Michael T. Weiss as Jarod
Andrea Parker as Miss Parker
Patrick Bauchau as Sydney
Jon Gries as Broots
Peter Wingfield as Det. Daniel Sydor
Richard Burgi as Det. John Thomas "J.T." Nieuwendyk
Sam Ayers as Sam the sweeper
Gina Torres as Leandra Marshall
Robert Kelly Thomas as Craig Van Allen
Janet Gretzky as Prfessor Kristine Richards
Ryan Merriman as Young Jarod
Alex Wexo as Young Sydney
Richard Marcus as Mr. Raines
Why would this be wrong? Being naked. The human body is beautiful, ever present in art and literature. He tilted his head to one side, watching as he shifted his body into the pose of Michelangelo’s David. The contraposto curving from shoulder to hip of classical sculpture pulled a DSA image to his mind.
”Jarod? Jarod?” an accented voice called from just outside the open door. “Jarod, come out now.”
A young Jarod, about age twelve, listened to the voice, but made no effort to move. He was transfixed, amazed, at the realism of the biology he had studied. His body looked similar to, but not exactly like, the drawings. He was confused and intrigued: confused by the inaccuracies; intrigued by the discovery.
The accented voice drew nearer, but Jarod was oblivious. He did not even hear the gasp that preceded the heavy robe that fell across his shoulders. “Jarod, you must never reveal your body to anyone,” the accented man calmly lectured.
”But why, Sydney?”
A slight wheeze accompanied the remark originating from the exterior door, “Because it is evil. You must be punished for your wrongdoing.”
Two large sweepers entered the room, grabbed Jarod by the arms.
”Sydney!” the boy called.
”Raines, he’s just a boy. He doesn’t understand.”
”Sydney, you know the rules,” Raines spoke around his cigarette.
The rest of Sydney’s pleas were left unnoticed as Raines left the room behind the boy and the sweepers.
* * * * * * * * * *
”Jarod, what’s wrong?” Sydney asked of the solemn boy retreated into the corner.
”We have work to do.” He coaxed Jarod from the corner and into the hall.
Jarod pulled the blanket he had dragged from the bed tighter around himself. Only his head and feet exposed.
”I think we can leave this behind.” Sydney tugged at the blanket, but Jarod would not relinquish his thin film of security. “All right, but only for today.”
A blank stare met his words. What had Raines done to Jarod to cause such withdrawal? Now he would have to spend time returning Jarod to his previous state, which could have been spent on other work.
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 shirt.
“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 saying.”
“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 more.”
“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 landing.
“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,” Sydney offered.
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,” Broots defended.
“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 Sam.
“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.”
* * * * * * * * *
“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 car.
* * * * * * * * *
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 knife.”
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 knife expertly.
“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 the air.
“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 three victims.
“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.
Today’s class was similar to the previous one. Jarod entered the room and assumed his pose for the day’s lesson, except today, Kristine Richards had invited a second model, a woman; a very lovely woman. Ms. Richards had informed Jarod of the schedule for the day’s lesson - a study in embrace - but Jarod was still a little nervous. Jarod felt his heart racing, but not about being naked in front of the class.
He calmed his nerves and curled his arms around the slender woman, her legs curled under her, her head on his shoulder. Soft, golden hair cascaded along her back, the ends tickling his skin. The embrace was soft, her breasts against his chest; flesh against flesh, comfortable. To complete the pose, he bent his head, gently, to her shoulder.
* * * * * * * * *
Craig Van Allen studied his drawing. Something was missing. He pondered the couple in the center of the room, comparing the models to his canvas. The man’s face was giving him problems; he just could not capture something he knew was there, just beneath the surface. Perhaps the man was hiding something. Craig scratched a few more lines to the face, then began shading other aspects of the image. It was coming to life, the bodies holding a piece of reality, almost like a photograph, but the man’s face was still a mystery. Craig shook his head and put down his drawing implements when the professor announced the end of class. The face would just have to remain a mystery.
* * * * * * * * *
Jarod was tying his robe and chatting with his partner for the day, whose name he learned was Amy, when Ms. Richards approached. “Wonderful class today. Thank you very much.” A wide, bright smile lit her face.
“It was an excellent class,” Amy responded. “And, if you’ll excuse me, I have one of my own to attend. It was lovely working with you, Jarod.”
“Thank you. I enjoyed working with you also.” They shook hands and Amy took her leave. “Kristine,” Jarod began, and continued when he had her attention again, “I was wondering if you had heard anything else about the murders.”
Ms. Richards shook her head. “No, sorry. Nothing.” She paused a moment, then continued, “Have the police found anything?”
“Nothing of any significance. How did you know I spoke with the police?”
“A couple students saw you yesterday. People talk. The campus is really a small world.”
“So, I’ve noticed. Thank you.” Jarod secured his robe and exited the classroom to change his clothes.
* * * * * * * * *
“Hey, Jarod, wanna go to lunch?” Lea asked him as he stepped from his dressing room, rolling the sleeves of his white, button-down.
“Sure.” He looked up from his sleeve and noticed another student.
“Oh, Jarod Calder, this is my friend, Craig Van Allen.”
“Nice to meet you, Mr. Van Allen.” Jarod shook the man’s hand.
“Same here, Mr. Calder.”
“Please, call me Jarod.”
“Sure. And I’m Craig.” He turned to Lea. “So, what’s for lunch?”
“I think pizza, but you can get a salad, Craig.”
“Great. Let’s go.” Craig motioned for Lea to precede him.
* * * * * * * * *
Lunch conversation covered various points of art. Jarod’s questions and comments focused mainly on the Renaissance and Mannerist periods. He was interested in Lea and Craig’s opinions regarding nudity in art.
“The human body has been the subject of art for years. Both clothed and nude. This air of modesty imposed on us, at least at the level it is in the U.S., is a modern concept. Of course, by modern, I mean the last four- or five- hundred years.” Craig took a sip from his water bottle.
“Exactly. Modesty has been prevalent for years, but even the Olympics were originally exercised in the nude,” Lea expressed, placing her fork beside her plate.
“All right, so explain something for me.” Jarod watched the two art students’ intent gazes. “Nudity in still art is generally accepted, but requires a strict rating in movies?”
“Sort of. But not all still art. Playboy magazine is not necessarily considered art, though producing those photographs is a form of art, it’s considered pornography,” Lea responded.
“Well, as much as I am enjoying this discussion on the history of modesty, I have a class across campus in fifteen minutes.” Craig rose from the table.
