Ben woke to his phone vibrating on the nightstand. The night before with Rachel was his first thing that went through his head, followed by the buzzing noise from his phone. He rolled over to grab it, burring his face in the pillow, it still held the scent of her hair. His phone demanded his attention, he picked it up.
“Ben, we have another one, he fucked up this time though! We have another victim, but she is alive and there is DNA everywhere! I am on my way now, I don’t have the whole story yet, one of the neighbours called it in.”
“Tell me what you do know so far? Talk while I get dressed.”
Ben pulled up to Clyde Ave. just north of Irving Park, not too far from where he lived. He flashed his badge as a uniformed officer pulled the tape back so he could pull onto the street. Already the street was swarming with other cops, as reporters vied eagerly to gain any information they could from the sidelines. Ben hated the press except for when they were helpful. He pulled up to the address Marty had given. 414 Clyde Ave. It was a small brick bungalow with flower boxes and a bright green mailbox on the porch.
He parked his car and spotted his partner waiting for him.
“He really fucked up this time. Are you ready for me to make your day?”
“Yes, tell me we’ve got him.”
“Next best thing, we have a witness.”
They walked up the steps of the porch and into the bungalow, the house was crawling with people.
“You, who are you?”Marty said to an officer in uniform.
“O’Leary get all of these people out of here, you guys are contaminating the hell out of this crime scene.”
The cop nodded. “You all heard the detectives, everyone out of here.”
“Thanks,” Ben said. “You keep the door O’Leary. No one unnecessary in or out, okay?”
They carefully made their way through the bungalow to the back bedroom. Ben walked up to where the attack had taken place, the bed. The room with its soft green walls didn’t feel warm and inviting, the air in the room had changed, the aftermath of a brutal attack hung heavy. One of the crime scene investigators nodded as Ben and Marty walked into the room, careful of where they stepped.
“We’re dusting down everything. He came in through the window in the bathroom.” The tech motioned to the en-suite bathroom. “He didn’t have time to clean up, there is going to be DNA everywhere.”
“Where is our witness?”
“In the kitchen, I haven’t talked to him yet. The girl was leaving in a bus when I got here. She’s alive, barely. They are taking her to Methodist, she’s in bad shape. It will be a miracle if she survives.”
“Raped?” Ben asked.
“Yeah, the EMT’s thought so,” Marty said.
“Let’s go talk to our witness”
Ben and Marty wanted to look around the room but didn’t want to risk contaminating the scene. They wanted the crime scene techs to do their work then they would come in and poke around afterwards.
“This doesn’t sound like our guy at all, our guy has never been sloppy. Are we sure this is connected?”
“He branded her Ben, same brand, same spot.”
“Shit, are you sure?”
“I saw it myself before she left.”
“You are sure that was the exact brand?”
Ben and Marty walked back into the empty living room. O’Leary had done a good job clearing the house. Two uniformed cops stood in the kitchen where a thin man sat at the kitchen table, his head buried in his hands.
“Yeah,” Marty said.
Both detectives walked into the kitchen, their dress shirts sticking to their bodies. The air conditioning in the house was turned off by the crime scene team. It was hot and humid, another impending storm charged the air with electricity.
“Has anyone talked to him yet?” Ben asked quietly.
“No. Our guy’s a little sketchy with us. I don’t think he was here to be law-abiding himself.”
“B. & E?”
“That’s what it was called in for.”
“What are the chances a perp breaks in during an assault?”
Both detectives looked at each other.
They stepped further into the kitchen, walking up the table where the man sat. His clothes dirty and old and hung from his frail frame. He wore a face of stubble and rubbed the back of his neck nervously. His body language gave away that he was jonesing for another fix of whatever his drug of choice was. He wasn’t an ideal witness, but it was the best they had so far.
“Mr Daniels, I am Detective Ben Carter.” Ben held out his hand as he took a seat.
“John,” the man shook Ben’s hand.
“Hi, John. Can we talk to you about what you witnessed this morning?”
John shifted as nervousness radiated from him. Marty sat a recorder on the middle of the table. As he took a seat and moved in closer. It made John nervous, his body language giving away his unease.
“John, we can help you if you cooperate with us. Can you tell us why you were breaking in here, and can you tell us what you saw?”
“I didn’t hurt her, I swear. I had no idea.”
“Can you tell us why you broke in?”
The man stayed silent.
“Dispatch said you called the ambulance, is that correct?”
“John, it sounds like this girl is alive because of you. You have saved someone’s life this morning.”
The man rubbed the back of his neck again, beads of sweat had appeared on his brow. He looked down at the started to speak.
“I was told to come here, that no one would be here.”
“Who told you to come here?”
“This guy I met in a bar, I was asking for money in the bar. The bartender threw me out.”
“When did this happen?”
“Two nights ago at Smithy’s in Pilsen.”
“Did you catch the guy’s name?”
“It was something royal, knight or something.”
“Yeah, that’s it. He came out of the bar, saw I was needing a fix. He handed me some money. Then he told me about this house. Said I could crash here, he told this story about how this guy who lives here helped him get clean and all. He told me to come over anytime.”
“Is that why you came here?”
“At first yeah, but I jumped the fence and the back door was open so I let myself in. I thought if I could find something to sell, get a fix then I could come back and I would be ready to get help from this guy.”
