Jannie Balliett

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Leave a Whisper Bookcover

Leave A Whisper 

 
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Chapter Thirteen - Further Work
 
Reddick pulled his car away from the curb where he parked while watching the brunette. He slowly drove a few feet and stopped in front of the brick mailbox to check for a name. 'George and Erma Bartlow' was stenciled in black letters across the side. The same name that was on the door of the lawyer's office where the pretty brunette had visited earlier. Where have I heard that name before?

He drove away as quietly as his old Dodge could while searching inside the glove compartment for pen and paper. Knocking its contents on the passenger floor board, he found a pen and an envelope of an old bill and quickly scrawled the name across the back of the envelope.

He planned watching who came and went from Bartlow's office, presuming Bartlow could be her husband, or maybe her father. I'll find out one way or another... she's young-- probably too young to be married-- yeah, he is her father, he thought.

His original idea was staging a slight fender-bender accident with her Jeep, exchange insurance information, get her name and maybe her phone number. But if she didn't give it out, at least I'd have her fuckin' name. The rest would be easy. Some smooth, apologetic conversation, maybe get a hint of information about her, and if fuckin' lucky, acceptance of an invitation for a cup of coffee or soda. I'll find out what makes her fuckin' tick without her ever knowing I'm interested in her fuckin' mind... not like the others. They were all beautiful, but I didn't care about their lives or bothered to get to know them. I didn't have any desire until now... my plan has changed.

******

Toni had enough for one day. Of all the cases she'd worked, none was as disturbing as the symbolic crucifixion.

"I'm emotionally exhausted. I'm going home and drink the best part of a bottle of  Chardonnay and cleanse my mind and body in a nice hot bubble bath," she told Meadows, grabbing her coat and purse.

"That sounds like a perfect plan, even for a guy," he responded, with a crooked smile. He knew she was exhausted, knowing what she'd been through, and realized he was pretty beat himself.

"So, what's keeping you from indulging yourself with a hot relaxing bubble bath and a few glasses of bourbon? Are you afraid I'll tell the squad and they'll make fun of you?"

"Nope, they all probably take bubble baths themselves, however, they'd never admit it. Besides, I think my secret would be safe with you. Hey, why don't you let me drive you home? Maybe some dinner on the way? I know you're bound to be awfully drained after the day we've had and you haven't eaten."

"No, thank you. I'm not hungry. But thanks for the offer. I'll take a rain check. I have my car right outside, anyway. The drive will help me unwind," she answered, closing the door as she left.

Meadows sat in silence for the first time that day. He leaned back in the old squeaky chair and propped his feet up on the conference table. He pulled a bottle and glass from the veranda behind him and poured a glass of bourbon, then lit a cigar. He didn't smoke them around Toni. Most women didn't appreciate the aroma.

He stared at the pictures hanging on two of five exhibit boards. His eyes zig-zagged between them.  Two displays were pictures of victims; one of the aerial photos taken earlier at the latest crime scene, another was a list of names in chronological order, and the last board was the crucifix and letter diagram that Toni had drawn. Gazing for a few moments, he realized the magnitude of the case, wondering about the obvious difference between the previous victims and the recent victim.

There was a pattern before, but it had changed. The previous eleven victims were sexually assaulted and mutilated, but the last, the twelfth, was a sadistic ritual. It meant something-- but why did the killer change his method this time? What provoked a change? What does it mean?

He stared at the twelve cases pinned on the middle board. There wasn't any connection between the victims. All different ages, different physical descriptions and no apparent similarities. No correlation or known pattern-- just wildly random.

1) #E237793/Hines, Marilyn Kate
2) #E237822/Berg, Rachel Louise
3) #E237899/Sharp, Samantha Sue
4) #E237915/Williams, Paige Jo
5) #E237949/Trent, Kimberly Ann
6) #E238003/Bartlow, Georgia Emma
7) #E238027/ Childers, Madison Diane
8) #E238051/Perkins, Venessa Jane
9) #E230888/Birdwell, Jenna Lou
10) #E238096/Martin, Leslie Marie
11) #E238113/Palmers, Shelby Suzanne
12) #E238231/Robinson, Michelle Denise
CRIME SCENE: CRUCIFIX SYMBOL; LETTER 'R'

*****

Toni leaned her body over the edge of the bathtub in effort to reach the wine bottle sitting on the floor. Slipping, she splashed sudsy water on the bath rug but finally grabbed hold of the bottle. She poured her third glass of the night and gulped it down then refilled it again, placing the bottle nearby. Finally, she felt relaxed and safe within her world of solitude; behind the walls of multi-chains and locks she'd had installed on her doors a few years back. She felt safer inside her fortress-home than anywhere else on earth.