“It was nice meeting you, Craig.”
“You too, Jarod.” Craig dumped his trash and left the cafeteria.
“I need to get to class also.” Lea collected her books and supplies, trying to balance everything before she attempted to pick up her tray.
“I’ll get that,” Jarod offered, collecting both trays.
Trays returned, Jarod offered to walk Lea to her next class. During the walk, Lea told Jarod about the day she found the body.
“I was looking for a good place to stop and draw. Just walking around the campus. All the art students do that. I was walking and glanced through the trees and saw the body. It really scared me.”
Jarod saw her visibly shiver, her dark eyes withdraw. He spoke to comfort her; “It’s not something people are usually accustomed to.” He put a gentle arm around her shoulders.
“She was just laying there with a scarf around her neck and nothing else.” Lea’s solemn voice was barely audible. She stopped walking at the bottom of the Hall stairs and lowered her head. “Jarod, I don’t know why I’m telling you any of this. I haven’t told anyone but the police. Not even Craig, and he’s my best friend.”
“Sometimes talking to someone you don’t know well is easier.”
“Thank you, Jarod.”
“I really need to go to class now. Maybe we can meet later and talk?”
“Sure.” He watched her as she walked into the building.
* * * * * * * * *
“This is Sydney,” came the accented voice through the receiver.
“Why is nakedness bad?” Jarod asked, keying up a DSA.
“It’s a question of modesty, Jarod.”
“It is permitted in art, but not everyday life? Why Sydney?” The DSA, dated 10/25, showed Jarod, age twelve, sitting at a table in a simulation lab in deep concentration over several graphics and diagrams.
“Nudity in our everyday lives is permitted within specific parameters. In one’s home, where no one can see, nudity is allowable. But open, public display is frowned upon by the general population.”
“There are laws against *public display,* Sydney.” The young boy on the DSA glanced up, first, at the DSA recorders in the corners to his right and behind him, then at the large Plexiglas walls surrounding him. He pushed his shoes off with his feet, still concentrating on his graphics and diagrams.
“To protect people, Jarod. Why this sudden interest?”
“It’s not sudden, Sydney. It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while, and now I want to know why I was punished for wanting to know my body. It is *my* body, after all.” Jarod watched the DSA screen, the younger version of himself removed his shirt and tossed it into the air; it landed softly atop the far DSA recorder, covering the lens.
“The Centre didn’t feel it was a good idea to let you wander around naked.” There was no immediate response from Jarod. Sydney remembered something; "Jarod, what happened to you that time I found you in your room?"
"Nothing, compared to the next time."
"What next time?"
Jarod was silent.
The DSA continued; the young boy on the screen pushed his chair back from the table. He stepped into the corner, beneath the uncovered DSA recorder. Moments later, the boy emerged, all his clothing removed, and stepped to the Plexiglas wall that would serve as his mirror. He stood before the wall and focused his eyes on the faint, distorted image. Tilting his head to one side, he turned, trying to study all angles of his body.
Jarod came out of his reverie and spoke, “Sydney, they locked me in a dark room for three days, naked and cold and hungry. The fourth day, I was given a scalding shower. And you did nothing!” Jarod was seething, ready to explode.
A long silence stretched between them.
Jarod took a deep breath and waited. The silence continued.
"Sydney?" Jarod prompted, annoyed
Gathering himself after this revelation, Sydney responded, “Believe me, Jarod, I was unaware any of this had happened."
Jarod said nothing. Sydney and his convenient "I was unaware" speeches.
"I was in Detroit for a convention. Had I known, I would have done anything in my power to stop it.”
“But why, Sydney? Why such a strong sense of modesty? The human body is beautiful and should not be required to be concealed.”
“That decision was not up to me. I did what I was told.”
“Good bye, Sydney.” Jarod ended the call and ejected the DSA, hurling it across the room, watching it slam into the door, but not break. He reclined in his chair, allowing all negative thoughts to fall from his mind, and scratched his goateed chin as the sunlight warmed his bare skin.
* * * * * * * * *
Broots stopped Sydney in the hall on his way to the elevator. “Have you seen Sam?”
“I think he’s in Miss Parker’s office,” Sydney replied.
“Broots.” Sydney waited for the man’s attention. “Do you have something on Miss Parker?”
“Come on.” Broots motioned for Sydney to follow him onto the elevator. He was silent during the ride and walk to Miss Parker’s office. He pushed the door open; peering around it, verifying Sam was present. “Sam, I think I might have something for you.”
Sam waved the gentlemen in, then scruffed his hair, rubbed his eyes, and focused on the computer screen again.
“Well, I can’t tell you where she is; I’ve tried her cell phone several times with no response; but I might be able to tell you when she left.” Broots flipped open the file folder in his hand and noticed the *urgent* package still under Sam’s expert care. He began to wonder what could be so important.
“Fine,” Sam stated plainly.
“All right. We know she wasn’t here yesterday, Tuesday, and I found out that she left the Centre early the day before, Monday, some time around two-thirty, according to Rudy, you know, the guy with the twitch in his left eye, who works the mail route near the front entrance?”
“Broots, today please?” Sam said, nearly pleading for the tech’s dissertation to end.
“Right. Sorry. Well, Rudy said he saw her at the door around two-thirty and she was gone about five minutes later, but she hadn’t passed him to go back to her office, so she must’ve left the building.”
“Do you know where she went?”
“Well, no. But, I found this,” Broots leaned over and tapped several keys, retrieving a memo.
Sam moved toward the monitor, reading the memo, Sydney next to him. “This was sent to Miss Parker?” The significance of the memo was not apparent.
“Yes. From her father.”
“So, what happened in the meeting?” Sydney asked.
“I wasn’t there.” Broots’ eyes widened and he shook his head.
Sydney nodded. “No, Broots. I know you were not at the meeting. Did you find anything about it?”
Enthusiastically, Broots flipped open the folder in his hands. “I did find this.” He slid several sheets of paper onto the desk for Sam and Sydney.
Nodding, Sam scanned the pages. “So, Mr. Parker told her to take a vacation.”
“No. Well, I mean, that’s what it says in the file, but that’s not really what he told her.” Broots leaned closer to the sweeper and whispered, “See, Miss Parker’s been working on a side project and I don't think her father's too happy about it."
Sam blinked once, slowly, and turned his head. “Are you saying she’s been sent away to be killed?” Sam’s voice was as low as the tech’s.
Broots shook his head. “No. I don’t think so. Probably more as a warning, but I don’t know where.”