“Okay. Did you hear anything when you walked in, see anything odd?”
“I tried to be quiet when I came in, I didn’t want to get caught. I spotted the lady’s purse on the counter. I was going to grab it and go but then I heard something, like grunting. I knew what the sound was. I wanted to.. I just wondered, you know… I snuck down the hall and peeked through the gap between the door doorjamb.”
“What did you see? We need you to be as detailed as you can. This is really important John.”
“They couldn’t see me. This guy was mad. He was hitting her, hard, over and over again. I knew this wasn’t right, something was wrong, this wasn’t normal rough shit. She stopped fighting him and just went kind of limp, but he kept going. I went to move away and the floor creaked, the noise spooked the guy. He hit her hard, like really hard on the head. It sounded like a melon cracking. He was going to hit her again. I started shouting at him, I didn’t want to see this chick’s head split open. I’m not a good person, but I ain’t going to sit by and watch some girl get murdered. He took off past me and pushed me out of the way.
I thought he killed her. I really did. I was going to leave, you know, grab her purse and get the hell out of here. She didn’t move and I didn’t want any part of a dead girl I don’t need no trouble. I turned to go, and I thought I heard her. I turned back around and she moaned a little, she was alive. I went over and turned her over. She was bleeding from her face everywhere man. I’ve never seen anyone bleed from their eyes, that’s some creepy shit. She was naked, he beat the shit out of her. I couldn’t leave her there. I put my jacket over her and went to the neighbours over there and told them to call you guys. I went back to her and waited so you all would find her. She wasn’t awake when I got back. I thought she was dead, but then the ambulance guys said she wasn’t so I don’t know. Then your cop buddies arrested me for breaking and entering. Sure I came in but I didn’t steal anything.”
“We’ll see what we can do if this information helps us catch this guy. Can you tell us what he looked like? Was it the guy from the bar?”
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah, this guy was built different. It wasn’t the same guy.”
“Can you describe what this guy from this morning looked like?”
“The sun had only just come up so it wasn’t real light out yet.”
“Was he a big guy, a little guy, fat, skinny?”
“He was taller than me, not fat.”
“Was he black or white?”
“White I think?”
“Why do you think he was white?”
“Well he had on a black sweater shirt thing and black pants, and well, his ass was white, so..”
“Did you see his face or his hair?”
“No, he had on one of those ski masks things.”
“How about eye color?”
“It was too dark to see.”
“How tall are you John?”
“About six feet.”
“Was he taller or shorter than you?”
“A little taller I think.”
John began to pick at the scabs on his arms. He was jonesing hard.
“Can you tell us a little more about what he was wearing?” Marty asked.
“It was hard to see, a black shirt or sweater, black pants and boots, black boots and a mask on his face.”
John picked harder at a large scab on the back of his hand.
“Did you see the guy leave? Was he on foot, or did he leave in a car?”
John stayed silent.
“Look, John, I’ll level with you, If you were here to get some cash to score, we can help. Maybe help you get in a treatment center.”
John looked at Ben then at Marty.
“As my partner said, John, we really need your help here.”
John stayed quiet, so did Ben and Marty. The air became uncomfortable between the three men. John continued to pick at his arms even now that they were bleeding in several spots.
“He got in a car I think. It pulled away when I got to the front door.”
“Was it a car, a van, a truck?” Marty asked, impatience thick in his voice.
“There was a car. I thought it was a cop at first.”
“What color was the car?”
“Did it look like a police car?”
“Shit, man, I don’t know, my head is killing me. I just need to get out of here and go home, man.”
“Look we are almost done, I promise. You said you thought it looked like a police car?”
“No, shit, I don’t know.”
“How many doors did it have?”
“Four I think.” John rubbed the back of his neck. He was becoming more agitated by the minute.
“Was it American made? Like police cars? Was it old or new?”
“Old I think. Maybe a Ford. Like a Ford Focus maybe?”
“That’s great John.”
“Did you see the plate?” Ben asked.
“No. I just didn’t look. I wasn’t here to car shop.”
Ben’s phone rang and he looked down at the number. It was Methodist Hospital. He nodded to Marty communicating that he needed to take it. Ben walked out of the kitchen to take the call and returned just as Marty finished questioning John. Two cops walked in to arrest John.
“Thank you, John. You saved that girl’s life today.”
“I helped you, I thought you said I could go if I helped you.”
“I said we’d get you some help if you wanted. We also need to get some fingerprints from you and that sort of thing.”
“That is bullshit. Let me go.”
John started to buck away from the cop who had cuffed him.
“John if you want help this is how we have to start the process. You have to go before a judge.”
“Fuck you man,” John shouted as he was led out of the house in cuffs.
“His brain is mush until he scores again. He’s spent. Who was on the phone?” Marty said.
“The hospital, our victim is in a coma. You were right about the brand, by the way, they’re less than 24 hours old. I am going to head over there. I want to be there when she wakes up. No one should wake from that alone, at least until we can locate her family.”
“Good idea. I will find her family and let them know. We are going to finally get this sick bastard.”
“Yeah, we are. After her family gets there I have to go find Stephen Duke, the bastard knows more than he’s saying. This is the second victim he’s connected to.”