogs barked their good nights throughout the neighborhood's darkened vast, officially closing the day's province.

She sat comfortably swaying on the swing, sipping directly from the wine bottle instead of using the customary etiquette of drinking the Chardonnay from a crystal glass. The familiar warmth soothed her inside and the rhythmic swaying relaxed her. Then she had an epiphany: her indulgence had evolved into a nightly ritual over the past few years. Not willing to give up the acquired habit, she dismissed the thought, gazed at the beauty surrounding her, and adjusted the rose-colored shawl tighter around her shoulders. She particularly loved that shawl because her grandmother had knitted it for her when she was thirteen, then passed away six months later. It was the last thing she had knitted.

She listened to the peaceful chants of the night. Once the serenades of the dogs had subsided, it became calm, almost still.

Feeling more relaxed and peaceful, she hoped the cleansing rain and night's chill might offer a newness to the coming day. But it didn't give her any comfort. Mrs. Bartlow's story chilled her blood in a manner that no amount of Chardonnay could warm.  The killer's sixth victim was her daughter.

She remembered reading about her in the newspaper but, didn't know any details. Police standard procedure was a complete omission of ongoing case particulars to the media and general public. Now that she knew more about the murder, she questioned why she ran into Mrs. Bartlow at a time the murders continued and remained unsolved.

Why did I have to stop by that particular store at that particular time at precisely that particular moment?  She thought she knew why all too well...

...Inside your world you cannot hide,
trapped to face
the horrors of your miscue,

where you shall remain
until your doom is decided...

by whom you choose to avoid...
or whom you choose to consume...

Reddick was used to the passing trains shaking his apartment. The 6 o'clock train was the worse. The big tattered picture of Coolidge's "A Friend in Need' dogs playing poker, fell, shattering glass haphazardly over the peeling black and white checkered linoleum floor. He didn't like that picture. He thought the stupid-looking mongrels with cigarettes and pipes, cheating under the table, was a tawdry commemoration to his mother. It wasn't just because it had hung in the dining room of the old rickety house he'd grown up in-- it was also a detestable reminder of her. She had sat around all day with an unfiltered cigarette dangling from her prune-like lips, ashes falling on the floor of every room she'd been in, while wearing a tattered housecoat and raggedy slippers that made flip-flopping sounds whenever she walked-- while she constantly bitched and complained loudly over the sound of the television... until she metamorphosed into a completely different persona at nighttime; like a vampire when the sun goes down.  A mother isn't supposed to be so fuckin' disgusting...

Where's that place you dare to hide?
In your head or deeper inside?
Makes no difference one way or another,
you can't escape what was left there by mother...

He lit another cigarette with the one he had just smoked, snuffed out the burned up butt, and laid down on the old Army cot he called a bed. He smashed the cockroach that had dared to crawl onto his leg, smearing it into a gooey blotch, then wiped his hand on his rank t-shirt. He drank the warm leftover backwash in an abandoned beer can and threw it on the floor, watching it roll under another chair.

Reddick jumped up, walked barefoot across the small room while stepping on shards of glass. He felt no pain. Leaving bloody footprints trailing behind his every step on his short journey to the television, he switched it on, turning the channel to the local news. He reached into a small rusty 'fridge for a cold beer, then walked back through the glass again. He plopped down in his thread-barren armchair, slouching and dangling both legs over one side of an arm. Reddick flicked the top of the beer can with a thumb and finger before pulling off the tab, then contentedly guzzled the cold brew with a loud slurping sound.

The television newsman announced that police found another woman's body up in Holler Hills earlier that morning.

There it is! Sweet!

The anchorman hadn't reported any important details of the gruesome discovery. After briefly covering the local news, the anchorman continued with the national news.

"No--no--no-- damn it-- fuck!" he yelled in anger.

Intense anger swelled inside him. "No fuckin' video coverage-- no fuckin' details-- nothing--no avowal at all!  Fuckin' hell, of course not-- they wouldn't give fuckin' credit due me for my art. Shit no-- H-E-L-L--- N-O-- they don't have the fuckin' brains to recognize art when they see it! They're fuckin' minions! Minions doing what the man behind the curtain fuckin' tells them to do-- so how could they fuckin' know and appreciate anything?"

Raving and cursing louder, he paced over broken glass while rubbing his sweaty bald head.

"What does an artist have to do to get some fuckin' recognition?" he yelled out. "Some damned acknowledgment for the intricate craft? It's art in the most unadulterated form-- sheer fuckin' genius-- that's what it is!"