“Keep searching.” Sam handed the pages from the file back to Broots and returned to the computer search he had been conducting.
Broots nodded and left the office with Sydney.
* * * * * * * * *
“So, you’ve gone over the information we’ve released and your conclusions are the same as ours?” Nieuwendyk asked.
“Unfortunately you haven’t released enough information for this to be easy.” Jarod stacked some pages and pushed them aside.
Nieuwendyk smiled. “We try.”
“Okay, can we talk hypotheticals?”
“Sure.” Nieuwendyk sat across the table from Jarod, rolling his pen around his fingers.
“All right. So, let’s say none of the victims were raped, but all were found naked except for the scarf around their necks.” Jarod took a breath. “Beyond the bodies and the scarves, there is little evidence at the scenes. We determine death is by strangulation. Now, we need a motive.”
“Right, but you know I can’t tell you anything.”
“I know. So, a list of possible motives. Since all the victims are similar in appearance and stature, the killer may have been abused or felt wronged by someone who looked like these victims; there could be a common thread between the victims that draws the killer; the killer could be mimicking a similar occurrence from TV or the news.”
Nieuwendyk nodded. “All possibilities. All under consideration, but that’s standard procedure.”
“Right. But suppose a telling piece of evidence is discovered that proves one of the victims was killed by a different person than the others?”
“Then you have either a copycat or a very strong coincidence.” Nieuwendyk looked up, serious faced, at his partner who had approached the table.
“Let’s go, J.T. Another body found on campus.”
“Yep. Come on.” Sydor turned, stopped at the sound of Jarod’s voice. “No way is the kid coming along,” Sydor spoke past Jarod, directly to his partner.
“Daniel, he’s okay. And he’s not a kid. He needs a ride back to campus anyway. He’s not going to hurt anything.”
Jarod was impressed, and grateful for Nieuwendyk’s pleading his case. He needed to see this crime scene, needed more information if the potential serial killer was striking again.
“Fine. Bring him along. But he stays out of the way.” Sydor conceded and rushed through the station door.
* * * * * * * * *
A small group had gathered at the scene. Several officers were stretching yellow, *crime scene* tape around the area, their vehicles flashing red and blue.
Detectives Sydor and Nieuwendyk ducked under the plastic barrier, but a uniformed officer instructed Jarod to stay behind the tape. He obeyed, watching the detectives work the scene. The body had been covered and photographs were being taken.
* * * * * * * * *
Huddled beside a police officer, Lea wrapped her arms around herself. She had called the police and given her preliminary statement. Now, she just wanted to go home.
She glanced around the scene and spotted him. Weaving through the crowd, she made her way to him. “Oh, Jarod. Why me?” She wrapped her arms around his waist.
“Lea, what happened?” Jarod put his arms around her shoulders, comforting her.
“I was on my way to a friend’s apartment and I found…” Lea glanced to the body, “…her.” Her voice caught in her throat.
“It’s all right. You’ll go down to the station, give your official statement, then go home…”
“Come with me. Please?” The pleading and fear in her eyes was too much to ignore.
Jarod nodded and walked her to the vehicle of Detectives Sydor and Nieuwendyk to wait.
* * * * * * * * *
“Can I go now?” Lea asked, choking back a sob.
“Sure. We’ll let you know if we need anything more,” Sydor responded.
“Thank you, detectives.” Jarod put an arm around Lea, leading her to the door.
“Thank you, Jarod.” Nieuwendyk waved as they left. He turned back to his partner.
“What is going on here, Daniel?”
An inquisitive stare was the only response from his partner.
“Come on. Four bodies. Same M.O. We’ve got to find this guy before more women are killed.”
“Isn’t that what we’re doing? Examining the evidence and investigating until we have enough to arrest a suspect?”
“But four women are dead. How many more have to die? How many more parents have to lose children, before we arrest someone?”
“We could arrest you,” Sydor snapped.
“I’m going for a walk.” Nieuwendyk left the precinct. What the hell was wrong with his partner? He pushed it aside as stress over the case and entered the coffee shop on the corner.
* * * * * * * * *
“Thanks for letting me stay here tonight, Jarod. I really didn’t want to be alone.”
“I understand. Finding a corpse is a very traumatic event.” Jarod drew a blanket and pillow from a closet and placed them on the couch.
“Yeah. And finding two bodies in about a week, is even more so.”
“I can imagine,” Jarod empathized. “The bed’s yours. I’ll sleep on the couch.”
“Hmmm. I have Jell-O and ice cream.”
“Got a phone? We can order a pizza.”
Jarod pointed to the phone on the wall. He opened the refrigerator and found two sodas while she was making the call. “Here you go.” He handed one to Lea.
“Thanks. Pizza should be here in about thirty minutes.”
* * * * * * * * *
Why had she been sent on this particular assignment? Locating a missing operative could have been assigned to anyone, but it had been given to her. She had been pulled from the search for Jarod, specifically for this new project.
Miss Parker glanced around the open area before her. Several hundred students milled about, going and coming, to and from class and other activities. How was she to find a Centre operative in this crowd? She did not even know who she was looking for, or what the person looked like.
Numerous students whispered as they walked past her, giving her strange looks. What was their problem? Did she have a tree growing out of her head or something? Whatever. She walked the campus; talking to those who would speak to her; asking if they had seen anyone unusual. The responses she gained were less than helpful.
* * * * * * * * *
What was she doing here? Had he left enough clues behind to be followed? However, she was alone, no entourage of sweepers or other Centre personnel, so she may be on her own errand.
Jarod retreated from the window and slid from the classroom to exit by the rear of the building, avoiding Miss Parker’s entrance by the front. Cautiously, he moved, taking a longer, less visible route around the campus. He stopped, leaning against a large shade tree, watching the building Miss Parker had entered -- Bouck Hall.
Watching, studying, he noticed she seemed frustrated, almost saddened and confused. She was not grilling the people she met, actually, she seemed to be avoiding them. Someone had sent her here on an errand, but not to find him.
Sighing, he pushed from the tree and approached Miss Parker.
“What are you doing here? Are you following me?” she snapped, arms crossed over her chest.
“No, Miss Parker. I’m not following you. But I may be able to help you.”
“I don’t think so, Jarod. I’m here to do a job, and," a smile crossed her lips, "as a bonus, I get to take you back to the Centre.” She loosely latched onto his arm.