She leaned back adjusting the yellow plastic bath-pillow behind her head, shut her eyes, and listened to the soft music that engulfed the bathroom. The scent of lavender and rose filled the room and it soothed her nerves.

She couldn't control her mind from wandering and thinking about the victims and their poor families. What kind of hell their families must be going through living with the horror, and never knowing or understanding the reason why it had happened to them. She related to what it was like, not having family, but not that kind of loss. You can't suffer a loss, if you don't know what you lost in the first place.

Her father raised her. She couldn't remember her mother and didn't really want to, from what her father had told her. He'd said that her mother was mentally ill and an alcoholic, and that he had to leave her in order to protect her from her mother's drunken craziness. She never really knew the details, but her father told her that mental illness and alcoholism ran in her side of the family and he had felt he didn't have any choice but to leave and take his little girl with him. He was a good man and a good father. He understood that she wasn't like other children and helped her feel special instead of different. She missed him but, she took comfort knowing he died peacefully in his sleep.

She looked over at Aniel, where she proudly stood on the bath counter near the sink. Her father gave her the little porcelain angel to carry with her at all times. When she looked at it or held it, she felt closer to him. It always brought her comfort when remembering the time he had told her it was a magical guardian angel and would protect the little girl that owned her. Aniel, was still protecting her after twenty-five years.

Toni took another sip of wine and held her glass up in a toast to Aniel. "Here's to my protector, my keeper, my only friend," she toasted, gulping in one drink.

She stepped out of the bathtub, hastily dried off, grabbed her terry robe and quickly slipped her arms in each sleeve while running to answer the telephone on her nightstand.

"Hello," she answered.

"Toni, are you okay?" Meadows asked.

"I was just taking a hot bath and relaxing-- I'm fine, why?"

"I didn't know if I should've called you or not-- but I noticed something after you left tonight."

"What? What did you notice, Brad?" she asked, calling him by his first name for the first time.

He paused, inhaling deeply then exhaling slowly, completely startled because he was shocked she'd referred to him by his first name. He regained his composure. "I was looking at the crime scene photos and the aerial pictures, then noticed his M.O. had changed drastically with the last victim."

"But we know that," she answered, rubbing her wet hair with a towel.

"I know it's been a long day, Toni, but can you come back up here? It's important. I'd like to walk this out with you and pick your brain."

"I can't tonight, I've been drinking wine and can't drive. It'll have to wait until tomorrow."

"That's okay, Toni. I've had a couple myself. I'll send a car over to pick you up. John would be happy to come get you," he insisted.

"Well, I guess that's alright. But it'll take me about twenty minutes to be ready. Tell John that, okay?"

After hanging up, she went to the bedroom to dress. She decided to have another glass of wine, although she knew she'd had enough, but didn't feel tipsy at all. Bad sign. It should've gotten her at least mildly intoxicated and now a full bottle did nothing. But, she'd needed the courage to hear Meadows prognosis by the sound of it and wasn't driving anyway.

She stopped a moment and sat down on the edge of the bed with a sudden onset headache. She was hearing again...

... Time has come for further work,
the difference will be my masterpiece,
to savor and relish the process of labor.
For the artist's reward is in the making,
not just in his finished art,
in which he so cleverly crafted ...

Her mind echoed the chant over and over. This is different. It was happening-- but hadn't happened yet. Another victim? Was he stalking his next victim-- right now?

She quickly ran into the bathroom and grabbed her small, porcelain angel. "Aniel, my protector who delivers psychic powers, intuition and dreams-- give me the power to understand and help this woman before it's too late," she prayed outloud, repeating the prayer again.

