Day 1 -- Monday
Socorro, New Mexico
Anderson-Dean University Campus
The room was full of life and chatter in the moments before the beginning
of class. Students, perched on stools, arranged supplies: brushes, paints,
charcoals, pastels, canvases, easels. A slender woman stood near the front
of the room, scratching an image onto a canvas as preparation for this
morning’s lesson. She looked up from her work and noticed the man in the
doorway. “I’m sorry, I didn’t see you come in,” she apologized as she
approached, wiping the charcoal from her hands onto her over-sized art
“It’s all right. I’m sorry I’m late. This is my first day here and I
got a little turned around. The campus is quite large,” he responded.
“It is that.” She smiled.
“By the way, I’m Jarod Calder.”
“The new model, right. Very nice to meet you. I’m Kris Richards and welcome
to my figure drawing class.”
“Thank you.” Nervously, he watched her push the windowless door closed.
Ms. Richards pointed to another door, behind the heavy burgundy drapery.
“You can change in there.”
Jarod nodded and entered the room. He emerged a moment later dressed
only in a robe.
“Are you ready?” she asked.
“As I’ll ever be.”
“Great. You know the drill.”
Actually, I don’t, but I’m really good at faking it, he thought.
He heard Ms. Richards explaining the day’s lesson, actual comprehension
of any of it? Maybe a quarter.
He untied his robe and slid it from his shoulders and to the floor. This
was the craziest thing he could remember doing, or at least the most revealing.
But, it was necessary. The Centre had kept him covered and hidden for
so many years. He needed to break free.
He stepped around the curtain, making eye contact with none of the students.
Catching the butterflies painfully making their presence known, he reclined
his slender, disrobed form onto the padded table and set his pose for
the hour-long class.
* * * * * * * * *
He was beautiful. The long, slender legs, and not even a hint of a tan
line, muscular chest, strong arms, and not to mention, that sexy goatee;
this assignment would be a challenge. How was she supposed to do a body
like that justice? “Focus,” she told herself. “You are an art student
and accustomed to depicting beauty.” She steadied herself on her stool
and poised the charcoal over the canvas. She was amazed at the ease with
which her drawing came to life. Somehow her black charcoal had even captured
the light in his soft, brown eyes.
“That is beautiful work, Lea,” Ms. Richards commented on the drawing.
“Thank you,” Leandra Marshall responded and returned to her work. The
image was still there; she had not imagined it. Never before had she created
a work of this magnitude; she was even more surprised it was done in her
weakest medium. Watercolors were generally her media of choice, but Mondays
were set aside for practicing charcoal.
* * * * * * * * *
The hour was up; Jarod slid from the table and stepped behind the curtain
to retrieve his robe. He had survived the first class with his humanity
intact. Silently leaving the classroom, he slid into the art model changing
room, an amenity he did not remember seeing in other colleges or universities.
Exiting the room, much more comfortable in black jeans and a white button-down
with the sleeves rolled to his elbows, he caused quite a commotion in
the hallway. Books lay at his feet, several art implements slid across
to the other side of the corridor.
“Oh, how clumsy of me. I’m so sorry, Mr. Calder.” The woman looked up
at him; he nearly melted on the spot, her eyes were so warm and caring.
A smile on his face, “It’s all right. And, please, call me Jarod.” He
picked up a couple books and several art brushes.
“Sure. My name is Lea Marshall.” She offered him her hand and lost her
pile of books again. “Damn.” Lea knelt to the floor. “Sometimes we art
majors don’t think as fast as we act.” Her smile was as warm and caring
as her eyes.
“Nice to meet you, Lea.” He helped her collect her books again. She reached
for her texts. “Why don’t I carry these for you?” he offered.
“Sure. Thanks. You want to get something to eat? I think the cafeteria
is serving hamburgers today. Not as good as mom’s cooking, but better
than the meatloaf from yesterday.”
Jarod nodded, smiling. He was hungry and really had gotten lost on the
campus looking for the classroom. It would be nice to relax and rely,
a little, on someone else for a change.
The cafeteria was noisy and full of people, students of all ages and
religions and races and cultures. The variety of people amazed him. He
heard several languages being spoken, only comprehending a few words and
phrases, not able to focus on everything all at the same time.
Lea had been right; hamburgers were on the menu for today. He was very
hungry; he would have to get out of this habit of skipping breakfast.
They talked for nearly an hour, then Lea mentioned she had another class.
Jarod offered to escort her, then regretfully apologized, remembering
a previous engagement. He did agree to meet her later in the afternoon.