He laughed and pulled himself free easily. Then his demeanor changed, from playful to serious. “Miss Parker, I can’t leave yet. Four women are dead.” He held the four photographs out for her to see.
Miss Parker looked at the photographs, then turned away.
“Are you really looking?” He pushed the photographs closer to her. “Have you noticed the resemblance? All of these people are giving you strange looks because you resemble the victims.”
“You’ve got to be kid….” She looked at the photographs again. “Jarod, what is going on here?”
“I don’t know. That’s what I’m working on. Now, why are you here?”
Miss Parker exhaled sharply, shaking her head.
“Miss Parker, I can’t help you if you don’t tell me why you’re here.”
“I never asked for your help.”
“No, but I can help you. Miss Parker, this will be easier if we cooperate.”
“I can’t believe I’m doing this,” Miss Parker whispered, barely audible. “I was sent here, by my father, to find an operative who has been missing for two weeks.”
“I haven’t seen anyone.” Her reaction to his response was not positive. “I’m sorry, Miss Parker, but we can figure this out. Together.”
“Fine. How?” She turned away from him.
“I don’t know,” he sighed.
“Some help you are,” she snapped, turning on her heel, expecting him to have disappeared, but she came face-to-face with him, nearly stumbling into him. Strong arms caught her off-balance body.
Jarod, satisfied she was stable on her feet, said, “Miss Parker, I can help you.”
She closed her eyes for a moment. “Jarod, have all the crime scenes been searched?”
Opening her eyes, she looked directly into his. “No, I mean swept.”
“Only the third one.”
“You were there?”
“Great. Now what?”
“We visit the fourth site.”
“My afternoon is currently occupied.” He glanced around the campus, watching the students mingle. “I’ll call you tomorrow morning. After class.” Jarod walked away with a smile on his face, leaving Miss Parker beside the wide set of stairs leading into Bouck Hall.
* * * * * * * * *
His two favorite detectives entered his arena. “Welcome, welcome. What can I get for you this afternoon detectives?”
“Yeah, Rick. What do you have on our latest victim?” Sydor asked, crossing his arms over his chest, leaning against a wall.
“Same as the last three you brought me.” Rick rolled his chair from the cold, metal table to his desk, pulling rubber gloves off as he coasted. A manila file sailed across the room, landing in the hands of Nieuwendyk. “Naked. No signs of sexual assault. Red scarf around the neck.”
“Are we looking at a serial killer here?” Sydor asked.
“That’s your department, gentlemen, but it looks that way to me.” Rick rolled back to his slab. “Anything else you need?” He snapped a new pair rubber gloves into place.
“Any signs of struggle?”
Rick shook his head. “Nothing I could find, Daniel. No material under the fingernails, no overt bruising on the arms. No needle marks, signs of poison. Nothing. Whoever did this knew exactly what they were doing.”
Sydor nodded. “Thanks, Rick.”
“This for us?” Nieuwendyk asked, indicating the file he had been tossed.
“Yep. Good luck.”
“Thanks, Rick,” Nieuwendyk responded. The two detectives left the lab of the medical examiner. They stepped onto the elevator and Sydor pressed the button for the appropriate floor.
“So, Daniel, any ideas on suspects?”
“That kid. He was hanging around one of the crime scenes the other day.”
“What? Serial killers don’t usually return to the scene.”
“Look, we’re gonna pick him up and we’re gonna talk to him.”
“Just because he was hanging around the scene?”
“Maybe he saw something. We’re not arresting him, just questioning. Let’s go.” Sydor stepped off the elevator, stalked through the maze of desks to the door.
Nieuwendyk tossed the file on his desk and followed his partner.
* * * * * * * * *
“J.T., what’s going on?” Jarod asked Nieuwendyk. He had seen the two detectives pull up in front of the apartment building where he was staying.
“We need to talk to Craig Van Allen. Have you seen him?”
“Not today. Why do you need to talk to him?”
Nieuwendyk was ready to respond, but his partner stepped between he and Jarod. “Jarod, this is a police investigation, and you are not a part of it.”
“Come on, Daniel. He’s not hurting anybody.”
“Look, J.T., we have work to do and don’t need anyone getting in our way. Come on, we need to talk to Mr. Van Allen.” Sydor walked away and entered the building.
Nieuwendyk sighed heavily. “He suspects Van Allen.” He entered the building behind his partner. He knew giving Jarod information was against procedure, but his instinct told him this time was different.
Craig Van Allen? Why did Sydor suspect him? Jarod understood the serial killer angle; the victims had been murdered in the same manner, but how had Sydor made any connections?
“Jarod, that was the craziest thing I’ve ever seen,” commented Lea, giving Jarod a soft slap on the shoulder.
“Hey!” He reacted to her playful hit.
“Where did you learn how to do that?” Her warm smile lit her face. “I’ve never seen anyone stand on their head for so long.”
“I had a lot of time to practice when I was younger.” Jarod smiled and plucked a PEZ from its dispenser with his mouth.
“I’ve never had so much fun in any class! Thank you.”
“You’re welcome.” Jarod laughed, chewing his PEZ.
“Did Ms. Richards know you were gonna do that?” Lea crunched a carrot stick and tucked a lock of hair behind her ear.
Jarod shook his head. “No. She was just as surprised as everyone else. But, I’d say she was pleased.”
Lea’s bright smile quickly faded as a tall shadow fell over her and Jarod while they were sitting in the grass. She caught Jarod’s look as he tilted his head upward, shielding his eyes against the afternoon sun.
“Hello, Miss Parker,” he said, plainly.
“Hi.” The smile in her voice was almost genuine.
“Miss Parker, this is Lea Marshall,” Jarod introduced the two women.
“Hello, nice to meet you.” Lea rose from the grass and extended her right hand.
Miss Parker tentatively took the woman’s hand. “Yeah.” She turned to Jarod. “Um, Jarod, can we talk?”
“Sure.” He stood. “Lea, will you excuse me?”
“Yeah. I have some painting to do. I’ll see you later.”
Jarod nodded and watched Lea cross the grounds as he spoke. “Yes, Miss Parker?”
She shook her head. “This doesn’t make any sense.”
“What doesn’t make any sense?”
“All of this. Are you aware I was pulled from my regular assignment to come down here?” Miss Parker leaned against a tree. “My father told me I had to locate this operative, but I was given nothing. No photo, no description, nothing. I don’t know who I’m looking for.”
“Let’s walk.” He extended his hand to her. She sighed, shaking her head, pushed herself from the tree, and walked past him.
