Beginning Three

James Ellison frowned at the gate, eyes narrowed, trying to spot the man he was supposed to meet. Not easy when all you had was a vague description. But then again, that vague description was very accurate. He stepped forward.

"Frank Black?" He said and the man with the worn face nodded. "Detective Ellison." He offered his hand and the other man took it in a surprisingly strong grip.

"Pleased to meet you. Though I wish it were under better circumstances."

"So do I." He glanced at the small suitcase Black carried. "Any other luggage?" Black shook his head. "Good. Come on." He lead the other man through the terminal and out to where his car was parked. Neither man spoke until they were in the car and Ellison was easing it out of the airport parking lot.

"How much do you know?" Ellison asked.

"Just the basics. Six sexual assaults ending in murder over the past six weeks."

"Every Wednesday, like clockwork. We even tried to put out decoys the last two weeks but he didn't bite."

Frank looked at him sharply. "You know what he's after?"

"All of the victims are alike; approximate height and build, light hair and eyes. Attractive. All male ranging in age from 37 to 45."

"Hmmmmm. And his MO?"

"On Tuesday, he snatches his victim, apparently knocks them out with chloroform. He takes them somewhere isolated, tortures and sodomizes them, slit their throats then dumps them somewhere. A different place each time."

"So they're physically alike. How about careers? Hobbies?"

"No go. Five totally different jobs, one unemployed. Different interests that barely overlapped. Four of them were residents of Cascade, two just visiting. Even their sexual preferences varied; three were heterosexual, two homosexual, one bisexual.

"So it's the physical similarities that is attracting the killer."

"It sounds like he's obsessed with someone that fits that profile."

"It does at that." Black frowned thoughtfully.

The two men rode in silence for a long moment before Ellison finally spoke. "Which hotel will you be staying at?"

"I'm not. I'll be staying with a friend, a professor at the University. He's offered me use of his car. He said hed swing around the station about five and pick me up."

"Good. Give you a few hours to go over the case."

They arrived at the station ten minutes later and Ellison lead him through the building to the central task room. Ellison introduced Black to the half-dozen people in the room, finishing with his partner, police observer Blair Sandburg. Frank nodded politely before turning to look at the crime scene photos tacked up on a wall.

The photos were in full graphic color. The faces were almost gone, covered by slashes as were the torsos. None of those wounds would have been fatal save for the possibility of slowly bleeding to death but the deep slash across the throat was.

"Do you have photos of them before. . ?" He gestured at the crime scene photos.

"Yeah. Over here." Ellison pointed toward another wall and Frank paused, looking them over. His frown deepened. The resemblance between the men was uncanny. As was their resemblance to someone he knew.

"He snatched them off the street?"

"Yeah, from all over the city. The last was from the campus..."

"Campus?" Frank asked sharply, feeling a sudden uncomfortable pang. "Do you have a map. . ?"

"Yeah, over there. Blue for where they were snatched, red for where they were dumped.

Frank stepped over to examine it, feeling a tightness in his stomach. He pointed to a part of the map. "The campus?" Ellison nodded. Frank was aware of Blair joining them, watching curiously. Raising his hand, Frank jabbed at the blue pins, following them in a spiral to the campus, his finger resting on the final pin. "Where's Jefferson Road?"

Both Ellison and Blair stared at him in confusion. "Ahhh. . ." Blair stepped closer, studying the campus intently before pointing. "There."

"Hmmmm." Frank moved his finger to complete the spiral, finally resting on a point on Jefferson Road. Without a word, he did the same with the red pins in a reverse spiral, his finger landing in the same place. He looked at Ellison.

"I don't believe it. How the hell did you know that!?"

"Remember I told you I was staying with a friend? Well, he fits the victim profile perfectly. And he lives on Jefferson Road on the campus."

"A professor then?" Blair asked. "Who is he?"

"James Horne."

"Yeah, I've heard of him. He's guest-lecturing at the University."

"He moved here about two months ago." Frank continued.

"And the murders started six weeks ago. The killer must have followed him here."