* * * * * * * * *
Closing his red notebook, he stood in the doorway, watching. Graceful
strokes over the canvas were giving shape to a gorgeous image: a tall,
blond man; sharp, blue eyes, athletic build. “That’s an amazing painting.
Mind if I ask who inspired such a work?” Jarod asked, weaving through
easels and stools.
“Thank you, Jarod. This is a painting of my husband.” She added a few
strokes of color to the image’s face.
“Has he seen it?”
“No. And he won’t.” Smiling, she answered the sad question in his face.
“He was killed in an automobile accident several years ago.”
“Oh. I’m sorry.” He was sympathetic, and a bit relieved that he did not
have to add someone else to his list of investigations.
“It’s all right, Jarod. I’ve moved on. I have my classes and my art to
get me through.” She rinsed her brush, banged it against the easel leg
to knock off some of the water, and loaded it with the next color mixture.
“Now, I’m sure you did not come down here to discuss the death of my husband.”
She dabbed more paint onto the canvas.
“No. Actually, I was wondering if you knew anything about the bodies
that had been found near campus recently?”
Ms. Richards shook her head. “Nothing beyond what I’ve heard the students
“And what are they saying?”
“One of the students on campus found the last body and reported it to
campus security, anonymously. The local authorities were called in, but
I don’t think they’ve come up with anything. I’m sorry I don’t know any
“No. That’s great. Thank you.” He turned to leave.
He stopped and turned back to her.
“Thank you for caring.”
“You’re welcome.” Silently, he left the room and entered the corridor.
* * * * * * * * *
Sam entered the sim lab and looked around inquisitively. Surveying the
expanse, he counted four people: a set of twins, Sydney, and Broots. Miss
Parker was not present. She had not been in her office either. No one
had seen her.
“Can I help you, Sam?” Sydney asked when he spotted the sweeper on the
“Have you seen Miss Parker? I have an important package for her.”
“No. Not since yesterday. But if you’d like, I’ll be sure she gets it,”
Sam squared his shoulders, stood firm. “I’ve been instructed to give
it only to Miss Parker.”
“I’m sorry, Sam. I haven’t seen her.”
Broots glanced up from his computer, cleared his throat. “Um, she didn’t
report in this morning.”
“You didn’t tell me that,” Sydney chastised.
“I’m sorry. I forgot, I was working on a technical problem all morning,”
“Did she call to say why she wasn’t coming?” Sam shifted his weight.
Broots shook his head. “Not that I know of.”
“Why the concern, Sam? Miss Parker operates on her own schedule.” Sydney
did not understand the sweeper’s position.
Sam furrowed his brow a little. “Miss Parker does not make a habit of
running off without informing someone. The package I was given is labeled:
*Confidential / Urgent.* I must find her.”
“I wish I could help you, but I have not seen her since yesterday.” Sydney
took a quick glance at his set of twins, then returned his attention to
“Thank you.” The sweeper turned to leave.
“Wait,” Broots called and watched the large man face him. “Um, if the
package is urgent, perhaps we should try to find her?” He waited a moment
for someone to speak. No one did. “I’m gonna search Centre itineraries
and see if there was anything scheduled,” Broots explained as he began
a series of keystrokes.
Sam descended the short flight of stairs and crossed the room to stand
behind Broots. He watched the tech work, still firmly holding the package.
The computer beeped, indicating it had completed its set of instructions.
“What did you find?” Sam asked.
Broots looked up at the sweeper over his shoulder. “Nothing.”
“Nothing on Miss Parker?” Sydney leaned over the tech’s desk.
“No. I mean nothing. There are *NO* itineraries in the system.” Broots
looked back and forth between the two men hovering over him.
“Where else can you search, Mr. Broots?” Sam asked, seeking any possibility.
“Well, let’s see.” Broots began a new search of Centre files. He noticed
Sam and Sydney were still hovering. “Um, you may want to find something
to do, because this is going to take a while.”
“Let me know when you have something.” Sam instructed and left the lab.
“That was odd.”
“How so, Broots?”
“I don’t remember Sam pushing so hard.”
Sydney squeezed his chin between his thumb and forefinger. “Whatever
is in that package must be very important.”
* * * * * * * * *
Day 2 -- Tuesday
Socorro, New Mexico
Local Police Station
“Can I help you, handsome?” the short, plump woman behind the desk asked
of the man strolling through the door.
Drawing on his best southern gentleman’s voice, without the twang of
an accent, Jarod responded, “Well, ma’am. I’m looking for the detective
in charge of the investigation of the body found on the University campus.”
Seemingly impressed with his performance, she answered his request; “That
would be Detective Daniel Sydor and his partner, Detective J.T. Nieuwendyk.”
“Would it be all right if I had a word with one of them?”