...And a man's work is never finished,
left undone, it seeks perfection.
As famous men have fallen high,
of much their own unsettling affliction.
And all the while, they must continue,
searching for their renown recognition..

Chapter Tw0 - Indecision

"Hello?" she asked, answering the phone.

"Ms. Taft?"

"Yes, this is Ms. Taft. Who am I speaking to? "

"This is Detective Meadows over at the 23rd Precinct," his raspy baritone voice announced. "I'd like to speak with you if I may. Can I buy you a cup of coffee and talk? How 'bout at the Brew-A-Cup coffee shop on the corner of 59th Avenue and Scenic Boulevard?"

"Can I ask what this is about, Detective-- what did you say your name was?"

"Meadows-- Detective Meadows. I'd rather tell you over a cup of coffee, Ms. Taft. It's really too much to go into over the phone. Will you accept my invitation?"

"If this is about consulting on a case, Detective Meadows, I'm retired now and don't consult anymore."

"I think this is something you'll want to hear. I know this is short notice and I apologize. I really do. But it's important, Ms. Taft. If you'll accept, I'll throw in a slice of their famous apple pie, A la mode, with a delicious latte or cappuccino. Can we meet in about an hour? Is that enough time?" realizing he shouldn't have asked an open-ended question. "Please?"

"I guess I can manage it-- but my time is limited and cherished. So it better be important, Detective Meadows," she told him. Without saying goodbye, she hung up.

Something bothered her about the phone call and his demeanor. His voice was so enigmatic, compelling her to meet with him-- against her better judgement. She knew what it was about. It was obvious that he would ask for her help on the serial killer case so prominent in the news. It was one of those destined times she couldn't ignore-- Mrs. Bartlow's chance meeting the night before and Meadows phone call, both being in succession-- wasn't a coincidence. There's no such thing as a coincidence.

Toni called Meadow's police chief verifying Meadows was legitimate. She quickly changed clothes, dabbed on some make-up and grabbed her purse and coat on her way out the door, remembering she'd left her car keys on the foyer table. In one full-circled swoop, she ran back inside, snatched the keys up and made a dash out the door again.

It was barely misting out, but the streets were almost flooded from the previous downpour. Traffic was busier than normal with people running errands and stocking up on supplies in anticipation of more torrent rains. A rainbow arched above the city as if it were a fantasy land full of fairies twittering about.

The radio announced another woman's body was found earlier that morning. She turned the volume up and fumbled with the radio knob trying to tune the station in more clear while keeping her eyes on congested traffic. The announcer continued reporting the woman was the eleventh body discovered within the past few months, it being a public outrage, and fearful for all young girls and their parents. My God! she thought, remembering past cases she wanted to forget-- needed to forget.

Toni parked her teal colored SUV. It was the only teal colored one in town. She presumed its originality marked her identity; instead of her preference of anonymity and blending in unnoticed. I should trade it in and get a white one in order to blend in, she thought. She walked inside the coffee shop, closing her umbrella and removing her mahogany leather coat, carefully folding it over her arm. She didn't like crowded public places. She walked a few feet right, to the jukebox that engulfed the area like a metal mammoth. She stood beside it with her back against the wall and searched the faces in the crowd, hoping Detective Meadows would approach her before she became as conspicuous as she felt.

A handsome man with a slightly crooked smile approached, wiping his right hand on his trousers, preparing to greet her with a handshake.

"Hello. Ms. Taft?" Meadows asked, politely extending a hand.

She extended her hand. "Yes, I'm Toni Taft."

"I'm Detective Meadows. It's nice to meet you." He was amazed that she looked different than he'd pictured her to look. He imagined her to be a short, robust, little woman, with dull eyes wearing horn-rimmed glasses, or look matronly with hair up in a bun, a tightly laced collar up to her chin, and wearing boring matronly shoes for comfort.

Toni noticed Meadows had a surprised look on his face and wondered what he was surprised about, then graciously shook his hand.

"Hello, detective," she replied. She discreetly sized him up. 

She stared in his rich, cherry wood colored eyes. They had a yellow star-bursting pattern around the pupils, and noticed a discriminate gray streak in his dark hair that was on the right side, but had none on the left. It complimented his masculine, but chiseled features.

"May I see your badge please, detective? Unfortunately, women need to be more cautious right now-- but I'm sure you're aware of that."

He didn't respond while pulling his badge from his coat pocket. He smiled a slightly crooked smile, flipped it opened so she could read and verify, then flipped it shut, returning it to his pocket.