"Maybe." Frank frowned. "He used to be a profiler. A damn good one. Maybe this is one of the people he helped put away."

"He doesn't profile anymore?" Ellison asked.

"No." was all Frank said in reply.

"If he's after Horne, why all the games with these other men? Why not just snatch Horne?

Frank shook his head slowly. "Prolonging the hunt? The pleasure? Or. . ." His eyes narrowed. "He wants James to know he's coming. Maybe he thought you would contact him for help."

"I better send someone out to get him." Ellison started to turn away but Frank stopped him with a hand on the arm.

"He has classes all afternoon and then he's coming right out here. And besides, he grabs them every Tuesday. It's only Friday."

Ellison hesitated then nodded. "That's only a couple hours. We'll wait for him then."

Frank nodded absently, turning to eye the crime scene photos again. "If it is someone that James helped put away then maybe that someone used the same MO then." He looked around until he spotted a computer. "Are there search parameters set up on that computer?"

"Yeah. Sandburg, you mind?"

The words were barely out of his mouth before Blair was perched at the computer, fingers ready. Frank stepped over to look over his shoulder.

"Keep the same parameters but add the name Horne. . .with an E. . .to it."

"Got it!!" Blair did something arcane to the computer then leaned back. "It may take awhile."

Frank turned back to studying the crime scene photos, studying the slashes. They were very much alike, obviously the killer was trying to duplicate his methods each attack. He peered closer, trying to see if there was any meaning in the slashes, in each horrible stroke of a razor but nothing came to him. He accepted the coffee Ellison offered him and continued his examinations. Behind him he could her the ebbing voices of the others in the task force.

His concentration was broken suddenly by Blair, still perched at the computer.

"Ohmanohmanohman. . .I think you guys might want to see this." There was an odd tone to the young mans voice and both Ellison and Frank moved quickly to stay behind him, peering at the computer screen. What they saw was the last thing Frank expected to see.

It was a crime scene photo very much like the one on the wall behind them; a man laying on a blood-soaked bed, rope burns on his wrists and gashes on his face and chest but none on his throat. His eyes were open slightly and there was vague awareness in them as he stared at something behind the photographer. Blood and slashes marred the man's face but even so he was familiar to Frank. And the victim's name on the report confirmed it.

"James Steven Horne." Frank read slowly, shock vibrating through him. He'd never received so much as an inkling of this.

"Six years ago." Blair said, scanning the report. "Snatched out of his driveway. . .oh, man, on a Tuesday. . .taken to an abandoned warehouse and assaulted. Rescued just in time."

Frank frowned. "I think I was wrong. Maybe we should go get James now."

"Right. Dig further, Sandburg. We'll be back as soon as we can pick Horne up."

"Right."

The two men hurried from the station, Ellison digging for his keys.

"You didn't know anything about this?" Ellison asked as he started the car.

"No. No hint." Frank pulled his phone from a pocket, calling information. "Yeah, I need the number for the University. Faculty information. Uh-huh." He scrambled a pen and paper from his pocket, writing furiously. "Thanks." He hung up and redialed, this time getting Faculty Information. "I'm looking for James Horne. I believe he's guest-lecturing there...all right. Thank you." He slapped the phone shut and shoved it back into his pocket. "He's lecturing at Howell Hall."

"I know. . ." A phone ring cut him off and it was Ellison's turn to pull his phone from his own pocket. "Yeah? What? Are you sure? Well, keep digging." He closed his phone and dropped it back into his pocket. "Well, we've hit a snag. Seems that the man who kidnapped Horne 6 years ago was killed in prison."

"Are you sure?"

"That's what Sandburg found out. . .here we are." Ellison pulled into a parking space just in front of the building with the name Howell Hall on it. "Let's get Horne. Maybe he can explain."