“Wait here, honey. I’ll see what I can do.”
“Thank you very much, ma’am.” Jarod waited patiently while the desk sergeant
wandered through the maze of officers to a stern looking man seated behind
an ancient desk. He seemed annoyed at the interruption, but rose from
his chair and followed the desk sergeant.
“Detective Daniel Sydor. How can I be of service?” the detective introduced
himself, more as an obligation than a courtesy.
“Well, sir,” Jarod began, retaining his gentlemanly tone, “I’m a student
at the university. I’ve been doing some research for one of my classes…”
“Aren’t you a little old to be a student?” Sydor asked, suspicious.
Jarod tipped his head to one side and raised an eyebrow, looking insulted.
“I’m studying for a Ph.D. in various fields and obtaining a second bachelors
degree in forensic artistry."
Chagrined, the detective remained silent.
“Like I was saying, I’m doing some research for a class, and wanted some
information on the body that was found near the campus.”
“Well, as a student of forensics, among other things, you should know
that the police do not generally allow civilians to travel to crime scenes.”
Sydor paused; Jarod raised an eyebrow at the detective again as he continued,
“But, since you are researching for a class, why don’t you tag along with
my partner and I to the scene?” The detective waved to his partner.
“Sounds great. Thank you.” Jarod followed the two detectives to their
* * * * * * * * *
Several turns into the drive, Jarod noticed Sydor’s partner, Detective
Nieuwendyk, swinging a hinged piece of metal. “What is that?” Jarod leaned
over the back of the front seat, eyeing the item in the detective’s hand.
Nieuwendyk handed the hinged metal object to Jarod. “It’s a butterfly
Jarod examined the blade. He held one side of the knife and it fell open.
“This doesn’t look very practical as a weapon.” Jarod’s face contorted
as he attempted to determine how the knife functioned.
“Yeah. Actually, butterfly knives are better for showing off, than for
use as a weapon.”
Nieuwendyk accepted the blade as Jarod returned it to him. “Let’s see
if I can do this slow enough for you to see it.” The detective flipped
and rolled the hinged blade over his fingers, opening and closing the
“Fascinating. May I?”
“Sure.” Nieuwendyk handed the knife back to Jarod.
Clumsily, Jarod tried his hand. Several attempts later, he was nearly
an expert himself. By the time they arrived at the crime scene, he had
mastered the art of the butterfly knife techniques Nieuwendyk had shown
him, and created a few variations of his own.
“Hey, you’re pretty good with that thing,” Nieuwendyk commented. “You
sure you haven’t done this before?”
“Nah. I’m a quick study.”
“Are you boys finished playing with your toys?” Sydor was waiting with
the driver’s side door open.
“Sorry, Daniel. Let’s go, Jarod.”
Death hung in the air as they proceeded to the scene. Even the trees
looked depressed. Clouds moved over the sun and nature held its breath.
Jarod stood among the trees, feeling, becoming, living the crime that
had left this scene. Violence was not present in the trees, only malice.
The act had been done before these branches became the ceiling of this
chamber of death.
“Where was the body?” Jarod asked.
“It was found right here.” Nieuwendyk drew an outline of the body in
“White female about 5’7”, slender build, dark hair. She might have been
a student here at the university.”
Jarod nodded solemnly. “And this is the third victim?” He had read about
the previous two murders, both unsolved.
“Yes. The first two were also found near campus. Both naked, both tall
with dark hair. Like this one.” Nieuwendyk produced photographs of the
“What’s the M.O.?”
“Were any articles of clothing found on the scene?”
“Only a red scarf around their necks.” Nieuwendyk returned the photographs
to his pocket. “Other than that they were naked.”
Jarod nodded and pulled out a notebook and pen. Sydor watched as Jarod
began sketching the scene. Delicate pen strokes that began as a jumble
of lines and curves, became a near perfect rendering of the crime scene.
Jarod stopped drawing and glanced to the pair of detectives. “Was the
body face-up or down?”
“Face up,” Sydor answered, sliding his hands into his pockets.
“Thanks.” Jarod returned to his sketch. He wandered around the scene,
sketching from different angles. Something in the grass caught his eye
and he knelt to retrieve it with his pen. He tilted his head, studying
the object dangling from the end of his pen.
“Find something?” Nieuwendyk asked, stepping beside Jarod.
“Not sure.” He placed the object in the detective’s gloved hand.
“Daniel,” Nieuwendyk called to his partner, “How did we miss this?”
Jarod watched Sydor examine the object. “Is that ring something important?”
Sydor handed the ring back to his partner. “No. I don’t think so, but
take it back to the lab and have it tested. Let’s go.” He turned and walked
back to the car.