“Have a great day honey. Good luck with school today, boys!” Ben said after he kissed Rachel through the open driver’s side window.
Ben and Rachel had spent every available minute they had for the past month together. Ben had really gotten to know the boys, who adored him having around. Ben knew she was the one, and Rachel felt the same about him. They were crazy in love with each other. He waved as Rachel’s van pulled out of her driveway. He watched her car turn around the corner as he started off for his own vehicle.
“Ben, hold on a sec.” Ben turned around to Laura’s voice.
He had not seen much of Laura since he had started dating Rachel. She was usually knocking on his door, waving and flirting each time she saw him, but that had stopped. Laura did a little jog to catch up to Ben more quickly.
“Hi, Laura.” Ben gave a half-hearted wave.
“Hi, hey do you have a second to talk?” She stood with her hands on her hips. “It won’t take long.”
“Um, sure, what’s up?” Ben didn’t really want to talk to her.
“Hey, I know this isn’t my place but, there’s some stuff you don’t know about Rachel and you really should. I know what this looks like, but you are newer on the street and after that dust-up with her ex a couple of months ago… I just don’t want you to walk into anything blind.”
Ben leant up against his car. As Laura continued.
“She is no victim. She’s just as bad as he is.”
“What do you mean? As bad as who?”
“Her Ex, with their sex parties and stuff. I mean look at the both of them, clean-cut, playing the perfect family. She had an affair, that is why he left her. There was always this other guy hanging around. I think it was his friend. It makes me sick. Look, I am not meaning to out her or anything like that. I just,” she reached out to touch Ben’s arm, he pulled away.
“Laura, I love Rachel very much. I think you have the wrong information. He ex is a monster.”
“No that’s just the thing, he isn’t. He was always nice to everyone on the block.”
“Most guys like that usually are. I have seen the police reports Rhett Lawson is not a good man.”
“Ask her about the other man that used come around when she was still married to Rhett. She was not as good to Rhett as she plays.”
“It wouldn’t matter to me, I love her. I should really get going to work.”
“Look you are a really sweet guy. I would just hate to see you get caught up in something because no one spoke up.”
“I have to go.”
“Okay, I am only trying to help.”
“Bye Laura,” Ben said as he got into his car.
The conversation plagued him the entire way to the station. He knew that Laura had always been sweet on him and maybe that is why she said what she did. Ben sat down at his desk and pulled Rhett’s file out of the drawer and reread it. The records did not read like Rachel was a willing participant. There weren’t any records for calls to the house about noise complaints or complaints of any kind. Ben tried to shrug it off. Laura’s information did not mesh with the story Ben knew.
Ben and Marty commandeered the station’s conference room that afternoon, laying out all of the victims the timeline of the crimes, and the evidence they had found. They both had the feeling that they had missed something, there had to be a piece of evidence that would find the killer, it was not possible to not leave a trace of physical evidence. There was not a single fiber, hair, or fingerprint left behind anywhere. The crime scenes were so clean, they had concerns that it might be the work of a crime scene tech.
By 10 pm. Ben and Marty were beyond exhausted and frustrated. All of the players from the game had solid alibis. They had searched through all of Danwood’s workers, as quietly as they could. Serena had been able to give a part of a description, in that the man was white, and the ring, but other than that, they didn’t have much to go on. Every registered sex offender with a record of violence, within one hundred miles of the city had been checked. Eventually, information about the ring was put out to the press, hoping someone would recognize it. They were able to draw it from Serena’s description and the brand marks on the victims. They had yet to get a hit from the public on the ring.
Marty looked at the pictures of the brand marks hung up on the wall.
“Hey take a look at this? These two brands look like they may be a different size. It is slight but possible.” Marty said
Ben got up and inspected the photos. It looked possible.
“Let’s pay the M.E. a visit,” Ben said.
A dispatch officer knocked on the door and poked her head inside.
“Hey, guys I just got a call that I think you might want. A woman just fought off an attacker who tried to abduct her from her apartment in Lakeview. She said he was dressed in all black.”