Jarod released his own sigh and followed. They walked for fifteen minutes in silence. Only the sounds of the streets surrounded them.
“Miss Parker,” Jarod called to the woman several steps ahead of him.
She stopped and turned around, staring at him, wondering what he wanted.
“This way.” He pointed to a building.
“I thought we were going to the crime scene?”
He smiled. “The crime scene is that way.” He pointed back toward the university. “I need a few pieces of information first.”
“Okay.” She followed him into the police station. “What are we looking for?” She whispered to Jarod.
“Hold on.” Jarod watched Sydor, waiting.
* * * * * * * * *
Nieuwendyk nodded, listening to his partner describe the movie he had watched the night before with little true interest. Finally, Sydor finished and left for his daily trip to the coffee shop down the street. He nodded at Jarod on his way out and gave Miss Parker a head-to-toe glance that made her feel violated.
The other detective pushed himself from his chair and approached the man he had seen enter the station several minutes ago. “Good afternoon, Jarod.”
“Detective.” The two men shook hands. “This is Miss Parker.”
“Pleasure. Name’s J.T.” The detective shook hands, tentatively, with the attractive woman, eyeing her a little too intently.
“What?” she snapped.
“I’m sorry.” Nieuwendyk could not get over her resemblance to the victims.
Jarod, trying to pull the conversation away from Miss Parker, asked, “Anything interesting?”
Shaking his head, Nieuwendyk responded, “ID on the third victim.”
“Do you have ID’s on the first two?”
“Yeah. They came in a couple days ago. Daniel said to keep a lid on it for a few days. Don’t really know why. He let us pass out the photographs.”
“So, who are they?”
“Here.” Nieuwendyk handed Jarod a list. “The last one, I hear, is that guy, Van Allen’s ex-girlfriend.”
“Sure. Be careful.”
“We will.” Jarod guided Miss Parker back to the street.
“What was that all about?”
“The girlfriend thing.”
Jarod pulled Miss Parker to the edge of the sidewalk. “Sydor questioned Craig Van Allen before the ID had come back on the third victim.”
“So, now what?”
“The last crime scene. Let’s go.”
* * * * * * * * *
“Jarod, there’s nothing here.” Miss Parker sighed and rubbed her hands over her hair.
Jarod shifted some debris, picking through leaves and sticks. “Maybe there is something.” He held a small, silver disc between his thumb and forefinger.
“A DSA? What would a college student be doing with a Centre DSA?” Miss Parker knelt beside Jarod.
“This was no college student.” He picked through several more bits of debris.
“Jarod, do you suppose this was the operative I was sent to find?”
“We need to find out what’s on that DSA.”
“Yes. We do.” Jarod wrinkled his brow. “How did the police miss this?”
“The police were all over this scene. How did they miss this?”
“Unless it wasn’t here when they searched.”
Jarod’s head snapped to his right, looking directly at her. “If that’s true, then someone knew you would search the scene and planted it… as a message.”
“Where’s your DSA player?”
“I’m hungry. Let’s eat.”
“You go ahead. I have some things to do.” Jarod stretched his legs, stiff from kneeling.
“All right.” Miss Parker turned away and turned back to him. “Wait, where is your place?”
Jarod gave her the address, then watched her cross the grounds.
* * * * * * * * *
The soft sound of sad lyrics drifted beyond the door. Miss Parker stopped and listened.
I don’t have a worry
I don’t have a care
I don’t have a sound piece of mind
But I managed to fare…*
Interesting song. She knocked.
“Come in,” she heard his voice call. Pushing the apartment door open, she entered, absorbing the surroundings and the continued chorus of the song:
…I don’t feel no raging
There ain’t nothing new
Drop me in the ocean
And paint me blue…*
Canvases and sculptures of all sizes lined the walls and shelves. Wonderboy has been busy. A charcoal drawing caught her eye and held her attention. The man in the drawing was nude. She looked around, all of the figures in the room were nude, including… “Oh, God!” she gasped.
“Hello, Miss Parker,” Jarod returned, his focus remaining on his canvas.
“Um, Jarod. Why are you…?” she could not bring herself to speak the word.
He faced her, his tall, slender body fully exposed. Her voice caught in her throat as she tried to speak. Conforming to general standards of modesty, after instinctively eyeing Jarod head-to-toe, she covered her eyes and turned away from him. “Jarod, would you please put on some clothes. Or at least a robe?” she snarled, able to speak now.
Jarod smiled and pulled a robe from a nearby chair. “Is this better?”
She turned around and blinked. “Eh,” she shrugged. Remembering why she had come, she said, “Where’s the DSA?”
“All business.” He placed his charcoal on the nearby table and brushed off his fingers. He retrieved the DSA from the backside of one of his drawings and inserted it into the DSA player.
An image flickered on the screen, followed by hissing static.
“There’s nothing here.” Miss Parker threw her hands in the air, exasperated. She turned and walked to the window.
Jarod watched the static shift and settle into an image. “Miss Parker.”
She turned to him, saw the image. “Hold on. Back that up.” She made a motion with her hand as she walked.
He reversed the DSA, played it back for her. They watched the images again.
For Centre Use Only
“Are you sure this is what you want?” a doctor asked the woman on the table.
The light haired woman nodded eagerly. “Yes, Doctor. We both want this very much.” She smiled up at someone off-screen.
“Brigitte?” Miss Parker gasped. “What is going on here?”
“Just watch,” Jarod instructed.
For Centre Use Only
The woman on the table extended her hand to the man in the shadows, who stepped forward to take it. He turned his head and prompted, “Go ahead, Doctor.”
Miss Parker put a hand to her mouth. “Daddy.”
“Yes. Brigitte, your father, and a fertility doctor from NuGenesis.” Jarod recognized the doctor on the DSA as one who had been working at the NuGenesis lab a couple years ago.
“But… the Centre has a fertility doctor.”
“Which leaves a very important question, needing a very important answer.”
“Who are the donors?” The DSA turned to static and hiss again. “Is there more?”
“No. That’s all that wasn’t damaged.” Jarod ejected the disc and handed it to Miss Parker. “I’m sure this is part of the message.”
“Jarod, I….” She furrowed her brow. “Do you have a picture of the last victim?”
He nodded and retrieved the photograph from his desk, handed it to Miss Parker.
“I know her. Well, knew her. We had one class together in high school.”
“Was she a friend?”
Miss Parker shook her head. “Not really. We talked sometimes, but I never knew she worked for the Centre.”
“It has a long reach.”