The room wasn't hard to find. It was packed. . .apparently Horne was a popular lecturer. The two men found empty seats at the very back of the room, listening as Horne answered questions from the students. He was obviously enjoying himself, answering more with questions then answers, directing the questioners to books and research to enable them to find their own answers. Finally the lecture came to an end and the two men waited for the students to clear out before rising and heading down the stairs to the podium. Horne was there, shoving notes into a backpack, chatting with a half-dozen people. He blinked when he spotted Frank.

"Frank! I thought I was picking you up at the police station."

"Something's come up." Frank eyed the crowd and they reluctantly dispersed.

James eyed him for a long moment. He looked much as Frank remembered him; silvery-blond hair a bit longer then when they first meet, eyes blessedly clear and sane, clean-shaven and lean with hidden muscle. His eyes shifted to Ellison and he frowned, stooping to shove the last of his papers into the pack and straightened, hanging it from a shoulder.

"So what's up?"

"This is James Ellison, a detective from the PD." Ellison offered his hand and James shook it warily. "You hear about the serial killer? The six murders?" It was more a statement then a question. James may have given up profiling for teaching but he was still a profiler at heart.

"I read what was in the paper, if that's what you mean. But I don't profile anymore, remember Frank?" There was a hint of bitterness in James' voice as he brushed past the two men. Frank grabbed his arm in passing, stopping him. The two men stared at each other for a long moment then Frank drew his hand from his pocket to offer James the bundle of polariods.

Unwillingly, James' eyes fell to the top picture and his face went startling white. For a moment, Ellison thought he was going to faint. James swung the pack from his shoulder, letting it fall to the floor before reaching for the polariods. Numbly he shuffled through them.

"God." He whispered, squeezing his eyes close. He thrust the photos back at Frank and turned away.

"I take it you recognize the MO?" Ellison asked and James whirled on him with fire in his eyes. For a moment the detective thought he was going to swing on him and his muscles tightened but then the fire faded from James' eyes and he looked suddenly tired.

"What do you want?" He asked.

"I think the killer's after you, James." Frank said in his steady way.

"What!? Why?"

Frank exchanged glances with Ellison. "We think it has something to do with what happened six years ago."

"Six years. . ? Oh god." Looking numb, James sat down in a chair. He shook his head abruptly. "That's not possible. He's dead."

"A copycat?"

"Copycat? Maybe. But why me?"

Ellison eyed the man, puzzled. "Maybe he considers you unfinished business."

James looked puzzled. "Me? Why. . ? Oh!" Realization dawned and he scrambled for his wallet, flipping it open to show Frank a picture. Frank blinked and suddenly understood.

"A twin brother. That's right. You mentioned him." He looked at James. "He was the one who was attacked?"

"Yeah. Six years ago in Boston."

Ellison leaned over to look at the picture. They were obviously identical twins, caught by surprise by the photographer. "But the name. . .James Horne."

"James Steven Horne." James corrected. "Family tradition. Twins are given the same name. The first born is called by the first name, the second by the middle. So. . .James and Steve." He buried his head in his hands. "God, I need a cigarette."

"I didn't know you smoked." Frank said.

"I don't." James rose, scooping up his backpack. "Not anymore." He started up the stairs and the other two men hurried to catch up to him. "What do you want me for?"

"Like we said," Ellison said. "We think you are the killer's ultimate target."

"Why?"

Frank explained about the victims and the locations of the snatchings and dump sites.

"That's sick." James started across the parking lot only to be brought up short by Ellison's hand on his shoulder.

"I think you better ride with me."

"But. . !"

"I saw the spirals, James." Frank said. "They both ended on a location on Jefferson Road. If we look closer, I bet that they end at your house."

James stared at him for a long moment then sighed. "Where?"

Ellison lead him to the truck. Frank slipped into the back, James in the passenger seat, his pack on the floor at his feet.

"How much do you know about the case your brother was on when he was attacked?" Frank asked.

"Not much. We never got involved with each other's cases."

"Could you contact your brother?" Ellison asked.

James shook his head. "Not a good idea. Steve was badly traumatized by the attack. He had a break down. I don't think he could deal with facing it again."

Ellison could imagine. He felt his skin crawl but continued relentlessly.

end beginning three


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