Ben and Marty looked at each other as both made for the door.
They pulled up to the woman’s apartment and walked past the officers standing in the hallway. They walked into Calle Carlson’s neighbor’s apartment to find her wrapped in a blanket sitting at the kitchen table. Her mascara had run down her cheeks in black streaks. Visibly upset, she looked up at Ben and Marty who introduced themselves.
“It was him, that perv that has been snatching women. I know it”
“What makes you think it was him?”
“Well, I don’t have men breaking into my apartment every day.”
“I was ready for him though. That fucker wasn’t grabbing me.”
“What do mean ready for him? Can you walk us through what happened tonight?”
“Well, I pay attention, you know. Girls have been showing up dead all over the city since spring. I read the paper, and watch the news. I teach kickboxing at the Northlane Athletic Club. I started taking extra precautions, carrying pepper spray, putting my keys in between my fingers when I walk out on the street, I don’t walk with my earbuds in, that sort of the thing.”
“That’s good. You’re smart. I wish more people paid attention like you did. Can you tell us what happened tonight?”
“I finished my last class at 8:45 and got the El home. It felt weird today like I was being watched. I couldn’t prove it but you know what I mean, just the feeling of being watched. I thought I was going nuts.
Anyway, when I got home tonight, there was an eerie feeling in the apartment, like I wasn’t alone. I know this sounds crazy. I called my best friend Viv, and kept her on the phone while I walked through my place, there was nothing out of the ordinary. I thought I was just paranoid. I hung up and started the shower. I got in and I thought I heard something. The pipes in this apartment are a mess so I keep a pipe wrench in the bathroom.
I slid out of the shower, leaving water running and grabbed the wrench. I hid behind the door. I was just getting ready to get back in thinking I was crazy when I saw him. He was dressed all in black. I spotted him through the crack in the door, he didn’t see me. He has brown eyes and is about as tall as I am. I am 5,9.” He walked in and I watched him standing in front of my shower curtain. I lunged and hit him as hard as I could with the wrench. He stumbled and I froze, so stupid. I told myself to run. I took off and he came after me.
He wrestled me down to the ground and I kicked the shit out of him. I realized I still had the wrench in my hand and I started hitting him with it as hard as I could. I split his glove on his left-hand open and saw a gold ring on his pinky, the kind that would leave a brand like news said. I am telling you guys, this is the guy. I started shouting at him “I see you. I see you!” He scrambled up to his feet and lunged at me again and I moved towards him to hit him again. He turned around and ran out of the apartment. I fought that fucker off! I am telling you this guy has got to be hurt. Aside from getting a beatdown with my pipe wrench, I really did kick the shit out of him. His face has got to be a mess. I scratched him too and pulled as much DNA as I could from that asshole. I ran to my neighbor’s house but he wasn’t home so I came here to the lady that lived next door and she called you guys.”
“Where is the wrench now?” Marty asked.
“Probably still on the floor in my hallway,” Calle said.
“Are you hurt? Do you need medical attention,” Ben asked.
“No, I don’t think so. I’ve been hit worse, it comes with the job. I do want to shower, even though I wasn’t raped he had his hands on my naked body and it just creeps me out. Can you guys get what you need from me so I can shower please?”
Calle had been strong till that point but Ben could see the cracks in her demeanour change.
“Our evidence tech is on her way, we will have her collect evidence from you first. Are you sure you would not rather go get checked out at the hospital? You look like you could be hurt?”
“Did you hit your head at any point?” Janis Thorton the evidence tech asked as she walked in.
“I’m not sure, it happened fast.”
“Hi, I am Janis, I am the evidence tech. You should probably have a doctor look at you to be safe.”
“Okay, if you think it is necessary.”
“Better safe than sorry,” Ben said.
“I don’t want an ambulance and all of that fuss. Can we just go in a cab?”
“I can drive you,” Ben said.