“There has to be more.”
“The DSA was…”
Miss Parker cut him off, “Not the DSA. She had to have found something else. They wouldn’t kill her over a damaged DSA. She must have uncovered something else. Perhaps something about my mother? Or something my mother was working on?”
“I don’t know, Miss Parker. But you are right about one thing.”
“The Centre killed her. She’s not a victim of the serial killer.”
“How can you be sure?”
“I was at the scene when the police collected the evidence. They found fibers from the fourth victim’s clothing. The other victims were found naked.” He watched Miss Parker’s reaction to that word. “But, there was no indication they were stripped at the scenes.”
“I’m guessing we have more investigating to do?”
“A little. We need to talk to Craig Van Allen, and with some of Michelle Maldonado’s friends.”
“Maldonado, that’s the ex-girlfriend, right?”
* * * * * * * * *
Sam strode into the computer tech’s office, shifting around a stack of papers in the floor, and stopped just in front of the cluttered desk. “Mr. Broots, you said you might have some information?” He transferred the package for Miss Parker he was still carrying from one hand to the other.
“Yeah. Man, I never expected this, but when I tried to cross-reference against Centre itineraries again, I received a message telling me access to that area was restricted. Then, I tried to access personnel files; those were blocked too. Then,” he put a finger in the air for emphasis, “I ran a program to counteract the firewall to get into some of the files, which got me in, but as soon as I opened Miss Parker’s file, my machine crashed and I had to re-boot.”
Could this get any worse? Sam asked himself. Almost wishing the thought had not crossed his mind, he heard Broots begin another lengthy dissertation about the re-booting process and, yet another failure to retrieve the files. “Mr. Broots,” Sam spoke up to quiet the tech’s tirade, “do you have anything helpful?”
Broots shuffled around on his desk and located a micro-cassette. He glanced at Sydney, a question in his face asking if he should give this information to Sam.
"Go ahead, Broots," Sydney said with a nod.
“Okay, well, I found this.” He inserted the cassette into a player and handed the headset to Sam, pressing the <PLAY> button when Sam was ready.
Sam removed the headset. “Miss Parker was told by her father to not come in four days ago?”
“That’s what I thought, at first, but then I analyzed the tape, and the voice is her father’s, but the phrases were pieced together and played back to sound like one fluid instruction.”
“If it wasn’t sent by her father, who then?” Sam folded his arms over his chest, cradling the package, growing tired of this dead-end chase.
“Um, I don’t know, but she did come in the day she received this message. The day she left early.”
“All right, so either she didn’t get the message, or she chose to ignore it.”
“Well, the time stamp on the answering machine tape was 6:02 AM. Miss Parker doesn’t leave for the Centre until almost 7:00AM.”
“So, unless she failed to notice the message on the machine, she heard it and ignored it,” Sydney spoke again.
“Sydney,” Broots stated. “Do you really think she would ignore a message she thought was from her father?”
“Only if she realized it was not actually from her father.”
“Are you saying she knew it was a fake?” Broots stammered.
“I’m not sure she knew, but Miss Parker is not a passive woman. If her father called to tell her to stay home, he would have a good reason and Miss Parker would want to know that reason.”
“This still doesn’t tell us where she is,” Sam stated.
“No. And without access to the necessary files, I won’t be able to find that information.” Broots flailed at the computer that failed him. “Someone is cutting us off at every turn.”
“Perhaps we should open the package,” Sydney suggested.
“Syd, it’s a federal offense to open someone else’s mail,” a confused Broots said.
“Yes, and I would not ordinarily condone such measures, but given the circumstances…”
“No.” Sam’s firm voice ceased further comment on the subject. “My instructions were very specific. No one is to open this but Miss Parker.”
“But it may help us find her.”
“No. We’ll have to find another way.” Sam’s adamant attitude was enough to convince Sydney and Broots. They would have to find another way of locating Miss Parker.
* * * * * * * * *
“You’re wrong!” Sydor slapped a hand on the table. “Van Allen is our man and we’re going to charge him!”
“You can’t hold him without probable cause and the DA will never take this to trial with the evidence you have.” Jarod had been trying to reason with Sydor for the last hour. He explained that with no evidence at the scenes and an alibi that checked, Craig would never be convicted. Miss Parker had said little, not sure where Jarod was going with this conversation.
“Get out of my interrogation room before I charge you and your friend with these murders!” Sydor rose from his chair and pointed to the door.
Jarod turned his head to Miss Parker, gave her a look, and nodded toward the door. She rose with him and exited the interrogation room. Two steps away, they heard the door of the interrogation room slam closed.
Nieuwendyk approached them. “What’s eating him?”
“He didn’t agree with our findings,” Miss Parker snapped, not annoyed with Nieuwendyk, annoyed that she and Jarod had eliminated a suspect, but Sydor refused to acknowledge their findings.
“Why?” Nieuwendyk asked.
“Because they didn’t agree with his,” Miss Parker stated firmly.
Nieuwendyk furrowed his brow. “Come with me.” He led Jarod and Miss Parker outside to walk. “So, tell me what you’ve found.”
Jarod recalled as they walked: “The most obvious is the alibi for Craig Van Allen. He and Leandra Marshall attended an art lecture at the university. Lea said she was with him the entire night, along with about four hundred other people. Craig gave the lecture.”
“Okay, and Sydor ignored this?” Nieuwendyk asked, perplexed.
“We didn’t get a chance to point out the specifics,” Jarod responded.
“Is Sydor married?” A thought had struck Jarod; he remembered the ring he had found at the third crime scene.
Nieuwendyk nodded once, then shook his head. “Well, he was. His wife left him about six months ago. He took it pretty hard for about a day, then he seemed back to normal.”
“Do you have a picture of her?” Jarod stopped walking.
“Yeah.” Nieuwendyk pulled out his wallet and flipped to a photograph of Sydor and his former wife.
“Miss Parker,” Jarod grabbed her arm and pulled her toward him, “take a look at this.”
She gasped at what she saw. “Unbelievable.”
“Exactly. You look just like her. Well, similar. If Sydor didn’t see it he’s blind.”
“All right. So that explains his reaction, but…” Miss Parker stopped. “Jarod, does this mean…”
“That Sydor is our killer? Possibly. We need to go over the evidence.”
* * * * * * * * *
“I don’t believe this.” Nieuwendyk tossed a file to Jarod. “Sydor’s previous assignment. He had several assault charges filed against him.”
“His wife?” Jarod asked opening the file.