 Chapter Fourteen - Power of Summation

The doorbell rang and Toni knew it could only be John. She peeked through the peep-hole before unlatching the locks and opened the door, allowing him to enter.

"Good evening, Ma'am," he politely announced, removing his hat.

"Hello, John. Have a seat and let me finish getting ready real quick. I won't take but a moment.  Promise."

"No hurry, Ms. Taft," he assured her.

John seated himself on the sofa, moving over-stuffed pillows to the side. He respected her, aware of her flawless reputation. He was about the only one at the precinct who did, except Detective Meadows. He believed some people had psychic abilities and believed it was a special gift that God bestowed on His selected few. Either that, or his theory that aliens came down and helped the Egyptians build their perfect pyramids then procreated with them. Some of their descendants received powers from the alien beings, like Ms. Taft, and some offspring didn't, which is the average person. What else could explain psychic power, telepathy and the like? Not everyone had those gifts. He'd only shared his philosophy with his wife and dared not with anyone else for fear of ridicule.

Toni tucked her figurine angel inside her purse then drew an ample coating of lip-gloss on her lips, tossing the tube inside before clasping it closed.

"I'm ready, John. By the way, do you know what Detective Meadows' theory is?" she asked, figuring he didn't, but didn't see the harm in asking. If he knew, it would give her some time to mull it over.

"No, Ma'am. He didn't tell me," John answered. Meadows wouldn't tell him anything. He was on a need-to-know basis. And he wasn't on the serial killer case anyway. He was ashamed of being the low-man on the totem pole and was more Meadow's errand boy than much else. Ever since he'd blundered the case of the male nurse mercy-killing patients, and the perp got off on a technicality because of a police mistake, he'd been unofficially demoted. He was the one that made the mistake. He didn't plan on sharing that humiliating information with Ms. Taft.

******

No sooner than Toni opened Meadows' office door, he met her. "Hi, Toni. Thanks for coming back," Meadows greeted, hugging her. "I know it's late, but this is important. Like I told you, I want to pick your brain while this is fresh in mine."

"I thought we covered most everything today. What's the new theory you've come up with?" she asked, surprised that he hugged her. She removed her coat and draped it over the chair, then combed her hair with her fingers like she always did.

He walked over and stood in front of the exhibits and chalkboards, then told her to sit down and get comfortable while he walked her through his hypothesis.

"Here's the list of victims in chronological order. We know he's mutilated and decapitated each victim and sexually assaulted them all," he said, as he demonstrated while pointing at the boards. "Some of the victim's body parts were never found and we originally thought the missing parts were probably trophies he'd kept. That's changed since the last one because all of that victim was found and a clump of hair was taken. Thus, his trophy."

"Yeah, we knew that. So?" she shrugged, sitting down. She didn't understand where he was going with his point.

"I started wondering why a serial killer would change his modis operandi and what provoked the change," he said.

Toni saw his point, recognizing it was valid. "I imagine it's like most serial killers. They start off as an amateur then gradually get smarter and braver. They develop their style as they go... it evolves while acquiring an insatiable appetite," she explained.

"Yeah, I'm aware of that and I've seen it in most cases. Let's think about this a moment, though. We know his victims are randomly selected and he probably didn't know them personally. But, what makes him go from one initial method of mutilation, changing to a symbolic ritual of another? I hadn't thought about how he's advanced before now," he wondered outloud.

"I think his first killings were originally born from a hatred for someone. Probably his mother. Then, after being satisfied from killing, it evolved into a ritual. It'll only escalate from here on. He's developed his sense of satisfaction now and knows what he wants and needs. And that's to crucify his object of hatred," she surmised.

"His mother? Do you really think all this is because he hates his mother? Then, he more than likely doesn't have a father in his life, right?"

"Yes. Likely an absent father and the mother was probably abusive, even sadistic. She's probably a selfish narcissist personality, maybe even a psychopath or sociopath combination. His mother neglected him horribly and may have subjected him to unnatural things... their mother and son relationship wasn't normal at all."

"Interesting theory, Toni. That's why I wanted your input so much. So, why didn't our profilers classify him with this probable screwed-up childhood scenario?" Meadows puzzled outloud.

 
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...for the artist's reward is in the making, not just in his finished art, in which he so cleverly crafted ...

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