“Would you mind if I came with you Calle,” Janis asked. “Our team is combing over your apartment right now. I would like to collect the physical evidence rather than have the hospital do it.”
Janis showed Calle to Ben’s unmarked car as Ben stopped into the apartment quickly to let Marty know where he was going. There was blood on the hardwood floor in the hallway.
“We have hair!” a tech shouted out. “It’s blonde.”
“Any chance it could be someone else, other than our guy’s?” Marty asked.
“I doubt it. We’ll run it, I’d put money on this being the guy though.”
Ben dropped Calle at her friend Viv’s house after the hospital. He had a squad car parked outside of the friend’s apartment for her piece of mind, and his. Ben wasn’t sure if the man would come back and finished what he had started, he doubted it but who knew what the monster was capable of. Marty was still at the scene, but they were wrapping up too. There was a ton of physical evidence around the apartment, fingerprints, hair and blood. There was also a partial bloody boot print. Calle had given a description of the man that sounded very similar to Serena’s account.
Ben called Marty on the way back to the station. He wanted to take down a few notes while they were fresh in his head. Ben typed up his notes and went back into the conference room to look at the evidence they had laid out. The killer didn’t have a type of woman he preferred, they were all races, all young, and all pretty. That was the only thing they had in common, was they were upper-middle-class and lived in or around the city. Ben thought it was interesting that Calle had said she felt like she had been watched. Ashley, from Skokie, had actually been watched. Stephen Duke had planted the camera. He’s pay Serena a visit first thing tomorrow morning.
Ben sat in one of the chairs around the table and looked at the wall of evidence. Marty walked in looking just as tired as Ben felt.
“A lot of DNA. He had to have been in the apartment for a while. You said you questioned her about a boyfriend?”
“She said she hasn’t had a man in the place in a couple of months, not even the super.”
“I know it’s a long shot but my gut says it’s him,” Marty said
“Yesh, it sounds like our guy.” Ben agreed.
Ben rubbed his forehead.
“What?” Marty asked knowing Ben was thinking about something.
“You know who else is blonde and wasn’t seen at his usual haunts tonight? I made some phone calls when I got back here. His car was spotted on by a red light camera crossing Lincoln and Halstead.”
“Rhett Lawson? That’s four blocks from Callie’s!”
“What do you say we go say hello, see what his face is looking like tonight?”
“Why don’t I just go? It’s not great for you to be knocking on his door at almost midnight with everything going on with Rachel and all.”
“You’re right, but I am going. If it is him, I want to be the one to put the cuffs on that fucker.”
Marty looked at the wall of evidence as he thought it over.
“Alright, let’s go.”
Ben and Marty pulled up to Rhett’s Lincoln Park townhouse just after midnight. Ben was happy to knock on his door. He wanted Rhett to be the killer so badly. He pounded loudly.
“Hey man, maybe I should do the talking.” Marty chimed in.
“Hopefully his face will do the talking.”
Ben pounded again, as the entryway light turned on.
Rhett opened the door in athletic shorts and a t-shirt. The only thing on his face was a layer of stubble.
“What the hell? It is after midnight? What the hell do you want?”
“Sorry to disturb you Mr. Lawson.”
Before Marty could continue Rhett recognized Ben.
“Oh, you have got to be kidding me! I know who the fuck you are. This is police harassment. I am calling my lawyer.”
“Mr. Lawson..” Marty started again.
“Fuck off pigs!” Rhett said as he started to shut the door.
“Where were you tonight Rhett?” Ben asked.
“Fucking Rachel, where were you? She begged me for every minute of it too.”
Marty moved in between the two men before Rhett slammed the door. Ben walked briskly to the car as Marty followed. Ben slid into the driver’s seat as Marty got in. He drove away calmly until he pulled onto Lake Shore Drive. Once they got onto the Drive, Ben hit the sirens and lights, as he put his foot down hard.
“He was fucking with you man. Rachel would never sleep with him.”
“Not of her own will.” Ben gritted out through his teeth.