“No. Other officers. He was reprimanded and transferred.”
With a huff, Miss Parker said, “He attacks women and gets a slap on the wrist. Do we have any real evidence on our man-of-the-year?”
“Yes. Including the fact that he suspected Craig before the ID came back on Maldonado.” Jarod ruffled his hair.
“She’s the ex-girlfriend, right?” Miss Parker waited for Jarod’s nod; he had answered that question for her three times already. Did she really not remember or was she just reinforcing a point? “Anything else?”
“The wedding band at the Maldonado scene.” Jarod smiled at Miss Parker’s expression. “It was engraved with Sydor’s name and the date of his wedding. He didn’t realize it was missing until I found it at the scene.”
“Jarod, that only links him to the third victim. What about the other three women?”
“Two,” Nieuwendyk corrected.
“Right.” Miss Parker closed her eyes and rubbed her temples; all this information was making her head spin.
“Only two of the other victims fit. Jarod found inconsistencies with the fourth victim. It looked more like a *copy-cat* killing.” Nieuwendyk paused long enough to collect his thoughts. “There were clothing fibers found with the fourth body. The others only had the red, silk scarf. The fourth victim had faint contusions and slight abrasions on her body, as though she had been held against her will before she was strangled.”
Jarod continued for Nieuwendyk, “And a closer examination of the evidence from the first victim revealed another piece of jewelry was left at the scene. Police initially thought it belonged to the victim, but we determined it actually belonged to Sydor’s ex-wife. The first three victims all had some type of personal relationship with Sydor and each was seen arguing with him the day before the body was found. I have not been able to pinpoint the catalyst for the arguments, but the rest should be enough.”
“Does Sydor have an alibi for the murders?” Miss Parker asked, getting lost in what had been established and what had not.
“Not one that can be corroborated. He originally claimed to be with his partner, but J.T. told IAD a different story. The investigation was tabled when the fourth victim was found and Sydor had an airtight alibi for that crime. He *was* with J.T. then.”
“So, IAD figured his alibi would check for the other three?”
“Not sure. IAD had a few problems recovering all of its evidence and had to drop the case.”
“So, now what?”
“We get Sydor to confess.”
“And how do you propose we do that?” Miss Parker cocked an eyebrow at Jarod, received a sly smile in return.
“Sam, that package…”
The sweeper turned the package over in his hands while Sydney spoke. He did not hear much, he was concerned about Miss Parker, knowing *his* ass was on the line if she did not return alive.
“I’m sorry, Sydney. Did you say something?”
“I asked if you had any new findings from Broots?”
“No. He’s still running searches and diagnostics or something.” Sam rubbed his eyes.
“When’s the last time you slept, Sam.”
“Um, what day is this?”
“Sam, get some sleep. You can start fresh tomorrow,” Sydney suggested, sounding very Ph.D.
The sweeper nodded and slowly rose from the chair, the package still in his hands. He knew Sydney had been watching him toy with it, but as much as he trusted Sydney, the package was staying with him. He left Sydney’s office, quietly, and began down the hall to the elevator.
Something made contact with his chest and he stopped. Broots. Sam sighed.
“Uh, I’m sorry, Sam. But I just found something.”
“On Miss Parker?”
“Well, not exactly. More like, whoever it is that is shutting us out of the system.”
“Right. Um, we can’t talk here. Come on.” Broots led Sam back down the corridor, away from the elevator, and into his office.
“What, Mr. Broots?” Sam sighed, pushing the door closed.
"We're waiting for Sydney." A knock was heard at the door. "Come in," Broots responded.
"You wanted to show me something, Broots?" Sydney asked as he entered.
Broots said nothing, but motioned for Sam and Sydney to step closer. He wrote a code name on a piece of paper: BANE. The three men shared a look of mutual terror and whispered simultaneously: “Cox.”
* * * * * * * * *
“Detective Sydor,” he answered his ringing phone. “Yes, ma’am… What?… That’s not possible… You’re sure?… All right, where?” Sydor scribbled an address on a notepad and tore the sheet from the stack as he hung up the phone. “Come on, J.T. We have a witness to question.”
Shrugging, Nieuwendyk rose and followed his partner.
* * * * * * * * *
Miss Parker saw the car approaching and sent the signal to Jarod. Sydor stepped from the car and strode to the door.
“You’re the anonymous caller?” he asked.
“The witness is this way.” Miss Parker ignored his question and led the two detectives through a corridor and down a flight of stairs, through another corridor and into a darkened room. A small light cast an eerie, faint glow over a tall man in the center of the room.
“Can we get some light in here?” Sydor asked, straining his eyes to see the witness.
Miss Parker hit a switch and fluorescent lights buzzed to life overhead.
“He’s not a witness! He’s a suspect!” Sydor snapped.
“You are right about one thing,” Jarod began, stepping into the room, pulling a red, silk scarf through his fingers, “Mr. Van Allen is not a witness. However,” Jarod pushed Sydor into a nearby, wooden chair, “you are wrong about him being a suspect.” A glance to Miss Parker sent her, Craig, and Nieuwendyk from the room into the corridor, and into a side room behind a two-way mirror.
Sydor shifted in the chair, uncomfortable about being alone in the room with this man. “Who are you?”
“That is of little importance, now, isn’t it?” Jarod tied the red scarf around Sydor’s neck.
“Ah, ah, ah. You only speak to respond to direct questions.” Jarod pulled the shaken detective from the chair to stand in the center of the room. “And, for each incorrect answer, one article of clothing will be removed,” Jarod explained. He waited for the tap against the mirror that signaled everything was set, and removed the detective’s weapons, phone, and handcuffs, tossing them aside. “First question: Where is your ex-wife?”
“I don’t know.”
“Wrong.” Jarod removed Sydor’s shoes and socks. “You called her last week, in Phoenix.” Jarod stuffed the socks into the shoes and shoved the shoes across the floor. “Next question: Where were you the night Michele Maldonado was killed?”
Sydor swallowed. “I was with my partner, J.T., answering a call.”
Jarod clucked his tongue in a *tsk* and wagged his finger at the barefoot detective. “I’m sorry, that’s wrong too.” He pulled Sydor’s shirt free and tossed it in the general direction of the shoes. “You’re not doing very well. Maybe I should ask an easier question. What’s my name?”
Sydor gave Jarod a look that screamed *you’re kidding, right?*
“Failure or refusal to respond is the same as a wrong answer.” Jarod took a step toward the detective.
“Wait. Your name is Jarod.”