"I already have a table over in the corner where we can speak privately," he said, nodding toward the corner. Meadows took her coat. While escorting her across the room, he noticed how graceful she moved. He gently pulled the chair out for her to be seated.

"Thank you," she said, sitting and scooting the chair closer to the table with his courteous assistance.

"What's so important that you had to speak to me in person, detective?"

A young waitress politely interrupted, taking their coffee order and leaving two glasses of iced water garnished with lemon wedges.

Meadows waited to answer while allowing the waitress to leave. "Please, call me Brad. I'm not too keen on formalities."

He was distracted by her mesmerizing green cat-eyes and thought how strikingly pretty was. She was slender but not very tall, and very proportioned for her height.

Toni felt uncomfortable with his stare and certainly didn't intend calling him by first name, informal or not. She didn't like getting too familiar with people on a personal level. It caused too many complications in a planned and serenely quiet life that she'd built the past couple of years.

"I suppose you've read the newspapers, Ms. Taft, and seen the television news like everyone else," he surmised.

"Yes, I've read about the recent murders. Why do you ask?"

"It's about the serial killer headlined in every newspaper, and all the news media in the country. The FBI has jurisdiction and we're collaborating with them, although, we had original jurisdiction when we began the investigation on the first to third victims-- but when there was a fourth, the FBI took over," he paused, "that's what this is about, Ms. Taft."

"Well of course, it appalls me and scares me just like it does everyone else, detective. But what does that have to do with me?" She already knew what his answer was.

"I'd like your help, Ms. Taft. You've solved a lot of crimes and helped police catch those lunatics-- which saved a lot of lives, there's no doubt. I don't have any leads to identify this demented maniac yet-- let alone-- catch him. Your psychic abilities would give some insight. That's why I asked you here this afternoon-- to plea for your help."

I was right, she thought... "Look, Detective Meadows, I figured that's why you phoned me. But as I've already told you, I'm retired now. I don't work cases anymore and prefer to remain in retirement."

"Yes, I know that, Ms. Taft. I understand-- I really do. But this is different. It's not like cases you've consulted in the past." He paused, sipping coffee while looking in her eyes and searching for some kind of reaction; empathy, concern, pity. Any sign he could use to convenience her to help. He waited for her reply, hoping she would agree, or at least ask more questions, which would mean she was still open to helping.

"What makes this particular one any different from other serial killers? Most are psychopaths and narcissistic. They're mentally and emotionally ill-- they're perverted and demented, detective-- and that's exactly why I stopped consulting-- I had to stop in order to remain sane. I needed to wash that evil from my mind and my life forever. If possible."

Detective Meadows was prepared for her reluctance. He'd previously researched her career and read her FBI dossier. He thought he knew all about her.

"He is different than most," he told her. "He's more than the average-type serial killer, if there is such a thing as an "average-type." He's more than demented and perverted, and much more than being another sick psycho loose in society. He's beyond our forensic profilers' abilities to classify him because his method style is too complicated-- too specifically unique. They tell me he's off the chart... but it doesn't take a genius to deduce that. "

He laid a couple of over-stuffed manila envelopes on the table, sliding them toward her reach.

She looked down at the bulging packets. "What are these?" she asked, not wanting to look inside them. She looked up at him, waiting for his answer.

"They're my personal files on this sick guy. Photographs of the victims, locations, the killer's M.O., our profilers' reports, autopsy reports, and copies of what clues we currently have... which is actually almost zero. We've got more crime scene photos back at the precinct and boxes for each case. Open one, Ms. Taft," he told her, nudging them closer to her. "You'll better understand why I-- no-- why we, need your help-- why their families need your help. Give them some closure. Help us catch this son-of-a-bitch before he kills another girl," he said, pausing, trying to catch his breathe, "Your reputation is impeccable and chances are, you're probably the only person that has the power to stop him. We still don‘t know how he picks his victims-- no woman is immune to his deranged indignation."

Toni reached for one of the folders then hesitated, retracting her hand. She looked up at Detective Meadows. His eyes were pleading and his facial expression solemn. She reached again, holding her hand inches above the folder. Her hand trembled but she finally mustered the courage to touch it, but didn't open it. Then she closed her eyes.

She suddenly felt cold and had an empty feeling inside. Then feelings of anger and hatred followed, with a profound sense of sadness-- but an even stronger feeling, was an unrelenting torturous despair-- then visions of blood... so very much blood.... she felt connected to the killer somehow...

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...to see is an option; to hear is benevolent...

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