“Very good. Next question: How did you know to suspect Craig Van Allen in the murders?”
Sydor’s eyes fell to the floor. “There was evidence to support the accusation.” Sydor raised his head as he spoke, confidently making eye contact with Jarod.
“I’m sorry, wrong again.” Jarod pulled out the recently honed, butterfly knife Nieuwendyk had given him, expertly flipped it open, and shredded Sydor’s pants. The detective now stood in his undergarments with a red, silk scarf around his neck. “The only evidence that would have linked Craig to the third victim was not known until *after* you picked him up. The ID on Maldonado hadn’t come back and the only way for you to know that she was his ex-girlfriend would be if *you* were the killer!”
“Preposterous!” the detective snarled at the accusation.
“Wrong again!” Jarod slid the butterfly knife under the hem of Sydor’s undershirt and cut straight up to the neck, then pulled the shirt from the man’s arms. “You hated your wife for what she did to you! But, instead of killing her, you found women who looked like her and killed them!” Jarod’s accusatory tone struck hard.
“NEVER! I never killed those women. They did it to themselves. I tried to help them.”
Jarod stepped in front of Sydor, the butterfly knife poised to remove the last article of clothing. “We found your wedding band at the Maldonado scene, and several witnesses saw you arguing with each of the women the day before each was killed. Your partner found a box full of red, silk scarves in the trunk of your car. All the evidence points to you!”
A long pause settled over the room between Jarod’s tirade and Sydor’s response.
Finding his voice again, the detective spoke, “They were all just like her. Beautiful, happy, nice, then they turned on me.” His eyes narrowed and his voice deepened. “I had no choice. I tried to give them a scarf like I gave her, but they rejected me. You see? I had to do it. I tied the scarves around their necks to show them how nice they looked, and they still rejected me. So, I tied them tighter, until they stopped fighting.” Sydor’s eyes seemed to glaze over and lose focus.
“Why did you leave them naked, outside?” Jarod coaxed, his voice calmer now.
“To humiliate them.” Sydor’s voice held a maniacal timbre. “They didn’t deserve the pretty clothes they had.” His head fell to his chest, his arms limp at his sides.
Jarod tapped on the mirror and waited for Nieuwendyk, Miss Parker, and Craig to enter the room. “Miss Parker, get the car ready. Craig, help J.T. with Daniel.” Jarod watched the two men help the wilted detective into a robe and remove the scarf from his neck. He collected the video recording and dropped it into an envelope.
“Ready, Jarod?” Craig asked, stepping into the corridor behind Nieuwendyk and Sydor.
“Yeah. Let’s go.”
* * * * * * * * *
“So, what’s going to happen to him?” asked Craig, sipping water.
“He’ll spend the rest of his life under close psychiatric observation and care. He has a lot to work out. He may never get over the fact that his wife left him, but, my guess would be, his psychiatric problems are much deeper than that.” Jarod glanced to the young woman with the shining eyes and warm smile as she approached. “Lea, how are you?”
“I’m doing well.”
“You did the right thing reporting those scenes. I know it wasn’t pleasant.”
“I’m okay. I have Craig to talk to about it. I think I’ll be fine.” She took Craig’s hand in hers and squeezed it. “What about the last victim?”
Nieuwendyk spoke up to answer this question. “No one’s claimed the body. There’s nothing more we can do. We’ll have to bury her.”
“That’s so sad. To die alone,” Lea commented.
“I wish there was more we could do, but with no evidence, and no further murders, we have little to go on and the case will go cold.” Nieuwendyk knew his explanation did not assuage the young woman, but it was the best he could do; it was the truth.
Lea nodded, understanding the situation better. “Jarod,” she waited for his acknowledgement, “where’s your friend?”
“Oh. Miss Parker? She had some important personal matters to attend to.” A lie, but there was little else he could say.
“Tell her ‘thank you’ when you talk with her again.”
“For me too,” Craig added, extending his right hand to Jarod.
“I’ll do that.” Jarod accepted the handshake and collected his belongings to embark on his next journey.
“Thank you, Jarod. While I hate doing this to my partner, I know it’s for the best.” Nieuwendyk shook Jarod’s hand.
“You’re welcome.” Slowly, Jarod walked away from the small group, brought closer together through a horrible tragedy.
Sam approached and entered the office he had visited many times during the last week. “Miss Parker?” He was astonished to find her seated behind her desk, filtering through her mail.
“Yes, Sam, it’s me.” She gave him a quick look and returned to her mail.
“Where have you been?”
She furrowed her brow and looked up at him. “None of your business.”
“Miss Parker, I’ve been trying to get this urgent package to you all week.” He held the large, stuffed envelope out to her.
Snatching the package from his hand, she sighed and pulled it open. “Probably another picture of me on an elephant,” she snarled to herself. She poured the contents onto the desk and sifted through them. Pages of material she could hardly discern as English and a typed note fell from the package. The note was a warning to not go to New Mexico. “Now you tell me.”
“Never mind. Was there anything else, Sam?”
“No, ma’am. Just glad to have you back.” The large sweeper turned and exited the office, relieved to have finally delivered the package he had toted around for a week. He passed Sydney on his way to the elevator. “Miss Parker’s in her office.”
Sydney nodded and proceeded down the hall. “Did you have a nice trip?” he asked as he stepped into the office.
“No. Do you know anything about this?” She held up the stack of paper with the indecipherable coding.
Sydney shook his head. “No, Miss Parker. Nothing.”
“Fine.” She slapped the pages onto her desk and sighed heavily as she reached for the ringing phone. “What?”
“Hello, Miss Parker. How’s Blue Cove?”
“Jarod.” She sat in her chair. “Thanks for the warning. It was a little late.”
“What warning? I never sent you a warning.” Jarod’s confused voice passed through the receiver.
“Then who sent me this message telling me not to go to New Mexico?”
“I don’t know.”
“I guess you don’t know anything about the three-inch stack of pages of codes that came with it either?”
“I’m sorry. No. And I’m sorry about your friend.”
“Yeah. Me too.” She glanced to Sydney who was pretending to be interested in a piece of art on the wall. "What else do you suppose she found?"
"I don't know, but we should probably find out."
He knew she was concerned about the *warning* from The Centre. “Just be careful, Miss Parker.” He disconnected the call and reclined in his hammock, opening and closing a butterfly knife.
Pamela Gidley as Brigitte
Harve Presnell as Mr. Parker
Richard Matvichuk as Medical Examiner, Rick